The First One

the four year anniversary post

There was a man who couldn’t fall asleep before 2am. He took pills. He had sleep studies. He used natural remedies. It didn’t matter. He couldn’t fall asleep. One day he was talking to his therapist. He told her that when he was in the war, they would be bombed every night until 2am. Thirty years ago. Thirty years. I couldn’t sleep either. But I didn’t go to war. I had a baby.

I didn’t think I would go into the hospital as a healthy 24yo, and have a c-section. I didn’t think that when I came out of the operating room the white-haired doctor who I’d never met before that day, would tell me that he gave me a low incision so I could “keep my bikini body.”

I didn’t think that when I went to have my fourth kid, that the scar tissue caused by that low incision, the scar tissue that no one ever thought to look at, the scar tissue that grew silently in my body, the scar tissue that survived two other pregnancies, would rip my uterus and my bladder open, form a tunnel where the contents of my bladder would pour down into my uterus and straight out of my body. I didn’t think that my OBGYN would say that my symptoms were normal. I didn’t think that while I was crying on the exam table that she would say “It’s not my problem.” I didn’t think this would be my story, carried over the last four years in different versions and in different states of recovery.

November 7th is the four year anniversary of my surgery. I’ve spent four years being sad, angry, silent, yelling to anyone who would listen. It’s about what happens to women everyday. When no one listens. When you stand there totally vulnerable, and the person you trust the most, the person you are begging to help you labels you as a “problem.” When they decide you aren’t worthy enough to help. When they silence you by walking away. When someone decides that you’re body should look a certain way, and makes a decision that should’ve never been made.

I’ve spent a lot of time wondering if I had looked different, if this would have happened. If I was older or heavier, would he have talked about my bikini body. If someone had told him that scars can be beautiful, that they could be badges of strength and courage and love, would he have made the incision that would change the rest of my life.

I’d like to show him my body now. I’d like to see what he thinks of the scar that runs from above my belly button and down below my pant line. Is this a bikini body?

Black and white image with mid-drift and 35lb kettlebell

I’d like to show the OBGYN who told me that my symptoms were normal, the picture of my scar–that first visual memory after waking up from surgery. The staples that ran up my abdomen, raised and protruding like a caterpillar. The horror of waking up as Frankenstein’s monster. Does this look normal?

I’ve spent four years facing this trauma from different perspectives. I’ve talked to moms and doctors and hospital administrators. I’ve talked to friends and family. And I want to be ok. I want to be able to face trauma anniversary dates without my body thinking that it might die. I’ve written 300 pages about my experience. But it’s still there.

The trauma sneaks up and suddenly I’m drowning. Even when I expect it, I never anticipate the depths of sorrow and self-loathing and exhaustion it brings on. And those 300 pages haven’t been enough. And it hasn’t been until I’ve allowed myself to feel things deeply and fully, and put my wounds raw and open on the table for everyone to look at, to touch, to breathe in, that I’ve felt like maybe that might be enough.

It was enough when someone said that I spoke the words they had been feeling but didn’t know how to express. It was enough when someone thanked me for sharing. It was enough when someone said they were right there with me. It was enough when I was seen and accepted in this most vulnerable state. When I wasn’t someone’s problem.

And so this is my project. This is the space for vulnerability. This is the place for rawness and being allowed to be. This is the place where I show my scars. Where my body is mine. Where the scar that horrified and disgusted me has become a mark of pride. A reminder that I have survived. That I am a better person everyday for the ways I’ve changed. This is about the journey through trauma, the dirty and dark parts, the parts that I’m proud of, the parts where I say this was the worst experience of my life, but would never in a million years take it back. This is about finding beauty in the scar.