You know what?
Not about the things I was already grateful for, without you feeding my shame. My inchoate shame and rage and grief and sadness didnít keep me from being furiously thankful that I finally had babies to hold in my arms, to suck at my breasts. And it didnít keep me from being grateful for the sisterhood of the wounded, angry, gentle, loving women I found Ė almost 18 years ago Ė when I found ICAN.
I didnít actually need you to tell me I should be grateful for any of that.
Iíve learned a lot in these years. Iíve learned about systemic injustice in the maternity industrial complex. Iíve learned about the sexual violence enshrined in the very fabric of how we think and talk about pregnancy and birth and babies and mothers. Iíve learned about how blaming the victim is the comfortable default for even the victims of this system that chews us up and spits us out, sometimes without us even realizing weíve been wounded.
Iíve learned that our grief is a measure of our love and that grief and love come from the same cup. Iíve learned to weep and laugh, sometimes at the same time, as I listen to stories of surgery, stories of births, stories of victory, stories of tragedy.
Iíve learned that sometimes, no matter what careful plans you make, the outcome is exactly what you were trying to avoid and Iíve learned that sometimes you just get lucky.
Iíve learned that I hate the word should. I hate everything it means Ė doubt, failure, shame, self-loathing Ė this is what ďshouldĒ means to me and I strive to remove the word from my vocabulary.
Iíve learned that no one cares as much as I do about my own births but also that there are other people who care deeply about women and babies and I can find strength in that support.
Iíve learned it is possible to have a gentle, respectful birth.
Iíve learned that you can actually make friends, forge relationships, support and be supported by women you know only through an email list and then later message boards and then even Facebook!
Iíve learned that everyone gets to decide what it means to be healed or not. Iíve learned that no one can define it for me and I canít define it for anyone else but that healing really does exist, even for something as deeply traumatic as birth trauma. That for me, healing doesnít mean a superficial ďall betterĒ but rather, a deeper ability to live life on lifeís terms, to survive and then grow again in spite of what has happened to me and then, because of what has happened to me
Iíve learned that Iím both stronger and weaker than I ever knew. Iíve learned that so are you, whether you know it or not.
Iíve learned to not play the ďwhat ifĒ game. Life and birth and pain and rejoicing and grief are death are just too complicated for ďwhat ifĒ to have meaning for me anymore.
Iíve learned that it does get better and it never goes away.
Iíve learned that there is always hope.
Iíve learned that I am, in fact, grateful. Grateful in ways that continue to astound me, nurture me, protect me and remain with me, even when Iím not feeling all that thankful.
I had a cesarean I never wanted. I was told, over and over, that I should just be grateful I had healthy babies and I shouldnít be upset about the cesarean because those healthy babies were all that mattered.
I am grateful I know better now.
April 9, 2016
ICAN Conference, Birmingham Alabama