Thursday, October 15, 2015

Can't See The Forest For The Trees

There's this brilliant but wacky spiritual leader named Ram Dass, who was born Richard Alpert in Boston in the 1930s. He went on to get his PhD and do research on LSD in the 1960s and travel to India and become enlightened and write a lot of books and have retreats. People adore his teachings. Today he lives in Maui and spreads his guidance via the internet and has a lot of really great ideas and things to say. I'm not much of a follower, but since I started on my body positive journey as a fat activist nearly six years ago, I've been drawn to a story he tells on self-judgment:

When you go out into the woods and you look at trees, you see all these different trees. And some of them are bent, and some of them are straight, and some of them are evergreens, and some of them are whatever. And you look at the tree and you allow it. You appreciate it. You see why it is the way it is. You sort of understand that it didn’t get enough light, and so it turned that way. And you don’t get all emotional about it. You just allow it. You appreciate the tree.

The minute you get near humans, you lose all that. And you are constantly saying “You’re too this, or I’m too this.” That judging mind comes in. And so I practice turning people into trees. Which means appreciating them just the way they are.

 
One summer when I was 20-years-old I was camping near Payette Lake in Idaho with my boyfriend and laying under the sky looking up at the ponderosa pines. I grabbed a beer, a pen, and a paper plate, which was the only thing I could find to write on, and scrawled this poem:

They stick together, you know, those members of the Tree Society
So individual, yet so much part of a whole
The oaths, the families, the stories, the Friends
An old regal one scraggles over with years and rings and wisdom far beyond
the youthful inches of baby growth it protects.
Wise wide ones loom tall above, standing high with energy and vigor
And as long as this forested royalty remains
the Ponderosas will whisper gossip to the Blue Spruce
and the Hollies will always flaunt their scarlet berries
You see, this private community, so robust, yet equally as fragile, trust few to its realm.
Even the Deer must make a silent commitment to secrecy.
Those members of the Tree Society
So individual, yet so much part of their whole duty and beauty and strength unimaginable
Yet when the Rain pounds from above they all bow and hover
And when the Wind blows her loud tales they all laugh and dance and twist with joy
And when the Human and the Fire interrupt the peaceful power of this solemn circle
One never stands alone
Because they stick together, you know, those members of the Tree Society.


Today is Pregnancy & Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Two and a half years ago I got pregnant on accident after missing a few birth control pills one month. I'd been on the Pill for twenty years at that point and had missed several pills plenty of times before and never gotten pregnant. At the age of 37 with two daughters aged 5 and 9 years, we weren't planning on having any more children, but there were two pink lines and I was surprisingly so happy. It was meant to be, until it wasn't. I hadn't been to the doctor yet, and I had no real idea of when we'd actually conceived, but probably somewhere around 8 weeks pregnant I started cramping and gushing blood and went into what I can only describe as a 'mini labor,' complete with contractions, pain, nausea and an overwhelming fear and sadness that I can never appropriately describe.  Dr. Brown and I grieved hard and alone, as we'd told no one we were even expecting a new baby.

I spent a few months healing, both in my heart and in my uterus, and we decided to try again because we were certain there was a soul missing from our family. I conceived in June and knew almost immediately I was pregnant with twins; I could just feel it from very early on, as many mothers of twins can attest to. Not to mention the nausea and vomiting and growth and exhaustion were double what I'd experienced in any previous pregnancy (something else many mothers carrying twins will tell you). I was terrified for this pregnancy, so soon after my first miscarriage, and felt a tiny bit better after passing that 8 week mark that was so devastating the last time around. At 11 weeks pregnant I got really bad sciatica and nausea and sat down to pee one morning, gushed blood, and passed an 11 week old fetus into the toilet. I knew immediately what it was and snatched it out and went into shock and called my doctor. An emergency ultrasound a few hours later where I was expecting the worst news revealed a healthy heartbeat of the other baby in utero. I had another miscarriage in a somewhat unique phenomenon called 'vanishing twin syndrome,' where one of the twins die and usually dissolves back into the mothers system, never to be seen in an ultrasound again. In an even rarer situation, like what happened to me, the mother will actually miscarry the deceased fetus in what I call 'not-so-vanishing twin syndrome.'

I spent the rest of my pregnancy with Arlo puking and scared, sad and thrilled. I was mourning two dead babies and one growing in utero and the emotions of sorrow with joy were overwhelming. I was at once angry with my body and in awe of its strength. I couldn't keep any food down and was losing weight rather than gaining and I couldn't/wouldn't take the anti-anxiety medications that I'd been on for years for panic attacks. It felt impossible to see the forest for the trees.


The expression 'can't see the forest for the trees' is often used of someone who is too involved in the details of a problem to look at the situation as a whole. I was a body positive warrior who spent much of 2013 so angry at this life-making vessel I'd worked so hard to love. But I was pregnant! A pregnancy that was at once terrific and terrible and brutal and beautiful. But I had the hardest time seeing the forest for the trees. I hadn't yet found others who had suffered silent miscarriages like me. I didn't yet know anyone who had lost a twin while pregnant. I hadn't yet discovered my Tree Society.


This past spring we planted a tiny plum tree near our pink Little Free Library on our corner lot in honor of the babies in our hearts. After Dr. Brown dug the hole, I placed in it a worry locket I'd purchased from an Etsy jeweler with the birthstone of the first baby we lost and a positive pregnancy test from the second baby we lost. Alice drew a picture for our 'dear dead babies,' as she calls them, and placed it in there, too, before soaking the hole with water necessary for the plum tree to take root. I cried and thought about how it will grow to shade the library stop so popular with neighborhood kids and will bear fruit for us to enjoy. About a month later, we noticed the tree had started leaning and looked crooked in spots, but it was also sprouting new leaves, and thriving.


All bodies are good bodies, and all bodies are scarred, twisted, scared, and complicated, as unique and lovely as trees. I'm so glad I can see you all out there in my forest now and am grateful for the roots I've planted with this blog, in Boise, and in my own front yard. Mother Nature can be a real bitch sometimes, and this time of year makes me very sad, as I honor my babies who live in both my house and in my heart. Here's to new growth rings and ancient stories and shedding bark and rebirth with seasons.

2 comments:

  1. A lovely poem and story. Thanks for being real and honest and sharing your stories.

    ReplyDelete