Again

Baby in the Park
I am two days late and the owner of two urine covered sticks, with two very faint lines. If I am still pregnant tomorrow those lines should be getting stronger. Being pregnant, I now understand, does not mean always that you are going to have a baby.

As a woman who is in her 30’s whose has already had a miscarriage, I am at a higher risk for having another. I am happy. I am pregnant again. But I am scared. So scared of loss that I almost want to stop trying.

This is not a good way to live. It is not a good way to parent. Although I cannot yet speak from experience, I am coming to believe that faith in the face of fear may be a mother’s truest job.

The first time I shared the news of my pregnancy because I was so happy I could not contain it. I did not believe miscarriage could happen to me. I felt settled. I felt calm. I was going to have a child. That was all in my head.

After the loss, I told myself that the next time I was late I would not test. I would wait, and wait, until the risks of miscarriage were lower.
The idea was to protect myself. Not to stress. My doctor concurred. You are relatively young. May women have miscarriages they never know about. There is nothing to worry about until three losses have occurred.

But.

But. What if something is wrong? What if something needs to be done? We’ve been trying for over a year. What if I’ve already had a handful of unknown miscarriages before… So I tested. And then again. Two tests. Two faint pink lines. If the embryo was attaching, the line should have gotten stronger.
I decided to call my doctor.
Whether or not I’m pregnant, I thought, I will think and wonder and worry that something is wrong.

Little Girl in the park
The same will be true with my child, whenever and however, he or she arrives. At 6 weeks and 12 weeks, at 20 and 37 and 42; at 4 months, 4 years, 14, and 40—it is out of my control.

I will never know for sure if they are safe. I can ask about their lives, their world, their work, their loves and hates. Maybe they will be happy. Maybe not. Maybe they will tell me. Maybe they won’t.
There is little I can do but love them, either way.

I can hurt about that forever.
Or I can let it go and keep trying.
Pain is married to the possibility of happiness.
I am pregnant today.

And today I’m not.

Lemon Meringue Pie Love

Wayne-Thiebaud

A few weeks ago my parents celebrated their 35th wedding anniversary. If you count the 5 years they knew each other before they got married, that’s a pretty awesome amount of love. It’s also a little scary. Zilla and I are only on year 5.

I happened to call my grandma the day of. “It’s you parent’s anniversary isn’t it?”

“It is,” I said. At her age, it really was good of her to remember.

“I didn’t call or send a card,” she said. “But I suppose they will forgive me. It was a wonderful wedding. I remember it. I was there.”

And for the first time I realized something that has been obvious but, I’ve just never thought of before: My grandfather was there too. They were in the middle of, or just through a divorce.

“I never liked your meatloaf, anyway,” was apparently what he said as he walked out the door.

That was thirty years ago. I’ve only met the man once, when I was about four. I remember running through an old abandoned grave yard in North Florida with his new younger-than-me son, by his new younger-than-my-mom wife. My “uncle” and I were hunting for tiny, tiny frogs. For years afterward, if my mom talked about that trip, it was to say that the new-wife didn’t cook.

Wayne Thiebaud

When Zilla and I got married, one of our friends gave us a book called The 5 Languages of Love. It is thin and purple and covered in cursive writing. I think there is a couple, holding hands, walking into the sunset. I hate this kind of book. It has sold 5 million copies.

And yet here it is, still, reminding me of important lessons. People show their love in different ways. Some people need to give and get gifts. Some people need space. Some people need to hold hands. The book didn’t say this, I do: some people need to cook.

When I think of my mom, and I think of love, I think of lemon pie (or perhaps her version of my grandmother’s spaghetti, but that’s another post.)

Last week I made a lemon pie for Zilla. I made a graham cracker crust, like my mom always did. I crushed the graham crackers and mixed them with melted butter and white granulated sugar until it was the consistency of wet sand and thought of my mom.

Making lemon meringue pie with my mom is one of my earliest memories. So early, that all of my lemon meringue pie memories involve standing on chairs. I pulled out the breakfast table chair to get to the cookbook above the fridge; I dragged the chair over to the stove to stand on it; I stood on the chair, barefoot, to stir the lemon custard.

Most of the pie making, for me, was about waiting for the custard to get thick. “Is it thick now, Mom?” “Mom, how about now?” “Is this a simmer?” “What about now?” “Mom! Is this thick?”

“Not yet, honey.” “Keep stirring.”

I wore a ruffled half-apron, which was meant to go around the waist, tied halter-top style over what would one day become boobs. I dripped blobs of custard onto the floor when I held up my wooden spoon.

Wayne Thiebaud Cakes

My mom and I used the Betty Crocker—or maybe it was the Better Homes and GardensCookbook, covered in what I would now call Italian tablecloth plain, that, I think, my mom got when she and my dad were married. The recipe for lemon meringue pie was discolored and covered in splotches and glued to and ripped off from its neighbors. I liked this. I could always find it without having to use the index.

My mom always made her lemon meringue pie tarter than the recipe called for—more lemon juice, almost double, and more lemon zest. I don’t remember my mom’s face, or her expression, while we were cooking. I remember her hands, grating zest, cracking eggs.

I was so busy watching them, trying to learn.

This makes me a little sad. People’s hands always do. The shape of their fingers and the beds of their nails are almost as personal as their smile.

When the mixture was finally thick enough, she slowly poured in the yolks in a ribbon. All at once, the custard turned yellow, like the late afternoon sunlight, and the kitchen smelled like lemon.

I started off saying we made lemon meringue pie, but at the standing-on-chairs-age, the truth is probably more like mom made lemon meringue pie despite me. She made them for the people she loved. For my dad, and for his best friend, for whom lemon meringue pie was the only exception to a no-sweets rule.  She made them for my birthday. She made them when my grandparents—my father’s parents—came to visit. I wonder now, if she was ever making them for herself?

Or if I’ve ever made a pie just for me.

I know my mom’s answer to that, or I think I do. What she loved was not so much lemon meringue, but chocolate cream pie, the kind my grandma used to make for my mom’s birthday, when she was little, and occasionally, still does.

I remember a children’s book my mom used to read me called Angel Food Cake for Angela. Angel food cake was not something my mom made, but it was something she loved. In the book, Angela’s mom wrote secret love notes for her daughter in the flour she used to make the cake. My mom used to put real love notes for my sister and me in our lunch boxes. I always had the idea that this was because my grandma wrote love notes in the flour she used for my mom’s chocolate cream pie crust as well.

Wayne Thiebaud Cakes

Meringue comes after the custard. My mother’s meringue is the best I’ve ever had.  One day, when I was about seven, I turned on the electric egg beater, which weighed a ton and used to belong to my great grandmother, who was from Iowa via Ireland, and let a lock of my then much blonder hair fall in the beater. I got the whole two foot long lank zipped up to my scalp in a second. It looked like my hair was in a giant curler, and it scared me, and it hurt.

My mom ran over and pulled the cord out (which was ancient and ungrounded) and kissed me and released the beaters form the heavy handle motor. She sat me down on the chair properly and unwound my hair. Forever more, all cooking adventures required rubber bands. Which didn’t really matter, because I didn’t usually make the meringue. And mom always did after that. She had, and I suppose still does, a way with soft peaks and the texture of beaten egg whites. She can stretch out the meringue on the top of the whole pie and then pull the beaters up to let the meringue flip over so the whole surface is covered in soft little peaks, like the tops of a twenty soft-serve vanilla ice cream cones.

And when she took the pie out of the oven it was golden brown all over. My sister was so tempted she once stuck her finger right in the top.

Wayne Thiebaud

I made Zilla a lemon meringue pie right after we met. He requested it for his birthday. I was pleased. I thought it was a choice that boded well and bespoke good taste. And, he’d never even had one like my mom made it, with extra lemon and with graham cracker crust!

So I made my first lemon meringue pie on my own. I was cooking professionally at the time—pastries no less—so this was not technically hard, but it was strange, strange to realized that this recipe was something I always made with my mom, and that even then, it had been a long time since we’d made one together.  What was essentially my first recipe, even thought I knew it by heart, now seemed strange. No one made cornstarch custard pies anymore, or graham cracker crusts, or meringue topping. The recipe was dated, like wearing bell bottoms, or painting your kitchen orange.

Zilla ate half the pie. He said it was delicious. In the interest of health, he took the rest to work.

So I made this pie for this man I was newly dating and then—oh, the innocence–he came over a day or two later and announced that another woman—who I now call that bitch — had made—of all things!–a lemon meringue pie for him too.

He was elated.

Can you believe the luck, his face said. Two pies for me!

I blinked. I was not elated. This did not feel like luck. To me, this recipe, any pie, is an intimacy, a testament of love. Was he not as free he said he was? “Why,” I demanded, “is some woman making you a pie?”

“Because it’s my birthday?” he asked, though his face had changed. He didn’t know what, but he knew something was wrong.

“You don’t make a pie for someone else’s boyfriend, period.” I said, “and especially, you don’t bring it to work.”

He looked around. He looked trapped. “Yours was better.”

I glared.

“Much better.”

I kept glaring.

“And it was ugly. Her meringue was all messed up.”

Thanks, mom. I thought. And what is that fury? It was the first time I had ever felt jealous. I realized it must be true love.

I nodded. The girl moved out of town. We moved in together and got married.

Last week, six years later, I made him a second pie.

Paintings by the wonder Wayne Tiebaund. I think he likes pie too.


Underneath

Girl wearing a veil--from Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis

Last night, at dinner, I told a friend I wanted to visit Morocco. “Istanbul,” she said, “that is where you should go.”

“And go to a hammam,” she said, “Where you will get well and truly washed. You are lying on this marble slab sliding around because of the soap in this ancient steaming bath full of nearly naked women, and the woman who is washing you is naked too, and her boobs,” my friend stopped to show me with her hands, “are huge, HUGE, and inches from your face. And when she wants you to turn over she starts slapping you on the ass. “Lady,” she says, “Lady,” because that is all the English she speaks, and you are thinking: What does she want? What am I doing here? When she finally gives up and practically picks you off the marble and turns you over -plunging your head into her breasts- herself.”

My friend was so involved in her story that there wasn’t a moment to tell her that I’d experienced the same thing myself.  For a long time, after we got back from Istanbul, I told almost the same story. The same slippery marble slab, the same HUGE boobs. Everyone always laughed.  My version involved the phrase “human car wash” and some moralization about how we were all the same underneath.

Then there was the Arab Spring, and more recently the Istanbul Protests, and I became more sensitive to encroachments into democracy and religious conservatism into secular life. I started to worry that anything I might say about Islam or women might seem disrespectful, or unkind—even though that is not how I felt—and so I decided to stop telling my hammam story, to shut up.

Woman in red Headscarf, Taskim Square, Istanbul

When it comes to politics I have often taken the position that I don’t know enough to have a say. Regardless of the subject, this is always my stance. For years I thought I was respectful. Now I think just think I was afraid.

In the very first essay I ever published, I took a stance that many people didn’t like. I said that the Blue Angels Air Show at Seafair made me uncomfortable. The fighter jets were awesome but they were military machines and it scared me that we turned them into entertainment, especially when we were—and still are, at war.

The piece, which ran in the Stranger, five years ago this week, got a huge response. Many, many people commented, and thanked me, and agreed. Many others insulted me, my writing (which was sometimes justified), my ideas and myself. They called me names, including ignorant, unpatriotic, ungrateful and misinformed. That is not how I thought of myself, or felt. I wanted to hide.

Before publishing Still At War, I thought having a voice and claiming an opinion would make me feel strong. It didn’t. As the comments came in, I felt exposed and weak. I didn’t understand that people can like you and–sometimes–hate your position. That you can simply disagree. So I decided to shut up.

Another thing I didn’t understand is that silence is the loudest, most dangerous, political comment of them all. So I try and publish again for years. And when I did, I tried to distance myself from the piece, and instead of Lauren, I used “Beth,” which is my nick-name, instead.

There is a simple practice of small honesties, and I think for me, now, this is where politics begins. Not grand statements about policy and practice, but the humble rumble observations of our lives.

Here is something true: When we visited Istanbul I often wore a headscarf.  I thought the headscarves—and the women wearing them—looked beautiful. I wanted to know what they felt like.  I chose a blue silk scarf at the Bazaar and mimicked the wrapping that I’d seen. At the Blue Mosque the guards directed us to the believers’ entrance, away from the tourists who were struggling to cover their shoulders and knees. I found this thrilling.

When I think about it now, I do not know if the Turkish women who covered their head wanted to or not. I am sure there is no one answer.  Some wore black headscarves and lace headscarves and headscarves of colorful silk and pastel blue and printed cotton. Some wore headscarves with long robes, others with designer jeans.

It wasn’t until the end of our trip that I learned enough history to realize how little I understood. The Republic of Turkey was not a Muslim a state, but a secular one, ever since the 1920’s when The Ottoman Empire fell. Men were discouraged from wearing the fez and women the headscarf since Ataturk’s secular reforms all the way back in the 30’s.

And now, we face a surge of conservatism, military force, and an infringement on secular life. I happened to be reading Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel, Persepolis, about the rise of religious extremism in then-secular Iran when I heard about the Gezi Park Protests in Istanbul. Satrapi wrote about being forced to wear a headscarf as a girl. I remembered standing in Taskim Square and Istiklar Avenue where the protests were taking place. I felt strangely implicated, in my own small personal way, because I had covered my head by choice. Was I lending support to the oppression they protested against?

Here is where I would stay quiet, but think I should say what I think.

The story I have absorbed as a Western woman is that a veil is oppressive, both for society and for the women who wear it. I’m not comfortable with this idea, not always, not as a rule. Maybe I don’t know enough. Maybe oppression is something I would rather not see. But might the veil, in all its variations and colors also be expressive? Like a haircut. An ornament? Like jewelry. A symbol? Of beliefs, like a cross. Simply a personal choice? Like vegetarianism.

How does the scarf express property and ownership of women any more than what we see as the loving practice of exchanging a diamond ring? I see more and more women covering their head in America, in Seattle; women, presumably, with education, democracy, a vote, and a choice. Isn’t it rude it to assume they are oppressed?

Turns out that my friend and I visited the same hammam, not a co-ed tourist destination, as many of them have turned into, but a working, local, centuries old community bath.

What I remember now are not naked antics but a sense of familiarity, of neighborhood life, and of peace.  It was November, and cold. Outside it was just dark. The street lights reflected off of fallen leaves.  At the corner shop a woman bought vegetables for the night.  A small boy sat in a large barber chair watching TV. A clutch of bearded men leaned into a game of backgammon and laughed and drank small glasses of tea.

Then we saw it, the hammam, below a dimly light staircase and a sign.  I opened the door. An older woman, her hair wet, sat on a stool watching TV.

I remember standing in the small changing room in the near-dark, facing the wall, and taking off my clothes. The woman knocked, I wrapped myself tightly in my towel, and she led me to the bath.

The ceiling was domed.  Water trickled like an underground cave. Two other women sat in the corner. I wanted to talk to them. They were about my age. But their voices were distant and echo-ey even though they were sitting only a few feet away.

After an hour or so I went back out to the dressing hall.  The two other women came out and paid. They dried, changed, put their headscarves on, and went back into the night.

My hair was wet. I didn’t want to catch cold. So I did the same.

Post Script: My fear is still alive and well. I know because this post took me ages, really weeks to write. I was so afraid of a few simple ideas and what you might think, that my first draft chronicled the rise and fall of Constantinople and The Ottoman Empire (2000+ words alone), my second a walking map of Istanbul, and my third a list of all the edibles in the city, rather than get to the humble scary little point. Of course I didn’t see that for what it was; instead I panicked and assumed I could no longer write. I am a little bit scared that I will post this and everyone will scream at me, but more importantly, I think I now realize something about writer’s block: just like getting quiet, it happens when you are scared and trying to avoid your real thoughts.

But things happen for a reason. I happened to get in touch with my college writing teacher as I was struggling—as if contact with her might help me—which it did. She said, of her own work, that it takes its own time. That was exactly what I needed to hear. Besides, if I posted this last month, when I started it, I could have avoided talking about Seafair, which was clearly on my mind, and more than half of the point.

A note on images: I hope it is ok with Marjane Satarapi that I included some a few snaps from Persepolis. I think everyone should read it. It’s an awesome book.

One Night in Paris

Bar at Chateaubriand

Zilla’s mother, who we call Amma, just sent us a message: “Hello from Katunayaka.” Katunayaka is the name of the airport in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Amma is in Katunayaka because she is about to get on a plane to Dubai, and from there, after 9 hours in the airport, on another plane, to Seattle. She is coming to live with us. It is a long flight—from Dubai to Seattle alone is 16 hours.

When you are traveling half way around the world, it doesn’t really matter which way you go. Zilla and I have connected through Tokyo and London and Qatar. The last time we connected through Paris.

Before I knew Zilla, I never appreciated how complicated it could be to travel. When we met, Zilla had been living in the US for almost twenty years—and he’d just gotten a green card. This was fabulous. It meant that he didn’t have to worry about the technicalities of a visa. He could always come back to the United States—and me and his job. He could always come home.

But even with a green card Zilla was still traveling as a Sri Lankan citizen—or trying to. And because of Sri Lanka’s ongoing civil war sometimes that was hard. Without visiting the consulate, submitting tax information, bank statements, a complete itinerary and a return ticket many countries wouldn’t let Zilla visit. There’s a Japanese consulate in Seattle. That’s how we got to visit Tokyo. In Qatar and Dubai, Zilla had a landing visa only: meaning, he could change planes, but not leave the airport.

You know us. We love to eat. We’ve always wanted to go through Paris together, to visit France. But the closest French consulate is in San Francisco. Those were the years when Zilla’s father was ill. We were usually making last minute trips in the middle of the night to try reach his Zilla’s dad. We weren’t planning ahead. We didn’t have to time to get Zilla a French visa, or the energy or the money for vacation. As much as we wanted to, we never made it to Paris.

It is a strange feeling to realize that the man you love and live with and share a bank account with is not welcome in the same countries you are. It is equally strange to realize that their immigration status can change and all of that does too. In January 2010, twenty years after he arrived in the US and two months after his father died, Zilla became a US citizen.  In Buddhist Sri Lanka families give an offering—a dhane—to the monks on the one year anniversary of a death. Zilla started booking flights. I remember him looking up from the computer. His face was full of wonder. “I have a US passport. We could fly through Paris.”

A restaurant

A place setting

The way the flights worked out we ended up with seven hours. We would land in Charles de Gaulle at 7pm, take the train to Gare de Lyon station to save a few Euros and then catch a taxi and get something to eat.  The plan was to splurge on the restaurant, take as long as possible eating, and then stumble back to the airport full and sated in time for our next flight.

Zilla emailed our friend S. “We have one night in Paris. Where should we eat?”

S lived in Paris years ago—and almost everywhere else that is wonderful to eat. He always knows the most quietly creative places. He used to organize rigorous tasting tours for his friends.

We got an email back almost instantly.

“The general plan would be:

-land, clear immigration, (7pm?)

-head into Paris (train or taxi, arrive at 9pm)

-get a late reservation at a bistro and eat for 2-3 hours

-head to a cocktail bar or simply wander around Paris, stopping at the occasional café

-taxi back to airport

-grab 2 hours of sleep

“I think you two would love Chateaubriand and as long as you make it there, you won’t care what you do before or after. I will call and get you a booking.”

-S

Le Chateabriand Paris 2011-6

fork on a plate

Z looked at his watch. We’d been circling Charles De Gaulle for 30 minutes. Raindrops glistened on the small oval airplane window. Yellow lights mapped out the spider web of Paris below.

“We might not make our reservation.”

By the time we landed and cleared customs it was already 9pm. We headed to the train station just as the train was pulling out. Zilla grabbed my hand and we ran across the street.

Taxis?” the driver asked.

“Oui,” Zilla said and opened the door for me.

The driver leaned back over the seat. His eyes looked like a child’s drawing of a seagull on the horizon. “Bonsoir monsieur.”

Bonsoir,” Zilla said. “Le Chateaubriand, Rue 129 Avenue de Permentier.” In what sounded to me like a perfect accent.

Ahh, vous parlez français.” The driver nodded deeply and entered the address into his GPS.

I jabbed Zilla with my elbow. “Vous parlez français?????

Zilla looked as surprised as I did. “I studied French at the Alliance Française in Sri Lanka when I was a kid. I didn’t realize I remembered.”

The things this man doesn’t tell me!

We flew down the highway. An accordion turn played on the radio. The wet road glowed with white tail lights. Then they turned red.

Zilla looked at his watch. The traffic came to a complete stop.

Ooh la la,” driver sighed.

Ooh la la,” I repeated softly to myself. “I don’t usually think of it as an expression for a traffic jam.”

“No,” Zilla said. We were now almost an hour late. “Not unless the traffic jam is wearing lingerie.”

Smiling ZillaSalad and wine

When we reached the restaurant the curtains were drawn. Zilla peeked in the corner. Every table was full.

I looked around. A man passed us on the street carrying a baguette. Metal garage doors were pulled down over store fronts, some covered in graffiti. The sidewalk was glazed with warm yellow– not yet incandescent blue-cones of light. I wasn’t sure I wanted to just walk around.

Just then another couple arrived. Then five minutes later a third. Then the door opened.

The waiter wore an ironed shirt. He had a deep blue apron around his waist. His eyes crinkled. Then he said something in French that I did not understand.

Zilla looked amazed. Then he turned to me and smiled.

“We are just in time for the second seating.”

Delicious does not begin to describe it. And really, everyone was so kind.

Wild

We wake up early. We tie into our ropes. We set up camp. Rain or shine.

We practice tying-in. We practice our ice axe arrest. We eat and drink and make a camp fire. We get in our tents early, to do it again.

In the early morning–or the late, late night–the snow is still hard, and safer for travel. People rouse. Tents glow. Head lamps emerge.

We tie into our ropes. Our fingers, our bodies, are still cold. And then we climb.

Dawn follows up the hill, in shades of blue.

Why?

Sometimes the wilderness is too big for words.

Snow Camp at Stevens Pass

Zilla in Glacier Goggles

Climbing Harness, Webbing and Prusiks

Ice Axe and Prusiks

Tents in the Snow

The Kitchen

Rain on the TentInside the TentSnow Camp 2013-7Tying in with a Figure Eight KnotA fixed LineCampfireTent at Night

Tent at Night

Alpine StartAlpine Start-Roped inClimbing

Breaking Camp and Packed Up

Run to the Car

Celebrate

My sister once said: “I never know where you are in the world but I know you are eating good cheese.” I took this as a great compliment, and it was more or less true. I love stinky cheeses– the stinkier the better–, and Zilla and I traveled whenever we could. Until we decided to settle down and try to get pregnant.

Well, last week I decided that that silver lining you are always hearing about is the foil wrapper on Stilton Cheese. For the first time in a year I knew I wasn’t pregnant. I could eat anything I wanted. I ate raw eggs. Cured meats. I cooked my beef rare.  And man, we went to PFI and bought some stinky unpasteurized cheeses. I went to town!

Case of Cheese

I last went to PFI about a month ago.  I was preparing a birthday dinner for our friend S. He was turning 40.

Five years ago, I cooked S’s 35th birthday. It was one of my first official catering gigs. The first course—of twelve–was a selection of oysters –Virginicas, Kumomotos, Totten Inslets. I ate one before everyone arrived, while I was shucking. By the time I set the second course on the table I was running for bathroom.  There were fifteen guests and ten courses to go and I was sick. Never mind about me, I was just terrified it would happen to someone else.

Zilla took over cooking for a while until we were sure I was better. Then course after course, we waited. I brought out the vitello tonnato and waited, the sorrel soup and waited, the sardine, the quail…  I was the only one. With each course the table got quiet except for full happy sounds.

Appetizers

S plans ahead. He asked us last year if we would cook for his 40th. When S was 35 he lived in Seattle. But a few years ago he moved to Hong Kong. Maybe he’d come to Seattle, he said, and celebrate with old friends here, or maybe do it in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong! I wanted to go to Hong Kong! How I could possibly say no to Hong Kong? But how could I possibly cook in an unknown kitchen?

I stayed up nights, wondering how to pack ingredients and pans.

Napkins and Cherry Blossoms

To my relief—because I never could have said no–S settled on Seattle and we began menu planning in earnest. He suggested we simply redo the previous menu. I declined, specifically, to serve anything with oysters.  Instead, we decided on a Spanish/Portuguese theme.  Delicious!

Sometimes things don’t go quite right the first time, but sometimes they go perfectly, exactly as planned. S invited fifteen guests, I served forty tastes for his 40 years, and we had no disasters, just a really fun, really delicious, filling celebration.

Which is what I love most about S: he takes the time to celebrate. I forget sometimes. And I think it’s important to remember that things really are pretty good.

After the feast

(all the pictures are before and after, because it the middle I had to cook!)

Unexpected

Oil Painting Ferdinany Holder Woman in Ecatasy

Tuesday morning last week I found out I was pregnant.  We’d been trying for a long time. This was something we wanted.

Wednesday I worried about being a mother. I wondered if I would lose myself.

Oil Painting by Julius Exter Nude with Red Cloth

Thursday I went to the museum with my friend. I felt powerful with my secret, surprised by my body, surprised by my calm, and surprised the new space I felt for love. Everything was possible.

Friday evening I had a miscarriage.

Oil Painting Girl Weeping & Nude Study

The pregnancy was gone but the space was not.

Miscarriage is the word the doctor used, not the word I would have chosen, though I wouldn’t have known what else to call it either. It felt like such a big word for such a little pregnancy. What was it exactly that we lost? A baby? Some cells? Hope? Our own ideas?

I tried act normal but my body hurt and I felt wild and weak. Angry and sad and foolish. Helpless and silly and embarrassed. Embarrassed that it happened; embarrassed by all the emotion; embarrassed by my body; embarrassed by how I felt. Embarrassed and betrayed. Not at all, in any way, in control.

I am pregnant. I miscarried.  It hurt my jaw to say it. I tried to hold myself still. Had I done either? I didn’t understand and didn’t have a language for how I felt

I read it was common. I read if it happened, it was for the best. I read you could still have healthy babies. That didn’t help. It was just as intangible.  I wanted to talk about it and I didn’t really know anyone it had happened to, no one I could call.

Oil Painting byLeo Putz of Gusti Bennat

I tried to hold myself still.

But people kept asking, “How are you?” and when your veneer is so thin it is hard not to tell the truth.

That’s when I began to hear their stories. They didn’t understand it, but they understood. That did help.

And that’s why I’m telling you.