March 27, 2012

HYSTERICAL BLINDNESS AND A MACHETE

In my life I've played both the role of a brave warrior and a yellow-bellied coward. For instance: when I was about ten I used to climb up this tree in our neighborhood and swing on the rope swing (warrior). But then one day I somehow slipped out of the tree and broke my arm. I ran all the way home crying and vowing NEVER to go on that rope swing again (yellow) and I never did.

Once, in college, I agreed to go bungee jumping with some girlfriends. I tried everything to conveniently get out of it since the mere thought of being up high gives me vertigo. Unfortunately my friends wouldn't accept any of my excuses. There I was, crawling up the stairs of the tower on my knees (yellow) even my spleen was quivering with fear. But then, quite unexpectedly, I plunged off the tower without hesitation (warrior). Don't go throwing the confetti and celebrating my achievement just yet because after I jumped off the tower I WENT BLIND. Really. I'm not just using that as a metaphor to say I was really scared. I literally lost my sight. It's called hysterical blindness (yellow).

There are plenty more examples to share but I should save some of my stories for when we meet in person. I can't give away all my funny conversational anecdotes. I used to think this was normal until I got married and Nate pointed out that I was basically insane. That people don't work themselves into a lather the way I do.

See, disasters don't really have to strike in order for me to turn yellow and get scared. My imagination does a perfectly good job playing out the worst possible scenario, the most horrific outcome, the absolute most painful ending to just about anything. And that's really all it takes for me to decide it's safer here, sitting on the side of the pool with my feet in the water. Really, it's great here. You go enjoy the rush of the water slide or the cliff jump. I'm just fine here in the shade.

So the same thing was happening when we started talking about having kids. In my mind the delivery was super traumatic and my baby ended up with six heads and I was the worst mother on the planet. I just couldn't bring myself to give birth to my beloved six-headed off spring. I was yellow. As yellow as they come. But then 37 became 38 and then I was 39. Time was not on my side.

So Dec 31, 2010, I took a pregnancy test and faced all those fears at once. Alone. Sitting on the toilet frozen in time. I don't know if I sat there for 3 minutes or 3 hours. Thinking about my six-headed baby and his 12 eyes blinking at me and then biting off my hand with his razor sharp teeth.

The pregnancy was pretty crazy. I started with twins, hemorrhaged, miscarried one of the twins, grew a uterine cyst the size of a cantaloupe and went into labor 6-weeks early. My plans were a quiet and peaceful hypno-birth and what I got was an emergency c-section where I was cut open with a machete. In my mind it was a machete and a chainsaw and they held my middle open with one of those devices you see at the orthodontist. Only bigger. This part is actually true. Nate witnessed it. He said there was one person on each side stretching me open like the grand canyon. I wince at the thought.

And then out came this perfect creature. Bruised and tiny but so so brave. I was taken one way and she went another and for about 6 hours I didn't hold her. But this sense of total accomplishment came over me. I thought, now, if I can do that surely I can bungee jump and rope swing and the million other things I've been too afraid to do.

Clementine is my anthem. My badge of courage. Giving birth to her was the scariest thing I've ever done. And every time I look at her little face I'm reminded of just how wonderful and rewarding being brave can be. To imagine a world without Clementine is a world that isn't as bright and lacks adequate joy. And if I had allowed my fear to stand in the way of that it would have been a real tragedy.

So, here's to all the scary things in my future. To all the things that make my knees buckle, make my hair stand on end or even cause psychological blindness. Here's to the machetes and bone saws. If that's what it takes to bring sunshine into the world then I'll do it. I'll do it. I'll do it.

Little Tiny Brave Clementine