Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Body Betrayal

I have come to the conclusion that most everyone experiences body betrayal at some point in their life. It may be early for a girl whose body does not fit the standard for beauty that the media flashes all over, it may be sickness, cancer, allergies, or perhaps you are lucky and your body waits to betray you until you are old and gray and deterioration sets in.

Growing up, my mother made it a point to not have a scale in our home, she made it a point to get us to go outside, to exercise and move our body in whatever way felt best. In fact, my mother went to graduate school during my tween years and came across a program called Go Girls. It's aim was to create healthy body images  and self-esteem with young girls. To help them be conscious and aware of how the world tells us how we should look, think and act. She led classes for my classmates and I and for a long time I took for granted that I had a mother who was actively trying to make sure that I knew that I should love my body.

I became aware of my gratefulness for it when I started to hear friends, classmates, or coworkers talk negatively about themselves. I recognized that I had been given a body that was easy for me to love. I fit most of society's standard for beauty, and the parts that didn't fit (curly hair, late puberty, crooked smile) were easy for me to accept.


I struggled for awhile after having Maxwell and realizing that weight gained while pregnant was not so easily removed, but I focused on exercising with the focus not primarily on weight loss but to have a healthy body. A body that could run and play and have the energy to make a difference in the lives of my families and others.

These days, there is a lot of inner self-hatred for my body.

When James died and there was no clear cause, what am I to blame except my body? I have been consumed lately with the thought that my body betrayed me.

My body was supposed to nourish, protect and create a safe home for James and in short, it failed. I don't know how but because we do not know the cause of his death I have nothing to blame but this space where my spirit resides.

This create conflicting feelings for pregnancy after loss.

I no longer have that inherent trust in my body that was created while carrying Max. I know it is possible for my body to carry a baby healthy, to term. But I cannot help but wonder if it will betray me again.

After James died, it was physically difficult to look at myself in the mirror. I would get ready for the day, never really making eye contact busying myself with the routine of gel in my hair scrunch, scrunch, scrunch, mascara to the lashes, concealer to cover the dark circles under my eyes bruised from crying. I would dress in the same manner, trying to focus on the outfit rather than the empty arms.

It has gotten easier to look at myself in the eyes, it took a conscious effort at first and now I am starting to accept the things that I love about myself again.

In an effort to love my body, I am actively trying to trust it. Many in the pregnancy after loss community get induced at 37 weeks, especially when there was no known cause before. I understand this, completely. But I also cannot accept that for myself. I realized that to learn to trust my body again, I had to learn to trust God again. They are intertwined, for He created this body for me and only because of the Fall of Adam and Eve is my body subject to betrayal.

Gratefully, my current doctor is supportive of my effort to trust in this process and in my body again. I know that emergencies happen and my main objective is to get this baby here alive, but this journey of pregnancy after loss is messy and dark and gruesome and finding light in the trust I am building within myself and with God provides peace and relief.

I hope that as you read this, that you will look within your own lives and the own distrust or betrayal you may have felt with your body, as you do I pray that you will find ways to love the unique body you have been given. Its unique traits and difficulties can be opportunities to deepen your understanding of the human experiences. As I have dealt with this I have come to understand feelings of self-loathing and jealousy over perspectives of other's experiences. I have come to learn empathy and compassion and a deep desire for us all to truly love ourselves.

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  1. I'm so sorry you've had so many struggles with the loss of your son. One thing I've learned through the years, even though it's very hard to accept, is that sometimes a spirit just needed to get his body and then was ready to go back to our Heavenly Father. In that respect, your body was a sacred vessel that allowed one more special spirit to gain a body. That is HUGE in the Plan of Salvation. Please know that your body did not betray you - you made a difference in that special spirit's eternal life. You are to be honored and cherished for that single act.

    1. Thank you for sharing this sentiment, it is one that is often said a lot within the Church, especially for infant loss and honestly it can be hard to hear at times. That doesn't mean it isn't true though :) Your words brings peace and comfort and most importantly healing. Luckily the foundation of loving my body and seeing it as sacred and divine has been built on a firm foundation and then made even more firm through the gospel, it has helped me discover the true source of these thoughts of betrayal, Satan.

  2. The MLS photo! And the photo of you now is priceless. Seriously frame that beautiful thing! And this whole post was so wonderfully written. You have such a way in describing such horrible things in a way that I feel like I can understand (to some degree) how you are feeling. And I think its okay to feel those things, but Kim is absolutely right - your body was and IS a sacred vessel that allowed James, Max and baby #3 to gain a body. You are amazing. Keep writing. NEVER quit, the world needs more of your inspirational and real words. Love ya!

    1. Sydney you are awesome. I am so glad to know you and call you a friend. Thank you for your kind and loving words :)

  3. This is a really interesting topic. Having been through stillbirth as well, I know this feeling of betrayal. I remember being confused that my body didn't warn me that my baby was in danger. How could I be so blind-sided? But even more than that, I felt that my spirit betrayed me. Throughout my life I have felt close to the spirit. I have received promptings before. In the church we are encouraged to be righteous and keep our covenants so we can always have the Spirit to be with us. I always thought this meant I would receive promptings for potential danger if I was doing my best to have the Spirit with me. When our baby died, I was so confused that there wasn't an ounce of an idea or a prompting that I should go to the doctor or the hospital. My body gave me no indication and neither did my spirit. This troubled me for a long time. The only way I have come to deal with these incongruences is to look at the bigger picture. I think about the many victims who weren't warned in any way to avoid a certain crime or disaster or accident. Why wouldn't God prompt them to change their actions if they were righteous? I don't necessarily have the answer to that, but I do believe that sometimes God stays His hand. It doesn't mean that He has betrayed us though. Certainly through our suffering, I believe that He mourns with us. He won't leave us alone in our sorrow.

    To some degree we have control over our bodies. We can strive to care for them. Especially in pregnancy, we avoid anything that could cause a problem. But I guess I have come to accept that sometimes things just happen. We are in a natural world. The doctors couldn't give us a solid reason why our baby died but it looked as though there was an issue with the placenta which caused my fluid to be low. In other words, something I couldn't control. But I agree with your friends that your body did something that is miraculous - it made a baby. And that baby is a person and he is now part of your family. In this sense your body didn't betray you. But certainly I understand what you are saying. The feelings are dark and hurtful.

    On a personal note, when we decide to get pregnant again I believe I will be induced at 37 weeks. I was induced with my other kids and it works for our family. Goodwin died just days after 38 weeks, so I am sure an anxiety level will be high as I approach that time. For me it's less about trusting how my body will perform and more about trusting that God will surround me with love and peace no matter what happens.

    I enjoy reading your blog. It helps me too. It's a terrible and difficult thing that no one should experience, but it has certainly given me a greater perspective of the real suffering of others and the love that God has for us as we struggle.

    1. What a great and thoughtful comment Stephanie. I completely agree with you about feeling like the spirit betrayed me as well and came to that same conclusion. I have seen and felt the spirit in the wake of it all that although I do not understand the entirety of the purpose of his death, I do feel that I have grown through it and for that I know I am on the right path. I hope you know that I do not look down upon inducing at 37 weeks, like I said I completely understand it. It was a very viable option for me as well, but through personal prayer and experiences I received confirmation that for my personal healing I needed to wait it out and take the steps necessary when that time comes. I actually have a post for tomorrow about that a little bit more. I agree with my friends as well and I hope that you take that to heart too, we did something incredibly sacred. Thanks for taking the time to comment and I have loved your post on God's will, miracles, and such. I reference constantly with my husband and it has provided relief to many of my unanswered questions. So thank you again for that :)

  4. I'm glad that article has been helpful. And of course I know you don't look down on women who get induced. Don't worry about that. I think every woman who goes through stillbirth has her own way of dealing with it next time. I'm so happy we got connected.