For the past couple weeks I could feel my Crohn's bubbling up inside of me.
“Hi Kat,” it said softly. “Slow down.”
“I don’t have time for this… it’ll go away if I ignore it. Mind over matter…”
“Hi Kat,” it said a little louder, “Sit a while and sleep.”
It didn’t listen, because I didn’t listen.
It did what it always does.. it seeped into my joints until one morning the telltale deadweight of my arms and legs told me I’d gone too far.
“Well, I did give you fair warning,” said the Crohns.
“No. You don’t understand. I have to go now. I have to get up. I have deadlines and Baby Girl needs to get ready for preschool and—“
Hot, hissing soreness in my shoulders. In my hips. Knees. Wrists. Everything hurts.
The lower right quadrant cramping is back with a shrieking vengeance too.
I feel nauseous from the pain.
“No. Please. Just not today. Not today. I can do tomorr— ok maybe Thursday. What about next week? I can take time to myself later…”
I’m pleading with my body. I’m negotiating with my schedule. I stop, realizing the futility, but part of me still thinks if I say the magic words I can turn off the symptoms.
Ok. OK. I GET IT.
I will take better care of myself. I will start to sleep. I will. I will start to delegate. I will get over my own ego and ASK for help. I promise. Just please. Take the pain away.
I have a meeting in 2 hours. My fingers hurt and my hands are swollen. Well, now I know where the term ‘meat hooks’ comes from, I think glibly.
It still hurts and I have to be out the door soon. I can feel my willpower surging with a kind of rigid force.
“Would it be so terribly bad… wouldn’t it be ok if you just let yourself rest? If you just admitted you need help?” The Crohn’s has piped up again.
“Yes. It would be. Are you KIDDING me? This is the least attractive thing in the world. This is WEAKNESS. Illness makes me some kind of disgusting, needy, weak, gross, flaky, ugly… I said disgusting, right? When I’m like this no one would even want to help me. I’m damaged goods. I have nothing to give. I’m just a puddle of useless flesh. And I’m only loveable when I have something to give—“
"Really? You don’t think your clients would get it if you rescheduled? You don’t think the people around you love you just for who you are, just AS you are? Even when you’re being a freak who won’t rest? Even when you have nothing? Wait. You love yourself, right?”
Silence. Stupid. Crohn’s.
“Yes. I do. Of course I do. I just have very high expectations of myself. And I am very aware of how others see me. And that makes me want to be really awesome. Because I love seeing them happy. And that means I have to be lovely, and smiling, and smart, and funny, and bubbly and pretty. And THIS is the farthest from that.”
“Yep. I guess it is the farthest from that. But um, it’s still you. So just saying, you might want to look at that.”
“OMG. Really?! Don’t you get it? I don’t want people to see me like this. To know me like this. If they do, they’ll stop loving me.”
“Ha. You are so busted. You and your whole ‘real, raw, and vulnerable’ act. It’s bullcrap. I knew it.”
“No WAIT!! It's not. I’m really struggling with it but I’m totally honouring it. I’m being as open and real as I can be. It’s hard to stay raw. I am vulnerable and exposed all the time. It’s just… I don’t know how to do this by myself. And sometimes I freak out. Kind of like now. Because I'm TALKING to my Crohn's. Oy. Seriously. I'm losing it over here…”
“You’re not alone. You just have to ask. And by the way? If you stopped trying to hide me, and learned to love and accept that sometimes I crop up? Things might be different. It’s also true that if you learned to love and accept that you have basic human limitations and you’re not a superhero (yeah I know, reality check) you may just see less of me, feel way better, and not have to find yourself holed up in bed, crying. Just putting that out there.”
What an ass. Even if it does have a point…
But the clock is still ticking. I am starting to play that inevitable game of mental Tetris to make sure I can get everything done before I rush out the door again. I start to shift around in bed.
My body is still gently pleading with me to stop.
"Kat. Please. Just let go."
What if I actually listened this time?
I stop trying to twinkle and shine for a moment, and breathe deep into my belly. And somehow…I get it.
That rigid force of 'YOU MUST' slowly drains and as it leaves I cry with something between surrender and acceptance.
I’m not going to my meeting.
I may not feel beautiful today.
I may not move around very much.
I may cry.
I may not feel the happiness that I love to share so much.
I may not have anything to offer to anyone.
Not even a smile.
And that is ok.
More than ok.
Because this too is me.
It's a part of me that is just as profoundly 'ME' as my laugh.
And it's teaching me how to love myself from the inside out.
This is me finally listening.
When Baby Girl would ask about me having another baby, I’d look at the crib in her room like it was some kind of oracle. Like it was somehow going to tell me if I stared at it long enough.
“Mummy, I want another sister, ok? Maybe a brother. Maybe both. I really love babies and you’re a great mummy. You should have some more. We don’t really need a daddy. Maybe you can ask your friends to help you...”
Hmm. Oddly convenient that the crib decides to stay quiet at times like this.
Damn inanimate objects.
I don’t know what else to say to her. I’ve been separated for almost a year now so I have no idea how to even field the question. Luckily she doesn't seem to mind. She shrugs, and moves on to something else.
It’s when the crib has been put into storage that I start really contemplating my ovaries. Naturally.
I stand there in its empty space and wonder about it, my eyes darting around for its cherry frame.
Well? When am I going to have more kids?
Am I going to? Ever?
I’m not done.
I realize I’m separated and that’s still fresh in the grand scheme.
And I’m still young, and there’s plenty of time and all that. But… is there?
I mean, I’m 35, I’ve had fertility issues for 6 years, and now I’m pretty much the farthest out of baby-making orbit I could possibly be.
So while it seems the most counterintuitive time to actually think about having more kids, maybe it’s actually the most important time. Right?
And yet… I feel weird about it.
We spend hundreds on fashion, restaurants, entertainment each year.
But what about our own legacies?
My foot is outlining the dent in the carpet left behind by the crib foot.
Life is odd.
We don’t often talk about our future selves procreation-wise, except in the context of prevention.
What about the decision to make sure that we have optimal reproductive health regardless of where we are in our relationships?
When was the last time you heard anyone who wasn’t actively on the baby-train, or who was single, say ‘I just want to make sure my tubes are open,’ ‘Gee I really hope I have awesome eggs,’ or ‘My goal is to have a great sperm count.’
I guess we don’t think about it until we’re ready to move to the next step with someone.
But what about someone like me? And what about the single professionals in their 30s who just aren’t ready to try right now?
Right now, when we think about eggs or embryos being frozen for future use, we may be a teeny bit more prone to look at it as part of a ‘couples’ fertility safeguard instead of something women or even men can do alone to make sure their futures are secure.
I have been thinking about it. I really have. Considering it, even.
Why not freeze my eggs, and then try later on with optimal materials that haven’t degraded over the years? Why not have that extra chance at conceiving—I could still be trying naturally and have some fr-ova (ha, see what I did there?) as my back up. Right?
How would the guy I was with feel about this? Would it be weird for him to think about using an egg from another time?
And if there is no guy? But I found myself in the right circumstances, I could still get a sperm donor and proceed. Right?
It’s a fascinating subject and I don’t know all the answers.
All I know is that I would love to try having more kids at some point.
And I want to make sure that I can.
I’ll keep you in the loop as I do my research and learn the best option for me.
Well played, Crib. Well played.
Sometimes we get caught up in ourselves.
In our reflections.
In our rejections.
We look to reconnect with that person inside of us, but often settle for a passing reflective surface and a snap judgment about how we look and what we’re wearing.
Maybe we are torturing ourselves. Maybe we’re not eating. Maybe we’re binging. Maybe we’re purging. Maybe we are programming ourselves to feel shame about our bodies, and crossing our fingers that our children or friends and families don't see what we’re doing or why.
“My skin is gross today.”
“I feel fat.”
“I’m just not attractive.”
Maybe it’s time to stop for a minute and think about the weight of our words instead of the number on the scale.
Here are30 things I remind myself on the days that seems like a tough call to make.