Pythagorean Vision

Billie: “Did you know that I see math everywhere?”

Me: “You do what now?”

Billie: “I see math. I see it everywhere. It calms me down.”

Me: “How do you see math? Can you explain it to me?”

Billie: “Well look at this tile. It has four sides, right? But inside the square are four quadrants. Each quadrant has its own measurement- Its own number. There are numbers in everything. There are measurements everywhere. And, if those numbers weren’t there, that tile would fall down on top of itself. It can’t stand without its number. And that’s why I like that I see math everywhere. It tells me that things won’t topple down on me. It makes me calm. I like that.”

Pythagorean Vision

Why I Hope My Daughter Won’t Be Afraid To Use Planned Parenthood

Since she could speak Billie has asked me for a sibling.

As a lightening strike of wit and ferocity, she found it hard to bond with any child her age. They didn’t seem to understand her. Her humor was beyond them. Her thought process was too much a wobbly matrix of adult musings mashed up with poop jokes for anyone her age to follow. As a result, she’s naturally gravitated toward older children and adults. That hasn’t stopped her, of course, from begging me, quite desperately, for a younger companion.

For that and many other reasons, My husband, Doug, and I had been trying to conceive. After two miscarriages in a very short time, we were beside ourselves to find me pregnant again in June 2016. But, by early July, something was terribly wrong. I knew the signs. I knew how it felt in my body. I took one horrified look at Doug and said, “It’s happening again. We have to go to an ER. Now.

The first E.R. visit yielded inconclusive results. There was too much blood, too much clotting, too much everything for the doctor to be sure. She ordered an ultrasound. The ultrasound tech knew the situation. I told her about my previous miscarriages. I was shaking and clutching the thin hospital gown as I relived them. She thought she was calming me down when she showed me the 8 week old fetus’ heartbeat. She thought that would help.
But… wait…” She turned the screen suddenly. “It’s just… the heartbeat is a little slow… I’m sure it’ll pick up! You’ll be fine!

It didn’t and I wasn’t. Within two days my hormone levels stopped increasing at the rate they were supposed to. Another ultrasound revealed there was no longer a heartbeat.

I was in and out of the hospital for the next five weeks as they did test after test. The fetus was not dislodging from my uterus. I was getting weaker and constantly doubled over from the pain. It became hard to walk. We had just moved back to my home state but I refused to see any of my friends. I was in too much pain to see people who probably could have relieved some of it. I was in too much pain to even realize that’s what I was doing.

As we had just moved to a new state, I was dealing with a new primary care physician. He knew the miscarriage wasn’t going normally but he was reluctant to help me much beyond “just wait a see.” I begged him for another answer. At this time it had been 6 weeks since the miscarriage diagnosis. I had already taken “the pill.” The inviable fetus was not detaching. My blood pressure was dropping, I was running a fever more often than I wasn’t, and I was vomiting more than I spoke (and, even for a sick person, I spoke a lot).

The doctor was quick to tell me that this wasn’t really his “forte.
You see,” he continued pleadingly, “I’m a little out of my element. I’m used to dealing with successful pregnancies.
He stressed the word successful earnestly, as if he was hoping that, by drawing the word out as long as he could, he could magically make the dead fetus inside me spring to life and do the Charleston.

My expression did not change.
Yes,” I replied, my heart swirling to dust inside my chest, “this must be really tough for you.

It’s not that,” he continued, “It’s just that you’re asking me for an abortion. You know that, right? I know there’s no heartbeat and it’s medically necessary in your case, but the name of the procedure is an abortion. So that’s what you’re asking me for.

My mother, who is a warrior and a godsend and happened to be in the room with me, turned her eyes into slits while she breathed through her teeth, “Then what, pray tell, do you recommend?

The doctor faltered. He left the room for a second opinion and came back. Turns out the abortion a.k.a. a “D&C” (Dilation and Curettage) Procedure really was my only option. He scheduled one for 2 and a half weeks out on the condition that I do several (6, I think) pre-op appointments before then.

I barely made it out of the waiting room before I lost myself. I doubled over from the pain with tears snotting over every part of my face as I wept gape mouthed and bereft.

Hezzie,” my mother pleaded with me, “You’re not going to make it another two weeks. Please. Turn around and tell them you won’t make it.

But the “abortion” comment threw me. I have long been a pro-choice advocate so I didn’t rightly know why, exactly. I had wanted this pregnancy. More than anything. I could see Billie’s pleading eyes as she grappled my face and begged me for a sibling. I could feel the swelling in my chest in preparation for a child that would never come. I still close my eyes to this day and see the heartbeat on the ultrasound flickering erratically and desperately. Damnit, I wanted this. My whole family wanted this. But now they were recommending I just go to Planned Parenthood and do the D&C as soon as possible. I was barely functioning. That entire 6 weeks was a haze of pain and blood and vomit. But I wanted to follow the doctor’s suggestion. He was, after all, the authority here.

It’s just that you’re asking me for an abortion.”

I couldn’t un-hear those words. I couldn’t shut them down as much as my proud feminist self wanted to. Because, in the most technical of ways, I was. I was asking for an abortion.

I went home. Maybe I could wait it out.

Two days later I woke up in the Emergency Room. I had blacked out from the pain. My parents were there and Doug was on his way. The doctor in front of me looked grim as I pulled myself together long enough to relay all the facts. I could only offer bullet points with little to no linear grounding: “3rd miscarriage… I saw the heart beat… No rise in hormone levels… Then no more heartbeat… Bleeding and clotting for 6 weeks… Severe vomiting and fever… Intense abdominal pain… I took the pill 8 days ago… Still no miscarriage.. but… i saw… the… heartbeat…

The E.R. doctor ordered another ultrasound. Sure enough, the fetus was very much inviable and still very much intact. “This is not OK,” he informed me, “You should have had a D&C scheduled weeks ago. You’re going into sepsis. Who’s your primary care physician?

I informed him of what my doctor had said and mentioned that he scheduled a D&C for two weeks out.

The doctor looked at me pleadingly, “Look, you don’t have two weeks. I’m not sure you have 48 hours. You need an emergency D&C.” He turned to my parents, “Do you understand what I’m trying to say? She doesn’t have a lot of time. I’m so so sorry.

The E.R. doctor then called my doctor to inform him of the situation. But my doctor’s hands were tied. You see, D&C’s aren’t really that big of a deal in the hospital world. Even emergency ones. It’s a 15 minute procedure that doesn’t even require a scalpel. You would be hard pressed to convince a hospital to bump a cardiac bypass in favor of an abortion. It’d be like trading ice cream in favor of brussels sprouts. Even those who do it aren’t happy about it. The E.R. doctor then proceeded to check the surgery schedule of every hospital in a 70 mile radius. No luck. None of them had the time or space for a D&C no matter how dire. As a last ditch effort, my doctor called Planned Parenthood. He explained the situation and they were able to get me in the next day.

At Planned Parenthood another ultrasound was done. The tech was super kind and informative. She gave me the option to ask questions and educated me about the state of my miscarriage. When I went in to see the doctor she, too, gave me information and advice on how to move forward in seeking a successful pregnancy. She hugged me. Twice. Then she asked if there was anything I needed before we began.
I smiled wryly as if to say, “I need to not be here. I need to have a healthy fetus in me. I need to have not seen that damn heartbeat…
The doctor cut me off from my thoughts and hugged me again.
Then she explained the procedure and the sensations I was likely to feel. The nurse held my hand and told me a story about puppies.
When it was done I rested and was given some more pamphlets, guides, and even the phone number to a recommended fertility doctor.

When I left the clinic I passed the protesters with the signs that called me a “baby killer.” They shook them at me vigorously as I walked by.

Then Doug took me to get a milkshake.

My mother said it was the closest to death that she had ever seen any of her children. I’m one of four kids and my brother has had more traumatic head injuries than should be physically possible yet still I’m inclined to believe her. I felt very close to death. Some days, when I close my eyes and see that heartbeat, I still do.

I would love to tell you that this has a happy ending where I’m bursting at the belly with a child and all is well. But that’s not the case. We won’t be trying for another pregnancy any time soon.

Maybe the happy ending here is just that I’m alive. That I can continue being a good mom to my daughter and a pain in the ass to Doug.
Maybe the happy ending is that this fucked up horror show that happened to me can somehow help someone else.

I’m not sure.

But I can tell you that I’m thankful. I’m thankful for Doug. I’m thankful for my parents. I’m forever thankful for Billie. I’m thankful for every member of my family that dropped everything to help me.

And I’m thankful that Planned Parenthood stepped up and saved my life.
I’m thankful for all the humans that donated and helped someone like me receive care that other’s would have balked at.

In the future, I hope my daughter uses any of the myriad services at Planned Parenthood should she need it. I hope the stigma of a procedure doesn’t prevent her from receiving life-saving care. I hope she’s able to know fact from alternative fact and get treatment from humans who want her to make the best, most informed choice for her body. Because her mother almost didn’t. Her mother almost let the stigma of a silly name drag her down deep into the bowels of guilt and septic shock.

And, one day, Billie will get her sibling. It might be in the form of a close friend or an adopted child or a latent miracle from my uterus. Who knows. Until then, though, I think I’m just going to hug my family. And be thankful I’m still around to do so.

Why I Hope My Daughter Won’t Be Afraid To Use Planned Parenthood

Astute

Billie: “What is this show?”
Me: “Oh, I’m watching something where they’re showing clips of the Miss America Pageant.”
Billie: “The Miss America Pageant?”
Me: “Yes.”
Billie: (looking closely at the clips of women walking around in dresses) “That’s not what it should be called.”
Me: “No? What should it be called, then?”
Billie: “It should be called, ‘Do You Like Me?’ Yea. That’s the name of that show.”

Well… Basically.

Astute

Why I Hope My Kid Gets Therapy

“I will know how badly I have failed as a parent by how many hours of therapy my kids need.”

Walk It Off

One of my dad’s favorite stories centers around a very young me getting kicked by a horse in the knee and then attempting to walk it off because he told me to.
He thinks it shows my resilience.
Other parents collect stamps or motorcycles. My parents collect stories of stubborn self actualization.
And, don’t get me wrong, it’s an awesome story.
And, even though I still have issues with my knee to this day as a result, I wouldn’t take that lesson (Don’t stand within kicking-distance of an angry horse, dumbass) or the subsequent lessons (perseverance, strength, endurance, etc.) back for all the gold in Equestria.

But, here’s the thing about that incident (and oh- so- many others like it): it became the running theme in my own personal handbook of self-destructive behaviors. The “walk it off” mantra that might as well have been sown onto the Jacoby Family crest, while useful at times, didn’t allot for the nuanced issues that would later enter my life. I took “walk it off” to extreme levels. I prided myself in not needing help or assistance. Ever. Through deaths, traumas, break downs, and other emotionally catastrophic events I refused help in lieu of some false, stubborn sense of mental prowess.
Mind over matter, Heather, I would think. Walk it off.

And it worked. It worked for a long time.
Until it didn’t anymore.

When You Can’t Walk Anymore
I became a shell of myself. I stopped sleeping. There are whole months of my life that I don’t remember. I began to get worried that Billie wouldn’t even recognize her own mother anymore. I needed help. There was too much stuff and I couldn’t wade through it all. Hell, I couldn’t get through any of it. I was stuck. Finally, Doug encouraged me to see a therapist. And I refused. Several times.
I’m fine. I’m being a baby, I told him. I will walk it off.
But there are some things you can’t “walk off.” There are some times that you’re not even aware of your own body let alone your legs.
So… after much deliberation… I went to therapy.

But I Swear I’m Still Strong
My favorite aunt once told me, “I will know how badly I have failed as a parent by how many hours of therapy my kids need.”

My family saw therapy as failure. Hell, it seemed they viewed all outside help as failure. For the same reasons my father never took me to see a doctor after the horse-kicking incident, I was criticized when I told them I had begun to see a therapist.
Was I not strong enough to deal with these issues on my own?
Could I not realize that I was unique and gifted and could get through anything without the help of a medical professional?
Wasn’t I worried they would try to medicate me and take away all my magical individuality?
If I really had all these issues- couldn’t I just talk to them about it? They knew me. They could help. Why take my problems to a complete stranger?
Did I not trust them anymore?

Overcoming my own prejudice against therapy took me years. I was told from a young age that it was the answer of the lazy. The weak. The answer of those who couldn’t figure their own shit out for their damn selves. And, just the act of admitting that I, the strong and resilient product of Jacoby blood, needed outside help was enough to cripple me.
I had failed.
I was the lazy. The weak. The good for nothing.

Letting the Floor Bleed
One morning, after a particularly rough therapy session the day before, I woke up to Billie screaming. It was the horrifying, uninhibited, feral pterodactyl scream that could only indicate she was either a) legitimately hurt or b) she had misplaced her princess shoes (they register the same on the scream- o- meter). Doug was already with her before I could get to her. I could hear him consoling her but her screams persisted. Loud screams. Ear piercing screams.
“HOLY GOD, CHILD. It CANNOT be that bad,” I remember saying. “Walk it off.”
“She can’t, sweetie,” Doug countered.
And that’s when I saw it.
She had sliced the bottom of her foot open.
Her room was littered with all sorts of toys and, hiding under one of her precious stuffed animals was a plastic candle that Santa gave her (look- She’s fascinated with fire. And Santa thought a plastic candle was safer than actual fire. But apparently he was mistaken. Elves shall be fired over the oversight. Trust). When she stepped on the candle, the plastic “flame” part dug into the bottom of her foot and broke her skin.
She literally couldn’t walk it off.
Before this incident, she had never seen herself bleed.

She freaked the fuck out, guys.

They say the first cut is the deepest. That’s not necessarily true. BUT- if you have never been cut before then the first cut is definitely going to feel like a big damn deal.
And Billie had never been cut before.
She had never felt that type of pain.
She didn’t know if it was ever going to end, let alone when. She didn’t know how to process it.
So she screamed.
Holy God, did she scream.
And she cried.
And she bled.
And Daddy held her and told her the story of the Three Little Pigs while mommy stopped the bleeding and got her a bandaid.
And when mommy was done, she calmed down. She took a break. She had me explain everything I had just done to make the bleeding stop. She took it in. She made me repeat myself. Three times. She memorized what to do in case it happened again. She took another breath.
When she had sufficiently calmed down Doug turned to her and said, “Now Billie. Your room is a mess. And you hurt yourself because there was so much stuff on the floor, you couldn’t see where you were going. Had your room been clean- you wouldn’t have cut your foot open. Did you learn your lesson?”
“Yes, Daddy.”
“Which is…?”
She thought about it. Then she responded, “Next time, Daddy, I’m gunna just let the floor bleed.”

Mental Maintenance
“I will know how badly I have failed as a parent by how many hours of therapy my kids need.”

I now know why those words never sat well with me.
I reject the idea that seeking therapy equals failure on the parent’s part.
Sometimes it is, sure. Some parent’s just suck.

But here’s the deal: the world is big. And scary. Sometimes it hurts us in the most obvious ways. And, even more often, we get hurt in disastrously creative ways we could’ve never predicted. Regardless of how it chooses to devour our souls and slowly masticate on our ego until there’s little left than a pulpy, fleshy koosh ball where our heart used to be, it will eventually get to you. And the pain might not be something you’ve ever experienced before and/or you may not know how to handle it.
And that’s okay.

When Billie got hurt she screamed. She cried. Then she she found people who could help her and *gasp* she let them help her. She knew the problem was one she had not experienced before and one that was beyond her depth so she sought help.
And, when all was said and done, she learned from that experience.
In most situations we have two solutions- we can take the hit or we can deflect it elsewhere.
We can slice our foot open or we can let the floor bleed.

But some problems won’t be so easy to fix. Sometimes deflecting isn’t the solution. And taking the hit blows. Sometimes mommy and daddy won’t have the answers handy with her favorite fairy tale and a glass of chocolate milk. Sometimes she’s going to have to be self- reliant enough and strong enough to go outside her comfort zone and seek help. And, while I hope to God it will be a VERY long time before she ever needs to do that, I want to believe that, when she does, I will support her. I will be proud of her.

Because when you’re hurting it’s very easy to hide. It’s easy to cry and pull away and run. The hardest thing you can do is stand up and admit that you’re not as strong as you need to be and that you need some assistance in making that happen.
That doesn’t make you weak.
That doesn’t make you lazy.

That makes you fucking brave.
Period.
End of story.
You’re a badass. You were wounded and battered and bloodied and you slogged yourself over to someone who might be able to assist you. There are not enough words for what a revelation you are.

Walking It Off… Within Reason
And, sure, my parents and I may (to this very day) disagree on the therapy issue. It’s a complex and multi-faceted one that pits self reliance against their theories on westernized medications and the media’s overt stigmatization of mental health issues in general. And that’s fine. Their views don’t make them any less awesome and mine don’t make me weak.
I will say, however; that teaching kids that all therapy is the answer or all therapy is the devil is obviously not what I’m advocating. The answer is empathy. And compassion. And understanding. And knowing that, what is right for one person may not be OK for you and that is fine.
But creating an environment where seeking help is riddled with shame is dangerous. It’s irresponsible. It’s why it took me years to figure out what my four- year- old daughter instinctively knew:
It’s OK to ask for help. Just breathe. Take notes. Then move on stronger and wiser.

Or, if you can, don’t take the hit at all. Just let the floor bleed.

Why I Hope My Kid Gets Therapy

I Failed When My Daughter Was Born

When it comes to parenting, people always talk about that moment. That one moment when a child is born that forever changes their lives and offers a very specific clarity to the world in which they live.

I have never had such a moment.

My daughter was born and there was no magical revelation. No crazy, earth shattering catharsis. There wasn’t even a life- altering, soul expanding, decree of “NOW THE WORLD MAKES SENSE” or some shit.

There was just panic. And stress. And love, of course.

But I thought I was a failure because I didn’t have that moment. Because I didn’t immediately get washed up in some love tidal wave that left me oozing with appreciation and adoration of the thing that just tunneled its way out of my loins.  I thought some secret Mommy Mafia was going to rise up from the bowels of the earth, screaming Raffi lullabies in latin, and ripping my kid from my arms as the people from Child Protective Services did the the ChaCha in celebration.

It carried this weight with me until my daughter was well out of diapers. I didn’t have that moment. I wasn’t one of those parents. I failed. Anyone with a Facebook who is friends of new parents will tell you that that moment is fucking crucial for social validation. The “OMG I JUST MET THIS LITTLE GUY AND I’M SO IN LOVE ALREADY” is the most standard and banal of captions coupling baby’s first photo. To not have this moment, or feeling, relegates you to a bad parent wasteland where your selfish mindset is almost always the first thing highlighted.

I spent years thinking that was the answer. I didn’t have that moment because I was selfish. I didn’t put my own child’s existence before mine thus allowing her birth to be the single most incredible lightning bolt to the heart that has ever happened in the history of ever. And that fact alone made me a bad person. And a terrible mother.

Then the clarity settles in.

See, I dropped Billie off at her daycare today. She asked for a hug and I gave her one. Before I knew it- the other ten kids in the daycare surrounded me, screaming desperately for a hug. I’m not one to voluntarily hug strangers’ kids but I know enough about children to know that, if they’re asking for a hug, it’s because they need it. So I start dolling out hugs. Billie stands to the side watching as the kids line up to hug me. The last kid, a little girl, gives me the hugest smile and the most epic of hugs. I tell her, “Happy Friday, beautiful! Have a great day.” The little girl turns to leave, but changes her mind and barrels back into my chest before I’m even able to understand what’s going on. Billie looks at me and says, “I told her your hugs were magic. She needs all the magic right now.” When the little girl pulled away from me she was still smiling but now there were tears in her eyes. I found out later, from the teacher, that the little girl’s been having some “trouble” at home. I doubt Billie was aware of any of that- but she knew enough to know that the little girl needed kindness. And that I could give it.

I realize now that I didn’t have that sudden parental love moment not because it wasn’t there; on the contrary, it was always there. That moment of extreme love and catharsis was present in Billie’s birth and every millisecond thereafter. It was there when she was an infant- sick and vomiting into my shirt as I held her. It was there when I found myself fantasizing about punching a 5 year old on the playground for making fun of her hair. It was there in her first bike ride. See, I’m not the kind of person who relinquishes herself to love easily. I’m the kind of person who doesn’t understand that what she’s feeling is love until it’s burrowed so deeply into her flesh that she mistakes it for a biological necessity. I’m the kind of person who wears her love completely, like skin. It’s not something that just gets magically added to your life in profound light bulb flashes. It’s something that is already a part of you. Something so deep and embedded that sometimes you won’t even know it’s there until you’ve already used it. Something that seems invisible until the light hits it just right.

Like magic.

 

 

I Failed When My Daughter Was Born