creativity + fear

I have been thinking a lot about creativity lately. Creativity and fear, in particular. There are a great many things that I want to try, do, make. They burn beneath my skin. But I let fear keep them there. I would rather spontaneously combust from the collective heat of all of my undone projects and unexplored ideas than put something imperfect out into the world.

Above all else, I fear rejection. I fear being told that I am not good enough, that I am not worthy. That I do not deserve love. The idea of making art and having it not be good enough for other people, even for me, makes me nauseous with terror.

For our baby shower, I put out a giant canvas that I’ve had for several years. When I hold it in front of my body, only my head and feet show. I put it out on the island with a bunch of paint and asked people to create a communal art piece that we would then hang in our daughter’s room. A lot of people were overwhelmed by this small act of creativity (aren’t we all?). “But I’m not an artist, Jessica.” “But … what would I even do?” “But I don’t paint.” My dad practiced his birds on a scrap of paper beforehand; they were literally the M-shaped birds that we all drew as children, though my father is capable of drawing a pretty realistic tiger. My mother painted an off-kilter diamond and then waved at it vaguely, asking one of our friends, “Do something with that, maybe?” (It seems that creativity and fear go hand in hand for a great many people.)

In the end, more than half of our guests contributed and the end result was a colorful, chaotic creation that looked like it was made by a bunch of manic kindergartners. It was far from a masterpiece, but it was made with great love.

There was a lot of white space, though, and it was disjointed. Bryan said it made him feel anxious. I thought I would add to it, fill in some of the white space, balance it out somehow, while preserving what our friends and family had poured themselves into. Had overcome their fears to create.

I put it off, though. What, exactly, should I do? I was deeply afraid of ruining what had been made that day. So it sat on a table in the basement, where I never really had to see it.

I thought about it, though. A lot. It wrapped itself around my brain like some kind of strangler vine. My anxiety grew. The truth was that I didn’t like it the way it was. I liked parts of it and I liked what it represented, the idea of it, but the canvas itself? I had no desire to hang it in the nursery.

A few weeks ago, finally, I decided to do something about it. There was resistance; the effort it took to actually heave myself off the couch after I’d announced I was going to paint was monumental, even by third trimester standards.

I did a warm-up painting, which I ended up liking quite a lot. Then I turned to the big canvas. Still, I had no idea what to do. Still, my mind was a complete blank. I could not picture anything to do with it that didn’t involve painting over the whole thing and starting again from scratch.

So I decided to just…start. I squirted some purple paint onto my palette and I just…started. The more I painted, though, the more I panicked. The more I looked at it and thought, “Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck, I have really messed this up.”

After about ten minutes, I stopped. I took a step back to survey the work that I had done, and my heart sank. I hadn’t loved it before, no, but now…well, now, I really hated it.

I was frustrated and angry. See? This is why I don’t take risks! This is why I don’t make things! Because they end up looking like this.

I wish there was some great moral to this story. Like, “I took a risk and it paid off in spades and now I have this amazing thing for our nursery.” But it doesn’t. It didn’t. I don’t. I don’t know yet how I am going to fix it. If I am going to fix it. It is still sitting on that table in the basement, my palette abandoned beside it, some brightly colored tissue paper next to that which I thought I might glue onto it. Just to make the whole thing look a little more disjointed and chaotic. Bryan said he would try to help. And maybe that’s the point: failure is just an opportunity to try again. And again and again and again. So answer the call to make art, even if you fuck it up, even if it makes you sick with fear, because there will always be another chance to try again. The fear is our signal that this is something important, this is something worth doing. And really, what is the alternative? Spontaneous combustion. That’s what.

creativity + fear

the burden of knowledge

Sometimes, I wish I wasn’t a feminist.

I wish that I could bury myself in ignorance and apathy. That I could pretend that the world’s injustices neither matter to me nor touch me at all. That I don’t care that we live in a patriarchal rape culture that systematically devalues women (among many other marginalized groups). But I can’t. I want better for myself. I want better for everyone. And now, more than ever, I want better for my daughter. 

I wasn’t surprised when the ultrasound tech told us that our baby was a girl. For the entirety of my pregnancy, I had been telling everyone who would listen that exact thing. “I have absolutely nothing to back this up, but I am convinced that it is a girl.” With the confirmation, though, came an almost immediate, suffocating tidal wave of terror.

We are having a girl.

Oh God, we are having a girl.

Oh God, how am I ever going to prepare my daughter for the world that we are bringing her into?

The wage gap. Catcalling. Brock Turner. Donald Trump. I looked around me and saw monsters around every corner, in every closet, under every bed. I wanted to curl my arms around my belly and tell my daughter to stay in utero forever, where she’d be safe. Where I could keep her safe.

Because the fact of the matter is that I have no idea how I am going to prepare her for this world. I don’t know how to prepare myself for this world most days. For the crushing despair that I feel on an almost daily basis just when I open my social media accounts. How am I ever going to raise her to believe that she breathes fire when the society that we live in is so hellbent on keeping her small? I want my girl to be fierce. Unafraid. Powerful. I want her to have every opportunity in the world, to go through life believing that there is no one more capable than she is. It would be so much easier if I could look around at the world and shrug. Oh well, that’s just the way the world is, it is just something we have to deal with.

I refuse to accept the world the way it is; I know better than that. I won’t raise my daughter to accept it either.

I guess that is all I can do. Teach her not to accept the status quo. Teach her to use her voice. To be big. To take up space. To make the world a better place than she found it. A better place than we made for her. And that I’ll be right there beside her, doing the same.

I have a few ideas for this that I am already bandying about with a friend. I will let you know if and when something more concrete blossoms into existence. In the meantime, tell me, what do you do to make the world around you seem a little less bleak? (Especially in times like these, when the darkest timeline seems to have come true and Donald freaking Trump is the next president of the so-called “greatest” country in the world.)

the burden of knowledge

learning to surrender

On my hands and knees, pressing into my yoga mat, my muscles tense, my mind whirring. Unable to find space, unable to find what feels good. Begrudgingly, I swing my right leg up and back, then forward, laying it across my mat like a blockade, pressing my protesting hips into pigeon pose, one of my favorites, one of my biggest challenges.

The pose pulls through many parts of me. At first, the protestations of my tight hips only get louder as I focus in on them, attempt to bend them to my will, gritting my teeth and demanding they do as I say. Forgetting to breathe. Forgetting to find softness. Finding only frustration and pain.

Slowly, though, I remind myself of why I am here. Why I have come to my mat today. Slowly, my focus is pulled back to the center of my being, the quietude at the heart of me: my breath. As I begin to blur into the rise of inhalation, the fall of exhalation, my hips begin to loosen on their own, melting further and further into the mat, until, gradually and all at once, I find myself resting with my arms on the ground, my forehead on my arms, my hips open, in a pose of recline and supplication.

Surrender is hard for me. Like many people, I want to be in control of as much as possible, as often as possible. I want to take action and know that it will manifest the exact results that I want it to manifest.

I don’t have to tell you that life doesn’t work that way. I’m sure you already know. I’m sure you can think of many occasions when your well-laid plans splintered into pieces only to be reassembled in an image you didn’t recognize. I could never have anticipated the exact route that my life has taken. It certainly wasn’t the route that I planned.

But I do so love to try. I do so love to obsess over the future and how to make it exactly the way I want it. Despite the fact that every plan I have ever made has derailed in some way, big or small. Despite the fact that this way of thinking causes nothing but deep and desperate anxiety.

*

I would have been 34 weeks pregnant if I hadn’t lost my first baby. Or 27 weeks, if I hadn’t lost my second.

I’ve mostly come to terms with that. But sometimes, I am overcome with a tired, half-hearted rage that makes me demand, “How the fuck is this fair? Tell me how.”

It’s not, of course. Fairness has nothing to do with it at all. The universe never promised to be fair.

Still, I get angry with it. I want to know why it’s punishing me (it’s not). I want to know what I did to deserve this (probably nothing). I want to know what I can do to bend the universe to my will to get what I want (I can’t).

I’ve mostly come to terms with my miscarriages, but still, they hurt. Still, I imagine what it would be like to be 27 or 34 weeks pregnant. To be big and uncomfortable like I never was. To know if it was a boy or a girl, to have seen its little black and white alien ultrasound face.

It hurts, but I think about it.

And then, like a fool, I think about what I can do to make sure the universe never screws me like that again.

*

I do not know what the future holds. I cannot know. Right now, I’m planning on returning to school in the fall, postponing my entrance into the ranks of motherhood for a few years.

I mean, that’s the plan. Who knows what the universe will blow my way, though? Who knows how the plan will shift?

Plan. Surrender. Plan. Surrender.

Rinse and repeat.

And so I return to my yoga practice for guidance. Guidance on the best way to surrender to the universe and stop trying to force myself into the shape I think I should be: thinner, more accomplished, more educated, better dressed, richer. A mother. Whatever.

I’m breathing in and breathing out. I am surrendering to the will and the timing of the universe. I do what I can, and the rest is not up to me. I do what I can, then I open my fists and let the universe do with my efforts what it pleases.

learning to surrender

in search of spirituality

I am nervous to post this. I don’t talk about religion or God very much. For a long time, it has been a topic that I have automatically, reflexively shied away from. I have been known to say that “religion is so weird” and “God talk skeeves me out.” But this has been a big part of my life lately, somewhere much of my mental energy is going, and so I want to talk about it. If you, like me, are occasionally skeeved out by God talk, then I have given you fair warning and my blessing to skip this post.

A lot of my life has been characterized by searching: searching for a home, searching for a partner, searching for a path. Why should my relationship with religion and spirituality have been characterized by anything else?

I was raised Catholic. We went to church every Sunday. I sat in the pew, sat and stood and knelt along with everyone else, raised my voice in the responses with everyone else, sang along to the hymns with everyone else. I slid along the wooden bench and out into the aisle, moving towards the priest with my hands cupped, receiving the bread and wine with a whispered, “Amen,” along with everyone else.

But I was never really there. It was never really a part of me. I went because that was what our family did. I went because it was important to my mom. I went because I didn’t think there was any other option.

When I was 16, I became more vocal about my doubts and feelings of not belonging. My mom sent me to one of the most respected women in our church for a kind of religious counselling. We talked a bit about God and the church and what I was feeling. She gave me a notebook with some Bible quotes printed on the bottom of each page. I left, feeling neither vindicated nor released, but rather, more confused.

I continued going to church with my family as though nothing had happened, as if my doubts had all been dealt with over three evening sessions in an unfamiliar living room. But still, I strained against what I felt were the bonds of a faith that I had never chosen for myself. I listened to the priest’s homilies and alternately tuned out or seethed with anger over the closed-minded invectives against homosexuals and abortions and other things that I just could not find it in me to vilify. When there was a homily that rang true for me, I dismissed it with a wave of my hand, coming, as it did, from the same lips that preached so many ideas that I abhorred. I clenched my fists and bit my tongue and grew ever more angry and distant.

Eventually, perhaps inevitably, I broke from the church completely. In a painful exchange with my mom, I informed her that I no longer felt connected to the church, no longer identified with any aspect of it, and would no longer be attending services when I went home to visit. I read The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins and promptly pronounced myself an atheist. (I spent a lot of time saying no to all gods and all religions, though part of me longed to say some sort of small yes, somewhere, to something.)

But that never sat right with me either. I have always had a complicated relationship with the idea of God. The Catholic God, who is all knowing and all loving and yet perfectly willing to condemn people to an eternity in hell if they fail to be the right way or repent of their smallest sins, is not a God that I am interested in knowing. But I have always had a sense that there is something bigger out there, something larger than myself, some unknowable force or forces that we cannot hope to ever comprehend. I don’t know about heaven and I don’t know about eternity, but I do know that I think there is something. I do not, I cannot, believe that we are alone.

In the past few months, after three years of staunch aversion to all things religious, I have tentatively begun searching again. I woke up one day and realized that there was an emptiness in me that I had been ignoring, an emptiness that was longing for something spiritual to fill it. I don’t yet know what that something is. I don’t see myself returning to the church of my youth, but I don’t entirely rule it out. I have been doing a lot of reading, which is not only what I do for fun, but what I do when I am at a lost for where to go next. I’ve read about different religious traditions (I just read several books about paganism and Wicca, a few aspects of which really stuck with me), and other people’s stories of religious searching. I have plans to visit the unitarian church here in the city, and maybe the United church just down from us. (I’ve had those plans for months now, but come Sunday morning, I always seem to find an excuse. Maybe I’m just not ready yet.) I already meditate, and would love to bring a bit more of a spiritualist focus to that practice.

Whenever I talk about trying to find my career path, Bryan always tells me that he thinks I’m a “slash” person: writer slash teacher slash entrepeneur. That I will never be happy with just one thing. I think the same principle applies to my spiritual endeavours. I am a bit of an eclectic, and need to bring multiple aspects of multiple denominations into my own practice.

I remember, in grade 9 at my Catholic school, my religion teacher told us about how she took things from other religions that resonated with her and incorporated them into her Catholicism. For example, Buddhist teachings really struck a chord with her, and so she brought them into her relationship with God. That she could do this and still identify herself as a Catholic was mind-blowing to me. It was the first time anyone had told me that you were allowed to be more than just one thing, that the borders between belief systems were fluid and not fixed. That you were allowed to have a multi-faceted, multidimensional, multiple personality relationship with God.

I think that’s where I’m at now. I’m still searching. I still don’t know exactly what I believe or how to engage with that. But my years of journeying and wondering and reading have exposed me to many different disciplines that have struck a chord of truth in my soul. Perhaps, for now, that can be enough.

“When you join a church, you are basically picking which hot mess is your favorite.” – Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans

in search of spirituality

yes to being alive

I came to a realization the other day. Not a fun one, either.

I am closed down.

I am joyless.

I am sleepwalking.

I have been saying no for a long time. As a method of self-preservation, which seemed like an honorable, even necessary, choice at the time. I was emotionally devastated after my miscarriages, and I needed to take care of myself. That is true. But I took it too far, curled too far into myself and shut out the light completely. And if I’m being honest, I have been saying yes (the wrong yes) to inaction and complaining for much longer than that. For years. For most of my life.

I wanted to travel. Instead of saving the money and going, I complained that I was too broke, then spent all my money on other things.

I wanted to be a writer. Instead of sitting down and writing, then sending those pieces to publications, I complained that I would never get noticed.

I wanted to find a purpose. Instead of pursuing what I was interested in, the things I already knew were my passions, I turned away and complained about not knowing what my path was.

It was all so much easier. Saying no, protecting myself, taking the safe route and never taking a chance. Those things are so easy.

But I can’t do it anymore.

I have this deep fear of wasting my life. Soul deep. It paralyzes me sometimes. Okay, it paralyzes me a lot of the time. It gets so huge and so overwhelming that I end up freezing, doing nothing, so overcome with the need to make it count. So, of course, I have ended up doing nothing most of the time. Which is such a waste.

Oh, the irony.

The other day, I finished reading Shonda Rhimes’s book, Year of Yes. I powered through it in a matter of days. Everything she said spoke right to my soul. Spoke right to the thing in me that was saying no to everything that came up in my life. And I realized that I was hurting myself. By saying no to living, I was attacking the core of who I am.

 

I want to live. I just want to live while I’m alive. I want to be here. I want to take up space. I want to say yes, I want to fail, I want to succeed, I want to try and try and try some more. I want to open up to life. It doesn’t have to be big. I don’t have to be Shonda Rhimes or JK Rowling for my life to be meaningful (but hey, if that’s in the cards, great). I just have to, you know, live.

So from now on, I am saying yes. I am saying yes to things that scare me. I am saying yes to stepping outside of my comfort zone, to taking steps, to doing. 

From now on, I am saying yes to being alive.

yes to being alive

on vulnerability

My hands shook as I pushed the letter through the slot. My fingers didn’t want to let go. I stood in the snowy, white cold for a long moment as I tried to convince my muscles to release the letter. To release my vulnerability into the world. I heard it land in the mailbox. I scrambled back into my car and sat for a moment, trying to get my breathing under control and talking myself out of throwing up.

***

Emotional vulnerability is hard. No one is going to argue with that, right? Telling people how we really feel – I love you, I don’t love you, you hurt me, I’m scared – leaves our deepest and most sensitive selves open to the ridicule, cruelty, and rejection of others. Often the people we care about the most, who hold the most ability to devastate us.

So my reaction that day, as I sent a letter winging across the city to the man in my life I have loved the longest, detailing the ways in which I felt our relationship had gone off course and was causing both of us pain, doesn’t surprise me. The 36 hours it took for him to receive the letter were riddled with an unsurprising amount of anxiety. I was laying my soul bare before one of the most important people in my life and asking him to still love me. Of course I was terrified.

But the thing about emotional vulnerability is that it often leads to the biggest pay-off. People tend to respond to genuine honesty and heartfelt pleas to hear me and see me and love me. Sure, sometimes they don’t respond well at first. Sometimes your honesty requires them to look at themselves in a way that is painful or that they might not be ready for. But lots of the time, when you lay yourself on the line with someone, they will respond in kind.

My letter to my father resulted in an hours-long conversation that was the most raw exchange we’ve ever had. It helped us understand each other better, and the ways in which we’d been our own worst enemies when it came to relating to one another. I learned things about my father I never knew before, and I told him things that had been weighing on me for years.

Our entire relationship shifted, and we have begun to establish a new, more positive equilibrium. He came over for dinner for the first time. We are talking regularly. I feel like we know each other better, and love each other better, too.

None of that would have been possible if I hadn’t had the courage to be vulnerable. Equally important, it wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t had the courage to be as equally vulnerable with me.

I know vulnerability is scary. It is supposed to be. Lean into it, when it feels right. I’m sure you will be rewarded for it.

PS. Brene Brown knows what she is talking about.

on vulnerability

starting fresh

photoproject-9803

The last few months have left me feeling pretty shattered. My friend Alex said, “It’s been a rough back half of the year for sure,” and I responded with, “Backhand of the year, more like.” Because I am a comedienne extraordinaire. It has been one thing after another after another, until I find myself cracked and flayed and gasping for breath.

My first instinct is to run. After the latest backhand, I immediately began fantasizing about ways I could get away from everything: find a job in a remote mountain town, drive the car down to Southern California and spend the foreseeable future sleeping on the beach, hole myself up in a cabin in the middle of nowhere. I want to be away. I want to tuck myself in somewhere where I’ll be all padded and cosy like a fragile crystal vase in a UPS package, where I’ll be protected from anymore of life’s “jokes” so I can just heal.

But I know I can’t just run away. I can’t out run my problems or run them out (though sweating through the issues seems to help a little bit, if only to clear my head). No matter where I go, I bring all my problems with me. All of my problems and all of myself. Wherever you go, there you are. Relocating myself won’t make me any different. And it won’t protect me from anything. There is nowhere in the world I can go where life wouldn’t catch up with me eventually.

And so I must just stay here and fight through it. Face up to my pain every day and go on living my life while I do it. I open my eyes every morning and for a few seconds, I feel as fresh and new as new-fallen snow, like nothing bad or painful has ever happened to me and there are infinite possibilities awaiting me in the hours to come.

When those few seconds pass, and the world and the past and my pain crash down on me once more, I try to hold onto those few seconds I was free, to carry them with me like a talisman. A reminder that, no matter what happens, for a few seconds every day, I get to start fresh.

starting fresh

it’s so unfair

We didn’t really tell anyone that I was pregnant again. It felt like a jinx.

We needn’t have worried. The whole thing was jinxed without our help, apparently.

This is my second miscarriage in two and a half months. Logically, I know that I haven’t done anything. That chromosomal mismatch is not something that is under my control. But … still. It feels like my fault. It feels like I am being punished. It feels like I should have done more.

I’m really angry, you know? I’m so angry that this is happening again. Especially so soon. I hadn’t even recovered emotionally from the trauma of the last miscarriage and here I am again, grieving once again. It isn’t fair. It isn’t fair. There are sixteen year olds out there who manage to have babies. There are forty-six year olds out there who manage to have babies. I know, I know, there are many people who have problems. I know. But I think that is deeply unfair too. Why is it so easy for some people and so so hard for others?

At this point, I don’t know if there is something wrong with me that is causing this to happen. Maybe it is a fluke. But I find myself wondering, over and over again, what is wrong with me. And what I can do to fix it.

It is all that I can do not to be dragged under by the tide of my overwhelming anger and sadness. I desperately want to thrash against the indifference of fate, to wail and scream and tear out my hair and have someone say, “You’re right, it’s not fair,” and fix it. But that won’t happen.

All that I can do is focus on letting myself heal, both physically and mentally. I told Bryan early on when we found out I was pregnant again that if we lost this baby, too, I was done for a while, and I am. I can’t go through this – any of this – again for a while. I am going to focus on things that I can control: writing my novel, getting back into running and weightlifting after a long hiatus, saving for another international trip, volunteering, taking a dance class. I am going to focus on living life and being happy, and I will do my best to trust in the universe’s timing. Now is not the time, I guess. Maybe, if I put all of my attention into other things, the right time will sneak up on me.

Here’s hoping.

it’s so unfair

ethical vegetarianism

Creative Commons © 2008 Victoria Henderson
Creative Commons © 2008 Victoria Henderson

Disclaimer: This post contains content that may get a rise out of people. That is totally fine! Feel your feelings. But please, always be respectful when expressing them. Let’s have a calm, productive discourse, like the intelligent adults we all are. Thank you! 🙂 

I have been a vegetarian for three and a half years now. It was an overnight decision, a quick change that stuck fast. I read Jonathan Safran Foer’s book, Eating Animals, and was so thoroughly disturbed by everything it contained that I gave up eating meat immediately upon finishing the last page. There wasn’t a lot of dithering or weighing of pros and cons, it was a gut instinct that this was the right thing to do.

So I am a vegetarian for ethical reasons. While I recognize that animal agriculture here in Canada is not necessarily exactly the same as it is in the United States, and that most documentaries and books focus on the US, I still firmly believe that we have a moral imperative to treat animals with dignity before we kill them for our food. I still firmly believe that there are many ways that we can be better. I am not morally opposed to the concept of eating meat, not by any means. I don’t think you are a monster for eating meat, or that we are ingesting an animal’s fear, or whatever else. I don’t care that a piglet has a cute little face. I have no issues with using animals as sustenance. I have issues with treating them with cruelty before killing them for consumption. I have issues with the ethos of factory farming. I have issues with the idea that animals are lesser than us and therefore are undeserving of respect and quality of life.

But for the last six months, I have been coming back, again and again, to the idea that I should go back to eating meat. This isn’t an easy thing for me to contemplate. If I had given up meat simply because I didn’t like it, then it wouldn’t be a big deal for me to resume eating it because I suddenly had a hankering for it. But because I gave up meat from a moral standpoint, I have been struggling mightily with the idea that I might go back to eating it. At one point, I was convinced that I would never eat meat again, and that we would raise our children as vegetarians as well.

Part of the reason I am considering transitioning back to my previously omnivorous ways is, yes, because I miss meat. Just a little. When we are staying at my parents’ house and they cook up a big pan of bacon after church, I would be lying if I said I hadn’t been tempted on more than one occasion to throw vegetarianism out the window then and there and scarf down a few pieces. Sometimes, I just really want a burger, you know?

But there are bigger reasons than that. And they are this: I don’t believe that abstaining from meat consumption is the most effective way for me to make my stance on factory farming known. If I am standing here, saying, “Factory farmers, you are bad, so I am going to stop eating meat!” then I am also depriving small, ethical farmers of my business. And what is more effective: being a passive bystander, or actively giving my money to the change that I want to see? I want to see more ethically produced meat, and, yes, I am absolutely willing to pay more money for it. I think that this is the way that meat production should be: less quantity, higher quality, more ethical. So I should be putting my money where my mouth is. It isn’t enough to remove my support from factory farmers: I should be transferring it over to the farmers who are doing exactly what I think should be done. If those farmers are out there, doing things right, but not getting enough support, then they are going to vanish, and we are right back where we started.

I haven’t come to a conclusion yet. It is still percolating around in my mind, but every time I think about it, I draw closer and closer to the decision to return to the land of the meat eaters. I am still coming to terms with what that means for my ethics, but I’ll get there.

For now: have you ever made a change for ethical reasons and then changed your mind again later? And if you have any resources on the vegetarianism debate, please feel free to share them.

ethical vegetarianism

Five Hours

WARNING: This might be triggering for those of you have experienced the pain of miscarriage. <3

We had already been waiting for five hours. Five hours, just to get ultrasound results. Five hours in which we’d been moved to three different waiting rooms, seen many other patients come and go, and still heard nothing. Five hours in which the pain became increasingly hard to bear and no one would even give me a Tylenol until the doctor had seen me. Five hours in which my frustration, anger, and sadness mounted to a fever pitch.

We both sat on the ER bed, listening to the woman on the other side of the curtain explaining her symptoms to the doctor, saying, “It might just be the flu, but I need to know, because I work as a Costco sampler, you know, and my boss needs to know if it is contagious.” My legs were pulled up to my chest and I rocked back and forth, trying to breathe my way through the ripping, cramping pain, while Bri rubbed my back and I resisted the urge to rip open the curtain and punch that other woman in the face, screaming, “You think it’s just the flu?! Why are you here?! Why are you keeping the doctor from seeing me with your stupid flu symptoms?”

Five hours they made me wait to tell me what I already knew: I was losing my baby.

Earlier in the day, I’d lain on a bed in a dimly lit room while a sweet ultrasound tech with a raspy, comforting voice named Lindsay rubbed a wand over my belly. I couldn’t bring myself to look at her face. I did not want to see what was written there. I scratched at the corner of my eye and she asked if I was doing okay. Said, “I know it is not an easy thing.”

After that first abdominal ultrasound, the doctor elected for a vaginal one, as well. An intern joined us in the room as a camera wand was inserted between my thighs and craned around at all sorts of strange angles. I had a momentary, insane urge to laugh.

Five hours later, and I was still waiting for the results of that procedure.

The pain in my pelvis was escalating quickly, and I could feel strange pulses of liquid between my legs. They finally moved us into a private room. It was for eye exams, and Bri spent five minutes rifling through the drawers to see what treasures they contained, pulling out plastic-wrapped medical tools and reading out their absurd names. It helped to distract me a little as I bowed over in pain, tears running down my face. I loved my best friend, and I was so grateful that she had driven an hour and a half so I would not be alone, but I wished my husband was there, too. Instead, he was waiting by the phone, a province over, in the middle of an island, waiting for any news at all.

I went into the washroom. There was so much blood. My early pregnancy nightmares of oceans of blood washing over me were coming true. The doctor came in a minute after I returned to the room and confirmed everything I had known all along.

Miscarriage.

No fetal heart rate.

No development after 8 weeks.

As she talked, I noticed that the rippling pain in my abdomen had stopped. I wondered if it was over.

She told me a bunch of other things, too, under those eye exam posters, as I sat curled up in the opthamology chair. I couldn’t process much of it, or really do more than nod. Bri asked a few questions, thinks that made me think, Yes, that would be good to know. But I couldn’t process the answers.

Then we gathered our things and left.

I didn’t let myself cry right away. I forced myself to act calm, to keep my voice as steady as possible as I uttered any inane thought that entered my head. I didn’t let myself go until I was walking to my car, alone. The sobs clenched my heart and shook my core. I couldn’t breathe.

I lost our baby.

Bryan called as I was pulling out of the parking lot. I sobbed even harder at the sound of his voice. All I could get out was, “I’m so sorry.” To which he responded, low and fierce and full of heart-rending grief, “You have nothing to be sorry for.”

I know it’s not my fault. I know I didn’t do anything. But I still feel an awful lot like it’s my fault. I lost our baby.

Bri and I sat in Boston Pizza. The AC was on high. I tried to be normal. I might have even laughed some, I don’t know. Bryan called again. He was the one crying this time.

As we stood up to leave, I realized that the hem of my shirt was oddly wet. I looked down at my seat; it was drenched. My chest constricted and things slowed down as I swiped at it with a napkin; it came away bright red with blood. I stared at Bri, unsure what to do, my brain grinding to a painful halt as I hovered there. She waved a hand at me and said, “Go, I’ll deal with this.” I balled the bloody napkin in my hand and hurried across the entire length of the restaurant to the washroom.

The whole back of my pants were soaked in blood. I mopped at myself, crying again. I checked my reflection; it wasn’t even noticeable. But now that my pants had been off, they were cold and wet against my skin. Not damp. Wet. Would the pain and frustration and humiliation of this day never end?

I just wanted to go home.

It has been a few weeks now. I feel okay, considering. It hits me randomly every so often; as I bound up stairs without wanting to collapse with exhaustion, as I order a beer at a bar, when I notice pregnant women and tiny infants on the streets. Oh, right. I’m not pregnant anymore. But I’m coping with it better than I ever would have anticipated. Which brings a whole other slurry of emotion with it; why aren’t I more devastated? What is wrong with me that I am this okay about losing my baby? Am I a terrible person?

I am sad, and I am not, and I am okay, and I am not, and all of that is okay. There is no right way through this pain. There was a baby, and now there is not, and I feel horribly, thickly sad, and I also don’t. I don’t know if that will ever go away.

But one thing never changes: I wish I could have my baby back.

Five Hours