It Takes a Village: The Courage to Ask for Help

My 13th bowling birthday party: Me, Tak & Jazzy J (June 1995)

My 13th bowling birthday party: Me, Tak & Jazzy J (June 1995)

August 17, 2015 - I was raised by a village. When I was 6 years old, my dad moved back to Trinidad and my mom raised me as a single parent. That was the same year we joined The Community Church of New York, a Unitarian Universalist congregation. Previously we attended The Riverside Church where I was also baptized. To explain what UU is...it’s basically the everything bagel of religions. We have Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Wiccans, Atheists, Agnostics - everyone is welcome. Each UU congregation is different - some are more traditionally religious than others. Mine was very liberal and progressive but I wouldn’t describe it as radical. Located in Murray Hill, it’s still a great, diverse place to raise your kids. The main Hall of Worship is very traditional with cushioned seats bolted to the floor in set pews with a stage at the front where ministers make announcements and preach and are flanked by busts of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Margaret Sanger, Albert Schweitzer and Mahatma Ghandi as well as banners representing major religions from around the world. 

Wearing my UU chalice in the Spring of 1996

Wearing my UU chalice in the Spring of 1996

When I was 13, it was time for me to go through my Coming-Of-Age ceremony. Although I had attended church school (and other activities and outings) regularly from the age of 6, I was the only 13-year-old at my church so I went up to Fourth Unitarian Universalist Society, near Central Park. I knew about this “Society” because I was in middle school with one of member’s sons, J, who was also good friends with my mom. Later we discovered a photo of us at around age 3 or 4 at church school at Riverside Church before our moms had met. At Fourth UU, the pews were moveable and often placed in a circle for worship. It was a smaller congregation and had a homier vibe. Other non-UU kids were excited to be able to play basketball there and other fun things not typically associated with church.

My graduation from 8th grade: Grampy + Rev. Marjorie Bowens-Wheatley, my mentor (June 1996)

My graduation from 8th grade: Grampy + Rev. Marjorie Bowens-Wheatley, my mentor (June 1996)

Our Coming-Of-Age group had 2, sometimes 3 girls and 3 boys. We had two group leaders, and every Sunday we would all meet to talk about our belief system and other religions and white privilege and all the sorts of things a “hippie church” would have you discuss as you enter “adulthood.” Sometimes we met at Fourth UU, sometimes at All Souls (a really God-centric, traditional, large and diverse UU church even further uptown). Throughout the year we went on "Cons," mini sleep-away conferences for Teen UUs in NJ and Upstate NY. Typically everyone smoked cigarettes except for those kids from NYC. We also each had a personal mentor we met with to discuss our belief system/credo. Mine was Rev. Marjorie Bowens-Wheatley who became my friend and even gave me her bible from seminary which I have yet to read. At the end of the year, the boys and girls were split up for our rite of passage ceremonies. These were created by us, our mentors and our families. The boys stayed at Fourth UU and did things like get their feet washed by their mentors. The girls, on the other hand, had what felt like a real adventure.

Maine, Summer 1996

Maine, Summer 1996

We went Upstate (or somewhere in "the country"), and it was beautiful. It was me and E, our mothers, her mentor (mine couldn’t make it) as well as one of the boy’s moms who was going to lead us in a Wiccan ceremony. It was so green and lovely and there was a wandering cow roaming about. At night, we all sat around a fire and made clay sculptures of our fears and later went to the pond and symbolically and literally threw them away. We also danced around a fire to the moon and the goddess. The moon was so big that night. In our separate tents, E and I were to write our feelings, hopes and dreams. I wrote, "When I am faced with a problem, I either react in two different ways. Depending on the challenge, I may prove that I am fearless and dispose of the problem. Other times I will look for someone else (my mother) to get rid of the problem." (My Coming-Of-Age Journal, 6/1/96) I was by myself a good long while until I found a tick and got my mom to get rid of it. When we got back to the city, there was a party, full of women, at the boy’s mom’s apartment where we were given gifts and were celebrated. I remember always wishing that I had gotten the “Clueless” DVD gift instead of “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.” Later on we each wrote up and read our Credos to our congregations during a special church service. 

There are many other instances of my UU community village raising me on overnight nature retreats, Special Friend Sundays, marches, parties, church school activities and play dates outside of church. They are actually too numerous to list!

Little Lentil Landscapes II: The Shame of Womanhood, Watercolor, 12" x 16"  May 2014

After I had the miscarriage last April, although at first I was ashamed, at the first sight of the blood, that D and I had told over 100 people we were pregnant at 8 weeks and then lost the baby at 10 weeks, I was relieved. From the email I sent out, people wrote back their condolences. For those that wrote those 7 key words - Let me know how I can help - I wrote back. We sat a radical Shiva for the next two weeks. Friends brought groceries and dinner and sat with me in groups, one on one. I shared variations of my radical miscarriage story and they in turn would share theirs, if they had one. Some had many. Others knew they just wanted to feel with me and be with me even if they couldn’t personally relate to having a pregnancy loss. Friends appreciated being told how they could help and that there was something they could actually do to provide the support that I wanted. The months that followed, when the visits stopped, were particularly difficult as I fell into a postpartum depression until the end of November when I found out I was pregnant with V. Even though I was pregnant with our Rainbow Baby, feelings and emotions are complicated.

Little Landscape I, Watercolor, 11" x 14" May 2014

I knew with this birth/labor/postpartum I would need help. I made an announcement at rehearsal, my radical community village, which I’m so blessed to have and be apart of, requesting help. I started to make a list of people who I felt comfortable with coming and helping out as well as the kinds of food I’d like to eat. The three godparents, D, A & J went above and beyond! Not only did they help us to purge and make this into a home and me, to finally feel like a human being at home, they organized and hosted the baby shower. After D (the papa bear), they were the first ones to arrive and help me labor, feed me, give me sips of coconut water and then take care of all three of us after the birth by making us meals, washing the dishes, sweeping, cleaning up the kitchen and eating areas, shopping for groceries, doing the laundry, and folding the laundry besides entertaining us with songs, music and friendship. D (papa bear) was also doing so many of these things and was in charge of my placenta smoothies (which I miss so much). They stayed from Thursday when I went into the "early" labor until Monday morning (V was born Friday morning).

Little Lentil Landscapes III, Watercolor, 12" x 16" May 2014

A has been in charge of a (short) list of some friends to help us out and created a schedule for visits, food drop offs, etc. The last few days (and week) have made me see that I need to tap into my Courage Reserves and put this Big Ask out there: Hello Village, will you please help us? Someday we will need babysitters but right now, if you live in NYC and are willing and available, are you able to: drop a meal off, do a load of laundry or pick up some light groceries? If you can do one or more things either one time or on a weekly or monthly basis, please send me an email and let me know (I’ll also put you in touch with A. to add you to the roster of helpers). If you’d rather buy us something, our registry is going to be open indefinitely with things that we need and would be so appreciated.

dawn@dslookkin.com

THANK YOU SO MUCH.

xo

The Face Box

I moved my art supplies and a makeshift desk into the baby's room so that I can paint while the baby nurses because...

I moved my art supplies and a makeshift desk into the baby's room so that I can paint while the baby nurses because...

Yesterday I woke up and in a sleepy ramble, told D I wanted to watch The Social Network and that I wanted to “friend” Jesse Eisenberg, the actor that plays founder Mark Zuckerberg. You’re weird he said. Did I dream this? Or maybe it’s because I’ve been on the Face Box every single day, all day long since giving birth and before, and a decade before I even met D.

+++

...this is what my actual art desk looks like! The Messy Desk + cat! 

...this is what my actual art desk looks like! The Messy Desk + cat! 

I attended Smith College, one of the original Seven Sisters all women’s colleges, from Summer of 2001 to Spring of 2005. I was accepted into the pre-orientation program, Bridge, for Women of Color before they started allowing caucasian students to be in it. This changed my senior year, the same year I was a Bridge leader/mentor. When I first visited Smith in 2000, they didn’t allow Asian students to be in this program, let alone hapa/multi-racial/multicultural students so things keep changing. If it weren't for Bridge, I'd only have a handful of Smithie friends that are Students of Color because there are that many white students there. As it turned out, the majority of my friends were Jewish. I majored in Studio Art and Women’s Studies and sang with the Glee Club, The Chambers Singers and Groove, the a capella group, of which I'm one of the original members.

I often say that Smith is an institution of complete privilege and luxury but that the students come from all different backgrounds. I was able to attend because I had a very generous financial aid package since I was raised by a single mother, who at times worked three jobs to send me to my various elite private schools in Manhattan and Brooklyn Heights. I also received annual art scholarships from the Unitarian Universalist Association and an annual scholarship from Green Point Bank as well as others. At the same time, although I didn’t have a lot of money, as didn't a lot of Smithies, once you are accepted and enroll at Smith you enter a special club (although we had no sororities). Even if you are a Student of Color and are the token student in class and deal with some form of bigotry every day, we all received some benefit from being enrolled at one of the top women’s colleges in the country with a long history of powerful and influential graduates from Gloria Steinem to Julia Child to Sylvia Plath. So despite all kinds of wonderful and horrible experiences one might have at Smith, you leave with a degree and a network of women all around the world who always have your back.

The co-sleeper/baby stuff caddy and where I nurse - so glamorous I know! 

The co-sleeper/baby stuff caddy and where I nurse - so glamorous I know! 

Why am I writing about my alma mater like this because seriously who cares? Well it goes back to Facebook...the first time I saw “The Social Network” it was surreal. Almost everything they talked about in the movie had happened in real time for me since Zuckerberg’s first beginnings for Facebook started in the Fall of 2003. That was when I started my Junior Year Study Abroad at Kansai Gaidai University in Hirakata, Osaka, Japan. For the rest of my time at Smith, including my Senior year, I lived in a “house” called Chapin House in the center of campus, a really nice dorm with beautiful views of the pond, a large living room with a TV and a grand piano, it’s own laundry room, dining room and it’s own kitchen and housekeeping staff. For my work study, I chose to assist the housekeeper which led me to the discovery that with showers and bathrooms, gender, class and ethnicity didn't dictate how gross and dirty you can be. I'm not sure how I ended up in this House - I requested Tyler House where I completed my Smith Summer Science Program when I was thirteen. Chapin was known to be a "nice" (read: white, mostly affluent) house and those that lived here were early acceptance students. I applied to too many colleges because I didn't know who would give me the best financial aid package and got my final decision certified by the midnight deadline (it was between Smith and Hampshire College). Before dropping out, Margaret Mitchell lived at Chapin and the staircase inspired the one in the book and the film “Gone With the Wind” (a little misleading as the staircase was not fancy at all but whatever - HOLLYWOOD!). I too had a LiveJournal and would update the interwebs on my love life and Feelings. I remember “Hot or Not” and even clicked through rating people’s appearance because that’s what you did at 3 in the morning in college. I had active MySpace and Friendster accounts. After Harvard and the other Ivy League schools, Smith also got the exclusive membership to Facebook. I remember when you had to be enrolled at a private college to get invited. And then any college. And then anyone.

These things help: drying rack, changing table, garbage pail. 

These things help: drying rack, changing table, garbage pail. 

Things just get so metta. If it weren’t for Facebook, would you even be reading these words right now? This social network machine is bizarre and twisted and a really false sense of self and how we interact with one another. Besides Candy Crush, Farmville and other evils of the internet, it does connect us. Last year when I made my first post for My Radical Miscarriage Blog, so many people wrote me with their stories of heartbreak surrounding their miscarriage, their stillbirth, their abortion, getting raped and how, sometimes, I was the only one they confided in because I had the courage to share my story.

My plant babies all grown up. 

My plant babies all grown up. 

It was emotionally overwhelming for me to read these stories, some from people from high school who I never talked to before and others from my closest friends. Sharing what I was going through with my pregnancy loss felt so intuitive to me, like an obsessive storytelling regurgitation that I didn’t see it as being brave or courageous but that’s what it was and that’s what it is. I can embrace that because my story is my truth.

So to Mark Zuckerberg I simultaneously say fuck you and thank you for making us so dependent on this evil thing called Facebook and for bringing together radical communities to bridge injustices and experiences and truly change this world into the one we want and know it can be.

xo

(*Editor's note* I take back what I said about Mark Zuckerberg - I just read that he and his wife had 3 miscarriages so I'm feeling a lot of compassion towards him today. Also, I "friended" Jesse Eisenberg.) 

Every day is a time for forgiveness

The Hairy Goddess of Love Takes a Spirit Bath, 9" x 12" watercolor

The Hairy Goddess of Love Takes a Spirit Bath, 9" x 12" watercolor

Last night after rehearsal, five of us walked, Jessica, Onome, Lizzie, Ashlie and myself, singing down the street. At the corner of 8th and Avenue C, we sang and we chanted, we improvised and supported each other, sang songs that we knew and made up the rest. This was a gift.

Every day takes courage for self love. And every day is an opportunity to be reborn. It's been a long while and today I had my Spirit Bath. While the hot bath was filling up, I smudged my whole home with sage, blessed with the friendship of birthday love, blessed with my living plant babies.

I rang bells in every room, to the closets, to the guitar. I came to the living room and realized I had created a space for creativity, a space to support myself. This is a space of courage. What is courage? Courage is asking for what you need. Courage is speaking your truth. Courage is owning your story. Courage is setting boundaries. Courage is reaching out for support (a quote from Brené Brown).

Last night I made three signs with this affirmation. One in orange craypas and then in permanent blank marker and then I painted it. This helps me to remember what courage is and believe that I am full of courage. Courage means being open to making "bad" art and "poor" writing and still wanting to share it with the world. Courage means making mistakes. Courage means allowing myself to be imperfect. Courage means embracing myself every day.

Have Courage My Friend (inspired by the inspirational quote by  Brené Brown ), 9" x 12", watercolor

Have Courage My Friend (inspired by the inspirational quote by Brené Brown), 9" x 12", watercolor

In my Spirit Bath I poured lavender Epsom Salts, my large and interesting shells already beneath the water and rang bells around me. I drank and drank my water. I asked myself what was the intention for this bath? I didn't know. In silence I got in and allowed my mind, myself to wander. I cried and cried. I forgave myself for misjudging old friends and new friends too. I forgave myself for misjudging myself. I thought about my father. July 29th will be the 12th anniversary of his death. I cried and cried. Is this Shadow Grief? It is my truth and it is my story. I thought about him and what I can do to honor him this year and honor my own grief. I want to make a ghost bike for him - paint a bike white, have a ceremony and lock it near where he was killed on 34th St. and Dyer Avenue. It's time.

I get out of the bath and notice some soot from my sage stick on the bathroom sink and I tell myself Every time I want to clean something or do something that is not apart of my new habits of living with Spirit Baths, singing, eating and painting and writing, I will take a moment to breathe. Ten deep breaths.

I find that I forget who I am or forget that I am loved. I can be so hard on myself. Every day is a time for forgiveness. And a time for singing. A time for swimming.

HVAC - Heating, Ventilation + Air Conditioning

Venus-vine, watercolor, painted at David + Al's house in the East Village, 5/6/14

Venus-vine, watercolor, painted at David + Al's house in the East Village, 5/6/14

This week HVAC commenced in our home - that’s Heating, Ventilation and Air conditioning. All you need to know is that it’s necessary work that won’t be completely finished until July 1st, with work-folks in and out all day, every day? Most days? Every week? And so I’ve been sleep deprived.

Sunday night I couldn’t sleep because I was so anxious that they were coming to start the work so I took a long Spirit Bath and managed to get 15 minutes of sleep. During the day I wasn’t allowed to be in the apartment so we had the cat locked in the bathroom (in a burrow I made for him in the bathtub) and went to David + Al’s house, last minute. I slept about 2 hours there and painted and had long talks and ate and chilled. That was pretty miraculous (Thank you SO MUCH David + Al!). And then the following day I had 4 hours of sleep and then 6 hours and last night was around 5 or 6.

I am so tired.

They arrive at 6:30 or 7 or 7:30am, it changes every day, there’s a lot of work to do to replace the heating/cooling system, remove asbestos (or did they do that back in March?) and replace pipes bla bla bla. And although I made a decision for myself to go to bed at 11:30pm and created a work schedule to include large blocks of time for yoga, baths, painting, eating, meditation, writing and self care, since returning from Miami, I’ve been a hot mess. No sleep will do that to you! I’d love to nap during the day, but all the rooms and potential sleeping spots are occupied with work-folk working.

Last night I told myself that if they were still doing work, I was going to make room in the bathtub for me to nap with Tumble. By mid-morning they were actually finished and won’t be back for another week! But instead of napping, I’ve done 4 loads of laundry, paid the rent and ran house errands as often happens.

There was miscommunication with several of the people about when the work would start again, so that was a tense conversation and it escalated quickly (or felt that way with loud and louder talking). A lot of people are horrible at communicating, doesn’t matter if it’s by email, phone or in person. I really believe that “I don’t know” is always an appropriate response if it’s the truth.

So after that I found myself hungry but in obsessive cleaning mode where I try to control my surroundings and my life by cleaning, sweeping this time. And I’m bawling. The confrontation brought it on but within seconds I realize I’m crying because I lost my baby. I explained to the person very quickly that I had questions about when they'd return because of sleep deprivation and I lost someone recently so I just want to know when I could relax. And saying that - I lost someone - that’s the truth and it’s a hard truth. Because what is a baby? What is a fetus? What is life? Whose life is more important - that of a fetus or that of the mother carrying the fetus? For me the answers are all true. I lost someone and I am still here and I’m alive and my life is important. I cry and cry and wash my face and put on my homemade moisturizer so I don’t break out all over again and then I cry and cry and the cycle repeats. I’m just letting it out, letting it out till it wants to stop, at least for today, till I want to stop. I sob and moan loudly, that helps. It helps me to make loud, awful noises when I am in the depths of this grief. I have no interest in holding back, though when I felt the tears coming on while I was standing in line to buy groceries yesterday, I just didn’t want to deal with a public that couldn't handle the wide spectrum of emotion that we are born with. Thoughts of putting on the pretend-face, masking emotion, re-enter my mind - that’s not who I am or want to be. It’s so hard to be that way.

Untitled, watercolor, New York, 5/7/2014

Untitled, watercolor, New York, 5/7/2014

And even though I need and know I need to eat my second breakfast and stop cleaning, I stop to write. I know I need to write - it’s been so difficult with all of life’s interruptions. I need to breathe. I want to breathe. I want to feel peace. I hoped to take a 10:30am yoga class but that time has come and passed - besides I need to bring up the rest of the laundry.

I have been so frustrated - I’m planning a fundraiser for myself on May 22nd for me to attend a Yoga Teacher Training for the month of June and I haven’t had time to fully promote the event the way I wanted to. I have a whole blog post about how and why I came up with this idea and it’s mostly written but editing takes time, and oh the time and oh the sleep, Where’s the sleep? Where’s the time? I’m terrified that no one will come or only 10 people will show up. I hear and see my anxieties taking over me like a separate self that I once knew and meet again. I put on music, my special energy music, that reminds me that I believe in myself, that I am in love with myself, that I can do anything that I dream up, that I am capable and capable of anything, and it’s ok. I know her, that confident person who knows things will work out, who thinks like a sage, who is so in tune with her feelings and has become so skilled at communicating effectively her needs and desires and boundaries. Sometimes we’re different people and I look at her and say Can I be like you? Can I have a little bit of your spark? And I remember I am you and I am her. And I do believe in myself and anything is possible because I believe in myself and I am here for me! I am present fully, I travel these rivers of emotions where they take me, the deepest sorrow, the frightening, shouting, screaming anger, and I am sobbing again because it is so hard for me to talk about and feel anger since I’ve been angry so much of my existence on this planet and the last time I had a therapist, it was for anger management. And here I am, simultaneously experiencing my creative spirit, utter joy at living and connecting with everyone around me, feeling the glowing life of Possibility, baking treats (even though I won’t use egg replacements for vegan brownies again!! Ali says bananas are better), caring for my plant babies and for the adopted Thumbelina Park when I pass by on my bike, spending time with friends, all kinds, and feeling really really really happy that Jennifer, who is my accountant and has become my friend, is coming over in a few hours to sit a radical shiva with me, the 2nd round of shiva, and feel with me because that is what I need and want. She was one of many that I emailed - if she couldn't come during those first two weeks after the miscarriage, to please come next month or the month after that because I’ve been here before, experienced debilitating loss, when my father was killed on his bike 12 years ago and I think that finally this year I’m going to create a ghost bike for him...and she wrote me! She initiated the newest wave of this radical sitting shiva. She remembered that I’m still in pain! She remembered that I still need support! The night before the complete miscarriage on April 1st, she was one of the last people I spoke to. We were talking taxes (duh) but I also told her how I’d been spotting since the Saturday before and how the sonogram showed that the baby was alive but I was still bleeding and we were both worried but hopeful. Now we’re just hopeful but there is still worry.

Today when I was sweeping, I sobbed thinking I would have been pregnant at this point in time, I planned for this, though I hadn’t looked forward to being pregnant during HVAC, it had still been a part of my fantasy. And I think, well, what if we try to get pregnant, get pregnant and I have another miscarriage? So many work so hard at convincing me that pregnancy loss happens so often (and oh I know it!) and that I’ll get pregnant next time or soon or someday. And I think now, what if it doesn’t happen in July? What if it doesn’t happen next year? Or ever? I know what you might be thinking but this is not needlessly worrying. These are questions I ask myself - how can I not? I absolutely know that I cannot be prepared for everything, and control almost nothing, but I am allowed to think these thoughts. They are mine. And all feelings are valid. I believe this but I have to say it almost daily to myself and those around me, sometimes a defense, sometimes an explanation. So these are things I allowed myself to think for the first time today and those thoughts - they’re terrifying to me. I continue to live in the present as I do in the past and the future and I am open to the feelings, to the potentials in life, in my life, and to the questions and the unknowns and my own hopes and dreams and desires and also to the disappointments, because those are inevitable and that’s ok and they help make the joys that much more joyful because I know they are fleeting and they are special and - do you get me?

Venusverse, watercolor, New York, 5/5/2014

Venusverse, watercolor, New York, 5/5/2014

5.9.2014 Friday 11:35am

Shaming + Blaming: Unconditional Self Love

Often it is hard to be honest, to get the words out especially when talking about anger and pain. I wrote this to a friend early this morning who has become my pen pal. We are both aligned so deeply with our own feelings and creativity - it is a blessing to have people like this in my life. I share it because this has been on my mind.

Hello R-------,

Thank you so much for your kindness and patience. I don't apologize anymore for "not writing back sooner" only because there are just too many emails and I find in this life I've apologized for too many things, for myself every day. So I am not apologizing, but I am writing back!

Thank you for becoming my pen pal! It's so funny that we've barely spoken longer than a minute or two - I know we will! - it's nice to get to know one another through our writing. I find I express myself so clearly this way and with you.

Thank you for the loving critique of my posts. You're right - it really is vulnerability pouring out of me because that's where courage comes from. In the beginning (in the first week), everyone told me how courageous I was, how brave I was for speaking so openly about the miscarriage (I often find myself almost saying abortion - it was technically a "spontaneous or natural abortion" and I feel like my body is a smart body, a good body because she knew to abort and reject a dead fetus). I didn't believe them - I felt that I had to talk about it for my own sanity and I just couldn't help it. But now I accept and open myself to the idea that I can be courageous. I can be brave. I am brave.

I have to say that there are the difficult experiences of living with loss in your life, grieving and being so open to it, even terrified of the madness of grief (and the accompanying madness of creativity). N------- tells me I'm unhinged and I say Yes I am unhinged! Yesterday was a particularly rough day for me. I feel insane, I feel unhinged, I feel crazy, I feel the madness. I know it's all ok because all feelings are valid. A friend, who had a miscarriage last year, wrote that to me when I announced the loss of our pregnancy and it's stayed with me. I frequently say it to people after I talk about feeling failure, shame, embarrassment, and like an outsider. Everyone wants to "silverline" the hardships (coined by Brené Brown during The Power of Empathy!). I opened a tiny window to this conversation with U-------- and she shamed me for my feelings. I was sobbing and shouting, All feelings are valid! but she comes from another time and place and has her own story of struggle. Everyone has their own story. I have never been shamed so intensely, publicly and on so many levels. Others have said shaming/blaming things to me about the miscarriage and every time I call them on it, for every single person regardless of who it is. At this point, I love myself too much - I mean I actually love myself! I think before I loved myself only a little bit in different ways but now I am in love with myself and that love is unconditional. And this means that I also have a deep confidence in myself to be anything, say anything, accept myself and my flaws, embrace the vulnerability, embrace myself and embrace those around me. But when these people shame me, when she shamed me in front of everyone...she put into words what I'm sure many think and feel. She had the gall to say those things to me - you would be ashamed for her for saying those things! I was in shock. I was in a raw place and the more she invalidated what I was feeling, the more I sobbed. She told me Don't ruin your marriage. I said I'm not ruining my marriage - this is making us stronger! She said, You need to live life and look forward! I said I am living my life! That's why I paint and write every day! And I look to the past and I look to the present and I look to the future - I have so many plans for myself!  She said, Well what if you carried that baby to a full term, to all nine months - and I interrupted Yes that would be worse! And she said, You see?! And again I have to say that all feelings are valid. But it's as if she hears nothing. I shout and cry It's only been a month! Later N------- tells me she didn't realize this. But how long is "long enough" for grieving? I've spoken to so many people who have lost babies in their wombs at 5 weeks and 4 months and 9 months and for those who haven't lost a baby, they have a story to share about their friend, their mother, their grandmother, their aunt. Often I am told it was last year, it was 5 years ago, it was 25 years ago and I still grieve the baby that I lost. That is honest. It is so hard to be honest and we are also so different in our ways and in our grieving (or our non-grieving-grieving).

I am grateful to have the confidence and the language to speak up for myself, to explain myself, to attempt to make myself understood even if I can't be heard by others. And I appreciate those, like you, who are so open to what is happening to me, what happens to millions of women (yes U------- - I know!) because even though it happens and has happened to so many all throughout time and will continue to happen because there is no such thing as just pregnancy or just miscarriage, it is the wide spectrum of pregnancy which includes miscarriage and still birth, it does not take away the sting and confusion and madness of loss and it does not mean my feelings and what I am experiencing is invalid.

Because all feelings are valid.

love, dawn

Compassion for Lindsay Lohan aka How To Empathize With Your Neighbor

I have been dismayed that I haven’t been able to write up my daily Radical Miscarriage Blog post. Yesterday I finally went to CityMD where they told me, by just looking in my throat, in my ears and by talking with me, that I have Bronchitis & Post Nasal Drip. The doctor said everyone freaks out more than they need to - it just means that I have a sore throat and that mucus is dripping down into my lungs - fun! - and I need to sleep for two days! But yesterday, when Danny sent me a link about Lindsay Lohan, I knew I needed to write this post.

When (and if) you hear about Lindsay Lohan’s recent miscarriage, be kind and be compassionate. Regardless of your opinions on her acting or her life, when you think of Lindsay, think of me. Because now she and I have something in common; we’ve both had miscarriages.

I read this article yesterday right before taking a 4-hour nap to do my self care, my healing, doctor prescribed and Danny-enforced. I cried and cried. I can’t imagine the whole world knowing something so tragic in my life without my choosing to share it first. And I was mad. I felt like people were going to judge Lindsay, blame her, shun her. Again, think of me if you think these things and be kind and loving.

My friend Jessica, who I mention often, has said to me that we are from a generation that is more open than the Baby Boomers, more open than other recent generations in regards to so much and how we deal and journey through life. As a media figure, Lindsay no doubt was forced to reveal her private experience (while filming a reality TV show based on her life, meta!), but nonetheless is possibly one of the first celebrities or public figures to share their story of pain, vulnerability and transformation.

Last night, while coughing and not able to sleep and drinking a lot of tea from my mom + Danny, I watched Brené Brown’s TED talks and was especially moved by the animated short, The power of vulnerability. This short film should be required viewing for everyone, especially those who know someone who has experienced any kind of loss, and especially those who know someone who has experienced a miscarriage.

Yes, dear reader, I’m speaking to you. Because I’ve been open about my miscarriage from the first day, horribly, ironically on April 1st, 2014, with over 100 people and then posting my story online as My Radical Miscarriage Blog and on Facebook (!!), I have experienced a wide and varied response of support. As soon as I sent out an email to the 100 friends-family that already knew I was pregnant, I received many many emails of love and support and kindness and deep empathy. I also received emails that tried to “silver-line” my experience (coined by Brené Brown!). Since “coming out” on Facebook as well as in person to people who didn’t even know that I was pregnant, the response is the same varied reactions.

The other night I told a friend, a friend who has been through a lot, and she “silver-lined” my experience again and again, meanwhile with a big smile on her face, even when I told her this has been very painful and tried to open up that kind of “feeling” conversation and connection. It made me so angry. Part of me knew why I was so angry but I had to search in myself a little bit for all the reasons why. Watching that short on vulnerability and hearing and seeing the words “empathy fuels connection; sympathy drives disconnection” (Brené Brown) gave me the words and imagery to understand why it is that it bothers me so much when people don’t want to talk about or let me focus on the deep pain that I’m in. It helps me to understand why others, who do have “the best of intentions”, get so uncomfortable and defensive and dismissive when I bring up topics of Shame, Failure, Embarrassment, feeling like an Outcast and a Leper in relation to my experience of having a miscarriage. So let me tell you now: all feelings are valid. All feelings are valid. Repeat after me, shout it out loud: ALL FEELINGS ARE VALID. (Another close friend, who had a miscarriage last year, told me that and it’s now one of my mantras.) And all these feelings, I’m sure, have a place in a history that is repeatedly fueled by misogyny, these feelings have a place in ourselves - otherwise why would I be feeling them? I (and I’m sure many others who have suffered a loss) feel these things. I feel all the feelings. I don’t feel them every day, but they are apart of me and apart of what gives me courage to speak out and break the silence around miscarriage and loss in our daily lives and simultaneously inspires in me art and writing and singing and creativity and connection and joy.

1 in 4 women have a miscarriage. 1 in 200 women have a stillbirth. This is what my new OB told me. He said, Every year I deliver 200 babies and every year there is a stillbirth. This is heart breaking and it is also eye opening. In my mind, it should not be Pregnancy and Miscarriage and Stillbirth. It should be the Wide and Varied Spectrum of Pregnancy. If pregnancy loss is so prevalent (hello folks, that translates into 25% of the human female population on the planet earth which is A LOT of f-ing people!!) than we should not be separating out the horribly lonely experience of (in my case) miscarriage.

I am open so I tell everyone this and of course, hear the wide and varied response. Often I hear that people think this is such a painful time in a woman’s life (and it is! Believe me I KNOW) and that she will not want to talk about it. I’ve also heard others say that they know a friend who had a miscarriage and she didn’t take time off of work when it happened (which translates to me as she didn’t take time for herself) and “pushed on through with her head held high” or something like that. Well, I want to talk about it. It happened to me. I had a miscarriage and I want to talk about it! I know that I’m not the only one. I know that I’m not the only one who doesn’t want to feel the deepest sorrow in my life all by my lonesome self. I know that I’m not the only one that doesn’t want to enter a place of horrible darkness not knowing if I will come back out, how this will change me, if I will become self destructive and all the unknowns. I know that I’m not the only one who doesn’t want to do this alone, feeling the feelings, sometimes it seems, 25 all at once. I know that I’m not the only one who wants to talk about my feelings to others, who are open to truly listening, to going inside of themselves and tapping into their pain and empathizing with me and facing our deepest fears together.

If it wasn’t already blaringly obvious, I am on a mission. I am on a Crusade To Make Crying Ok + Courageous. And I’m on a mission to make a space, to create a world in which we do not need to be ashamed of our feelings, of our bodies or our experiences or our loss. I am creating a world with you, in which a woman or female-bodied person doesn’t need to wait until the 2nd trimester (approx 11 or 12 weeks into the pregnancy) to announce that we’re pregnant for fear of a miscarriage. I am creating a world with you where, as soon as any of us become pregnant, we can be open and share it (if we want) and will be supported and loved and given resources and access to an abortion, post-abortion doula care, prenatal care, midwives, birthing options, etc etc if we want it. What is choice anyways? The ideologies of liberals and lefties and the term “Pro-choice” (which was recently changed and abandoned by Planned Parenthood because it is so limiting and promotes a binary that shuts down the conversation of women’s and female-bodied people’s agency in their own lives) and which I followed for many many years, do not cut it any more. I believe we need to be bold and courageous and fearless and turn this world upside down and inside out. And we can do that together. I am doing it right now. You may be too. Join me!

4.22.2014 1:51 PM

New Old Friends

I thought it was time to dedicate a post to all the new friends I've been meeting and making in the past four days (and some longer than that). To new friends everywhere - remember, a friend is first a stranger.

Thank you to:

Steven, who owns + runs an antique vintage art glass + Scandinavian ceramics neighborhood shop/installation on Hudson that's been there for 17 years (!), his shop that I've walked past many times, but this time I went in, who, after talking about my love of elephants and inquiring about them (investments someday to be mine!), gave me this tiny, heavy elephant which I now carry in my pocket every day. 

my little friend

my little friend

Sarah, who recently joined the choir, with whom I've begun an email-pen-pal-writing-adventure before even having spoken in person, and then only speaking for less than two minutes a week or so ago, who herself is an incredibly creative, brave + talented writer + person and inspires me with her writing and thoughts and feelings.

Succulent has a new home with new friends!

Succulent has a new home with new friends!

Nicole the artist (+ baker + florist), at the flower shop on Hudson (near Perry) who, whilst I was checking out the succulent air plants (and subsequently purchased one), gave me some flowers after I told her my story which I then gave to Rita whose birthday we were celebrating later that day.

Ranger Bob who was sprinkling seeds on a square of grass + tree, "thumbelina park", on 25th St & 8th Ave as I was bicycling by, one of those divider green squares, who, after I asked what he was doing and showed an interest, appointed me on the spot to Ranger Dawn by us holding up our right hands and repeating "I do solemnly swear to do whatever the hell I can to make this into a park".

           subway elephante

           subway elephante

(Another) Steven, the photographer, on the subway ride home from Boozy Birthday Brooklyn with Louise + Ali (+ Brook!), who asked what I was painting (photo at right) and with whom I had a swift ride home due to pleasant + friendly conversation.

Amy, who I met possibly one or even two years ago at The Brooklyn Free Store, and met again at a party on Saturday night and she remembered me and thought it was serendipitous we should meet again because after I told her my story, told me that she is curating her first art show (which is extremely interesting!!!) and has some elements of focusing on pain and invited me to submit my work now or in the future.

Ruth, who I've known a while through Community, gave me gifts of laughter on the retreat last weekend, and who last night gave me one of her handmade journals (which will be my next Dream Journal, I told her).

Ruth Miller's handmade notebook pour moi.

Ruth Miller's handmade notebook pour moi.

Is it serendipity? Is it synchronicity? Is it fate? Or is it just life? Is it about being open to life and everyone and everything in it? Is it about believing in the impossible or in limitless possibility? Is it about being open to change? Is change inevitable? Is it about a deep unknown need for human/life connection? Or is it about love?

love love love love love yes yes yes yes yes yes love love love love love yes yes yes yes yes
— Rita DeCassia, Healer + Multi Linguist

p.s. joy comes in all sizes.

meow!

meow!

Goodbye Little Lentil!

Emailed on April 1st, 2014 at 12:06pm, approximately an hour after dropping off the fetal remains at the midwifery/OB's office:

Hello friends,

We have some very sad news to share with you. Early this morning I had a miscarriage. They're doing pathology tests on the remains and we'll know the results in a week.

We're devastated. Life can be so suddenly and completely joyful and then, just as quickly, a deep sorrow sets in. We feel so grateful for so much and for all of you, our friends, our family. We are blessed to have so many that love and support us. Thank you!

And on this sunny beautiful morning, we say a really sad and reluctant - Goodbye Little Lentil!

Love,
Dawn + Danny