Friday, March 27, 2015

On That TINY Spot of Blood That Made HUGE Headlines

I got boobs before any of my classmates.  And like they were an ugly birthmark, or some other unsightly two dimensional thingy I could easily cover, I tried to hide them.


I failed.  Big time.

This was the first of many challenges I would attempt to ignore as a growing girl, excusing it as "a woman thing".

Soon after, I was the first of my friends to get my period and was so embarrassed to tell my mother that I made her guess what the big news was that I had to share.  (A registered nurse and super attentive mother, she got the correct answer straight out of the gate.)

Then, I got fat.  Not fat enough that people would point or make fun of me, but just fat enough.  I wore t-shirts over my bathing suits and spent weeks shopping for the dresses I'd wear to dances that I'd attend without a date.

Next, came the Freshman Fifteen.  Granted I had so much fun in college that the bars should have paid me tuition, but I got heavier.  And heavier.

After graduation, I joined my first gym just because everyone else was doing it.  One day on the treadmill, likely walking the same speed at which I'd walk to the bathroom to pee in the middle of the night, I spotted a friend who'd clearly received a complete body transformation along with her diploma.  Long (life-changing) story short, she FORCED me to meet with her new personal trainer.

A year later, I was in the best shape of my life.  I'd completed two marathons, was in true love for the first time in my life, had a great job, my own apartment and a one-way ticket to an eating disorder.  I don't believe I was ever too thin, but I wasn't me.  I remember my Grandfather telling me I looked like an Ethiopian, and part of me took it as a compliment.

Fast forwarding a bit, I got married to the man of my dreams, had a career that I loved, and a baby in my belly.  (That's definitely a woman thing.)

So for the first time since that day I'd made my mom guess, I didn't have a period.  But in exchange I had a myriad of other issues, including a bulging hernia that made it look like I was giving birth not only to a little girl but an alien sibling.  That meant I was headed for both a c-section and an abdominal hernia repair (at the same time) for both of my pregnancies.

Every woman will say that her body was "never the same" after having children, but that expression takes on a different meaning for me.  Post-pregnancy brought on aches, pains, anemia and fatigue like I'd never experienced.  Numerous vials of blood and doctors appointments later, I was diagnosed with Lupus.  That disease, fatal for many, is something I deal with on a daily basis.  The presentation of the disease came with my first pregnancy, was exacerbated by my second and is now the reason I cannot have a third.  Though a very small of percentage of those with Lupus are men, it's mostly a woman thing.

And, it all started with my very first period.  My "friend".

But thank God it did.  Because if it didn't, I wouldn't have this.

I'd never really thought fondly of my menstrual cycle before today.  In the past, it has been nothing but a super heavy annoyance.

Thanks to Rupi and Prabh Kaur, brave sisters who made the curious decision to share a photo series called "Period" on their social media before it being quickly and unjustly censored as "inappropriate", I will look at this gift of life very differently moving forward.

I can't begin to put into words exactly how this situation has made me feel, not only about womanhood but about our freedom of expression, discrimination and censorship, but I strongly suggest you read about it for yourself.

This isn't just a woman thing.


Thursday, March 12, 2015

My Daughter's First Bout of Embarrassment Could Help All Your Dreams Come True

I still remember the day my eldest daughter watched Charlotte's Web for the first time. I sat with her, in amazement, partly because it seemed unfathomable that my own daughter was experiencing a story I loved so much at her same age, but more because it was the first time I saw an experience other than her own bring her to tears.

It caught her off guard, at first.  But as she turned to me, lip quivering, and said with both fear and confusion, "I think I am going to cry", I could do nothing but hold her close and reassure her that it was okay.  It's always okay to cry.

Each of us sat, a bit crippled by raw, pure emotion, with tears streaming down our faces.  And in that moment, we both grew up a bit.  It was a once in a lifetime thing.

Until, of course, today.

Now two years older, that same daughter is the most beautiful combination of brilliant, boisterous and bright that I could ever dream of.  She is funny, creative, imaginative and embarrassed.

Yes, embarrassed.

On our ride home from school today, my nearly seven year old daughter shared that something she was asked to do at school embarrassed her.  She hadn't farted in gym class, snarfed during snack, or giggled to the point of an "accident".  No, this was much less benign, at least to me.  But my daughter was embarrassed.

It was one of those moments when the car radio and kid chatter fell away, and all I could hear was the mumble of adults in a Charlie Brown film.  All I could feel was heartbreak.

I reassured her, again, in the best way that I could.  And honestly, I am one hundred (and ten) percent positive that the whole thing hurt me way more than it hurt her.  I am sure of that because a short time later I heard her reciting "I will not give up on my dreams" over and over again.  "I will not give up on my dreams."

She'd happened upon the card I'd grabbed from a stunning photo exhibit I'd seen at an ArcLight Cinema.

Credit: Jamie Johnson

I knew taking them to see The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water was bound to have a payoff somehow.

I will never give up on my dreams, either.

And remember.

It's always okay to cry.