Monday, April 11, 2011

how my body fails me

the human body is capable of so many things. with any amount of preparation and training we can get our bodies to run marathons, swim across lakes, hike to mountain tops, lose immense amounts of weight, become body builders. through the right types of diet and exercise we can take our bodies from the edge of illness to new life.

and a woman's body is even more miraculous, as it has the power to grow life, give life and nurture life.

there are a lot of people who will tell me that what i am about to write about shouldn't matter: i have two beautiful, perfect, healthy little girls. i know and appreciate that. but during the last five months i have come to reflect on the failings of my womanly body.

i miscarried.
i only carried my girls to 33 weeks.
i couldn't deliver my girls vaginally because they were both breech.
i can't exclusively nurse my girls because my body doesn't produce enough milk.

i feel like my body has failed me.

several years ago a friend recommended that i read "taking charge of your fertility." at the time i wasn't trying to get pregnant; she told me that it was just a good way to read the natural signs of your body. to be honest, i didn't buy into any of that crap. but slowly i began to feel more "in tune" with my body and to recognize the rhythms and changes of the female body. suddenly i felt like i was in control; nature wasn't just controlling my body. i understood myself.

after a miscarriage i tried to believe that i was not the problem. the doctors say that miscarriage is usually due to chromosonal abnormalities of the fetus. but i couldn't help but wonder what i did wrong.

several years later i found out i was having twins. i knew that twins were likely to come early, but i was determined to be one of the ones who made it all the way. and i was determined that i would try vaginal delivery, even if only baby a was in the right position.

at 33 weeks and four days my water broke. i was out of control and i felt i had failed my girls by not carrying them to term.

both girls were breech and i had to have a cesaraen section. i couldn't have my natural, vaginal delivery.

and now, five months in, i cannot keep up with the milk they need. just months ago i hated nursing and was ready to quit. but now i love it and i want to continue and i can't help but feel like my body has failed me again. people are shocked that i made it this far and use that as a platitude. but i want to do more, i want to go longer.

just a few short years ago, and to some extent just months ago, i didn't know what i wanted my body to do. i didn't realize what it can or should be able to do. but there are moments now when i see it as a failure for the things it couldn't do.

this is not my pity party. i am not asking for compliments on how far i've come. what i want is to climb mountains, run marathons and see if i can bring my body back from failure to new life. i can live better. if i don't fail my body, maybe it won't fail me.


  1. I often think about this stuff. And how, before modern medicine, the whole baby-making and rearing thing would be a hell of a lot more difficult.

    Isabella didn't gain weight when I nursed her exclusively. So she got formula. Would she have survived before formula?

    Caden had to be induced. Would he have survived otherwise? My water broke - who knows how long it would have been before he made his appearance. Long enough to suffer an infection? Who knows.

    Lily was breech. Would I have been able to push her out? And if not, then what?

    It's amazing what our bodies are capable of - even more amazing when coupled with modern medicine.

  2. I wonder, often, how I cooked Livie wrong. What happened inside me to make her have seizures. Maybe if I HAD chosen to try to nurse her it would have helped. Maybe I messed her up when I took a bad fall at 26 weeks. Is it my fault she's so developmentally delayed?

    We all have these kinds of thoughts, I think. It's part of momhood. So. I get it. That's all I'm trying to say, is that I get it.

  3. I know there is nothing I can say except I love you and that you are the best mom these girls could ever hope for.

  4. This is so painful. I am so sorry. You are such a generous mother.

  5. bodies are tricky machines. they never respond exactly as we hope for. the thing to keep in mind, though, is it's not the body that makes mountain climbing and marathon running possible; it's the mind. a body shuts down, it freezes, it exaustes. the mind is what over rides the system, pushes it on, forces it to overcome. your body hasn't behaved exactly as you hoped it would, and most don't - we lost our first baby at 19 weeks gestation, my mom had 3 c-sections because a deformed tailbone, my sister doesn't even have glands to produce milk, my mother in law had 5 miscarriages before 4 healthy girls came along - but your mind has pushed forward, found solutions, soldiered on. with a mind like that, there's no mountain you can't push your body over. so good luck. fight on. head high.