Tuesday, February 18, 2014

In Their Shoes

Author's Precaution: This post discusses sensitive material, and may contain triggers.


By age thirty, Julie had experienced her third miscarriage. When she informed me of her most recent pregnancy, it was in stark contrast to her enthusiasm at age twenty-four, newly wed and eager.  The fear was so evident, like a shadow that hovered over her wherever she went.  Julie’s courage visibly trembled in fear’s dark presence.  I held her hand and tried desperately to be a harbinger of hope.  I smiled and said, “This time …” This time she would be able to hold that beautiful baby in her arms, to hear his first cries, to draw his tiny mouth to her breast and nourish him.  This time she wouldn’t awake in the night to blood dripping down her inner thighs.  This time the baby wouldn’t lie motionless inside of her, and she wouldn’t see the obstetrician shake his head in confirmation that there was no longer a heartbeat. I assured her that this time she would know only the pain of labor, not of loss.  But, I saw the doubt on her face and I felt it in my heart.  It took less than three weeks for the proof I was wrong.  She had given up on the trying, she said, because she couldn’t take the pain anymore.  She and I both knew, though, that sharp sting would linger for all her life.

 

Since age twenty, Trina lived with a secret deep inside of her -- a secret that stirred and scratched about yearning for release.  After being reminded of her loss as we jointly consoled Julie, Trina told me what she had not even told her own mother then.  She had left him years ago because she was pregnant.  She should have left him before that, but we often make decisions that are not truly in our own best interest.   He was the father by fact, but she couldn’t possibly imagine the life her own flesh would have should that child be exposed to the same physical abuse she had endured, always further numbing herself and foolishly excusing him.  There were moments of panic and indecision, and then there was the morning, which haunts her still, when she stepped into that clinic.  The child that had been growing within her was removed and replaced with a chilling hollowness that would torment her for all her life.  Guilt, like Julie’s companion fear, is the dark shadow that now slinks behind Trina and hides in corners of her heart.



I slipped on Julie’s shoes once, and quickly kicked them off.  I hated how they felt. Those shoes would never grow worn on me, for fear only briefly taunted me as opposed to becoming a constant companion.  I never tried on Trina’s shoes, as those high heels terrified me.  Yet, I somehow understand the way each now treads for simply knowing their stories.  In this knowing, there remains a confusion regarding why many individuals would be quick to comfort one woman and condemn the other.

 I know the pain is real for both women; my sympathies are not in competition.  Who am I to say one can hold on to hurt while the other doesn’t deserve ownership of her emotions? Who is any one of us to deny a woman her sorrow and suffering? Perhaps you have also paced in Julie’s ragged, tattered sneakers; perhaps you too have staggered in Trina’s strapped platform heels.  Maybe you have only known one pair of comfortable loafers your whole life.  Regardless, both women deserve understanding. It wasn’t easy for either of them and empathy is a preferred companion to guilt and fear.   




**Author's Note: Names have been altered to protect privacy.
 

15 comments:

  1. I heartily agree with you that both women deserve the same compassion for their loss. Life is not to be taken for granted, nor treated as political fodder by hypocrites. Forcing a woman to give birth to a life she may be incapable of caring for responsibly is the same thing as oppression, and most often advocated by people who scream the loudest about the oppression of women in other countries. Thank you for your kind and compassionate attention to the feelings of both women, any woman who loses a baby for any reason never forgets that little soul

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    1. Indeed. I respect and appreciate your response so much. This is so thoughtful and quite accurate, especially that life is not to be taken for granted, nor treated as political fodder. I am always glad to know there are others in the world who practice compassion, and don't just speak it when it suits their desires.

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  2. This is why you need to keep writing. More of these scenarios need to be printed to teach readers that both shoes are on a difficult journey. We are so easily to assess people in 30 second (I'm guilty at times) rather we need to look deeper into their hearts and validate their pain.

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    1. Thank you so much. We are indeed so quick to judge, and we're all guilty. I think it shows strength to even admit that. We need to look deeper into our own hearts too in order to validate their pain. And, again, seriously, your positive feedback keeps my spirit high and gives me hope.

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  3. Wow. Just wow. I am really in awe of this piece, and how you juxtapose these two different situations. Both of these journeys are painful, and both of these women deserve to walk through life with our arms around them and our deep wells of compassion. Making the choice to not continue a pregnancy is no less heartbreaking than when it happens without choice.

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    1. Thank you so very much! Receiving positive feedback about my writing is so wonderful when it also comes from someone whose own writing I highly admire and respect.

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  4. The silence, the fear of being misunderstood that keeps so many women away from sources of support, can only be undone when we start to share stories without fear of recrimination. You honor both of your friends, and their struggles, with this piece.

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    1. Thank you. You're so right that so many women don't receive the support they need and deserve because they stay silent. Silence can do so much damage.

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  5. Wow. This is so powerful Angela and so important. Because there are so many women walking around with this pain and feeling alone and misunderstood. You so beautifully brought their stories to light.

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    1. Thank you so much, Linda. Your words are extremely validating. I also strongly believe this is an important piece, so I do hope it's still widely read despite the precaution. Again, many thanks!

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  6. Yes, both women deserve our compassion.
    I especially liked the way you tied up their respective stories to the experience of walking in their shoes. As they say, judge not, until you have walked a mile in someone's shoes.

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  7. Intense. I loved how these stories intertwined.

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  8. I read this several days ago, but am just now finding the words to comment. Such a meaningful and powerful piece, and important for women everywhere.

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    1. Thank you for coming on back to comment.

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  9. This is really great. I've never thought about the similarities and contrasts of these scenarios before.

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