I have a body.
For the most part, I like this body. When I want it to dance, it dances. When I want it to pick up my child, it picks up my child. When I want it to breathe in fresh air, it breathes in fresh air. It exists in the world. It takes up space. Sure, it takes up more space than it used to, and my back aches in ways it never did before. This is the price my body pays for childbearing, for aging. So I dance, I play, I salute the sun. I manage.
When I was pregnant, my body worked beautifully. It grew – round and full. It sheltered. It protected. When I laughed, my belly shook with the joy and hope that only new life can bring. It moved and kicked with something that was not me, but of me.
And then, my body failed.
I did not go into labor. My induced labor stalled. I required surgery to remove my child. I couldn’t breastfeed.
My body had betrayed me. My mind had done all the preparations, all the calculations, and it had never occurred to me that my body wouldn’t follow instructions. It had always been a bit of an overachiever before.
It took me a full year to come to terms with the fact that this needed to happen. That I got exactly the birth experience I needed to have. That I had to learn the first and greatest lesson in parenting, and I had to learn it fast:
You will fail. And everything will be fine.
After an F on an Algebra test in 8th grade, I had never failed at anything. It had never occurred to me that failure was an option.
For a full year after my body failed us, I contemplated the obvious. We could have died in childbirth when my body refused to go into labor, if this were decades ago. She could have died from my lack of milk supply, if this were centuries ago.
Before this, I never had to spend much time in doctors’ offices. I’ve read that it’s not uncommon for the bulk of a young woman’s experiences with the medical profession to be during her childbearing years. And all of a sudden, I was seeing doctors and specialists every other day. Checking my scar, worried about depression and anxiety, trying to get the milk flowing, checking her weight. My doctor’s office and hers became a refuge where I was not judged. I was only helped.
I never once thought about how much this would all cost. We had insurance, and we needed care, so we got care.
When she turned one – almost to the day – I remember the world opening up again. I cried my way through a yoga class that morning, reliving memories of surgery and struggle I never though I’d have, and then it was like I could breathe again. Only, I didn’t know I couldn’t really breathe before because it had been so long.
For the year following that, I didn’t think much about it anymore. I excelled at work. I had this amazing, funny, smart daughter so, even amidst my failures, I must have done something right. My marriage seemed back on track after the stresses of literally just keeping this child alive each day. We started talking about a second, since the first was so wonderful. We had always said we would survive the first one before even thinking about a second. We weren’t just surviving; we were thriving. We talked about waiting, trying to see if we could plan for a summer baby. We are teachers, after all. Maybe we could make that work.
I didn’t think about my body and its failings again until May. I had learned my lesson. My body had failed, and it was fine. My body was stronger where it had been broken. I was weirdly proud of my c-section and the visible badge I now carried below my belt. I had come to see my experience as lesson rather than failure; as part of the journey rather than end goal.
In May, I sat in my classroom and cried. A friend came in the room and saw the news on my computer that the House had passed their version of a healthcare bill. Among many, many other issues much more serious than mine, my body was going to cost us money, and a lot of it. Enough of it that I wasn’t sure we could afford this second child we had talked about, that we had dared to allow ourselves to desperately want, even if it meant another surgery. Another failing body. Another 10 pounds. Another year of not being able to breathe.
I was heartbroken. I was thrown into a place yet again where I was considering my scar, feeling the full weight of my body on my mind, contemplating failure, feeling less than I should.
“The Senate will never pass it. Not as-is.” This was what I was told. What we told ourselves.
Now it’s June and the Senate might pass it. It has changed some, but not enough, and not in a good way as far as I can see. It might affect my body – the one I struggled to see as strong, beautiful, amazing – in this great, blue state of Illinois with my excellent insurance from my excellent employer. It might not. Regardless, it will hurt more than it helps. It will devastate families. It will devastate women. Because we have bodies that grow other bodies, and sometimes those bodies don’t work exactly the way they are supposed to.
What this bill fails to take into account is that everyone’s body fails at some point. It’s the human condition. It’s what connects us all.
This shouldn’t be a death sentence, or a path to financial ruin.
I hope and pray and send all of my energy up to whatever being there is that this won’t pass. That we won’t be destroyed. If one good thing comes out of this mess of a year, I hope it is that.
I hope the failure of this bill vindicates the failure of our bodies once and for all.