Friday, November 25, 2011

women with "wrong" bodies and attempts at healing

Lilly and I: May she never be
told her body is "wrong."
Women are constantly bombarded with imageries that tell them there's somehow something wrong with their bodies; that they don't measure up. But this post is not about those kind of "wrong" bodies. This post is about when Western medicine tells women their bodies don't function right; that they're "wrong."

I got this message from an early age. Feeling unsafe at home, I suffered from insomnia from an early age. I had headaches, frequent colds, and in general a poor constitution. There were concerns I would go deaf when I grew up because my hearing was "poor" (I think it was selective). And they wanted to test me for diabetes since I was "too thirsty" all the time (see, I've always been a swiller.)

The real problems started when I "failed" to get my period. I maybe had a little spotting at some point late in middle school, but it never developed into anything. When I was 18, this was cause for alarm. There were frequent hormone tests and attempts at jumpstarting my period with strong birth control pills; pills that were later taken off the market because of near fatal side effects.

I measured low on estrogen, they said, so I needed to be on a birth control pill regardless, less I'd suffer later on from calcium deficiency.

I was on the pill for 15 years, sexually active or not.

The year I turned 33 was a year of healing and recovery for me. At the time, I was back in my native Norway on sabbatical. I confronted demons from the past. I saw a gestalt therapist who helped me set boundaries. And I paid more attention to my body.

I didn't feel good on the pill. My limbs felt swollen, I felt sluggish.

I quit taking the pill the month I turned 33. By early summer, I started getting some spotting; I was hopeful. Maybe this was my kind of period?

Doctors said no. My cycle was wrong. It failed to follow their normative four-week cycle. It didn't "look" like a period. I was told I couldn't' conceive naturally.

But then I did.

At this point, I was so thoroughly fed up with Western medicine. I loathed the message my ob.gyn. was giving me, that because I was pregnant and would give birth at age 35, and because my mom had a history of several miscarriages, I was "high risk." When I got a nasty string of colds, human resource staff told me I could take a disability leave.

Bit I was not disabled. I was superabled. I was building another human being inside of me.

In my body, I knew I could carry forth my child through pregnancy and give birth without medical intervention.

I left my ob.gyn. and pursued homebirth with a midwife. I labored for 64 hours (because of some scar tissue, my cervix wouldn't open). On my third day of laboring, the day after my water had broken, I received antibiotics (because of the risk of infection). I was transferred to a hospital because my midwife didn't administer antibiotics. First rejected by two other hospitals who refused to let me continue my pursuit of a vaginal birth, I was threatened with a C-section at the third hospital too. But the ob.gyn. gave me a chance, though she did put me on a pitocin drip to "help" contractions (but to me it only seemed to slow things down; it also caused a lot of uncomfortable postpartum swelling). Flanked by my support team, including our wonderful midwife, my attentive husband, and a good nurse, I managed in the end on my own. And delivering my baby was amazing.

Birth taught me my body is amazing; I felt I can do anything.

But then some time passes, and you start to forget. You begin to distrust. Because you're told; your body is wrong.

This time around, I'm seeking assistance from an acupuncturist slash oriental medicine practitioner. She has never told me my body is wrong. But she did tell me a lot of my systems are down. She said we'll focus on restoring strength and hopefully sleep. She also warned me that as my systems begin to restore, I might become more cranky.

This was not good news to Leighton. Feeling run down and stressed with a lack of time for all the things I want-need to do and get done, there's been plenty of crankiness going around. Other stressors, such as financial insecurities and the age of spite also contribute, as does the seemingly impossible goal of getting pregnant.

Some friends expressed concern as I shared news of the escalating levels of my crankiness. Seeing my acupuncturist again this week for a second appointment and addressing this, she smiled and said she was only surprised I didn't express crankiness at my first appointment. Unfortunately, Leighton would have known all too well that she didn't get the right idea (but then again, he's gone till 6 P.M. after which a busy couple of hours of dinner, dishes, books and bedtime routine ensue before we both crash on the couch and I'm at my most run down of the day.)

She sent me off with some stronger herbs to see if this time around they might help me find sleep. And she encouraged me to return to my yoga mat to process my irritability. And to ask for more time for my work.

The thing is, I hate to ask for "favors," though I know it's crazy even thinking of it that way and I don't really but then deep down I do. That I'm somehow failing when needing to ask for some time away on the weekend (read: Saturday mornings) so I can return to my favorite yoga class and then perhaps head to the library for a couple of hours of work afterwards. But if mom's not happy, no one is happy, right?! So I'll have to suck it up and ask for it. In the long run, we'll all be happier with a happier less cranky me.


  1. Female sexual dysfunction is a billion dollar industry. It's run by middle aged men who are both (a) reluctant to lose the money, and (b) are probably not very good in bed and need to apportion the blame away from them. QED.

  2. Thanks, Shannon! Will do. (Funny coincidence about the subtitle; or maybe not at all, huh.)

  3. There's no harm in asking, and you totally deserve it.

  4. Please read my book when it comes out next month! I have a whole section on "asking" (no, demanding!) time--yes, even on weekends! I even use the subtitle, "If Mama Ain't Happy, Ain't Nobody Happy!" (Tell Leighton not to kill me.) (just kidding, Leighton!!!) 


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