Category Archives: giving birth

The Fall (Or Getting Back Up) – My Messy, Beautiful

Editor’s note: Almost eight years ago, I had a molar pregnancy. I don’t often write about it, but it’s not because I don’t want to. It’s because it’s hard. I mean, really hard. But here I go anyway, because I can do hard things.

I never thought of my body as a vessel put here on this Earth to procreate until my body proved incapable of the task. It was only then that I wondered about the hows and the whys of life and considered the consequences of having a body that didn’t do what it was meant to. It was only then that I shuddered from the sting of failure. Any previous feelings of disappointment were mere ripples compared to the wave that took me under when I couldn’t make a baby.

I’m not a religious person, but I believe in an energy that runs through the universe. It’s what drew me to dance. Very occasionally, moving through time and space allowed me to tap into that force and feel something larger than myself.   Those precious moments of light and connection gave dance significance in my life that went far beyond livelihood (not that I ever earned a penny doing it).

I’m fortunate to have felt light and connection in my life, but they’re not answers to the hows. They’re not explanations for the whys. When my first pregnancy turned out to be a molar pregnancy, which turned into choriocarcinoma (i.e. I wanted a baby but got cancer in my uterus instead), the ground crumbled beneath me. With nothing to grasp on to, I quite simply fell.

It was a bad math equation. A chemistry experiment gone horribly wrong.   A bunch of cells that didn’t do their job. None of it was my fault, and I know that now, but I struggled for a long time to figure it out.

Did having a molar pregnancy make me stronger? Maybe. Did it make me more determined? Perhaps. Did it help me not sweat the small stuff? Hardly.

For better or for worse, it taught me that sometimes falling feels good. That time doesn’t heal all wounds. That loss is lonely but must be felt alone. That in order to be privy to life’s most supreme miracles, we must surrender to our vulnerability.

More than anything, it taught me what I don’t believe.  I don’t believe it was fate.  I don’t believe it happened for a reason.  I don’t believe it was God’s plan, and I don’t believe it made my future children possible.

It might’ve been helpful to have faith in something during that dark time instead of a list of all the things I don’t believe. If I’m being completely honest, what eventually lifted me up wasn’t some grand aha-moment that motherhood didn’t define me; rather, it was the messy, beautiful realization that it did.

Beautiful because making and carrying a baby inside my body was the embodiment of connection and holding that miraculous human life in my arms was the epitome of light. Messy because had I not ultimately fulfilled my longing to have a baby, I don’t think I ever would’ve been whole.

There is a sense of gratitude that comes from enduring tragedy. It’s the appreciation not for the thrill of the fall, but for the more authentic version of you that emerges in the daunting process of getting back up.


This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!



Filed under aha moment, dance, giving birth, gratitude, mess, molar pregnancy

It’s My Birthday

A while back, Riley and I had a priceless conversation in the car.  It was so hilarious that he occasionally likes to repeat it like it’s a one-act play.  It goes like this:

Riley: Can I help you drive?

Me: No, silly, you have to be 16 to drive.  Are you 16?

Riley: Yes.

Me: Well, if you’re 16, then I’m 50.

Riley: Then you will die.

I’ll never forget this exchange.  That is, unless Alzheimer’s gets me, in which case it’s a good thing I wrote it down.  Today’s my birthday.  I’m 38 years old, which isn’t really old at all.  Unless you ask Riley.  Not only does he think I’m going to die in twelve years, but sometimes he calls me Old Lady instead of Mommy for fun.

To celebrate my 38th year, I’m getting a pap smear.  You heard me right.  I’ve chosen to receive a gynecological exam on my birthday.  (Do you remember when I asked my gastro for a colonoscopy?  If you know me at all, you know I’m capable of unthinkable things.)

If my third decade has taught me anything, it’s that I need to take care of myself. I’m the epitome of good health on the surface.  Case in point, my favorite food is kale.  And if my love of dark leafy fibrous greens isn’t proof enough, I’m training to run a 10K race at the end of October.  (Actually, that might be evidence not of good health, but rather that I’ve lost my mind.)

Still, I’ve had a lot of medical drama.  My personal favorite – besides the numbness in my left ankle, which resulted in me being tasered, er, I mean, having a nerve conduction study (age 36) and the preeclampsia (and subsequent emergency c-section) that made me as swollen as the Pillsbury Doughboy (age 31) – has to be the pre-cancerous polyp they found during my first colonoscopy (age 34).  That was awesome!

The overarching theme of my 30s has definitely been motherhood, and boy did it start with a bang!  I spent my 30th birthday recovering from a molar pregnancy and drowning in depression about whether or not motherhood was even in the cards.  (By the way, I should totally get a 30th birthday do-over, because, as Dylan would say, that was the worst day ever.)  Thankfully, motherhood was in the cards.  Eight glorious, sleep-deprived, and messy years later, my story is much different.  I’m the proud owner of two happy and healthy little boys, both of whom I blame for most if not all of my health problems (at least the mental ones).

Let’s face it, motherhood is perilous.  It’s allowed me to witness and be a part of breathtaking miracles, but it’s also put me in a chemo chair, on the operating table, and on the couch.  My pregnancies and births alone – with miscarriage, choriocarcinoma (i.e. cancer from the molar pregnancy), preeclampsia, sciatica, low platelet counts, blood thinners, and c-sections – were a monumental feat.  (And Dylan wants me to have another one!) Then came the postpartum ventral hernia (back to the OR!), atopic contact dermatitis (any other Mamas out there allergic to baby wipes?), IBS, severe anxiety, more low platelet counts, and suspicious thyroid nodules.

But I’m here, folks!  I’m still standing!  (In my kitchen with a sink full of dirty dishes!)  I’ve accessed the healthcare system in ways I never could’ve imagined, and somehow I’ve come out none the worse for wear each time (it’s a lot easier to put things into perspective eight years later).  All that said, I know the agony of sitting opposite a doctor and receiving bad news, of experiencing loss, of prepping for a surgery for which you don’t know the outcome, and of waiting anxiously for biopsy results.

These days, I have a dream team of doctors who treat my ailments – big and small and utterly ridiculous.  Hematologist?  Check.  Optometrist?  Check.  Gastroenterologist?  Check.  Neurologist?  Check!  But I’m proud of my Rolodex of MDs, because occasionally something happens that truly deserves attention (hello, thyroid!).  In other words, shit can get real, people.  Real fast.

As I watch my parents and in-laws deal with the stress of aging, my dog struggle from worsening degenerative disc disease (now Harry has a neurologist, too), and my kids grow big and strong before my squinting eyes (where are my reading glasses?!), I’m compelled to take the very best care of myself so I can be around to wipe my boys’ butts forever.  (That came out creepier than I intended.)  So I can write help them with their college essays, and join the office of (helicopter) parent relations on their college campuses.  (Okay, that was creepy, too.)

So, I’m getting a pap smear on my birthday, and I can’t wait!  (That might be a slight overstatement.)  Sure, I could’ve scheduled it another day, but I did it today – on my actual birthday – as a reminder and an oath not to take my health for granted no matter how tired, busy, lazy, or scared I feel.  Because, let’s face it, my cervix and ovaries (and breasts and heart and brain and thyroid) might not give a crap that I fancy kale.

All of this “which disease will take me down” talk is kind of depressing.  If you’re wondering why I’m not marking the beginning of the end of my 30s by drinking wine, eating cake, and online shopping in my pajamas, worry not.  The sponsor of the 10k I’m training for is a local bar, and all runners get free beer and wine at the finish line.  Chardonnay for breakfast!  Wahoo!  Also, after this morning’s lady parts check-up, I plan to perhaps possibly probably do a little bit of birthday window shopping before fetching the kids at school.  Maybe.  (Definitely.)   And about the cake?  There. Will. Be. Cake.  Cake will be consumed.

All I want for my birthday (besides expensive denim, a waterproof iPhone case, and a headboard) is for you to take care of yourself, too.  If you do something marvelous for your health, like get a skin screening at the dermatologist (I’m overdue!), schedule a mammogram, or go for a long walk, tell me about it in the comments here or on my Facebook page.  It will totally make my day.

p.s. If you insist on getting me a birthday present, it would really rock my world if you’d “Like” my Facebook page and share it with all of your fabulous Facebook friends.  That would be super cool.


Filed under anxiety, birthday, colonoscopy, conversations to remember, eyeglasses, giving birth, going to the doctor, Harry, health, molar pregnancy, pregnancy, thyroid