The Slaying of the Dragon

The old me died in a puddle of tears on that birthing table as my daughter whisked freshly from my body was clucked over and examined and I was left paralyzed from the waist down, terrified and alone. I was reborn into a new world where all of my old besties and allies were no longer at my side, where my husband was gone, and where I was, again, alone against the world.

It’s not terribly different, I guess, than how any of us are born, it’s just that I was older and not covered with that cheese-type stuff (say it with me now, Pranksters, thank GOD!).

For eighteen months now, I’ve carefully picked up the pieces of who I was and assembled them back into a reasonable representation of who I am now. I discarded some of the old things I didn’t need: the anger that I’d held onto for so long and the inability to let people in and the long-held opinion that I didn’t need anyone but myself to be happy.

In turn, I’ve added some new things that I think I always needed but didn’t realize: I’m warmer, more loving and I’m more thankful of the people who do love me. There are bad things woven in there too, of course. You don’t go through major traumas without picking up some hell along the way. The darkness inside me is heavy sometimes. Sometimes I wonder if it’s more than I can bear.

These shards of who I am now are stitched loosely together with the belief that the universe is far less random than I’d ever thought it was and that someday, it’ll all make more sense. I have to cling to that idea or I’d probably go crazy and shave my head and tattoo a fire-breathing scorpion on it.

Monday morning, I will go back to the place that I was born. Not Highland Park Hospital, where on July 15, 1980, Rebecca Elizabeth Sherrick* was born, but Central DuPage Hospital, where Becky Sherrick Harks was born on January 28, 2009. I haven’t been back since her surgery.

My daughter, her curls like a halo, finally masking the scar that bisects the back of her whole head, she and I will march into the place where we were both born on the very same day. My ghosts will roam the halls with us, carefully holding my hand, gently guiding me find the place where I will take my daughter to help her find her words.

I hope that when I pass the ghost of myself in the hall I can send her a hug; some silent signal of strength from her future self. Because while the darkness is omnipresent, the sadness an integral part, there is always hope. I hope that she knows that the future is large and that while she will rage, trying to fit in to a world that no longer exists, in all that she has lost, there will be more that she gains.

Monday, the flowers in the vase on the desk will be fresh, and the volunteers will smile, confused by the visibly upset young woman and her beautiful daughter. They will not understand that sometimes, it just hurts.

They will not understand that sometimes, you slay the dragon.

Sometimes the dragon slays you.

Today, Amelia, Princess of the Bells**, she and I will slay my dragon.

————–

*what? You didn’t think my parents named me Aunt Becky, did you?

**Amelia, by my amazing friend the Star Crossed Writer

An army stands ten thousand strong and tall,
But you shall rise above the bloody fray
And rain down vengeance ‘pon your enemies
And all those who would stand against your will.

When darkness threatens fainter hearts than yours
And calls ring out for champions to arise,
The cries will cease and everyone will see
Amelia, the Princess of the Bells.

The Incredible Lightness Of Truth

Even amidst the turmoil of the past couple of weeks, there has been so much good.

In my struggles to maintain the carefully constructed facade of who I am, I’d never allowed myself the chance to fully grieve who I never was allowed to be. The secrets I kept were more toxic to me than I’d thought, and with every passing day, they dragged me lower and lower.

Letting go of those secrets has reminded me that I am free.

I’ve spent so long feeling tied down to my life, boxed in, and stuck, but I see now that the only way that I was bound was in my mind. There is a part of me that is still 8-year old Aunt Becky, scared and alone, wishing away her real life for something that makes her whole again.

She’ll always be in there, I think, searching for the love she was denied, but acknowledging that she’s in there, I think that is the first step to letting those skeletons out of my closet and making them do the foxtrot.

Knowing that I’m not alone, reading all of your comments and Tweets and emails and finding out that so many of you grew up in similar situations, I cannot tell you how much that helped. I know that there are others out there like me, statistics tell me there HAVE to be, but knowing that you, you people who I know, my PRANKSTERS, know how I feel, that made me realize that I had done the right thing by putting it all out there.

Sometimes, that’s all you need to be brave: knowing you’re not alone. But reminding yourself that it’s okay to be alone, too.

I don’t pretend to know what the future is going to bring for me. I don’t know that The Daver and I will make it. I don’t know that I won’t fall flat on my face tomorrow, breaking every bone in my face. I don’t know that I’ll ever truly succeed at anything I try to do in the way that will make me fulfilled.

But I do know that I will be honest about where I am going and where I have been. I owe it to myself and to 8-year old Aunt Becky.

I’m not afraid anymore. The truth cannot hurt me.

Not when the future is so full of light and laughter.

I promise to be back with something funnier. It’s time to bring some laughter back. I’m certainly not making a case for myself in the Funniest Blogger Thingy this year.

Over at Toy With Me, I’m talking about why we need to talk about sex with our children before they learn about it from Internet Porn.

We Are None of Us Alone

Please forgive the double posting. I felt it this was worth it.

In seven days over 50,000 of you joined an online community offering encouragement and help.

Today (Sunday) at noon hundreds are meeting on the Golden Gate Bridge to take a stand against suicide at the very place where it happens most in the world. (You’re invited, look for the yellow balloons and ribbons).

This hopeful story has received international press coverage including this first report on Time Magazine’s NewFeed.

I haven’t heard from the person who mailed this postcard, but I have heard from many who have felt lifted by this flashmob of kindness.

Blatantly lifted from Post Secret.

I cannot be in San Fransisco today, but I am there in spirit. We are none of us alone. Please, if you’re ever feeling like this is the end, remember that we are all connected. None of us, we are none of us alone.

Call 1(800)SUICIDE [1-800-784-2433] for help, day or night.

Love to each of you, My Pranksters, who remind me that no matter how dark it is, there is always a light.

Please, pass on the message. Twitter is going strong with it #yellowballoons #suicideprevention.

There’s A Blaze of Light In Every Word

When I started blogging, it was mostly to make other people laugh and poke fun at the few blogs I’d ever seen. I co-blogged on my first blog, Mushroom Printing, with my home-slice Pashmina and I’m pretty sure that the only people that read it were people that had either seen my yapping maw in person or rampant spambots trying to sell me knock-off drugs at bargain basement prices (how could I resist? I mean, really).

I’m still not sure why I ventured out on my own.

I guess I’d found that I really liked to write.

I was lonely. Desperately lonely.

The people who liked stories about queefs and analogies about penises that looked like “a baby’s arm holding an apple” weren’t the same people who could possibly relate to how cripplingly lonely I now was, stuck at home with an infant who wouldn’t be held by anyone but Your Aunt Becky and a husband who was home approximately .0004 minutes a week.

I wrote and I wrote and I wrote. Of course, when you start a blog, readers don’t come flocking, and even after I’d gotten some readers, I’d never connected that people actually READ the words I wrote.

Even now, when I sit down to peck out a post on my keyboard, I don’t actually imagine that the words I write on my own screen are read by anything other than spambots. I know you’re out there because I keep up with most of you on your own blogs, but I still don’t realize that you know me.

And that my words might actually mean something.

My daughter was born in January of 2009 with a neural tube defect called an encephalocele. It’s a fairly rare defect of the bones of the skull. When she was a wee fetus, no more than a blob of cells really, those bones didn’t fuse properly and part of her brain developed outside of her skull.

Somehow, this was undetected throughout my pregnancy, despite many ultrasounds and various screening procedures, and when she rocketed into the world, all hell broke loose.

I was lucky enough to have my Band of Merry Pranksters here to hold me up when I was sure that the world was collapsing around me. In a room that had previously been full of oxygen, I could no longer breathe and you all brought me tanks of air, and stroked my hair, telling me that it was okay to be afraid because this was some fucked up shit, indeed.

Every email you ever sent to me, all of you who reached out to me during those times and every other time, telling me about your own children, how they struggled and how scared you had been, I saved them all. Maybe I didn’t answer you because I couldn’t; I was literally paralyzed on the couch, I cried every time I got one.

I cried because I wasn’t alone anymore. It didn’t matter where I was, I wasn’t alone.

I’ve never forgotten that kindness you continue to bestow upon me and I never will.

This January found me celebrating the my daughter’s birthday while struggling mightily with some Post Traumatic Stress Disorder related to her birth. I was floundering, clawing against the darkness and trying to find my light when I got an email.

Someone, by chance, had happened across my blog, searching for “encephalocele” or possibly “neural tube defect in babies.” Someone had just found out that their child, their 18-week fetus had what appeared to be an encephalocele and had been desperately searching for a success story on the Internet to give them hope.

I doubt I’m the first blog you come across when you search for those terms, but there in Google, somewhere, my blog, my profanity laden blog was found. And you can find no greater success story of someone kicking the ass of an encephalocele to give you hope than the hope of my daughter, Amelia Grace.

This is why I am so proud to be a March of Dimes Mom. This is why I am so proud to be a blogger. This is why I am so proud to be Your Aunt Becky and have a Band of Merry Pranksters to love on.

The email I got was from Nikki, who is now one of my best friends. I mentioned her in a Go Ask Aunt Becky, asking you guys to spare her and her baby some great thoughts and prayers back when she’d emailed me initially.

Well, Internet, Your Aunt Becky is an AUNT!

This is Lily Grace and she is my niece! Doesn’t she look like me? (just nod, Pranksters)

Lily is doing fantastically, neurologically intact and clearly adorable as hell, which goes without saying.

Lily is having neurosurgery today, a similar procedure to what Mimi had, although she does not have a true encephalocele. Her neural tube defect is filled with cerebrospinal fluid only, which is considered to be a win if you’re a neurologist. Being full of brain matter is much, much worse, so YAY for cephalocele or meningiocele, or whatever fancy thing the kids are calling it these days.

Today, Pranksters, I’m asking you to spare some love and light and prayers for sweet baby Lily Grace, who will, no doubt, kick brain surgery in the teeth like her cousin Amelia Grace, for whom she is named after (in part).

And I want to, once again, thank you for being there. Maybe I’ll never truly believe that actual PEOPLE read my blog, but I do know that the connections that I’ve made, the friendships I’ve made, those remind me of something that I desperately needed to know. Something we all need to be reminded of.

Every word we write, every tweet we send, every connection we forage, every friend we make, every breath we breathe, we are none of us alone.

Memorial

My grandfather was one of those whiz-kid types who graduated college while still in diapers. I think he went to Harvard then Johns Hopkins for Medical School, graduating with a full MD at something absurd like age 21. He then went onto be a family doctor back in the days when being a doctor was really something special to the general public, something revered and something that I desperately wish that the medical field could get back to.

He made house calls, delivered babies in the middle of the night and ministered to the sick and dying. His name was Joseph, just like my dad and my middle son (Alex’s middle name) and he missed out on most of my dad’s childhood because he was laid up with tuberculosis in a TB sanitarium.

My grandfather, Joseph, was also a doctor in the United States Army in World War Two and among the first to liberate the concentration camps.

What he saw there, the dead bodies amongst the living, those poor souls forced to live in what must have been hell, in the sorts of conditions that I cannot even fathom as I whine about it being “too hot” outside, he never spoke of.

I don’t know that he could.

My grandfather was a hero.

To be able to touch the lives of those people, even those who didn’t make it, or those who had already passed, and to tenderly care for them, that is what a hero is.

A hero is someone who leaves their own family, the comforts of their own home, and selflessly serves their country. They take care of what needs to be done, and they do it with pride.

I’m proud, too. Of all the soldiers, of their families, and of my grandfather, who would, were he alive, be horrified by my blog.

It’s a DAMN good thing he’s not here to read it.

AMERICA, FUCK YEAH: