Kathryn | Vancouver Island, British Columbia
Images by Karen McKinnon
"The only thing that tethered me to this life when I was afloat in the darkness of my broken heart and shattered mind was love."
Describe your body story before this project: Broken. Broken is the word that keeps coming back to me. I was broken. I felt broken. I was so scared of breaking. Of people seeing how broken I was. I didn’t know how to heal my heart. How to forgive my body. This has been a most painful task. Loving my whole body seemed impossible at this point. This body that can’t keep a pregnancy safe. This baby-killing machine. I have no control over my body. I could stand safely in a corner for 9 months and might continue to lose them. I have no control over something that is supposed to be so natural.
I can love my body for giving me the two amazing children I have and for allowing me to get pregnant with the babies I’ve lost. I can appreciate that my uterus is still intact and that I am alive; that I survived horrible labours, surgeries, surgical complications and post-operative infections. I can love that my heart and mind didn’t lose the battle in all this sadness. I am forgiving myself so I can love myself. I am forgiving my body. Loving my body, even the parts which have filled my heart with a sadness that I will never escape. That's the secret that my tears are trying to tell me as I lay here crying again; this will pass. Accepting this is freeing.
One particular realization in this process has been very powerful. "Nothing else matters as long as you have your health" is the greatest lie, a giant untruth.
As long as you have love. That’s all that matters. Health comes and goes. Physical and mental health. I know this. Nothing else matters but love; love for those around you, carefully nurtured through respect and communication. Space and gentleness. Kisses and hands to hold. Nothing else matters as long as you have love. Not accomplishments, not beauty. Love. Loving relationships. Losing my mind and my heart to my miscarriages has taught me this.
In this past year I have lost three pregnancies, four babies. This broken body of mine has experienced more pain, more doubt, and more self-loathing than ever before. I have carried a pregnancy a few weeks into the first trimester and had it end. I have carried a magical blessing of a pregnancy with twins into the second trimester and had it end too. I then carried another pregnancy only to see a perfect little baby without a heartbeat at the first ultrasound. Losing these pregnancies is clearly bearable, as I am still here. But it is too painful for words. So much blood lost, life lost, sadness. Terrible sadness. But my beautiful body carries on. The only thing that tethered me to this life when I was afloat in the darkness of my broken heart and shattered mind was love. Love for my partner, for my dear children, for the moments we share.
Love for love’s sake. Not for approval or acceptance. Not for personal gain. Love because in the end it’s really all there is. It is my memories. It’s my favourite scents and flavours. It’s the songs that fill me up and make me throw down my guard and sing until my cheeks hurt from smiling. It’s raw and sweaty and fills the sheets with lust and passion and makes me blush at the recounting.
What I’ve come to understand above all else is the importance of finding this love for myself. This disconnect that I have had from myself. It’s shocking to me now. Distance to prevent pain. Then with experiencing such terrible pain I was brought face to face with the separation and it was terrible.
I separated myself from my body so that I could have something to blame. I felt too guilty blaming my midwives, my doctors, the medical system; other people. It was much easier to blame myself, my body, my uterus. I loved myself less than people I barely knew. Many appointments with specialists later and now we know that there was nothing more that I could have done. I am not to blame.
The terminology we use as a society is so damning. My “hostile uterus” is not to be blamed. I am not to blame. I did not “miss carry” my babies. I did not take a bad step and drop them. I am not to blame. I didn't lose my babies. They aren't lost. They aren't out in the cold frosty night crying to be held. They died before they were born. Their hearts stopped before they were able to take a breath out here with us. Their bodies were emptied and their spirits scattered. They are back in the cycle again. A part of it all, part of me, a part of us.
Something wasn’t absolutely perfect so they were not able to live here with us now. That is what every life is, a perfect miracle.
I don’t want a fun and fabulous life. I don’t want a life that’s full and engaging, rich with excitement and adventure.
I want a life that is full of love. Whether it is full of pain and more sadness, or full of joy. Full of music and laughter and clean linen fresh off the laundry line cradling me to sleep; or the steady beep and tick of an IV machine and the nauseating smell of hospital sheets.
Either way. I want to be here, in love, with the ones around me and with myself.
Portraits of Kathryn by Karen McKinnon.