Jess at Finding a Different Path got me thinking about how we transform into beautiful butterflies after trauma and loss. Those of us who have been healing for years or even decades can attest to that.
Butterflies are a good metaphor, not only because of their transformations, but also because of their simultaneous delicacy and frailty, and their strength, as I've observed them flying quickly in strong winds, buffeted about, but surviving and flourishing. Those of us who have healed and embraced our No Kidding lives might be strong and beautiful butterflies, but we are also frail at times, as we carry the scars of trauma with us. The scars can heal into something beautiful, cause us to focus on other joys and benefits of our lives following loss and trauma. My Gifts of Infertility series written a few years ago focuses on that - the positives that come from our trauma, loss, and the life we never expected to have. But they are also reminders, and can hurt from time to time too.
Going through the process of loss, disappointment, and often trauma, means that we are forever changed. We lose something in that process that I, for one, have never fully regained. Before my pregnancy losses and infertility, I'd almost always been in the happy majority. Sure I needed glasses, but I'd always been physically and intellectually lucky. Even though I can be a good worrier, deep down I also had a degree of blissful ignorance that so much of the population possesses. The world operates on our common belief that "it will never happen to us." That's how we can get in a car every day, or go on a date with a stranger, or splurge on something we can't really afford assuming there will always be new income, or take any of a myriad risks that make up modern day life. But infertility knocks that out of us. My ectopics brought me face to face with my mortality, which was a shock. I learned what it means to be on the wrong side of the odds, whether that is being one of the one in six couples who might experience infertility, or the one in 400,000 who has a repeat ectopic that is an interstitial ectopic. Jess called it being a "tiny percentage person." Once we've been that person, it is hard to ignore it again in the future. I absolutely relate to that.
It has affected me in a number of ways. Initially, when I was feeling very raw and vulnerable, I felt uncharacteristically lonely when I would travel internationally, especially if I was travelling without my husband. Separation from him, something we had been used to because of my job, became quite distressing. That has eased, though I travel on my own less often now. I've since been diagnosed with an unusual neurological pain condition, and experienced almost catastrophic bleeding from fibroids (though the resultant hysterectomy helped), and as a result I'm even more aware that I seem to end up on the wrong side of the odds. I do not, I cannot, assume that everything will be okay. So, for example, I take all the extra precautions when it comes to international travel: the appropriate travel insurance with extra coverage for pre-existing conditions, letting people know where I will be and advising of emergency contacts, signing in to the NZ government's travel website so they know where I will be when I am away, thinking twice about more risky locations, being prepared for baggage loss/plane delay/illness, etc. I think about earthquakes, and ensure we have a lot of supplies (though probably not as many as are recommended, we are still probably better than most in this shaky city of ours). I want to make appropriate preparations for old age, rather than just assuming everything will be okay. We keep private health insurance, just in case. Et cetera.
Clearly, having come through trauma, I feel less confident at times. I'm aware of my frailty. But likewise, I feel more resilient too. I've developed emotional resources and skills I never had. I'm more confident in myself, and know that I can get through hard things. Jess too, is a great example of this. She's in pain, and is allowed to feel horrible about that at the moment, but she knows it will get better, and that she will get through it.
Ultimately though, I am still aware that I have almost no control over what may or may not happen to me through natural disasters, pandemics, finances, or actions of others. Bad luck happens to most of us, in varying degrees. In some ways, I find that lack of control comforting. After all, if it is so random, it means that I am (almost certainly) not to blame! And that all I can do is try and make the best decisions possible with my knowledge at the time, just as I did around infertility. I prepare as much as I can, but I also accept that life will surely throw things at me that I can't imagine in the future, in just the way that I could never have imagined ectopic pregnancies, dengue fever, hysterectomy, and trigeminal neuralgia. Knowing that I could be in a tiny, unlucky percentage has made life more precious, and has convinced me to embrace life while I can, not to wish for something better, or rue lost opportunities. There is so much in my life to love. I might have lost my blissful ignorance, but I have not lost my bliss.