The Quickening

Towards the end of June, 2018 6:30 am

The sun is streaming thru the window, splashing across the wall behind my bed, casting squares of lace. I tossed and turned last night and peeled off my leggings and flung my t- shirt and woke up naked, shivering. The fatigue aches but still I can’t sleep. A knot in my stomach seems to flutter and pulse. My period? My thoughts spiral away in the dark to that alternate option, the impossible. But what if? I lay my hands over the curved spot of my lower abdomen and ponder the fact that all my jeans are too tight. No. It can’t be. I’m sure today I’ll find blood on my underwear around lunch time, and I’ll swallow my food knowing it’s only feeding me. My mind can’t help but flip and flop back between the 2 options. What…if…No…But what if…NO.

No of course I’m not going to be pregnant. That would be crazy. That would mean it was a miracle, and you can’t refuse a miracle. Yet I am not prepared to accept one either. I start thinking about a housing lottery, about how my salary hovers at the poverty line here in this town of billionaires.

It feels like a period is about to come. I can normalize my emotions, release the fantasy option that I love and dread at once. I think about my friend Kate for some reason. Her sweet, simple little life in a small town, with a husband and a little yellow house and two boys. Clothesline and baseball in the backyard. I wonder why I couldn’t have just been happy with something like that, but no…I have wandered. Perhaps I really did conjure this. I said I wanted it, I wished for it to happen, I prayed in the mosque that day in the desert a month ago. A wave of nausea, that pit in my stomach, all reminders.

Yesterday the sky was an eerie shade, almost a pale green but tinted with burnished bronze. Patina sky. Wildfires in the distance like a bad omen. I have strange dreams I can’t recall. I feel ill and sleepy each time I awake. Great Aunt Sallys crocheted blanket hangs across the chair by my window and I think about her and Uncle John, living in their beautiful little retirement village in Santa Barbara, and I wonder if I’ll ever be taken care of that way.

When I tell Michael he puts his face to my belly and weeps, he tells me he wishes he could take the pain for me. He goes to the store and buys Tylenol and motion sickness wristbands. He assures me he loves me, that he’s here for us. Yet still, I weep constantly.

It’s as if this pregnancy stirred the sediment in my loins that had settled – years of sadness and disappointment and failure with sex and relationships. The silt of having accepted I may never be a mother. As it began to churn I felt I was balancing precariously at the edge of an abyss whose depths contained my own rage and wounding, my broken heart, all the ways it was never going to happen. It threatened to pull me in, and I confess I spent most of the first five months mesmerized by its darkness, unable to tear myself away from its edges.

I cried. I stayed in bed. I called in sick. I hid. I couldn’t eat. I tried reassuring the baby that I wasn’t sad he’s here, that I was just…sad. But it was hard to believe my own wavering reassurances. “This is what you’ve always wanted. This is what you’ve been waiting for. You manifested this. This is your destiny.” These personal mantras fell on my own deaf ears, and I remained paralyzed in a state of distress. Until.

At 23 weeks, I felt it. A little thump on the inside, just one at first, followed by three more in rapid succession. It brought me back to the small steady voice inside my head that has always known, and has constantly reassured me from my heart of hearts, I will be a mama someday. The tiny flutters of the baby boy I’ve always longed to hold tugged on the last part of me that kept me from falling in. As the flutters grew in strength and frequency, my happiness grew. As my belly swelled, so did my love for the life inside of me. The less I could see of my feet, the more secure I felt on the path I’d chosen, or the path that had chosen me. There are still quavering moments of self doubt and insecurity, but the closer I get to my approaching due date the more confidence I feel.

Four years ago today, I got my surgery. And it took that long, didn’t it, to get to this place? But I made it. I’m doing it. And I feel triumphant. Never give up on your wildest dreams, and when they find you, never forget that you deserve them. 

100 Women: I want to break the stigma of painful sex

This article originally appeared on BBC’s World Service. Written by Phoebe Keane.

One woman’s story of a decade of wrongly diagnosed sexual pain has inspired a play – and with it, the hope that other women with sexual dysfunction can be helped.

It was on a cold winter’s day just over a year ago that actress Emily Francis heard an item on the radio that moved her to tears.

“I felt desperately sad listening to Callista’s story. This problem with her vagina had destroyed her life. She’d lost her relationship, become depressed… it felt tragic,” she says.

Callista, a fashion stylist in San Francisco, had been speaking to BBC 100 Women about her long journey to finding a cure for unbearably painful sex. Continue reading “100 Women: I want to break the stigma of painful sex”

how to stop thinking about it so much (…you can’t…)

The light in the doctor’s office is familiar, as are the colors of the walls and cupboards, the smooth surface of the examination table, the charts on the wall of the nervous and muscular systems. Even the color of the doctors hair is familiar. It seems she is always blonde.  I can’t count the number of doctors anymore, can’t tally the puzzled expressions, the trace lines of doubt stitched around the corners of their eyes and knotted right between the brow. Today she is wearing a cotton candy pink sweater set that matches her glasses, which are also pink, and strung from a glass-beaded chain around her neck. Her slacks do not wrinkle. She is kind, but prim and cool, detached from any emotion I am feeling.  She reaches a hand out and pats my knee, which is exposed through a hole in my jeans that appears vulgar in her presence.

“You’re probably just going to have to live with this for the rest of your life, but I can help you manage your pain.” I’m wading through a deep stream and my legs are catching on reeds in the brackish water. I try to speak but I feel as if I’ve swallowed cotton balls. I begin to cry. She stiffens and says nothing while I weep. Continue reading “how to stop thinking about it so much (…you can’t…)”

How vaginal pain nearly destroyed my sex life

I remember exactly how it felt to be lying on the cool tiled floor of my parent’s bathroom. I was 13 years old. The tampon I was grasping awkwardly between my legs looked exactly like the one on the box, but where I thought it should go caused intense pain when I tried pushing. It felt like hitting a wall and having it bite you back. I didn’t think much of it at the time because anything about becoming a woman was just not to be discussed. I never talked to anyone about it, not until much later. Continue reading “How vaginal pain nearly destroyed my sex life”

My BBC Worldwide radio debut


When I was 16 I tried having sex for the first time, and I was surprised by how excruciatingly painful it was.  I knew it would hurt at first, that’s what everyone said anyways, but I never imagined it would feel like serrated knives between my legs, like fresh rope burn, like a ring of fire that burned for days afterwards.  It was so painful it traumatized me – I wouldn’t speak to my boyfriend after that, we broke up, and I fell into a deep depression which I couldn’t truly share with anyone.  Years passed before I would allow anyone to touch me, so scared was I of the consequences.  At the same time, I yearned to be like everyone else and I pretended none of this was that big of a deal.  I told myself I would get over it, that I just hadn’t met the right person, that I should wait until I was older to be having sex anyways.  I was very depressed, the psychological toll of chronic pain was devastating.  Because of the taboo around talking about sex, or having anything wrong with my “private area”, it would be years before I sought and received proper treatment.
Continue reading “My BBC Worldwide radio debut”