What do the tragic events in Haiti have to do with our fertility? What do they mirror and how do we receive the healing they offer?
A few years ago, Ellen (not her real name) a woman in her early forties, came to the workshop in Woodstock. In her introductory email she told me she was a veteran of 11 failed IVF cycles.
What she wanted from me was approval of her plan to continue on the IVF road. She hoped I would reassure her that the imagery exercises and the work we did during the seven hours that Sunday, would turn things around for her next treatment.
I couldn’t do that. I would’ve been lying.
What I did tell her, was that as I saw it, continuing with treatment would be a mistake, that she needed to stop, breathe and begin to heal every aspect of her Holy Human Loaf. I said that if she couldn’t give up the idea of IVF entirely, at least she should take a three-month break.
That’s not what Ellen wanted to hear. She had a new doctor, and a brand new protocol. Something she hadn’t tried yet. Time was running out and she needed to keep moving. I never heard from her again.
If Ellen could’ve just for a moment glimpsed a view of herself through the eyes of the UM, she might’ve seen a frightened, motherless child. She might’ve seen a powerless, battered woman, whose decisions were forced upon her by panic. She might’ve seen all the ways that she had harmed herself and had allowed others to harm her. And such images might’ve moved her to reconsider her next move.
No, I’m not blaming Ellen. In many aspects of my life I’m as scared as she is to look into the Mirror of Truth. I’m hoping that remembering her story can continue to teach me something. Perhaps it could be useful for some of you.
And what about Haiti? The vast outpouring of aid speaks well of our ability to be there for one another in times of crisis. But a fundamental change of the Haitian story will take a much greater commitment than signing a check through our favorite charity. As Mark Danner, the author of Stripping Bare the Body: Politics, Violence, War writes in a recent brilliant New York Times op-ed piece: “…Act of nature that it was, the earthquake last week was able to kill so many because of the corruption and weakness of the Haitian state, a state built for predation and plunder. Recovery can come only with vital, even heroic, outside help; but such help will do little to restore Haiti unless it addresses…the man-made causes that lie beneath the Haitian malady.”
We are co-authors of the book of our lives. Not authors. Co-authors. But unless we are willing to read and re-read the chapters we have written so far and learn from them, we will continue to write the same story over and over again.
We can’t undo the pain of 11 failed IVF cycles, nor can we change the reality of the Haitian horror. But we can turn the losses of our lives into a source of healing. If we can resist the lure of collective denial, and gather the courage to tell the truth, our past suffering can even become the seed of our greatness.
The Ultimate Mama knows the high road to the child. She also knows how to reach out to the people of Haiti in a way that would initiate a fundamental shift in the course of that country’s history.
How then do we take her hand and follow her lead?
Perhaps we can begin by retracing our collective steps; by giving some thought to what it is within human nature that keeps us from hearing our own bodies’ call for help; what is it that we all do, that has made a tragedy of the Haitian magnitude possible?
Maybe we cling to the Ultimate Mom by attempting to see the world through her eyes, by “receiving” all that life places within our field of vision as an invitation to be a little braver as we face our own private battles.