Last night I participated in an event full of community building. People told stories and presented their ideas. I listened. We played games. I was introduced as someone with three children under three- which is a way I love to be introduced. I am proud of having three under three, and though it’s crazy sometimes I also love this about myself. And it is such a core piece of who I am right now. It was lovely.
And then we were getting ready to go home and woman about my age said to me, “wow, three under three, how is that even possible?” I smiled and explained- a set of two-year-old twins, and a little baby sister. She looked me in the eye, laughed, and said “Oh! That baby must have been a big old accident!”
I had no idea what to say. Literally. I could not even bring myself to entertain the comment. And so, I turned away and started a conversation with someone else.
Because this person had barely met me. And if she really knew me, she would have known that this little baby that turned me into a mother of three was no accident.
If she really loved me, she’d know I don’t owe information about my body, my family planning, my children, or how my littlest love came into this world to anyone. But she didn’t know me, and she asked the question as though I was sure to be on her side, to give over my experience for her viewing, to collude with her. She consumed my body, my story- and she forgot to ask me first.
If she really knew me, she’d know that after my cancer treatment, my oncologist told me I couldn’t have a baby. That to have my twins, I went out and found a surrogate. She'd know how I cried buckets of tears about this whole thing.
If she really knew me, she’d be intimate with the depths of my grief around not having been able to carry my babies in my womb, she’d know how much I wanted to breastfeed my twins. She'd know how much grief there was, and is.
If she really knew me, she’d know how hard I fought against other people's fear that this pregnancy could harm me. She'd know how this little baby who took up residency in my uterus even though it was impossible for me to get pregnant was the most hopeful, sparkly, incredible thing that has ever happened to me.
If she really knew me, she’d be able to feel the depth of my experience- she’d know I was so grateful to be pregnant. She’d know how breastfeeding this baby was the first time I’d experienced my breasts as life-giving since they tried to kill me with cancer.
This baby was no accident. She’s the universe conspiring to bring her into my life, into the world. She’s the most precious, hopeful signal of my own health. She’s so necessary in our family. She’s brilliant.
Being pregnant with her was everything. It was my body, finally succeeding. It was me, proving my own health. It was a glimmer of hope and future and possibility, born from the same body that tried to kill me.
My children are no accident.
My body was slashed and burned and torn apart, but this brilliant child still decided she could grow in me- she still decided I was enough.
That pregnancy was anything but an accident. Maybe it was a miracle. It was definitely hopeful. I am so very grateful.
And so I have to wonder. If she knew the depth of story behind that “she’s a mother of three under three” introduction, what might she have said?
And how am I ever supposed to offer this story to people I’ve only just met?
How am I supposed to protect my heart, then, from these comments?
How are any of us ever supposed to know that underneath each shared moment, there is a story as big as this one, a life woven in ways that we might not ever understand?
They birth our reality. Choose them wisely. Tread softly.
Know that behind each heart, there is a story- one you may never expect.
So, let’s use questions to open up little spaces of heartfelt curiosity. Let’s allow questions to be safe containers for connection, for making ourselves visible to each other.
What would it mean if, instead of assuming accident, or negative relationality to something surprising, we assumed hopefulness, or genuine wonder? What if we just opened up a space, and let the person having the experience define it for themselves?
Crafting a purpose statement, and revisiting that statement regularly can help to ground you in yourself and to foster a life that resonates with who you are and what you most desire. Thinking about doing this, though, can feel daunting and intimidating.
Take a moment and go read Robert Frost's poem. What are the many paths that you might have walked? That you may still walk? All of us are capable of writing myriad stories about our lives. It is about choosing what we want, choosing where and when we feel most resonant, and knowing- always- that you can forge a new path, do a u-turn, or stop and rest any time you need. So, first of all- if you have not already worked on your values, go back and do that.
And so, let's play. Nothing is set in stone. We're just... playing with purpose. Give yourself the chance to just imagine what your purpose could be.
Begin with your values: make a list for yourself.
Now, get a blank piece of paper. The goal here is to brainstorm verbs that resonate with how you might like to do your goals. Write everything down. Do not discriminate- it's just a brainstorm! We want a whole bunch of verbs to pick from.
Now, use those verbs alongside your values to craft a couple of purpose statements. Be creative- draw, make maps, whatever. Be silly- just imagine. It doesn't matter if your first couple of attempts are weird or not "it." Just keep going. Imagine yourself clearing the way to get to something.
As you iterate, take some time to reflect. Which statement feels best? Are there certain pieces, words, or ideas you want to pull from different versions?
Imagine! Create! And once you're happy... read your purpose statement every morning. Post it where it is visible and you can see it. Remind yourself where you are going...
Here are some of my initial attempts at crafting my purpose statement.
Dear Left Breast,
It’s been exactly four years, since I last stood with you in a dressing room at the hospital and made Sam take pictures of you. Four years since Dr. Yoga Surgeon and Dr. Serious Surgeon chopped you, plopped you in a petri dish, and sent you out with the hospital trash. Four years since you had your last moments, since you sacrificed your life on my body so I could keep living.
I don’t have much to say Left Breast.
We wrote a song about you.
I miss you and even though Dr. Yoga Surgeon did a very superb job of matching you, you don’t match exactly.
Your buddy, Right Breast, got to breastfeed baby Mica for nine months. We missed you terribly when my poor raw nipple really needed a break, but we got through it.
I’m still proud of you, Left Breast. I miss you. Like, a lot. My back and side and fake boob are numb- they are not full of feeling like you were. Amazingly, the scars are nearly invisible. They’ve faded back into me.
The implant is hard and tight, and I can always feel the tightness. I don’t think about you, or the cancer very often, but there’s always a sense about your presence in my body. The implant is underneath my muscle, so whenever I flex my pectoral it gets all bunched up and wrinkly, and I don’t like that very much. It doesn’t jiggle or move, and when I lay flat on my back it stays in the same sloped position it is in when I’m standing up.
I’m very alive, and I have three beautiful children, and we’re back in California where we always wanted to be.
But really, all I’ve got to say, Left Breast, is that I’m still here. I’m listening to my heart more now, and I think you’d be proud. Thank you for taking the cancer away. Thank you for helping me survive. See you on the other side. Here's some pictures to show you how far we've come.
Purpose is everywhere lately. Purpose, purpose, purpose. Follow your heart.
Chelsey is a digital storyteller, geek, mama, researcher and yogi. She loves to make things and her favorite food is artichokes.