It’s funny the things that stand out in your mind as anniversaries. The markers on this meandering road are different for everyone. For me, Halloween was a marker. It was a marker because last year, I was participating in the Pumpkin Smackdown Challenge hosted by Barren Betty and Fertility Doll. I was reeling between disappointments, still in the throes of the battle, and that simple pumpkin carving contest was seriously a lifeline for me. Feeling connected with other women who were in this with me, getting a chance to poke fun at my disease using the pumpkin as a medium and seeing the creativity and genius of fellow IF bloggers as they transformed simple squash into humorous, often poignant depictions of their frustrations, hopes and disappointments. Then there was the added thrill of winning in my category and having a proper certificate and prize mailed to me from another continent. As pitiful as it sounds, that really meant a lot to me. I didn’t feel like I had an awful lot going for me at that point, and it was wonderful to feel seen, acknowledged, and in a way, looked after by other women in this boat.
I was not in a place where I would dare to dream that this Halloween I’d be trying to find cheeky ways to dress up my bitty bump, but that I’d ultimately come home from work and just zonk out because of pregnancy tiredness and skip the parties and costumes, watching the Corpse Bride as a nod to what day it was and getting myself and my peach-sized baby in bed by 9. I still can’t believe that I get to be here.
Thinking back on last Halloween got me thinking a bit about what this community has meant to me. Like many of you, I came here not expecting to find a community but simply looking for a place to vent. What I found was the one place I could be truly honest about how I was feeling, how much I was hurting, how desperately I wanted this, and how weak I was in the middle of it all. What I never found – not once – was judgement. I did not find unhelpful advice or empty assurances that everything would be fine. I only found understanding. Only space to be where I was.
And I found you and your stories. With parallels to my own – stories and lives I could actually relate to. I found hope in all of you – that even if nothing worked as I hoped or planned, I could still be resilient and strong, still me, still awesome. I could grab life – even if only what was left of it – and make it my bitch. Because I saw you doing it. I saw you go through deep and painful things and get up and try again over and over and over. I saw you hold to your faith, to yourselves. I became involved. I saw you hurting, and I hurt with you. I felt your victories just as strongly.
I found the closest thing I’ve found so far to a silver lining. One likes to try to find meaning – anything redemptive in this process – and hearing from people now and again that my working things out on the page had resonated with or somehow helped them made me feel a little better about being in this shitty process.
Now I’m just going all intense here – but I didn’t grow up in a family that was super good at relationships, and belonging doesn’t come easy to me. But I think I found a little bit of home here. And I just want to thank you for the thousand little ways you’ve helped brighten my path and carry my load the last couple of years here. You are luminous, courageous, vulnerable, strong, and deeply maternal – if justice were the dominant force in the world, none of you would be here, but it has been a mercy to people like me to be here with you.