There are changes afoot in the lineup at Glow, and it's a right and wonderful thing. The contributors page now features a new category called 'glow emeritus' for founding writers whose lives and hearts have gathered enough momentum to bring them to new places from which to reflect.
Two new voices are joining our conversation here and we're thrilled. Today we bring you the first -- the wonderful Gal of Growing Inside. Gal, mother to princess Dahlia and angelbaby Tikva, gives us words that twist the kaleidoscope of this new view, inspiring us to see new colour in this unbidden and often bewildering spiritbaby parenthood. Let's make space by the fire and give her a hearty welcome, for we're deeply grateful to have her -- and you -- here with us.
Gray hair has settled in at my temples, clearly here to stay. Lots of it and more every day.
When I wear my hair down, the grays don’t show. But that means I can’t wear my hair back, and I like wearing my hair back. Especially when my hair is long, and right now I want to grow my hair long again. It’s been almost two years since it’s been long and right now I’m feeling the need for that again. Probably because I look younger, softer with my hair long, and right now I could use some of the lightness that comes with youth.
I don’t feel young anymore, not after the past year.
When I look in the mirror, I am struck by what I see in the woman looking back at me. She looks familiar, I recognize her but she is also new to me. She looks and feels older. Her eyes carry more sadness. She feels more grounded. Her gaze is more serious, her soul more honest. Along with the grays in her hair, her skin carries more fine lines, her forehead wears those not-so-subtle-anymore wrinkles that aren’t just there for a moment following an expression.
When I do yoga, the skin of my belly after carrying two babies hangs more limply from my core. My small breasts hang a little lower from nursing Dahlia and pumping for Tikva. My thighs… well, they’re just my thighs, jiggly and stretchmarked and still not my favorite feature, but the only thighs I get, so I continue to direct love their way in spite of it all. My skin is the skin of a 37 year old woman who has gained and lost weight rapidly (stretch marks), has had psoriasis most of her life (crusty itchy flaky scalp), had acne in college and still gets a zit or two at least weekly (blemishes and bumps), had shingles (discolored scars where the skin is numb from nerve damage). I still keep my nails short, 33 years after I started biting them, and I chew on the inside of my lips when I’m nervous, bored or focused.
I am full of imperfections, and in that, I am perfectly human. Alive, fragile, nervous at times, relaxed at others. I’m not five years old like my Dahlia, robust, skin smooth as milk, unblemished except for the daily preschool owie, radiantly healthy, at the very beginning of it all. She’s not brand new, and in losing her sister, she has been through more life experience already than most children three times her age. But still, everything is so new. And when I look at her I glow, and I also envy her, just a little, because everything is ahead. She can choose any fork in the road. She has nothing yet that she wishes she could undo.
There is something else I see when I look in the mirror, or when I close my eyes and feel what’s inside me. Like the hairs at my temples, I see the gray in my soul. It’s by no means my entire spirit that is gray, but there are wisps of gray there. Like the gray hairs, I don’t think they will go away, and they certainly can’t be covered up with color from a box. I imagine that I was born with a soul filled with color, and along the way of my life, I added more shades of brightness to my palette, and also introduced white to soften the brightness and black to darken it. I’m not sure if every single one of our souls begins as a full palette of bright colors, but this is what I see when I think of myself at my beginning this time around.
The past year dumped a pretty hefty can of gray paint on my spirit, with some drops splattering to pepper my temples. The gray mixed with the colors that were there – deep red and purple and turquoise and bright orangey yellow. The colors are still there now, just more pale, more subdued. The red is now burnt orange and pink, the purple more lavender, the turquoise now the color of an almost-black sky, the yellow more of an almost-there gold, like that last ray of light just before the sun sets.
I’m more tired now, more weary, and unexpectedly more peaceful. More accepting of what is, less rebellious against what I can’t control. Older and wiser, maybe?
This is what remains now, after losing my daughter. This is what remains after my heart was cracked open from sorrow and also from love. After some of the luster of my existence seeped out of me into the soil between blades of grass at my feet, to mix once again into the core of the universe from whence I came.
With the blemishes on my body and spirit, I am still here. Still vital. Still very much alive. More deeply connected to others, certainly more deeply connected to my most essential self. I have for the most part, most of the time, sloughed off what I no longer need – anxious worry about things that don’t matter, energy extended toward people who make me feel bad and petty things that aren’t good for me, time wasted on anything that is not at its core about love, genuine connection and compassion.
What remains is rougher than before, and also more refined. It’s the core that has always been but which has lost its smooth protective casing and is now more visible, more bare, more vulnerable… but mostly, more pure.
I never expected I would be looking at this woman and she would be me. It’s taking me some time to get to know her, but I do like her. I wish she didn’t have to go through all she’s been through to get here, but I find her quite beautiful. Not in spite of it all, but because of it.
What remains for you – of you – after losing your baby? What do you see in the mirror? Are you different than before? How do you feel about you now? Do you like what you see?