Becoming Vegan

Veganism is something that I’ve always known I’d head towards. I had stints of vegetarianism throughout my youth and by the time I went fully gluten and dairy free, I knew I was slowly preparing myself for a life of meal accommodations, annoying social outings and ridiculous inconvenience.

And I wasn’t wrong.

The next few years were all about mastering how to ask a waitress/waiter/host/hostess/friend/co-worker/PORTUGUESE MOTHER whether or not the food I was about to eat had any dairy or gluten in it. Difficult when most people have no real idea how to tell and/or how to find the hidden ingredients in a standard ingredient list. It took some getting used to, but slowly, even my Portuguese mother learned how to accommodate my meal restrictions at Sunday dinner.

Cutting dairy and gluten out of my life was life changing. Truly and completely. I had recently been diagnosed with Hypothyroidism, Vitiligo and Celiac, all in the matter of a year. My skin was breaking out and my digestive system and metabolism had almost shut down. Essentially, my body was attacking itself and no one could explain why. Suddenly, my new diet began to ease the symptoms; my skin was clearing and I was finally getting some relief for my severe constipation and irritable bowel – because it was one or the other. I was finally able to lose the weight from my 2nd and 3rd back to back children and life was finally getting back to a new normal.

Nutrition literally became my medicine.

Having to restrict so many things already tends to give the illusion that the transition to becoming vegan would be an easy one. WRONG! Having to give up so many of my favourite comfort foods, actually made me hold on tighter to the things I had left; meat and eggs!

Still, I toyed with the idea of veganism, each time dismissing the overwhelming thought of losing more of my identity. After all, who was Sandra without burgers and bacon? Seriously though, I LOVE burgers and bacon!

In my life, I pride myself on making the impossible, possible. I have yet to encounter a challenge I haven’t been able to overcome. But how would my pizza loving, egg snacking, weekly chicken wing eating self EVER be ok with going completely vegan?!?! I had my doubts about even MY ability to make this happen!

Instead, I set the goal for veganish. Almost vegan. Vegan, but not.

And even though the decision had been made to go veganish, it took a long time before I could bring myself to set a start date for this lifestyle – years, actually. The main reason for that delay was, well, vegans.

Almost every vegan I met in the course of my life, and I met a lot of them, had this air of judgement towards meat eaters that really bothered me. Personally and professionally, I try to accept the choices people make for themselves with as little judgement as possible and I’ve never been a fan of those that feel their way is the only way. I never wanted to be that vegan. You know, like the former smokers that have become the annoying non-smokers? Same idea – different poison.

Besides the judgement I often felt, I had not yet met a vegan who was really into physical fitness; more specifically strength training. I knew they had to exist but the only ones I knew personally were fairly thin and wanted nothing to do with lifting weights. Yes, maybe I left this out of my research and shouldn’t have, but again, I was finding it difficult to see myself as a traditional vegan. Don’t get me wrong, I clearly stopped heavy lifting a while ago, but the gym is a very important part of my life and being physically strong is another part of my identity I didn’t want to have to give up.

And then the Veg Fest in Toronto happened this summer!!!

My girlfriend asked if I was free on the weekend to attend with her, and I happened to be. When we got there, the first person I met was Dominick Thompson – owner of “Crazies and Weirdos”, an animal activist, and a vegan multi-athlete. A former gang member and drug dealer, Dom became vegan while in prison and never looked back.

This was NOT my idea of a typical vegan.

Next, we went to watch John Lewis (and one of Dom’s best friends) speak. John is the founder of “Bad Ass Vegan” and Vegan Smart. He is a well renowned fitness expert and he’s sarcastic as hell and funny as F***. Suddenly I found myself sitting there thinking “hey, I can be THIS kind of vegan!” There was no judgement, no pushing, just a couple of individuals living their lives the best way they knew how and sharing their knowledge. I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

By the end of the evening, I had made the decision to do a 30 day vegan challenge.

A couple days later, I watched “Cowspiracy” and everything changed.

Now, most vegans hate me when I say this but it’s my blog and I’m going to honest – I’ve never much cared for animal rights. Sure, it bothered me enough to make me uncomfortable and I would sign the occasional petition if caught at the right time, but no one would have ever been able to convince me to be vegan with a discussion about animals.

I have spent my life fighting for human rights, but I had never felt that way about animals. I enjoy them, but I didn’t much care about the animals I was raised to eat. I remember living in Portugal and helping to feed the animals in my grandparent’s backyard. I remember the rabbits they would raise, in order to eat, and the chicken coop where we picked fresh eggs in the morning. I had never known life without knowing that certain animals and animal products, were eaten. The end.

Environmental concerns were similar. I turned my lights off, tried not to waste water, handed out energy efficient bulbs at community events, I did the things I heard I should do but unfortunately, I didn’t do much of my own research. I honestly had no idea what the real impact of animal diets was on the environment, on our planet.

So here I was…thinking about veganism…having learned much from a couple vegans I could actually relate to…and then I sat down on my couch and decided to watch this documentary.

I was completely overwhelmed.

My mind was overflowing with a guilt I had never experienced. I sat with that for a couple days, processing.

Then I watched “What the Health” and I was lost.

Before anything else, I had studied fitness and nutrition. Years of working in the fitness industry, I had made a living teaching people how to eat, supplements that would assist them in their goals, how to train to be bigger, better, faster, stronger, healthier, etc. All of that was centered around an animal based diet.

I was suddenly uncomfortable with everything I thought I knew and everything I now needed to learn. The impossible now HAD to be possible. I didn’t want to go another day without taking action, veganism suddenly became less of a choice than a need.

And suddenly, I was vegan.

The 30 day challenge became more of a lifetime lifestyle goal and there was no going back.

Ignorance cannot be bliss.

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Senses

It’s peaceful here.

Beautiful; but in a way that word doesn’t quite describe.

“Off the beaten path” seems too cliché.

It’s not entirely isolated but it seems everyone around here is searching for the same thing.

Solitude.

An inconvenient break in a convenient place.

Close but far enough away.

Maybe there are no words for it.

Maybe my mind isn’t as settled as I need it to be.

As focused.

As open.

As clear.

A recognition washes over the area. 

Silence. 

It’s quieter than I’m used to. 

I’m not alone, but today feels incredibly lonely. I can feel us fading; drifting further from each other. Everyday. Every hour. Every minute. This very second.

The silence fades as my mind begins to clear; my senses begin to focus. A woodpecker in the distance, pecking at wood. How else does one describe that? Birds chirping. Dogs barking. Branches snapping under the heavy feet of those walking off the trail. Searching for something. Anything.

The sound of the lapping of the waves as each one meets the shore. Like every tiny wave, we crash into each other. He and I. We come together with a passion and a purpose, stronger than any of us; then retreat. Some waves move a single rock from it’s place; some add a small floating twig to the pile. Millions of meetings but never the same wave twice; never the same shore.

Our fingertips touch and I wonder what he’s thinking as he holds my hand.

If he feels it too.  

That love – Him (pt.1)

She’s beautiful.

I hate myself for thinking that in this moment. But she is and I can’t take my eyes off her. I can almost feel her pain, I wonder if she can feel mine too. Some days I wonder if she feels as connected to me as I do to her. It’s a question I’ve wanted to ask for over a year, but it’s not a fair question, and so I keep it to myself.

None of this is fair to her.

I can see the slightest bump in her stomach, where our baby is growing for its final hours. I want nothing more than to reach out and rest my hand on it. On her. On the baby, we’ve both cried over for 6 weeks.

6 weeks. 6 of the most difficult weeks I’ve ever had.

I don’t know how we got here. Not just to this very moment, but with us; her and I. She will tell you that it’s impossible for a human to truly be in love with two people at the same time, and I used to think that too. But I am in love with her beyond what words could explain. Not on purpose but maybe not by accident either. With her, I often feel like she has been in every life I’ve ever lived. Like we didn’t just meet when we did, but that we are getting to know each other again in our new bodies. I wonder if she feels the same as we drive to the clinic, but I don’t ask.

The truth is, I don’t know what to say to her to make any of this ok. She seems to have crawled back into her quiet place, I’ve watched her do this a lot since we found out about the baby. Staring out the window, watching the world, I can see tears forming in the corner of her eye. I want to wipe them away for her, but I don’t.

I look out my window at the next red light and watch the world too. I think about how strange it feels that no matter what is happening inside this car, everything outside of it is business as usual. People driving to work. People walking their dogs. Sitting on a patio with friends, enjoying a morning coffee. I wonder where she goes when she gets quiet and what she thinks, but I don’t ask.

We are standing outside the door of the clinic, waiting for security to let us in. I’ve never done this before and my nerves have already caused multiple trips to the washroom this morning. We both have to go to the washroom, I’m not sure I’ll make it unless we are let in soon. After getting through the first door, we go up the stairs to another door and another buzzer. More waiting.

Can I help you?

“I have an appointment at 10”, she says, before we are allowed into the reception area. Security is tight here and we both must show our ID before he lets us in.

I ask where the washroom is and make a run for it while she sits to fill out the package they gave her. I make it just in time, but the nerves don’t allow for much relief. I catch my reflection in the mirror as I wash my hands, today, I look as different as I feel. I take a minute to catch my breath but I worry about leaving her alone for too long. I can feel her pushing me away, but I can’t bear to leave. I need her, and I know she needs me too. I splash some cold water on my face and wipe it away before I turn to leave.
I can see that she is getting emotional as I walk towards her; filling out form after form after form in a pile of what feels like a never-ending series of questions. She looks up at me, catches my eye for a second, and then back down.

I’m so hungry; I can’t believe I forgot to eat in the rush to get her this morning. I had plans to grab something so that I wouldn’t have to eat in front of her. In preparation for the procedure, she wasn’t allowed to eat after her dinner last night. Now, it wouldn’t be fair, so I’ll wait.

Between the hunger and the nerves, I feel like I’m going to throw up.
They call her name and she gets up to go to an office. I look at her to see if she needs me to come in with her, but she walks away before I have a chance to speak. The door closes behind her and I look around at the other women here waiting. There are 5 of them, some are barely old enough to be considered a woman. This is something I may have imagined experiencing at their age, but not now. Not in my late 30’s. Not with a successful career. Not after having a child of my own. Yet, here we are.

Some of the women here are with their partners, some with friends, one with who appears to be her mother. I can’t imagine what they must be thinking. Feeling. Being an adult is supposed to equip you with the tools needed to survive times like these, but I’m not entirely sure what I’m thinking and feeling either. Maybe it’s really the other way around; the more you know about the life, the less ready you are.

The door opens and my heart stops for a second as I watch her walk towards me. She smiles. I smile back. I love her. If she looked at me for more than a second, I think she would be able to see just how much. But she looks away again and stays quiet.

She is here for only a couple minutes before getting called into the next room. Then, she’s gone again.

I watch the young men in the room, with their arms wrapped tightly around their girlfriends. One is crying, the other looks terrified. They may be young, but there is no doubt in my mind that they are in love. I remember that love. I think about my own child, and I hope that she never has to experience a room like this one.

She comes out and grabs her bag, I know what room she is going into next.
I’ve been so concerned with her feeling alone in all this, that I haven’t realized how alone I am. She has created a life of love and support around her, and I know she doesn’t need me now as much as I need her. I want to tell her, but I don’t.

And then she is gone.

Some of the other women in the waiting room have been called into various rooms now. The mother goes inside with her daughter, some of the others do too. When they grab their bags, no one is allowed to follow. There are no cell phones allowed in here, and I think about how much some of us would benefit from that distraction. A quick game of candy crush, browsing through social media to check out all the great things everyone is doing at this exact moment. No cell phones allowed. I brought a book to read, but I keep reading the same page over and over. Nothing is distracting enough as I try to imagine what she may be experiencing in there.

It’s been an hour and I haven’t heard anything. I suspect this is one of those cases where no news is good news, except the good news here is not good news at all.

I walk over to the receptionist and ask how long it normally takes, he lets me know that she will be out soon. I know she will want a coffee when this is all over, so I tell him I’m stepping out to grab one for her. I saw a Starbucks down the street, which should give me plenty of time to be back before she gets out. I get inside and wait in line, business as usual here too. My phone beeps and it’s a message from her telling me she is finished and walking towards the Starbucks.

Shit! The last thing I wanted was for her to face an empty waiting room after all of this. I call and she answers, just before she walks into the Starbucks. I hand her the coffee, and smile. She’s back in the quiet place, but she takes the coffee and forces a smile back.

Back in the car, on the drive home, I ask her if she believes in reincarnation and how she feels about the afterlife. She says she believes that we come back to live and experience many different lives. I ask how she knows that, and she tells me she just feels it.

I want to tell her that I have felt that since the moment I first saw her, in this life. I want to explain how my soul recognized her, even though my eyes didn’t. That feeling that she had been in every life of mine before this. That love.

But I don’t.

6 Weeks – Her (pt. 2)

I still believe I made the right decision for all of us.

I have to.

I don’t know how to survive it otherwise. 

Still, there are some days, I wish I hadn’t told him about the baby. 

I’ve been told, and have told many, that time heals everything; but how much time does this take? Every day is another day closer to what would have been my due date.  I would have been 19 weeks pregnant now; almost half way. Every pregnancy announcement from a friend, serves as another painful reminder. Having to play a horrible balancing act of being supportive and longing to feel the excitement they feel. Every growing stomach I see. Every new birth I celebrate.  Every beautiful baby I hold.  Every time I look in the mirror. At my children. At him.

Time, in this case, just seems like another cruel punishment.

6 weeks.

Day to day, you can barely feel it.  You blink, it’s gone. Days pass quick. Weeks pass quick. Years pass. 

But this 6 weeks felt like an eternity.

To know that you are carrying unlimited potential.  Rapidly multiplying cells that will eventually form another human being.  A human that, although created with love, comes with the ability to both enhance and destroy so many lives. 

It’s a lot of power for something that barely exists.

6 weeks.

A new thought every second as I weighed out what felt like a million different options. So many choices. So many paths.

To have the baby.
To not.
To tell him.
To not.
To raise the baby on my own and pretend I don’t know who the father is.
To deal with the consequences of raising this baby with the father.
To struggle with the impact of raising it on my own.

Right or wrong. Good or bad. I allowed every thought to play out in its entirety.

6 weeks.

At the very least, I owed him, or her, that.

Him or her. I thought about that too. Would this baby develop into the little girl I had not been blessed with? Would it be another beautiful boy to add to my already beautiful bunch? I thought about names, of course I thought about names. I pictured what he or she would look like. What features of mine they would inherit, what features of his would we be able to see.

Time heals everything, but how long does this take?

I still believe I made the right decision for all of us.

I have to.

I don’t know how to survive it otherwise. 

2016

For as long as I can remember, people have asked me how I felt about having my birthday so close to the holidays. With everyone overspending at Christmas, they often wondered if I got less gifts because of it. With everyone being exhausted over all the holiday social commitments, they often wondered if I got less attention because of it.

Less gifts, little attention, no big birthday bash; they were right and it was just perfect for me. By the time January 5th rolled around, all I ever really wanted was some time alone to celebrate another year, and to process where I had been, and where I wanted to go. I can’t think of a better way to start a new year!

In 5 days, I will be saying goodbye to 2016. In 9 days, I will be saying goodbye to my 35th year in the world, as me; Sandra. Woman. Mother. Daughter. Sister. Cousin. Aunt. Friend. Advocate. Humanitarian. Storyteller. Wanderer. Quiet Riot. Lover of life. Insert title here.

I have never been one for resolutions. Creating a resolution implies that you have a problem that is in need of solving. I don’t believe in problems; just opportunities for continued growth. So, instead of resolutions, I dedicate a word to the year ahead. A word that will guide me and help shape the rest of it. 2016 started and ended with the word “invest.”

INVEST

– Invest my energy into the relationships that I value and less in those that do not nurture my soul.

– Invest in myself by doing more of the things I’ve always enjoyed and making time to do the things I have always wanted to do.

– Invest in my health by continuing to make it a top priority.

– Invest in ideas that I have for personal and professional growth.

– Invest my finances in travel, education and other ways that will continue to enhance my future self.

– Invest in my legacy by continuing to share my story and expanding the reach of my knowledge, experience and truth.

– Invest in love because I have neglected that part of myself for far too long.

As I look back at all the things I had imagined “investing” could look like when I wrote that, I am reminded that the direction of one’s life cannot always be predicted or controlled. That while goals are important, they should always be flexible. That sometimes, the things you wanted most when you wrote them down, turn out to be the best things you never had. That plan A should be followed by plan B, C, D, E, F, etc. That timelines are just guidelines and that there is no such thing as failure, only lessons.

As I sit and reflect on 2016, some forgotten memories come flooding in. The things I have done. The places I have seen. The things I have learned. The people that I have met. The love. The laughs. The tears.

1 wonderful year, 52 epic weeks, 365 amazing days.

After years of concussions and recovery, I finally accepted my current limitations and started playing basketball again. While the progress is slow, I have taken comfort in my steady growth and have enjoyed every minute of being back on the court.

The documentary I participated in about the response following Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, was released and has now been awarded “Best Foreign Documentary” at the TMC London Film Festival.

I sat on two separate expert panels highlighting international humanitarian work at the University of Alberta and University of Calgary and was invited to be a guest lecturer for a Disaster Mental Health Course at George Brown College in Toronto. I also had the privilege of teaching an International Disaster Response class for a local high school’s World Issues course.

I had my first ever NATIONAL deployment to Alberta, to supervise a team of psychosocial responders during the Alberta/Fort McMurray wildfires.

I celebrated 18 years since my suicide attempt and 19 years of sobriety.

I was invited to contribute a written piece for Canadian Family magazine; the article was published later this year. It highlights my international experience and the work/life balance of being a mother and having to leave my children for work. My work was also featured in a separate article, published locally.

I took a trip to Cuba with just my oldest son; a mother/son trip we have been planning since he was 7 weeks old and had no idea it was even happening. I watched as he graduated from elementary school and entered high school, beginning the next stage of his education.

I took a week off work over the summer in order to spend some serious quality time with my two youngest sons. I cheered them on as their collection of sports trophies and medals grew and watched as they moved into grades 2 and 4.

I wrote over 50 blog entries that were read thousands of times by readers from over 20 different countries around the world.

I met some wonderful people and built the foundation for several lasting personal and professional relationships.

I celebrated 10 years of working for the City of Toronto, supported communities following 100+ violent incidents, facilitated various educational workshops, created, designed and implemented several violence prevention programs across Scarborough.

I was recently successful in a job competition for the position of Supervisor of Social Assistance, starting in January. Although the decision to leave my current role was extremely difficult, this new position will allow me to expand my current portfolio and overall resume.

I completed another course towards my Post-Graduate Emergency Management Certificate.

I travelled – 3 trips to Alberta (Edmonton, Calgary, Grande Prairie, Canmore, Lake Louise, Banff), Rocky Mountain adventures including Field and Golden BC (and a few others), Pennsylvania, Michigan, Cuba, New York State, Ottawa – 8 flights, 5000+ kms on the road – beach, poolside, hot-springs, speedboats, mountains, rivers, lakes, highways, cars, pedal boats, hand fed wolves and enjoyed spectacular views.

I watched my friends grow, become mothers/fathers, start new jobs, get married, buy houses, travel, end relationships, start new relationships, etc, etc, etc.

I’ve stayed up all night, I’ve dried tears, I’ve cried tears, I’ve laughed, I’ve loved, I’ve been sick, I’ve been healthy, I’ve danced, I’ve spent time doing the things I enjoy most with the people I care most about and I’ve been grateful for all the love I’ve been blessed with.

Soon, 2016 will end and I will happily welcome 2017. I will begin my 36th year in the world, as me; Sandra. Woman. Mother. Daughter. Sister. Cousin. Aunt. Friend. Advocate. Humanitarian. Storyteller. Wanderer. Quiet Riot. Lover of life.

Time to set some goals.

That love – Her (pt. 1)

My eyelids are heavy, a result of the medication cocktail still coursing through my veins – something to help ease the pain, something for the anxiety to help take the edge off, nothing to fix a broken heart.

While my eyelids are heavy, it is my heart that carries the much heavier load.

6 weeks pregnant today.

It’s been 2 weeks since the first pregnancy test came out positive and there have been many tests since. I took them, one by one, somehow hoping a negative one would confirm that none of this was really happening. One by one, every test came back positive. Pregnant. Pregnant. Pregnant. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

It was undeniable.

This was pregnancy number 6. The previous 5 resulted in 2 miscarriages and 3 beautiful children that I couldn’t imagine life without. I knew I was pregnant before the test could even confirm it; I felt it in every part of me.

Sometimes, 2 weeks can feel like a lifetime.

The decision to be here today wasn’t an easy one and I’ll spare you the details of how I came to make it, for now anyway.

But here I am.

Standing outside the door of the clinic, waiting for security to let us in. He’s standing next to me, dancing around in desperate need of the washroom. I have to go too, but I have been given orders to hold in my urine until after the ultrasound. We go through the first door and up the stairs to another one. Another door, another buzzer.

Can I help you?

I have an appointment at 10.

In the reception area, we both submit our ID. Security is tight here because it has to be. Although there were no demonstrators outside on this date, anti-choice advocates (or pro life as they affectionately call themselves) have become increasingly aggressive and violent. Confidentiality and safety are key.

Once we get through reception, he makes a run for the washroom while I sit down to complete the intake and information package. It’s long and as a social worker, I’ve seen this line of intrusive questioning before. To most, the questions seem random and unnecessary, but understanding the logic behind them sends me into tears immediately. I now know exactly how the counselling session is going to go, and I’m not going to make it without breaking down.

For the last 2 weeks, I’ve barely had an appetite. Because of the surgery, I haven’t been able to eat or drink since the small dinner I forced down last night. Now, I’m starving. Between the hunger and the nerves, I feel like I’m going to throw up.

They call me into the first office, the administrative part of the intake. I hand in my completed information package and provide all health insurance information for billing. Not all provinces make abortion available, and not all cover the costs. Out of curiosity, I ask how much the procedure would cost if I didn’t have coverage. I’m told it is between $500-$900 depending on how far along you are and any complications that may arise. Although I am fortunate enough to be able to afford that, I am grateful that my province supports the right to choose, regardless of the reason for the choice. At a time where so much uncertainty about women’s reproductive rights looms over the USA and the world, I count my blessings loud and clear.

The nurse hands me my first two pills, Ibuprofen for the cramping and an Ativan to ease the anxiety. I take both, and anxiously wait for the anxiety to taper off.

I go back to the waiting area and he smiles at me. I’ve become so familiar with that look but today it seems so foreign. I smile back, feeling myself becoming numb in preparation.

Stay here Sandra.

I repeat that in my head, over and over until I come back. My mind reverts to numb during times of trauma, a practice that although has helped me to survive in the past, it terrifies me. I have yet to find the words to describe that absence of feeling. If you’ve been there before, you understand why, and I’m sorry that you too have ever had to experience it.

I still can’t look at him; looking at him makes everything more real. The pregnancy. The baby. The pending abortion. The love.

That love.

The kind of love that I never saw coming and probably should have steered far away from. I wish I could have. I tried. Holy shit, I tried.

He asked me later, after everything was over, if I believed in reincarnation and how I felt about the afterlife. I said I believed that we came back to live and experience many different lives.

How do you know though?

Sometimes, I just feel it.

I wanted to tell him that I had felt that since the moment I first saw him, in this life. I wanted to explain how my soul recognised him, even though my eyes didn’t. That feeling that he had been in every life of mine before this. That love.

But I didn’t.

The nurse called me into the next room, the counselling room. I remembered the questionnaire I had filled out earlier and the tears came quick.

What’s going on?

I let out a laugh and raise my hands in a way that silently said “look at where I am!”

All of this?

Yes.

I nod, taking the tissue she offers me.

I have no question that I’m making the right decision, but nothing seems to make it any easier.

Will you have any support after this?

Yes.

I have spent the last two weeks full of love for those around me; there is no shortage of support in the life I created for myself. I have engaged in some very real, honest, raw and incredibly emotional conversations with some amazing people in the last 14 days. Friends who check in periodically, if not to talk, just to put a smile on my face and let me know that they are sending me positive energy and love. Friends who respect my space and pace, what I will and won’t share, and my need to just sometimes shut down and not say a damn thing. I am blessed.

She believes me and asks one more time if I’m sure I want to go through with this.

Yes.

I say it, but no sound comes out. I nod my head, I’m sure.

She tells me to go grab my bag from the waiting area and that I’ll be moving to the medical area. I walk back towards him, grab my bag, desperately try not to make eye contact and walk away.

That love.

I follow the nurse into a changing area with lockers. I’m instructed to change into my nightgown and slippers, both of which I had to purchase the night before since I don’t normally use either. I lock up my belongings and head over to another waiting room. There are two other women in there waiting, Sheila and Steph. Enter Sandra, and I start to wonder if this is the “S” day at the abortion clinic.

Sheila is called for her surgery and within a couple minutes, I’m called for my ultrasound and blood check. After 3 children, I’m familiar with all these tests. The ultrasound monitor is tilted slightly away from me, I can’t imagine this is a coincidence. I peer over. The nurse sees that I want to see it and turns it so that I can watch. I wonder how many woman change their mind at this point as I make sense of the shapes before me. I’m staring at the screen as my 6 week old little bean comes into focus.

That love. Stay here.

I won’t change my mind now. I cry as I wipe the ultrasound gel from my already bloated belly and head back to the waiting area.

Steph is gone now too but Sunny has just arrived. Seriously, this really IS the “S” day at the clinic. Strange coincidence, I wonder if anyone else notices.

The nurse calls me in for surgery and asks me again if I’m sure.

I’m sure.

I lay down on the bed and she inserts the IV successfully into my left hand, the blood pressure monitor on my right arm. She administers a much stronger painkiller and I become very aware that the Ativan has kicked in. Thankfully. Once everything is ready, she’s asks one final time.

Are you sure you want to do this today?

Now I’m hysterical, and getting scared that she won’t believe me when I say yes. I say yes and nod at the same time, still unsure if any sound is coming out of my mouth. She believes me and calls over to the doctor and nurse in the other room to tell them I’m ready.

They start the procedure and I continue to cry. As uncomfortable as it feels, I tell myself to feel every part of it. We punish ourselves in different ways, this, has always been my way. Pain.

They are using the ultrasound to ensure that everything is being cleared out but the cramping is making me contract my muscles, and its interfering with the image on the screen.

Relax your stomach.

I’m trying. I can’t relax anything. Before I know it, we are done and everyone leaves the room except for my nurse. She takes out my IV, sets me up with a pair of mesh underwear and a sanitary napkin for recovery. She helps me to sit up and walks me into the recovery room. I see Steph and Sheila again, both recovering. Steph doesn’t look good, she’s very pale and it’s concerning to everyone there. Sheila says she is feeling nauseous. The nurse puts me in my chair and covers me with a heating pad and blanket. She points to the crackers and cookies next to my bed and brings over two glasses filled with water and gingerale. I’m not hungry anymore.

I ask her to pull the curtains and she does, just seconds before I burst into tears. Steph is getting an IV put back into her and Sheila starts to vomit. I cry.

A few minutes later, when everything seems to settle around me, the nurse comes over to pull the curtains so I can get some air. She tells me that I need to try to eat and drink and puts two cookies on my lap before walking away.

I look at the cookies, two small social biscuits, and try to block out the sound of Sheila’s vomit next to me. I open the package and put half of one cookie in my mouth just as Sunny is being escorted into the recovery room. She is seated across from me and we make eye contact for a second before she bursts into tears. I desperately try to finish the cookies so I can get out of there, trying to wash the dryness out of my mouth with small sips of water. The nurse suggests some gingerale but watching Sheila drink some just before throwing up is making me nauseous at even the thought.

Please let me get out of here without throwing up.

The numbness hits me again; No dizziness, no nausea, no pain, no thoughts, nothing.

Numb

Stay here Sandra. Don’t allow yourself to go, not now. Feel!

They close Sunny’s curtains, and I can hear her sobs getting louder. I’m finally able to get up and use the washroom and when I return, I report my perfectly normal level of bleeding to the nurse so that I can be cleared to go. She hands me my aftercare package, complete with antibiotics to take to prevent infection, a common complication after an abortion. She explains everything in the envelope and tells me to go get changed back into my clothes. Once I’ve done that, I return to the waiting area where she meets me again to see if I’m ok.

She smiles at me in such a way that tells me she knows exactly what I’ve just been through. She tells me to be kind to myself, today, tomorrow and 5 years from now. That it’ll never go away but that this heaviness in my heart will.

Be kind to yourself.

She gives me a hug and I thank her, a strange sisterhood among strangers.

I brace myself to walk back into the waiting room but he isn’t there. I’m glad he isn’t. The process was supposed to take approximately 2-3 hours, but I had completed everything is just over 1 hour. The receptionist told me that he had stepped out to get me a coffee, I said I would meet him outside and left. As I stumbled down the stairs and outside of the building, the door closed hard behind me. I looked back and it hit me that I had just left behind a part of myself that I would never get back.

That love.

I started to walk towards the local Starbucks and my phone rings.

My little sister

The other day, I wrote about my life sharing a washroom with 3 other people. I told you about my older sister, and how so many of our most important and BEST conversations happened in that washroom. It was her birthday, and so, it made sense to tell you about her. What I didn’t tell you was about my little sister, who I also shared some lovely memories with in that washroom.

If you know me well, you know that I don’t have a little sister, not biologically anyway. But if you know me REALLY well, you’ll know that I have considered someone my little sister since I was 9 years old, after I met her adorable little pain in the ass self. She was 8 years old when her and her two older brothers moved in with their father. My mother and their father grew up together, and so we met them shortly after at the coffee shop we all hung out at, owned by their father.

They were new to the City, and it didn’t take long before we were spending most of our days running around College Street, being annoying together. I loved her, and I had SUCH a crush on her older brother….that’s a whole other story.

She was also the only one who was allowed to sleep at our house, a nice break from her life surrounded by men. We wore matching bathing suits, and she refused to take baths unless we took one together. She was scared of water, and still is…but she probably takes more baths than I do now. (Sorry Ess…love you!)

While those are some of my earliest memories of her, many were made since. This morning, our vacations collided, and we happened to be in Ottawa at the same time. It’s only been a few weeks since I’ve seen her, we met for dinner in Toronto one day after work. She has three beautiful children of her own now, I have three of mine. Sometimes life gets busy, but when you’re family, you’re family. Although we can go longer periods without seeing each other, two times in three weeks is a much needed treat!

At dinner, we spoke about a lot of things, as it usually goes. Both of us have had our struggles in life; neither one of us had it easy. Still, I look at her now and I am so proud of the amazing, beautiful, strong, intelligent woman she has become. She reminds me of all the things we have had to overcome, and gives me hope for all that we may face in the future. We’ve come a long way since our days of shared baths and matching bathing suits.

There are no coincidences in life.

I had no idea she was going to be in Ottawa this weekend, and she certainly didn’t know that I was going to pull a disappearing act in the same direction. When I found out she was here, we made plans for early morning coffee the next day and went about our business. Today, we went to Byward Market and met at the local Starbucks. Three weeks is not long, but as it turns out, a LOT can happen in that time.

We spoke about love, life, work, dreams, painful experiences, happy endings, our amazing children…who clearly get their wonderfulness from their moms. We spoke and spoke and drank BIG coffees bright and early on a Saturday morning, the way only mothers can truly understand.

I needed that.

I needed that more than I thought I did.

People come and go in life; they serve their purpose and then move on. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. There are however, a few people that have been around to witness the best times, and the worst times. People who can understand why you make the choices you make, without judgement, because they understand how you became the person you became. They not only saw you become it, but they have shared some of the feelings you had throughout the process, because they were right there with you, through good and bad.

Some people are meant to stay.

It’s been a great couple days in Ottawa, time to start my way back home.