The day my period started was the first time I attempted suicide. It was a sign that god had absolutely, irrevocably, turned his back on me and that I would be stuck being female the rest of my life. (I was raised deeply religious and actually believed that god cared and listened to intense prayer.) Even one more hour living as a female seemed too long, so I went to the garage and slung a rope over the rafter.
Needless to say, that didn't work. Either did my other attempts. When a cousin successfully committed suicide several years later, I realized that I had to make some hard choices or eventually I would end up like him. While I was ambivalent about living, my family's calloused reaction to his death for some reason made me want to live marginally more than I wanted to die. Marginally, but enough to matter. Since then, I've been in an uneasy truce with my body.
The only time I was ever completely comfortable in my skin, oddly enough, was when I was pregnant. I'd never been interested in the trappings of female life I saw around me - makeup, clothes, weddings, cheer leading, babies, marriage, etc. - but being pregnant made me feel a bit normal, as if I'd somehow found a way to sneak into the side entrance to the temple of femininity, and once inside, I'd get a good enough grasp on their rituals to perform like a native. Not so. When I went to Lamaze classes and they asked people how they were feeling or what they were thinking, I quickly learned to keep my mouth shut. You know what happens when you try to force the similar polar ends of two magnets together? Yeah. It was like that. A zone around me that the other women wouldn't enter. They were already plotting play dates for their children and bonding. I was the presence hovering in the corner who had no clue how she was decorating the nursery or why that was even necessary. After those horrible classes though, I'd go home and stroke my growing belly and be massively, sweetly, totally content for the first time in my life.
Over two weeks past the due date there were still no signs that I was ever going into labor, so the hospital induced it. After twelve hours of hard, fruitless labor, my daughter was in such distress that they did an emergency cesarean. Her scores were so low when she was born that we really didn't think she'd make it. You know things are bad when the person cut open on the operating table has one third the number of doctors and nurses hovering over her than the baby does. Three days later though, she was well enough to leave the hospital. At the Lamaze reunion (why did I go?) to show off our babies, the teacher and other mothers made it clear that both being induced and resorting to a cesarean were huge, unforgivable failures on my part. The temple doors slammed shut.
By that point, I was fine being on the outside, because I had plenty of company between R and then M, and later C. Many women get postpartum depression, and with a history of clinical depression on both sides of my family I was a great candidate for it, but the calm that had come over me during the pregnancy continued. Sleepless nights with a crying baby were nerve wracking, but overall, I had sort of a sanguine reaction to the whole thing. After near death, a few hours of crying were hardly the end of the world. M was wonderful and thriving and I enjoyed being her mother. The best part was that the calm acceptance pregnancy brought to me trickled over into the rest of my life. I'd always wanted to write, but my parents forbade it, so I didn't. But now I was an adult with a child and a job, so why couldn't I make decisions about my own life now? Wasn't I technically a grown up? So I started writing. As frustrating as writing can be, overall it leaves me with a sense of contentment that I've learned to treasure. What a gift. My daughter gave that to me.