From the October 2020 Issue. Read the rest of the issue here.
I’ve always lived very much in my body. My heightened sensitivity is a blessing and a curse. The ability to feel a microscopic pebble through my shoe can be overwhelming to constantly take in. Dance has usually served as an escape for me. It’s a way to focus my overwhelming sensitivity into specific sensations within the body. But on August 31st, 2019, after the unexpected death of my second son, Indie, I found myself with more emotions and sensations than my body could contain.
Before I move on to how I processed (and am processing) this great loss, I have to tell you a little bit about my journey with Indie. In early January of 2019, I found out I was pregnant with Indie. I had recently suffered a knee injury that was proving to be tricky to heal. Pregnancy does a whole lot of things to the body. You may not know that when you’re pregnant your body releases a hormone called “relaxin.” Relaxin makes your ligaments relax to help with birth... good. But the ligaments in my knee were relaxing, too... not good. I came to terms with putting dance on hold, so I could focus on safely rehabbing my knee during the pregnancy. With my first pregnancy, I danced nearly every day. With Indie, I decided to wait until he was in my arms and the hormones had calmed down.
The day finally came on August 28th, 2019. My midwives came over to confirm my waters were leaking... not a huge deal. My home birth was still on the table. Indie was huge and healthy, so we decided to induce with castor oil. I drank a smoothie with the oil in it at 10 am. By 1 pm, contractions had begun. Talk about dance in the body. Labor is the ULTIMATE dance in the body. Not only are you dancing with the sheer force of mother nature moving through you, you are also dancing with the cosmic energy of your unborn baby. AND, you are dancing with the deepest, darkest parts of yourself. Everything is exposed in labor.
I was really scared that Indie's labor would echo my first labor: 53 hours. No sleep. No drugs. Just me, my baby, my body, and all of my untended fears and doubts. It was the hardest thing I've ever done. Mercifully, and thanks to a lot of self-work, Indie's labor was a sacred and healing experience for me. Indie and I worked together. I trusted my body. I smiled at my knowingness and felt deep gratitude for everything. At 5:15pm, only a few hours after my first contraction, Indie came bursting into the world. I remember his entrance so vividly. Indie's huge eyes locked with mine as we each took the other in fully. His long and skinny arms extended toward me with such intensity, and I swooped him up. I looked down at him and breathlessly said, "Oh, hi." Then I remember thinking, "he looks a little too pale..." and then I had this feeling that I was going to have to let him go. Shortly after my perfect water birth, my midwife began performing CPR on Indie. It felt like I was floating. It felt like peace.
After the EMS arrived and began more lifesaving measures, I started to feel my body returning to earth and thought maybe I was wrong. Maybe he would stay? Maybe he just had a little fluid in his lungs and needed a little help? We didn't find out until many hours later that he had a tumor on his left lung: a massive, 7cm by 9cm tumor that grew quickly and mysteriously sometime in my third trimester. Everyone tried to remain hopeful, but I knew. We were gifted three days with him. Three days to fill up on the lifetime we thought we would share together. In those three days, his spirit hovered in the room, floating in and out of his body that was failing him. He got to taste my milk, his sweet lips formed a smile from that experience. He got to hear his family and friends sing to him for hours on end. I got to tell him how much I loved him, while holding my hand over his heart for hours just breathing. He got to hear songs that were meant to be shared with him over the years while I nursed him and rocked him to sleep. Cradling his body and guiding him home as he left this world was the hardest and most peaceful thing I've ever done.
When I got home from the hospital, my arms were aching for my baby. My heart was shattered. My body had just given birth, and my spirit had been through an unbelievable trauma. I didn't know what to do with myself. The following day, September 2nd, was my older son's 3rd birthday. We celebrated as best we could. And that afternoon, my body showed me what I needed: I needed to dance. It had been 9 months since I'd truly danced. I put on the song "Come Home" by Cloud Cult, and I danced. I danced for my sorrow, I danced for my joy. I danced for my confusion and everything in between. I danced for Indie. I’d like to say that dance saved me and I just danced every day after that… but that would not be true.
Dance, the idea of dance, and the possibility of self-expression through creating a dance show, has been my North Star since September 2nd, 2019. But, there were days where dance was simply impossible. Panic attacks, high-blood pressure scares, and an overwhelming sense of grief paralyzed me at times. Despite the rollercoaster that comes with grieving such a huge loss, I remained determined to create a show to honor Indie and the vast space he graciously left in my life. I was set on premiering a full-length show entitled “Mother” on Indie’s first birthday. In the show, I planned to explore the many facets of mother through telling the story of my life up until Indie’s death. I wanted live music, dancing, monologues, video projection, a birthing pool, glowsticks, silhouettes, and was open to a variety of other odd things. It was and is my hope, that through revealing intimate parts of my own experience, I can help people feel alive and understood. I began raising money, found a theatre in Austin, and secured my dancers, but then coronavirus put everything on hold. Indie’s lessons are endless, but the ability to let things go has been a big one. So, I gracefully watched that dream sail away, hopefully for another time.
I’m grateful to report that I have been meeting with my dance company weekly through Zoom since April. We began by working on a video to honor Indie on his first birthday. You can watch that here. And now, we are moving forward with creating a short film inspired by the show I had been dreaming of making. The film will explore “Mother” through the elements: Mother of Water, Mother of Earth, Mother of Wind, Mother of Fire and Mother of Spirit, using songs by Cloud Cult and Chance the Rapper. 😀
It is set to premiere in early March. If you’d like to follow me on instagram, @all_is_on_fire, I will share updates on the project there. Thank you for reading my story. I am sending love and peace from my dancing heart to yours.