My Beautiful Dark Twisted Pregnancy

dana postA Guest Writers’ Week post by Dana Sukonatarak 

Two months ago today, I had emergency surgery to remove my left Fallopian tube. My baby started growing there. She never made it down the water slide and into the wave pool. The slide had unreported structural damage from a long-past chlamydia infection, and was full of hostile fluid and debris. My reproductive infrastructure was a dilapidated ghetto where my poor baby was stuck, lonely and sad and quickly outgrowing her ectopic home.

At six centimeters, my lime-sized baby threatened my already fucked up tube, my future fertility, and my life. She would never make it into the world. And if she grew any bigger, I could’ve been on my way out of this world.

I had the clap seven years ago, courtesy of a promiscuous boyfriend and a naïve disposition on sexual health and liberation. It’s my body, I’ll do what I want. I wish I knew back then that what I really wanted, what was most important, was a healthy, fully functional body from head to toe. I treated the infection, but it wasn’t cleared entirely. Nothing was ever amiss until this year, when I began to have a sharp pain in my left side and a very light period that lasted for weeks. A first doctor suggested it was a cyst, and to see a specialist. By the time I saw the second doctor and found out it was an ectopic pregnancy, I had to immediately check into the hospital for a salpingectomy.

I remember when my period was like a special surprise, a greeting card from a stork carrying an empty baby blanket. No kid for you this month. Yay! Periods were a relief. I did not want to be pregnant, especially by some 19-year-old that worked at Jerry’s Sub Shop part-time. Even after Mr. Claptastic, when I’d been with my then-boyfriend for years, I did not want to be pregnant. I wanted to enjoy my youth and unstretched belly, with reckless abandon and the knowledge that babies could come whenever I wanted them, on my terms and at the “right” age, after marriage, whatever.

Now, I am 27, and armed with just one Fallopian tube, whose end is scarred and hardened and blocking the entrance to baby’s first crib. Doctors say that in-vitro fertilization is my only choice if I want to bear a child. That’s no death sentence, of course, but hearing it has robbed me of a distinct degree of humanity. My newly discovered reproductive disability made me feel like less of a woman and more of a science experiment. Left to my own devices, I would only be able to produce more tube-trapped babies.

The sudden transition from avoiding pregnancy like the plague to praying that it happens one day is a sobering one. We sometimes live carelessly with the assumption that everything will be okay. Everything will be okay. But it will be hard, harder than it would’ve been if I’d been more forward-thinking in my self-care.

Health is something people tend not to take seriously until they are forced to. Think of your future self – they are your present self. If I could go back to my early twenties, I would eat salad instead of Baconators and drink water instead of soda. I would use condoms even though it obviously feels worse than raw dog. I would do everything I could to reduce the chances of realizing too late that there is something wrong. I am doing all I can now to make it right, which is a host of things including vitamins and oils and raw vegetables and yoga and acupuncture—and a belief that the body has the power to heal itself. There are no units of measurement for my progress, but I’m feeling better these days than I ever have before, and that’s a success entirely of its own.

danaDana is a writer and editor based in the DC metro area. She’s the author of Men, a collection of personal essays about love and relationships. Connect with Dana on Twitter @peachesjordan.

Guest Writers Week: How Yoga Healed Me

By: Taji Mortazavi

I’ll admit that when I first tried yoga, I wasn’t doing it to look cool or be healthier or even the whole ‘keep calm and insert-pun-here’ thing that’s popular these days. No, I started yoga because I wanted a hot body. Between my weight training and my 60-mile weekend cycling journeys, I wanted an exercise that would lengthen out my muscles and give me that sleek, toned look gracing the cover of every women’s magazine.

While my intentions were at first superficial, a year later and my initial goal of a perfect yoga body doesn’t even phase me. Sure, I’m stronger, I have better balance, and my flexibility has improved. But my yoga instructor said in one of my first classes, “Yoga is not an exercise. Yoga is a moving meditation.”  It was through these words—this idea that yoga is something beyond an exercise—that led to the physical, mental, and emotional gains I’ve made.

1.       Physically: I don’t just look strong, I feel strong.

I envy the people who make yoga look easy. On the contrary, yoga takes incredible strength, balance, and flexibility. At first, a lot of the postures were really difficult for me. But over the weeks and months of falling over and making a fool of myself, I grew more comfortable with the movements.  My strong background in exercise and fitness actually helped me a lot, and (not to brag) but, before I knew it I was doing some of the most advanced postures that involved incredible form and diligence.

 But the physical strength was only half of it. When you master a head-stand or a bird of paradise, you don’t just look strong, you feel strong. And that strength remains with you even when you leave the yoga studio. Suddenly, problems that had daunted me for months or even years seemed like a piece of cake. I realized that as a strong, capable woman, I didn’t need to subject myself to an abusive relationship. I didn’t need to let a cancer diagnosis occlude me from moving forward with my education and career. At first, my strength manifested itself in planks and pushups. But over time, that strength developed into courage and insight.

 2.       Mentally: Patience and tolerance are true virtues.

I always thought that I was a pretty patient and tolerant person. It wasn’t until I started practicing yoga that I finally understood what those qualities are. In a society fraught with abundance and advancement, we’ve surprisingly become mean, cruel and intolerant. We don’t second guess cutting someone off in traffic to save five minutes on running an errand. Stories where children bully others literally to their death is not news, but almost common place.  

 Yoga helped me quiet the impulsive voices of impatience and intolerance that lead to these behaviors.  Difficulty with certain postures and exercise sequences helped me learn to be at ease with my body, to not judge myself so harshly when I can’t quite accomplish what I want. I realized that my goals, whether in or out of the studio, will slowly happen over time and with hard work. And that same mindset has overflowed into other aspects of my life. I no longer feel compelled to always go, go, go. I am content simply with my state of being.  Most important, I’ll get there when I get there, and I have no one to answer to but myself.

 3.       Emotionally: I am grateful to be grateful.

I almost can’t describe the feeling of elation that runs through my body as I leave the studio and walk to my car when class ends. Maybe it’s an exercise high, maybe it’s from the fresh blood rushing to my head. But through practicing, I now appreciate a clear blue sky even more or enjoy the warmth of the sun on my skin. The traffic jam that stressed me out on the way to class feels like a breeze. Instead of dwelling on sorrows or problems or all the things I want but don’t have, I find gratitude in what I do have—even the problems I have. As bad as I might have it, someone always has it worse, and I wouldn’t dare trade my predicaments with theirs. Call it optimism, call it seeing the glass half full, I am grateful to have realized this. I am grateful to be grateful.

So am I saying everyone should drop everything and start doing yoga? Not exactly. Yoga worked wonders for me, healing me in ways I never even imagined. I fell in love (with myself, that is). And through this love, I have transcended many of the obstacles I once thought were impregnable barriers in my life. Is yoga a cure all? Absolutely not. I’d be quite a hypocritical and intolerant yogi if I said everyone has to practice—ultimately you should do what works for you. But what I can say is that there lies a profound importance in stepping back and enjoying the moment.  It’s these small moments where true bliss really occurs and we gain perspective.  And yoga is one way we can get more in tune with these feelings. So, through the words of my yoga instructor, “Just breathe.”

Taji Mortazavi is a 23-year-old French speaking, green smoothie loving, cancer  survivor  thriver. Oh yeah, she’s also a Social Media Specialist. Follow her @heyitstaji