“I can still only see a dragonfly, its wings as thin and light as silk and its body the color of rainbow. But on the wings of this dragonfly I take off and fly, for my soul carries no weight. It is our bodies – these borrowed vehicles of flesh and bone – that weigh us down. Our spirits are eternally free and invincible.”
To many cultures and tribes of this world, dragonflies hold a power and significance.
For me, the dragonfly has always come as a reassurance, and a protective talisman that I wear with me always. But there is a relationship that I have to it that is sacred to me that I want to share with you. A story that only I can tell.
When our daughter Sierra was 2, we started to try to have another baby. I suffered a miscarriage and was put into such a fearful state by my doctor and the experience itself, that I agreed to take the Depo Vera shot which is a hormonal injection that prevent pregnancy for 3-6 months at a time. It did not last 3 months. It did not last 6 months. It lasted 2 years.
When I finally became pregnant, I found out on a Monday. The overwhelming joy that I felt was insurmountable. We wanted another child so badly. Wanted a sibling for Sierra so that she would never be alone and would always have someone that was her relation to grow with, protect, and love. We wanted our family to grow with our love that was so very abundant. I ran around telling everyone immediately. I was overjoyed! It had been two years of trying and never succeeding. I felt broken, I felt like something was horribly wrong with me and finally, I was ok. finally I was a whole woman again, with child and full of joy.
I was being taken care of by the local midwives in the area, a choice I wished I understood when I was pregnant with Sierra but was so grateful to know about in this time. Everything for a reason. I drove to the the hospital where my paternal grandmother's twin sister was staying. She was not well, and several times a week I went to sit with her, brush her hair, talk to her, laugh with her and listen to her stories that went far reaching back into a time no one spoke about in our family. She was suffering from dementia but she was sharp. She was talking about the past like it was in the now and I was learning so much about our family that I had no idea about. Her husband, my great uncle assured me that every last word she said was true, just dated. She knew of our struggles in conceiving and she was so happy when I told her that I was finally with child. Our whole family (save for a few that didn't count) rejoiced in our elation. I cannot express here what joy was felt and shared in one short day.
The next day I went about life as normal. There were no issues, no signs of distress. I was so happy, John and I were so happy. We figured I was 2 months into the pregnancy and that meant that we had conceived around the same time as we had conceived Sierra which was pretty special in our eyes and hearts. That night we had company come over and we shared our joy with them.
Around 8 pm I began to feel some cramping so I went up to the bathroom and that's when I saw that I was spotting. I panicked, I cried, I freaked out.
The next day, the midwives scheduled my ultrasound and confirmed our worst fears. I was pregnant but the child was growing in my Fallopian tube. It was fine or I would 'be' fine, I was reassured. There was no heartbeat. The tube would not burst. I was scheduled for surgery Friday morning.
My whole world fell apart. I was pregnant and happy on Monday and by Tuesday I was carrying a dead fetus in my tube. I was devastated. A miscarriage, two years of unsuccessful attempts, now this. It was too much. But I was ok, I would get through. I would be fine. We would try again. It was going to be ok.
I went to see my auntie. I couldn't bare to tell her the truth, so I didn't. I couldn't. Her elation when I told her of the coming babe made my heart and hers take flight. I wasn't about to bring her any amount of sadness or grief. We sat together, we laughed, I brushed her hair. I hugged and kissed her goodbye and I went home. That would be the last time I ever saw her, held her, and told her that I loved her.
I went home, I went about my routine as a mom to the most lovely 3 year old little girl I could have ever dreamed of having as my own. Bright and brilliant and so full of love and joy. She made everything better. She was the perfect distraction from the reality ahead.
We ate dinner, I gave her her bath, read her stories, sang her songs and tucked her into her bed for the night. In two days I would go in for a surgery and we would start fresh with our intentions of gifting her a sibling. John was my rock, he held me tight that night before we went to sleep and told me that it was going to be ok. I knew he was right. It all felt incredibly unfair but I was coping and in denial at the same time and doing a really good job of it for everyone but myself.
I was woken at 3am, clawing and scratching at the left side of my abdomen. I was screaming in pain for it to stop. I kept screaming, I couldn't stop. The pain was hot and came hard, like nothing I had ever felt before and never have since. I don't know how I didn't just pass out from the severity and intensity of this pain. I wanted to tear and rip open my flesh to get whatever was hurting me out.
John took me to the hospital and they didn't believe anything I said, treating me like a dope fiend coming in off of the streets. I don't understand how they responded this way when they had all of the resources to be able to fact check that everything I was saying and John was telling them was true. The truth is they didn't until 2 hours into my time in the E.R. Finally , they confirmed what I'd be telling them all along with the ultrasound from the hospital 2 towns over and a quick fax send away and the midwives as well confirmed this all as well as the scheduled surgery the very next day. They drugged me once, it didn't take. They drugged me twice, it didn't take. They finally gave me something with some oxygen and finally, I fell into a stupor and felt nothing. Eyes rolling through to the back of my head and everything else is a blur.
I can remember John yelling at the doctor to save my life as I was being rolled away on the stretcher, that nothing else mattered, 'Just save my wife!!!!'
I woke up in more pain than I have ever felt before. The entirety of my then fit core had been cut in half, my parts removed, I'd lost my tube which had burst within me. The doctor was not the best that the hospital had but was the one on call. He came in with a nurse to ask me how I was taking to the blood transfusion I had had. The nurse beside him shaking her head vigorously, later telling me that he had mixed me up with another patient and there had been no transfusion. That was not very reassuring.
John came in, cousins came in, friends and family came in to make sure I was ok, that I knew I was loved and that everything would be alright, I would heal, I would mend, I would recover.
The truth is that I was not ok. I was far from ok. I was falling apart on the inside where no one could see the damage but I was holding it as best as I could.
I was in a shared room with an elderly woman suffering from dementia who wailed all of the time, who flew here feces around the room and who fell out of bed and wailed louder and louder. I wanted to help her but I couldn't. I couldn't even pick myself up out of the bed to get myself to the bathroom, let alone pick up an elderly woman and help her back to bed. Nurses were so over worked and under-staffed that they couldn't keep up with the patients in their rooms and this would go on for hours at a time before someone came in to help her. I lost my patience in it all. I couldn't cope. I didn't know how to cope. I became irrational and the nurse began to treat me badly in their own stress from it all. I blame no one, I really don't, but it was awful. None of us should have been in this situation. Not me, the elder woman or the nurses!
I begged the hospital for counselling and received none. Not even a pastor came in to console me. I was alone. My family was there but I was alone and I was losing my sanity and my composure inch by inch and with each breath I took. The medications they had me on weren't helping anything. One for pain, one for nerves, one for sleep. Repeat.
Finally I was released and free to go home. I could barely walk. Just lifting my leg to take a step was excruciating. For someone who had only days before attempted to rip her own flesh open to tear out her tube, I couldn't believe how much this pain from the surgery hurt me. How weak I was, how I couldn't move without pain shooting through my body and then my heart always.
In this time I learned what it was to be dependent. This is something I had never known before. I was always self-sufficient, independent and proud of needing no one really. Yes I had John, my lover, partner, husband and best friend, but still, I didn't really need him. I chose him. I wanted him. I loved him as my choice. (and a bit of destiny and 'meant-to-be')
But I needed him now and it was difficult to accept. He did things for me I don't imagine any other man doing with such love and grace. It was in this time I realized truly just how special our bond was, how lucky I was to have him in my life, what a good man and father he was and how much I didn't just love him, but liked him, appreciated him and could depend on him to make sure that I was always loved, safe and protected.
2 weeks at home and I was downstairs living in our living room, sleeping there on the couch, using a commode to go to the bathroom. It was humbling and frustrating to say the very least. At the end of this two week period, I was done, I'd had enough. I needed a shower, not a sponge bath. I needed my bed, not the couch. I needed to go to the bathroom in privacy, I needed so much more and could only express what I needed through mundane, day to day, life things. Sometimes I expressed this all very irrationally, with a meanness I never had shared before.
I asked a friend to come over and watch Sierra while John walked me up the stairs. She was so confused about why I needed her for this. Until she got there and she saw for herself, how broken and in pain I was and what a handful our dear Sierra was at this tender age of 3.
I got up the stairs, crying out with each elevation. I remember it like it was yesterday. I made it into the shower and completely broke down. And the crying made the pain worse, then turned into hyperventilation which also, made the pain worse. You have no idea how important your core muscles are until you have them cut straight through. The tears wouldn't stop and the pain intensified. John washed my body as I cried, helpless in the shower. He got me dried and dressed and into our bed then went to be with Sierra so that my friend could come up and attempt to calm me down.
But there was no calming me so she did the only thing she could possibly think of in this moment. She fed me my medication. Pain killers, nerve numb-ers, and sleeping pills all at once. She rolled a joint and basically forced me to smoke it and within the hour I was passed out, fast asleep. I don't remember another day being so bad. After this I began to heal a little more and more.
I woke up the next morning and on the side of my bed was one of those Chicken Soup books with a note from my friend telling me to take the time to read and heal. Truly, no one knew what to do with me. I had never fallen apart so hard, fast and far before this. I had always held my own and now my holders were full of holes.
This is where the dragonfly comes in.
My Grieving Soul
I sat down with the book for this story and this story alone. I never picked it up again after I read this one excerpt from the book. I didn't need to.
I had no idea what this story would actually mean to me but it made me throw the book across the room and cry uncontrollable tears.
The idea of an afterlife wasn't scary to me. I've had my experiences with the dead, with apparitions, with my own grandmother , who promised me at seven years old, that she would come back to reassure me that she was alright. And she did. But I was so damaged and bitter and sad. I was lost in the idea of this baby that would not be and my heart hurt so badly.
I began to mend and I worked at it by pretending it didn't exist. I dove back into mothering Sierra who I'd shut off a bit from in my grief. I wasn't cruel or overly distant, but distant enough and I didn't want her to soak up my sadness so I hid away when I couldn't contain my grief. Just as I began to feel like my faking was real, my auntie died.
I dove into helping her children. I began cooking like a mad woman and brought them all pans of stuffed peppers. Have grief/will cook. But the day that she died, I went to her house and sat with my cousin. , her daughter. She had been one of the first ones that I had seen when I woke up from that awful tubal surgery. I adored her so very much. When I say that she was my favorite, I mean it. I adored her and seeing her suffer from the loss of her mother, was tearing me apart.
We sat at the picnic table in the back yard and talked and cried, and she was so lost. She was so broken. I needed to share with her, something that made me feel something again. So I told her the dragonfly story.
As I finished the story, the most miraculous and impossible thing happened. A dragonfly, not very big, but not too small, came in between us and hovered, just long enough for me to say 'Do you see this?!' To which my cousin responded with so much denial and rejection that it tore my heart in two. It was all too fresh and too much for her but in my heart I knew, the spirit of my auntie was there with us. Letting us know she was alright and it was all going to be ok.
And that was the moment I began to heal. A little anyway.
It wasn't 2 months later and I was pregnant with Aidan and the rest is history.
I held onto the pain and didn't fully begin to heal until he turned 2 and it all came crashing down on me, but that's the moment it began on the spiritual level, and the rest all followed as it needed to.
How is This Relevant Today?
Since moving into this home in the Fall of 2015 we've been harassed relentlessly from our neighbours. This year, on our daughter's birthday, it reached the breaking point.
The day after it all came to pass, Aidan and I were walking to the mailbox together when a dragonfly began darting to us, then ahead of us, then to us, then ahead of us again. It continued to do this all the way to the mailbox (our driveway is very long) and back again. I knew in that moment it was reassuring and protecting us. That may sound silly to some and I am ok with that assessment. I don't need approval.
But last night, well, last night was too much for me to bear. Last night the wife threatened to shoot our daughter's boyfriend for giving a thumbs up to a squirrel as they talked and laughed about nonsense. There was no sign that the wife was outside, the kids weren't talking about them, they were being happy teens in love. Just being themselves and having fun, sharing joy with one another.
I cannot lie that I wanted to lash out and defend my daughter and her boyfriend with every fibre of my being. Which is exactly what this woman wanted. Instead, I breathed in deeply and and kept on breathing. We took the steps necessary to protect ourselves, talked as a family and with heavy and stressed hearts and mind, we all retired for the night.
I woke up this morning, got a very stressed Sierra off to school and proceeded to write out my morning greeting on my Facebook page and spoke to a friend. As we talked, I went out onto our front porch only to a find this beautiful dragonfly guarding our front door. There are no coincidences in this life and I am honoured to have such medicine near me whenever I have needed it the most.
Whenever I have ever truly been at my worst, there the dragonfly has been to remind me that I am not alone. I am protected by my ancestors who walk beside me always. That I am Creation's daughter and I am here to do good works in a raw and true way. That I will bare my wounds and have them healed , no matter the pain, it will all come to pass and with purpose. No matter who it disgusts to watch, or who it offend to hear. I am here to do these works and heal these wounds, both from this lifetime and from the wounds that my ancestors have experienced in the past and nothing will ever stop me.
Author: Cari-Lee Miller
Understand this, dear reader:
This blog space is like a diary to which consent for my writings/feelings/expressions, is never needed or asked for. This is my space and if it brings you uncomfortable feelings, feel free to look no further and keep to the spaces that do you no harm.
I am a seed burst forth from its shell. I have mingled and fought in the dirt. I am ready to kiss the Sun. *CLM
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