30 July, 2011


The other day I got another massage, my first one since Christmas, which is not a good track record in terms of self-care. The massage was from one of those group discount deals in a place I’d never heard of, located in the middle of nowhere and far away from child care. But this massage was a mother’s day gift from my husband and I was determined to use it and not let the group-online site make money off of him by never using their coupon. I dropped off my daughter at her grandma's, said goodbye as my girl wailed away while pressing her nose flat against the screen door as I drove into mid-day traffic to go get relaxed.
The place was in an industrialized part of the boonies, where there are oxymoron-named business parks and big box stores. The antithesis of my usual place of massage. Because of poor signage, I parked on the wrong side of the building where I was headed, then had to walk alongside the building and promptly stepped in a puddle of muddy water that I hoped wasn’t leaking from anywhere gross. The actual massage place smelled of too many essential oils to wrap my olfactory nerves around, had Muzak spitting from overhead, and housed a big receptionist desk that dwarfed the person behind it. The massage therapist who came to greet me was a perfectly quaffed large woman in a floral lab coat – the kind of highly-masked, very restrained woman with a quiet angel voice lilting toward a hint of Southern drawl, who my judging mind thought might actually murder people and bury them in her yard. But I followed her through the beige-painted corridors of the big building, for my muscles were tight and I was desperate for a massage.
I’ll cut this story short – bypassing the weirder details of the therapist’s super long explanation about my upcoming massage, the dark, colorlessness of the room, the fact that I upgraded to a deep tissue massage for $50, and the fact that she wouldn’t touch my feet – and get to what she said near the end of her elbow-digging, painful-to-the-point-of-wanting-to-throw-up massage, “Honey, your tension is not normal, every-day-tense people tension. Something is wrong with your insides.”
After a bit more conversation while she dug her thumb under my shoulder blade, in which I told her I did have gallstones, she turned me over and sneered. “Naw,” she said, her hairdo unmarred one strand during the rigors of her work, “Seems like something else. Your bladder maybe, or uterus?”
“Um,” said I, “Well, I did have a massive hemorrhage after a C-section two and a half years ago.” Then I started to fucking cry. Now normally, I don’t mind crying on the massage table, and indeed I have done it often, but in that strange environs, I was none to happy about the tears rolling into my ears. But to the masseuse’s credit, her mask melted a little and she patted my shoulder.
“Aw honey,” she said, “I see by your tears what I say is true. Your organs have feelings, you know. You need to lay your hands on your uterus every day, going to bed and waking up, and tell your uterus you love her.”
The pain of the massage and the soreness of my butt and shoulders afterwards were nothing compared to having to tell my uterus I love her. But, I have been doing exactly this – laying my hands on my still-swollen belly and saying, “I do love you. You carried our child, you made her so healthy, you helped her become who she is. I am sorry we had to cut you open to get her out. I want you to heal.”
I feel ridiculous doing this kind of healing work. But, that massage woman was just weird enough I figured her intuition must be right. I’ve come out of denial about some physical signs I’ve had in my uterus like cramping and strange, sharp pains. And, several months ago now, I got an abnormal PAP, which I’ll have to get checked out again soon. Until then, I am willing, even if reluctantly so, to do what I can to heal myself.
The uterus – or womb, as I like to call her because the word womb is so much gentler and kinder of a word – is women’s connection to creativity, according to many healing traditions. The fact that my creative life is in flux is no coincidental occurrence in light of new awareness about my womb. There is much work to do on both fronts. I start, besides saying these silly affirmations and deciding on which doctor and/or printing press to spend my money, by reading about the uterus’ connection to the body.
In Debbie Shapiro's book, Your Body Speaks Your Mind, the author says “the womb is the centre of creative life, the darkness from which light emerges, the female heart. Issues that can arise here are, therefore, deeply connected to our inner world, our darkness and most primordial feelings. These are particularly to do with being a woman and/or a mother. Feelings of doubt, guilt, failure, shame, fear, resentment, hurt, loneliness, being unnourished, being unable to nourish - all these and more are connected with the womb.” I don’t know what mother doesn’t feel some of the latter-named feelings – who can avoid such vulnerability when rearing another independent human being? And when it comes to mothering, what feelings are not encountered as tugs in the womb – and not just the dark ones, but also, all the positive feelings like joy, wonder, pride, and regenerating love? Reading that passage, however, does make me ask, how often do I allow myself to feel the full range of these feelings? How often do to I try to stuff the negative one, or spend time on, say, the computer, to avoid the bright glare of the positive feelings? How often do I do self care? (I think one massage every six months would indicate, “not often enough.”)
I’m particularly interested what Shapiro says about the womb as the female heart. As a teenager, see, I had open heart surgery because of a hole in my heart. I’ve always said that experience was a positive one – one where I grew into my womanhood without all the shame and self-consciousness that many other teen girls often experience. The experience of having my only other major surgery on my womb, however, I’ve so far said, has not been similarly positive. But I am now willing to rewrite this getting-old story – to use all the gifts of my creativity to find new light in any darkness I perceive within my womb. No matter what unfolds from here, I know my creative work needs to be strong and deep, loved and nurtured and in quite touch with my wise inside woman in order to heal my wounds and my womb. What if I said my second major surgery was a positive one? What if I really let go of my old story? Who would I be if all that tension dissolved? I am excited to find out the answers and simultaneously pray for the strength to hear them. My hope in writing all this down is that other women and their mythic womanhood wombs feel loved enough to do the same.


Melanie Katin, Licensed Acupuncturist said...

Nancy, in acupuncture theory, there is a meridian or channel that connects the heart to the womb, called the Bao Mai. Whenever I treat patients who desire to become pregnant, I tell them to visualize this connection in order to bind together what is in the heart/mind/spirit with the womb. Nice piece! Thank you!

54 Hour Mama said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
54 Hour Mama said...

Ah, Melanie - That is so interesting that you took the time to comment at this moment about the Bao Mai, because the untold part of this story is that this masseuse told me to go get acupunture (of course from someone at her place) to help heal that womb/wound. You sealed the deal, thanks!

Helen Hill said...

Ah Nancy, another brave and brilliant blog! Thank you!

The heart and womb connection is well documented. It's fascinating you have had a substantial wound to both. Your honest tears and perseverance are the only way to heal, wounds healed thoroughly become strengths.

It's inspiring to watch your journey. Amazing. You use art for just what it's for. Thanks again!