Our friend Haci, who lives in Istanbul reads coffee grounds – you know, kind of like reading tea leaves. I don’t know if this is something that a lot of people know how to do in Turkey, or if it’s just Haci, but last time we were in Istanbul, right before we started the Camino, he asked if he could read the grounds of my Turkish coffee. This involved him turning my coffee cup upside (after I finished of course), on the saucer that it was served to me on. The thick sludge of left over coffee and the grounds create an image that he then interprets.
He tells me, “There is a layer over your heart that is not serving you. It is something you have seen as darkness or bad, but it doesn’t have to be that way. You no longer need to see whatever it is, in this light. Underneath this layer is happiness and fullness, but you have to let go of this dark layer first. It’s like you are carrying around a backpack full of rocks instead of useful things.”
His reading shocks me. I want to cry, only I hold back the tears. I know he is right. There is something I’m holding on to. Something huge I need to let go of.
I don’t want to write this post, for fear of what writing it will do to me. I also know that I have to, because it is the reason I am on this journey.
Before I write the words I so don’t want to write, I have to go back a bit…
I spent a lot of 2012 really unhappy and feeling disconnected. There I was, living the exact life I had so wanted to live, with the guy I loved more than anything on the planet, and I was miserable. What I didn’t know then, was that most of this was attributed to feeling very disconnected from myself, from Eric, from the world, and from my overall purpose. I was constantly searching for something I couldn’t find.
After Eric and I got in engaged in December 2012, our relationship went through a roller coaster ride. We went off to Crete in search of some warm weather and to live by the sea. I also hoped to re-ignite my inspiration for life.
Then at the end of February our world was turned upside down. And here is where the words become harder to write…
Since the end of that January/early February in 2013, I had started to feel like I was going crazy. I had insane mood swings that came out of left-field, I didn’t feel like myself, and my mind constantly felt clouded over. I couldn’t think or work. My mind was mush. Then, around February 20th, I realized I was very, very late. At first I didn’t think much of it, because I had an IUD, so I kept telling myself, “There’s no way, you couldn’t be pregnant.” But a nagging voice inside of me kept whispering, “You’re pregnant.” Finally when five more days passed with no visits from my dear old aunt Flo, I confessed to Eric that I thought I might be pregnant.
He thought I was just being paranoid since I had an IUD and all, but he appeased me and we went off in search of a pharmacy, where bought two pregnancy tests, just in case. The entire time, Eric was filming and joking, because he thought it would be something funny to share on the blog later – “Hey everyone Shannon thought she was pregnant, but she’s not!” I was not amused because I already knew. I don’t know how, but my body was telling me.
When we got back to our apartment, which overlooked the mediterranean sea, I worked up the courage to go pee on the stick. The instructions say the results take 3 minutes. But it only took the two little pink + signs 10 seconds to appear. Apparently, I was very pregnant.
Eric had the camera on me, when I read the results, but I wish that I had turned it on him. I’ll never forget his expression of “what the crap do we do now?”
We decided the best thing to do was call my mom. When I utter the words, “Mom, I’m pregnant”, I know she’s trying to hide her excitement because she doesn’t know how I feel about it yet. When she and my stepdad realize the IUD might still be in me, they urge Eric to go get a flashlight and do some poking around. (Yes in case you are wondering, it was awkward to have this conversation with my parent’s on the phone, while Eric was exploring my nether-regions with a flashlight.)
When Eric reports that he sees nothing, my Mom urges to go see a doctor right away, in case the IUD is still there and is just lodged somewhere. My public health official parents were extremely worried about an ectopic pregnancy, which is more common if you get pregnant with an IUD.
Luckily, we had become very close with our landlords. The wife was half greek and half american. She married a greek, and moved to Crete. They had two young adorable kids so of course, we knew she would be able to tell us who I needed to see. So we went over to their house to tell them the news. She immediately called her doctor and got me an appointment for the next day.
The next morning she goes with us to the Doctor. He takes me back to the examining room and quickly confirms in his thick greek accent, “No IUD. They fall out sometimes. You are six or seven weeks pregnant.” He says this so casually, as he hands me the ultrasound as if it’s no big deal. Like it won’t change my life forever.
As Eric and walk back to the apartment, we look out across the sea, unsure of everything. After all, we always said we would never have kids.
Because we are not hiking the camino with a 6-month old, you can guess how this story ends.
I only experienced part of the 1st trimester of my pregnancy, but it was hard. I have such an appreciation for pregnant women now. I had the most insane mood swings ever, I was mad at Eric all the time and I had crazy cravings that always led to me puking my guts out. (Who says morning sickness is just in the morning? I think a man must have made that up.) On top of everything, I had the most vivid dreams and nightmares of my life. Truth be told, I felt like an alien had invaded my body.
As hard as those weeks were, what was even harder where the months following my pregnancy. When I woke up on that windy but sunny morning on March 8th, no longer pregnant, I thought, “Everything happens for reason. There is a reason why I had to go through this, I just don’t know it yet. But now everything can just go back to normal.”
Only nothing was normal. My pregnancy had opened up the deep gaping hole of disconnect I had been ignoring. Only now, there was no more ignoring it. I went through a deep and dark depression, where I didn’t want to let myself feel anything because I was scared of what feeling it all would do to me. I told Eric to leave me several times (thankfully he didn’t), and I felt more lost than ever.
In the weeks following my pregnancy, I took a liking to watching the sea. I loved how it changed from day to day. Some days it was calm, clear, blue and peaceful. Other days, the winds and rain made the beautiful mediterranean go crazy with murky water and big huge angry waves. No matter what, it was always changing. There were no two days where the sea looked the same. Just as I watched the sea change, I could feel myself changing. I wanted to get to place where I could make peace with everything, find my own sense of fulfillment, and discover my inner happiness. Something I hadn’t given much thought to before my pregnancy.
Just as I started to feel myself letting go of the pain, Eric’s Mom died and our world was cracked open once again.
Four nights before Lourdes passed away, we were on a plane to Scotland. Just as the plane was about to touch down, I felt an overwhelming sense of peace. At that exact moment, I knew that one day, I would be OK. Simultaneously to my feeling of peacefulness, Eric’s uncle was calling us, leaving a message on our phone that we needed come home. (The universe works in ironic ways, I guess.)
The night before Eric’s mom died, he had a conversation with her over Skype. She told him that she sees us with a child, a little blond curly haired boy. In the year following Lourdes’ death, I often imagine her laughing and playing freely with that blond curly haired boy she wanted for us.
A major inspiration for our journey is Lourdes, and it the reason for Eric’s Camino. But my reason is for my own loss. Without the experience of the pregnancy, I would not be on the Camino right now. I would not have started down this path of self-discovery and connectedness. Without my pregnancy I would have never had that vision of hiking the Camino back in August during a yoga and meditation class in the jungles of Costa Rica. I now know my pregnancy was not without purpose.
Eric and I used to always say we would never be parents. But as each day passes, I am less and less sure of this. And that scares the crap out of me. Eric has told me to take all the time I need to figure out what I want. That he wants me to come to this conclusion on my own. While he says he doesn’t see himself as a father, ever, I truly believe there is a small part of him that does. He just doesn’t want to let his mind go there.
For me, this journey is about allowing myself to make peace with my pregnancy, accepting the way life works out, letting go, and allowing myself to figure out what it is that I want. I don’t except to walk away from the Camino knowing whether or not I want to be a mom one day. I only hope that I am OK with living with the uncertainty and trusting that I will know when I know.
Since we started the Camino, I’ve been having dreams/nightmares about having a baby. In each dream, I find out I am pregnant and I am excited. And then I lose someone important to me. In one dream my mom dies, in another my brother, in another Eric. I can’t help but think that this is my subconscious trying to tell me that I’ve been looking at pregnancy as a loss of something else. That it means you have to sacrifice something great. But maybe it doesn’t have to be this way? Maybe having a kid doesn’t mean giving up the life we have? I’ve been noticing a lot of kids that are 6 and 7 months old. I can’t help but wonder what our baby would look like and how it’s little personality would slowly develop. There are people sailing the world with kids, biking through France with kids, living unconventional lives all while raising kids. Why would Eric and I be any different?
I often try to remember what it felt like to be pregnant and although I was miserable and felt like it sucked the entire time, I sometimes miss it. I want to remember the misery and all the feeling associated with those weeks. I want to remember it all. I don’t wish things had turned out differently, because I know they turned out the way they needed to. And I am finally ready to let go and move on.
Writing this was the first step.
Distance: 1,050 steps
Location: Musculdy, France
Feeling inspired by our journey? Please consider donating to The Passport Party Project. Your contribution will help 10 young girls, get their first passport and go on their first international trip! Go here to donate and find out more.