The book launch for The Silence of Motherhood took place last evening. It was an excellent night with standing room only by the end!
I read two of my reader’s favourite chapters, Chapter 11 - Self-Insemination, and Chapter 17 - The Death of Motherhood. Self-Insemination is one of my favorite chapters and quite humorous as you will see from my week three blog! The Death of Motherhood is quite a bit more intense and involves a woman who is a Jehovah’s Witness who, along with her husband, refuses blood products. It has a very tragic ending. Every time I read it, I am almost on able to get through it without breaking down. It seems to be one of the chapters that has had the deepest impact on readers.
It was very surreal to be reading the book in front of an engaged and gracious crowd. I was once again surprised at the deep emotional impact some of the chapters have on me even though I was the person who wrote them!
For those people who are becoming friends of Victoria Jones and her life, I am looking to host a virtual book launch over the summer by Facebook live stream. I look forward to hearing what people think and hope that many will participate!
Stay tuned for more!
One month after Justine’s death I was in Dr. Barkley’s office waiting for the next chapter of my life to unfold. As I lay on the cold table, looking up at the stark lifeless ceiling, I drifted in and out of awareness as I followed my favorite meditation app with my ears and my mind. Meditation, like Silence, was a close friend. I think it was because the three of us had similar interests – do a good job and move on.
It was obvious that Christine, Dr. Barkley to the outside world, was in somewhat of a rush that day. I thanked her for fitting me in at the end of a long, busy day. She again expressed her condolences on the loss of my first pregnancy. I reflected for a moment that it had not actually been my first pregnancy, however I forced that thought to the back of my mind. I stated that I had moved on and was ready to take the plunge for the second time. I understood that there were risks, as there is with almost anything in life. There is no success without real risk.
As she inserted the frigid speculum, I laughed and commented that this would be much easier with some fine wine, soft candlelight and Mr. Right – or even Mr. Right Now! We made idle chit chat about our jobs and the dedication it took to be successful in our respective fields. Aside from the speculum, I noted no specific feeling as she deftly and efficiently performed the insemination. I marveled at how quick and seamless the potential creation of a new life could be. We both laughed as she got up, not even three minutes later, and asked that I remain lying for about 5 minutes before I got up to leave.
“You can show yourself out, I assume?”
“Certainly! Thanks!” With that, she was gone.
I looked up at the ceiling once again and said out loud, “Well, that is that”. How simple it seemed. I had read countless stories of women spending thousands of dollars on appointments, tests and prescriptions in search of the elusive highly desired pregnancy. I had spent 20 minutes choosing the donor and called my obstetrician when I was ovulating. It doesn’t get much easier than that. I had a good feeling about things this time!
As I watched the clock on the wall approach 5 minutes, I wondered who was coming back to remove the speculum. I thought I remembered waiting five minutes the last time I had been in this precarious position, but I did not remember having to personally deal with the speculum. I was sure that I had been in many, many much more difficult situations before, but right at the present moment my mind was drawing an elusive blank. As a physician, I had even used a speculum on numerous occasions myself, in a professional capacity. I rolled my eyes and thought about what kind of bizarre contortionist movements I was going to have to engage in, the end goal being to get the speculum out while leaving the desired contents inside. I certainly hoped that the ‘swimmers’ of the day were moving as quickly as their qualifying spreadsheet boasted they could, toward their desired destination.
I decided that I was going to wait five minutes more and then I was going to make my move. I felt that 5 minutes would leave me enough time to google ‘freeing oneself from an unwanted speculum’ or ‘5 easy steps to self insemination’. If all else failed, I was going to admit defeat and call the front desk. While some interesting, and I am sure invaluable, information arose from these two searches, including ‘how to free yourself from a manipulator’, ‘how to free yourself from love that hurts, and ‘how to inseminate at home’, there was nothing that informed me on how I could free myself from my present predicament.
I called the front desk and was disheartened when my important inquiry went through to voicemail informing me that the clinic was closed until tomorrow morning. I patted my abdomen and muttered ‘well kid, I guess it’s just you and me now’.
It had now been 27 minutes since Christine’s departure. I decided that was long enough. I tilted my pelvis up and placed a pillow underneath my butt. I unscrewed the speculum in the direction that I thought was correct – backwards like steering a boat. I counted to three, tilted my pelvis up and removed the speculum. What talent! Sometimes I even impressed myself!
I quickly dressed and opened the door to almost complete darkness. I had forgotten how quickly the night descends during the winter solstice. I grabbed my coat and ran directly for the front door. I was travelling to quickly to notice the red warning sign sitting atop the door, and as soon as the cold night air rushed in, a sound louder than I thought I had ever heard before was unleashed from the clinic. Even when the door slammed shut behind me, the alarm persisted in trying to escape. I debated making a run for it or simply remaining where I was and awaiting my destiny. The decision was made for me. It was too late.
The loud silence that enveloped my house was foreign to the story of our lives. This was not a place where I ever expected that I would be, although I had longed for it endlessly, especially in those early days. I had longed for it, and now I did not want it. In fact, I loathed it. How could my perfect life be disrupted by what I thought that I had always wanted? I could hear it echoing in from the corners of my mind, in a voice which was all too familiar, that of my best friend Rosalee Crookman, ‘Be careful what you wish for, Tori’!
A cat walked by, followed by another, and another. I laughed out loud at the irony that was inherent in one of my oldest son’s favorite memes. There stands an open door with a clowder of cats advancing into a welcoming house with a caption that reads ‘We understand you are over 40 and still not married!’. Logan had reminded me on many occasions that this meme reminded him of me – his dear old mom! This was the stuff that comedy was made of and that I was filing away for future use. My first career choice had always been stand-up comedian. My current career, cancer surgeon, had only arisen from a passion ignited later in life. However, that was a different story for a different place and time.
I listened carefully and was amazed, as I always was, by how loud the sound of complete silence was. It seemed to consume the house in its entirety, and to ring loudly in my ears. I closed my eyes and let it take me over fully and completely. I acknowledged to myself that it was likely going to become a much more common part of my existence, and I was trying unsuccessfully to accept that. Silence had always been a friend I had turned to in time of need, however I never anticipated I was going to have to accept it as one of my few and longest lasting friends. I reflected on my favorite time to be alone with Silence, late at night and into the early hours of the morning. It comforted me, while at the same time it seemed to insist that I more deeply explore what he meant to me and what we could become together.
As I had done many times in the past, I relied on my good friend Siri to help provide me with what I needed most. I asked her ‘What is the definition of Silence?’. Siri rose at once to my inquiry. She brought Google along into the conversation, and he came up with an exhaustive string of websites, all vying for the definition which best suited my needs. I was impressed by his apparent depth of knowledge on the subject, although I knew he was just bringing the right people into the conversation – he had no real knowledge himself. However, I made sure that I praised him for his efforts. My first discovery was that the use of the word silence in everyday conversation had been on the rise over the last ten years or so. How strange that in a world that was becoming smaller and smaller, and louder and louder, that silence was enjoying a swift resurgence. I wondered, out loud of course, if people weren’t yearning for a return to a quieter time? I got up and began to pace as this often helped me think. I found it ironic that Google would select to epitomize the word silence by choosing to conduct his part of our conversation without sound.
My thoughts rushed back to my current situation; the situation I found myself in that had resulted in this need to explore the relationship between Silence and myself. It had been nearly 14 years of someone needing me constantly; someone needing me to the extent that I was unable to separate them from any sense or definition of who I really was, as a person and especially a woman. I had chosen to have my children on my own, unaware of the extent to which this would braid itself into my whole existence of who I was as an individual. It was a world that I was sure only myself and other single parents could acknowledge – those who were truly alone in their quest to ensure a life where their children could rise to their passions and be all that they could be. I wondered if ‘normal’ families, as society liked to call them, those with ‘two parent households’ or those families where there had been divorce, felt the same as I did. It was one of those things that I tried to push to the side as it was not a question that one could ever answer. Had these other caregivers spent the last 14 years of their lives knowing where their children were every moment of the day, day and night, knowing there was no other person who could account for them? I smiled to myself and thought not.
And now my children, once again, had left me… alone…
Each time I am asked this question I think of a different answer. The simple answer is that it was on my bucket list and it was coming down to one of the least things that I needed to cross off. The more complex answer is that there are a lot of things that I needed to say! I often wonder if it was right or wrong to try and crowd them all into one book, however it is what it is.
The main theme is the silence of motherhood and I do believe this was the tipping point which allowed me to move forward. It is so stark and so real the first time it hits you as a single parent and you are left alone in your house. I imagine it is the same for all parents, not just those who are single for whatever reason. You long for a moment to yourself when your children are younger, and you would go to great lengths to get it. Then, you get what you wish for – in droves – when they are older. You are unsure what this means or what to do with yourself.
Silence is experienced in so many ways, by so many women, that the story needed to be told. From actual loss of life, to loss of voice, and uncertainty about heading down a new road, women are faced with fighting many of these battles alone. At times it is because the grief it so raw that there seems to be no justifiable way of sharing it. How can the loss of a child be communicated in words to another? It is an emotional journey with no end in sight.
The Silence of Motherhood is a story of grief and loss, yet it is one that reminds us to find the joy, humour, and passion in each day. My passion can be found in my children and the freedom to be whomever I need to be. My joy is watching them become their own people and wondering if I had any influence on the paths they have chosen. My humour is in trying to defeat a rectal suppository before it defeats me…
You’ll have to read the book to find out what that means!
Dr. Victoria Jones is a surgical oncologist who lives with her two adorable sons, Logan and Lucas, conceived via donor insemination. She has published extensively in scientific journals, and won research, teaching, and mentoring awards. She enjoys any type of learning and/or self-development, travel, cooking, and wine. She spends her free time transporting her children back and forth between their myriad of exciting activities.