Selah, Like Water

This week I will be sharing pieces I’ve written about our miscarriage over the past 6 years. They have been scattered across different blogs in different seasons, spanning the full arc of my faith deconstruction and grief journey and I wanted to bring them together in one place to make them more accessible, and also as an act of remembrance for our Selah. March is Pregnancy After Loss month, something I couldn’t fathom in the wake of our miscarriage and have been wrestling with ever since the arrival of our twins just over a year later. If you have experienced the loss of a child, please know you have a home here, that I hold space for your pain, and that you are not alone.

March 30, 2016

First-born daughter of mine.
I imagine you
maybe towheaded like your brother
with a mess of curls like your sister
wild life in your eyes and mischief on your mind.

I picture you, big sister
helping and giggling and playing and teaching.
Adoring. Doting. Smooching.

I can see you, sweet girl, proudly reaching milestones before your younger siblings.

Dressing yourself. Potty training. Fetching diapers and pj’s and being just a little bit bossy as you tell them where to sit and not to talk while you ‘read’ them their favorite board books.

But of course, that was not – could not be.
You were and then you were not.
And then, before you could have been ready for this world anyway,
there they were.
Here, in our arms.
And you were not.
And so, in your death you made room for new life.

I wonder, was it because you came first that their budding bundles of cells
could burrow deep enough into my womb? Because you slid right through,
helpless babe being washed out, they could live?

I think I will forever carry the weight of that question.
The weight of all that I could not be for you.

Sometimes I think of the mom I would be if I got to mother you first.
Just the two of us, learning to nurse and play and grow together.
Perhaps I would be a bit more patient or calm or creative.
Perhaps I would have found a rhythm sooner. Hosted more. Been a better friend and spouse.
Or, perhaps I would be even more overwhelmed, mothering the miraculous 3 babies conceived 6 months apart.
Perhaps I would feel guilty for all that I could not be for you with two new newborns in my arms.

Selah, you were like water.
Flooding us with greatest joy and then deepest sorrow.
Washing all the way through until we were dry again.
No trace of you save for the carved out hollow space in our hearts.

But see, here is the beauty of it. The beauty of the 3rd year of grief.
Now I see how each hour of grief spent in that space has worn it smooth.
Now I invite others there.
In the space that could not hold you, I can hold others.
When we weep, we widen the walls of this memory-place.
Because in this broken world there is no end to grief, but also no end to love.

The peace I have this year on your birth-and-death day,it feels like a little arm swung around my shoulders, the way that kids do
when they lean in to tell you a secret or a silly joke
and their breath tickles your ear
and you smell their sweaty hair
and feel something sticky on their fingers
and everything feels safe and whole and true
and there’s nothing you’d rather do in all the world but be in this moment, giggling together.

You, dear daughter, wherever you are in the cosmos:
In infinity, in tomorrow.
I hold you in my heart.
You are to me a voice of wisdom and love, little one.
A reminder of the fragility and intensity of life.
A reminder to slow and savor.
A reminder to lean in and laugh.
A reminder to love fiercely and freely.
A reminder that sorrow and hope are meant to be woven together,
hemming us all in as we live with fuller joy.

But I miss you, my love. Oh how I miss you.


Carrying Lost Hearts

This week I will be sharing pieces I’ve written about our miscarriage over the past 6 years. They have been scattered across different blogs in different seasons, spanning the full arc of my faith deconstruction and grief journey and I wanted to bring them together in one place to make them more accessible, and also as an act of remembrance for our Selah. March is Pregnancy After Loss month, something I couldn’t fathom in the wake of our miscarriage and have been wrestling with ever since the arrival of our twins just over a year later. If you have experienced the loss of a child, please know you have a home here, that I hold space for your pain, and that you are not alone.

March 25, 2015

Tuesday will be two years since we lost our little girl. Selah was an unexpected Lenten mystery in our lives, one I will never understand. She launched us into giddy parenthood and bottomless grief in one swift week. When I began miscarrying on Easter Sunday, the last bits of my feeble faith crumbled.

I will never forget the hours I spent in the shower that week, crumpled on the floor sobbing as I contracted and bled out what should have been my daughter, passing the clots that should have sustained and nourished her. When the water ran cold Drew would bundle me back into bed and we would shiver into each other, exhausted. I felt so dry when the tears stopped, parched for words and life and hope.

It is hard to talk about a lost child. I can’t remember the last time I cried for our Selah. Life with Evelyn and Rowan is so consuming, weeks will pass and I haven’t even thought about her. We’ll be out grocery shopping and as I’m bagging up some spinach a woman will walk up and coax a wave and a giggle from R&E and gush “oh twins! Are they your first? What a blessing! And look, one of each, now you’re done!” Ladies in the grocery story don’t mean to make young moms cry about their never-to-be-born child, so we put on brave faces and lie.

I don’t know if we’re done having children. I don’t even know if we’re going to survive today, growing another human is the farthest thing from my mind. But so is swearing off them all together. And one of each? Why do people say that, as if the genders of children are limited edition collectibles that depreciate in value if you have duplicates?

But she doesn’t mean any of that. She’s just forgotten what it feels like to be young and overwhelmed with needy children. She just wants to be friendly. I look at her kind eyes and stutter a reply and then she says they are beautiful and “God bless” and wheels her cart towards the deli. And there I am, plastic bag in hand, swept up momentarily in the impossibility of life and death and our ability to mourn and move on and mourn over and over again.

And then Evelyn is chewing on the index card that was my grocery list and ink is smudged around her lips and Rowan is howling because he wants paper too and so I’m digging in my purse for the Tupperware of snacks that will get us through to the checkout line. All thoughts of new life and motherhood and death are crowded out by the realities of my needy children and the clock ticking down to naptime.

And it really isn’t fair. There’s no good time to ask about the child I lost at 8 weeks. Even if you and I were sitting in my living room and we were drinking tea while the children played quietly and peacefully at our feet, if you asked about what I’ve been thinking about my Selah I would be overcome by the guilt of being a woman who hasn’t thought about her dead daughter since the last time someone reminded me in a grocery store. I would stumble for words and feel the need to try and sound like I think a devoted grieving mother should, but I would come up empty.

Selah flung open the door to my motherhood and then she left me standing awkwardly on the stoop, waiting to be let in. When Rowan and Evelyn came along I was suddenly shoved through the door with such force that I spent the next many months stumbling for footing. Now, as we round the corner on their first year and the dust is settling I’m finally finding some brain-space to feel all that we have become together. Because of Selah but also without her.

Dear friends, there are more people in your life who have lost children than you would expect. There are brave women who have labored and birthed beautiful babies and had to say goodbye to them the same day. There are mothers and fathers and grandparents who carry the broken hearts of parents who have outlived their children, taken too soon. Always too soon. There are family members and friends, people who were in our life one day and gone the next, leaving us in the void. We all know grief in some way, the weight of the world cannot be shouldered alone.

When grief is fresh, carry it together. When it rushes in and out again unexpectedly, accept and acknowledge it without guilt or fear, as much as is possible. If grief abides, do not be alone for too long. Remind others that you are hurting and let them stumble along beside you. It’s the best we can do, to offer our open hands and beating hearts in love for another. We do it for the ones we’ve lost and the ones we still have. We do it because love was meant to be given, to flow freely in the way of grace. We do it because we are alive and this is hope. This is the way we push back against death and press into life.

My faith is still in shambles, scattered and splintered like a shipwreck on a rocky shore. But I am picking my way through the debris when the tide is low and the sun is warm and, somehow, I am finding hope in these smashed bits. I’m grateful that whatever can be resurrected from this mess will always bear the marks of my heartache, that Selah’s story is forever my story too.

I carry her in my heart.


selah's memorial

The view from our little memorial site for Selah on Lake Ontario.


Four and Seventeen Months

This week I will be sharing pieces I’ve written about our miscarriage over the past 6 years. They have been scattered across different blogs in different seasons, spanning the full arc of my faith deconstruction and grief journey and I wanted to bring them together in one place to make them more accessible, and also as an act of remembrance for our Selah. March is Pregnancy After Loss month, something I couldn’t fathom in the wake of our miscarriage and have been wrestling with ever since the arrival of our twins just over a year later. If you have experienced the loss of a child, please know you have a home here, that I hold space for your pain, and that you are not alone.

August 9, 2014

After a miserable week and half of a sleep strike/return to newborn hell, we’ve knocked out the 3am feeding! We’ve now got a bedtime routine that gets the kiddos down by 8:30 or 9, they wake up between 1-2 to eat, again near 5-6 and then sometime after 8. Maybe they just gave us those miserable 10 days so we’d remember what a treat it is to enjoy multiple REM cycles. I’ll take it.

With all this newfound energy and evening downtime, the reflective and introspective part of my brain is starting to re-emerge.  It rolls in like a fog, disorienting and distracting, sweeping me away in big unanswerable questions and dreams and fears. Lately the fog has drifted in with the goose pimple shivers and aching sadness of loss – a dear friend lost her two perfect twin girls, Livia and Lucy, last month and mourning with her has brought a fresh wave of grief for our Selah.

And then I’m remembering all the moments I have not mourned, the moments that I have lived and celebrated and giggled and cuddled with Rowan and Evelyn and how sometimes it is hard to imagine our sweet girl being in our present reality. And I feel so guilty for that. Guiltier still when I wonder if this is “progress”. Grief is all I have of her in my memory – the fleeting few days of marvelous hope and joy before she passed feels like a dream and her dying is the anchoring reality. I hate that.

Then I think of the plausibly long lives ahead of all of us – Rowan and Evelyn, Drew and I – and I’m lost for how to live them. How to be fully present in each moment without the fear that any one of them might be our last. And of course it’s not the END as much as the being left behind to grieve that really terrifies.

So while I’m marveling at tall the ways Rowan and Evelyn are growing and changing,  I’m also trying to imagine our next 30, 40, 50 years together. What the world look like, what our relationships will be? The fear I feel about the unknown in each sphere is suffocating, and then ridiculous. Is it possible to live between the two? To both revere and make peace with [the possibility of] grief enough so that I might really live in the present?

These little people who were but a few hundred dividing cells a year ago – maybe just the size of our dear Selah –  are learning to roll over and scoot their giant diapered bums across the floor. They giggle when I kiss their double chins and coo along as I sing to them. And I guess I just want to confess that they feel more real. How can I remember the little girl who barely was?

So I’m back at the beginning. Trying to celebrate month 4, wondering about month 17 and an older sister who isn’t here. Couldn’t be, if they are.

The two babies who are here are filling my life with such joy and purpose for all the small moments when I would otherwise be lost in my head. I marvel at this gift of time and presence with them, soaking up the goofy expressions and the post-nursing cuddles, participating in the rhythmic work of laundry, cleaning, reading, resting, laughing. It all flows together so naturally and I am grateful. I know this is a gift, one that I want to live well.

Maybe I will spend month 5 returning to my monastic family, men and women who have taken on the outcasts and weary children of the world as their own. Perhaps they can teach me about how the rhythm of grief and the rhythm of grace can make a life together.

I think I am thankful for the fog. It reminds me there is much about life that I cannot see or record or instagram. But I can open myself to feeling it, even the difficult grief/not grief of a lost child. And that’s grace, isn’t it?


claiming resurrection

This week I will be sharing pieces I’ve written about our miscarriage over the past 6 years. They have been scattered across different blogs in different seasons, spanning the full arc of my faith deconstruction and grief journey and I wanted to bring them together in one place to make them more accessible, and also as an act of remembrance for our Selah. March is Pregnancy After Loss month, something I couldn’t fathom in the wake of our miscarriage and have been wrestling with ever since the arrival of our twins just over a year later. If you have experienced the loss of a child, please know you have a home here, that I hold space for your pain, and that you are not alone.

April 1, 2013

About a week ago Drew and I found out were pregnant. We were filled with joy and anticipation at this surprising answer to prayers for direction and purpose in this season of confusion and closed doors.

In just a few short days we began re-imagining our year ahead, what sorts of job opportunities could provide for a little family of three, where we might find housing, how we might move closer to friends or family. We talked of how fun it would be to surprise our moms with the news on mother’s day (if we could wait that long!) and I marveled at how this little one would carry me through the church year: growing quietly all through lent, announcing its arrival just before our resurrection celebration, finally joining us during the season that remembers our Christ’s own birth. Such peace.

But then, while shouting our alleluias and “He is risen indeed!” and smiling at rows of little kids on stage singing “Up from the Grave He Arose!”, I began miscarrying.

At first I didn’t even realize what was happening. I wanted to just think of it as a late late period, as if nothing had ever happened. I felt so sheepish for my joy, for all the planning that we managed in a short week. As I googled my “symptoms” and learned that this is commonly called a “chemical pregnancy” – the failure of the embryo to properly implant in the uterus – I felt even more silly for my grief. I was barely even pregnant. This brief burst of new life, just a few hundred cells woven together and gone rogue.

Just a few hundred cells.

But when I stood in the shower last night, trying to soothe wretched cramps and relax for bed I found myself praying somehow for God to receive our little one. This one he created in my womb, this one who was snatched by death far too quickly. And the grief came in great waves, shaking my whole body, making me feel small and frail and so exposed. How could it be that death could lurk even in my inmost being? I felt so violated. And on THIS day! Resurrection day. A day to celebrate conquering the dark shadow of death. Why?

Drew found me and held me and the hot water beat down with our tears and somehow in that embrace there was comfort in the midst of suffering. What a mystery of marriage to have the presence of another person to say “No, this is not right. This is not what we were meant for” and to cry out to God for his kingdom coming. To speak His promises of life over me and petition God for the peace we so desperately need in this broken place.

Addie Zierman says it beautifully:

“God is here, and I feel him close and real these days. But also, still, there is this hole. There is the empty space where a baby should have been. And I feel that too, tender and sharp.

I know it will get better with time – these things always do. But also, I know that this world is cracked through. The people who are supposed to love us best fail us in the worst possible ways. The pregnancy doesn’t take, or the baby is gone before you can hold him. The lump is malignant. The crash is fatal. Over and over again, people keep leaving before we’re ready for them to go.

We are, all of us, punched through with holes, living with a little bit more emptiness every year. And it’s possible to be filled with the Spirit and still feel the void.

It’s true that God is the best kind of Father. And also, the absence of your flesh-and-blood Dad matters. There is the way things should be and the way they are, and between them, there are a hundred thousand hollows, echoing with emptiness.”

The absence of my flesh-and-blood dad matters. And so, this Easter monday, though I am reminded all too intimately why this Jesus needed to rise from the dead, I mourn his distance. The Spirits’s presence is a mystery that abides within and around me, but it is not enough for this woman, meant for a new earth, fully realized, bathed in light and life.

But my resurrection hope is in this: I refuse to accept this as a mere blip of life. I refuse to feel silly about my sorrow, to downplay the death of our first child. (My confidence is already waning as I type that sentence. Child? Can I call it a child? Statistically, so many women experience this kind of miscarriage and never know. Does that mock the miscarriages of women whose sweet babes are birthed still so much farther along? Or the mama who loses a little one to a casualty of the “real world”?)

Because I have nothing else to lean on, because Easter is the ushering in of the sort of hope that sustains in seasons like this one where so many doors are slammed in my face and this one is just impossible, I claim the resurrection as a promise that I was not meant for death and neither was this little life that grew oh-so-briefly inside of me. This indignation in the face of death, this is grace. To be brought up from the despair that has so trapped me for many long months and into sorrowful hope, this is resurrection. I claim the grace to wonder if perhaps this little one is already continuing to develop elsewhere in whatever home heaven may be. I miss you, little one. May you be in peace.

“Easter was when Hope in person surprised the whole world by coming forward from the future into the present.”

     – N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope


When the Experts Fail Us

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about expert advice.

I crave it.

The alluring notion that there is an objectively best way to do everything in life is pitched to us in every sphere – books, blogs, seminars – if you’re anxious about it, there’s someone waiting in the wings to teach you how to overcome it.

And I fall for it every time.

From obsessing about parenting, driving my husband crazy with my endless evaluations of our tactics and the kids’ needs, to convincing myself that I can offer darn near professional support for my spouse in his battle with mental illness if I just read another book or listen to another podcast. I even find myself daydreaming about all sorts of futures I don’t actually want – degrees I don’t really care to pursue, jobs I know would burn me out – all because the lure of being an expert in that area is so strong.

So, when my daughter started experiencing a lot of school-related anxiety, I turned to the experts. I buried myself in a browser full of tabs about child mindfulness exercises and warning signs of ocd and websites for child therapists in our area.  I sought advice on parenting forums and followed each of their leads to websites, books, and studies that promised they had the key insights to solve my problem. One suggested a diet that “transformed” her son. Another tells me about a special kind of massage tool that releases stress and must be used every two hours. Another suggests that my own anxiety is causing my daughters’. Awesome. 

I understand, of course, that nobody can be an expert in everything. Expert advice is developed in a vacuum of academia and institutions and isolated variables. Expert advice, by nature, conflicts with previous knowledge. It’s always evolving, always presenting shiny new models to replace the outdated offerings that are now poked through with holes of exceptions and experience.

But I just can’t help myself. I go home and spend a week compiling a long list titled “strategies for child anxiety”. I dedicate a few minutes each afternoon to setting up a stress relieving sensory activity, putting out a snack, and preparing the notebook and markers where she can draw pictures of her big feelings, just the like the experts suggest. I begin to feel more confident as I head out the door. Hopeful, even.

The bus pulls up and I hear it before I can even see her face — that open mouth mournful cry that just tears my heart wide open. Through panicked sobs she tells me she is so sorry she was naughty and didn’t get a green star on her hand even though she ‘sat really still with her legs criss cross and a big smile like Ms. Rosa said!” She wails into my coat that her teachers are always mad at her and she  is NEVER going to that school again. Meanwhile, Rowan is at my elbow, tugging my sleeve and waving his hand in my face to show off his bright green permanent marker star. He is beaming with pride, branded with his goodness. The arbitrary way this teacher does discipline and rewards has been a battle all year.

I’m finally full of rage.

And, for once, I let myself feel it instead of trying to fix it.

We went home and dried our tears and drank hot cocoa and read library books all cozy and smooshed together on the couch. It didn’t “fix” anything, but somehow we were all set to right. I wonder how often the expert advice drowns out our own intuition or our ability to really hear the ones we love tell us what they need.


Today, I sat in my friend Jaci‘s beautiful kitchen and asked her how she helps her kids through anxiety. I especially wanted to know how she discerns when she’s overreacting and when she’s not engaging enough.  Even with a squirmy toddler on her lap she responded without hesitation, “I don’t think you ever do. I think that’s just how it is, always wrestling between the two. You want to equip them to solve some problems on their own, so sometimes that means letting them work it out with peers. Sometimes it’s more complicated and that means advocating for them with teachers and staff. It just depends. There isn’t one right answer.”

I felt myself exhaling with every sentence. In two short minutes she had offered me advice that was far more practical and a million times more affirming than anything I had read in weeks of late night searches for answers that would fix my kid or soothe my guilt. She offered me her humanity and she opened up space for my own, no certainty required. She reminded me that only in friendship can we find the nuance and grace that no expert can capture.

person holding white ceramic mug

Photo by Roman Koval on

Last night Rowan re-appeared for the fifth time after being put to bed, throwing himself to the ground and declaring he would NOT get dressed tomorrow and would NOT be going to school. All the minimizing and dismissing and exasperated responses bubbled up inside me, followed quickly by the expert advice that I didn’t have an ounce of energy for. I mustered a half-hearted, “You really don’t like school right now. You wish you could stay home all day and play.”

“I’m SO MAD!” He dives into the couch face first, punching the cushions.

I exhale, slowly. “You know, I remember feeling like that when I was in first grade and had a not very nice teacher.”

His turns his face toward me, his expression changed from anger to curiosity. “Really? You did? What did you do?”

What did I do?  At first I’m trying to think of the ‘right’ answer, something practical that will reassure him, some behavior I want him to try. But then I’m transported back to Ms. Felix’s 1st grade class. I focus in on my clearest memory – sitting in a reading circle on the floor and the teacher accidentally bumps a metal oscillating fan off a table and onto my head. I’m blinded by the pain but don’t move because we’re not allowed to leave our spot on the carpet and she’s yelling at me because now the fan is broken and somehow I’m to blame. I couldn’t stop crying so she sent me to the nurse’s office, a tiny windowless room that became my safe haven after that incident. The rest of the year I had a lot of mystery stomach pain and headaches that were cured with a little rest on a cot in that quiet safety. What a gift that nurse was.

I look back up at his little face. The anger is gone but one last tear is still slowly tracing down his cheeks. “Well, sometimes I cried at school.  Sometimes I talked to other nice teachers. When  I got home I would tell Nanni about it. I always felt better when I played with my friends, and sometimes I told them how I was feeling too. ”

His jaw dropped open. “That’s like me! And I can tell you all of my angry feelings and then I feel better! And mom, I was thinking that maybe we can we have an activity and snack tomorrow after school? I will remember it all day when I am sad waiting to come home to see you.”

“Of course buddy.”

He gives me a hug and then turns to hop back up the stairs, stopping to crouch down at the very top step so I can see just his ankles and his little forehead and eyes peering at me upside down.

“Hey mom?”

“Yes bud.”

“You’re the very best mom for me. Okay?”

Oh my love.

I swear to stop trying to fix everything and just sit with all the emotional children while they stomp and make threats and weep bitter tears from now until the end of time if I can just have this sentence said about me on my dying day.

She was the very best mom for her kids.

And so are you, dear reader.

So are you.



An Imprinting of Love: How to Be Gentle With Your Kids and Yourself (at the Spiritual Parent)


I was nine when we moved from our small New England town to the suburban sprawl of Colorado Springs. Everything was bigger there. The houses, the churches, the mountains, somehow even God was larger, more real, more present.

Christianity had been an important part of our family culture before, but now it took center stage. Our social lives oscillated  between attending a mega church (and all of the classes, groups, dinners and activities that came with it) and hanging out at the Focus On The Family complex which was conveniently just down the street.

My brothers and I spent countless Saturdays exploring in the Adventures In Odyssey wonderland while my parents steeped themselves in Dobson’s philosophy. His empire pumped out radio programs, magazines, and parenting books that explained how our “sin natures” caused us to misbehave and directed parents to set firm boundaries via physical punishment and authoritarian shaming to help children understand the dire consequences of their sins.

I’ve been trying to shake off the effects of this toxic approach for years…

Click here to read the rest of this post on the Spiritual Parent blog.


Mom, am I too big?

It’s a familiar routine. I sit cross legged on the pink shag rug in Evelyn’s room, trying to coax her out of her clothes and into pj’s. She resists, frantically emptying every last thought from her head before the door is closed and she is left alone with her thoughts all night.

There’s always a bit of a tussle because she can’t get the shirt over her head without temporarily pausing her train of thought (impossible), and in the waiting I’m zoning out a bit – watching her without really hearing, marveling at this funny, curious person I brought into the world. (To be sure, there are also plenty of times when I’m just ticking off the seconds until I can interrupt her without feeling guilty. It’s definitely a mixed bag. But occasionally we achieve delight!)

We finally get the shirt over her head and the nightgown on, but a final yank of the leggings lands her hard on her bum. She tears them off and yells that they are too small and “not sparkly enough anyway!” Still in parent la la land I just grin and add “target: leggings” to my mental shopping list. But then I’m snapped back to the present with her words, “Wait, this tag says 5. I’m only 4. Mom, am I too big?

Woah. We’re doing this already? My brain flashes with images of my own young body –  in 90s stirrup leggings, my legs folded crisscross on a scratchy school carpet next to slender little girls whose knobby knees poke out at perfect angles, then on field day in the school-spirit shirt, mine comes from the “boys” pile and hugs my soft belly while the other girls achieve that adorable over-sized tee & bike shorts look, then I’m 13 and in a dressing room at the mall where the low rise jeans don’t begin to contain my behind and my friend is asking me to come out and show her, the shame memory brings heat to my neck even now.

“Mom!” Her call snaps me back to the present and I see she’s carefully examining the tag and frowning. I feel wholly unprepared.  She looks up at me, her delightful little uni-brow furrowed, waiting for me to explain.

I stammer out, “Oh honey… size and age aren’t the same thing… those numbers don’t mean anything! We just try on clothes until we find the ones that feel good. If those aren’t comfortable anymore, we’ll find some that are!”

She is, of course, immediately satisfied with this answer and tosses them in the donate pile in her closet, chattering about what color she wants to get to replace them and how they should have sparkles so they can match the glittery dress she wants to wear to the valentines party.

But the weight of this moment sticks with me. The weight I felt, at least. She has no concept of self-loathing, no irritation about the features of her skin or the softness of her belly. So why does it feel so loaded when these things come up? Are these moments really as weighty as they feel? How can I possibly guide her into a self-assured adulthood when I am still mired with so much of my own body shame baggage?

In her book Mothers Daughters & Body Image, Hillary McBride explains the concept of “choosing the ladder” as an alternative to staying stuck in our own shame. Her research shows that when mothers  nurture and affirm their daughter’s sense of self confidence and body image (even if they don’t totally believe it for themselves), their daughters are able to experience greater self confidence and self love than their own mothers. In fact, mothers who “were able to look at their lives with honesty and courage, and name the things that they had struggled with most” (p.10) were actually transformed by the process themselves. They offered a “ladder” of perspective and growth to their daughters, a path to a healthier self-image, and in the process many found healing and eventually even a hand up from the adult daughters they had been nurturing for so many years.


selective focus photography of vine plant crawling on brown rod

Photo by Thanh Nguyễn on

This idea is so beautiful it brings tears to my eyes every time I think of it. So many of us battle messages from our families, our social circles, our online communities, and especially our own minds that we are not good enough. That we do not deserve the space we inhabit. Sometimes these judgments are pointed and overt, but I find that I am most beat down by the everyday language and cultural rhythms that shape our sense of what it means to be whole. Shame is so hard to shake, and I am desperately afraid that it will get its claws in my child too.

In those moments of fear and panic I am clinging to the examples in Hillary’s book – stories of mothers and daughters who manage to grow in spite of their personal baggage or the influence of others. Not because they never encountered these patterns in the world and not because their mothers were perfect, but because they faced the shame head on, deliberately, together.

This weekend Evelyn and I are going shopping for some new leggings. Since our chat earlier this week I’ve noticed that a bunch of mine have holes forming along the inseam – something I’ve been ignoring because I keep telling myself this horrible story that I don’t deserve new clothes until I lose more weight. What a gift to have a daughter with such a keen eye for style and clothes that feel good! I’m sure she’ll be able to help me find a few new pairs to replace these punishment leggings I’ve been holding onto. (Sparkles optional, but who knows! I’ve never tried them and I hear great things!)



My confident little love, proudly sporting a Halloween costume she created to look like her favorite podcast host, Mindy (from Wow in the World!)