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The taxable gratitude: how a friend’s close call with death made me re-think life as a mum

Clexane and Keppra. When your pregnant girlfriend, an aspiring female entrepreneur who has just started her own organic jam hustle utters…


Clexane and Keppra. When your pregnant girlfriend, an aspiring female entrepreneur who has just started her own organic jam hustle utters these words, you could be easily forgiven for thinking they are emerging fashion labels or scientific botanical names. And then when she tells me that she has just suffered a stroke and three random episodes of violent seizures at the grand old age of 34 (oh and while being pregnant), I get a rude awakening that I am not invincible after all just because I am still relatively young and have already undergone two vaginal births.

There are days when I feel like a cookie crumble, that in between space where you are not quite a delectable cookie but more of a remnant. Sometimes kids devour the crumbles, sometimes they end up in the bin. I’m the sort of girl that would eat the crumbles but that’s always been me. Taking the remnants and trying to give them a use, a purpose. But there are others out there that are just haters and you worry and stress about that, sweating the small stuff instead of just living your life knowing how fragile it is.

When Kavi told me of her ordeal and how she was scared of losing her baby while having those seizures and especially after having undergone a miscarriage some years ago, you don’t know whether to be grateful for the life you already have or start thinking about the life you crave for your kids.

Greeted with an excruciating headache late one night, Kavi thought she could sleep it off until her left arm went numb. She didn’t understand what was happening and attributed the experience to her headache and did eventually sleep it off. In the morning, she made an appointment with her local GP who gave her the all clear and said there was nothing to worry about, feeding the typical myth that a stroke only affects the elderly.

Her twelve-week scan was scheduled for the next day and while waiting her turn, a seizure took over and she collapsed. An ambulance took her to emergency in the local hospital and while waiting for a triage assessment for three painful hours, she underwent two more episodes of a seizure. An MRI scan revealed a blood clot in the brain and further tests provided no clues on why she had these episodes in the first place. Kavi shared with me her raw and vulnerable thoughts. “What hit me was not the fact that I had gone through it but the harsh reality that we have no control over our bodies.”. When she told me that, I was hit with a poignant, invisible force because while she couldn’t have said that any better, no one thinks about stuff like that until it actually happens to them. “People couldn’t understand what I was worried about. To have no control over my body is really scary especially when I ate really healthy, turned vegan and exercised my butt off just before I became pregnant”.

The deep emotion in her words when she paused and said people don’t get it spoke of a distressed, perfectionist society that was wired in a certain way. How to think, how to talk, what would impress people. It was just like one big stage play with perfect scripts. “They didn’t get what I was so anxious about. I didn’t care what happened to me, I just thought I was going to lose the baby. I had no control over my body no matter how much I looked after it.”

Having undergone two uncomplicated pregnancies and two relatively normal births (save for the fact that my second labour was over in half hour and in that quick span of time, the midwife managed to botch an episiotomy), I still couldn’t resonate with Kavi when she reminded me time and time again that the body does what it wants to. Not even the mind can will a seizure to stop. On days when I have meltdowns because my kids are having a fit, fall ill, or cry through the night, I remember Kavi’s soft-spoken words. “Just be grateful and count your blessings”

And that’s when I start to think if this is the age of a taxable gratitude? Obviously this is a play (clever might I add?) on words but what I really mean is I don’t want to measure gratitude on how many benefits, exemptions and concessions it is going to bring me. That is how society has made you feel. By doing that you are taxing the gratitude with undue burdens on what obligations it must provide in return. Measure gratitude with what you already have such as normal bodily functions, an active lifestyle, a roof over your head and clean food and clothes to get you by. It doesn’t mean that you cannot work towards having a better life for you and your family. It just means you have to be at peace with yourself first, love yourself first, before worrying whether the kids are going to pick up on your swearing, or if you have mixed their whites with colours that bleed. A shift in mindset will automatically open up the right opportunities for you to take your life forward on your own terms.

Originally published at medium.com

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