Adoption, DNA, Doc's Place, Jane Ann McLachlan, Laura Grace Weldon, Marcel Proust, Memoir, Memory, October Memoir & Backstory Blog Challenge, OM &BCC, Rh Negative, Rhogam, Southernmost Illinois, Vienna
Thankful Thursdays Thursdays have been the most difficult day for me to pin down. They are evolving. Trial and error. Mostly error. Or at least missing the mark. But this blogging adventure is about experimentation. That is just one reason your participation and feedback are so important to me. I am thankful, indeed, grateful for your acts of co-creation that make this blog possible.
For the month of October, Writing Space is participating in several challenges. One of them is Jane Ann McLachlan’s (OM & BBC) October Memoir & Backstory Blog Challenge hosted at Join the Conversation. While I juggle the challenges, I will also attempt to keep to my established editorial calendar. If you are particularly curious about my memoir work, check out my earlier entries under the Memoir Monday category. I hope you are enjoying October as much as I am. Remember the best bits of my blog are found in the generous comments. As Jane Ann would say, “join the conversation.”
The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes. ~Marcel Proust
If you had asked me about my childhood when I was a wee thing, I would have told you of all the exciting things in my life: my rocky horse, my tire swing, my gianormous calico pusscat. By the time I was in grade school, my tales of life on the farm had a story book quality. Not surprising since I come from a line of master story tellers. (See A Mixed Heritage) My grandparents encouraged our imaginations and creativity. My cousins and I invented mysteries to be solved, went exploring in the old ghost town (abandoned pioneer cabins), and even staged our own original dramatic productions.
Farm kids grow up with a self-reliance and an independence that was altogether foreign to my classmates in boonie suburbs of Chicagoland. Rural Southernmost Illinois of the early 1960s was a different world away. One by one my aunts and their broods migrated northward. My world expanded to include Chicago which I thought was in Alaska. I’m sure it was a misunderstanding of ironic comment of my grandmother had made. She deemed it a tundra, devoid of trees and blown by an unforgiving wind.
I search back over the debris and midden of my memories, pictures and physical scars with an archaeologist’s eye. I comb the evidence and reconstruct my past not as I experienced it in real time with a severely limited point of view, little backstory, and even less of cultural and historical context, but from the vantage of a middle-aged woman close to my grandmother’s age. What I think is essential to the telling of the story would not have concerned the preschool me…much, in any case.
Mostly the incidents I’ll retell in the next few days would have been instances of nightmares occasionally peppering my Technicolor dreamworld. So many stories, so many vivid memories, mostly sequestered in a jewelry box drawer of my mind as if they were pearls from a strand awaiting to be restrung in proper order…if it can be puzzled through.
Puzzles, they are. If truth be told, they need care and space in their full unpacking. I can only name them here in this space and not do them the justice needed for a memoir’s treatment. With that knowledge, I intentionally will pick out three pearls from the treasure drawer. These three events so long past still are evidenced nearly five decades later, my body a testimony.
The first of these tokens I carry around to this day, I have no memory of. I only found out about it as I became a mother and wrestled with a mysterious and rare blood illness.
During the later stages of my first pregnancy, I gained as much as eight pounds a day. The net gain was 80 lbs in under three months. It would have been nearly impossible for me to metabolize that many calories, so it clearly was not the case that I was gaining from fat.
The culprit was my Rh negative blood type combining with the positive of both of my children. This is a rare thing, but not extremely uncommon. Rhogam inoculations commonly prevent blue baby syndrome. In my case, this was impossible because I was already sensitized to the Rh positive blood. The weight gain was in part due to my body’s immune system kicking into overdrive. Rare but not unheard of, studied mostly in the UK, was my body’s reaction. My doctor for my second child called it a super mom response. In short, my body was in hyper-drive creating antibodies to attack the babies’ Rh positive blood cells while another system of my body was storing that poison in my fat cells. For seven years after the birth of Melia, my second child, I still had detox seizures from the pregnancies.
The story came out in drips. A little here. A little there. To where I believe this is the case. Sometime before I was four, I was shot up with a vial full of Gail’s blood, Rh positive. This should have killed me. It is no short of a miracle that it didn’t. The other miracle is that the girls and I survived their birth as well. For Thankful Thursdays, that is something to be truly grateful.
Because of all of the specialists and researchers interested in my case, I also was privy to a strange bit of DNA trivia. The internet being what it is, the arcane is now accessibly mundane. Laura Grace Weldon’s blog post, Mother & Child Are Linked At The Cellular Level, is a good way to get acquainted with this blood science. The gist of it is that DNA of your children live inside of you for decades after they are born. When I had my blood work done, they identified my two girls’ DNA as well as my birth mother, Shirley’s. They also found evidence of another strain of DNA operating in my body…could it be Gail’s? That would be the guess once evidence the early blood transfusion was uncovered.
DNA evidence, one more connection between history, mystery and memoir.
The next two pearls? Stay tuned for tomorrow’s episode.
This is Day #4 of the October Memoir & Backstory Blog Challenge (OM & BBC) being hosted by Jane Ann McLachlan on her blog Join the Conversation. You can track my progress on this and other October Challenges by visiting my Up & Coming page. Leave us your thoughts.