Monday, October 8, 2007

The ICAN conference

My story wouldn't be complete without going back to talk about the ICAN conference.

When Emily was seven weeks old, we drove out to Syracuse to go to the conference. I had become a Chapter Leader about a month after Emily was born. I wanted to give back to ICAN. This group saved me, brought me back from the dark place I was lost in, and put me back together. I wanted to help someone else the same way.

I went to the chapter leader training before the main conference. I was in awe of some of the names on the name tags. These were people I respected so much. I had never met most of them in person. Some, I was just so glad to see again. I nearly burst into tears when I saw Tonya. It had been over 18 months since I had seen her. And Shannon, Shannon who talked me through part of my labor, I couldn't wait to show Emily to her. I wanted to give her a hug and thank her.

As a new leader, I learned so many helpful things during the training. The best part though, came at the end. We were gathered together, and the ICAN board read passages from the new book, Cesarean Voices. These were the stories of the women of ICAN. It was so moving. Everyone was crying. Then, the board members gave everyone a knitted uterus, and put a little band-aid on it. Tonya gave me mine. She said she knew a band-aid couldn't heal the hurt, but maybe it could help a little. Then she hugged me and told me she was so glad I was here. I started bawling on her shoulder and told her I really didn't think I would be here if it weren't for her. That set her off, and we were both just crying and crying. But it was somehow a really good cry. They were cleansing tears, tears of both pain and joy.

The conference itself was wonderful. There were so many wonderful speakers. I learned so much. The UBAC session was really hard on me though. I cried quietly most of the way through it. I was still in the "I failed" phase of my processing. Raechel, one of the speakers, noticed I was crying and handed me a box of tissue. It was a small act, but one that held so much love and caring. I was overwhelmed.

Of course seeing Shannon was so wonderful. There were just no words to express my gratitude to her. She held Emily and we chatted about everything. It was great.

Another highlight of the conference was buying my own copy of Silent Knife, the book that had helped me so much. Then I got it signed by Nancy Wainer, who had come to speak. She is an amazing woman. She seemed as thrilled to meet us as we were to meet her!

During the conference, another woman from the List, Missy, was in labor. It was a start and stop labor, and she was tired and frustrated. At one point we heard she may have transferred to the hospital. When Shannon came in and announced that Missy was holding her baby, at home in her bed... I can't describe the cheering. It was beautiful.

After the conference, I stayed and talked with another friend. We were going to just have lunch, but I ended up talking for almost five hours!! It felt so good to get everything off of my heart. That is when she told me those words that changed everything, "You simply got the support you needed, when you needed it."

I can't even try to explain all the ways this conference changed me, moved me, helped me grieve and helped me heal. I came home a changed woman.

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