One year ago this week, my husband and I found out we were losing our first child. They were due to be born on my birthday this year. Baby #2 would have been due this week. To say this is a heavy week would be a major understatement, although I am holding up a lot better than even I imagined. Yes, there have been random bouts of crying mixed with anger allegedly about other things when I know in my heart it’s really the remaining bits of unprocessed grief, but there has also been action. There has been deep thought. There has been sitting with my sadness, with my pain, my grief and thinking about what gifts can come of this, knowing that it won’t be that ultimate gift I had been longing for and expecting.
Ultimately, I decided to start a farm. Yes, you read that right. This Black woman who grew up in Boston, by way of NY, and only recently moved to the “country” in NC, after over a decade in DC, is starting a farm. When I think back over my life which has been filled with lots of tragedy and trauma, I also have to acknowledge it’s been filled with even more overcoming.
I’m human. I give in to my pain sometimes. Hell, I spent most of my 20s (ok, ALL of my 20s and part of my 30s) deeply immersed in, and doing everything in my power to run from, it. However, I’ve always remained fully confident in my resiliency, even when the world has felt too thick and gray to see past my despair.
I bend – often – but I do not break. I get back up and I stand in the ashes of what was, and what I wish had been, defiant.
I know I can, and will, eventually reach deep inside me to some unknown place that is still whole and I will find the strength I need to keep going.
I recognize that I haven’t always done that on my own. It doesn’t just take a village to raise a child, adults need them too. My village is tiny but mighty and someone always shows up when I really need them. I also realize that not everyone has a village or maybe they just need additional villagers.
Either way, having been there myself and understanding the power of healing, help and hope, my heart and hurt has led me here.
So, why a farm?
Simple answer: I find so much healing in nature. As a teenager, I worked on a farm for two Summers as an employee of The Food Project. It was truly a life changing experience and I still remember so many of the lessons we were taught during my time with them. I also remember that for years after that, whenever The Food Project came up, my mom would always say “Your skin never looked so healthy as the Summers you worked for The Food Project. Eating all of those organic fruits and vegetables really gave you a glow.” Through my work with The Food Project, I not only got to experience how eating organic food can heal the body, I got to see how it can heal the mind.
There was always something so therapeutic about getting lost in weeding and harvesting. Then and now, I could see so much clearer when I worked on the land. I connect with myself differently when I connect with the land. I connect in a way that cannot be replicated by an app or even a conversation with loved ones.
No matter where else I look, I only truly find what I need in nature because that is where I can find myself: in the peace and solitude of disconnecting from everyone and everything else.
I spend so much of my life “plugged in,” I forget how beneficial – and necessary – it is to unplug, to sit quietly with myself and just be. Not be productive. Not be social. Not be active in any way. Just be.
There’s so much power in silence. There’s so much renewal in reflection.
Part of why we left DC last year was that losing baby #1 and contending with everything else 2020 brought, made us really think about our lives. My husband has worked a non-traditional schedule throughout our entire relationship (12 years, folks!). Typically evening shift, Tuesdays – Saturdays. The blessing I saw in that was I could fully focus on my career without feeling guilty about not focusing on my husband. I worked looooong hours. I also “outsourced” most of the actual living of my life (cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, etc.), so I had more time available to work to pay for any and everyone else to live my life for me.
We had a house, we were able to take trips together here and there, attended the occasional concert, but was I happy? Short answer – no. I was exhausted, I was anxious pretty much all of the time (even when I was sleeping!), and the constant grind had ground me down to nothing but a bank account that could pay for the stuff neither of us had time to enjoy. So, when the pandemic hit, we finally had a chance to spend time together. To have conversations, moments, days that weren’t the few minutes we could fit in between all the other things we just had to do.
To be completely honest, compounded trauma had stopped me from wanting to have a child before, but having finally addressed that, we decided to start trying for baby #1 shortly before the pandemic hit. I had some concern about miscarrying given my age and my propensity toward anxiety, but the miscarriage was still unexpected. I was able to see the heartbeat at the first appointment and then just a week later there was none.
My husband and I had already been discussing the what ifs and what nexts for life before we lost our baby and he was shocked that I actually was on board with the idea of moving to NC. I had always said I would never leave the DC area, but…COVID.
As I thought about what was important in life, what was missing in my life, it wasn’t a better job or a better house or a new this or that. It wasn’t even a baby, although we did, and still do, want one. What was missing was time. Time to sit with myself and others. Time to get to know myself and others. Time to spend loving myself and others. I needed time back in my life and I didn’t feel like I could get that in the DC area where it is so easy to get lost in the doing, and never realize you’re not actually living, when you're surrounded by fellow Type A personalities.
I tend to thrive in stressful environments because everything about my life from the day I was born has been constant stress. It’s all I’ve ever really known so chaos can swirl all around me and I’ll churn out that report, write that policy, hold that disciplinary meeting, and lead that workshop without even blinking or acknowledging that I did all of that in the middle of a workplace tornado. But the old adage “you can’t pour from an empty cup” is true and I kept learning the hard way that just because I can do all of that - and do it well - doesn’t mean it is healthy or wise to.
There’s also value in slowing down. There’s value in being still. There’s value in mindful moments. There’s value in listening to my body and mind.
There’s value in setting boundaries and saying “No, I can’t work on Saturdays. That’s my self-care day.” or not even giving a reason because “No.” is a complete sentence.
There’s value in fully focusing on my wellbeing – physical, emotional, and financial. There’s value in so many things I used to think were a waste of time because time is money and if you’re wasting time then you’re wasting money and I was unwilling to waste either of those things.
But…life. And so here we are in NC. I have started a nonprofit and I’m saving up to start a farm where I can help others who are in the process of healing from their own traumas and are looking for somewhere to go to reconnect with themselves and find the presents hidden in their pain.
“Happy” Birthday to my little one that I’ll never meet. Mommy loves you. Thank you for the present.
For anyone wishing to support my dream of starting a farm/agro-healing space, I have started a GoFundMe which can be found here. All donations are tax deductible.
Additional resources and support for those who have experienced pregnancy or infant loss can be found on the Share Pregnancy & Infant Loss Support site here.