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Falling Through

“How many children do you have?”

This is an easy question for a man to answer.  He tells you the number he deducts on his tax return –  “Two...” – plus a standard half-jest – “...as far as I know.”

But for a woman, this seemingly simple question is fraught with emotional complexity.  She may give you the obvious answer, just like a man, but inside she’s thinking:  “What are you really asking?  Do you count only the children who are healthy and whole?  What about...

...my miscarriages?
...my stillbirths?
...my abortions?
...the children I wanted so badly who never came?
...my children I gave birth to but didn't raise?
...my children with such severe disabilities I will never know who they could have been?
...the children I loved and cared for who weren't biologically mine?
...my babies who died in childhood?
...my grown children who died before me?
...the children I raised who are now estranged from me?

Here’s the hidden truth: it’s the rare and lucky woman who doesn't have secret children hidden deep in her heart.  Most of us have more than one answer to this question, depending on how we're counting.

In every society, the relationship between a mother and her child is primary, fundamental, complex, and deeply emotional.  Each child a woman loves changes her life profoundly.  The ones she counts out loud bring her life’s sweetest joys and heaviest sorrows.  And the ones she doesn’t mention, the babies she holds in her heart but not her arms, are just as important to her as the ones everyone else can see. 

Falling Through is my motherhood story.  It begins with secrecy and heartbreak, with overwhelming feelings buried deep underground, with a wounded psyche struggling to recover.  Through a happy marriage, a growing career, and the raising of two beautiful children, I had a hole in my heart that never healed.

Then, on a random weekday afternoon, something unexpected shattered the fragile crust I had painstakingly built over my long-suppressed feelings.  In an instant, I fell straight through into a river of overwhelming emotion. 

Falling Through describes my journey down that river.  I had to explore my past, comes to terms with my long-ago choices, embrace the girl I was and the woman I've become, and forgive myself.  Along the way, I became a much better mother, began to share my story with others, and was privileged to have many other women grace me with their own secret stories.  This book is the chronicle of my journey to wholeness.

If you're interested in the ideas underpinning this book, I would love to hear your answers to two important questions, in strictest confidence:

There are no wrong answers to these questions.  And sometimes there are multiple answers.  We each have our own unique story.  It is only through sharing our stories that we find out how many of our sisters know exactly what we're feeling.  That, to me, paves the path toward healing.


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Copyright © 2006 by Kathy Downs.
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