What makes you strong?

What gives you that last ounce of strength?  What makes you reach for the impossible and win? What gives us the ability to tap that secret cache of power we all hold.  What enables us to survive.  To push through when the odds are so stacked against us it feels like hail in our faces. pigs

My friend, who looks after her aging father, told me yesterday that he fell and she caught him, he is 200 pounds, she is my size, she caught him and held him up for as long as it took for him to get his feet from out under the fall so she could lower him to the ground safely.  She said this was about 6 or 7 minutes as he struggled but felt like an age. But she did not drop him. She found an untapped strength that both frightened and amazed her.

This strength is in all of us. Me picking up an 80 pound calf in a fury and carrying her to another pen. Working through the night for night after night pouring drops of fluid down their throats.  Falling asleep in the truck parked outside the house but roaring out at the first sign of trouble. Your child climbs a stacked set of chairs in an unfamiliar hall and on pure instinct you spin and  you cross an impossible expanse , timing a dive to catch him as she and the chairs inevitably fall. DSC_0712

Once, a while ago now,  I was walking from my neighbours  house back  to mine after our morning cup of tea.  (This was at Massey University in New Zealand.)  We both lived at the bottom of an orchard on the university campus.  I was walking with a wee baby in my arms, one in my belly and one at my hip.  It had rained for weeks and my neighbour and I had constructed a  strange path  of planks of wood  through the mud between our houses.  We had been walking this for days. Laughing.  But the planks had become slippery from our muddy bare summer feet. And as I hurried past the chook house with this tiny wee baby in my arms and another trotting close behind.  I fell. I fell hard. My neighbour saw me fall and as she rushed towards me she watched me woosh up into the air, out of control, screaming,  spinning and falling from the crazy wooden bridge through the mud, holding the baby and knocking, then simultaneously scooping  up, the toddler behind me. As she watched in horror she saw my body spin, my legs fly up in the air, my arms fly out losing and then catching both babies back out of the air, then landing on my back with a thump,  hard, but with both of the babies safe on top of my body.  My arms around them. Safe. I lay thereon my back, in pain and  and laughing with relief.

She ran to us,  her own baby bouncing on her hip, picking us up.   We were weeping and laughing with relief, amazed that I had landed with both babies on top of me.  That we were safe.

I started to bleed the next day. The baby tucked safe in my belly died a few days after.  He was only tiny.  It may have been the fall.  I think so.  Many of us have had miscarriages – some of us have had late ones – very few of us talk of them.  Many of us have had more than one. I don’t know why we are not allowed to talk about it.  To be allowed to get past the wall of a lost baby. Losing a baby holds a plethora of guilt and shock. I still feel like slapping the cold nurses.  Slapping everyone.  As I was letting my invisible baby go they were worried about my tears, where did I keep the brushes, your hair is such a mess, do you have someone to come and take you home.  No, I said, there is no-one. My husband was working you see. And my hair is always a mess. I will call my neighbour. But we rise from it – this is part of the awful terrifying strength of women – especially wild women. Like us.  Like you.  And me.   Full. Wild.  Awful.  Full of AWE.  AweSome.    Fuck off wild.

This is the strength of a woman and don’t you forget it. Don’t you ever forget it.

Inside us all is this superhuman strength. Men seem to be able to tap into this physical strength easily. This incredible timing. This dance. Women need to fight for it now.  This free fall that is life. Relying on our bodies. We forget to rely on our bodies. Old or young. We all have the ability to grab the rungs that flash past us as we fall.  All of us have the strength in our fingers to hold on and stop the fall. Then drag ourselves back up. Rung by rung.

Really, not only metaphorically.

We all have it.  Dig in. Life is ahead.  And don’t you ever fucking give up. Ever.  Not EVER.  DSC_0715

Trust yourself. Trust your instincts. They are old.

Love your friend on the farm


82 Comments on “What makes you strong?

  1. Every time you save one of your furry babies, you save your own, again and again and again. I think your instinct to save is stronger than anyone I know. I have never had the privilege to be a mother, the Husband came into my life after cancer had wiped out my last remaining chance, so i cannot begin to comprehend your loss. I acknowledge your tiny lost one. He was real, he existed, and you were entitled to grieve as long as you needed and talk about him if you wanted to. But I know that strength. I remember what it feels like to hang on by my fingernails, to get myself to the bathroom on my hands and knees, to not eat for days because I could not get my poisoned body out of bed and there was no-one to do it for me. But we survive and move on. We don’t become our experiences, we rise above them and let them strengthen us. You have created something wonderful, the Farmy and the Fellowship. You live a continuous act of creation, and this is what you have become. And it’s WONDERFUL.

  2. I have only been reading your blog for a few weeks, but must say that you have an incredible amount of strength. So few understand what it takes to be part of a working farm. Your writing and photographs…off the charts! I love the way you defy the odds and don’t give up, most recently with the calves. Kudos. I have always said that our daughters, having grown up on a small farm, know what it’s like to have chores and responsibilities that have given them more character and the ability to work hard. When push comes to shove, women can do whatever needs to be done…some of them just don’t know it.

    • Good morning Lori. I so agree about chores. In the cuty, on the beach – anywhere – allowing your children to experience the pride of a job well done and tthe responsility of it is so important to growth.. c

    • Thank you Ron, of course it was many many years ago and his loss has softened as though he has become an angel.. A comfort. A real angel – not an imaginary one.. c

  3. Yes, been there. Miscarriages, falls, in the last few days of my father’s life he was delirious and tried to stand out of bed and crumpled full weight on me as I rushed to stop him. I levered my body and his against the bed and never understood how I lifted his 6’4″ 260 lb body back on that bed. I don’t think we think…maybe later…but we just do! Big love to you Celi, and to all of us.

  4. Celi, I’m so sorry you experienced such a heartbreaking loss. I can’t imagine losing a child through miscarriage and I agree it needs to be spoken about more often. I see many women in clinic who have gone through such heartache and I agree that more support is needed. Thank you for always being the strong and inspiring person that you are and encouraging your readers to come into their own!

  5. Oh Celi, what a blessing it is to have found you. Tears of gratitude this morning. xo

  6. I too have a lost baby, the doctor said a girl, my little teeny daughter I wept for on the sofa for a week. And the falls, my Mama, a stout lady who had many falls in her later days, the last one fatal. I wasn’t there to break that one. Once she lost her balance & toppled backward knocking me over behind her & down we both went, me on my back & she was flat on her back on top of me.
    I started to cry but she was calm & calmed me & I got us both up somehow & she didn’t break anything that time because I was there. All of these things make us physically strong & braver than we (or I anyway) knew. But Celi, you have a fierce courage & a powerful strength & all of us admire you so much for it. I hope nothing else has happened at The Farmy. But I guess we all know that things will happen there & keep reading & loving you & wishing for all your days to be lovely.

    • Thank you for speaking of this, the lost tiny one and the saved old one. All is well this morning.. nothing bad today.. it looks like being a stunning day too..

  7. When my dad fell, the compression fracture to his spine made him nauseous, and he vomited for months. He might have a good day or two, then it would start again. One day when I was visiting, he wanted to sit outside. Old farmer that he was, he needed to be in the green. So I helped him down the couple of steps to his swinging bench. And when he had enough, I stayed behind him as he tried to get up those two steps. Too weak, he went down, but I was there. Like your friend, I caught him and held him until he could get his feet untangled, then eased him to the floor.

    It’s painful to see someone who used to have all that strength, who could summon it at will, lose every bit of it. But he passed it on to us. And for that I’m grateful.

  8. I’m so sorry for the loss of your sweet baby those years ago.
    My youngest daughter just experienced her third miscarriage – yesterday. She is crushed, and my heart breaks for her. I, too, wanted to slap the nurse, and then the doctor for their flippant, dismissal attitude. Somehow they managed to make it harder…
    Thank you for this post about strength.

    • Oh your poor daughter – That is so hard.. Again and again we get knocked down and it is so hard to pull yourself back up again each time – she will find the strength though – All our love.. c

  9. Me too. Have lived through that. It the miscarriage, and the falling and catching. You are so good to bring them up, because ever since Menopause hit, I have not been feeling at all strong in that way, and it scares me and just adds to the imbalance of it all and wondering who I am a bit, now, in this new version. I know it’s in me, but I need to coax it back out.

  10. Powerful message Celi, I know I will be reading it more than once. I have also forwarded it to my nieces, three strong young women…they need to hear this message too. Thank you!

  11. I had to take a moment before I could comment on this. First, I had to dry my tears. I “almost” lost my son when he was born and was treated very badly by the medical staff. They didn’t understand the depth of mother’s love. They threatened to tie me to my bed. I called in Angels and they came. “Literally”. The level of grief you suffer is inconsolable. I feel it in my heart. Your strength is vaster than the Universe. I know that strength as well. My children have seen it in action. We may be small women but our resolve is gargantuan. I’m not sure what moved you to write this one today but I’m glad I was here to read it. Thank you for opening your heart to us

  12. Uffdah! I am late this morning having just gotten out of bed, It has been a very stressful and scary week at work , not sure how things will play out in the future. Thank you form reminding me of my strength, in the past, in the present, in the future.

  13. My body never allowed me to have my own children, so I adopted an older boy and loved the children in my class as if they were my own. To this day, long beyond my childbearing days , it is the greatest loss I have experienced . I have helped my friends through abortions and miscarriages and I have felt their loss and pain in my own heart.
    Celi, your angel is watching over you.

  14. Very beautiful. And I agree, women are not ‘allowed’ to talk about their loss of a baby. Society cringes from it. We are also not allowed to talk about my issue in that I could never have a baby, period. I don’t know the feeling of loosing something like a child, because I only feel the loss of never knowing what it was to hold that child in my womb. Nor to ever be a mother. It is a devastating feeling of loss and emptiness I keep tucked into one of those corners of my mind and heart.

    Hugs to all of you who have miscarried and the same to those who couldn’t conceive…….

  15. Miss C, you are a wonder and a marvel. I can’t tell you this often enough. Thank you for this today. We are strong. We help each other be stronger still.

  16. Thank you, Celi. I asked for an answer to a question today — minutes ago, actually — and this is the answer. Keep going! Stay strong! And so I shall.

  17. Celie you have a genius for giving everyone what they most need, when they need it. I have been giving in to self pity and depression lately, and your post is the necessary kick in the pants to me to get off my backside and live. Thank you a millionfold.

  18. I miscarried very early, alone, in a beach hut. I told no one. The strength comes, for me, from what those we love deserve. And, I do believe, from our supporting angels, those that say ‘reach!’ as you see a toddler start to cartwheel down a long flight of steps to the concrete below, catching her little arm just in time, and pulling her laughing little body back.

  19. I’m like Viv,gives depressed. I too wonder what was it that prompted you to write such an inspired post? Of courage. I find myself paralyzed with dread of the future. My husband and I are now a two-legged table. No kids.. And when I read the Fellowship comments of their courage I feel so guilty. These women are quite extraordinary, giving of themselves–quite literally physically supporting their parents.

  20. Celi, this post was meant for me today (as it was for so many of your readers). Many years ago, I lost a child at about 5 1/2 months along. I always believed it was a girl, but the doctor wouldn’t tell me. I had two sons already and went on to have two more healthy boys. I “bucked up” and didn’t grieve for that lost baby for a very long time. Now I’m facing a challenge that has taken me down, but reading this reminds me that this isn’t the first hurdle I’ve faced, and it won’t be the last. Thank you, thank you for the reminder that strength, both inner and physical, comes when we most need it.

  21. My former husband and I adopted. While this child did not come from within me, she was mine, nonetheless. When I would feed her in the middle of the night, it was hard to believe there were two people in the room, I felt that close. I found a lovely framed saying, bought it and hung it on the wall:

    Not flesh of my flesh nor bone of my bone
    But nevertheless, still my own.
    Never forget for a single minute:
    You weren’t born under my heart but in it.

    Fleur Conkling Heylinger

    Much love,

  22. I have no words, you’ve said it all. Thank you miss c for saying the right words at just the right time. Sending you a little extra strength in case it ever comes in handy.

  23. I have no words either C. This was such a powerful post, I could never articulate my thoughts of it, except to just say thank-you, thank-you. xoxo~C.

  24. Simply gorgeous. You *are* incredibly strong. But even the strongest face trials that aren’t easily surmounted.

    I am so sorry for the loss of your tiny son. Some of my girlfriends who’ve had miscarriages have said exactly the same, if less poetically. Losing a child, a womb-companion, the life one has nurtured *inside* one’s own body, loved with heart and soul—that is a tremendous loss. And it’s not something you “just get over.” Ever.

    So I admire the additional strength you show when you so honestly and generously share your life with us in these ways. It gives us strength, in turn, as I’m sure you know. God knows I hope you’re gifted with people share this kind of grace with you in abundance; the lioness must be nourished and cherished as well, to keep up *her* strength.

    Admiringly, and with love as always.

    • Your comment has brought me pause. Because there is no-one here like that. Maybe that is why I have found the fellowship. You and the fellowship are my nourishment.

  25. You’ve spoken very wise today, Celi. – And so deep. First I have to admit that I never ever experienced that what you did: Miscarriages. I have no children at all. But my mother did experience miscarriages, my sister too. –
    I mean there’s no need for guilt in loosing a child. It is painful, very painful, it hurts so much. But there’s no guilt, nobody can be blamed for it. It’s life and it happens. No one knows why, no one knows the sense of it, but it happens. – There is and must be of course time for grief, tears, pain, rage, all that, but no guilt. Please. – What I feel awful and what hurts deeply and what still does exist today are that cold, uncomprehending and ruthless sisters and medics. In that way life has not changed much.
    But maybe it has changed in another way I think: It is mostly allowed today to grieve or to mourn and get comfort from what side ever, relatives or friends (except hospital staff). Lately I read the bio of Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter Vicky, who has lived abroad because she’s been married to German prince Frederick. They had an agreement that she should write a daily letter to her mother (about 4,000 of them are kept). Young Victoria gave birth to eight children, and lost two of them at a very young age. The first one she lost at an age of 21 month due to meningitis. The parents were both in deepest mourning about that loss but did not get any comfort from their parents of both sides. Through the letters it is handed down, that Queen Victoria wrote to her daughter back and admonished her, that there was no reason for grieving so much, and that the loss of a child is nothing compared to the loss of one’s husband. Whom she herself had lost five years earlier. Hard for the poor daughter, very hard. And her mother-in-law pushed her just as heartless to get back to her public duties very soon. I felt so sorry for that young mother, but she was such a strong woman. A second son of her died of diphtheria at the age of eleven, what left both parents in a long lasting state of shock and depression. It is not said however whether they felt guilty too.
    I’ve read all comments. Thank you all. I am not that strong. No way. Maybe for others yes, but not for myself. Thank you Celi for telling us your remarkable story and thoughts today. You are so great. Rise like a phoenix…..

  26. I’m sorry you lost that wee babe, and to the others of you here that have also lost a little one….blessings. My first experience of the cruelty of doctors around miscarriage was as a hospital social worker, and a doctor telling me I wasn’t to go near his patient and make a big deal about her loss, as ” it was no different to having a piece of rotten fruit, and it needed to be got rid of”. He copped the full force of my fury, and was made to understand in no uncertain term that hewouldn’t be telling me how to do my job….he ended up being my biggest supporter with other doctors, encouraging them to let me wok with their patients. I was so appalled and saddened by the attempts to make baby losses a non-event, I encouraged …harangued,pestered, shouted at…..the hospital board to set aside some land and make a memorial garden, and although some of those babies were too tiny to have a funeral, I arranged that the local ministers/priest each took a turn to hold a memorial service once a for all the lost babies. Families could have a plaque made if they wished, or plant a shrub or tree, and they always had somewhere to go back to, to grieve and remember if they needed to. I did the same in the next two hospitals I worked in, and facilitated Aboriginal women getting their babies home to their lands to be “taken care of” in the traditional way, often illegally, as there are clear regulations and laws about what should happen to term still-born babies in particular. …and carrying in a shoe-box on the front seat of the hospital car to a remote destination would’ve been frowned on. I felt so privileged to work with all these women, and give them an opportunity to celebrate their babies and grieve openly as well. I haven’t lost a baby to miscarriage, but I know the pain of loss through adoption…it’s all the same, our babies and our hopes and dreams for them are gone from us.

    • Dear Nanette, I just came across your beautiful letter here and had to send you a massive cyber-hug, one Fellowship member to another. You are an angel to all of the parents whom you’ve helped through their times of deep grief, and to the hospital carers and staff and ministers who have needed to be shown the way to respect and honor the living and the dead as they deserve. I thank you on their behalf—on behalf of *all* of us, as we each benefit from a more humane and compassionate world as you help to make it.

  27. Powerful, poignant and inspiring… When you write about it, when we think about it, we live through, survive, endure, overcome, accomplish many things, we need to speak them all, sometimes mourn them, sometimes celebrate them and who we are individually and collectively. That strength you speak of is wild woman super hero power and we, all of us are amazing.

  28. Thank you, Celi, for this post. I have been reminded recently of the strength it takes some days to get one foot in front of the other and manage to find the strength to carry on and to help others in our lives to carry on. I think that we women frequently have more practice in being strong than men do, emotionally, as I have seen it in my own life many times. Men call on physical strength very easily and women can call on that as well, but i think that we mostly call on our emotional strength first.

    I, too, have lost babies, and almost lost my younger son twice. And we fight for our farm families as hard as we fight for our human children and loved ones! Thank you for sharing this part of your life with us!

  29. You are such a force; my sorrow for your loss. Your message arrived as I opened my computer for the first time today, but in the afternoon. I have had zilch energy the past few days and getting close to 77. My wonderful housemate is away taking care of business,and I am trying to lighten her load. Am honoring my condition, but I hear you. We all so want to be of purpose, to contribute, it’s hard some days. What a wonderful group this is. Love to all, esther

  30. I lost a baby and while the hurt is long gone I can still recall that day. Sometimes I do wonder what s/he would’ve been like. Women are tough and you definitely are!

  31. ‘Opportunity cost of time’ has dictated my absence from many favourite posts lately. I don’t miss yours . . . Perchance the reason can be summed up by the words and paragraphs in your writing today! We don’t ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ on this blog: we say what we feel we have to and need to and know that at least a few have been thru’ the same, oft silently, and know just what we are talking about . . . . for that ‘thank you’ . . .

  32. Reblogged this on Aquila's Place and commented:
    This is a magnificent piece. I make sure to stay up to date reading this blog, Celi is a wonderful writer and human being.
    There is that powerful strength in each of us, but she said it better than I could. Read it, follow her blog. Read the comments. The Fellowship is just as incredible.

  33. I am so sorry that some of the medical profession did not do a better job. I am one of them, a nurse, and I have cried with mothers who have lost so much and told them to be happy they had that little part of a life before it was taken away and to not let anyone put them down because of it. We all grieve in our own way and lots of medical personal are afraid if they show a softer side they won’t be able to cope and go on so they display a harsher side than they should to cope with their own feelings. Sad but true.
    Please continue to remember and never let the love you had for that baby be forgotten. It was a gift but God that didn’t mature.

    • Thank you.. and I do know that nurses work so so hard (I was one for a while in my small way) and we have to go on.. to cry with everyone would break your heart.. c

  34. I think I’d like to sit with you on a porch and watch the night roll in. Sending you strength, should you need it at this moment or any future one. Reason has no space to admonish feeling. The facts and the logic and the shoulds hold no power over the grief and the sorrow and the cycling “what ifs.”
    It’s odd, the things we don’t talk about. It’s odder to me yet when no one needs to be told we don’t talk about certain things. No one needed to tell me not to talk about my loss. I simply felt I shouldn’t. I also felt that to do so would hurt so much more than to hold it secret and sacred.

  35. Hi C, I always come for a read when I have a hiatus; now that I’ve read your story today and looked at everyone’s comments I’m ready to power on again. Thank you. E

  36. I’m sorry about your miscarriage. I cannot imagine how you felt and feel. I guess guilt is instinctive in some situations but it really doesn’t sound like there was anything you did wrong or could have done differently. And I’m sure that to this day the children in your arms are grateful to you for protecting them the way you did.

  37. Out of the blue sometimes, your eloquent prose reaches deep in my gut, breaking through a tough exterior. These words are some of your finest, my wild-heart friend.

  38. My instincts have never failed me, even when they reveal that which I’d rather not know or see. But instinct is there for a reason.

    And, hope. There is always hope.

    What a great introspective piece.

  39. This is one for your future book of essays on life, farms, family, and living. Solid good.
    I had a choice of dropping my small sleepy daughter as I was carrying her rushing downstairs as a tornado was almost to us, or falling very hard. Sadly lost that one.
    There is some deep rooted strength that women trap into. How sad it is when there are those who do not see it when they need it – or why some choose to give up instead of taking hold

  40. Celi, this is an excellent post. One I need very much. I was manipulated into an abortion in my younger years which turned out to be my only opportunity for a child of my own. The meditation hall I sit at is having a service to remember children who have died. Would it be all right with you if I read this post to them? If I have the opportunity?
    I lurk from work, so I will check back to see if you have commented.
    Thank you so much for writing this post; for being the you who could write this post. Thank you for encouraging me to face the razor edge of my fears and fight for myself and the world.


    • I would be honoured if you were to read this .. truly.. thank you so much for thinking to do this. and every time you rise up to fight darling Leah, we fight right next to you.. love c

      • Thank you, Celi. I am just starting to get that, that I am never alone, that I never was alone. I just felt that way! I pray I have the opportunity to read it and it helps someone else as it has helped me.


  41. You’ve made me cry this morning, Celi. It’s OK. It was EXACTLY what I needed to hear. Picking myself up out of the current muddy wallow and getting on with it. Thank you, my friend.

    (PS: I knew I was pregnant, only once, I never made it past 6 weeks.)

  42. I’ve just caught up on this post. Oh, it’s so strong, tough and vulnerable all at the same time. I have tears inside me as I read this sad story.

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