Stephanie Sprenger

  • How To Deal With Gossip a Friend Said About You

    In this month’s HerTake question, Nina discusses hearing third-hand what a friend said about you. Let us know what advice you have for this month’s letter writer and her struggle with how to deal with gossip.

    Do you have a question for Nina? Use our anonymous form. You can read Nina’s answers to past questions here.

    Dear Nina,

    I have a friend, “Lisa,” who I was very close to, but about a year ago we drifted due to her traveling and some comments she made regarding special needs kids (knowing I have one).

    Last week I was having lunch with a mutual acquaintance from our book club, Megan, who told me that Lisa approached her while watching their daughters’ basketball practice. Lisa started asking Megan about another friend’s political affiliation and religious beliefs, and during the conversation Lisa referred to my husband as a traitor of Jews since he is a Republican. I am very hurt and dismayed by this and he is, too.

    My daughter and Lisa’s daughter are friends, but they are too young to be friends without us arranging playdates. Others have told me not to confront Lisa. What is your advice for how to deal with gossip?

    Signed,

    I Heard It Through The Grapevine

     

    Dear I Heard It Through The Grapevine,

    You asked whether you should confront Lisa. My short answer: no.

    While it seems the “culprit” in your question is Lisa, I find more fault with Megan who had no business repeating Lisa’s words. What was Megan thinking?

    Was Megan hoping to make you more upset with Lisa than you already were? Does she have a stake in you feeling closer to her than to Lisa? Does she not like that your husband is a Republican and this was her way of letting you know? I’m actually getting increasingly aggravated at Megan as I write this.

    Don’t Repeat Gossip

    I’m asking these questions not because I think you know the answer. Rather, I think it’s important to acknowledge that we rarely act with no intention whatsoever so it’s safe to assume that Megan had some purpose in mind when she repeated the conversation to you. Now to be fair, Megan’s intention was likely the most benign type. I bet she was simply trying to be a good friend. But I would hope most adults know that repeating what one person said about another is not being a good friend. It just isn’t.

    Hey friends of mine who are reading this—listen up! I don’t want to know anything bad somebody said about me, especially if I don’t know the context and if it’s only going to make me feel awful about myself or about my friend.

    I can hear some of your voices, dear readers. “But Nina, how can someone who said anything about you truly be your friend?”

    Ladies, come on now. We all know darn well that we say things we regret when we are upset, jealous, trying to gain favor, or just having an overtired, overworked moment. We hopefully, with age and experience, get more dignified with our tempers, jealousy, and whatnot. But we have all been in Lisa’s shoes, have we not?

    I Heard It Through The Grapevine: if you have never uttered a questionable statement about another person, then you can perhaps demand an explanation from Lisa. But if you have been in Lisa’s shoes, then I would let this one go. It sounds like you have already drifted from her so a confrontation at this point seems wholly unnecessary and more personal drama than it’s worth.

    Sure, the idea that Lisa was asking, seemingly for the purpose of gossip, about another friend’s political and religious beliefs is egregious. And I will hardly address Lisa’s alleged point about Jewish Republicans being “traitors” except to comment that it was a chutzpadik thing to say if she indeed said it. Nobody—not even a group “insider”—gets to speak for that entire group. The end.

    Confront the Gossiper?

    Let’s get back to Megan. If you’re going to confront anyone, I’d go with Megan. It’s one thing to vent about a friend. Fine, most of us have been guilty of that. But to wedge yourself between two friends by repeating what one said about another is a worse crime in my opinion.

    You can let Megan know that in the future you’d rather not know what anyone says about you. Despite the human nature in all of us that makes us think we want to know everything, I promise that this type of information never leads to any good. With that in mind, I’m not sure it was necessary to repeat the comment to your husband, but I get that you were upset about the situation and looking for support. Your husband was the obvious choice and it was better to vent to him than to further make both Lisa and Megan look bad in the eyes of your mutual friends. (Thereby doing more damage with gossip.)

    Advice From Nina’s Mom About How To Deal With Gossip

    For what it’s worth, I sent your question to my mom (who is the most skilled anti-gossip person I know), and I reviewed her answer before I wrote my own answer. It mirrors my sentiments, but it has the extra Kathy flair. I want to share it with you.

    “Grapevine must ask herself why this Megan repeated the hurtful comment in the first place. What was her motive? Was she trying to stir up trouble? In other words if Grapevine didn’t actually hear Lisa’s comment, then she doesn’t know what was actually said, or if it was said at all. I have found that the person who repeats hurtful comments is worse than the person who allegedly made the statement. Since Grapevine was not part of the original conversation, then a confrontation is pointless.”

     Readers, since my mom and I are on the same page, I’d love to hear from anyone who has different advice for Grapevine about how to deal with gossip. And if you want further (and more heated) conversation about friendship and politics please read my editor Jessica Smock’s piece written before the election.

    Thanks for sharing your dilemma, Grapevine. I think it’s one many readers can relate to from your experience, Lisa’s, and Megan’s.

    Good luck!

    Nina

    FULL RES - Badzin-03 copy-1You can follow Nina on her blog, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

    We’re always looking for new reader questions for Nina! If you have a difficult friendship situation that you’d like advice on, fill out our anonymous contact form.

     

     

     

    **Read our powerful November Voices column, “The Healing Notes of Song” here.

    **Have you grabbed your copy of So Glad They Told Me: Women Get Real About Motherhood yet? It’s now available on Amazon as a paperback or Kindle copy! (Makes a wonderful holiday gift for moms!)

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  • HerStories Voices: The Healing Notes of Song

    Happy November. Our theme this month is gratitude, which is one of my favorite topics to write about. This week’s essay may require some Kleenex. I was incredibly touched by Sarah’s story of music, healing, and gratitude. I believe in the power of music to heal. I hope you enjoy – Allie

    HerStories Voices

    My children recently attended a music class at the library. It was a wild, over-crowded affair, but it made the kids smile. They enthusiastically shook tambourines, swirled scarves in the air, and stomped their feet as they sang songs about birds, the sunshine, and a ladybug.

    As I watched my strong and healthy children dance and laugh their way through class with the other pre-school aged children, I couldn’t help but compare the experience to a music therapy session I observed many years before.

    At the time, I was twenty-four, and my fourteen-year-old sister was recovering at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center after suffering from a brain hemorrhage. After brain surgery, days in a coma, and then weeks in the ICU at another hospital, she entered the rehabilitation program at Hershey to re-learn how to speak, eat, walk, and basically every other function that comes naturally to an average teenaged girl.

    As her mental and physical functions were gradually restored, and she was more able to interact with the world around her, she began to participate in some unique therapy sessions, such as music therapy.

    On the first day of music therapy, the therapist placed a tambourine in her hand, but it immediately fell to the ground with a chorus of clangs. She simply did not have enough strength to even grasp the instrument.

    For the remainder of class, she slumped in her wheelchair as I helped her hold the tambourine. As the therapist led the class in a song with lyrics containing the phrase, “happy and delighted,” I wondered if my sister would ever feel those emotions again.

    For several weeks, she lacked the awareness to even react to the music; however, as motor and cognitive skills returned and she could again do things like brush her teeth, music therapy became even more engaging and beneficial to her. Eventually, my sister could grasp the tambourine or bang the drum with success, and as her speech became clearer, she even sang along to the music.

    During my sister’s last therapy session, we sat next to her roommate, an eleven-year-old girl with leukemia. She had been discharged and then re-admitted during the five weeks we had spent at Hershey. She looked even paler and weaker than before, and she no longer smiled.

    Another girl was new to the group. She had been in a car accident with her family, leaving her paralyzed from the neck down. She had little hope of recovering movement.

    The music therapist tried to engage all of the girls by playing the guitar and asking them to share something that made them happy. Neither of the other girls said they were happy about anything. Eventually, one was finally encouraged to say, “Mashed potatoes.”

    My heart felt heavier and heavier as the session progressed. These girls could not think of one thing that provoked joy. Would they ever find anything to be happy about?

    When it was my sister’s turn, she looked at me and said, “I get to go home.” I should have only been thrilled to hear this, but I couldn’t help but think of how unfair it was that those two girls might never get to say the same.

    The therapist then tried to urge the group to play various instruments. My sister selected bongos and began playing enthusiastically. The girl with leukemia initially refused to participate but then resigned herself to limply clapping her hands. The paralyzed girl tried to blow on a party horn, but she was too weak to hold it between her lips.

    As the noise in the room escalated, my sister, still in a wheelchair, stopped beating the bongos, reached over, and held the instrument to the girl’s mouth. The two briefly made eye contact, but the music was the only communication between them.

    This scene replays in my mind when I hear the sound of bongos, see a party horn, or watch my own able children dance their way through a music class. I often wonder what ever happened to those two girls. I want to believe that they are somewhere enjoying music and able to quickly list many things in which they find happiness. However, I know that not everyone heals. Not every patient gets to leave the hospital. Not every child gets the chance to sing and dance her way through life.

    I am so thankful that my sister got to continue her dance through life. After leaving the hospital, her love of music only grew. Her body and brain slowly healed during months of outpatient programs. She eventually returned to her own high school to graduate with her class.

    She now lives in Music City and attends concerts regularly. Just last year she smiled through her wedding ceremony as her husband played guitar and serenaded her with a song he wrote.

    My sister doesn’t remember much of her rehabilitation at Hershey, but I like to think that she still, somewhere deep in her subconscious, hears chords of the songs she sang in therapy all of those years ago.

    Maybe when she faces struggles in life, she can hear the reverberation of a tambourine, shaken wildly, but joyfully. Maybe the phrase “happy and delighted” runs through her mind when she sees something beautiful. Maybe those healing notes of music that helped stitch together the wiring in her brain and helped her recognize the world around her again, maybe those notes play on for her.

    They play on for me.

    I hear them when I press play on the car stereo, so my son can listen to his favorite song “just one more time.” I feel them when I abandon dirty dishes in the sink to go help fasten my daughter’s Cinderella costume, so we can dance at a pretend ball.

    The echo of songs from long ago remind me that life is short and unpredictable, so I encourage my children to always sing strongly, play loudly, and dance wildly because others cannot. I hope this is a lesson that hums through their veins not just during music class but throughout their entire lives.

     

    me-2Sarah is a current stay-at-home mom. After years of teaching high school English, she is enjoying focusing on her two children while learning to slow down and look at the world through their eyes. She has learned more about dinosaurs and princesses in the past few years than she ever thought possible. Sarah writes about parenting on her blog, One Mile Smile, and has recently been published in the following sites: Mothers Always Write, Parent.Co, and Her View From Home. Find her on Instagram and Facebook.

     

     

     

    **The holidays are upon us! So Glad They Told Me: Women Get Real About Motherhood makes a great gift!

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  • Ghosts Are Afraid of Mirrors: The Moment I Gave Up My Ghost For Good

    Our October theme for HerStories Voices is fear. So many young woman today look to Hollywood and fashion runways for role models and develop unrealistic expectations of what it means to be beautiful. In the age of photo shop and flattering photo filters, I fear my daughter will measure herself against unrealistic portrayals, which can lead to dire consequences. This week’s essay, written by Gina Paulhus, paints a harrowing portrait of an eating disorder that shook me to my core. I’m so grateful that our author has recovered – and that she’s bravely shared her story for others.

    —Allie

    HerStories Voices

    Ghosts Are Afraid of Mirrors: The Moment I Gave Up My Ghost For Good

    It had been a lonely summer. I hadn’t seen any friends in a long time. In fact, I hadn’t made a friend in years. I was twenty-one, on break from university and suffering from chronic depression. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I didn’t even know if I wanted to be alive. I found myself engaging in bizarre behaviors that made little sense and were dangerous. And yet, I couldn’t stop these bizarre behaviors. I wasn’t sure that I even wanted to stop.

    I was a gymnast, which was the one thing that tethered me to any sort of reality that summer. As much as I loved gymnastics, it was just one more place in my life that I was afraid I wouldn’t measure up. That I wouldn’t be accepted. That I wasn’t good enough. This fear drove me to create rules for myself that I would never imagine inflicting upon another person. This fear clouded my thinking and dictated my every waking move.

    My coach closed our gymnastics club for three weeks each summer. This left me with an empty slate of time that was begging to be filled. For a depressed girl with too much time on her hands, it was destructive. I had an unreasonable goal to weigh less than 100 pounds, for no reason other than to see if it was possible. And maybe, just maybe, people would finally notice that something was wrong. I was terrified and excited about the prospect.

    I decided to spend those precious weeks off by not eating any food for the entire twenty-one days. Seemed simple enough, except that I was bulimic. I’d left my days of the tidier eating disorder of anorexia behind. This was my sad reality and I was determined to make it work.

    I rolled out of my bed on a steamy July morning. The sheets were tangled and sticky from the tossing and turning and nightmares that had transpired throughout the night. The breathtaking view of the river outside my window did little to alter my sullen mood. I was unsure as to what the day would entail, but like always, it would start with judgment time.

    I kicked off my pajamas and went to the bathroom to pee to reduce any extraneous weight. Must. Reduce. Weight. I gingerly tapped my toe to the scale to trigger it on. The familiar grey letters jolted to life as I lightly stepped onto the heartless device that would dictate how I’d spend my entire day. I rationalized that the more carefully I stepped on the scale, the lesser the number it would register.

    • 105.1.

    This was no good. No good at all. I peered out the window to ensure I was alone. Mom’s car wasn’t there. Perfect. My weight always dropped after bingeing and purging, probably due to dehydration, but no matter. I was all about results. I proceeded to ransack the kitchen and binge on anything and everything I could find. The supplies were low on this particular day, which had a lot to do with my sinister habit. So I bolted to my car, with fistfuls of chewed up blueberry muffin in hand to keep me busy on the ride. I hit up a bunch of drive-thrus and binged for a couple more hours. I ate until my jaw throbbed and my stomach was stretched further than I’d ever stretched it before. I ate until I forgot everything else that hurt.

    Now it was time to pay the price. I locked myself into the bathroom, even though I was home alone—you can never be too careful—and purged until I was sure I got everything out. This exhausting task was unpleasant to say the least, but the calm buzz and sense of completion I experienced afterward made it all worthwhile.

    • 103.2.

    This was simply not working for me. I was so sick of staying still. Nothing is worse than staying still. I was due back to gymnastics practice in less than a week. My goal was to be under 100 pounds, and I simply wasn’t going to accept this disappointing turn of events. Double digits or nothing. I was done playing games.

    I threw on my sweatpants and a jacket, even though the temperature was 95 degrees. The hotter I could get, the lighter I’d be when I finished. I began jogging, with no particular destination in mind. Several hours later, my legs finally began to seize in protest and I hobbled back home.

    • 101.0.

    Ok, this had potential. I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror. From the front, I thought my stomach looked grotesque, in spite of the ribs poking through and the vacant space where my breasts used to be. I grabbed my handheld mirror to use it to check my appearance from the rear. When I saw myself from behind, however, I was shocked.

    I observed bones protruding through areas that used to be smooth—more than I ever had before. I felt like I was looking at myself through an evil funhouse mirror at the carnival. Everything looked distorted and wrong. The most disturbing sight, however, was the back of my knee. My knee was now wider than my calf, and wider than my thigh.

    My knee was the widest part of my leg.

    At that moment, on that July day, I realized that I could not make my knee smaller, no matter what I did or didn’t eat. My bones were not going to get smaller. Something about the refusal of my body to transfer itself into what I wanted it to be served as a reality check. This reality check somehow managed to accomplish what so many loved ones and self-help books couldn’t. I realized I was striving to achieve an ideal appearance that wasn’t possible due to the God-given structure of my actual bones. If my bones were going to be steadfast, my options were limited.

    The rear view vantage point provided me with another perspective that I was unable to see before. What I thought was my goal turned out to be a farce. I was chasing a house of cards—and for the first time I knew it. From that point on, I vowed to attempt to eat—to keep it down—and to exercise within reason and not with excess abandon. I vowed to become my best self—a self that might not be suited for the cover of a magazine, but a self that was my only option to fully live the life I had been given. I vowed to own my space in the world. For the first time, I accepted that some things in life just cannot be changed. This realization was both disappointing and freeing all at the same time.

    My fear of gaining weight was briefly replaced with a fear of the unknown. How do I eat like a normal person? I ignored the worry and walked over to the toaster. I slid a slice of bread into it and pressed the lever. The second hand on the clock ticked incessantly. I had never felt this uncomfortable, this unnatural. I pulled the toast out and grabbed a knife and a stick of butter. I spread the butter on the toast, hands shaking, with steely resolve.

    I sat down at the kitchen table and ate a piece of toast. I was twenty-one and hadn’t eaten toast since I was twelve. I savored the toast, and felt a sense of calm and peace wash over me. At the same time, I mourned the ending of a battle that existed only in my mind, with a prize that was nothing more than an illusion. I had been chasing something that was meaningless for so long, and I was tired. So very tired.

     

    ginaGina Paulhus, CPT struggled with eating disorders for many years and has since recovered. She owns her own in home personal training company called ‘Home Bodies’ that services clients throughout New England. Gina holds a Bachelor’s degree from UMass Lowell in Psychology and Business. She volunteers with MentorConnect—When relationships replace eating disorders. She also writes for Recovery Warriors. She is passionate about helping people from all walks of life learn how to efficiently and holistically manage their health, both mental and physical. In her spare time she enjoys yoga and practicing and competing as an adult gymnast.

    Find her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

     

    **Allie is accepting submissions for our November Voices column– the theme is gratitude. See submission guidelines here, and email Allie at herstoriesvoices @ gmail.com.

    **There are still a few more days to enter our book giveaway in honor of our two-year HerTake column anniversary! Read Nina’s post and enter here.

    **Have you ordered your copy of So Glad They Told Me yet? Available in Kindle and paperback!

    **Check out this amazing deal on blog course bundles! Limited time only– just through Tuesday!– so don’t miss out!

  • Two Years of HerTake: No, Friendship Shouldn’t Be This Hard

    In this month’s HerTake question, Nina helps another reader with her friendship problems. She discusses what to do if a friendship seems like an excessive amount of work. Let us know what advice you have for this month’s letter writer.

    It’s been two years since we launched our HerTake column and have been reading Nina’s practical, savvy advice on handling modern friendship problems. We are so grateful for everything she has shared with our HerStories Project Community!

    Do you have a question for Nina? Use our anonymous form. You can read Nina’s answers to past questions here.

    hertake

    Dear Nina,

    I have a very close friend, Betsy, who I love and trust dearly, but lately I’m wondering if I should go on with this relationship.

    Two years ago, while I was dating my now husband, he told me that Betsy made a pass at him. I asked her about it and she was very offended and insisted she would never do that. She was insulted that I believed him and called me paranoid. I decided since both parties insisted they were right, to let it slide. Betsy and I agreed that nothing would change about our friendship, but she said I should never expect her to be civil to my boyfriend, involve him in our conversations, or bring him along when she invites me to anything.

    “The pass” later turned out to be a misunderstanding, and my boyfriend apologized to me and to her as well. She didn’t take this apology well and carries a grudge to this day.

    Anyway, that boyfriend and I are married now, and Betsy makes it very clear that he disgusts her. On three occasions she’s given me misleading advice that has caused trouble in my marriage.

    I’m at a point where I feel whatever I do that bothers Betsy brings us back to “the pass” incident and she thinks all my actions towards her are out of mistrust because of that incident, even though there’s never a connection. For example, I was angry with Betsy recently about something she did so I didn’t invite her to a party at my parents’ house. Betsy found out about this from my sister and angrily asked how I could leave her out. I told her I was angry about a recent situation, and she insisted that wasn’t the reason and said she thinks it is more than I’m telling her, but wasn’t willing to discuss what she thought it was. I think she was referring to “the pass.”

    Ordinarily, Betsy and I talk about our friendship problems, but I’m hesitant to once again bring up the “let’s get past this” talk. I get negative vibes around her these days, and she’s always opposed to any good thing I say about my husband. I am sure the conversation won’t go well so I’m wondering whether to just walk away from this friendship because I am not comfortable with her attitude towards my husband. I have reason to believe talking to her about my feelings won’t end well at all.

     

    What would you advise?

    Thanks,

    Sad to Lose a Friend

     

    Dear Sad to Lose a Friend,

    This question is both easy and hard to answer. Let’s start with the easy part: Friendship shouldn’t be this hard.

    Don’t misunderstand me, because I believe friendship takes work. Both parties must make efforts for the sake of the relationship such as arranging plans, showing up emotionally and physically, initiating communication in any form (calls, texts, emails), giving the benefit of the doubt, and other positive actions I’ve discussed here in two years of friendship advice on handling friendship problems.

    So yes, friendship requires real work on both sides. I’d go as far as to claim that many friendships require tweaking here and there or even occasional periods of distance. That said, friendship shouldn’t be as hard as what you’ve described in your letter. I’m calling this news the “easy” part because I can at least confirm that the amount of tension you’re experiencing with Betsy is downright excessive.

    It sounds like Betsy has been part of your life for a long time, and the idea of letting the friendship go is both heartbreaking and scary. The hard part of my answer is that I think it’s time for this friendship to change dramatically in status. If Betsy had written this letter to me with similar details, I would give her the same advice about you.

    This friendship sounds like too much work on both sides. As much as I like to encourage giving the benefit of doubt and letting go of grudges, I can see why the strain in this friendship may be too much to overcome.

    Betsy doesn’t want to be around your husband, and I can hardly blame her. I’d have a difficult time getting over a false accusation as heinous as someone claiming I hit on her significant other.

    It sounds like Betsy forgave you, but I get why she has no need or desire to forgive him. While people can certainly be friends without involving the spouses, I see why this particular situation doesn’t work. You want to be able to at least mention your husband to a close friend as he’s a huge part of your life. Since Betsy cannot even stand to hear about him, that’s an issue that seems impossible to fix. And this business about you being mad at her and not inviting her to a party as well as Betsy always making everything about the incident two years ago—this is not how a healthy friendship works.

    I think you have two options: #1. Change the status of the friendship. #2. Walk away. I would try the first option before jumping to the second one.

    But how can you change the status? The first step starts with your expectations. I would stop looking to Betsy to fulfill the role of closest confidant. Make less effort to get together. Call less. Text less.

    The idea is not to cut her out of your life, but to stop forcing this relationship into a status where it no longer belongs. I have a feeling Betsy will respond in kind rather than chase you. I don’t see how this friendship as it stands now can be satisfying for her either. If I’m wrong and she demands to know why you’re pulling away, you may have to engage in a more direct conversation. There’s no need for “you did this or that.” You can simply stick to the theme we’re talking about here, which is that friendship shouldn’t be such hard work. I imagine she would agree.

    I know it’s so hard to lose a friend, which is why I like the idea of making this friendship a more casual one rather than ending it completely.

    Good luck and I’m sorry you’re going through this right now.

    Nina

     

    FULL RES - Badzin-03 copy-1You can follow Nina on her blog, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

    We’re always looking for new reader questions for Nina! If you have a difficult friendship situation that you’d like advice on, fill out our anonymous contact form.

     

     

     

    **Have you grabbed your copy of So Glad They Told Me: Women Get Real About Motherhood yet? It’s now available on Amazon as a paperback or Kindle copy!

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  • HerStories Voices: The Miscarriage

    This week’s essay was written by one of our So Glad They Told Me anthology contributors, Hannah Harlow. It’s about how one of her friendships was affected by a miscarriage. – Allie

    HerStories Voices

    THE MISCARRIAGE

    “Tell me about your miscarriage,” Pia said.

    “What about it?” We walked the bricked Cambridge sidewalks pushing my sleeping baby in a stroller. She already knew how shattered I had been after I miscarried my first pregnancy at 14 weeks—what sort of details did she want?

    “Like, what happened exactly?”

    Pia had always been my husband’s friend, really. They were best friends in college. Shortly after I met my husband, I needed a place to live and Pia had a room open for six months in her Brooklyn apartment. I was new to town, a little lonely, often lost, and Pia took me in. She took me to parties and watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer with me on the weekends as we ate cereal straight out of the box. Pia asked lots of questions, seemed genuinely interested in whatever I had to say. She introduced me to her parents. She made me laugh. Then the six months were up, I moved into a new place, and Pia gradually went back to being my husband’s friend. I didn’t know how to change that.

    But occasionally it would just be us again and it could almost feel like old times. Pia and her husband had just started trying for a baby. Nothing had happened yet, but Pia was convinced something would.

    “I want to be prepared,” she said.

    So, I cautiously explained what had happened during the D&C. As Pia leaned in her curly dark head in that familiar way, I went on less reluctantly, because Pia could draw out the joy of sharing things you rarely talk about. She made you feel special for your experiences just by wanting to know about them. She’s one of the best listeners I’ve ever met. So I told her how the doctor inserted seaweed in my vagina, how bad the cramps were. I explained how my husband missed all of it, because he was stuck in Ethiopia on business with no flights home for days and how sick we felt over it. How the doctor had given me the drug Versed, how he said it would make me forget, but I remembered everything. I remembered gripping my mother’s hand while I stared at the whites of the ceiling, and I remembered the pain. What I didn’t tell Pia was how I held it all in until the doctor walked out of the room and then I burst into tears in my mother’s arms. She held me tight and whispered, “You’re so strong.” I thought, what other way is there to be? Because isn’t every woman who has ever gone through this strong?

    “But now I have my son,” I told Pia. “So will you. Someday.” But I regretted it as soon as I said it. How could I know? What if it never happened for her?

    Pia miscarried. Then she failed to get pregnant again, through three years of trying, through years and multiple rounds of IVF, and probably more that I don’t know about. Because we stopped seeing each other. We stopped talking.

    During this same time I conceived and gave birth to our second beautiful, healthy son. We were grateful for everything we had, but that didn’t stop Pia from not wanting to come around anymore.

    I even helped facilitate our distance—I didn’t call or text or reach out in any way. I felt guilty for our good luck and guilty for abandoning her, but I thought it was for the best. I missed her. But I understood how she felt. If I were her, I wouldn’t want to hang out with me either.

    The day the doctor told me he couldn’t find a heartbeat, he handed me a prescription and I took it to CVS. The line at the pharmacy wound down the aisle of diapers and wipes and bottles and pacifiers. I thought, you can’t be serious. I stared at the baby things and tried not to weep. I wanted nothing to do with babies or their paraphernalia.

    This was the cosmic response to lost pregnancies, it seemed. Suddenly there were babies everywhere: when I showed up to receive a haircut from a new and very pregnant stylist; when friends announced their pregnancies; every time I took a swig of wine and thought about what that meant, or didn’t mean.

    As Pia struggled to conceive and I kept my distance, my husband continued to text and email and occasionally visit her. “I’m going to Pia’s, do you mind?” he’d say. “I think it’s hard for her to visit us.”

    What he didn’t say to me was, “You’re not invited.”

    I would say that I knew, that I understood, because I did. I knew Pia had shown strength in ways I couldn’t even imagine. I knew friendships don’t always travel in a straight line. But what I didn’t know or understand until then, as I cared for and loved our two utterly perfect children, was how much it can hurt to be so happy.

     

     

    hannah-harlowHannah Harlow has an MFA in fiction from Bennington College. She recently had an essay appear in the HerStories Anthology, So Glad They Told Me: Women Get Real About Motherhood. Her writing has appeared in SmokeLong Quarterly, Day One, Synaesthesia Magazine, failbetter, and elsewhere. She promotes books for a living and lives outside of Boston with her husband and two sons. Find her online at http://www.hannahharlow.com or on Twitter: @hhharlow.

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • So Glad They Told Me Book Club

    Let me be honest for a second: I have a love/hate relationship with book clubs. I love the idea, because book clubs combine things I absolutely adore: BOOKS (obviously), talking about books, connecting with friends and even other women I may not know well, the way the conversation always turns deeper to delve into our own lives . . . but I also hate it sometimes. The time commitment, the obligation, the fact that I have to, you know, put on regular clothes and leave my comfy couch right about the time I want to be winding down for the night. Not to mention the fact that only half of us have read the book and we either can’t talk about how it ends or someone winds up spoiling it.

    So at The HerStories Project, we’re going to do something we’ve never tried before, and we really want you to join us! During the month of October, we’re going to have a virtual So Glad They Told Me book club. In my opinion, it’s the best part of book club without the hassle or irritation. And it’s a whole month long, so if your baby ends up throwing up one night, you haven’t missed out on the whole thing! It’s a win for busy moms for sure.

    herstories-projectvirtual-book-club

    Here’s how it will work:

    For an entire month, we’ll be discussing So Glad They Told Me: Women Get Real About Motherhood, in a Facebook group that all our readers can join. It will be super low-key and casual (we won’t blow up your Facebook notifications with hourly, or even daily, updates!) and it will give everyone a chance to ask questions of the authors, interact with them, invite our friends and family members– even the ones who live so far away we could never have a real book club with them!–and talk about the book, and motherhood, in a supportive online environment.

    We’ll post discussion questions, members can introduce themselves and virtually “meet” the authors, other readers, and maybe even moms who are in the same stage of parenting they are.  We can share which essays we’ve been reading, which ones resonated with us, and ask questions about the book to the editors (Jessica and I!), the contributors, and other readers. We’ll probably do a bit of storytelling, venting, laughing, and supporting each other as well. These things tend to happen when women connect over books and stories, right?

    One great thing about having an essay collection for book club is that there is SO much less pressure. There isn’t one gripping “storyline” or dramatic conclusion that you can’t talk about if you’re in different places. There are 60 essays, starting with pregnancy and babyhood and winding toward the teen years and even later. You can read at your own pace, jump in when we’re discussing an essay you’ve read or are reading, and tune out if we’re talking about a piece you haven’t finished yet. You can participate at your own pace, catch up during your lunch break or during naptime, or sneak in a comment or question while watching Netflix on the couch with your partner after bedtime.

    So we’d love for you to invite your friends, moms, sisters, and members of your local book club or moms’ groups to join us for a month-long virtual book club and discussion group. We’re going to have SO much fun! Book clubs, and the inevitable discussions that arise from them, always make me reflect on the things that I am most passionate about: my identity as a mother, friendship, feminism, relationships, parenting, and how unique and yet similar all our stories are.

    Click here to request to join our Facebook Book Club group, and if you haven’t already purchased the book, you can order a paperback or grab a Kindle copy right here. (Once you read the book, we’d really appreciate it if you left a review on Amazon or Goodreads!)

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    We’re so excited to meet you, read with you, and talk about motherhood and So Glad They Told Me together! We’ll officially start in October, but we’ll open up the group now for introductions! See you soon!

    ~Stephanie & Jessica