In today’s episode, Christy Bauman and I talk candidly about the reality of wounds in this life. What does it mean to enter the wounded places in one another’s hearts? And can genuine goodness really come from places of death? Christy is a therapist, a professor, and the co-creator (along with her husband Andrew) of a book and film titled A Brave Lament. You can read more about Christy at christyvidrinebauman.com.
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Welcome to the podcast. We’ve got Christy Bauman on the line. Its good to see you. Listeners might know your name because I’ve done an episode with your husband Andrew about his film, “Brave Lament”. Can you tell our listeners about how that film came to be? What was happening that you decided this stuff needed to be put on film?
Neither of us are filmmakers by trade. We are therapists, professors, and parents. I have been mostly pregnant for the past six years of my life and through that process have endured a stillbirth, two live children and two miscarriages, and we had our third child six weeks ago. In that process there were so many times where I felt like my body was having to hold onto something that I couldn’t talk about and I had to be silent with. During our second miscarriage I turned to Andrew and said, “I need to make a film, I need to make a film about this process. Its such a silent place for me and I don’t think that’s ok. Too many people are having to bear this in their own bodies and not having a voice in this process.” I called a friend who is a filmmaker and got some money and started marking the pregnancies and the different outcomes I had in my story.
The theme of marking runs throughout the film, and we’re going to return to it. But I want to begin with a part at the beginning where you’re teaching. You’re with a husband and wife. Can you tell that story again?
I was a therapist in the oncology department for two years during an internship and worked with women who had mastectomies. A husband and wife had come in after over 20 years of marriage. The wife was in healing process after having a mastectomy the month before. The husband explained to me that he is not only not attracted to his wife’s scars, her missing breasts, he also can’t be turned on or engage her in intimacy. I was at a loss. I went back to my supervisor and said, “What do I do with this?” I even had my own doubt, the scars when a woman’s chest is removed is incredibly hard to look at. We see a marring. Its hard for us as humans to hold that. But my professor, and supervisor at the time, says to me, Dr. Tina Sellers, she says, “To enter the wounded place, to enter the scar, is the most intimiate place you can engage.” I believed her. That was a big part of it. I went back and was able to sit with that couple and teach, in a way, how we can enter the wounded place, how we can enter the scars. When we look at our own bodies and we see scars, we see marks, where we have story, where our skin was cut open or harmed in some way, and then repaired itself and it left a mark. If you touch those places, even though the feeling is probably limited, when you allow someone else to touch that place there is a vulnerability that awakens our brains and our bodies in a way that I can’t even describe. That was the concept that I was trying to convey with that couple in the process.
It sounds like the invitation from your professor was that the couple could engage in even deeper intimacy by looking at, sitting with, and touching the scars.
If you look at neurobiology, looking at rats, the dopamine doesn’t get higher after the rat sees the same rat. Until it sees a new partner, the dopamine doesn’t spike. That’s pretty depressing for the domesticated person who is in a monogamous relationship. Until you see that dopamine spikes whenever we engage in some dangerous act together. We see that light up in the brain when we touch someone’s scars, when there is a vulnerability there. Part of my process was, when I lost my first son, having sex with my husband was really hard after. Because pleasure did not make sense in the place where death had passed through. I had to enageg in my mind, how do I make sense of having sex, engaging in pleasure, letting my husband enter in me, the place where death had passed through me? The concept of that was so hard for me. And yet, it was such an invitation for intimacy. It was such an invitation when I felt known by letting myself be touched where I was scarred. There is correlations everywhere that we, in western culture, look past and don’t think about. When we slow ourselves down, and enter into those places, there is so much waiting for us there.
What you just said, and we’re going to come back to it at the end, but I can’t not comment – that the place of pleasure and the place of death, when those are the same place…yea…
And it is for all of us in some ways. Yes, in my story it was that I birthed a child that was not breathing, I birthed death. But all of us know that at some level. We all know what it is to try and create something, to give ourselves to something, and death to be the outcome. The bravery it takes for us to enageg it again in a place of pleasure, to let someone touch that place or be with us in that place, is sacred. It is holy.
We are going to come back to this. But I want to meander a little bit. After you share with you class that that the most incredibly intimacy is when we enter the wounded place, you go on to speak about how you’re working to help people find their voice and hear their voice. So, let’s talk about voice for a minute. Part of your impetus for filming was that you were being silenced.
There was something big happening in you and there were no words for it. And something rose up and said no. Speak a little about what you mean when you say helping people find their voice.
Each individual person, I have not found one person who I don’t find myself so curious to know the nuances of their voice. Meaning – who they are, where they come from, how their story has impacted them, and how they choose to live in this world where they have prior been marked. So I choose to listen with such curiosity. I had to learn to do that with my own voice first. And that invitation came when I endured suffering or joy and I didn’t know how to speak to it, articulate it or share it. We use one test, ACES, the adverse childhood experience survey, and the number one thing that tells us if children are successful in the world is if they can articulate, if they have words to explain how they feel. Well, a child doesn’t come across that without being helped. That’s the process I am elated by. Clients who come in, students who come by, they don’t know what they think, they don’t know what they feel, they don’t know where they come from and the invitation to learn that. But, first I had to say where I came from, what I felt, what I thought. Where it really sparked was when I was carrying children within me. The crazy part about pregnancy is you have no control and you have a lot of control. You can’t eat certain things and yet you have no control over when you go to the bathroom and there will be blood and you have lost to encounter. And that can happen at any day, at any hour and you don’t know. And that was crazy making when I had to internalize that. But as soon as I could give voice to it, all of the sudden, I realized there was an entire gender that was engaged in that same process and didn’t want to be silenced either in that. And that’s how I started my journey, how I started speaking up. I had one woman say, you never go on facebook and say you had a miscarriage you’re not allowed to say that, but you’re allowed to say you’re having a baby. Suffering is when we start to silence, we don’t allow people to share that as openly and that’s a great place to start speaking, start using and finding your voice.
In fact, in the film what you say is the only way I’ve learned to step into my own voice is to hold and face my own tragedy and my own grief. So, you’re linking facing the reality of the harm that you’re enduring with finding your voice.
It’s a great connection you make in that because its very true. Again, we don’t ever ask why and if something was worth it. Like, I would never really say my suffering was worth what came from it, but my voice came from living through my suffering and putting words to it. And I was freed in that process because I was able to speak and I can live freely because I can speak about the pain or the death that I have birthed and buried. And I can speak about the life that I have birthed and get to engage. But because I get to speak freely I am free.
And, there’s something about the threat of miscarriage – the way you put it in the film is this “The fear of being mocked has come up.” So, you’re carrying life, and the fear of being mocked comes up. How is it that you find yourself warring with the daily threat of the mockery of evil when you have something daily living in you that may not be living tomorrow?
The futility that you can be doing all the right things and not produce, not have a living baby at the end of the story, can make someone insane. So in that moment we’re invited to hope and we’re invited to dance. Knowing that at any point, weeping could come. We could either call that being mocked and being made a fool of, or we can call that our bravest moment. For me I had to figure that out, that standing there with this protruding belly of life, that it could also in the next moment hold death. And, that’s just parenting. That happens even outside of the womb.
What does this mean for people who aren’t carrying a baby? What does this mean for someone who is carrying the hope of something else? Because the threat of killing hope is always there. And the threat of being mocked for hoping that you would get married, or hoping that you would conceive, or hoping that you would get a job, or hoping that when your husband comes home from work today there is a gleam in his eye and if there is not, you know something of death.
It’s so true. And it is everywhere. I like to call it death with a capital D or death with a lowercase d. We all know death with a lowercase d, we all know those small moments. And I also call birth with a capital B and birth with a lowercase b. That is what I had to enageg. When I am trying to get my kids out of the door and I’m frustrated, I am trying to birth something, I’m trying to birth movement, trying to birth life, family get your shoes on, and I am so frustrsted and I am not present with the fact that I have child that are alive in front of me and I am so grateful to be with them. So what am I birthing in that moment? Yes, its with a lowercase b. But I am birthing the fullness of life, being alive, breathing in that moment because I don’t know that I’ll be breathing in the next moment, or the next day. We just don’t know that. So there is a call to live fully alive. But there is a cost. There is a cost to your hope. A cost to your hope that your husband comes home and with looka t you with delight and want to care for you. The cost is that you may have to grieve that he doesn’t. And that’s all the time. Everyday.
So what you’re really talking about if how do you hold death and resurrection at the same time? You can birth the hope and the desire that when my loved one comes home I actually want to see delight in their eyes or you can kill that and say that I am going to focus on something else because it would be too painful to hold that hope. And that’s really what I’m hearing you talk about, both in the film and your words now. How to hold both of those? How to live fully alive given the possibility of deep disappointment at any moment?
I can remember Easter morning, the first Easter morning after I lost my son Brave and I went to the grave. I could not go to church that day. Some part of me thought that my son is going to be confused that I am rejoicing in the resurrection when he is still in the ground. That pull is in me everyday. Its that pull to bury death and resurrection in the same breath. I am waiting in expectation to meet my son again and I am everyday with my children getting to know them and getting to be with them. That will always coexist inside me.
To the degree that youre longing to be reunited with Brave and your delight in being with the children you have, to the degree that you are alive to both of those desires, evil has lost today.
And I am no longer known as a woman who has been mocked by death. I am know as a brave, fully living woman.
We’re jumping around, but I want to jump to another place. Its actually going back to where we started, back to entering the wound, entering the scar. What you say in the film is “I come to you with a body that’s broken, a body that’s scarred”. What does it mean to enter the scar? That is the sacred place. There is a scar. There is brokenness. And will you let your loved one, your friend, will you let another enter that scar? And what does that even mean?
What I meant in that statement was that in some ways a woman’s body is broken in birthing. My body has been broken, torn open to birth life, and death. Both. And that process is my experience but when I allow someone to come into it with me then I am not so alone. Whereas if I have to carry the experience alone all the time, then I miss out on the redepemption tha’s in that – the process of car and kindness. I don’t think I was meant to carry that story by myself.
Again, we come upon this question of “will you speak?” and in the speaking there is a reaching and in the reaching there is the hope that you will not be alone in this heartache.
The story that keeps coming to mind is when our son was born, our son Brave, he had the cord wrapped around him four tiems and wasn’t breathing, and they couldn’t give him to me right away. One of my dear friends Alyssa was there and she held him and I can’t explain to you my gratitude to this friend, six/seven years later, for holding my child when I couldn’t hold him. We were able to keep our son for 12 hours because we had people flying in, and we wanted them to meet our child before we buried him. And those 12 hours, we had friends coming and taking turns holding him. This may seem really strange, the invitation to hold a child that’s not living, and it is a very awkward and painful and excruciating invitiation. And yet, I will tell you, I know each person who held him. And my love for them, my graitutde for them, is deeper than I could explain to you. And I know that their love for me and their graitutde for my son and their love for my son. People kept telling us thank you for letting us into this place. Thank you for letting us into that hospital room and holding your son. Why would we do that? Why would we have at least 25 people hold him? It really doesn’t make sense and yet I need those 25 people to have held him because its crazy making if its only I that held him. And so that’s what I mean about that vulnerability of invitation. I can’t explain to you the healing that happens when I can look at a friend and can say “Do you remember his face? And how heavy he felt? So big and so grown.” That kind of intimacy, that invitation into that wounded, scary place, that is the story that came up when you asked what it means to invite someone into that sacred place.
You needed someone else to hold the death that you had been holding and could not hold right now.
Yes, and though that story is unique to my story I think that is true of all people. Our bodies, our scars, hold stories, and when we invite someone to touch them, to know them, for one moment we are less alone with that story. That bond is healing. And it is intimiate and it is powerful. That’s what I mean by sacred. There is a power in it that is not tangible. There is a bond that is not breakable. Its on a holy, scared level.
What comes up to me is the laughter of the mockery of evil. That when something so dark, a scared place – a place on a womans chest where there once was beauty and now there is a scar – when that place becomes a moment of deeper intimacy with her husband, then evil really has been mocked. There is laughter echoing through the universe. And when you friend held your dead son, that you could not hold, they were bearing something of your torment and it created life in the midst of death. What do you do with that?
And it’s not explainable.
And its not explainable.
I know it even now as I talk about it. As I see in my mind’s eye that husband come and trace her chest, trace that scar where there once was something of great beauty and now he is trying to move towards and understand what it means to be cut open, what it means to be taken from. Oh, it is a scared, holy, powerful place. And it does. It mocks the death cause it brings life in that moment. In that touch.
As the film continues, I hear you say “I love to listen to my voice now.” I just loved it when you said that. You say, “I love to listen to my voice now. Before it was quiet and uncertain and shakey and now it just feels like that’s the best me and at the end of the day…at the end of the day I rest because it’s a good voice. But it has taken a lot to name it good.” Can you say some about how it is that you came to a place of rest that it is a good voice?
Its that moment of when you finally turn and you see that inner child, when I saw that young six year olf girl in me and I watched her and I was enamored by her and I loved her. Or when I looked in my minds eye and saw the 60, 70 year old me wise and brilliant and beautiful and I was in awe of her. I had to come to peace with who I used to be and who I am to become. And that is a process of integrating my story, and it just wasn’t integrated prior. It was choppy and there were parts that were off limits and silenced and I had to take the ugly, dark parts and kiss them and I had to take the beautiful, brilliant ones and kiss them. And both take just as much courage. It takes courage for me to actually say how good I am, for fear of being mocked. For fear of the moment when I am no longer good, or not good enough, or not as good as someone else. And, yet, when I really look at her, all of her and all that she’s lived through, I am just amazed. I am so grateful. I am grateful that she still lives, and breathes, and speaks.
So, then really the experience is as you look at the 6 year old you have awe? And as you look a the woman who has just birthed death, you have awe?
I do. I do. I actually spoke out loud through the birth. I knew I wanted to do this before I knew that Brave was dead. I thought, “I’m going to talk to him through the birth. Coach him. I’m going to be that mother who says you can do this”. The scariest moment was when I realized he wasn’t with us and I still had the choice to do that. And I did. Whether I was coaching him through death or coaching myself through that birth and the birthing of death, I realized I wanted to hear my voice and I wanted to cheer myself on.
But you bring it up now because you’re naming what you’re in awe of. You’re in awe that you made that choice.
I am. I really am.
At the end of the film, you’re sitting around the table with friends in your backyard. You’re there with friends that have walked through this with you. And I don’t know whether its you or Andrew who says, “I want us to celebrate more and I want us to mark celebration more.” In many ways, the film is an invitation to intentionally celebrate and to intentionally grieve and wail. Its an invitation to be fully alive. Curiously, this is what most of us did naturally as children – we had awe and wonder when something good happened and we cried when something bad happened. What might it look like in day to day life, to heed your invitation to celebrate more and to mark it? What does that look like for you as a mother with three little ones running in the house, to celebrate more and to mark it?
Its as simples as making every little, mundane thing exciting. Because it is. And we mark a lot with food. We celebrate our kids a lot with food. Yesterday my 3 ½ year old was brave because she stayed at camp when she didn’t want to, and when she came home we happened to have found a $10 bike so we gave her a bike. And we went and rode that bike for the next two hours. And we cheered behind her on her training wheels, and you’d see me carrying this 6 week old in the front of my pocket of my shirt holding onto this bike and you’d see my husband and my 5 year old son running behind the bike cheering her on. And that is our normal day.
What you’re saying right now reminds me of something at the end of the film where you say, “ The hardest thing after you bury something is just to have pleasure. To be naïve again, to dance again, to sing again.”
And that is true. I remember my birthday after losing Brave. And I had sparkers in my cake and I just started crying and I said, “ I want to grab all these sparklers and I want to dance through this field, but I’m so afraid that all of you watching will say ‘shouldn’t she still be grieving’ and I would be judged. And I am scared to be judged. And I am scared that I’ll dance and I wont feel as alive as I once felt when I was naïve.” And I took those sparklers off the cake and I just ran through the field and danced. As a 33 year old woman. And I just tried. I wanted to just try to dance.
And if you can do that, in that moment, then the resurrection is real. If you risk dancing again after you have known death, then there is no longer anything abstract about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. And if you risk singing again after you’ve known death, then evil has not stolen your voice. If you risk being naïve again after you have known death, then evil has not killed your innocence. And, if you risk dancing again then evil has not destroyed your ability to experience pleasure. In my mind, that’s what the film is inviting us. Its so provocative. Its daring us. Its inviting us, to not only take our deaths seriously but to find our voice in the midst of those deaths, and to sing again, and to dance again. Its just such a gift to watch you in this film go through that process. You bear witness to, the whole film is like watching the death and resurrection of Jesus played out in a community. That’s just what happens. Its not that you directed it that way, it just happened.
I honestly believe that in suffering that is how we’re called to respond, so that we can experience the resurrection play out. I didn’t know that would happen. I didn’t know I would even be able to try to have kids after burying a child, I couldn’t even conceive that process. And yet, somehow in being as broken and grieving loudly in community, there came a new life. There came a new bravery to try.
I love your sentence, “I didn’t know it would happen”. I mean, theologically we know there is resurrection. Walter Bergman says it so well, “Whenever there is a newness of life it is always a surprise.” And that’s what I’m hearing you say. Its like, “Oh my gosh, this is a surprising new place that I am suddenly in and I have no idea how I got here and I was following no formula, I was just being – what I would say is two words: you were being honest and you had immense courage. But its not rocket science. Its simply honesty and courage. And then, taking the risk of will you let other people decide if they want to participate in that with you. And from what I remember from Andrew’s portion in the film, some people did and some people did not.
And little did we know or could we have explained that we were inviting them to engage in the resurrection. We couldn’t have known. We just thought we were inviting you to engage in death with us and grief. We had no idea the beauty that would come from it. No idea.
Well, Christy it has been such an honor to see your face and hear your voice. Thank you so much for being on the podcast Christy.
I appreciate it so much.