by Tracee Sioux
My birth story begins on Sept. 11, 2001. Three weeks before my daughter was born I
photographed the second plane smashing through the second tower of the World Trade
Center. Holding my swollen belly, and the baby within, I witnessed the entire world as
we knew it implode on itself. My inner wise woman knew that this, this exact moment,
was the death of life itself as we had deﬁned it. The entire world order came crashing
down, in a thick haze of burning metal, paper and bodies.
I was bringing a child into a world of unsettling unknowns. Walking past the thousands
of “Missing” posters lining the 14th Street subway station for the remaining three weeks
of my pregnancy a profound sense of my own vulnerability and my babyʼs, unsettled my
soul, made me realize that indeed, literally anything can happen.
Previous to this moment, I had believed that I had some control over my own existence.
Some control over the outcome of our lives.
Three weeks before I was due to give birth, my body just couldnʼt handle the stress
anymore and this baby was coming. Coming, even if there were armed National
Guardsmen with machine guns who had to wave us through to the hospital, coming
even if my husbandʼs workplace over Penn Station was being evacuated after further
threats or strange backpacks were left unattended, coming whether a madman was
captured or left to think up more schemes, coming whether I was emotionally equipped
for this or not.
And come she did, ripping and tearing my inner labia to shreds, in a bath of blood and
terror, surreal disbelief and ﬁerce determination. She was born and the old me, the self
that had begun to die with the death of our American reality, gave her ﬁnal breath, dying
in her own daughterʼs moment of birth.
What followed was a deep, thick, dark mourning in the guise of postpartum depression
and a nearly complete emotional paralysis. An all-encompasing identity crisis where my
old self would try to reemerge in her previous form, only to realize her work here on
earth has been completed. She was no longer needed. How grieved her. I had rather
enjoyed being her, actually. She was fun and ballsy and witty and enjoyed working odd
hours and traveling to other cities alone, she sought adventure for the sake of it and
took it all in, learning, processing, growing, throwing caution to the wind. How I battled
the transformation into what I was becoming. I kept trying to go back and be her, but it
felt so painful that I would sabotage it and sink back into this odd form of identity
It was like loving being a caterpillar and then being bound in a conﬁning, restrictive
cocoon. Painful and unwelcome. Grieving the loss of being a beautiful, free,
I gave birth to my second, and last, child, four years later. When my son breathed his
ﬁrst breath, this new being I had been growing during my own four year spiritual
pregnancy breathed her ﬁrst breath too. I was born again. Transformed into someone
entirely new. Someone for whom Hope had shattered, but someone who was now
willing and able to pick Hope out of the shattered remains, dust her off, and step into her
As the doctor kindly stitched my shredded labia back together, leaving no mangled
holes or tears, and I made a joke about being ready to star my Playboy spread now, I
made peace with letting my old self go.
Now I wondered, “What if I live? How do I want to do that now? What do I want to
As my son turns ﬁve, I look in the mirror at my new self and marvel at her. I am freer. I
am stronger, more resourceful and more present than before. I am smarter about the
world. I am wiser. I know more about myself and other people. And I trust what I know
far more than that motherless being did. I enjoy the moments as they come more
frequently. Iʼm living on purpose, with focus and direction in half the time I took to do
them before. I am doing things now, which had never occurred to me that I could do. Iʼm
not waiting around for next year or next decade to do the things I want to do. I do them
now. Because they are the things I want to do, the experiences I wish to enjoy.
What do you know? Iʼve become a beautiful, free butterﬂy.
– Tracee Sioux