But how are you going to do it?

I shared in “20 Questions with Mel Bell” that I’ve always wanted to change the world. There have been many different times and many different ways I have thought I would do that. Some felt more right than others but so far nothing has really stuck. I’ve found myself wondering if I was where I was supposed to be more times than I can count. I always wanted to know if I was doing God’s work, if I was on the right path, and I’ve always felt like something was off.

First I was going to change the world through music and writing. Or that’s what I thought as a kid.

Then it was going to be through becoming an adoption counselor and becoming the person who lead me when I was in need.

Then maybe I was going to work with women who had experienced domestic violence and help their children find some normalcy.

Then maybe I was going to help kids love being active and learn to move properly so we were going to change the world through children.

Then maybe it was nutrition…

Then birth…

And would you look at that, we’re right back to adoption.

Sometimes I wish this calling would either leave me alone, or just show itself so I could get on with things.

But I’ve been so disconnected for so long that I couldn’t truly figure out what it was that was calling me. I’ve been barking up these trees but nothing has been right. I felt out of tune with what the universe needed from me.

Recently, I’d say I had a bit of a break through. Eh, I don’t know that that’s the right wording. More so, I’ve just been seeing the same phrases and themes over and over and over again. One is women.

The concept of womanhood won’t leave me alone. It comes up over and over and over again. Female empowerment, the future is female, babes support babes, raising your sisters up. Women are a mother fucking powerful force, man. (DISCLAIMER: not that men aren’t. I’m not anti man, I’m pro person, specifically women, ok? Can we just leave it at that?)

Trauma is another. For a long time I didn’t have the language to put around this. Honestly, I still don’t. Here’s the basics, my family wasn’t the most normal (who’s really is though, right?) My dad was a drunk, I was pregnant at 14, you can imagine the scene for yourself, right. So while I’d say we weren’t on the far end of any spectrum, there was still some shit going down. Anyone who grows up in any home with any number of uncertainties will experience trauma. Over the last year or two I’ve learn so much about how our bodies hold on to that. Personally, I didn’t understand what I was experiencing until recently. There’s a REASON I don’t trust my own body in weightlifting (more on that in the “How a bad training day lead me to therapy” post), there’s a reason I experience physical and emotional symptoms of stress even though I’m years removed from those situations.

Breath/Exercise bringing up the rear here. These two I put together. I would not claim myself to be athletic in any sense nor am I a yogi. As a kid, I hated playing sports but I always did. Since then, it’s been about 6 or 7 years since I found Crossfit and never looked back. Crossfit led me to BIRTHFIT and to Olympic Weightlifting and to Chiropractic care, and to the notion of using your breath for power (i.e. stabilization during a lift, or connecting to your body during yoga or meditation). Maybe feeling powerful is more the theme here, now that I think about it. So much of why women stay in negative and dangerous situations is because of the loss of power (money, physical power/strength, job security, job position, or simply being believed). That’s why my mom stayed married to my dad so long, she didn’t have any power. These women escaping domestic violence, someone else had taken power over them. When my mom taught me to shoot a gun, I loved feeling powerful. When I clean and jerk a heavy barbell, I feel powerful. When I walk away from a person or situation that’s not serving me, I feel powerful. When I connect with my breath, I am powerful.

So these things just keep coming up and coming up and over the last few years I’m all out in space looking for what I’m supposed to be doing in life while the universe is basically trying to knock me down with what it needs from me and I’m just missing it. hahaha It’s funny to think about, actually.

One of the more recent times the puzzle pieces started to come together for me was during the BIRTHFIT seminar. I realized how much trauma can take place around birth - it’s a lot.

Then these books, The Big Let Down and Active Birth basically fell in my lap and I learned even more about how certain populations specifically are experiencing more interventions during birth, are being marginalized and under cared for and how that’s leading to a whole domino effect of negative consequences for mom and baby.

Then thanks to Gabby I’ve learned about epigenetics and how we carry all the experiences of our ancestors and how we were literally in our grandmothers body living all the things she was living and that allllllllll of that will very literally effect how we as person will interact with the world. (Stuff You Should Know Podcast also did a great basic episode on Epigenetics.)

Thanks to my time getting to work for undeserved and at risk populations, I understand how all of these things are effecting them on the daily yet, often we don’t have the understanding or tools to deal with it. Cue BIRTHFIT and breath work.

I mean HELLO MELISSA HOW HAVE YOU BEEN MISSING THIS FOR SO LONG!!!

Anyway, I’ve been rambling for a while here. I guess my point is just that… we can fix this. We can positively change the experiences of generations to come (aka change the world!!).

When we advocate for ALL women that they have the birth they desire and that is ACTUALLY safest for baby and mom, we are able to have a positive impact and reduce risk for both in the future.

When we help a women connect to her body after she’s been shut off from it for so long because of sexual abuse, we are able to have a positive impact for her and her potential children.

When we HOLD SPACE for women to connect and share their voice and their story we allow for a community to be built and support systems to come together for each other.

Recently, I’ve been reaching out to local non profit agencies in the Nashville area who serve women. I want to be the beginning of something great. At this point, I feel so strongly about the good that we can do that I would work for free to make it happen.

Saying these things out loud or typing them for the world feels like a force leaving my body. It feels strong and powerful but also heavy because this work needs to happen. Thank you for holding space for me in this journey by reading these words. You may not agree, and that’s ok. But if you do, I hope you’ll join me in this journey to create a better world for our children and the women in our lives.

LOVE,

MEL BELL SHEFF

Chapter 2: Well maybe I should tell someone?

So here I am. I’m 14. It’s 8th grade. ahhhh that is wild to think about. I was a baby. Have I mentioned that yet? A child.

I hated school. Seriously hatedddddd it. And school hated me. Or teachers. Or the system. Whatever. I had spent the last 8 years acting out in very minor ways and 8th grade I ended up way behind in school. I couldn’t concentrate on anything. I spent the entirety of classes just doodling and day dreaming. Obviously all my test scores were very low. On top of that, I really didn’t have any friends. Like right now, I’m trying to think back to middle school and I honestly never want to run in to anyone I knew in middle school ever again. Unfortunately Nashville’s a pretty small town masquerading as a city so it’s bound to happen eventually.

So basically I was dying to get out of there as fast as I could. Well somehow, and I honestly don’t know how, but I convinced my parents to let me be homeschooled. I remember leaving on the last day before Christmas break, of 8th grade and being like ya, I’m never coming back to this shit hole. And you guessed it, I never did.

hahaha looking back on this, I see my 6-ness majorly showing, I was so suspicious of e v e r y o n e. Anyway…

So my parents let me be homeschooled. And it was sometime over that break that I got pregnant. Off to a great start here, aren’t we?! I must have found out I was pregnant in late January ish, and then rolls around the Super Bowl.

Obviously, I knew I had to tell an actual adult that I was pregnant. Sure my friends were like 16, 17, 18+ but as all real adults know, that’s not a real adult. SO! I had to tell my mom. There was no way around it. Here was my plan… Leave her a note and basically never come home. Well, not never, but delay it as long as I could. In my head, she’d read it on Friday night, this would give her time to cool off.. like 48 hours.. and eventually when she was over wanting to kill me, I could come home and we’d have a normal conversation about it. Yes, that’s right, a “normal” conversation about your 14 yr old daughter being knocked up. Wow. A kid can dream, right?

So that’s what I did. I left her a note. I stayed out of the house with some girl friends. There’s actually a very cute pic of us all like 5 of us in the bed drinking Pepsis. I had a pit in my stomach the whole weekend. Or maybe I was just nauseas because ya know, I was pregnant, we’ll never know. My mom called basically just to check on me, but I guess she still hadn’t found the note. Finally on Sunday I went home but I took friends with me, You know, as back up, so at least I’d have witnesses for when my parents murdered me. We all watched the Super Bowl and everything was mostly normal. No one said a word. I even had a mostly normal Monday the next day.

Then Monday afternoon rolls around. I’m watching Gilmore Girls on the couch (best show of my teen years btw). It’s like 4:30 pm. My mom comes in. She crouches down near the couch and very quietly asks me if the note was real. My dad was in the house and she didn’t want him to hear us.

I started crying and nodded my head yes. She said, let’s go in your room and talk about this. So we did. And as you can imagine, we both cried… err, um, sobbed, really. And all I really remember was that she said just this…

“Not that I think you’re old enough to decide, but what do you want to do about this?”

And I just told her, “I want to keep have it and give it up for adoption.”

My mom crying more, “I think that’s a good idea.”

LOVE,

MEL BELL SHEFF

P.S. a while before this took place, my mom’s dad aka my Popa, had called my mom and asked if all the girls were ok. He’d had a dream that this was taking place. Weird, right?