Empty bed, empty mind, empty thoughts, empty feelings, empty words, empty promises, empty love, empty heart, empty soul, empty day, empty night, empty.
Holy shit, I just read that out loud and it sounds like humpty-or maybe that’s just me
I hate skiing although I have never been but I must have really been into it in a past life somehow because I think of skiing metaphors all the time. Right now I feel like cross-country skiing. It’s cold and my nose is frozen, it’s beautiful out for the first 20 minutes-all white and sun reflecting on the trees blowing in the wind and just white pristine woodland for as far as the eye can see. My hair under my hat blowing in the wind, working up a sweat, muscles feeling strong and my heart beating steadily.
Birds singing but wait, there is nothing but snow for as far as I can see. I ski and ski and ski and ski and realize I hate skiing, I don’t know how to ski and I don’t give a shit how beautiful it is outside. Shit. Now I have to pee and I have 10 layers of pants on and they are all sweaty and sticking to me and I will never get them down before hitting the toilet and will surely pee in my pants except, there is not bathroom, just snow.
I keep skiing, pee in my pants and search for somewhere to sit down but the only way forward is down this huge hill and I remember again that I can’t ski. At all. And then, zoom. Screaming, squirrels stare at me with pity because they know I have peed my pants and the rangers will find me dead, pants full of pee. No knowing how to ski, people shake their heads and TSKTSK.
Good intentions with poor planning and now I am stuck in too many pants, in the snow with only squirrels to save me.
My earliest memory is from christmas around 1973. Just before I woke up, the abominable snowman was holding me in his arms above my bed laughing deep malevolent guffaws, teeth glistening with ice and then he dropped me onto my bed. I fell, woke up and looked around my darkened bedroom, certain I must have cried out. The walk from my bed to the stairs is unmemorable but as I crept down the stairs lit with white lights, scratching my hand ont the tinsel, my feet covered in pajamas slipping on the wood stairs I spied my parents together on the floor in front of the tree. I don’t know if I spoke or they just say my legs but simultaneous shouts, “GO BACK TO BED!” and “NO!” are the only thing I remember. Feeling excited and confused, the memory ends.
That is the only memory I have of my parents together. I don’t remember one other thing about them even being in the same room together. I remember my mom giving me some actifed crushed on a spoonful of soda but for what I don’t remember other than asking her what I needed the medicine for. I don’t remember being sick so maybe she was dosing me to make me sleepy. Maybe she needed to go to the store for cigarettes and she didn’t want to take me to the store.
I remember finding a box turtle on the sidewalk and bringing him home. Riding my big wheel. Looking out at the courtyard filled with cars, covered in snow and feeling trapped inside my house. I remember catching the bus to sunday school by myself and getting my own breakfast, no one walking me to the bus. I remember my grandmother’s house and every breakfast she ever cooked for me. Learning to crochet, hammering nails into wood with bottle caps in kindergarten. Playing with my dolls and chalkboard. Swinging on my tire swing. Riding my bike into a cloud of gnats, the bugs sticking to my sweaty head and spitting out the ones that flew into my mouth. Playing cards with my grandfather. Watching him make a magical martini. Ironing handkerchiefs. Stacking the pennies my Poppy used to count the miles he biked on his stationary bike. Going with my Aunt to her cool apartment in Fells Point and going to the festival there. Art museums with my father, the zoo, hikes and finding snakes and deer antlers. Pony rides and sunday dinners. My mom’s chili and the way her purse smelled like tobacco, wrigleys spearmint gum and leather.
I remember feeling loved, feeling lost, feeling like I was always waiting for something that would never come. THe end of school. The start of the summer. Weekends with my Dad. Christmas. My birthday. For my mom to come home. To go home from a party with her, most likely drunk or stoned driving. For my itchy eyes to go away. To come home from school. The start of school. New shoes and coat.
The moment that felt like now. Singing in the car. Staring out the window at the trees a blur of green, then golden than barren. Skating circles on the road in front of the house I lived in. Laying down with my cat Sassafras, him dressed in my doll clothes, limp with love and devotion.
I think now of all the family I have lost. Lost is the best word because 1. I don’t know where to find them 2. I don’t remember losing them or where I left them last and 3. Because they feel gone. Maybe it was always supposed to be like this, this leaving and leftness. All those moments of waiting for the next thing only to wait again for the next thing. All the moments of waiting to be found. Waiting to be loved. Not understanding why I wasn’t or if I wasn’t.
I can see my life, all around me, I just can’t feel it. I can’t feel it except for my own children. They feel real. They feel like now. They feel like purpose. But as they get older I feel like I am still waiting for something to happen. For them to grow up, move away and be on their own away from me. This constant push and rush and pull back is like sitting in the wet sand, the waves of the ocean stretched out to their weakest point foaming over me briefly as the sea retreats into itself again. Waiting, for the next wave-not knowing if this will be the one that takes me under and away.
I live in a very medicalized climate for birth. My home state and town is the residence of the one the most world-famous hospitals and if you are sick, boy-howdy, please get your self there. There are doctors who do such amazing things and prove that medicine is an art as well as a science. That type of technological advancement and cutting edge techniques are great-needed-if you have cancer, are in a terrible accident or are hopelessly sick. I am a nurse at this institution and I can vouch for miraculous care I see patients get every single day.
I don’t feel that away about birth in my town. Now, you mama’s with severe complications don’t get your maternity panties in a twist-I am not talking about you and your perinatologist’s. I am talking about regular run of the mill birth, which fortuitously accounts for most births. During clinical for my OB/GYN rotation I had the pleasure to be a local hospital, not the one I work at now, and witnessed the climate of birth there. We were given tours on our first day of birthing suites, nursery, NICU and post pardum rooms. Every single labor room had a belt laid on the bed to be strapped to every woman who entered to birth her baby. The nursery was full of babies not with their mamas for no reason other than “rest for the mother” and “that is just where the babies go, they are not safe if the mother is napping or sleeping.”
I felt just like those GIFS of dogs having a worse day than you or who just can’t handle looking at the donuts–you know them and have watched them all so i don’t have to link them. Everyone wears a belt to monitor heart rate? Really? Every one? How do they move around? How do they labor laying down keeping that belt in place? OH, the nurse giving the tour shows me the important IV poles that will hold the pitocin and IV Fluids to be given because you can’t eat or drink anything. No birthing tubs. No family friendly showers. Just beds, belts and IV poles.
My first pregnancy with our son was fraught with doubt and weirdness but then I hit my second trimester and I seemed to be sailing along. Until 28 weeks when I had preterm labor. 3 weeks on bedrest and my water broke. One week trying to cook our little fella a little more and I asked- during one of my routine AFI checks to make sure Spawn was peeing, his kidneys refilling my fluid as he drank it in practicing sucking and swallowing and then peeing it out-for them to check his weight. I had done way too much reading on bedrest and knew if he were a certain size he would fair better. I had two rounds of betamethasone and knew that would help. All the stress of preterm labor and my water breaking and not going in to labor would stress our Spawn and encourage his physical development to better cope with being born early.
During the ultrasound checking my AFI level they discovered that Spawn had only grown about 5 ounces in 4 weeks which is not enough. There was not great vigorous blood flow in the cord and he moved only minimally. The neonatologist came to see me and told me they would induce me the next day. I of course burst into tears which he seemed ill prepared for. My midwife came and spoke with me and told me I could choose to have the midwives attend our birth or chose an OB. Of course I wanted to choose them. They knew me. They would try to keep my birth plan as it fit into this new scenario in the most healthful and safe way possible. I trusted them.
My labor was induced and pitocin was given. Horrible stuff. I tried for a long time to go without an epidural but I had the urge to push and was not dilating. The epidural helped me relax and I dilated within a few hours and our little man was born. Screaming. APGAR score 9 and then 10. The pediatricians looked him over and finally after much pleading they let me hold him for a few minutes. As soon as I said his name, as I had been calling him for months, he quieted, his little tiny mouth formed and O of surprise and he opened his eyes and looked right me. Looked right at his mama. All 2 lbs. 14 oz, 15inches long. He breastfed 12 hours after he was born, came home at week 4 weighing 3 lbs 10 oz 17 inches long fully breastfeeding.
Those first few months with him at home were scary, exhausting and frustrating. I think that is how every new mom feels, preemie or not. He was little forever or so it seemed. Now at almost 13 he has armpit hair, a deep voice and pimples on his nose unless he showers everyday.
I would have never have chosen to NOT have my midwife attend our birth and catch our little man. They did a great job and were everything I could have hoped for during the scariest time of our lives. I felt cared for, I felt secure knowing that they know all about birth, all parts of it and they would be able to help me in a way completely different from an OB could or would. My midwives stayed with me during the whole birth. They went with him to the nursery right afterward. They came to see us in the NICU to take pictures of our nursing our ruddy, jaundiced, wee tiny man who head was smaller than my boob and my boobs were not really that big.
Their practice is not being terminated as the hospital they attend births at has decided with budget cuts, in light of two lawsuits (not involving them in any way-just legal issues in our state) they don’t want them there any longer. It breaks my heart that women will not be able to benefit from this service they so lovingly and expertly supply.
I am so grateful for our crazy scary birth because of the comfort they gave me. The intelligence and respect they supported me with. The beautiful little boy they helped bring into the world.
October is Domestic Partner Violence awareness month.
You have seen it before, I know you have. Maybe out to dinner, at a club, listening to your girlfriends talk about their boyfriends or husbands. Probably just a casual friend, maybe it’s your sister or your mother. That man, you have seen that man before. Smile on his lips, cold darkness in his eyes, a grip on your arm that is a bit too tight and he is telling you to not do whatever it is that you are doing. He is standing really close and you are in public and are scared because you know what will come, later, in private. If you see this somewhere it is easy to turn away because you feel afraid too. Domestic violence is everyone’s problem.
It is not only the physical abuse but the shame and guilt you feel because maybe you could have stopped it. Maybe you do bring it on, maybe no one else will love you enough to care this much about where you go, who you see and what you do. Maybe it feels romantic at first because he wants to know everything you do, only spend time with you, is jealous because you talk to your girlfriends. The first time he makes a ridiculous demand or comment you make the mistake of thinking he is joking. He is not joking. Maybe you don’t know he is out of control and will attempt by any means necessary to control you.
If you have a child with this man your chances of dying increase-over one third of women who are murdered are killed by their intimate partners. These women are raped, beaten, tortured, humiliated and kept quiet. The circle of domestic violence is so deep and real that they know when they say something, things just get worse. Laws to protect women and children are only as effective as the abuser allows them to be. Restraining orders are pieces of paper that do not keep someone away.
Sometimes you have to lose everything, live in a shelter and lose all your belongings. Sometimes your family is in denial and resents you for rocking the boat and pursuing a divorce or legal action. Maybe you will struggle to keep your children from witnessing the violence, horror and screaming. They will feel in the middle, they will be afraid and will grow up to more likely be an abuser or victim themselves.
Sometimes they leave, finally and try to make a new life but they might also have to share custody of their children and continue to have contact, worry about their children’s safety every time they are away and might have to depend on them for spousal or child support. The tie in that case can never be broken. She might be forbidden by a custody agreement to leave the state. She may be forced to have phone contact. He might still call the house. He knows where she lives.
And he is angrier because she is gone. Sometimes he will seem as though he has turned over a new leaf. He is trying to be nicer, kinder, a better father and ex-spouse. He will be charming and accommodating. You will be so relieved that you believe it because the horror can only go on for so long. Maybe enough time has passed. It is a holiday and you want the kids to with their father. You agree to meet somewhere, a park to exchange for the rest of the holiday.
Your family doesn’t hear from you after your call of telling them you are waiting and they are late. They wait and wait. And wait. Then the police call say they found your sister and her three children. All dead. All killed. The abuser killed himself as well.
That is how it ends.
The statistics are staggering and considering that domestic violence , sexual assault, stalking and other forms of abuse are the most under-reported crime. So, she is next you at Starbucks buying coffee, running next to you on the treadmill, coming to your bookclub, picking up her daughter at girl scouts, in line in front of you. She, is all around you.
Please consider donating to your local women and children’s shelter. They have wish lists, can always use money, donated phones and cars. Talk to your sons and daughters about violence, rape, consent and stalking.
Don’t turn away if you see it happening.
Deep voice, armpit hair and laws knows what else plague me as my small formerly wee-little-chicken sprouts from babyly to manly. Bearing witness the whole 12 plus years should make it easy for me to remember the smallness, the wee little voice, the tiny little butt cheeks naked in the pond, curly headed dreadlocked sprite, bigger boy who could ride a bike and skin his knee and not cry for me.
Still with dreadlocked hair because he refuses to brush it, smarmy mouth, back talking, eye rolling fool that smells like stinky man with huge feet that are too big to wear my shoes who argues with EVERY SINGLE STINKING THING I SAY is not my little boy.
He is already going up to be belong to someone else, a group of friends, girls who will know his heart and see him naked. He already is making space in his heart for a woman whom he thinks is the most beautiful. Whom he will hug and kiss and tell jokes to. Someone to be nervous around, to tell his secrets to and change his sheets for.
Some person who will be bigger in his life than me. That is fine and good as long he will still sometimes hold my hand.
Mothering is fraught with internal struggle, self doubt, self judgement and guilt. Whether it is born out of the blinding, crippling desire to bestow all beautiful everythings to this tiny person you are responsible for while struggling to keep a hold of some semblance of your self so that this new person you have become-a mother is more than the self you B.C. (before children).
In the midst of the swearing, sleeplessness, constipation, flabby stomach, weird boobs, gold fish crackers as a whole food group for a while, catching vomit in your hands, constantly having to buy bigger pants, forgetting to get haircuts and myriad of other mundane things you find your self doing A.C. (after children) you are again, aligned with other bitches who are constantly trying to be better than you, better than them all. Thinner, prettier, more well dressed, cooler with weird tattoos or very white teeth, muscular arms, with jobs and nannies, money for private schools, mega-mom cars with DVD players, family trips to Europe, designer shoes and big purses.
Who had a vaginal delivery, who had a c-section with tummy tuck, who is breastfeeding, who is bottle feeding, who is sleep training, who is co-sleeping, who is going back to work, who is staying home, who is using cloth diapers, who is using disposable, who makes their own baby food, who is worried about allergies, who takes baby gymnastics, mommy-and-me classes, playgroups, story-time, naps, baby sign language, sleeping through the night, nursing in the night but basically just trying to keep everyone alive to see the next day.
I remember sitting in those circle times with the first pancake worrying if I was doing it right and worried because until I had sat down at those circles I didn’t think if what I was doing was right or wrong because I was doing what felt right to me, seemed like the best thing for our son the first pancake. But the moment I sat down in that circle and watched all the other moms I wondered if I was doing the right thing the beginning of the motherdoubtbullshit started.
We were using cloth diapers. When I would talk to other mothers about cloth diapers they were only using organic hemp diaper systems. I used what was cheapest and had no loyalty to anything and could have cared less if they were cute but the kernel of envy, doubt and self loathing crept in because maybe it was better.
We were breastfeeding exclusively with no pacifier use, co-slept with a sidecar thing and fed on cue. When I would talk to other mothers about breastfeeding they slept on a family bed on the floor, nursed all the time and never felt resentful when their babies stuck their fingers in their bellybuttons or pinched their new muffin-top while they nursed trying to put their toe in your nose.
We used gentle discipline and didn’t spank or smack but we yelled sometimes and told them no, forced them to sit in their car seats and ignored temper tantrums. When talking with other mothers about how they dealt with discipline they told me how they used holding times, always redirected, never forced their children to do anything, allowed them to do whatever they wanted and helped them figure out how to do it safely, always sat int he back seat with them, allowed them into their beds anytime, did child centered activities all the time, never had a babysitter and played with their children and babies not just sat near them while reading a magazine.
In every encounter I felt like opinionated parents, which I consider myself one as I have opinions about everything because I too thought about what I was doing. The herd mentality and the strong desire we all feel to fit in drives us to look at others and what they are doing and judging our own methods but not because those people and what they think has anything real to do with our parenting but because we want to fit in. We want to feel we are right. We want to feel that whatever it is we are doing is the right thing to do and because of that we want permission from other parents to act as we see fit. We want acceptance for the choices we are making and confuse acceptance with permission. Permission which we don’t really need because only the parents of that pancake have the ability to make decisions.
So, when we choose to breastfeed we want others to say it’s great, you are doing the right thing. When we bottle feed we want others to say we are doing the right thing and it’s great to do that. What happens when you don’t think it is right because what is right for your family is right for your family and your acceptance has nothing to do with whether it is the right thing or not.
In my experience being a LLL leader who responded to help line questions I was put in the position to talk to mothers who wanted permission to stop breastfeeding. Asking questions to dry up their milk. Mothers wanted me to say it was fine to stop. I didn’t think it was fine to stop. I thought it should be done and my job, my place as a LLL leader was to foster breastfeeding, give accurate up to date information related to breastfeeding. It was difficult listening to the long list of reasons why it wasn’t working out for them because unless you don’t have breasts (some moms don’t) or your baby has a medical condition that prohibits breastfeeding (in many times you still can but the cost to the family in all ways you can imagine was too great) because deep down, all aspects of parenting have to do with whether or not you want to or not. Not if you can or not.
In most things in life if you want to, you can. The difficulties around it or the easy things about it help you make your choice but it still comes down to will or won’t. As mothers, we want circumstances to prohibit our decision making because it is almost impossible to reconcile will or won’t. We want to do the perfect thing for our children, not just the right thing and we need others to understand how we come to those crossroads. We want everyone to do things just as we do them so we don’t feel like we are making the wrong choice.
The hamster wheel of parenting sounds exactly like the thing we are constantly telling our kids to avoid as they grow up. A constant mantra of my motherly wisdom is “don’t be a sheep, be your own bird” because I don’t want my kids to be desperate to fit in they compromise compromise compromise compromise compromise compromise feel is truly right in their hearts. I want them to always look into themselves to find their own truth, the one they find with a gentle and kind heart and to feel strong when they go against the grain.
So, no, I don’t give you my permission to do what you think is right, no I would not make the same choices as you make, I believe what I have chosen to do is the right thing. That is easy to say because you don’t need my permission to parent your child how you see fit when you do those things with love and kindness but I won’t agree with you that your choices are equal to mine because we are each unique, doing the best we can to catch the vomit in our hands so it won’t ruin the couch, again.