Welcome to all the new moms and welcome back to everybody else! I would like to suggest that for those of you who haven't been with us long you go back to some of our earlier assignments and read them. There is a depth and surrender that we have been building on over these several months and I want everybody to have some awareness of how that process has taken place. I support you all in allowing this writing forum to be a place where you delve into yourself. As always, there is no right or wrong, no one way to do anything. The purpose here is to allow our voices to come forth in a non -judgemental place and reveal ourselves to ourselves and each other.
For those of you who've been with me for a while, I ask you to open to the parts of yourself that surprise you.
*This week choose one of the following topics and keep your hand moving for 10 minutes: "one foot in in both worlds", "the edge of all you know","falling apart"
*" How has mothering changed me?" Let this question inform your writing on the following topics:
*Write ten minutes on "interruption", "focus","eating breakfast", and "laundry"
*Close your eyes and meditate for two minutes. That means just breathing and in and out and allowing yourself to completly stop. It's only two minutes. You can do it! Don't skip this step!
When you open your eyes, write for fifteen minutes on one of the following topics: "to love abundantly", "the story that I most need to tell", "I grieve for...................", "I dream that I................"
May we all know our blessings and our power.
But since I'm falling apart, I'll stick with my prevailing theme!
My life is like a roller coaster... amazing highs... the crashing falls to the deepest depths. Feeling like life could never be better and feeling like you could never live beyond the day. I don't enjoy it. When it's good--I know to enjoy it while it lasts. You would think that when it's bad, I would remind myself that it would pass and yet I just can't manage.
The worst is when you can see it coming--months ahead of time--and you're paralyzed from preventing it. I'm doing it again. It starts with not showering. It moves on to not keeping the house clean. It continues with missing a bill or two... or three. It removes affection and interaction with my baby and the people around me. It makes itself at home in my mind and piece by piece pulls my life apart. And I have no idea how to make it stop. That's the worst: watching it happen and being powerless to stop it. You can think of all the things that might make it stop, but you can't manage to do it--or even speak it to someone that might be able to help. You just sit and watch your life slowly fall apart. And that just makes the whole thing worse: the awareness you have about what is happening and not being able to do anything about it. It's like being in a coma--being trapped in your body and powerless over it... wanting to scream "I'm here!! I'm in pain!!! Help me, please!" and not being able to do it.
Eventually, you hit the bottom and it's so bad that the outside comes in and forces change--whether you want it or not. A service is cut off, I lose my job, I lose a relationship--something big happens and makes me move. Even if it's just to crawl into bed and cry.
Before I was a mother, I was a project manager. It is a career that is nothing but interruptions. You are constantly moving from one crisis to another. I never thought that motherhood could be any more daunting or demanding in that respect.
I was very wrong.
You see, in my career I was in control. When I had an interruption, I knew how to handle it. At work I could juggle 42 plates in the air at once with the greatest of skill, grace and diplomacy. I was able to address the interruption, calm those involved, prioritize it, delegate some level of action to address it until I could return to the issue, inform the necessary stakeholders and then get back to what I was doing.
Motherhood still daunts me. Where I knew my craft in my career, I'm a fish out of water here... and I have no idea why. I complain that I never know how much time I will have to devote to working on something because the baby naps anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours--which is far more predictable than what I was accustomed to; but then the things I am working on at home are not second nature to me either. I can't manage to break them down into small bits that can handle being put down and picked up again.
Interruptions now frustrate and infuriate me where they used to invigorate me. Interruptions now fluster me where they used to be a seamless part of what I was doing. Where I used to go on about my business as if I had all the time in the world to do my job, now I sit unproductive waiting for the next interruption.
Wow... I really never realized all that I just wrote and feel so stupid now. The joy of self-realization! Maybe I can get my a$$ in gear now.
It is no secret that we, as a society, are falling apart. Personally I fall apart all the time, and the coming back together again is what makes me stronger. Must we fall apart as a society to get things "back together" again. Or are we a giant humpty dumpty?
One blatant example of how far we as women in society are broken and falling apart is TLC's newest show, Ten Years Younger. In case you aren't as sucked into the caja tonta as i seem to be and haven't seen it--the usual scenario runs like this: A woman in her mid 40's is objectified. Literally, she is put into a clear plastic box on the street. I'm guessing that it could be no other street than a street in California. People are then asked what they think her age is. The people guess (of course) her age to be 10-15 years older than her actual age. Sun damage, drugs, smoking, and junk food have taken their toll on us fair US of American maids. Thus far I have yet to see a show with a man in the box. As I'm thinking of late how much I hate this show I'm reading Anne Lammott'sTraveling Mercies, In a moment of synchronicity I read, "...if the fortune of the girl is in the newness in being the bud and the fortune of the crone is in the freedom, the lack of attachment or clinging, where does that leave a youngish middle aged woman like me?" "Maybe it leaves me needing to consider how wealthy I am in the knowledge that the girl of my past is still in me while a marvelous dreadlocked crone is in the future and that I hold both of these females inside me." This delights me and gives me hope while that stupid TV show defiles women and aging and reviles me! Our society is sick sick sick.. We are controlled by commercialism, and insurance companies. The medical poeple own us. The dermatologists give us ways to lighten ourselves and take ten years away. The plastic surgeons help us make our noses smaller, our tits bigger, and suck the fat of our bodies. The Ob/gyns tell us how and where to birth our babies...Yes, I do believe we have fallen apart, when you consider what the idea of a WHOLE person,a whole woman means.
Eating breakfast here is an hour long affair. Once upon a time an hour long breakfast would have sounded lovely, really lovely. Now I know better. Having an hour for breakfast is not a luxury here, it's entirely necessary. For this is not the leisurely hour of french toast and crosswords, of newspaper perusing and soft jazz in the backround. It's not sipping coffee to slowly awaken the senses and slide into morning while wrapped in a flannel robe (and perhaps the arms of a lover) glasses perched on the edge of the nose, debating the virtues and vices of getting dressed before noon. That is not the stuff this affair is made of.
Here the hour is there to be sure you have enough time to hunt down the lid to the sippy cup which must be yellow. The yellow is non-negotiable and more time will be needed if you cannot find it. It is there to so you may continue to dole out Cheerios with a balance of cut bannanas (which you pray is making it into the mouth and not just in between fingers, seat cushions and onto the floor) while you fry an egg and try to boil water for your decaf tea that you switched to while breastfeeding which doesn't pack nearly the punch that a nice cup of expresso does (the fumes of which still linger from your spouses cup earlier) and you will take a moment to mutter to yourself that it really is unfair how being more sleep deprived now than ever coffee is forboden. In that moment stolen for a thought to yourself, the child will have taken all the banannas and placed them under her bum and sat gleefully upon them grinding them into her pajamas and the cushion. So you wil turn off the stove, take her upstairs (while she smears bananna on your pajamas) change her, come back down stairs wipe off the cushion put her back in the chair give her a few more Cheerios, sans banana's this time, to buy you the time to put your lukewarm egg on a plate, pop toast in the toaster and take out the childs yogurt to feed her. Then you will try to feed the child yogurt while eating your egg and toast which of course she is far more interested in than her yogurt. To demonstrate this she will squeeze the yogurt through her new teeth back out of her mouth while reaching for your toast.
Then there will be a lull. She will become quiet. A look of concentration will cross her face which is becoming redder and redder. With a sigh you will return upstairs to change the diaper, wash her hands and face, and dress her for the day. It sounds relatively easy but I think I had a better go of dress my cat when I was 5. At any rate trying to dress the cat was much better practise for this then playing with dolls was.
Back down the stairs you go where the egg and toast now seem remarkably unappetizing, half eaten and stone cold next to a bowl of lumpy yogurt with browning bananas scattered about the kitchen table, floor and your pajamas. You give up, down a glass of OJ instead and put Raffi on the stereo. While you clean the floor and table singing "All I really need..........." trying to redirect the child's attention away from the smorgesboard on the floor, you will debate the virtues and vices of staying in your pajama's until noon..............
Um, tense issues, willl edit later...........
The two worlds are as far apart as two separate universes, the one where I have children and the one where I do not. Question is, in that other universe, have they not been born or have they grown and moved out? My dad says it never stops, the parenting, even after they move out. Funny he would tell me that. As if he were in his other universe too and I were not his child.
In the other universe, where there are no sandwiches to be made except my own, where there are no Legos on the floor and the basement is filled with only messes I've created, I'd have so much more time. I'd take more classes, I'd paint until the clock fell off the wall, I'd dive into the depths of myself and pull at the strings inside, unraveling them onto the paper in front of me until I was empty. I'd train until I was exhausted.
I visit that world often, the one with only time constraints I impose on myself. I see glimpses of it here and there. I've dared to sit and close my eyes and imagine what it would be like, only to be knocked back to reality by something large, scary and unmovable. I know I don't really want that. The moment I try to picture what it is I think I want—more time—I imagine having gotten it and how it would have happened. Death, divorce, nightmarish images descend on the fantasy and I tear off the page.
But then say I've simply never had them, that I never got a peek at the world in which I live, full of comic books, plastic bouncy balls and Bionicles. Would I be writing? Would I even want to paint? What would drive me? Would I ever have found aikido and the best teacher I've ever known? I know I wouldn't be the same person at all. I wouldn't know love like I do, wouldn't have someone I'd be willing to risk everything for.
I thank my children. I rise before six and dip my left foot in that other scary world without, the one that lets me go within where the creating happens, and keep my right foot planted solidly at home.
I was not ready so, “Mama, I'm hungry!” rattles my ears as I work the shadows around Cody's fingers. A little darker, more red, that's it. I breathe and look up. Blue eyes greet me and little arms go around my waist. I smell and kiss the top of his head.
“Good morning, sweetheart. Okay, just a second. Almost done.” I realize I should darken the back hand a little more also and that it would be wise to keep moving at least until the feet have been solidified now also so I can use the same color mix but then I get lost pulling those shadows into the folds of the gi and—
“I'm hungry! I want cinnamon toast and eggs.” My hands shake as I am stabbed by guilt. It has been nearly a half hour. Crap.
As he gallops out of the room in celebration of my agreement to make his favorite breakfast, I go back to that left foot one last time then click off the light. As I glance at the painting, I see at least two sections of it begging for attention. “Later,” I whisper to it. It doesn't answer and I am almost surprised.
I am the world's best and fastest chef when it comes to cinnamon-toast-and-scrambled-eggs. I make it at least three times a week. Burner on, butter out and put a bit on each slice of bread to soften as I grab the brown sugar. Must get those first three slices into the toaster oven before the burner gets hot enough to smoke the oil. I am efficient, and not a motion is wasted. I know when to shift my weight for optimum motion between the stove and the fridge and have the exact timing of the toaster oven down, even though it will not toast to perfection. It is critical that the toast is slightly burned to get that toasted marshmallow taste John loves so much. I automatically put the darkest slice, the one from the back right corner, onto his plate.
Stir eggs, turn off burner, push down toaster button a second time. Remember Jeremy is now tired of hot sauce on his eggs. Juice, forks, plates onto the table. Should I salt the eggs? I'm trying to get them to back off on the salt. I compromise and put on a tiny pinch so it won't become an issue.
“Boys, BREAKFAST!” I deal the last slices of toast onto their plates and sit down.
“Can we put on Goblet of Fire while we eat?” John asks. He starts biting the crusts off his cinnamon toast, being careful of the gap where he has just lost his first tooth.
I stall; I like conversation. “Ooh, in a minute. First tell me, what are you building in there?”
They giggle at the reference to a song they like. “The Titan XP and a space kitten.”
“A new ship. It's got movable thrusters.”
“Cool. Will you show me after breakfast?” I finish my eggs and reach for my tea.
“Mama, the tape?” John is bouncing up and down. I'm sure it's from the sugar and remind myself to use less next time.
“Oh, yes, okay,” I get up and put in the tape. Harry Potter is having a bubble bath. Jeremy has finished breakfast by the time I've sat down again and, mouth still full, is hugging me with one arm and balancing all his dishes in the other hand. I look at the glass rattling on top and breathe. I hug him once, and after he has cleared his dishes, call him back and hug him again.
I wonder if all boys are as loving and hope every mother receives these after-breakfast hugs. I marvel at the patience I've learned, the joy I feel at giving and sharing life.
I blink and John has finished his toast and cleared his plate. He hugs me and I hold him tight until he tickles me and slides out from under my grasp. He runs for the Legos.
I am left in the last swirls of a whirlwind, having toast and tea with Moaning Myrtle.
I dream that I...can write.
Not simply fill page after page and notebook after notebook with the written word. Not even a weekly column in a newspaper would fulfill my dream.
I dream that I can write a novel. That I can write a successful novel. I dream of being asked to sign my book. By a stranger. Preferably, at a large, well-attended book signing. And I dream that that one stranger is but the first in a long, long line.
I even dream ( don't laugh, now) of being invited to Good Morning America for an interview. The fact that I get nauseated and light-headed at our tiny town meetings if I so much as raise my hand doesn't worry me in these fantasies. My phobia is cured by fame.
In the interest of fulfilling my dream, I have written the novel. In fact, having finished one, I've begun the second. I have sent the first to agents and publishers and so far have a small stack of rejection notices to show for my trouble.
For all of my life I have moved my dreams to the back burner to make room for my children's dreams, my husbands dreams, my mothers dreams.
Now is the time for my dreams.
So, I dream I can write.
My memory takes me to times and places away from here. I step into moments that happened years ago and am transported to a different time and place...cool blue cloth draped across my face...The day that I wrote a poem about being a harem girl. The times when I was young, lithe, sexy, wild and free. I love thinking of those moments.
I think of all the "fathers" that I had, the teachers, the lovers...the men in my life that I conquested. I was a Don Juana, searching for love and security. Certain times flash in my mind: The first time I heard "Dear Prudence", my lover played the song for me early in the morning to wake me up. I climbed the ladder down from his loft, sunlight poured in, and he handed me a lovely cup of coffee. He introduced me to art, the beatles, grateful dead, cocaine, and many other experiences that could have eventually killed me but didn't.
Another flash...where will this one take me? I see myself jumping into another man's arms, my taurus lover. The only man that I stayed in bed with all day long and made love over and over. We hardly ever talked, but didn't need to. One day we went to the lake, after taking a bunch of mushrooms. We canoed out...the water was still and warm. I went swimming and floated. To this day when I want to relax, I can remind my body of that sensation...floating, immersed in stillness, wet, bouyant, out of my mind, but entirely in it.
I would never want my children to experiment with drugs the way that I did. I made some bad choices, I also made some very good ones. The choices are Worlds away from me now, where I am. I am in another life, one that I am determined to keep as my own, but I know that it isn't all mine anymore. I don't think that I could ever be one of those mothers who looks back and says, "where did it all go?, i gave you all i had, and now there's nothing left for me..." One day she looks ino the mirror and sees the crone, the mother is gone, the children have grown, and what is left? I want to live in awareness of all of my worlds. The one that I am now. The one where my babies need attention and I'm paying attention to myself instead. The one i'm in now--the one full of life. I am here now. Desperately hoping that in this world, this one right here, there will be something left for me. Knowing that if I don't give them everything maybe they will be alright. They are me in them. They are their selves interwined in my heart, my experience. How many worlds together are we? How many worlds apart will we be?
I thought that I had it all worked out during my first pregnancy with Ian. i had the realization that in losing myself, I find myself. I am at a higher place now. I have let go of the ego in order to mother my children. But, I realize I am still scared to death of losing myself. My ego is still here. I'm scared to death of growing old, of not being young. I am finding the focus again, and letting go of these fears.
I occupy two worlds – that of an adult, professional, PhD-holding, intellectual, feminist, Virgo who, until my recent entry in motherhood, prided myself on being able to cook 70 pots at once and accomplish more in one day than most do in a week…and the ephemeral, lazy, blossoming, time-unfolding-on-itself world of nappies and drool and baby smiles and gurgles and solitary hazy-headedness. I am caught between embracing this new, slow, gentle, unstructured world my son has opened me to…and being wired to my old overachieving self…even longing for it because it means order and purpose and productiveness.
How do I settle within myself to “waste” my day wiping drool from the effervescent fountain of baby honey that is my little boy’s mouth?
How do I attend to him and still check email (my one connection to life outside this house?)
How can I complete a single task, a single sentence, when his cries seem always to punctuate my solitude just as I am feeling productive? (I fear he will wake as I write this and I will need to let go of an adult activity for the, albeit welcomed, act of caring for him.)
Our culture rewards my former self – with money, status, and power. This hazy, lazy, languid world of motherhood is invisible to most (it certainly was to me before I became a mother a mere 6 months ago) and completely off the "obvious reward" radar of our society. So are my pangs of guilt or longing for “productive” time merely byproducts of my culture? Or is there something in my personality that needs structure too? Or is it a combination of both with some sheer boredom – just how many nappies can you change or baby songs can you sing before your brain starts turning mushy? – thrown in for good measure?
I have one foot in both worlds and am as yet unclear how to tread this brand new, terrifying wonderful path…
I am just loving reading here, with so many talented moms. I had to do this one on a computer, just to get it done. So glad there's a place to put these thoughts!
one foot in both worlds.
I sit before a screen that welcomes my tarnishing of its multi-tonal dots of light. My release of dissonant thoughts, of energy spent wishing I were elsewhere. With her. Her look, her laugh. Her responsiveness to my smallest attempt to amuse her. Her hungry mouth.
I spent a day accomplishing, completing, utilizing the talent I was born with. I spent a day missing out, not seeing whether she would roll this way or that. As I contemplate how she will respond to new sets of hands and eyes caring for her. As I do what I am supposed to do. As I meet deadlines and have meetings, meetings that don’t include the one I can hardly wait to embrace. With people who can’t possibly care, who are tired of the sick baby days and long breaks for pumping.
I am broken in my attempt to have a happy birthday. Because this happens to be one of the days when the me who is with her won’t submit to the me who is here, releasing her objections by tapping on keys.
5:04. I am free.
out of the box
pushing the envelope
on the cusp
out of my comfort zone
(When I think of times when I've used these phrases, I realize that many of those situations have become common and comfortable to me now.)
When a child is born, she pushes a family beyond their horizon -- to a new land. She fits herself in, and everyone's life (and schedules) change to accommodate hers. Suddenly we can't imagine life without her: her laugh, the curve of her brows, her voice, her sauciness, are the reason for much of my day.
Grief pushes me to a new place. I can never imagine coming out of the deep, heavy sadness. A son is born, already still and gone. I cling -- to what? What will become of me? of us? Grief is so dark and merciless: yet I do not die.
I wait. We are stretched again, by one so determined to be. She is unstoppable, unscheduled, unbelievable. Never still! And she pushes me beyond the edge again...
I want to huddle; keep it all the same forever. But each day brings new questions, new ways to nurture, new ways to guide this family. New opportunities to learn by forging my way. And so life pushes me... every new moment is the edge of what I know...
i am more than what i used to be
the me is bigger
wide and more whole
i stretched and my bones pulled apart
miniscule motions make all the difference
more to add to the mix
more pieces to put in the puzzle
more flavors to add to the pudding
more of my dna in this world
margart belle and jesse fields
nelson and hester and mallow
illegitimacy, nobility and cherokee
i feel you
i know the great
and the dark irish
Then there's the german on your father's side
the stubborn obstinate Leatherman part
the mechanical engineer meets
the determined artist
where Lewis and Clark meet
i passed all this on
is it enough?
i see you deeply
and i know you are
and it melts me
down to the part of me
that feels the most
raw and good
the very structure of my existence
what you came from
i see in you
Blinking, I look around me at the clutter accumulating in my once well-ordered world. There is no sanctuary from it. The mountains of laundry rise to greet me. The toys strewn across the floor reach out to grab me, to make me lose my footing in the dead of the night as I stumble to the girls' room to answer a call in the dark. Friends tell me I look tired and I am. Is it so obvious that I am falling apart?
My oldest daughter is nearly three. She is smart as a whip and keeps me on my toes on a good day. On days like this, she runs right over me like a freight train, and I am swept away. Is that her cereal all over the floor? Wait, come back and clean this up! I turn just in time to see her paints soaring through the air. They hit the ground without a sound, a muffled rainbow across the pale carpet. Quickly I scrub before the stains set in, trying to close my ears to my seven month old's cries. I hurry to find her screaming in protest as her sister knocks her to the floor.
The trash is overflowing again. I need to mop the floors and I can't remember the last time I watered the plants. Why is my husband still on the couch with the damned TV on? He should be out looking for a job. It's been two months! The laundry, the trash, the sink, and the bills are all overflowing. My baby senses my distress and refuses to let me put her down long enough to use the bathroom. So I sit with her on my lap. Where is the toilet paper? Craning my neck, I see it in the far corner, half-wet and out of reach. I hoist the baby up and wrap my robe around me, glancing in the mirror on my way out. When was the last time I washed my hair?
I am ashamed at myself. This is not the way I live. Even in the most stressful of times, I never let myself fall apart like this. Yet here I am. Tomorrow, I will roust my husband from his home on the couch and send the girls to the sitter. I will drink a pot of coffee and dive in. When I finally come up for air, my home will once again be my sanctuary and I will treat myself with a visit to the salon.
This is the edge of all I know--the core of me. This is my first hint that I am falling apart.
I feel a wave inside myself and flash on sunlit water crashing over people and buildings, rising and glinting, falling, roiling in mud and trees. The tsunami that happened a world away, I feel such a tide rising within me. My head feels full, I am upside down and can't catch my breath as I sit and try to assemble a life with one arm constantly weighed down by one of the sweetest beings I have known. Graysen. And as I feel like I am falling I imagine myself on that beach I have seen only on tv, as the water is sucked out into the sea, the sand falling away at my feet, and I know that had I been there I would have been delighting in the presence of my children. Four children. More than my arms could carry, and not one that my heart could release to that cresting water.
I would run, I know this. I would haul them or scream for them, and though I don't believe, I would pray. Pray with my every breath, as many were granted me.
I fear they would fall behind and that I would then, of course, relinquish myself to that wave too. For how could my feet carry me away to safety, while water carried my heart away in pieces?
But I was not there. My world here is mundane, I think, sparked with joy and small sorrows. I carry so much and yet, I am not running for my life. I am not truly in "survival mode," though that is often how I label my life. Night after night, a parade of the most utter aloneness.... Not loneliness--I am never lonely, especially when I am alone. But nights with no support, the needs of four children slamming me from every angle. I feel caught up in a swell and I can't hear, can't see, my world a blur and I snap in every direction, then fall to pieces when I realize what I am doing to my children. A note, once, on the floor of my bedroom written in my 10 year-old's hand: "We're sorry, Mommy, we hope you feel better soon."
They have nothing to be sorry for. They are children, they embody constant need.
And so I try harder, push myself further. Earn more, work longer hours. Be everything to them, because their father isn't--he is now, at 34 years of age, discovering what it feels like to be a teenager while I pick up the responsible end of raising these kids. Their stepfather working two jobs cannot be here at night for the travails of homework and dinner and cuddles and stories and, of course, endless one-handed tasks because the baby needs to nurse most of the time. These long afternoon into evening hours are brutal. My head spins and swells and....
One morning dawns and I feel that wave in my head. My heart beats too fast, I feel like I am spinning. The fatigue goes down to my bones, there is so little to hold me up and it is so far down, should I fall. I can't fall. I take a deep breath to compensate for the rush of blood to my head, and wonder what is wrong with me.
Am I finally hitting my edge? Am I finally falling apart?
hi all well finally found sometime to write last night. my girls have been fighting a cold this week! so here it goes....
Breakfast means toast doesn’t it? That’s what I eat pretty much every morning unless my husband and kids make pancakes on the occasional weekend. Toast has come to mean quickness, consistency and sustenance. Quickness because there seems to be no time to make myself anything more complex once I have fed, watered and cleaned up my little ones. Consistency, there is something comforting to begin my day by eating the same thing because who can tell what sort of day it will be? Errands, homelearning, chores etc. etc. etc… Sustenance, just something to fill my belly and keep the nasty migraines at bay. If you had asked me to write about breakfast before children what a different answer you would of gotten. I remember before motherhood late breakfasts that sometimes turned into brunch and then at times lunch! Or the times I had only myself to get ready and get out the door to eat out. It is amazing the multitude of words that get redefined when you become a parent. I am very lucky and blessed to have the chance to experience this changing and redefining in my life. What a most wonderful gift our children are and how amazing it is that they help us grow, change and live many different experiences. I grieve for the women I know that longfully seek this definition in their lives.
Washing clothes to me is a meditative ritual of sorting clothes, loading and unloading the washer and dryer .
When out walking my pace slows when I pass a house the smells of dryer exhaust.
Water running in the tub of the washer and the hum of the drum in the dryer as it turns is calming.
Warm fabrics right out of the dryer soft and hot to touch comfort me.
When I became a mother I loved folding the tiny sleepers, socks and blankets that seemed to endlessly need cleaning.
Whenever I need to close my mind or I seek some serene moment, I wash.
Why do I find this comfort in such a domestic chore?
I don’t know…
Interruption-after having been home all day with the girls I crave for an adult to talk to. Finally my husband walks in the door and I begin to ramble. I want to speak, talk about who phoned, what one of the girls said, about something I read, anything and have an adult response. An endless amount of information inundates my brain. However, I only get one word out and the interruptions begin, my oldest finishes my sentence, my youngest wants to tell her dad she missed him today… I step back and pause and take a breath. I let my children talk and then try again. Sometimes I am lucky and a thought is completed before the next interruption. Sometimes I cry out in frustration “please be quiet or wait your turn!”
take care janette
I see red flesh pulsating
dancing and spilling
out, little did i know
that you would come out of me like
a tight sweatshirt opening
being pulled over your young
thirteen months ago you dived down out of my uterus
and said goodbye to that sweet placenta
my cervix thinned out
and you made your way
through an ever dilating undulating passage
I've found my focus
can I keep it?
or Will it shift?
I couldn't have know then how I would birth either of you.
But i could of kept the faith and known that I would open.
I doubted myself. but I never doubted you.
I did open
I did it
in my own lotus way I opened to both of you
and continue to do so perpetually
bending down to the ground
Is the last phase the most glorious? it must be
Despite all my intentions, self-education, and conscious choices to give birth in the least medicalized way possible, I ended up in “the system” anyway. My son was born early, but despite his “prematurity,” he was thriving and healthy and absolutely nothing was wrong with him. But what started out as a brief “checkup” after he was born, ended up as a week-long imprisonment in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) under the care of a chauvinistic male doctor who liked to play god.
When my water broke abruptly one hot August Friday evening, I found myself abandoned to “the system” – I arrived at the witching hour of nursing shifts, had a midwife rather than a doctor as my advocate in the hospital (a woman I had only just met, mind you, as my midwife was not on call that weekend), had no previous records on file (since I had chosen to get prenatal care with a private midwife), and had originally intended to deliver at the Birthing Center but due to the “emergency” circumstances of my son’s early arrival, was disqualified from that divine space and instead shuttled to the regular (a.k.a. medical) maternity ward. I was not allowed to eat during labor. I was left in recovery with a cloying heart monitor keeping me from sleeping and nurses who did not know how to fix the obvious pinging error in the machine. They took my newborn son from me for “routine observation” and I did not get to see him for seven hours, despite my incessant requests and pleas.
It was only went I resorted to the most girlish crying tantrums that anyone took me seriously. No one listened to the PhD-educated, intelligent, informed, consciously choosing woman. They only heard a hysterical mother. So I became hysterical. Since my uterus was raw and bleeding, I cried raw, angry, loud tears.
Then, when I was supposed to be bonding with my son and learning to breastfeed, the NICU’s “systems” kept thwarting us. Instead of allowing my milk to come in naturally, I had to pump to artificially stimulate it. Instead of allowing my son to take what he wanted from my breasts in his own time, he was force-fed formula in order to boost his weight. Instead of being able to hold and cuddle my child at will, he was kept in an isolette under phototherapy lamps, naked and alone and crying with a blindfold to protect his eyes from the UV light, frightened, stressed out. And I was not supposed to watch them cut his tiny little foot every morning with a lancet to draw blood to monitor his bilirubin levels – but I demanded to anyway.
The system tried to silence me, to stifle my questions, to take care of business without interference from a meddling mother. My midwife was ignored when she tried to advocate on my behalf because midwives, you know, rank lower than chimney sweeps in the eyes of the medical regime. I felt hopeless and angry. My body was sore and recovering and my mind was racing, trying to find a way to release my son from interventions I knew to be unnecessary and undesired.
Then, to make matters worse, I had to go head-to-head with the NICU’s attending physician, who either ignored me altogether or when he graced me with a reply, dismissed my queries about my son’s progress, patronizingly telling me things like, “You wanted to give birth in the Birthing Center, right?” and “You know your son is premature.” In his view, I was one of those “alternative mothers” who thought she knew better how to care for her own child than he did.
But he had no idea who he was messing with! When he refused to release my son after the sixth day of his imprisonment, my tiger-mama reared her fierce head.
My raspy tongue lacerated him with questions and I dismissed his apparent expertise with my long, sharp claws.
My huge striped body demanded that he let my son go.
My whiplash tail made him know that I saw through his god-posturing.
And my loud, guttural roar made sure that everyone in the NICU – nurses, doctors, other parents, his superiors and colleagues, and the superintendent of the unit – heard what I was saying, LOUD AND CLEAR.
My beautiful boy and I are now safely far away from that man, that hospital, and the system that tried to interfere with our amazing bond. On the surface, my body is still pale and pink like that of a human woman, but if you look real closely, you can see… lurking beneath the surface…are my tiger stripes.
I woke in the middle of the night to revise this piece. Obviously, it resonated powerfully in me... Thank you for the chance to share it...twice.
After living as a human woman for 35 years, I became a tiger.
Despite all my intentions, self-education, and conscious choices to give birth in the least medicalized way possible, I ended up in “the system” anyway. My son – a feisty little child born under the sign of Leo – was born early. In spite of his “prematurity,” he was thriving and healthy and absolutely nothing was wrong with him. But what started out as a brief “checkup” after he was born, ended up as a week-long imprisonment in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit under the care of a chauvinistic male doctor who liked to play god.
When my water broke abruptly one Friday evening in August, I found myself abandoned to “the system” – I arrived at the witching hour of nursing shifts, had a midwife rather than a doctor as my advocate in the hospital (a woman I had only just met, mind you, as my midwife was not on call that weekend), had no previous records on file (since I had chosen to get prenatal care with a private midwife), and had originally intended to deliver at the Birthing Center but due to the “emergency” circumstances of my son’s early arrival, was disqualified from that divine space and instead shuttled to the regular maternity ward. I was not allowed to eat during labor. I was strapped to a fetal heart monitor which, during the intensifying contractions and precipitous 2 ½ hour labor, kept telling me I was not in labor. I was left in recovery with a cloying heart monitor keeping me from sleeping and nurses who did not know how to fix the obvious pinging error in the machine. They took my newborn son from me for “routine observation” and I did not get to see him for seven hours, despite my incessant requests and pleas.
It was only went I resorted to the most girlish crying tantrums that anyone took me seriously. No one listened to the PhD-educated, intelligent, informed, consciously choosing woman. They only heard a hysterical mother. My uterus was raw and bleeding, and my stomach marked by deep, red stretch lines. I cried raw, angry, loud tears. My voice sounded alien to me, because I realized, I was learning how to roar.
Then, when I was supposed to be bonding with my son and learning to breastfeed, the NICU’s “systems” kept thwarting us. Instead of allowing my milk to come in naturally, I had to pump to artificially stimulate it. Instead of allowing my son to take what he wanted from my breasts in his own time, bottles of iron-fortified formula where forced down his throat in order to boost his weight. Instead of being able to hold and cuddle my child at will, he was kept in an isolette under phototherapy lamps, naked and alone with a blindfold to protect his eyes from the UV light, frightened, screaming. I was not supposed to watch them cut his tiny little foot every morning with a lancet to draw blood to monitor his bilirubin levels in case I did something “weak” and “feminine” like faint or swoon – but I demanded to, and did, anyway.
No one saw the human mother who wanted to make choices for her infant son. The system tried to silence me, to stifle my questions, to take care of business without interference from a meddling mother. My midwife was ignored when she tried to advocate on my behalf because midwives, you know, are ciphers within the medical regime, allowed to be there but only under the supervision of the attending medical gods. I felt hopeless and angry. My body was sore and recovering and my mind was racing, trying to find a way to release my son from interventions I knew to be unnecessary and undesired.
Then, to make matters worse, I had to go head-to-head with the NICU’s attending physician, who either ignored me altogether or when he graced me with a reply, dismissed my queries about my son’s progress, patronizingly telling me things like, “You wanted to give birth in the Birthing Center, right?” and “You know your son is premature.” In his view, I was one of those “alternative mothers” who thought she knew better how to care for her own child than he did. He knew better for me and my son -- even though he quoted me test results from the wrong baby’s chart, referred to my son by number rather than by name, scoffed at our choice not to circumcise our baby, and generally refused to make eye contact with me.
But the man who made so many assumptions about this hysterical “first-time mom” had no idea who – or what – he was messing with! For a week, I barely slept, dragging my exhausted body almost automatically to and from a nearby hotel to the NICU to nurse my boy around the clock. Every morning I patiently waited for a minute of the doctor’s time to discuss our son’s progress and release. After the sixth day of his imprisonment, and yet another cursory dismissal without any rationale to back it, “Your baby will probably be here for another week or so,” something in me snapped – grrr-krrr-twak! – and my tiger-mama reared her fierce head.
All the rules of patience and protocol that we humans abide by, especially when confronted by authority figures, dissolved at that moment and were replaced something else; something deep, powerful, and protective.
My raspy tongue lacerated the doctor-god with my intelligent, medically-savvy questions and I revealed the flaws in his apparent expertise with my long, sharp claws.
I stood before him in my huge striped body, the stretchy tiger marks still fresh and red on my belly, and demanded that he let my son go.
With my whiplash tail, I cut through his god-posturing and called him on his human mistakes.
I scent-marked the entire NICU so that everyone within ear- or eyeshot – nurses, doctors, other parents, his superiors and colleagues, and the superintendent of the unit – heard what I was saying to him, LOUD AND CLEAR.
And after I finally sprung my beautiful, healthy boychild from his clutches, I sent a seething, guttural roar in the form of a complaint letter to his superiors, all his colleagues, all his nurses, my midwives, and anyone I could find in the hospital directory, to publicly make his behavior known.
I carried my son out of the hospital in my arms, but it could have been in my teeth. The tiger marks on my belly flushed red and from the back of my throat, as a warning, came a low, deep growl.
My beautiful lion-boy and I are now safely far away from that man, that hospital, and the system that tried to interfere with our amazing bond. The little lion who came to surprise me that August night continues to amaze and astound me.
My body is still pale and pink like that of a human woman, the stretch marks no longer red but faded and silvery. But if you look real closely, you can see… lurking beneath the surface…are my tiger stripes.
There are two boxes sitting by the door, two big boxes. The cats have started using them as scratching posts. This is an improvement from using the wood trim, I’ve already given up hope for our security deposit, then again I’ve never gotten one back. On top of the boxes there are three, yes three bags of garbage. The cat litter smells horrible, but that’s not my job so I don’t do anything about it. I guess I figure if I do, it will just be one more bag on top of the boxes.
Random things all over the floor. A party hat from my mother in law to put in our daughters time capsule. We’re running out of light bulbs, it seems like everyday a new light burns out. Maybe tomorrow I”ll wake up in the dark. At least if its dark I wont notice the cockroach family that has joined us. My fiancé seems to think they aren’t that bad but I fear they have built a condo behind our sink, and invited their cousins. So I try to keep the kitchen clean, put the garbage in bags to it can sit above the boxes. The other day I found one in the living room Is the cat carrying them around. I heard that cockroaches like cat food, maybe they think it’s the bus stop. At least my daughter can’t crawl yet. I don’t know why we have them. Well I do but I don’t. I’m a messy person, I always have been. I have grown countless kinds of molds in my day, maybe even found some cures for a disease or two. One time I had a fruit fly epidemic.. They wouldn’t go away for weeks, I cleaned and cleaned and they just keep coming out of the woodwork... Since then I am forever fearful of fruit flies Then I got pregnant, I turned over a new leaf tried being cleaner. Things are extremely cleaner then they have ever been but I have cockroaches. I'd like to blame them on the neighbors, maybe they are the dirty ones. Theres only a few, its not really that bad but I fear the day Nora starts to crawl and decides to try one for a snack. The baby goes to bed and I clean up the house, but the next day it looks as though I haven’t done a thing. I try to clean during the day, but then I feel like a bad mother for not spending time with my baby. Precious time that is fading each day as she gets older. I want to hold her all the time, and I do. But it still doesn’t feel like enough. Even if I pick up after myself we have clutter upon clutter. I don’t know what to do with it, I’m starting to wonder where its coming from. How do I produce so much garbage? What do I do all day?
The story that I most need to tell is about a young girl I used to know. She had desire and potential. Sometimes she knew what she wanted. She had dreams and goals. She was full of innocence. She was full of life and love.
The story that I most need to tell is full of pain and ugliness. It’s a long and confusing story. I thought could never happen. Not to that young girl I once knew. I wish I could remember what she looked like. I want to see every detail. What was her body like before motherhood took hold. What was her mind like before the pain took hold. How did she talk, smile, walk and laugh?
The story that I most need to tell is one I can’t remember in whole. So many missing pieces stuffed away. I don’t want to remember. I need to remember. I know they are there somewhere deep in her being. They have to be there. There are knots in her body and scars hidden deep in her soul. I fear the memories are lost. I worked so hard to forget them. Do I really want to find them? They make me sick.
The story that I most need to tell she refused to write down. She feared someone reading it. She feared someone seeing the pain and ugliness. She pretended they knew nothing. She feared the truth and life slipping away. She feared looking back and having to believe this could possibly be her story. The permanency of ink on paper was too much. It was easier to keep pushing everything to the back of her mind. Shove it deep. Wounds scaring over. One on top of another. There are some pieces she wrote when she could not contain the rage and pain. It had to come out. She feared one day leaving this legacy for her children. They would see all she had allowed and done to survive. Or maybe the story would become theirs.
The story that I most need to tell is full of pride. She needed to prove that she knew what was best for her self. That she could take care of her self. She was right. She could do anything. She could face the odds and win. She knew what was best. What a stubborn girl. Her pride almost killed her.
The story that I most need to tell is how I lost that girl. She could not hold on. She slowly disappeared. Her identity slowly ripped away. She did not listen to the small still voice inside because she was taught it was someone else and she wanted to reject him. She would not listen to those that really loved and adored her. The slow rotting away of her self became too much though. The pride was not enough to stay anymore. Her life became so transparent she could see it in the reflection of everyone’s eyes. She had to face the truth.
The story that I most need to tell is how she survived. She looked and found there was not much left of her and she was taking the innocent ones down with her. She took a bold step. She left. She picked up the pieces. The voice was there and it was hers. Her knowing. Her intuition. Still there. She found she wanted to listen. She found strength and wanted to live and heal. She wanted motherhood to be what she dreamed. She wanted to love and be loved and she is.
The story that I most need to tell is about my self. Are you still there?
I need to tell my story to teach and protect so others will be spared.
My whole entire laundry routine has been dissrupted! And I survived it! It is so funny how a little thing like the dryer dying, and the in-between four weeks ( with a few trips to the laundrymat ) of getting another dryer, can upset the balance of clean clothes placed in their tucked away spots, versus the chaos of overflowing laundry baskets and dirty/wet towels piled here and there! So when the new dryer arrives ( the new-used dryer ), I, as soon as possible , start a load of laundry. Aaah, it feels so good to clean up some of the clutter. All is well until an hour into the "dry" cycle, and my clothes are not dry! They total out dry at an hour and a half, this cannot be. I adjust the gas line and do another load to be sure. Yup, something is not quite right, Come to find out the ignitor is out ( this is another two week process ). I am very careful this time to wear my clothes as long as is sensory possible. I am happy to say the dryer was fixed today -- by my significant other. This is a big accomplishment and very sexy thing from a man who rarely fixes anything! I am so proud of him. Yes, today life is good, I can do as much laundry as my heart desires, and my kids papa is my hero! Peace and blessings.
I grieve for all that I have as I watch it slipping away right before my eyes. My life I give for the love of my children. I cry for these moments spent together, these precious moments when I belong only to them, and they to me. Could we not spend eternity this way, nestled together in this warm safe place? I grieve for each passing moment that brings me closer to being further away. I should be cherishing these moments...yet, I grieve.
Change is something I have always embraced. Change meant that things would be different. Things could be better. Now I see that I have all I have ever wanted and change can only take that away from me. Please help me to see the light at the end of this dark tunnel I have yet to enter. I peer in apprehensively and see only darkness. I see all that I am about to lose.
I grieve for the love of a man I once knew. I sit across from him now, looking into his eyes, searching for something I recognize but he is not there. It is his face. The full lips and the craggy nose, the big brown eyes that seem not to see me. The longer I gaze into those eyes, the more I notice that the colors seem to run together, blurring out of focus. He wants me to go. It would be easier that way, then he could turn away and say that we left him. He wants us to let him drown.
Sometimes there is no right or wrong. The line becomes blurred and distorted and things are not as they seem. I grieve for the days when things were simple. I grieve for the loss of this dream.
Maybe it's because I have never really loved myself all that much. Maybe I didn't feel loved enough by those around me. Why don't I love as abundantly, as selflessly as what I suspect others may do? Why do I feel my love, faded and worn, slipping away like an old stretched out sock?
I always wished I was somebody else. Somebody dumber, somebody with longer hair, different teeth, shorter, taller, older... or younger. I have been fifteen different somebodies and I still flip through the catalogs and think, “They are different than me. They are happier,” even though I know it is all marketing.
If only it were a green summer day I'd be a happier person. If I could just get the filth off the floor and be able to call the house clean. No? Well at least just one room? Then I'll be happy. Then I'll have time to relax and...love.
Does he know the hours spent waiting? Does he know the years I've spent wanting him to hold me dear? I'm emotionally exhausted by trying to please, by trying to pull closer, to be the somebody that would bring his heart home from the work he used to love to do. Exhausted, I am. And I fear the love has run out because I just can't seem to find it.
Yesterday was another late night. I feel love when I am down there where I am wanted. I love the people I surround myself with and I love myself when I am there with them. I am constantly surprising myself when I go out of my way to talk to someone, to offer help or to ask for it. I have scattered the seeds of many friendships and carefully tend them. I cherish every one as I have always wanted to be cherished.
Then, home again. Home to the mundane everyday, what have you done, what haven't you done, and how was your day, dear? I try to be interested, friendly, excited even to hear about how the company's computer network is doing. I really do try, but I don't understand and I've heard about networks for years, these networks of machines. But what about people? What about me? Where was I on all those nights spent working late? I was here waiting, counting my love, plucking the petals off the daisy one by one until all that remained was a stem, straight and lifeless.
Will it grow back, the love? Or has it gone forever? How can I love so many so much yet be disappointed by the one I choose to spend my life with? How long can I hold out feeling this way? I see myself going through the years pouring my heart into notebooks, my full heart that needs release. The paper is a good listener.
from diapers and wipers
to holes in the knees
from soft cotton onesies
to white sweaty gis
my laundry my journal
of my children's growing
tossed in the washwater
ebbing and flowing
the same red shirt
with the holes in the cuff
the favorite blue jeans
pockets of stuff
tissues and nickels
and favorite rocks
with undies and socks
this home-sewn costume
now everyday wear
his warrior's tunic
is fighting in there
mud in the springtime
grass stains in fall
blood, paint and grape juice
I've dealt with it all
my laundry my journal
of my children's growing
ebbing and flowing
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