birth story comic part 2

(Read the first four pages here.)

birth-story-5

birth-story-6

Something that really surprised me about labor: I had an epidural but STILL felt SO MUCH PAIN. The drugs gave me a five hour break which was totally pain free, but then all the pain came back. Once I hit 8cm dilated I felt EVERYTHING. I didn’t understand those women who say, “Oh, I don’t want the epidural because I want to really feel the experience of giving birth.” Here I was, epidural-ed up, and FEELING the experience way more than I wanted to. Turns out, epidurals are different for everyone. Some people are pain free throughout labor, others feel more pain with the epidural, and for some it doesn’t work at all.

I was also surprised at how hard it was to push correctly. I sort of felt how I needed to push, I felt like I had to poop really badly, but I didn’t seem to be pushing the baby out (although I did poop quite a lot). It took SO LONG to move him down that birth canal. I had no idea pushing could take so long. After an hour I was no closer to holding my baby.

I really thought I couldn’t do it. I wondered how I could have gotten myself into this situation– something I clearly couldn’t handle and wasn’t doing right.

Looking back almost seven months later, I can no longer feel the pain in my body when I think about giving birth. Our bodies don’t remember pain fully, as a survival instinct, but in the weeks and first months afterwards I couldn’t think about the experience without shivering. Some physical memory remained underneath my skin, in my muscles. At my six week postpartum check up I had to lay back with my feet in the stirrups so the midwife could examine me. As soon as my body assumed this position I started crying. Greg immediately came to my side, held my hand. The midwife asked if she was hurting me, and I say no, it was an emotional reaction.

To be continued.

songs

Even in utero my baby loved music. When I played ukulele or guitar, the instrument pressed against my belly, he’d kick and roll. At a Bruce Springsteen concert he went nuts during Because The Night.

Yesterday I was playing around on the ukulele while Giles jumped in his bouncer. His face lit up watching my fingers on the strings and the sounds they produced. Using three simple chords I started making up lyrics, singing to that smiling face. Somehow I wrote a song. And then another one.

They are simple, and recorded on Garage Band during nap time (you might be able to hear faint crying in the background):

In many ways my creative energy has been channeling itself into being a mom. Making each day special and fun and productive with little Giles, watching him develop and trying to help him learn things. Surviving (and even thriving?) on way too little sleep. I’ve even been learning to cook new dishes, doing house projects, organizing and reorganizing closets and shelves until finally someday (I hope) the towels/blankets/sheets/napkins/etc. will fit just right and even look cool or whatever. My Life is my Art, and this has always been true but is true in a new way now that I’m a mom.

Once a week I have art time for a few hours while Greg’s mom takes Giles. This is a gift, to have this time. And while a lot of my art is about being a mom, I haven’t found a way to make art with Giles. When he’s older we will do projects together, and I look forward to that. But then I wrote those songs yesterday. I made something, some art, with my baby, and it’s also something for him. He brought it out of me. I had never written a song before, but it’s something I’d been wanting to do ever since I taught myself to play guitar almost six years ago. Giles opened the door.

Having a baby deepens my art in ways I don’t even know about yet.

 

where we are now

The first thing I did this morning was cuddle with my husband and baby. Just like every morning. Giles giggled and kicked his legs. We kissed his face.

I am angry. Even if Hillary had been elected, we would still have to face the fact that so many people in our country support a man who feels it is okay to sexually assault women, who spouts racism and sexism and hate. There are problems here. It is not okay.

My friend Alexander shared what he wrote on his classroom board today:

Do Now: The election is over. No matter who you wanted to win, at least one thing is true: you have the ability to do something today to make the world a better place. What can you do?
HW: Do that thing. 

I am making a list of the things I can do:

  • raise my son, teach him to use his privilege for good. show him by example to stand up for people who are marginalized. teach him to respect women. teach him to love and be loved. teach him to use his own brain and listen to his gut, and be himself.
  • speak my mind, both in person and online. say things that are true and right. call people out when they say things that are racist, sexist, offensive, wrong.
  • continue living in this country. we need to stay here and make it better. organize. speak out. be kind.
  • support my loved ones and strangers who may be put in danger by this administration.
  • keep learning. be open. listen.
  • make art.
  • continue to be a woman who demands to be taken seriously, who demands equal rights, who does not want her pussy grabbed without permission.

I’ll add to this list as I go. Live my life in the way I believe is best. Be the change. Today I will make coffee, hold my baby as he naps, play with him, laugh, read, sing. I will cook. I will write a bit in my journal, maybe do some drawing if I can. If it stops raining I will go out for a walk and smile at my neighbors.

What can you do?
Do that thing.

november, dia de los muertos

Everybody’s gone away.
They think there’s nothing left to see.
The garish colors’ flashy show is over.
Now those of us who stay
hunker down in sweet silence,
blessed emptiness among

red-orange shadblow
purple-red blueberry
copper-brown beech
gold tamarack, a few
remaining pale yellow
popple leaves,
sedge and fern in shades
from beige to darkening red
to brown to almost black,
and all this in front of, below,
among blue-green spruce and fir
and white pine,

all of it under gray skies,
chill air, all of us waiting
in the somber dank and rain,
waiting here in quiet, chill
November,
waiting for the snow.

~ The Fall Almost Nobody Sees, by David Budbill

As it gets colder, the trees get bare, Giles sees his first snow, I think about death and life and cycles. Bringing pain into joy, carrying both. You can see a lot further around here when the leaves are gone, and it’s comforting. Beautiful in an introspective kind of way. Lonely. But good lonely. Greys on greys on greys.

I miss my mom. I dress Giles in a skeleton outfit. I wear all my skeleton clothes and jewelry.  I think about how my bones are different now after pregnancy and labor– my ribcage is wider, my hipbone too, my foot bones longer and flatter. Last year Giles’ bones grew inside me. Greg and I make sugar cookies decorated like skulls and we eat too many. I make an altar in my art studio.

She walks these hills
in a long black veil

unnamed

 

i am tired

I don’t know how to explain just how tiring it is being a stay-at-home parent. Being a working parent is tiring too, but that is not what I am doing so I can’t say what that is like. All I can write about is my own experience.

I am tired. I am so much more tired than I have ever been in my life. Physically, emotionally, mentally, existentially.

What if I am not as good at this as I thought I would be?

What if I am not as good at this as my mom was?

I can’t ask her if she was this tired. I can’t ask her if there were moments (or days) of doubt. I can’t talk to her about any of this.

Other people give me advice or tell me I’m doing great, that everyone gets this tired, that my mom would be proud of me, but I don’t want to hear any of it.

I only want to talk to my mom. I only want to talk to my mom.

Really, please, do not respond to this with comments of advice, or compliments, or “sleep when the baby sleeps.” (“Sleep when the baby sleeps” is bullshit.)

I am not trying to get sympathy or advice. I am just sharing. Because maybe someone else will read this who is feeling the same way and there will be a tiny light in their dark room. Or maybe I don’t know why. Maybe just because I am the only one who can be me and so I am the only one who can tell my own story. Maybe because one day my baby will be a parent and I will be dead and he will wish he could ask me these questions. I hope I will be alive to answer them, to tell him that yes I was this tired, and it was okay, and I loved him in every tired second, in the joyful seconds, in the most difficult seconds. That being his mom is the best thing in my whole life.

I am at the brink of the limits of my exhaustion.

Or there might be further limits I don’t know about yet. I probably can take more of this than I think I can. Exhaustion will probably stretch me and bring me into deeper holes. I will go into them and I will be okay.

I want to savor and enjoy this time with my baby while he’s still a baby. It will go by so fast. It will be so short. But I am tired.

I am tired.

I am tired.

I am tired.

I am not asking for help. I am not asking for advice. I cannot repeat this enough. That is not what I am looking for. I am just sharing. I will figure this out for myself. Giles will help me figure it out. Greg will help me figure it out. But mostly I will find the way my own damn self, because that is how I am built. Even if it’s harder that way or takes longer, or I do things that seem wrong. I will find my own way to do this.

I am fine. I am okay. I am truly in love with my baby in a deeper way than I have felt any feeling before. With this deep and extreme love comes deep sad, deep tired, and deep longing.

Deep missing.

Deep doubt.

Deep dark circles.

Deep joy. Deep self. Deep deepness.

I am tired.

 

 

put back together

It’s Rosh Hashanah. The Jewish New Year. Time for letting go, time for leaves to fall. Time for shedding what is no longer needed.

As I start this new year, in a new body, with a new baby, in a new house, so much about me is different.

Some things are the same.

What do I need to let go of? My skin? My pre-mom self?

To be honest, I’m feeling pretty broken today. I miss my mom. I wish we could go down to the river together and throw pieces of bread into the water to take our regrets from the past year away. Maybe we’d ride our bikes in the cool fall air.

I feel something is just out of reach, some core thing that I keep forgetting. Or maybe it’s just one of those days. Maybe I should lean into it. Let go.

My baby is strapped to my chest in his carrier. We took a walk and looked at leaves. We played on the floor. He’s quiet, binky in mouth, looking up at me sometimes as I type. I think he will fall asleep any minute so I’m rocking back and forth in the chair.

He smiles so big when he sees me after we’ve been parted. Whether it’s morning and he’s seeing me for the first time that day, waking up and I’m right there waiting for him; or he’s been with his Nana for a few hours; or even if I’ve only left the room for a few minutes– he’s so happy to see me. We have a tether strung between us. I know I will feel him with me anywhere I go for the rest of my life. Even when he’s grown and off on his own adventures I will feel him in my heart like a physical pull. I just know this. My mom must have felt this way.

She wrote this poem:

The Birdhouse

Anna is leaving me again,
over and over.

Just like I left her so many times,
by choice and not by choice.

Teaching me to tolerate longer and longer absences:
Stretches of not hearing her voice
doing homework with a friend on the phone,

Or the sound of popcorn crunching along to a favorite movie.

I took her to her first movie when she was eighteen months old.
She ate my entire tub of artificially butter-flavored popcorn.
I felt
grateful
that she didn’t choke
and awed by the intensity of her concentration.

She says, “I love you” each time she laves.
And I am trying to photograph her face, her smile,
every time in my mind, afraid of having
so much less to take for granted.

I walk outside see the birdhouse
made in eighth grade shop class.
A father’s day gift for her dad–
she looks so much like him.

I stare at the birdhouse as a light rain
begins to kiss the back of my neck.
I am not cold, and I do not feel the wetness of it.

I realize that she is forcing me to grow up again,
to accept losing what I want to hang onto.
I hate that.

That birdhouse sits on the stump–
It’s maple stain color darkened by the moisture,

and my tears add salt to the raindrops.

Viola Moriarty
2000

When I read this poem I cry. I was fourteen or fifteen when she wrote it, and I don’t remember where I had gone. Maybe on a trip with some friends. Sometimes I regret every time I left her because that’s time with her that I lost. I didn’t know the time was finite. At fourteen everything seems forever, even if your grandfather and pet guinea pig died when you were eight and so you know that everyone dies. It just didn’t enter my mind then that my mom could die. But I also know that we both had to live our lives which meant leaving each other again and again.

When will Giles leave me? How many times? Will I have to leave him? Will he still smile at me when we come back together? Right now his sleeping face is pressed into my shirt, long lashes closed, gentle breathing only just audible. Sweet baby smell.

My pieces are all over the place. My childhood, my heart, my legs, my soul, my art, my drive, my love, my hunger.

I don’t know where I am.

I’m in our house. On our street. In our town. In the autumn of the year 2016. My mom has been dead for three years and five months and 16 days. My baby is just two days shy of being five months old. My feet are inside my slippers. My head is inside my favorite knit cap.

It’s the new year. 5777. The Days of Awe.

0312011332.jpg
This photo is from 2011, in the ER waiting room. I had fallen and hit my head pretty hard so my mom insisted we go to the hospital to make sure I didn’t have a concussion. They gave me an ice pack which I tied to my head so I didn’t have to hold it there. We both thought it was pretty funny, so my mom took a picture. Turns out I didn’t have a concussion. I was okay. Not broken at all.