Archive for category pregnancy
Tweet There was a question posed to new mothers, “What do you wish you would have been told?”
This was my answer.
Much love and respect to Mai’a Williams and her endless barrage of transformative questions.
TweetThere’s nothing sexy about pain. There’s nothing even remotely redeeming, glorified, cute, or remarkable about pain.
I came into this realization quite quickly Sunday morning when I was dressing Isaiah for mass. I began lowering him to the floor, felt a horribly familiar pop! in my lower back and I immediately recognized that telling radiating heat that spread throughout my lumbar region as I fell on one knee. Isaiah screamed in my ear as he harmlessly wobbled back from me so he peer into my face to see what was wrong. All he could see was my face going paler by the second and my breath quicken in short spurts and outbursts, trying to control the pain.
No. No. No. No. No. No. No.
Not again. Not again. Not again. NOT AGAIN.
I just got back to the gym this week. I just started getting back on the treadmill, back in the zumba studio, back for my first swim in the pool. I just …
I just got over my back injury from last month.
Remembering my phone was in the inner pocket of my purse, I slowly walked to my purse on the ground and gently leaned forward. I reached and immediately fell and screamed in pain.
I somehow got my phone, I don’t remember how. (A friend told me that when her back went out, she blacked out from the pain.) I remember feeling calmed by the smooth surface of my phone, thanking God it was charged and relieved that Nick was only 5 minutes into his day, ahead of me, and on his way to work. I whispered frantically to Isaiah that everything was fine and threw him a toy as I winced in pain. He hobbled away, whimpering at the site of his mother in such disarray and distraction.
I burst into tears and could barely get the words out to Nick, “My back…w-w-went ou-ou-out a-a-a-gain…”
It was at that moment that I retreated from the world, the pain was overwhelming, almost blinding.
A co-worker told me later she saw Nick walking on the street when he was talking to me, all dressed up for work, briefcase in hand, but in an unusual walking speed, “a near run” she told me. So she stopped and offered him a ride to wherever he was rushing to. “Home,” he said, “Leese threw her back out again.”
It’s hormones, my chiropractor told me yesterday. All the hormones and chemicals that loosen the pelvis and back, readying the body to deliver a baby, are still in your body and, likely, the lumbar region isn’t as tight as it was before and isn’t as strong. Doing household chores and lifting things can sprain, strain, and injure the lower back, says the doc.
All of this from hormones? Still? It’s been 14 months.
Hormones and chemicals can linger in your body, doc says.
A number of friends – all who have given birth in the past two years – have confided of their recent and surprising chronic lower back pain, some so severe that it prevents mobility. Few have found comfort. All have tried natural healing, gym trainers, chiropractors, physical therapists. This strange community of back pain mothers comforts me.
I toss two pills of Alleve in my mouth and tried to smile at Isaiah in the kitchen. He put his chubby arms up for me to carry him and starts grabbing my clothes for leverage, like trying to climb a tree. Nick immediately scooped him up and tries to cheer him up with a jolly, overly boisterous voice. The shriek out of Isaiah’s mouth was one I could interpret instantly, “What’s the matter with you? Why won’t you pick me up?” He’s taken away from me and, out of nowhere, I have an image of him being taken away from me the moment he was born when all I wanted to do was hold him. I shake my head, and gently stir the boiling orzo.
Is this what birthing mothers deal with, I asked my head as I stare at the back of Nick’s body. His is so strong, so solid. Simply clad in jeans and a white tshirt, Nick’s body looked beautiful to me; his wide and capable back seemed fearless. His stride was fluid, like a complicated piece of piano music keyed effortlessly. I look down at my body. A staccato mess of surgeries, stretch marks, and my skin’s opinion of the pregnancy weight gain and loss. I see my scarred belly from three surgeries with another scheduled in the summer to fix an umbilical hernia. My inner eye sees an exhausted and red lumbar region, a weakened lower back throbbing with stubborn stiffness. It strikes me, with almost a pin needle acuteness, that Nick’s body hadn’t changed at all since we had Isaiah. Nick’s body remained intact, with no incisions, no stretches, no torn anything.
I pause in that realization.
His tongue had never mistaken water for metallic liquid. His nose never became so sensitive as to be able to detect the cleaning fluid on the floor of a grocer. His heart ventricles never widened to allow more blood flow. His calves and feet never swelled with unbearable water retention. His chest never billowed with heart burn. His mind never clouded with postpartum depression. His nipples never cracked with pain so deep that his shoulders shuddered. His skin never broke out in rashes. He never vomited from anesthesia or used his foreman to protect a 6 inch abdominal incision against a winter chill. He never had a catheter put in at the same time as a suppository while compressors pumped blood away from his legs. He never had an abrasion in the back of his eye because the surgeons forgot to completely close and protect his eyes before surgery. He never had to take pills to stop, prompt, or control a menstrual cycle. He never felt a flutter of life in his belly or feel the hiccup of a new being inside his womb.
Because he doesn’t have a womb.
Nick did and does everything a parent could possibly do. He transformed his emotions, his life, his commitments, and reformed his schedule to accommodate me and every little thing I needed throughout my pregnancy and birthing experience. He respects anything I tell him or request. Nick continuously and gladly lays in a metaphorical railroad track for me and our son. If that’s what needs to happen, that’s what I will do, he says.
But in the confines of my bed, nursing this near paralysis, when I hear Isaiah’s laughter and Nick’s efforts to keep him occupied, I realize, with ringing clarity something that I could not have known or respected prior to going through it myself: our bodies are entirely different and our needs are entirely different. My body endured all of this and my body cried differently than his. I knew this beforehand, but I never really Knew It beforehand. Maybe my body never really cried until I became a mother.
So this difference between Nick and I exists. It exists as sharp as a paring knife, as real as our love. That difference – that my body changed while his did not – initially sprouted a rocketing resentment against anything him, society, and anyone else that didn’t Get It. It = women’s bodies are a terrain that only we ourselves can travel. It is not for anyone to lay laws upon. It is not to be conquered, violated, disposed, or mishandled. Along with the resentment, I also noticed a widening reverence for my body. From which new life travels, the woman’s body is the canal to existence. It is from our very bones, the calcium of our teeth, the marrow of our own breath that the woman’s body offers and sustains a new being. The woman’s body is the epitome of automated self-sacrifice. It is the ground zero of renewal — if the environment agrees that her life is valuable and the time to recover is respected. We women, we give birth. And we are also born into a new identity and a new body.
Are there two more powerful and daunting words in the English language?
But we women are also prone to set back and injury because of what our spines uphold. Our bellies swell with life and our spines pull back to hold us up and in shape. Sometimes, though, the spine gives way and loses its strength.
Pain, whether it’s the lower back or elbow, or migraine, or menstrual, is a debilitating state of existence. Not because of the physical pain itself. It’s debilitating because chronic or severe pain draws our minds inward, incapable of fully giving of ourselves to anything or anyone else. In pain, I become unlike myself. I don’t unravel. I do the opposite, I am mummified. Most people, but especially me, are social beings. I feel endorphins from conversation, laughter, and intellectual exchange. However, in the confines of a bed and four walls, my spirit goes down. My intellect goes dim and my emotions begin to go dark. Swathed and cast in my own stillness and short breaths, pain dictates my freedom. I no longer care about anything. All that matters is finding a pain-free, mobile existence. Which is why when I check all my social media outlets – email, Facebook, Twitter, newsfeeds, and listserves – I shake my head that the world is celebrating Mardi Gras and International Women’s Day. I wish I had the energy to care. I find all kinds of interesting stuff to read, but before my mind digests in the information, my back spasms again and I nearly drop my laptop in shock.
Pain draws us inward.
So for me, today, the one day (unfortunately) that calls women from all over the world to stand together, I lie in bed, with my eyes closed, waiting for relief. Luckily, for me, I am certain of two things:
patience and writing can be worked on in bed
I do and can stand up for women’s rights and gender justice on a daily basis. But right now, regaining my spiritual and psychological composure after a back injury and remembering the awesome capacity of a woman’s body seems like my fight for today.
Tomorrow it may be something else.
TweetOn December 20, 2009, I gave birth to two things: a 9lb. 7oz son and a new feminism. It was the third time my reproductive organs had encountered surgical metal; twice to remove ovarian tumors and cysts and once to remove a breathing boy.
By nightfall, I was vomiting from the drugs administered to my body for my c-section. After an excruciating vomiting episode, my head hit my pillow in utter exhaustion and my newborn began to cry out of hunger.
I looked at my body. Like a meticulous and tedious film director wanting to capture every detail of a flowerbed with a camera, I surveyed every inch of my body. I started at my feet.
My legs were buzzing numb, still, from surgery. To keep from forming blood clots, my legs had been strapped to a pumping machine. Two pieces of plastic swathed my legs. They hissed when they squeezed my calves and lazily loosened after three seconds of tight holds. The noise prevented me from deep sleep and made my legs sweat.
A catheter was inserted. I saw the bag full of my urine with taints of blood. It was a horrendous sight.
The dressing over my surgical incision covered the most tender and vulnerable part of my birthing body, the exit wound of my baby.
An ugly red rash had exploded onto the top of my chest. Its bumps were just as unsightly as they were itchy. A reaction, maybe from the hospital gown? Or hormones?
My left hand was a splotchy mess from a messy IV insertion. Mounds of clear tape awkwardly held in a needle and dried blood itched under the surface. It was hooked to a machine, beeping and regulating my body. Bags of I don’t know what dripped into my arm.
My right arm held Isaiah as I tried to breastfeed him. His desperate attempts to latch on were beyond painful, but with the help of countless nurses and my husband, he drank.
My normally brown face was gray with remnants of drugs and fatigue. No food. No water. Only ice chips. My water was taken away when I drank too much too soon and vomited into the pan again.
Later, to help stir bowel movements, an enema was inserted.
And I surveyed my body, every orifice of my body was either plugged, bandaged, bleeding, dry, or fatigued. And as Isaiah drank, my breasts ached with new agony, unfamiliar with this new demand of nourishment and, suddenly, as if my leg pumps, catheter, IV, and surgery scars weren’t enough, I began having more contractions. My uterus throbbed with an intensity that made my eyes close.
The hormones stimulated by breastfeeding will cause contractions. This will help your uterus descend and go back to its normal size.
And Isaiah’s latch intensified.
Never, in all the days of my life, had I ever undergone anything so life-giving. Never had I myself been so life-giving. Every part of my body was simultaneously healing and giving.
But I was in much pain. The lactation consultants were so beautiful and caring, I wanted to weep into their laps.
They gently touched, massaged, and handled my breasts. The nipples, swollen and red, screamed with pain at the slightest touch of a hospital gown. Maya, a middle aged woman from Russia, was sharp, informative, and decisive. Her teaching was fast, her hands careful, but her eyes were business. She recognized the pain, she knew how hard this was. Myra understood that I was thisclose to losing my sanity.
She understood that while the vagina or, in my case, the abdomen, was the door to life in the womb, it was the nipples that were the entry point of survival for my son.
The body, my body became a poem, a poem of survival.
I stayed in the hospital room, save two hours to walk down the hall for a parenting class, for four days straight. My dreams were in neon and my breasts were engorged. What I remember about that period in my life was how unbelievably gentle and kind people can be when you are in pain.
Briefly, like a loose leaf lightly touching a windshield before moving on, I thought about Feminism. Now a mother. Never again like before. Never just I. My life just took the most radical turn. That morning I had made myself chocolate chip pancakes. Six hours later, I was a mother. Everything had changed in the blink of an eye. And in that change, I came to a realization that there were two kinds of feminism. The Feminism of issues and the feminism of our lives.
I realized the Feminism that is perpetuated in mainstream and mainstream-like media is not the feminism of our lives. It is the feminism of commerce. It is the feminism that picks and chooses the winners and losers, the visible and invisible, and accessible and ignored. It chooses what will sell and what sells focuses on status climbing, material wealth, and westernized independence. Things that bring pleasure, not transformation.
The Feminism that has stepped on the backs of women of color and ignored the backs of trans and disabled women is the Feminism that camouflages itself with diverse panels and collectives but neglects to modernize its definition of social liberation in the era of digital media. It is the feminist theories stuck in the academy with no implored action. It is the round table discussions reserved for annual conferences that result in no true connection or building blocks.
This is the Feminism that has the time and luxury to ask leisure questions such as, “Why don’t you identify as feminist?” and “Where are all the women of color bloggers?” The same Feminism that circulates the energy over the same privileged circle of the educated, the employed, or as I call it, “the Sames;” the ones who stand an inch into the outskirts, banging on the “equality” door but who also ignore the women whose heads are in toilets cleaning their bathrooms or nannying their children.
This is the Feminism of fruitless banter and recycled conversations. The space to bring these issues up could be a hopeful sign of progress, however, the repetition of those conversations and the predictable accusations and defenses serve no other purpose than keeping the pendulum swinging in balance. Aka, the status quo.
This is the same Feminism that haunts the academy and academic support offices such as Women’s Centers and elite conference gatherings. The conversation of the privileged becomes priority over decision-making. Consciousness-raising is imperative for transformation, but it cannot begin and end with questions. There must be forward motion, however slight.
Simply putting 50% of women into anything male dominated may alter the demographic, but that’s not necessarily transformative. Putting a woman’s face where a man’s once was, without any sort of critical change, is not equality but appeasement. And before Linda Hirshman takes that quote of mine again out of context, let me explain further.
The purpose of feminism is to end itself. Andrea Dworkin called it one day without rape. Others have other land posts measuring feminism’s victory. The purpose of feminism is to one day find ourselves where we don’t need to fight for human rights through the lens of women’s oppression. Note: I didn’t write that the purpose is to bring down the man. The purpose is not to have a female president. The purpose is to transform the infrastructure that holds kyriarchy in its place. Replacing men with women – of any race, ethnicity, creed, or ability – who refuse to acknowledge the insidious and mutating face of gender oppression is not forward stepping. It’s a perpetuation of history.
And so the question comes: how invested are you in the liberation of women?
Because if you agree that the liberation of all women carries more weight than the identification as a liberal feminist, the feuds over whether feminism is dead becomes irrelevant. The uproar should be about dying women, not a dying Feminism.
There was something so entirely miraculous about those four days in the hospital. I witnessed myself birth life. Bones from my bones. Blood from my blood. Life from my womb, I brought a person into the world. From two, I grew my family to three.
This awesome mystery/reality settled itself in bits and fragments.
My father told me that the birthing woman is different afterward. Her power is different. She herself is different.
My power is different.
For months, nearly everyone I encountered – friends and strangers alike – offered their opinion on what parenting should and would be for me. It was in that hospital room, where Nick slept uncomfortably on the couch without shaving and I, hooked to monitors and machines, understood a profound difference.
Parenting is the responsibility that we both shared. Together. It would be the late nights of feeding, rocking, and soothing that we’d walk together, he and I. But mothering, becoming a mother, was an entirely different bond. To me, motherhood is a yearning helplessness. Yearning to love more, yearning to teach better, yearning to make the world right – however impossible that might be. And recognizing that impossibility often made me cry.
I suddenly had this crazy urge to clean up the world for my son. I needed to organize.
The feminism of my life unfolded in a love story that resulted in the birth of my son. Gathered at my bed was my mother, the woman I’ve thought of and written so much about. The woman who I have processed more than any other human I’ve met. My father kept stroking my hair and muttering concerns over my state.
The feminism I had begun to build was a house of love that no longer shunned my parents out of frustration, but embraced our difficulties and disagreements. Filipino culture was not something I needed to understand to live, it was something I needed to live out.
Nick held the can for me while I vomited. He wore scrubs and, in the delivery room, wore a surgical mask. The shade of the scrubs made his hazel eyes deep green. I saw him between hurls. I saw my son. Our son.
Anything that I would dedicate my life to had to include, even demand, men. It may prioritize the lens of women’s experience for the liberation of all, but men had to be there. Where was I going without my son? What was I creating if not for him? I didn’t want to go where my family would not belong. It no longer made sense to separate myself and be alone. There was no division between the world I wanted to build and my son’s participation in it. I wanted freedom. Mine and his.
The Feminism of issues serves its purpose well. It informs us of the problems. But we’re more than issues, are we not? Isn’t our life worth more than the issues?
The feminism of our lives is the story of love, survival, testament, death, and epitaph. It is what we dedicate ourselves to and what we will pass on as truth to our children. Whether or not we identify as “feminist” is a sandbar to the oceanic movements of feminisms.
In my community, there is so much work to do, so much silence to break, that for the brief minute of a life where I get to use my voice, I am not going to expend my breath on explaining whether or not I identify as feminist. And the back-breaking work of so many women and men who never use the word feminism is not qualified or standardized on the arbitrary use of the word either.
The awareness matters. The intentional work toward eradicating inequality matters. The feminisms of my life matters. The use of the label does not.
Listen. Listen closely. Can you hear it?
The revolution will not be a movement. It will be Birthed.
TweetSo I started working out two weeks ago.
To feel my body MOVE, as in constant motion, without stopping, in cyclic ways, in scissor ways, in stretching to the skies…well, it’s been a trial.
I remember WAITING for the day when I could work out again. When I was pregnant and huge and my belly was larger than Jupiter and Saturn and all their moons COMBINED, I was itching to work out HARD.
Ugh, I can feel the absence of muscle. (except my right bicep which is ripping awesome from carrying my big baby) My lungs are in a state of, “What’s going on? I’m actually working under stressful conditions…” and my buttocks are yawning themselves awake, “Mhm, this doesn’t feel like the couch cushions…”
I don’t want my pre-baby body back. I want a better state of health.
I want – God willing – my next pregnancy to be even better, with a cleaner bill of health. No worries about sugar, no anxieties about high blood pressure. Granted, all was well with this pregnancy and my fear of these conditions was all for naught. But I want to be better. I want to be stronger, more ready.
And then there’s breastfeeding. Did someone fail to write this sentence in all the pregnancy and birth literature out there:
REGARDLESS OF WHAT YOU DO, IF YOU DECIDE TO BREASTFEED, THIS WILL LIKELY BE THE MOST PAINFUL AND DIFFICULT PART OF THE POSTPARTUM EXPERIENCE.
I’m not dissing the sleep deprivation. I’m not smirking at the episiomoty recoveries. I’m just sayin’ that the boobfeeding experience is one that I was NOT, repeat NOT prepared for…blisters, rashes, PLUGGED DUCTS, changing colors, sizes, breast pads, nursing bras, lotions, water, airing out…
Heaven help me. Why didn’t anyone give me a reality check about breastfeeding?
There was one person, I believe, on FACEBOOK who wrote one comment on my wall when she found out I was pregnant: Watch out for breastfeeding. I wish someone prepped me for that one.
Of course I knew it would take some time to figure out. The sore nipples and what not — I was anticipating all of that. But holy smokes, the PAIN, the agonizing over each feeding in the beginning…I actually had nightmares about a gigantic breast in my face; as if I was the baby and one huge boob was coming toward me. It was the size of a house. I woke up sweating.
So, yeah. Breastfeeding.
Another reason confirming that women truly can do and withstand anything.
TweetI’m in the last few weeks of my pregnancy and I wish I could write like I used to. I’ve heard some women measure the differences pregnancy has made in their lives by their physical bodies, the hours of sleep they used to get, how their emotions change. One of the biggest changes for me has been my writing voice.
Perhaps it’s the draining of my memory or the lack of focus on one central issue that has prevented me from writing as I used to. Perhaps its the inward-ness I’ve experienced as a pregnant women. The lioness in me to outwardly roar into the ear of the world has been sleeping with her cub. Instead of love projected into activism, travel, writing, and conferences, my life is love put into daily self-care, methodical practices to prepare for a child, mental quiet to adjust to the radical life changes happening.
My writing is deepening and the evidence is not public. Writing has always been such a private locket for me; a small beautiful thing hanging close to my heart and writing, before it’s released to others, has always first transformed me before I let it out. This pregnancy, how I have come to grow with a life within me, has changed my perspective. All of the things I were before I still am, just in a profoundly different way. The awareness of another human could not be more pronounced than in the glowing and growing underbelly of a pregnant woman. There is not one step I take now without effort, not one night where I am restless and drained, not one breath I take that is not shared.
That awareness is a new writing tool, a new gift that I am still marveling in its sheath.
In the next few weeks, a new chapter of my life will begin and I am deliciously terrified of how that will unfold. I worry that I will not be able to write as much, or as well, ever again with new parenting responsibilities. I am afraid that my life will move in a direction that closes the spaces I once reserved for writing. To some extent, I’m sure that is true – a childless schedule typically lends itself to more freedom than a woman with a newborn – but if there’s one thing I have learned from the past eight and a half months is that there are some things in life, there are some things that simply call for trust.
And love always leads the way. Love led me this far to birth this child.
Love will lead me back to writing well.
TweetA first time pregnancy is fraught with fears and questions. Existence, as I have known it, changed the moment I realized my life had reproduced another. A raw wonderment framed these fears and questions as the human body illuminated itself with miracle after miracle of unfolding life.
Beyond scientific reasoning, the body simply knows its duties, its problems, and negotiations. It produces milk and ajusts its supply according to demand. The body releases hormones that strengthens hair, nails, and bones while moving emotions around in preparation for a new life.
There are things in pregnancy that simply happen, almost like instructions were written in our bones and our bodies just obey. Decisions around birthing, terminating, breastfeeding, daycare, and health are uniquely assigned to each mother, like DNA. No fingerprints are alike. No pregnancy experience is mimicked or identical.
My own pregnancy, mostly, has been joyous, comfortable, awesome, and reflective. The most difficult terrain to hike has been balancing the identity of a working mother to be and making decisions to work post partum. An almost mother is asked to project. Predict. Assume. Have an answer based on the factors around you.
To be honest, that expectation – the expectation to know what my life will look like, what I will look like in a new role – feels ridiculous. Absurd, even.
It occured to me as more questions about WORK came up in conversation that we really don’t allow parents the privilege of adjustment. We give parents the decision making power, the expectations, the information. We give parents enough advice to get through anything. What we as a society DON’T do is give a reasonable amount of time to transition ourselves into our new role as life and caretakers. Supposedly that is what the 9 months of gestation are about. However, the expectation of WORK is to continue along as if we are NOT pregnant, as if we are NOT expecting. The expectation is that we arrive at the places and appointments just as we always had been, regardless of what it took to get there. Even if you had to pull over to vomit, even if you had to stop and eat because your stomach felt like it was concaving, even if you dragged your body out of bed and it felt like it had been drugged with sleeping pills – you still show up and work. Never mind the growing globe underneath your shirt, work is WORK.
Work – our societal structures of financially compensated labor – dictates that we make projections to the best of our ability on what we will do once we birth. We run with the leashes around our neck that dictate much time and space we are able to take, or “be off work,” when, ironically, this time will likely be the most difficult, painful, work-filled time ever known.
I have yet to find someone with a story whose work, company, organization, or agency truly and humbly honors that transition.
When we ask for family leave or maternity leave, what are we asking for? Are we asking for time to adjust? Or are we asking for a period of self and familial transformation? Every parent I have ever known has communicated in one way or another that life, as you know it without children, changes from top to bottom. Every layer, every facet of decision making and lifestyle is altered to make room for another person.
Now, I’m not advocating that new parents get an unlimited amount of time and money because of a decision to start a family. Understandably, businesses need to continue. Tasks need attention. Labor needs call. But, in the twisting definition of modern families, how we care for new life is just as important as how we care for new parents. How satisfied and/or stressed new parents are directly impacts the quality of work they produce and the quality of love they can share with their children.
So, when people ask me what I am doing after the baby is born, I answer with the most honest answer I have: I don’t know.
I don’t know. There is no reference I can pull or a map I’ve created.
But, decisions have to be made.
Who will take care of the child?
And I also wonder
Who will take care of me as a new parent? Who can I turn to in times of emotional flux? Who will answer at 3am when the whole street has dark houses and mine is only one lit up? Where do I go in my journey to be a good, decent parent?
Despite a floundering job market where feeling anything but gratitude for even having a job is not permissible; flexiblity, understanding, and basic employee trust would be revolutionary these days. We’re not robots. There’s no formula to know exactly what I’ll be ready for and how I’m going to balance that. But the system we’ve designed, the main street sidewalks we’ve paved all point to schedules, numbers, and dates. There’s no room for adjusting, really adjusting to life’s milestones. We’re given handfuls of weeks, sometimes even less than that to rearrange our lives. There’s no space to truly embrace the beautiful unpredictability of life. There’s no space to laugh at ourselves, or our mistakes.
Sometimes I feel like when I am most honest, I am labeled naive and irresponsible. No, I have no plan yet. Yes, the baby is coming next month. No, I don’t know about daycare. Yes, I do want to breastfeed, I think. I don’t know. Maybe.
Why is it that when I say, “I just want to see how I adapt to being parent,” the persons listening hears that I’m not ready? That I’m not thinking things through?
And then there’s my partner…he has even less options than I do in his “family leave” options. Since he technically did not “birth” anything out of his body, he should be able to jump right back into the swing of things after a few weeks.
The war zone in frontlines of motherhood are dry and worn and dirty. Even in the best of circumstances where we welcome and love the changes to our bodies, minds, and memories, we are expected to keep those changes OUT of our workforce lives. The productivity, the race toward an arbitrary goal, the endless monotony and routine must continue as if nothing but pleasantries occured. Never mind if you’re stitched up in the center of your body or your chest is aching with battle scars. There’s no time to waste explaining how sleep deprived you are – just GET TO WORK.
Sometimes I still wonder what our pregnancy would have been like had you turned out to be a girl. I wonder if you’d have received more letters from me. Frankly, the idea of raising a son is a new unchartered territory – even in my mind!
The closer we come, though, to receiving you in this world, outside my body, the more unspeakably excited and tender-hearted I become. You are going to make me a mama.
We’ve made it to 32 weeks (and counting), although the doctor says you’re looking three weeks ahead of schedule. I marvel at the slow journey of pregnancy, yet, when we reach weekly milestones, I feel like its sped by and hardly feel prepared.
Last night, your father put together a crib for you and I watched him. Sitting on the floor, looking up at him struggle over nuts, bolts, and frames of wood, I laughed and giggled over his frustration. You’re so small and the crib seems so much bigger than what you will need. But, your dad shows his love and eagerness for you in so many ways (other than crib assembly) and it has been moving to watch him grow through this experience as well.
Thanks to the advice of so many sage women in my life, I have come to know you as my unborn child, not just a gendered being in my body. I have come to accept that I will make so many mistakes – more than I will care to count – and as long as I try my best and keep fighting, you will learn the things that I most desperately want to teach you: love, faith, justice, empathy, resiliency, and humility.
I hope you to be a prophet. An activist. A person who seeks less to matter in the world as much as realizing how much people in the world matter. I hope you to be a lover of gentleness and truth, unafraid to walk alone on our front lawn, during recess, down the street, across a barrio, with another soul, with a unknown Entity.
I have come to accept how much of my life, henceforth, is out of my control. You will learn to first depend then interdepend, then exist independent of me and your father. Those transitions will be painful for all of us, I’m sure, but the strength of my hope and belief that we can do this together is stronger than those impending fears and inevitable struggles.
I am ready to be your mama and that readiness is beautiful to feel.
TweetIt’s true when they say that the never unheated issue of abortion is the most visible skyscraper in the cityline of reproductive rights. Many other issues, although not as controversial or heavy hitting, are often left in the cool shadows, lingering on the minds of distressed women.
I’m inching toward my 7th month of pregnancy and the issue of the NIHI vaccine has been monopolozing my mind since flu season descended on my calendar, and straight into my big pregnant heart afflicted with tender worrying about my first child.
Here’s what I want to know: how do you trust ANYONE these days to give you correct information? For most computer literate citizens, there is no shortage of informtion. Thanks to trusty libraries, there is no question left in the dark, but, the question remains in my suspicious mind: How do I trust this information?
Maybe there are a handful of organizations or groups dedicated to unbiased information distribution, but, for the H1N1 issue, I’m pressed to find hard core facts that don’t have some sort of agenda to nudge you in a certain direction.
This is my body and inside my body is my first child. The questions going back and forth neutralize my ability to make a decision. There is risk in doing something, there is risk in doing nothing, so I look at the facts.
Fact #1 – in my local community, there have been reported and confirmed H1N1 cases. To be exact, the local family care center 2 blocks from my house.
Fact #3 – The vaccine is new and although people want to remain positive, the uncertainty of its effects are not known. NOBODY truly knows what the effects might be on pregnant women.
Fact #4 – Pregnant women have a weakened immunity system and those in later pregnancy may have more complications from flu-turned-pneumonia because of lack of sleep, irregular breathing patterns (baby pushing up against diaphragm makes deep breathes more difficult), and overall fatigue
Fact #5 – There is risk either way and regardless of what I do, my choice will be unpopular with someday in my life
My father is nearly sweating himself into dehydration because he wants me first in line for the vaccine. My mother is unconvinced that vaccination is safe. My dear Adonis keeps reading whatever he can, uncertain what is best and afraid to push me into getting the vaccine which he, underneath it all, thinks is the best option for our growing family.
I remain on the sidelines, swaying to the winds of news, gut, prayers, and hope.
So, after you’ve got choice, after you’ve got the information, what do you do if you still can’t make a decision?
I’ve asked Isaiah what he thinks and he just kicks and rolls happily inside, his firing neurons building a system that utterly depends on the decisions I make with my body and our health.
Ehrenreich argues that, basically, a little realism and truthful admittance of our feelings when we are dogged by the inevitable harder aspects of life are not only normal, but quite healthy. She talks about her new book which explores the roots of “positive thinking” which hit close to home when in treatment for breast cancer and was advised to “embrace” her disease.
Another insightful and interesting perspective from Ehrenreich that may have me borrowing this book from the library once available.
The one point I would either disagree with or elaborate with Ehrenreich:
For the very depressed person, you’re just convinced that everything is going to be miserable, that you’re not going to enjoy anything you undertake, that you’re going to fail at everything.
There, too, you’re just projecting things. It’s extremely hard to “see things as they are.” It’s a project — we have to consult other people, we get other views, we sometimes have to question other people’s views, but that’s the only way to proceed, and that’s how our species has survived as long as it has.
The anti-deflatable population, those who are absolutely committed to seeing everything rosy, are not positive thinkers. I would argue those folks are in denial. Denial is powerful. It has the capacity to mentally save us from crushing circumstances when we need to focus on something else, like a strategy to survive. Denial is not always a bad thing. Psychologically, denial is a coping mechanism that, when appropriately used in a timely manner, can be extremely effective and helpful, provided you deal and process whatever is troublesome soon afterward.
But that’s not the kind of denial that I’m referencing with this population Ehrenreich is describing. The denial of whole perspective, the denial of seeing the source of pain and unfairness is not positive thinking. It’s intentional self-blindness.
The folks who Ehrenreich speaks of are the classically weak. Those who run from insecurities into big homes and refuse to acknowledge pain. Those who tell laid off workers to have a better attitude or say that cancer is “a gift.” I don’t believe those are positive thinkers. I think there can be redemptive strength and epiphanies that come from suffering, as many cancer patients attest, but, I tend to agree with Ehrenreich on this point: How about a little realism?
The world is a living paradox. It is filled with peace and injustice, good and bad, healers and killers, miracles and tragedies. Those who actually see this, those of us who are see BOTH sides of humanity and still see hope, those are positive thinkers. Those are the visionaries who have walked through the caves, curse at the darkness, hate the stench of oppression, identify the causes of crises, and STILL, despite all of that maintain some sort of decent, whole, and active existence in the world. Those are positive thinkers.
It’s not to the lengths that she describes in her cancer treatments, but I think of my own experiences with “positive thinkers,” or people who don’t want to hear the hard knock truth of our emotions when faced with crisis or even severely stressful situations.
I cannot begin to count how many times I have tried to discuss certain fears I have about delivery, about becoming a parent, or even about the plain Jane pain that will take over my body in a few short months when I give birth. To which most people automatically direct me to “think about the positive parts of this! You’re having a baby!”
There is no minimizing the miracle or joy I experience on a daily level because of this new life. There is no way to diminish the unparalleled brilliance of what is transpiring in my body right now.
At the same time, there is still an abiding anxiety that I neither reject or ignore. It is part of the REALITY of my life, this experience. To project PURE positive thinking is to deny a reality which can be very much part of a positive gift later on, but for now, the deep anxiety and concern I have over the H1N1 vaccine, developing gestational diabetes, traumatic birth, birth defects, and overall, what kind of parent I will be are all so very real and scary.
But everyone loves to talk about the positive parts, the hunky dory pieces of nursery talk and baby land.
To “see things as they are” is, indeed, a rare perspective these days.
TweetI’m presenting at a conference in a little over a week. I was given 20 minutes to talk about feminism, new media, and identity. Twenty minutes.
I remember when I was in college and thinking that writing long papers was one of the biggest challenges. “What am I supposed to write about?” I always looked for fillers to make my number pages increase, as if writing MORE signified more meaning.
Eight years after college, I learned that it’s short papers, abbreviated periods of time that holds true challenge. How do I only have 20 minutes to create this presentation when I have so much to say?
In preparing for this conference, I’ve been writing primers on feminism, my feminism. My perspective. My truth. I have been reviewing the definition of feminism and its futility in the common, everyday world in which we live in. How feminism affects the relationships we claim mean so much to us. How feminism affects our communication patterns in workplaces built on hierarchy and authority. How feminism challenges and/or enhances our expectations of the men in my life (and especially the women in my life!).
How does feminism, YOUR feminism affect you? How personal, how intimate do you allow your feminism to become?
If personal transformation is key, or a precursor to societal transformation, intimacy with feminism cannot be sidestepped. It takes a monstrous force to allow oneself to be vulnerable enough to change, vulnerable enough to change our relationships and beliefs that influence our daily behaviors. That is the function of my feminism — using it as a ladder to climb for a better view, reaching higher [deeper] levels of clarity. It is not navel gazing if we actually USE feminism for self-transformation, instead of using it as a lens to think or muse on our own experiences. Once we’re done musing, it’s time to enact change. Put our lessons into practice.
For me, action and change are found in small-sounding shifts. For example…
I stopped lying.
I stopped lying to people when they ask how I am feeling. I stopped saying that I feel great and have enough energy to be pregnant, go out, cook, take care of myself, work a full time job.
I stopped lying and began saying what is really happening: I’m tired. I’m tired by 2pm everyday and need to sleep. Saying this means I’ve asked for help. Admitting this means allowing others to see that I’m changing and I’m affected by that change. It means acknowledging that I am not as energetic as I once was. It means allowing myself to be seen in my own skin. It means not pretending and letting whatever expectations of me that others held to fall to the ground and stay there.
I stopped lying because the energy in creating a lie – however slight the alteration of the truth it is – distracts and subtracts from the energy bank I DO have.
The result is I am able to see myself as I am: a very pregnant woman, very much in love with this experience, and needing time to Be exactly as I am.
It wasn’t the hugest lie to tell. Perhaps the liberation I feel has more to do with the fact that I am being more FULLY myself, allowing more of the truth in, instead of filtering it out.
It’s meant closing my door to sleep. It’s meant reaching for more water. It’s meant coming to grips with the darker parts of pregnancy that are creeping closer and closer in my insecurity. It’s meant more doctor’s appointments and less bravado.
It means being real.
Feminism, the kind I am presenting, has to do with that kind of liberation. It begins with small lies we tell ourselves to get through the day, it begins with taking down ridiculous facades we don’t even need to begin with, and frees up our identity to pay attention to who we really are, what we are really about, and refocus that energy in what truly matters.
It is my hope, or plan, that beginning in those seeds of truth will allow us to grow into truth-filled bodies where we can recognize the people and places that truly need more energy and hope.
I serve no other person well if I begin from an unstable foundation.