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“You can make anything by writing.” ― C.S. Lewis

Posts for Lessons Category

Birthing Ariadne, Part Six: Reflection

PART SIX: REFLECTION

There were so many parts of this birth story that were hard to write — and this final section has become one of the hardest. The truth is my feelings on my birth change, sometimes from day to day — depending on how I feel, my general mental health, what kind of comment someone has made lately. Every other post in this series has been 90% ready to go for weeks — but I keep coming back to this one. I keep feeling like I haven’t said enough, or I haven’t said what I meant clearly, or that there’s another message or lesson I need to explore.

Months have passed since I gave birth to Ariadne. Although I began writing her birth story the first week we came home, as I am finishing it, her first birthday is on the horizon. Before I had my own baby, I wondered why mothers waited so long to share their birth stories. Weren’t they burning to share their experiences, their joys and pain? Now, I understand. Now, I realize what a transformative, life-changing experience birth is, whether it happens perfectly as desired, or is massively derailed. It’s not so easily tossed out for the world to digest – sharing your birth story is incredibly overpowering, intensely vulnerable.

I found, the deeper I got into my birth story, the more confusion I felt. Even in the first weeks home, I was moved to tears – sobbing tears, neither wholly of pain nor of joy – when looking at pictures from our days at the birth center, when trying to put into words the huge wealth of emotions I felt that week. My birth struck me as a many-layered experience. Parts of it were painful in the extreme, both physically and emotionally. Parts of it were beautiful, spiritual, and empowering, despite the frustrations. I struggled – do struggle still – how to make peace with this juxtaposition, this dichotomy of the two very different sides to my birth that somehow inhabit the same space of my heart.

Even just writing my birth story forced me to face the parts of my birth that I found painful, disappointing – even traumatic. Writing this has been a form of therapy, certainly – but there were times I did not feel up to the task of working through the disappointment, doubt, and guilt that I felt during that week, and have felt from time to time since. The idea of sharing my birth story makes me feel intensely vulnerable. Giving birth is both the most vulnerable and empowering time of a mother’s life, and sharing our weakest and strongest moments takes a lot of guts, and a lot of strength.

I confess that I delayed writing and sharing this post, because at times, I feared people would judge me. Directly after my birth, I did not feel much doubt about the decisions I’d made. At that point – the aftermath was still very evident, from the huge bruises on my arms to my hideous feet still grotesquely swollen from the magnesium to the follow-up doctor’s appointments to make sure my blood pressure came down and stayed down, and that I remained out of danger for a stroke or seizure. It was easier to take the danger of my ill health seriously, in the first weeks after I gave birth. The scariest moments, the biggest risks and dangers had left their mark on me, physically, and they were not easy to forget, at first. For a few weeks, I continued to feel justified in every decision I had made, because the evidence of their necessity was printed on my skin.

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Birthing Ariadne, Part Two: The Induction

[part one]

PART TWO: The Induction

Luckily, Shaun managed to switch his usual Sunday evening shift for a Sunday day shift — meaning on that stressful night, when we were waiting to find out if we’d be parents sooner rather than later — he got to be home with me to try and keep me sane.

We truly had a lovely evening together, and looking back, knowing how it all ends — I’m so glad we did. It felt like we were standing on the edge of a cliff, trying to keep our balance: one the one hand, we could go in to the birth center on Monday and end up being kept, induced, having a baby sooner than expected. On the other — all this fuss and worry might be for naught. We might be sent home, and end up laughing Monday evening in our living room about how keyed up we were over nothing.

So I wanted to make an effort to be sure that if this was our last night home together, we really made space to honor how special that was. Shaun set up to grill — it’s always one of our favourite ways to spend an evening. He did his special chicken marinade and grilled squash and zucchini, so we had a healthy meal, and we enjoyed the summer evening as we had so many other summer evenings — the little brick patio, Shaun grilling and singing as he always does, the sunlight in the blue sky, the wind rustling the tree branches.

The other thing I wanted to make sure to do, even if we weren’t sure how the next day would go, would be to get a few final belly pictures. My gut had started talking to me loud and clear in the last few days, and as the days went on, I really started listening to it. I didn’t know for sure what would happen the next day, but I felt pretty sure the next time I was home again, I wouldn’t be pregnant anymore. Shaun and I had had our beautiful maternity session with Rachael, but those pictures had my belly covered and not super defined. I really wanted some pictures that showed of the glory and majesty of a pregnant belly — which meant hugeness and stretch marks included. I snuck off the couch for a few minutes, long enough for Shaun to snap some bare belly pictures of me with Baby Girl inside for what might be the last time. (And in retrospect, I’m so glad I have these pictures, have captured my big, beautiful belly, those last few days of Baby Girl safe and snug inside me.)

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Sweet Emi came over later that night, to have one final pep talk and strategy session. All along these last couple days, Emi had been so supportive and just an absolute rock. She kept reminding me — this is not you. This is nothing you’ve done or not done. You’ve been one of my best doula patients ever, I’ve not had to worry about what you’re eating or doing, you’ve done such a great job taking care of yourself and baby, and this is just something we can’t control. It was everything I needed to hear, over and over again, as I continued to blame myself.

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I Love Moms.

One of the things I’ve loved most about this first year of being a mother is other moms.

I love moms of all ages and shapes and sizes, I love moms who are now grandmoms, I love working moms and stay-at-home moms, and breastfeeding moms and formula moms and homeschool moms and moms at their wits’ end and moms full of inspiration and moms bobbing somewhere in between.

I love the moms who were my friends before I myself became a mom. These are the friends who taught me about motherhood before I was even pregnant. These are the moms who taught me literally how to breastfeed and how to swaddle and how best to soothe a baby to sleep. I am endlessly grateful for them because they crossed over into this wild world first, and held out their hands to help me step into motherhood myself.  These are the mama friends who knew how hard it was before I became a mom, and instead of laughing at my naiveté, tried to teach me, just to try and keep me from making the same mistakes they did.  Thank you, mama friends, for being so gentle and patient with me. Thank you for reassuring me for the 15th time that all was well and I was doing just fine. Thank you for letting me complain to you when I was overwhelmed, thank you for giving me advice, thank you for urging me to keep going when I doubted myself.

But I also have an ever-growing soft spot for new moms like myself. I love the moms who are in the trenches like I am, learning this all for the first time. The women, who like me, watched other women become mothers and thought maybe we understood, but in reality had no clue what it would actually be like to live it. I love the new moms who are just trying their best, and constantly feel like they are on the verge of failing. I love the new moms who are coming to grips with the fact that this is forever and always, now – this level of hyperawareness, this constant worrying, this constant responsibility.

I love all kinds of moms and how we support one another. There are women who I was close with, many years ago, and there are women I barely knew, had a class in college with, went to high school with. There are internet friends who I’ve been friendly with for years but might have drifted from as time passed.  Women, that prior to having a baby, I would have thought of with pleasant if dim memories, a warmth without much heat behind it.

Suddenly, these moms became so much more. Suddenly, their little comments, their reassurances, their messages – became little life lines for me. There was this bond, all of the sudden, that seemed to come out of nowhere – and yet, it was born of understanding. Young women who gave birth within a year or two of me – they experienced what I experienced, in enough proximity of time that it is so fresh, so common, so mutual between us. The newness and the shock and the love and the frustration are so prominent, so current – for them, and for me.

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2016 Election Aftermath

Lessons, Non-Fiction, Opinion Piece, Thoughts - Emily - November 9, 2016

I see a lot of people saying, “well, we’re still a country united and we have to accept what happened” or “what happened happened, let’s move on,” and to that, I say – NO. This was not the average election situation of Republican versus Democrat. I’ve lived through that type of election before, and won some according to my beliefs, and lost some according to my beliefs. I can live with that, I can accept that’s the reality of a democratic state. But that was not this election.

This was an election where a completely unqualified, hate-mongering reality TV show star with sexual assault accusations in the double digits and an endorsement from the KKK was running against a highly qualified and experienced woman. Maybe she wasn’t everyone’s favourite, maybe we had some qualms with her actions – like we would have and have had for any politician in the history of politics. But any choice – any choice – was better than Trump. I started my “I would have voted for 101 Dalmatians over Trump” thread as a sort of tongue-in-cheek way to deal with my frustrations, a sort of way to whistle in the dark on a very dark day indeed. But I meant it – anyone was better than Trump, a man who peddles fear and hate, a man who has no experience in running a political office of ANY size, much less one of the hugest and most powerful nations.

Maybe you’re not scared today. Maybe you’re only a little disappointed, or maybe you feel America made the right choice. But to that, I say – maybe you’ve always been exactly where you needed to be. Who you needed to be. Maybe you’ve never questioned your sexuality. Maybe you’ve never been targeted for an act of aggression just because of the color of your skin. Maybe you’ve never questioned your religion. Maybe you’ve never been sexually assaulted. Maybe you’ve never been undermined and ignored just because of the gender you’ve been born with and had no choice about. Maybe you’ve never felt like you were born in the wrong body, completely trapped there with no way to escape.

Maybe you were born white and straight and Christian to white and straight and Christian parents in America. Maybe you have never felt the need for change. Maybe your beliefs have never been marginalized. Maybe you have always aligned with the most common, acceptable way of life, and therefore, you’ve never had to question that the world needs change because the world isn’t accepting of anything different from you.

Maybe that’s you – but that’s not me. That’s not my family or my friends. That’s not so, so very many people in this country. We have been attacked or assaulted or ignored or threatened. We see the need for change. We are citizens of this country and citizens of the world just as much as anyone else, and we are scared. We are scared for our future. And guess what – it is not unpatriotic to want change for your country when your country is making dangerous decisions. We who want change are just as patriotic as you – because we don’t want to see our country become what it is poised to become. We don’t want to go down in the history books as another black mark on the page of humanity. We believe in our country, and our leaders – and we believe we are better than this. We are better than Trump, and although I wish I could wake up to find all of this a bad dream, in the next four years – we are going to prove it.

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On Being Seen.

One of the most infuriating opinions I often overhear is this degradation of poverty, of those so down on their luck they’re homeless or panhandle on the side of the street, or need assistance with bills or health care. I hear too many people say they deserve it, or they’re freeloaders, or drug addicts, or basically just worthless non-people, people whose existence apparently doesn’t count anymore.

There are a lot – a lot – of things I could say in reply to this opinion. And sometimes I do – and yet, there’s a very specific memory I have, one that stuck with me for a few years. I wrote about it a while back, and any time I reread it, I just think – yes. This is why it matters.

As we turned off of Third Street, and onto Grant, we passed a woman standing on the corner. She looked tired. Not in the I didn’t get enough sleep last night way.  More I’m tired of how hard life is, all the time, nonstop sort of way.

Lauren, Becky, and I had just spent the morning lounging on the IU campus in the sunlight, and then had a delicious lunch at a Creole and Canjun style restaurant. We were tipsy on sunshine and laughter.

We drove past this woman and I read the small cardboard sign she was holding: Single mother. 2 kids. Homeless. Anything will help.

She looked tired, but strong as she stood there at the corner. Cars rolled by, people on the sidewalks walked around her. It seemed like she was completely resigned to the fact that most people were going to overlook her, let their eyes wash right over her and pretend not to see her, a person. But she felt like she had to at least try.

We paused at the stop sign and I purposefully didn’t look at her. I started to be one of those people that walk on by without acknowledging her.

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