How they lie.

Before we go to sleep the girls and I often lie in bed and read and/or draw. Last night I was looking at a magazine. Willow pointed to a picture and said, "Who's that?" I said, "That's Martha Stewart." "Oh," said Willow, "is she the evil one?" Which made me laugh so hard. I am not sure where she got that, but in truth, as much as I love Martha's Good Things, she is a little scary, a little too perfect, a little too happy, a little too photoshopped, a little too everywhere in a magazine that is supposed to be about food and decorating. Willow asked if she could black out her face. I've seen her do that before to models in catalogs. If I didn't know her better I might find this disturbing, but the truth is I've never asked her why she does that. But now I just said "sure." Because something told me to go with it. So we looked at the magazine page by page, and I found it interesting that I had never before noticed that on at least every other page there is a fakey wax museum-ish face with a vacant stare and a wide fixed grin, and most of the advertisements feature women that look eerily similar in terms of hairstyle and coloring and makeup. Willow happily blacked out each face, then put an X through each advertisement. And it occurred to me suddenly, "Wow. How much nicer it is not to have those weird, alien people constantly staring at me."

I don't know what all this means, I just thought it was interesting. I'd also that day been looking at Photoshop editing videos. One professional photo editor remarked that 99.9 percent of photographs in the fashion and entertainment media are changed to make the subjects look "better" -- thinner, whiter, smoother. I have the software and I know how incredibly easy it is to do, and it's one reason I do not have fashion and entertainment magazines in my house. For a tiny minority to define what is good is offensive enough, even without the computerized improvements. But what we see in the magazines isn't available to anyone, not even the models. It is literally unattainable. That means nobody wins (except for the people making the money off of those of us who are willing to believe it and accept it.)
I have dreams often where I'm trying to escape. Sometimes from criminals in my own home with my children, but most often from law enforcement, in which case my identity changes. I have never done anything wrong, but am being sought for who I am. I always have others with me. Last night it seemed like I was dreaming about this all night. There were two of us and we were small children. We were escaping. It was easy, even when the pursuers were on motorcycles. The terrain was beautiful, interesting. At one point we were on a hill overlooking the city of Corvallis, and it was lovely, vibrant, many of the buildings having red roofs like a European town. I said to my friend, come look! And then the pursuers came over the ridge. And we ran away, laughing, untouched.
Willow: You know what I'm going to be when I grow up, mama?

me: What?

Willow: A scientist.

me: Oh? Why's that?

Willow: I've always wanted to figure out stuff.

me: Like what?

Willow: Like make a potion to make people live longer. And I want to find out mysteries, and I want to find out what things are and test things and see how they work.
Last evening I was reading in an unschoolers' blog post about girl cliquishness -- she said that when her girls were in a certain age range (unfortunately a pretty broad one,) in *all* the social outlets they had to deal with this and that just as often as not her own girls were the problem. She seemed to think that this is just the way it is, and this bothered me so much that I woke up this morning thinking about it. I don't like it so I don't want it to be true. I mean, there was a time when racism was the norm -- probably for most of human history in which people have had contact with groups different from them. Not so long ago in this country it was not only the norm, but it was culturally accepted. I have no doubt there were people who believed (and still believe) that it is just human nature, or has an evolutionary basis. In other words: It's just the way it is. But increasingly people are coming to understand that it is overwhelmingly a learned, social phenomenon.

If that's true about the girls (and I fear it is) it makes it very hard to accept. It seems like it would be easier if I did believe that it is something wired into them. But as it is I'm disgusted and dismayed at seeing my own daughters learn to be part of it, either as the ones doing the ostracizing or the ones being ostracized. And just to be clear, I'm not talking about thinking everyone should be friends with everyone else. Real friendship is a rare thing and can't and shouldn't be forced. And I'm not talking about accepting everyone, even if their behavior is offensive and hateful. But there's no question that the most moral and conscientious way of being around other people socially -- that is, people who are are not offensive and hateful, and regardless of how else they look or act -- is to be considerate and kind. Now, still that doesn't necessarily mean fully inclusive -- we're all naturally drawn to certain people, those we're familiar with, those we find common ground with. And some of us are shy and tend to be quiet in groups or new situations. But that's a very different thing from treating a prefectly decent person as if they're unpalatable, or invisible, or a social liability. Intelligent adults just don't do that, and if they do, *they* are the ones who are ostracized. But we have different standards for kids. "That's just the way it is."

My greatest fear is that my girls will learn to be the ones treating others callously. My second greatest fear has already come to pass -- that they will be the social outcasts. They are learning that they are second-class. That they are not as good. That they are unattractive. None of which is true -- it's all context. What makes me angry is their reaction to it -- to become desperate to be accepted by these others, to become grasping. It makes me furious to see them following someone around who is ignoring them. I want them to have more self-respect than that. They deserve better than that. I am so mad at them, for their own sake -- but is that fair? They are little girls. Is it even rational?

And then I think, well, I went through the same thing, and I turned out... okay? Picture a little girl, sweet but incredibly not socially savvy. Picture her round pasty face with small features, her black-rimmed glasses, her square body that won't fit into the cute little girl fashions. There were long periods of time when I had no friends, and it was clear that my presence was undesired, that I was deemed an untouchable, at best invisible. Do you know what that feels like? Well, don't even try to guess if you haven't been there, because I assure you the reality is worse than what you can imagine. But here I am, many years later, and I do have friends, I am comfortable in our community socially, I am in love, I have people who love me. And still, lingers, a sense that I am unlikable and unworthy, and that all people are untrustworthy. My guard is up always, and I am stingy with my affection. I will not be the one chasing after others, never again.

And that is an uneasy, mean sort of existence. It protects me but doesn't give me comfort.

I want to take them away. I do not, because I fear that not even having a chance to find that friend who loves you is worse than learning that you're lesser or better than others. And I think that I'm wrong to do so, but it seems something is lost either way.
I read somewhere once about an experiment, written about from the perspective of one of the participants: a group of people had gathered together for some kind of self-improvement seminar. The facilitator gave them the opportunity to take part in an exercise in which they would first be blindfolded, then paired up randomly and asked to explore their partner's bodies. The person relating the story, a young man, said that what he sensed with his hands was that his partner was voluptuous with large breasts and soft skin. He said that touching her aroused him, and that she responded in kind, and they ended up kissing. After a few minutes they were asked to take off their blindfolds, and he was very surprised to find himself facing an elderly woman.

The story had a profound effect on me when I read it, when I was also still young; suddenly I was conscious of the fact that the visual world, though undeniably prominent for most of us, is not inherently the defining source for value, and that there is a whole world of feelings that are unique to themselves and independently valid.
It was a good night overall -- my hips and back did not hurt, I was warm enough, I had some good dreams -- in one in particular I remember laughing and laughing with my friends and child -- and then there was this odd thing. I don't have the perception of it having been a dream, but I don't remember anything else about it so I really don't know. All I came away with was a sort of inkling, almost like a message with no messenger. And it woke me up. It was: I am going to die in May. And then on later reflection (as I got up to go to the bathroom) I thought: May 22nd.

I didn't feel any sense of foreboding or grief about this. It doesn't feel like a real thing either -- it wasn't like a Knowing. But it got me thinking: what would I do if I were to die in six months?

I would write, a lot. I would write about my memories. I would write everything that I know and think, without compulsion to look smart or marketable. I would write letters to people to let them know how much I appreciate them, the sort of thing that seems weird and socially inappropriate when you're alive. I would draw a story for my children.

So then the question is: if it is so important, why am I not doing that already?

beautiful polyhedra

Geometric sculpture by George Hart.





The Dreams That Came

Then my heart was glad. But immediately supervened a sharp-stinging doubt.

"Father," I said, "forgive me, but how am I to know surely that this also is not a part of the lovely dream in which I am now walking with thyself?"

"Thou doubtest because thou lovest the truth. Some would willingly believe life but a phantasm, if only it might for ever afford them a world of pleasant dreams: thou art not of such! Be content for a while not to know surely. The hour will come, and that ere long, when, being true, thou shalt behold the very truth, and doubt will be for ever dead. Scarce, then, wilt thou be able to recall the features of the phantom. Thou wilt then know that which thou canst not now dream. Thou hast not yet looked the Truth in the face, hast as yet at best but seen him through a cloud. That which thou seest not, and never didst see save in a glass darkly--that which, indeed, never can be known save by its innate splendour shining straight into pure eyes--that thou canst not but doubt, and art blameless in doubting until thou seest it face to face, when thou wilt no longer be able to doubt it. But to him who has once seen even a shadow only of the truth, and, even but hoping he has seen it when it is present no longer, tries to obey it--to him the real vision, the Truth himself, will come, and depart no more, but abide with him for ever."

--George MacDonald, Lilith, chapter XLIII, The Dreams That Came

This is why.

From "Readers Write", The Sun magazine, October 2009:

One summer afternoon, while my mother and father weeded the garden and my brothers and I played in the yard, the sky darkened without warning and released buckets of rain. My mother leapt toward the house, head tucked under her arm to keep her hair dry, but my father stopped her. She was trying to figure out why when he pulled her to him and kissed her. My brothers and I squealed with disbelief at what we were witnessing: Mom and Dad kissing right out in the front yard, in the rain!

This was when we still lived in the tiny ranch house and watched Laugh-In on our small black-and-white television; when my brothers and I would jump on our parents' bed on Saturday mornings and beg for pancakes, and our father would simply ask, "What kind?"; when he sometimes packed us in the station wagon before dawn -- my brothers and I huddled under a blanket in the back seat -- and drove us an hour to the beach to watch the sun rise.

After the kiss ended, our father took off his sneakers and socks, rolled up his trousers, and pranced around the yard. "Come on, kids!" he yelled. We couldn't get out of our shoes fast enough, racing to get in line behind our father. The four of us marched across the grass, legs and arms pumping, mud oozing between our toes. Our mother soon joined our procession, and there we all were, on a rainy summer day, my father leading us in a parade on Garfield Avenue.

We moved to a bigger house a few years later. The change in my father was so slow, it was barely perceptible. He worked more, talked less, made fewer pancakes. He asked about school and friends but didn't seem to listen to our answers. By the time I was in high school, he seemed worn down by a marriage he no longer wanted to be in. He sat in his chair after dinner, sucked the last drag from his cigarette, and rattled the ice in his drink. And when a storm came, he stayed inside and swiveled his chair so he could watch the rain through the window.

--Kristen Rademacher

peacefulness

I have no simple words to describe how I've been feeling. The closest I can come is an extended meditation state. It is a serious feeling but not melancholy. I feel still and hushed and intent, like when you suddenly spy a bird close to you and want to watch for a while and not scare it away. It's been this way for a while.

Recently we were in eastern Oregon. It was a disaster of a trip in one way, but there were also surprises. The feeling didn't start there, but it accelerated its growth.

The drive took about eight hours each way because we made so many stops. It takes five hours if driven straight through without stopping, which is for me still a long time to be in a car. I'm not a good traveler normally. I am always so focused on the destination that the time spent getting there is valueless and therefore a burden.

I drove there, and Scott drove back. It didn't make any difference, I was so inside the moment it never felt too long, it just was. I couldn't stop looking everywhere, inhaling it visually, the changing vegetation and feel of the air from moist, dark, green to dry, bright, vivid blue. I felt resentful of the neat, brilliant green patches of irrigated fields we'd see occasionally, offended on behalf of the land.

I had a dream once that I'd made a home in the desert and it felt like a sacred place, a wholly right place, beautiful and sensuous. It felt very real.

The inhabited areas we passed through were not pleasant. Dairy Queen, Thriftway, Les Schwab, cowboys and farmers. But we'd drive out a ways, and there would be the great, sensuous, bare rolling hills, and the streams not too cold to swim in, and the cottonwoods shimmering in the breeze. And no people, except for us.



Sufjan Stevens - Romulus via indie muse

"when I was little I would bang"

Eric Nagler, from Making Music With Eric:

When I was very little I would bang on the piano. My mother would say, "Eric please. That is a delicate instrument." My father would say, "Stop that Racket!"

So I would wait until my parents went to work and then I would bang on the piano. My grandmother would say, "Eric, play `The Tennessee Waltz'. It's my favourite song." I would bang a little slower. "That's beautiful," my grandmother would say.

When I got a little older I would ask my grandmother to hum it so I could pick out the notes, and soon I actually learned the melody of `The Tennessee Waltz'.

One day my mother heard me. "Eric, you have a natural talent," she said. "That boy needs lessons," said my father. "Someday he'll thank me."

I didn't want lessons. My friend Glenna took lessons and had to stay in while the rest of us were playing on the street . "Just take lessons for three months," said my mother, and then if you don't like them you can stop."

So I took lessons for three months. The teacher would play the song and show me the notes, which I wouldn't read. Instead I learned by listening to the teacher play, the way I used to listen to my grandmother.

"Don't look at your hands," the teacher would say. "Look at the notes." So I learned to play the songs without looking at my hands but I wasn't reading. After a while the music got too long for me to remember by ear, but I still couldn't read the notes, so things got very difficult. Luckily, three months was up and I quit.

"I didn't think you'd remember about the three months." said my mother. "I counted the days," I said.

When I got older I met a boy who played the saxophone. He showed me how to play `The Tennessee Waltz'. That Evening at dinner I asked for a saxophone. My parents looked at each other, then at me. My mother said, "The saxophone is not a valid instrument." My father said,

"Learn the clarinet instead. Someday you'll thank me."

The next day my father brought home a clarinet, and my mother brought home a teacher from the symphony orchestra. "Read the notes," said the teacher. "That note is flat. Bite harder. That note is sharp. Bite softer." I did not like to read notes. I did not like to bite harder and softer, and I did not like Brahms. I quit.

When I got older I was at a party and somebody played a Charlie Mingus record. I fell in love with the bass. The next evening I asked for a bass. "I want to play `The Haitian Fight Song' like Charlie Mingus," I said. My father and mother looked at each other, and then at me. "The bass is very limiting," said my mother. "The notes are all too low."

"Take up the cello,"said my father. "Someday you'll thank me."

The next day after school I didn't go home right away. I sat by myself for a while in some bushes in a vacant lot around the block. I got home late for dinner and there was a cello standing in the corner of the dining room which my father had borrowed from his school. But since they were angry at me for being late they forgot to talk about the cello, and the next day my father took it back to school.

One day when I was 14 I was up in my room, supposedly doing my homework. I heard a strange sound coming from the living room. I threw down my comic book and ran downstairs. It was a friend of my older brother playing the banjo. The moment I heard it my heart opened up and the banjo music jumped right inside. That night at dinner I didn't say anything.

The next day I got an old broken-down banjo from my brother's friend. Then I got on my bike and visited my grandmother, who gave me $20 to help buy a banjo skin and some strings. I used a wooden Venetian blind slat for a fingerboard, and some screws to fix the pegs. Every day I would come home from school and play the banjo.

When my mother would come home from work she would say, "I've had a very difficult day, dear." My father would say, "Stop that racket."

I would retreat to my room and play as quietly as I could, but banjoes are loud. My parents would yell at me from downstairs. "Stop that racket." I would go up to the furthest room in the attic, stuff an old pair of socks in my banjo, and play for hours.

Eventually my parents finished the basement in knotty pine, moved the old sofa and T.V. down there, and for three years while I learned the banjo there was a sort of no-man's-land on the first and second floor of the house. Occasionally I would meet my parents on the stairs and they would ask me how my school work was coming. "Fine," I would say.

But my school work was not exactly fine. My heart was too filled with banjo music for me to concentrate very well on biology. And even though I promised my parents I would try, I never did become a doctor. Instead, when I grew up I became a banjo player and made many people happy. My parents were very proud.

"That's my boy!" said my father.

"I always said he had a natural talent," said my mother.

to be alive

From SARK's The Bodacious Book of Succulence:

When considering choices in your life, the "most alive choice" feels like a bit of a risk, makes you giggle, or makes the hairs at the back of your neck stand up. It can be a simple and tiny shift, such as taking a new route. Or as large as moving your whole life somewhere you haven't lived before.

We are consistently presented with choices. Often, our inner critics run the whole show, and we use a lot of language with these words:

have to

should

I'd better

or else

(these can be bullies of the language world)

Sometimes we have to wonder who is making our life choices! We might stumble from one obligation to another, lost in a series of have-tos. People buy wedding gifts they don't want to buy, attend birthday parties out of guilt or fear, spend time with people they don't even enjoy, or push their children into unwanted activities. (And then we all get crabby!)

I remember moving succulently as a young girl in Minnesota, from bike flung to the ground, to deep lawn, to creek bulging with turtles, to eating rhubarb for breakfast and fat, vine-grown tomatoes for lunch. The most alive choice was a natural step -- one to another.

I think that as adults we become rigidified, encrusted with grudges, wounds, and protective devices that don't work anyway. We walk carefully along, checking our purses, pockets, and car keys. Gone are our bamboo walking sticks and flags for countries that we've made up. I think those things are only gone because we've stopped calling them. We've stopped counting fireflies at dusk, standing naked in the rain, fingerpainting with our feet and stuffing a bag full of costumes and making our "poet's corner" in the backyard, with lanterns and tents made out of chenille bedspreads.

We deserve to be the caretakers for our spirits and dreams, and this means truly sensing and listening for our most alive route. It may not be a common path, or a popular one, yet it will be clearly ours.
I have this feeling like the decades of my life have roughly corresponded to... paradigmatic modes, I guess. How I regarded the world and myself, how it felt to me, what I was, what I was becoming. I've been expecting my 40s to be something new. And I feel that becoming, in fact now that I am in it I realize that I had predicted it, not in a magical way, but because I recognized something about myself that could logically progress only in a certain way.

To be here looks different from what I saw from the outside looking at other people here. I'm not even sure now that I'm in the same place. Is it all my own, or do others share it with me?

I keep thinking of Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Maybe not as a child, but now, as an adult, that is the path that I choose to be on. I don't like it sometimes. But I want to know anyway. Because not knowing, and this is what the story doesn't tell you, not knowing doesn't mean that you don't commit evil. It just means you don't understand it and so cannot challenge it.

When I was a child, opportunities to be unhappy were so much fewer because I was fed and clothed and cared for and had time to myself, and that was a kind of Eden. I didn't know about corruption and greed and the damage it does. I knew about dolls and swings and flowers and rain and tricycles and climbing the monkey bars and my front steps.

Now I am angry and hard a lot of the time. There is, granted, a lot in the world to be angry about. What would happen if I let go of it? I tell myself that I would lose nothing that is valuable, and my anger accomplishes nothing anyway -- no one is going to stop doing bad things just because I am mad about it. It does no good for me to fume about it. And yet it feels wrong for me not to rage against them. But I think maybe this is a lie, so I try and try and for a moment at a time there is no hard heart, there is only the joy of children and the scent of spring blossoms and mown grass, and the landscape on either side of me is transformed into simplicity, is-ness, not just the landscape but the shape of my mind in response to the world. I'm in a dream of loveliness. I remember feeling this way. It was exactly like this. I want to stay there, I don't think I should, that's not what responsibility looks like to me, but I will if I can, and I will my mind to stay there but then someone intentionally cuts me off on the road and it's gone and I am fuming again.

What I think is that I don't belong in this world. Or, rather, I do, but not in this society, this culture. It's ugly to me, and hostile. I retreat. More than that, I quit. I would love to say that. I QUIT! But I can't, not really.

Yesterday I did a lot of things, only a few of which I think were really worthwhile. I loved my daughter, who I have a difficult relationship with because she is my opposite in every way. I watched video game hacks with my sons and understood and shared in their enjoyment of it. I ate chocolate cake with buttercream frosting with my friend, which we made together. I washed and fixed my husband's bed linens and swept his room, as a gift. I drank a half a glass of wine in the afternoon. I obliged my friend her magic in dosing me with Bach flower remedies and the Victorian charm of their claims. (I am Water Violet and Beech. )

I finished Doris Lessing's book The Marriages Between Zones Three, Four, and Five. Now I want to read everything else she's ever written. In thinking of what I would say to people to convey to them that this was an important thing for me to read, something I was already thinking of as having a permanent spot on my bookshelf with only a few dozen other books, I could come up with nothing satisfactory. My inability to explain why this book touched me reminded me of C.S. Lewis's words: "The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. [...] For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited[...] ."

I thought about writing a letter to Doris Lessing, and about what I would say about who I am that would explain what this book was to me. And that led me to the introspection that I started off this post with.

where I'm from

I am from polyester, from Velveeta and magic markers.

I am from the old blue turn-of-the-century house with stone stairs, avocado shag carpeting, tugboats lowing, and rain drumming on trash cans.

I am from bearded irises, wet green moss, crimson japanese maple, crumbling pavement, fog.

I am from wedding showers and packrats and collections, from Little and Big Grandma, from the Klingsporns and the Gays and the Valentines.

I am from the taciturn. I am from alcoholism.

From "Oh, Linda," and "just eat a few," and mostly, saying nothing at all.

I am from the Catholics "who just want your money," and from Edgar Cayce and Shirley Maclaine and the ouija board and seances.

I'm from Bess Kaiser Hospital, from German and Scotch-Irish, from goulash and gravy and soft peanut butter cookies marked with the tines of a fork.

From the Marlon Brando-esque longshoreman who wore the nickname 'Psycho' with pride, and the explosion of cancer in the brain of a beloved matriarch stealing sharpness and strength and grace, and 'Ma' of the wispy white hair and the perpetual bra-strap sliding off her shoulder and published writer of pulp romance.

I am from black gummed paper triangles, graytone photographs with deckled white borders, magazine clippings stuck with rubber cement to construction paper scrapbooks, silver lockets with small round pictures tucked inside, and costume jewelry in pink foam egg cartons, none of it worth very much except in my heart.

~~~

A mad libs type-meme, first from Diana, and then from here.
Dr. Sarah Buckley is a phenomenal researcher and speaker, verbally and intellectually gifted.

She writes of her unassisted birth (after three attended homebirths) that she has “felt the awakening power of birth -- more potent for me than any spiritual or shamanic practice” and that it “has taught me, on a cellular level, that birth is about love and ecstasy.”

From her article Ecstatic Birth: The Hormonal Blueprint of Labor,
Undisturbed birth is exceedingly rare in our culture, even in birth centers and homebirths. Two factors that disturb birth in all mammals are firstly being in an unfamiliar place and secondly the presence of an observer. Feelings of safety and privacy thus seem to be fundamental. Yet the entire system of Western obstetrics is devoted to observation of pregnant and birthing women, by both people and machines; when birth isn't going smoothly, obstetricians respond with yet more intense observation. It is indeed amazing that any woman can give birth under such conditions. Some writers have observed that, for a woman, having a baby has a lot of parallels with making a baby: same hormones, same parts of the body, same sounds, and the same needs for feelings of safety and privacy. How would it be to attempt to make love in the conditions under which we expect women to give birth?
Michel Odent writes of her, "Sarah Buckley is precious, because she is bilingual. She can speak the language of a mother who gave birth to her four children at home. She can also speak like a medical doctor. By intermingling the language of the heart and the scientific language she is driving the history of childbirth towards a radical and inspiring new direction."

when he was born

About twelve hours into a thirteen-hour labor, it was 2:30 in the afternoon and raining outside. There was a woman sitting in the corner of the room wearing a matching lavender sweatshirt and sweatpants, and a small, elven-like woman with dreadlocks. There was no sound except for me moaning and growling and swearing and yelling. Scott was with me which I was glad for, but I couldn't feel the comfort of his arms, maybe because he couldn't muster up that comforting energy while we were being watched. There could be no intimacy between us then, which I regret. He was a helper only. Putting pressure on my back, lifting me when the woman in purple sweats said to.

When I became by turns especially loud and dead silent, the woman in purple sweats said the baby was coming. She told Scott to watch my back, watch the bones move. There are sensitive sacral nerves there, and a long-ago back injury and congenital hip abnormality. It hurt so badly for the baby to move such a small distance, just to clear my sacrum. The other pains were comparatively insignificant. We waited, as we had agreed, for my body to move the baby down according to its own perfectly timed hormonal choreography so that my tissues would be fully softened and stretched, so there would be no trauma. There was no counting, no voluntary bearing down, no exhortations to breathe or to not breathe or to push against someone's hand or to not push or to pretend I was having a bowel movement or to feel my baby's head. Stay out of it, I had informed the midwife during the prenatals. Now I groaned, Help, help me, and then in a moment of lucidity fixed her in the eye and said, stern-voiced, NOT YOU. We laughed about that later.

I was on my knees in the water, I could feel the hardness of the tub making my knees raw, but I was locked into place, I could not move. The baby was coming. I could feel with my fingertips the hardness of his skull still inside me. And then it was as if something lurched inside of me and all the energy of my flesh became totally directional, downward. A "throwing down" sensation, very much like throwing up but coming from my uterus instead of my stomach.

The feeling of him coming through me was sensational. I loved it so much that I tried to hang on to the visceral memory of it for months, becoming sad as it faded. People don't like it when I talk about that. It sounds dirty to them, inappropriate. Birth is supposed to hurt. Not because women deserve it, no, we are too evolved to believe that any longer, but still for it to feel good is perverse somehow. If birth wasn't inherently painful, people say, wouldn't we hear more about it? I don't think we would. The shame we surround it with is too pervasive.

But for me it was healing. It had been denied me, violently, in my first birth. Unfortunately I wasn't allowed to just be with him afterwards. He wasn't taken away from me, no, we knew enough at least not to do that. But the talking, the inspecting, the directing, the worrying. Nobody wants the mother to hemorrhage, so all that has to be done, or so we thought. Ironically, all that was being done was increasing the risk of hemorrhage: I later learned that there are unobtrusive ways to monitor the mother's status, and that intruding stimulates her neocortex, suppressing the function of the old mammalian brain that is responsible for regulating the hormone release that is in turn responsible for a normal separation and expulsion of the placenta as well as chemical bonding.

Instinctively salvaging what I could, I retreated into myself, yet another woman out of necessity reinforcing the cultural belief that women are too weak and "out of it" to tend to their own newborns. Women have help, so women need help. Circular reasoning as truth.

And in withdrawing, I forgot my baby. Wait, what is this in my arms? This lump of living flesh? Do I know you? Never mind that for now, the placenta is still not here. Let me touch you, what do you feel? Knead, pull, discuss. Gravity?, oh yes, gravity. We forgot about that. Here, father, hold the baby. Move there, mother, no here, like this. There it is. Relief.

It took me a long time to find him again. A long, long time. Somewhere in the time between when he emerged and the midwives deemed me done and safe, the thread connecting us was broken. It's not just in hospitals that this happens. It's also not just the way it is. It isn't just the way it is that it is emotionally hard to become a mother, to have to care for an excrement-producing noise-making constantly-needy entity, to deal with such intensive responsibility so suddenly, to have your life no longer be your own. It isn't. This is a rite of passage that isn't meant to be a trial. I'm angry about it still. No blame, nobody knew better at the time. But I learned.

And I found my way back to him. The human spirit is resilient. And as long as it is up to me, I am not going to allow that thread to be broken again.