Birth Story part 1

Twelve years ago, today I was barely 27 years old, very pregnant in the sweltering monsoon season in Tucson, AZ. I had been on forced bed rest for two weeks as pre-eclampsia had made it too dangerous for me to even move without risking seizures that could lead to a coma. So I laid in bed, with the humidity from the rain almost shutting down the swamp cooler, with feet so swollen I could barely walk, with a nervous system so tapped out that I jerked when anyone touched me. I was 38 weeks pregnant, with my first and only child.

I took a cab to the birthing center I had picked out, the one where I would birth my child like a goddess and he would transition sweetly from amniotic fluid into the warm water and make his way up to my arms and to his first breath out of liquid. This had been my plan. The hope was that the bedrest could keep my blood pressure low enough that I wouldn’t be considered high risk and have to deliver at the hospital. I was by myself for this appointment. The Dr. checked my reflexes and I almost kicked her in the face. They checked my weight, I was still gaining the approximate 90 lbs my small frame adjusted to. 90 lbs in a bit over 9 months. I was told very casually, “today is the day you are going to have your baby, today we induce labor, we have to get him out, it’s the only cure for pre-eclampsia and your blood pressure is too high.” I started crying, out of complete fear. I wasn’t ready, it was still too early, I didn’t want to deliver my baby in a hospital, I didn’t have my bag to bring to the hospital with me, I wasn’t dilated, not even a millimeter, and I knew I was about to be pumped with drugs I definitely did not want in my system. They let me go home, the midwives and collect my things, and my son’s father (air quotes).

3:00 pm: August 11th, 2004 was the day I was going to have my son. I got hooked up to monitors and IV’s, alarms would beep anytime I moved, I felt like an alien lifeform. They assured me that the Pitocin would kick in quickly and my labor would begin rapidly, 1 cm dilated. One scared young woman and an equally terrified young man. This was not my plan. This was not how my son was supposed to be born, I could feel it. I could feel the potions creating contractions and chemically trying to create labor, they were one right after another, no build up, just full on labor. But there were problems, my water wasn’t breaking, my cervix wasn’t dilating further, and the contractions kept coming. There were papers being shoved in my face about emergency C-sections and windows of time before they had to cut me open. I refused, I refused to sign and said that as long as my baby’s heartbeat and vital signs were fine, my body could take it and that clearly he wasn’t ready to be artificially forced out. Wednesday turned to Thursday. Thursday turned to Friday. Friday I was in a state of some type of euphoria combined with lack of sleep, constant contractions and drifting 2 minute dreams and phone calls coming in begging me to sign the papers and asking me why I would put my body through this. The only thing I kept saying was, “he’s not ready yet, you’re trying to force him out and it isn’t his day, so I will wait.”

All the nurses and doctors and his father thought I was insane. Everyone kept trying to convince me I didn’t need to be a hero, that there was no shame in having a C-section, and there isn’t – it wasn’t about shame. I didn’t know what it was, other than the strongest feeling I had ever had in my life that I was determined to wait. I kept thinking about how women birthed babies in fields and caves and dirt floors or kitchen tables or in the back seats of cars and that I was no different. My body, his body, our bodies rebelled against the chemicals and the doctors had never seen a women sit through labor this long – willingly, neither had the nurses or midwives, but I was convinced that my son knew the day he was supposed to be born.

Friday turned to Saturday and during the night I was given an epidural, I had no choice any longer they said. It was time to break my water and they were nervous I wouldn’t even have enough energy left to push him out. Hours went by, the pitocin kept dripping, I finally was reaching a point where everything in me was screaming, “PUSH!” but he wasn’t effaced yet, I wasn’t allowed to push. I’m not sure how much time finally went by before I simply could not control my body’s force to push. After 4 days of waiting, he was ready. It took me an hour and a half to push him into the world and then I fell back on the bed and collapsed as they handed me my baby and I said in a whisper, “Avery, it’s so nice to finally meet you.”

He was born on August 14th and that number is significant because I was also born in a summer month on the 14th. He waited for our number, he wasn’t meant to be born on the 11th, or 12th, or Friday the 13th, he was born during a thunderstorm in the hottest month of the desert and he chose the 14th. I knew I had made the right choice by listening to my body, by ignoring medical advice, by refusing to sign papers so they could get me in and out like a baby factory.

I knew I heard my son telling me, just wait…

Just wait for me.

(part 2 comes on the 14th)

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A Burning Heart

This week I am burning things to the ground.
I am fire where my feet touch earth.
It pools in my eyes and seeps
out of every pore.
I have been holding it in
with pieces of wrapped sinew,
waxed leather and lung.

Trying to breathe, trying to inhale oxygen, in a world where the air feels sparse and coarse.

I break relationships.
I break rules.
I break regulations.
This week I broke the surface of calm.

Just enough to scratch.
Just enough to shift
like tectonic plates.
I made mountains out of imperfections.

I set the trees ablaze.
Scorched the roaming hills,
until the landscape was naked.
Bare boned.
True.
Truth.

Nowhere to hide.
Open and unabashed.
I stand before you.
Freedom.
Free.

An Interpretation of Pain, Joy, Want and Love.

I’m not fond of the word; I don’t enjoy saying it
I don’t enjoy living with it
It haunts me.
It disrupts me.

Pain:
It lives in the hollows
The temporary recesses between breaths
Traveling by way of map
Of neural pathways
Of circuitry following systems sending messages to each other
One speaks.
The other can’t hear.
Doesn’t respond.
Can’t.
Quite.
Communicate.
The way they should.

It stores itself in my spinal column
Cervical vertebrae (C4-C7)
Stenosis.
Bone spurs.
Degenerative discs.

Dystonia.
It lives in my cerebellum
Screaming to muscles in my neck and shoulders
“Tighten! Hold Her! Don’t let her go! She is our prisoner of war!”
And I am.
Handful of medicine each morning
Shots of botox every three months to keep zombie muscles
from involuntary movement
Like a marionette on a string
One string to pull my neck to the left,
To violently grab it
To shake it, contort it
Like a car accident
Like whiplash
A spasm here and there
A twitch

The pain lives in my muscles so deeply it tricks me into thinking it’s embedded in bone.
The accompanying depression,
the insomnia,
the ever present knowledge that there are far worse things
Far worse things…
Still I ache every day
There is no cure
This is not cancer
This will not kill me
And still there is no cure

It lives in a room of skin next to me,
Some may say within me
Some may say my body.
We are roommates here
Imprisoned
Life without parole.

Joy:
She lives quietly.
She lives quietly and neatly and she is guarded cautiously
Kept in a carved wooden box lined with silk,
tucked behind my rib cage
Squeezed between blood and breath.
She sees through my eyes and drinks in words like water
She longs to fix and create
To birth and rebuild.
Sometimes I watch her drowning…
She tires so quickly.

Want:
Wanted.
Wanting.
All these things
Gypsies.
They come and go as they please
Some sort of an open door policy where my body is used
as more of a vessel than a conduit
I want.
They want.
We want things together.

Material things like red lipstick and black leather boots, a garden full of flowers, a new couch, money for rent in my bank account.

Then I want the things that I can’t buy or ask for or even truly receive as mine.

I want the forest, and the sunsets I miss so much from Tucson, I want my son the age he is now and the age he was as an infant and a toddler simultaneously. I want the songbirds to still sing to me in the middle of winter. I want grass between my toes all year round, except I live in, and love this little state that refuses to conform to my wishes. I want a partner who wants me, but then knows exactly when to give me space and the right things to say when I’m anxious, and who can leave before I say, “Go…” I want a partner who sees the ugly and doesn’t run but dives right in and digs deep, past the bedrock to find the beauty and truth…and the love.
The love lies deep.

Love:
Molten core, primordial soup, deep. Once you have it, it’s yours. A fierce, unwavering loyalty. It is boundless and foolish and whimsical. It makes a thousand mistakes and has been bruised and battered and keeps getting-no jumping back up for more. Love knows it walks with all of us. Love is elusive, but ever present.

Unfair and unjust?
Yes.
Cruel and blind?
Yes.

Loves flows in my blood and its opposite is not hate, it’s indifference, ignorance and apathy. Love lives in my son’s smile and his laughter and the sound of him breathing while he sleeps. It lives in my arms and has given life through my breasts and shed tears of joy and sorrow, like silent tributaries down my face.
Love is a necessity.
Love is a verb.
Love is an element.

Where do I go to escape?

New piece published at http://www.rebellesociety.com

Where Do I Go To Escape?

Chambers

If you press your ear against my chest you will hear a clock ticking, a slow and heavy pendulum dangling.

An aorta feeding organs blood, the sound of rushing rivers and waterfalls in suspended silence, then crashing on rocks below. Inside four chambers lie four very different worlds. One gray and black with a murmur, a flutter. A beat. A murmuration of birds, flying together as one shape changing trapeze act. Shifting with wind, with movement of an arm or the brush of fingers through hair. My body conducts them, endlessly swirling, colliding like chemical flakes in a snowglobe.

Second chamber is a field of grass where I would run naked as a child and pick daisies that were as tall as my head. Remembering the feeling of grass touching my skin and coloring my legs like a paintbrush. How the world was seen from inside that field and it stretched for as far as my eyes could see. A quiet crawlspace of a chamber where one could crawl beneath the grass and hide with crickets and ladybugs-poke your head out to be touched by butterflies.

Third chamber is for my sorrow. It is deep scarlet red, with chocolate undertones. This chamber is cold and hollow, yet full of voices and words that bounce off walls. Words like sex and love and ache. Words that mean betrayal and feel like sharpened knives. This chamber is for storage, full of drawers and old letters filed next to lessons learned and categorized by relevance. It is cluttered and often gusts of wind come in and scatter everything. Your patterns become clear stretched out before you and you promise you won’t make that mistake again-but you do, you just do it differently this time. You disguise it, but underneath it’s still the same. You cannot truly grow in this chamber. You come here to learn, to remember, to grieve.

The fourth chamber is for my son. A safe space beneath my breast where he still cradles his head and listens to the rhythm of my breath. Of my beat. Of the first sound he knew, before my voice, before a song or a story read. My pulse was his music, his soundtrack to dance to. He knows the sound of it racing or panicked, the sound when it sleeps or is alarmed, the sound it makes when I’m relaxed or contemplating or when I’m giving birth or when I was breastfeeding.

If you pressed your ear to my heart beat you would hear whispers of birch bark and beds of ferns by the edge of a bog, you would hear owls calling in the night, a galaxy being born and another dying.

You would hear the words, “Don’t leave me alone here.” You would hear fear and the voice of a little girl who just wanted to please. You would hear the words, “I just can’t let it go” and they would be a lie, because I can let it go, I choose not to. I choose not to because sometimes it’s easier to hold onto something that has hurt you when that pain has become so familiar that you know it like reading braille with your fingertips. Hurt is intimate. So instead of letting it go, you let it stay. It may be one of the only memories you have left of him. You may have thrown many of the good ones away. And sometimes we need reminders. You would hear the words, “Sometimes we need reminders, that even though love is painful, we accept and choose that pain. Sometimes pain is more familiar than pleasure.”

You might hear the sound of a smile, or my heart swelling, you might hear it burst or set itself aflame with anger if someone it loves is being mistreated. It may tell you to go. It may not say a word. It’s a powerful, yet fickle living machine.

If I stretch my limbs out I can feel it pumping, pushing blood to my fingertips and circulating. If I listen carefully I can hear it flow through my head, the murmur, the beat, the memories.

Murmuration
Beat.
Childhood
Beat.
Sorrow.
Beat.
Son
Beat.
Heart
Beat.
Write
Beat.
Now
Beat.

Where do I go?

We all have those places we run to, the places we retreat to, in the recesses of our minds, in the dark corner, under the covers or out in a sunlit field. I asked myself, as I ask you, where is your space? What do you claim as your calm, your quiet, your escape? Where is that safe space in time that holds you tight like the womb, where you can unfold and be…you -in all your glory, wrapped in lessons and memories held by skin and days or months or years. Where do you go?

I asked myself several years ago where I would rest if I died. I know not in a box, not in that sense, but a place. If we were supposed to choose our ideal spot, the one special piece that had become the landscape of our heart. My answer was a series of questions.
Nowhere and everywhere.12687769_10153812315116166_1028088449205451360_n

Did it really matter?

There was no place.

There were places; in time, in memory or emotion, in imagination or longing of traveling to places I’ve never been.

Sometimes I close my eyes and I find myself in corners of empty rooms, brightly lit. I see myself curled tightly, chin resting upon my knees, like steady, solid guards protecting me. There are times I need complete solitude and space, where the walls are pale, pale yellow or cream or orange and the paint is chipped or peeling, little fragments scattered on the floor which is warped wood full of scratches and dusted footprints. The space is abandoned, overgrown with broken panes of windows where nature creeps in, tracks from small animals and stray feathers from birds, dead leaves create sparse blankets or nests and in this forgotten space, there is still constant and deliberate growth. A familiar oddity. Sometimes I go here. I take and leave nothing. I never even speak.

Other times, with my eyes open wide, I leave sidewalk and traffic lights, sirens and stop signs, neon lights, barking dogs, the sound of skateboards hitting the pavement and engines humming. I trade them for carpets created by conifers, for the way that the underside of birch bark slides like silk across your skin. Traffic lights become crickets and neon a form of firefly. The modern disappears and it is the forest and I.

This is home. This is the place my feet know. This is why my soles are calloused and rough and shaped by earth-because walking barefoot through the wild is important to me. Because my feet need to feel earth. They need to touch stick and stone and be comforted by moss, challenged by thorns and ice cold rivers. This is why I leave shoes behind in the summer, why I tell my son to do the same. So he can know the feel of soil and sap and acorn caps and various textures of lichen and mud between his toes and speak its language. My home is the forest, but home is not always where we need to be.

When I need escape, when I need to lose my skin and become light to shed layers and feel golden and ancient and connected with time, I arrive in places I have only seen in dreams, where maps and globes and pages in books pull me. Here my sternum is lapis and my crown is moonstone, my eyes are boulder opal and lips of garnet. I walk through walls and time. I walk among stars and gravity has lost its hold on me. I belong in parts of the planet I’ve never been. Here I am a different self, a version that cannot exist anywhere else.

When I need wisdom, raw truth where there is no filter and I can hear myself clearly I travel back to Tucson, Arizona (in my memory) to the Saguaro desert. I remember seeing it for the first time in daylight, how there was no canopy between me and the sky-nowhere to hide and the arms of the cacti twisted and stretched through the swirling waves of the heat.

Where Earth was raw earth. Bare rock and bone.

The heat held me tightly while I stared at the long forgotten, dried and deadened sea that lay cracked before me, too hot, for even my calloused feet to conquer. Forcing salted drops of sweat on my skin. Raw like placing yourself in the middle of the sun’s territory and surrendering.

This desert tore me apart, it stripped me bare and then filled me with life when I least expected it. The desert birthed me as a mother, as I birthed in it, my son. It holds truths I’d rather forget, but can’t, and memories so beautiful I want them running like an endless filmstrip in my mind.

I often revisit that beauty of raw pain and joy.
The beauty of the naked truth.
The vulnerability.

An Incantation

An incantation:

I give you lavender, cedar and balsam fir. I give you sweet orange and cinnamon. I gift you grapefruit and eucalyptus with a splash of lime. Here are sea salts to soothe your skin and smooth your wounds, here is oil of almond to merge with your golden skin. Here are my lips to your forehead with a gentle, yet purposeful kiss. Here is my hand.

A bow of my head to the silent wing of a barn owl, of soundless flight, of motion without detectable noise, stealth eyes riding currents of the night.

Bow to the undisturbed forest in all its splendor and see that there is a natural order within chaos, within fallen trees taken over by moss and eaten by insects, with branches that intersect in your direct path and scratch your legs as you maneuver through the untamed.

Bow your head to the notion that this is highly ordered, this untangled and untouched, unfiltered and unmanicured wood has fallen this way for hundreds of years and has rebuilt for many more than that. This chaos is its optimal state.

Bow your heads to the niches and the symbiotic mutualism, the relationships in nature that all rest in balance with one another. Bow your head to the delicate chain of life itself and survival and cells and photosynthesis for this is proof of magic. This is proof beyond any God.

A moment of silence for the dead. For the ones we’ve loved and the ones we’ve never met, but grieved for in stories of war or in pages of fiction that wove themselves into our hearts and became a part of you.

A moment of silence for the word grieving and how that one word can mean so many different things. We grieve loss or what never will be. And there is so much in this world to lose, so much you will never have. So much pain mixed with so much beauty.

A moment of silence for irony and being able to laugh in moments of sheer sadness or panic.

A moment of silence for you.
For. This. Minute.
It is yours.

An incantation for the wild that lies beneath
For the quiet who observe and absorb
All you hear
All you see
And taste and touch
And smell and inhale.
For all the salted tears that fall upon your face and drip slow like honey, Hanging thick like morning fog, like the space between yourself and reality.

An incantation for dissociation and how it serves a function, an often overlooked purpose.
It saves us.
It keeps us from feeling things that are just too much at once, it keeps the reactive anger at bay, it keeps me humble and allows me to see my life from a safe space.

Blessed be the women who curse and speak with silver tongues and move their hips like snakes, who own their curves and imperfections and realize these are their unique and individual markings, their collection of stories in form of flesh and fat, in rib and collarbone.

Blessed be the storytellers. The ones who keep the truths. The ones who tell to remember as much as they tell to teach and who see the story as a dance, as a ballet or as a symphony of synesthesia. Those who continue giving and creating and sharing themselves, piece by piece by piece.

A whisper to the fields of wild flowers and ferns and the twists and turns and Fibonacci sequences that match the galaxies and spiral on a nautilus, the natural spiral shape of the universe, the shape I drew over and over as a child, because it was comforting to me, because it felt like home, because drawing that shape felt like my fingerprint or tracing my hand.

An incantation to birth, to beginning and end.
To the fire and ash,
To those who leave and those who stay.

A clasping of hands pressed to lips
For the color the world is painted
Right before the sun sets.
For the nights that are clear enough
To see meteors fall from the sky,
For planetary alignments
And magnetic shifts,
For having a place,
For this measurement of time,
For being so small…
So insignificantly spectacular

In this vast space
In the grand scheme of it all.

 

(Inspired by prompts from Jeanette Leblanc @http://www.peacelovefree.com/)