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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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/)

Wild

Inner Wild

wild (v.)
“to run wild, refuse to be tamed,” Old English awildian (see wild (adj.)). Wilding (n.) in the teen gang sense first recorded 1989. Earlier it meant “plant that grows without cultivation” (1520s).

wild (adj.)
Old English wilde “in the natural state, uncultivated, untamed, undomesticated, uncontrolled,” from Proto-Germanic *wilthja- (cognates: Old Saxon wildi, Old Norse villr, Old Frisian wilde, Dutch wild, Old High German wildi, German wild, Gothic wilþeis “wild,” German Wild (n.) “game”), from PIE root*welt- “woodlands; wild” (see wold).

wild (n.)
“uncultivated or desolate region,” 1590s, in the wilds. From wild (adj.). Earlier it meant “wild animal” (c. 1200).

When my Wild self crawls out in an untamed howl she screams like a banshee, she speaks in tongues and sounds of fury and love. Like a chorus of mother wolves, she paces and circles within me, within her marked and carefully guarded territory. She breaks through me like medusa encased in stone, follicles of snakes dancing upon her head, ready to walk barefoot down the sunken trail.

She is fierce and often reckless, a Wild uncultivated tongue that tastes sweet like roses and honey, tendrils wrapping tightly, piercing ever so gently with thorns that dig in and cut the surface, the Wild longs for the depth, she seeks what lies beneath.

Unleashed Wild likes to shapeshift and crawl inside and around, feral like an animal, others know her as Instinct. Wild like Instinct, and action without thought. Wild like when we allow ourselves to be animals, to lose language and move bodies as our predecessors did- walk on all fours or slither around each other like invertebrates. Wild bodies tangled like undisturbed forests, Wild like mating calls and rituals, like fire and wind that speaks through branches of trees.

A mouth wide open with dry lips and the shrieking echo of a red tail hawk flying. Wild like the way it finds you, the way it circles you. One, Two, Three times. Wild like soaring upon air, like sunlight illuminating wings. Wild like speaking to animals, like knowing their words and gestures. Wild like knowing the shape and size of their bones beneath your skin.

Wild as in untamed, as in no one can capture me or hold me down or plant my feet. Wild as in I am solitary, often by choice, sometimes by circumstance, mostly by acceptance.

Untamed like the blood running through my veins, carrying choices from generations passed, entwined in my DNA. Wild like winds that shake the barely in Ireland where many of my father’s side once lived and I stare at the family crest and wonder what they looked like, what they thought and who they loved and what they knew of hardship and suffering.

Wild like Native American blood, like a connection to the land that calls to me in my sleep that I have no living link to, no formal stories aside from the ones my eyes hold in the deep.

Wild like my matriarchs before me, like the imagined selves they never got to be.

Wild like the time I was 11, it was summer and my skin was sticky from a humid day. A thunderstorm moved in, and something pulled me, some Wild spirit. I challenged the storm, I opened the door and ran barefoot up the trail in the woods as fast as I could. I ran until my lungs burned and my head was light. I waited under a stand of trees and sat on my favorite boulder and I stared at the empty field before me as I watched lightning strike. Wild like knowing I could have- that I should have turned and run home the way I came.

Wild like just following my feet, never telling my mother I was leaving. Wild like my anger.

Wild like my breath and the beat of my heart and the slow yet deliberate smile that came across my face as I leaped from the rock, ran into the pouring rain and feet hit the muddy and slick grassy field. Wild the way that time stops or slows down or changes how you recall things when your body fills with adrenaline. Wild that I had the arrogance to challenge such a storm. I ran through the field and I heard a symphony playing in my head, the thunder crashed and lightning broke the sky and I ran across the field and into the dirt road, with rocks cutting the soles of my feet and my mother’s voice in the distance calling me.

Wild like in that moment- feeling so brilliant, so defiant- against myself, the laws of nature, against luck and chance and my own physical limits. Wild like I had uncovered true freedom. I stood in the middle of the road, bent over catching my breath, hands resting on my knees, tired and soaked from summer rain that carried courage and a certain sense of immortality.

I knew from that very moment I loved the Wild; the noun, the verb, the adjective, whatever shape or form or synonym it took. I knew— raindrops brushing my eyelids, rib cage expanding, feet bleeding, my heart and mind aligning, that I was bound to Wild.

I would never truly be a woman you could tame.

 

Credit to:Jeanette Leblanc @http://www.peacelovefree.com/ for providing prompts to inspire this writing

An ask. A thank you.

  1. An incantation, a prayer, an ask.
  2. A thank you.

1. I ask for knowledge from the deep. Not just the deep, but the depths where I can’t reach, of my time here, my so-called footprints, of which I have purposely left none, yet many silently remain. I want deep connections, under soil. out of sight from the naked eye. Invisible communication.

An intergenerational mycelium network of dreams and experience, of stories that were forgotten to be told. Stories that may be of little importance to you, that one day may speak something, may call out some answer that’s been searching for me- for my son- for my sister-for the forgotten stories to be finished, to be heard through photographs and sewn together memories, with finely crafted holes like lace curtains, or the change left behind in the cracks of chairs after the owner is gone, small things like the smell of molasses or the smell of rum. The way we used to talk and how people often share their depth, their deep when you least expect it, when you’re often too young to fully understand or appreciate. But it sticks to you, like that sweet molasses, like stains of grass to your summer legs. These are the depths I mean. I want this. I ask for more of this please.

I don’t ask questions of deities, don’t clasp my hands or beg for forgiveness or mercy. I have a percentage of faith, i just can’t and don’t feel the need to name it. Some say atheist. I’m just not a hunter or gatherer of worship. It seems as though I learn exactly what I need, albeit often the hard way, but life has never been easy. It just doesn’t work that way. So I won’t ask for peace, or good health, because these things are by law of nature, only temporary. Life doesn’t work that way. Isn’t it beautiful and terrifying? Blissful and tragic? And somewhere between lies the magic itself.

When I ask for deep and depth I mean… remember that time when I was 8? Circa 1985? It was summer on the Cape. On the beach after a raucous electric storm had woken me half the night. The sea called me that morning. It was gray and wet, an ominous, cold day.

I climbed over wet dunes with winds still humming through the sea grass and stepped onto the beach. The Atlantic had washed ashore treasure from the deep. From depths I could never dare to swim. Creatures I had only seen behind glass. The beautiful and the terrifying. Deep like this.

The price for release from the sea was death. Secret, beautiful death along the beach. It may have been the first time I realized what irony meant. So surreal, the happiness at getting to be so close with these creatures and knowing the violent death they must have died, drowning in thin air, too much oxygen.

I found a stick and walked over to a manta ray that had found its resting place near the base of the sea wall. I half hoped it would be living so i could push it back to the sea. The stick broke under the weight of its fin-like wing. I wandered through pools of refugee jellyfish waiting for the tide to take them home, studying them with desperate fascination, picking up horseshoe crabs and sea stars, washed up, empty homes of shellfish. These were gifts or ghosts or messages from the deep. From the depths I could never reach.

This is the type of depth I seek.

2. A thank you.

A thank you for endless curiosity. For the everlasting quench to know more and explore and seek new things. Thank you for chances to be wrong and to learn from them. Thank you for realizing that I am a forgiving person, that I strive to be a forgiving person and that anger is a poison and toxin in my body. Thank you for teaching me to love, but not to hate. Thank you for a wonderfully flawed child who is my teacher and friend and who has shown me what it is to be a true warrior, to truly fight for justice. Thank you for my own flaws, being perfect would be exhausting and really there is no such thing. Thank you for this moment, for this opportunity. For knowing that I don’t know half of what I’d like to. Thank you for this life being a journey, a process we travel in our own ways.mary ghost

Today

Today the wind is wild.
A gust that smells of electricity
of anticipation
Today I sat on the wood steps
Several tears fell to my dirty knees and made tiny muddy tributaries

Today I wait with the storm to break
To let lightning be my fury
To let rain wash me
Cleanse me,
absorbing
seeping through the permanent ink
The second or third layers of stories
when secrets and lessons walk with me
shadows connecting at my feet

Today I let the thunder do the talking
droplets of rain bleeding ink on the page
Feed on words and water like leeches
Sucking them dry

Today I try it on
This new layer of epidermis
Skin like teflon
Where your words
your silence joins my silence and we co-exist
Letting syllables and insults slide off me
Thoughts coagulate

Today I shut it down
The willingness to engage
to explain and unearth

Today I am alone (we all are)
The unseen
I pass by people
Hide in plain sight
Under this humid, heavy air
Time slow like honey
Sticky like the sweat on my neck, my lips, my feet

Today I wait for change to come and find me.