Working, Mothering, Warts and All

No one can ruin you without your permission. Every step of the way–you were complicit in your downfall.

Every couple of weeks my brain hones in on a message. Simple or complicated. A few words or just a couple. For the past two weeks my mantra has been “Quit while you’re ahead.” Now it’s “No one can ruin you without your permission.”

WHO is trying to ruin you?! You may wonder. Me only. There is no one person, but there are demands from all directions–child, partner, boss, even friends–that at times makes it feel like the world is out to get me. Demands popping up every time I turn around. But the problem isn’t the world or these people. It’s me. I consented to a) having a child/baby b) living with my partner on a farm c) taking a job with a decent level of responsibility c) volunteering my time in different capacities d) forming relationships and bonds with so many people that it sometimes feels hard to keep up with, kind of like a part time job in and of itself.

I said YES. I keep saying YES. Week to week these demands lessen and grow. Honestly, I wouldn’t even have it any other way. I thrive on this level of responsibility. But some days I wonder what happened to the girl who felt so in control, relaxed, and beautiful. Because the person I see in the mirror is hanging on by a string and frazzled. Like the mamas I saw pre-baby who I vowed I was never going to be. Top knot. Walking fast. Little pooch. I guess the thing is–I’m not a girl anymore. And being a woman, well…it comes with a lot.

I will admit it, I was thinking negative thoughts this morning. I thought “He’s ruining me,” about my partner. I thought these things because I am not fully satisfied with who I am right now, and with all the things I’ve sacrificed to have this beautiful, full life that we have. But you know what? He’s sacrificed a lot too. Shoot. He might think “She’s ruined me,” as I am responsible for things like him not being able to stay out at the bar on Friday night, or go away for a weekend music festival, or do some of the things he would like to do. So in a sense we’ve ruined each other, though I’m not so sure it’s ruined as much as forced one another–complicitly–into a whole new way of being. A way that kind of just smacks of…parenthood, and aging. Yeah. Tough pill to swallow for sure. But here we are, making the best of it.

I vow to not be bitter about the whole thing. In fact all I can do now, to take back control, is to take responsibility! What is it that I am not happy with? My body? My hair? I can spend a little more time on those things if it makes me happy. “He’s ruining me,” I thought, when I saw my reflection this morning, harried and hurried, trying to help Steve out on the farm. Putting these things before myself. Always putting work, baby, life before myself. The question remains…what defines my self?

I guess I worry when things don’t fit together. I want a perfectly clean house and a successful farm business. I want a happy baby and an attractive outfit/hair do. But honestly, these things don’t go together. Just look at them. They go against each other. If you’re a mama or a business owner, you know what I’m talking about. Yoga pants and babies go together. Farms and dirty kitchens. That’s just the way it is. The way it’s always going to be. But every day I try to make it different. Now I’m trying to awaken to the truth.

Because it isn’t even all that. The attractive body/house thing. The greatest sense of satisfaction that I get is from writing. When I write, I feel hot. When I have ignored my passion–let the obligations and to-do’s take center stage–emphasis on LET–I feel ugly. I FEEL UGLY! And the fix is simple and beautiful–to write! It’s just masked in the “I don’t feel good about the way I look thing.” But there’s something deeper going on there, thank god.

No one can ruin you without your permission. You can say no. You can carve out time all to yourself. A little or a lot depending on your needs. You can disengage from a conversation if it’s bringing you down. You can leave the party early. You can go to the page in the middle of the night. You can wash your hair. You can write a line. You can write a whole book, but it’s going to take a thicker line in the sand: “Do not cross.”

It’s those little boundaries that add up to a world of difference. A world where you’re not getting shit on, but you’re thriving. Your world is not spiraling out-of-control, but spinning beautifully like a girl who took the chance to dance. You are becoming a woman–working, mothering–warts and all. No one can ruin you without your permission. You are complicit, every step of the way. Every. Single. Day.

 

 

Regrets

One benefit to aging is that I used to not believe in regrets, but now I do. Wise, I am not sure, but having regrets shows compassion I believe. I am big on compassion. Or I like to think I am. I am still learning.

My regrets are strange. They’re not huge, but petty little things. They creep up in my mind often and I wonder, should I call so and so? Should I dredge this up from the past? Would they even remember? What if they retroactively hate me once I remind them?

I feel like I can out my regrets on both my hands (probably not) let’s see:

-My exboyfriend in college was a sous chef at a Japanese restaurant. A girlfriend and I went to eat at his place. He’d come up with a fancy special—soft shell crab, whole, with some sort of sophisticated sauce and garnish. We both took a couple bites but couldn’t eat it. It was too strange/out-of-ordinary to my 22-year old taste buds. I would finish that crab now. I would eat every last bite. I still remember the look on his face when they cleared the uneaten delicacy from our table. I should have known better. Cooking was his everything.

-Also in college, a boy I worked with always wore a baseball cap. Always. What’s your hair like under that baseball cap?, I asked him in a teasing manner one day. He took off his baseball cap to reveal a prematurely bald and shining head. I wanted to crawl under the table and stay there.

-Leaving that workplace to move to Oregon, I decided to distinguish every person I had worked with in some special way. I worked there for four years, so my coworkers had become dear to me. I wrote out a goodbye note to post on the walk-in cooler. I wrote things like, “To Lexi: who always wore a smile.” The place was owned by two brothers. My first inclination was “To Pete: the cool one” and “To Brent: the cute one.” Instead, to keep it professional (or so I thought) I wrote, “To Pete: the cool one” and “To Brent: the hardass.” Pretty sure “cute” is better than “jerk”—and in my defense, “cute” was more true-to-my-feeling.

-I’ve used writing as a tool basically my entire life to handle unpleasant circumstances, deal with grief, etc. I’ve had my blog for about 11 years and throughout that time I’ve posted things that I would basically have written in a diary. (In my defense, that’s kind of what a blog is.) I have also taken those blog posts and put them on my social media. Sometimes, being that I write about my life, those things have been blasted out to an audience larger than I would like. Basically I write about my mom and my dad and then they see it. For better or for worse. What I regret is that not only are they witnessing my feelings about their shortcomings, but everyone else is too. At times this has felt good but most of the time this feels really bad. As an antidote I try to write things that are true, compassionate, and, whenever possible, self-deprecating.

-I regret any form of gossip or negative talk (I identify this as putting others down to lift up myself). Gossip and negative talk about others is easy to identify because you instinctively know when you’ve crossed the line. In your head you think “so and so wouldn’t appreciate this” but you keep talking—past the line. You might even lower your voice as if they were in the other room.

-I regret many incidences that involve past substance abuse. I will leave it at that. I will save the rest for another story but mainly the repercussions have included the deterioration my mind, body and spirit. And often times embarrassment.

-In the 5th grade an older cousin told me I needed to find someone to pick on. That way the other kids wouldn’t beat up on me seeing that I was so tough. So I chose this kid who walked home the same route as me. He was chubby and had curly hair and wore Wranglers and no one talked to him and he didn’t deserve it. Many years later, he contacted me on Myspace. Do you remember chasing me home all the time? He asked me. I can only hope my apology was sincere.

-I regret not buying an olive green pant suit I saw at St. Vinneys about two and a half years ago. It was one of those kind that were supposed to look wrinkled so it didn’t matter if it actually got wrinkled. It was my color and it was perfect. I almost flipped a U-ey but I didn’t. It was the pantsuit that got away.

-I regret leaving a good career job for an okay man and moving to another part of the state. That remains one of my biggest lessons.

-I regret snapping at my fiances grandmother when I was hangry in Hawaii. I’d knocked over the car seat and she’d said Good thing the baby wasn’t in it! ‘I wouldn’t have knocked her over if she were in it!’ I’d snapped back.

-I regret telling my dad his cooking sucked when I was a teenager. I regret calling him a dork and many other cruel things I did at that time. You’re mean to your dad, my best friends told me. I was mad at the world and took it out on him. I regret that.

-I regret that a woman I know sent me a poem recently and I haven’t read it. She wanted feedback but I haven’t got the time. I hope she understands what it is really like for a woman with a newborn. Time keeps on slippin slippin slippin. I can’t do all the things. I can’t even look at my own poem and I am sorry.

-I regret not going to see my good friend Connie more. She was a customer of mine when I worked for the post office. She is a lovely person, a wise old soul, and she cares for me deeply. I know because she sends me kind emails regularly. I regret that, because of our coupled anxiety, I believe, we rarely see each other in person. She will die someday. So will I. And I will regret it.

-I regret that, since my daughter was born, I am doing just an OK job at everything. Work, writing and cooking. Especially cooking. That is especially just OK. I regret that being ‘just a mom’ doesn’t seem satisfactory enough for all of society. I regret that I couldn’t be just a mom if I tried. Toys, I find, actually bore me. I regret that Autumn doesn’t want to just sit in the corner and read like I do.

-I regret throwing a golf ball through an old man’s front window in high school. Even if he was stalking my grandmother, and sending inappropriate things to our home, the shock of that golf ball and the cascading of the glass panels must have scared him something fierce. I didn’t actually expect it to connect. And until now, I never told anyone.

 

70 and Sunny

You’ll never be alone in your mind again. I forget who said that about becoming a mother. It wasn’t me, but I totally get it.

It is the afternoon at our home in Walton. We drove to town this morning–Autumn and I–for a work function during which, when it became my turn to talk, someone gracefully had to take the baby. They bounced her around the office while I gave my piece.

Afterward, I was scheduled to meet with my boss but my five month old wouldn’t have a minute more of it. We got back on the road, a forty five minute drive home. Autumn fell asleep immediately and I pulled into a Dutch Bros for an iced coffee that I consumed in a matter of mere minutes. $3.50 plus a tip down-the-hatch. I hadn’t had time for my morning coffee in our rush to get out the door. Absent of my ritual, a pounding headache loomed.

On the drive, I listened to NPR’s coverage of the climate crisis. I took a slidelong glance at my plastic Dutch Bros cup and straw. I could tell you I usually order hot coffee, which at least comes in a paper cup. I could tell you that yesterday I’d dutifully carried my reusable blue coffee mug from REI, but it wouldn’t soften the blow. I literally drove past droves of teenagers skipping class to raise awareness of the climate crisis, protesting outside the City Courthouse. I honked, in a pathetic attempt to join them. I honked four friendly honks and waved. But I was, clearly, part of the problem. I may have reused my coffee mug yesterday, but today was a brand new day.

images.png
Back at home it was 70 and sunny. Autumn had not roused from her nap, so I opened the door of the minivan I swore I’d never own and paced around our property racking my  brain for what I should do with my newfound freedom. At least once, I checked on her to make sure she was breathing (it’s a mom thing). It’d been an unusually long nap. I checked the mail. Refilled my coffee. Eyed the mint and the other outside herbs. I wondered if, possibly, there were time to write a story.

Timidly, not sure to get my hopes up, I shook a large, fuzzy blanket out on the back pasture, under the trees. Autumn, still in the van with the door open, sleeping, was within eye and ear shot. It was the first warm day of Spring. I remembered how her father and I met on the first warm day of Spring several years ago. We’d walked his dog, Honey, who has since passed. She’d died in my arms, actually.

I grabbed a large yellow notepad I use for reporting in our small town. I grabbed my iced coffee and a pen. I grabbed a large mason jar of water and a pillow for when Autumn woke and needed to nurse. Writing is hard with a newborn because you can only get down so many words so ideally those words would be good.

I can do hard things but not easily, I wrote. A sort of mantra lately. I wasn’t sure if it was holding me back or what.

I kicked my Chacos into the grass.

70 and sunny. Never alone in my mind again, I wrote.

I managed to fill a couple of pages with words under the shade of a Rhododendron bush, in the shadow of our hollow. I wrote some short little clip of my life at this time. Of our life. A regular work day. Then back to the hollow. I didn’t find the time to remove the cheesy brand placement that never should’ve been there. The Dutch Bros. The REI. The Chacos.

I didn’t find the time to say I’m more of a Hillbilly Brews, St. Vincent De Paul, Birkenstock-type of gal.

But maybe I’ve changed.

images.png

Autumn wakes and cries. Selfishly, I dart my eyes toward the van but keep on writing. I’ve just gotten to the part about the protesters skipping school. I don’t know what I’m trying to say but I think I’m capturing some glimpse of time. Another Spring. Another season. Another mom scrambling to keep her brain together while teenagers point to the real, true issues in the world like the climate crisis. The admiration I have for them. The shock of not standing there with them. The vows I make to reduce, recycle and reuse. How, in reality, I put Autumn in disposable diapers at night because they hold like a gallon of pee and don’t wake her.

When Autumn does wake, I will lay by her side in the sun on our fuzzy blanket and feed her for up to thirty minutes. Hogs do not mind this, humans sometimes do. I am required to do this five to six times per day. A wise aunt recently told me, “Remember, our children do not ask to come into this world.”

It is not easy being a mother. It is not easy being a child. But it is 70 and sunny and somehow we are perfectly undone and barreling toward some unknown, likely very disorderly reality. Not an easy pill to swallow for a perfectionist-ish like me.

The minute I pick Autumn up, her crying stops, like a faucet. I may not be everything, but I am everything to her. Like the Earth is for those teenagers. We cannot see what they see–perhaps too close to the elephant we have been our whole lives. But those kids, well I guess they see their mother barreling into space and away from them, toward her death. Resources squandered. No soft, natural place to land on.  The very real possibility of her milk drying up. They see their mother leaving, being held hostage, in great danger.

As a mother, the burdensomeness of the responsibility is only a matter of perspective. I take off my shirt. I let the sunshine warm my shoulders. I really struggle to reach down within my core and retrieve what I truly am as a woman now: a mother. Not some worker. But being a mother is harder than being a worker. Mothers don’t get breaks. I wonder how very tired the Earth must be. What relief it will be to her when she implodes. But she is probably one of those mothers who’s made for it. Not like me.

On our drive through the “country” to town, I got stopped for construction three times. It was bumper to bumper the whole way. I stared out the window at the trees, the forests, the wild. We don’t even know how to live out there anymore, I thought. At the bell of my alarm clock this morning, all I wanted to do was lie around and nurse my daughter. Instead, I slapped some powder on my face, I put on a skirt and I hustled. I ignored that animal instinct. I’ve been successfully rewired. It goes against my new role as mother. Is the Earth starting to think differently, too?

I floored it to the office, to the child neglect organization I work for. But it was worth it. Because our topics drive a good cause. The world is crumbling, but that is beside the point. For us anyway. We all have our causes, and our limits, sadly.

How many exhausted mothers, fathers and children did I pass on route to the office? How many of them would rather have been somewhere else? In their own metaphorical hollow somewhere?

How many other parents have no weekend, and work late into the night? How many other folks in the country have gotten so incredibly entwined, despite their best efforts, in the go-go-go, American daily grind? How many others actually sit in the forests that they pay to own?

70 and sunny.

Never alone in your mind again.

Here. Now. Home.

images.png

Autumn lays in the sun with me. She nurses and when she is done she fusses not once. She taps my leg with her foot as I write. Lightly. She is mesmerized by the hum of nature (and, if I am being honest, the highway in the distance). She notices the breeze and the butterflies and the grass. Am I a bad mother because she is more familiar with the indoors than the out? Or might I be let off the hook because it is the first day that really feels like springtime in Oregon?

Autumn’s feet tapping moves to my right elbow, jarring my pen and lettering as I write. We do this for minutes, me writing, her jarring. I am obsessed but finally I get the hint. We lie on our backs, mother and daughter, on a large fuzzy blanket and stare at the towering branches of a walnut tree. There aren’t even buds yet, but behind the branches is an azure blue sky. There will be buds, I tell Autumn. There will even be leaves, you’ll see.

No title

We don’t come to the city much
it can cause me anxiety, just the cost of gas alone
tonight I find it pleasing, though—the scent of different
restaurants catching on the wind
Chinese, a steak house,
I even get a whiff of seafood
I push her stroller through the dusky mist to
the public library children’s section
where we eye the fathers of children,
innocently enough just observant and healthy like
I always was
then I take her out of her stroller and
walk the aisles, fingering the books the
staff has arranged face first,
Love You Head to Toe
The Good Egg
and
A Scarf for Keiko

A mother and daughter play on the
floor together with difficulty
“I won’t play with you if you make
up your own rules!” the mother says sternly
“It’s not fair!” the mother pouts
I wonder of my sweet Autumn
picking up on her negativity so
I turn on my heel, head the other way
I bookmark postpartum groups in my head
and vow to use them before getting to where
that mother was
I wonder what she thought motherhood would be like
I didn’t know either but…
her resentment is palpable
I say a little pray for her pink-haired daughter

I spot a children’s table with children’s chairs, crayons
and scrap paper
I grab an already colored on scrap—an orange daffodil
and with Autumn on my lap I try to scratch a poem that
my mother-in-law would approve of
I think about erasing the part about
watching fathers but I don’t
because library pencils don’t come
with erasers

Normalize Breastfeeding for Equal Rights

picc.jpg

My daughter needs to eat 6-8 times per day. Minimum. That means if I can’t breastfeed in public, whenever, wherever, then I can’t leave the house. For two years or more.

If I can’t leave the house, I can’t make money.

If I can’t make money, I can’t fully contribute to my household.

If I can’t fully contribute to my household, I have a lot less power and say.

If I have a lot less power and say, I am less likely to make big decisions.

If I am less likely to make big decisions, I am not equal.

As long as I am not equal, I will challenge the norms that got us here.

Normalizing breastfeeding in public is one small thing, among many others, that we can do to bring equality. If there were more appropriate spaces and less awkward conversations/stares at breastfeeding mamas in public, well maybe the mamas wouldn’t feel the need to press a huge PAUSE button on their careers, their interests, their hobbies and social life. You know, everything else other than the baby. You know, things that men aren’t expected to actually sacrifice. You know.

If more workplaces were adept at accommodating new mothers, maybe parenthood wouldn’t often mean the death of the mother’s career (or their schooling!). Sorry. Tough luck. One or the other. Come back in a few years. We’ll save you a spot. Deciding to becoming a parent shouldn’t punish the mother, no. She shouldn’t take a hit, in any area of her life. For she is smart enough, and strong enough, to work, feed, raise, repeat.

Get used to her. See how she has evolved to become the working mother. She how she moves confidently through the world. Breastfeeding her child while crossing crosswalks, shopping, having brunch with friends, working at the computer in an office, studying for the big exam, doing whatever it is that she does best. Whatever it is that defines the woman–other than motherhood (!!)–in this world.

I got to thinking…why not normalize infants and children too? Like instead of wishing they weren’t around…in our restaurants, coffee shops, concerts, offices, work spaces, lecture halls, why not embrace them and the mothers who are raising them? Why not provide education and opportunities for all and really mean it?

Just a thought. A vote.

~A female

download
Supermodel Mara Martin not choosing between her career and motherhood

 

Mama Bird Baby Bird

I did a double take when I heard
you were just two months old
(heard from myself no doubt)
it feels like we’ve been together
much longer

I seek your forgiveness
for the sand on my nipple
worry of your ingesting rocks
the size of glitter
on my skin

But more than that it pains me
to watch you cry so I bring you
to my breast

Mama bird
Baby bird

You’ve turned me into a fountain no doubt
“chocolate milk next time if you’re lucky” I joke
in my sugary, sing-songy voice
Papa points out that I’m using
‘too much baby voice’ but I
no longer mind what he says,
which is new, welcomed

They don’t say
‘Mama knows best’
for nothin’

This morning you
were content nursing
for over one hour

because of the holiday
I had the luxury of shutting the door
on the dishes, the chores and
the unmopped floor and
as you suckled I marveled

Also I read
Sun Magazine
Issue 517
I read
“We Need to Talk”
I read
“What to Look for in a Horse”
I read
“The Only One She Told”
which made me feel
swooney and romantic
and inspired to write

and when I broke your half-hearted suckle
you endearingly suckled on my elbow
as I gently stroked this poem

You have changed me,
Baby Bird,
only time will
reveal the many ways

I pray for the wisdom to shape
that change in ways that will
benefit us both

you, a budding baby, a honey comb,
to which all things stick

me, not just resigned to motherhood
but still blossoming with potential myself
the burning desire for more more more
knowledge
never intended for the likes of me
knowledge
almost withheld from me
(but that’s a story for another time)

I pray for the wisdom to shape
this change in ways that will
benefit us both
We will learn together
We will thrive together
We will not merely survive together
Not you and I Baby Bird,
no

Mama Bird
Baby Bird

I bring you to my chest again
You seem to need me more today
I accept that
I resign the afternoon to you,
the Sun Magazine,
and a single
drop of water
in my mug

A glistening symbol
as if to say:
there’s something here
it isn’t much
but it is something
a single drop
of the truth
is all that is
needed

Mama Bird
Baby Bird

Fly

Earthside

45569842_308079026456751_1737676712446875544_n(1).jpg

Earthside

(dedicated to my daughter, Autumn Nell Knox)

4:12 p.m.
October 12th, 2018
Riverbend Hospital, Springfield, Oregon

For the next few hours, I am still a girl. A daughter. A grand daughter. A girlfriend. A fiancé. A young woman.

At some point after, I hear, an incredible amount of intensity or pain (whichever school of thought you prefer), I will become a mother. A guardian. A protector. A womb-an. You, child, will make sure of this. And for that, I thank you.

Thank you.

For the next few hours I will continue to wonder Who Are You? Are you like your father? Outwardly wild and rambunctious, inwardly steady and responsible? With big blue eyes, an easy smile? With confidence unparalleled. A thinker. A do-er. A boy. A male?

Or are you like me? A Tiny T, as your father says. A girl. Are you a female?

4:31 p.m.

You are too comfortable inside of me and don’t want to come out. That’s why we’re here at the hospital for an induction instead of laboring naturally at the birth center. The midwife inserted a cervical softener about two hours ago. I feel fabulous—no change. The nurse joked she’d have me “frowning by morning.” I feel so good I was tempted to do cartwheels on our walk around the labor and delivery unit. I am only a girl for a few more hours, after all.

Your due date was ten days ago—ten days! By current standards, that’s too long. I would’ve been happy letting you gestate longer but there are these scary reports—online and in print—about the risk of still born and meconium (that’s poop) inhalation and all these things I don’t want to read about or think about but have to.

So all this brings us to the Riverbend Hospital, in one of 325 other labor and delivery rooms. Would you believe we ended up with a room with a view? It’s not the best view available (those rooms have a view of the mountains) but it is the second best view: a clock tower. Three bells hang within its open brick walls.

Like I mentioned before, you were supposed to be delivered in a freestanding birth center. In a four post bed. Once we went a week past your due date, however, it was required that we transfer to the hospital.

What I like about the hospital:

  • It’s fancy and modern
  • I still receive the care of the birth center midwives, including during delivery
  • the view!
  • the ice machine
  • the bathtub (with jets!)
  • when we arrived there was a live pianist in the lobby playing “The Circle of Life”—I hadn’t cried much in pregnancy but I did when I heard that song, given the circumstances

Things I don’t like about the hospital:

  • Mandatory IV’s
  • Hospital gowns with a cute pattern but an awful cut

8:22 p.m.

We had dinner (fish for me, spaghetti for Papa). We received another dose of misoprostol to soften the cervix. Other than the miso, we’ve had no other method of induction. We took a thirty minute walk through the labor and delivery unit. As we walked, we talked and joked. It’s what we do best.

We are mainly excited because the miso is working. After our walk, I began my “bloody show.” I won’t bore you with the details of all that but we are hopeful that you will be born tomorrow.

10:30 p.m.

Believe it or not, little one, things got so intense after my last entry that I wasn’t able to keep up with the journaling. I expected this, of course, I’d just wanted to get the story (your story!) started.

Luckily your papa took notes. Well, that is until he got so swept up in the labor that he couldn’t take notes anymore either.

The last entry I made was at 8:22 p.m. on Friday night. Papa and I were so excited the contractions were starting. That’s probably the last time I would describe being excited about contractions. (Remember, other than being artificially induced I was laboring naturally with no pain medication.)

We’re not sure, but the miso seemed to make the contractions come on strong and frequently. Your papa asked the nurse quietly while I was in the bathtub if they were supposed to be this frequent. “She’s hardly getting a break between them,” I overheard him say. This didn’t make me feel worse, it made me feel better. Your papa cared, and I’d rarely seen him with the opportunity to share his sensitive side. (Side note: now that you’re here, I’ve seen it a lot more.)

From a clinical standpoint, I was two and a half centimeters dilated. Your heart rate was steady, excellent even, and your head was down, doing its work of opening my cervix.

1:00 a.m.
October 13th, 2018

The hospital bed bothered me. Too much light, noise, and movement, so I curled up on the bed reserved for guests. It was a flat, large, vinyl double bed tucked into a dark corner. The nurses didn’t really want me on that bed but thankfully they didn’t push it. As the contractions grew stronger and stronger, I felt best lying on that cool surface, covered in blankets, with soft music (Yoga Sanctuary on Pandora) playing in the background. I developed a song, a hum, a howl to accompany every contraction. It was all I could do to stay centered and sane through the pain I was experiencing. My songs went something like, “ho, ho, ho, ha, ha, ha,” or “ho-o-oooooo! ha-ah-ahhhhh!”

This went on for hours. At one a.m., my water broke. I cannot tell you the relief and excitement of this happening. It was what I’d been wishing and hoping would happen since October 2nd, your due date.

3:30 a.m.

Earlier in the night the nurse said they would wipe the smile off my face and replace it with a frown. We’d laughed about it then. See, that was the goal. Well, now we were winning.

The midwife, Kanya, responded when my water broke. She confirmed that it was brown with meconium, common in post-date babies. There was a fear that you’d have inhaled this meconium and would need immediate attention from the NICU. I had also read that babies exposed to meconium could come out green-tinged. Your hair. Your skin. And that it would take a while to go away. Compounding these nagging thoughts were the ever frequent and incredibly painful contractions. There, I said it: painful. You see, I’d read every book by Ina May Gaskin, and within it’s pages were testimonies by women describing childbirth as intense but not painful, their contractions as waves or rushes, and the whole experience as psychedelic.

Look, I’m all for positive imagery. I’d come to your birth armed with a Himalayan salt lamp, a handmade sculpture of a mother and child, a book on childbirth by Deepak Chopra, and at least six essential oils. I had lavender, the calming herb, on speed dial.

Your papa and I submitted our birth plan, prepared weeks in advance, heeding the advice of the nation’s most beloved midwife, Ina May. Hell, I even had a vision board, “I am doing a fantastic job!” it read on onside, and, “I accept this pain to bring my baby into the world” on the other. Your father had my favorite soothing music dubbed on his cell phone, only by this time I didn’t want to hear it. I didn’t want to hear a thing. I even asked the nurses to turn down your heartbeat on the monitor, it was reassuring, yes, but it was static-y and loud. I had them turn the monitors away, facing the wall (too bright).

By this stage I requested that your father not touch me (I would recoil), he could not talk to me (what did he know about birthing babies, anyway?) but he needed to be there. It was just he and I, with the occasional visits from Kanya and the PeaceHealth nurses (who only wanted to adjust your heartbeat monitor). I was vomiting profusely. I was still wrapped in blankets, lying on my side on the guest bed. I continued my chant of “ho-o-ooooo! ha-ah-ahhhh!” and every time I wanted to moan “noooooo!” I moaned “yeeaaaa!” instead.

Kanya was scheduled to leave at six a.m. When it became apparent that she would not be delivering you that Saturday morning, I brought up pain management. That’s what they call schedule I drugs in a clinical setting.

Kanya had wanted me to sleep through the night but the only rest I’d gotten were strange little blips between contractions. One to two minute naps as my womb rocked and rolled in anticipation for your arrival. I experienced the lightning bolts and thunder of labor. In retrospect, I’d needed a little guidance. I never felt better during labor than when a midwife was talking me through a contraction, but that only happened once or twice.

“Somethings gotta change,” I explained to Kanya between contractions. Her response was Fentanyl, which I understood was synthetic heroine. Was there no in-between? No extra-strength Tylenol? “It won’t take the pain away. And it will make you feel funny,” she told me.

I declined the Fentanyl.

I retreated, naked, back to my dark corner on the guest bed. My limbs were shaking like leaves. Kanya checked my dilation, which was stalled at 5 centimeters. Though the contractions were regular, I’d somehow stopped progressing. I continued my chanting and moaning. When it felt right, I squatted, walked, and used the yoga ball. Your head, dear child, was not dilating my cervix like it should. The positioning needs to be just right to be effective. Despite my walking and forward positioning over the past night, days and weeks…the midwives kept saying that progress was stalled.

The sun rose and I barely acknowledged it. I was writhing in pain in my dark corner. The concept of an orgasmic birth (see the documentary titled Orgasmic Birth) was laughable now.

“I would not recommend this to ANYONE,” I told your father. I even had the fleeting thought that he should, effective immediately, hit the streets and start warning women, “No, really, DON’T DO IT! Child birth. Don’t do it!”

10:30 a.m.

Six a.m. to 10:30 a.m. went by incredibly fast. In fact I don’t remember much except the hoo-ing and haa-ing. The new midwife Pauline, an elder, came in to check my dilation. No progress. I was in such intense pain I could hardly navigate the room or a conversation. Pauline wanted to try a different position and asked me to get on my hands and knees on the hospital bed. But once I did, your heart rate dropped below 60—a dangerous low.

“Get her back up, get her back up!” Pauline pleaded, and your papa and a nurse helped turn me back over. “Whatever you do, stay on your back or side. Absolutely do not get on all fours,” she told me.

Pauline also indicated that my pelvic bone was uniquely shaped, a particularly narrow V. She thought this oddity might be preventing your head from descending properly. She said something about a c-section, almost under her breath, maybe it was to a nurse.

I touched Pauline’s arm, demanding her attention and croaked out, “If this is going to end in a c-section anyway, I request that we do it now.

Then I told her what I’d told Kanya, “Something’s gotta change. This is too intense,” I told her, keeping with the Gaskin language but not the Gaskin morals.

The sun was gaining on noon, I could tell from the picture window behind Pauline. It had been twenty some hours since we came in for the induction. I was a woman who popped an Ibuprofin at the onset of a headache (then again I was prone to migraines) and here I was in the throes of a medication free labor. Pauline swiftly responded, “I’d like to try all the tools in my belt before opting for a cesarean. I’d recommend an epidural for pain relief followed by Pitocin to get things really rolling again.”

She was the midwife, an experienced one, and I trusted her.

“Okay,” I managed to say. “Let’s do it.”

12:20 p.m.

What happened next was not at all what I expected. What happened next was neither an orgasmic, natural birth like I had hoped for nor was it a series of invasive interventions from a menacing male doctor, like so many of my natural-leaning mama friends had warned. What happened next is that Pauline got the anesthesiologist in the room in a snap (in less than five minutes). He was a kind, pleasant man whom I felt reassured being in the care of. What happened next is that through the cries and moans I could hear the anesthesiologist telling me I would soon experience complete relief from the pain.

Your papa gave me reassuring nod as I felt no more than a pin prick at the center of my low back. Ten minutes later, as promised, I felt pain-free, like new, and I was downright chipper. I could sense a collective sigh in the room. The nurses gained a pep in their step as if to say, “Thank god we don’t have to deal with that whole natural childbirth thing anymore!”

Your papa sunk into the guest recliner pulled close to my hospital bed and we both, per the midwife’s recommendation, fell into a deep, much needed sleep. When we woke it was more than two hours later.

2:35 p.m.

Pauline and I shared a knowing smile as I roused to wake from my epidural-induced slumber. Unlike Fentanyl, the epidural only affected my lower body—most importantly it didn’t affect my headspace at all. I felt clear as the bell outside the window.

The only struggle was the weight of my legs. It took all the nurses and your papa to lift them into the stirrups so Pauline could check my dilation. “Time to start pushing,” Pauline said. I was fully dilated at ten centimeters!

Your papa and I looked at one another with amazement. I was thinking, “All that walking up and down the gravel lane, all that walking the corridors of the hospital, all that Evening Primrose Oil and spicy food, all that time on the yoga ball and all that active imagery—the lotus flower opening up—only to konk out for two hours, completely not conscious, and it’s then that my body works its magic…or was it the Pitocin?

Nonetheless, Pauline said it was time to push.

I held your fathers hand, a nurse rolled a full length mirror to the foot of the bed, and the midwife called for the NICU team should we need backup in the event of, well, any number of things. As it turned out, the NICU didn’t come in time.

I looked into the full length mirror. The sun was shining bright behind Pauline’s head as you began crowning. A sliver the size of a mango pit revealed my child, you, cocooned between my legs.

Every time I pushed through a contraction your papa yelled “Yeah babe! Go babe! You’re getting so close!” I’d rarely seen him so enthralled and excited. Well, once, river rafting. And who could blame him?

In my mind I was only warming up. In the births I’d witnessed (two), the “pushing phase” lasted for one and a half hours, maybe two. Later your papa said my face was so red and puffy it looked as if I would explode.

After just a handful of contractions, Pauline pushed the mirror aside and replaced it with a tray of stainless steel instruments, scissors and who knows what else. Then she said something to the effect of “this baby’s coming now.

We all did a double take, though I couldn’t see anything now that the mirror was gone.

“Push,” she instructed when I sensed the next contraction. And when I did she said, “Here come the ears!”

The what?

I felt the warmth of your skin coming through my labia. I felt the weight of your body, a helpless, delicate thing but full of life and spirit. I scanned your face for reassurance that you were breathing and well.

“Well, what’s the gender?” Pauline nudged at your papa, who was just as amazed as I was that you were here.

“It’s…it’s a girl!” He stuttered.

I held your liquid warm, just-birthed body to my chest and kissed your head. There was no reason to whisk you away to the NICU. You were not green-tinged or chord-wrapped. You were, and still are, a perfect baby girl; earthside.

You were born at 3:44 p.m. on October 13th, your great great grandmother’s birthday.

We named you Autumn, after the season.