A Contradiction

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Photo from Pixabay.

I think, in many ways, my family would be happier if we were poorer. And that’s not to say we aren’t poor already, by some standards. Six hundred square feet is what we call home, and some days I long for more, but most days I crave a greater minimalism. Elisha and I daydream about a more primitive life. We salivate over the idea of throwing off the shackles of society, and living in the woods, closer to the earth than we already find ourselves, though we are humble dirt farmers as it is. But you need a permit for that simple of a life. It is criminal to mind your own business to such an extent. This culture contradicts our biology.

I got an excellent deal on the latest smart phone last week, and it’s a good tool to use for many things. It connects me with the rest of the world, allows me to share my life with long-distance loved ones, and I’m grateful for it. The makers of this phone promise an augmented reality, and pretend that this is a good thing, and, truth be told, I am not immune to it. I, who so deeply value earth, and light, and tangible flesh. I get sucked into it and I lose an hour. In that hour, I escape from the stress of my life instead of sitting with it, feeling it, observing it, and strengthening despite it. I am just one of the multitude losing our hours in this electronically augmented life. This culture contradicts our biology.

My 3 month old daughter hates driving in the car most of the time. She screams and screams until I must pull over and hold her so that she doesn’t choke. Every atom of my being screams to be with her, to hold her and comfort her with sweet, warm milk. She screams because she can’t see me, and my voice alone is not enough to convince her that I haven’t abandoned her. My heart is wretched by this, but I am the operator of a metal beast, and losing my focus on this could prove deadly.

This culture contradicts our biology.

This culture contradicts our biology.

This culture contradicts our biology.

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The Mama Cat and 3 a.m Thoughts

My son’s cat, Rain, gave birth to three adorable, fluffy kittens the day before Mother’s Day. This was her first litter, and we could barely contain our excitement when she walked out into our living room with a wet backside, noticeably skinnier and begging for food. We searched every corner of our house until we finally found their cozy nest in the back of the master bedroom closet, snug between sewing supplies and a bridesmaid dress that I actually would have worn again, had it not become the single casualty of this long-awaited birth. Rain stood by, obviously proud and exhausted, accepting our praise and pets as we snuggled her tiny, warm babies. Good job, mama cat.

The next morning, it was obvious that Rain was well-rested again, and recovering quickly. But by nightfall, the crying began. The kittens were mostly silent, other than some soft grunts here and there, but Rain was different. For the next 48 hours, our mama cat was an entirely different creature than we had ever known before. She spent all day and all night running around, crying incessantly. She wore a wild look in her eye that made her look feral and frightened. She was hyper-attentive to the slightest murmur of a babe in need- including my own, who turned two months old the day the kittens were born. After those first two days, though, Rain settled back down to her normal volume, and carried on with life, both completely the same as she always had been, and completely different.

Rain takes her responsibility as mama cat seriously. She will spend 12 hour stretches in a seemingly trance-like state, nursing her tenaciously hungry babes. But I often find her following me into the bathroom in the middle of the night where we keep her food and water, visibly frazzled, and she will ask for attention before chowing down a bowl of food and heading back to her nest. The mama cat and I enjoy a moment of solidarity, both taking a deep breathe to relish the now rare feeling of being just one body for a moment, as we both attend to our 3 am needs. And before you think that this is all just a rambling about our beloved pets, and as silly as this sounds, the truth is that I’ve seen a real life mirror image of my postpartum self in this postpartum feline.

I never thought that I would see any comparison between cats and humans, but the effect of birth seems to be nearly universal. We are all changed by it. We all have a new set of needs and responsibilities created the moment blood, water, and life pour from our bodies. Why are we the only species that tries to hide this? Why do we pretend that we are not also as entirely new as the ones we birthed? I will never forget the wild, wide-eyed expression that Rain wore on her face for the first two days after giving birth. I knew she and I were experiencing all the same things, and something about the raw simplicity of this universal response to giving birth struck me as incredibly beautiful. I want to see our culture learn to honor the wild that exists within mothers. May we learn to find the sacred in those wide-eyed, frazzled, early days, in both ourselves and in each other. May we learn to be comfortable with the aspects of our humanity that connect us with the larger web of life. May we learn to allow postpartum to just be what it is.

The Mama: Seven Weeks Postpartum

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Judah meets Avalee for the first time. I looked forward to this moment for so many years!

He tells me that I’m a good mother, and I hold onto those words like a lifeline. I don’t tell him my secret: that sometimes I wonder if those words are true. Are we even human if we don’t wonder about that from time to time? I fail often. Sometimes I snap at my son for the same bubbling overflow of life that also makes my heart burst with pride for him. Most often I find I’m frustrated with him for a trait of his that turns out to be exactly like me. But then he looks at me all starry-eyed, the way I looked upon the Grand Canyon that one time, and I find I do believe that what my husband says is true.

Being in motherhood is to be “the center.” I am the oxytocin fountain for my family; the keeper of all the feels. My breasts take this fountain analogy very seriously, and if I had a dime for every time I’ve asked someone to hand me a clean rag in the last few weeks then we could probably afford to start building that house we keep dreaming up – these newborn days are soggy! They all hunger for my love, my touch, my voice, and my body in their own way. It’s both exhausting and it’s enlivening. Sometimes I need a break, but then I miss them. These people I get to call my own are my heart, my pride, my purpose! They’ve been calling me “the mama” since our daughter was born, and there’s something about that that I love, even though I can’t quite decide what it is.

I am seven weeks postpartum. Almost eight. He’s told me that I’m beautiful every single day since she was born, and I can see it in his eyes that he hasn’t lost the sense of awe and wonder that comes with witnessing and being part of a birth. Being in the presence of new life entering the world, all fresh, and pink, and hungry is a glory that doesn’t wear off quickly. Her birth left me soft and bleeding, in a shape I’d never been before, as a person I’d never imagined before. Its been almost eight weeks and I still barely recognize the woman I’ve suddenly become, but I like her. She’s fierce and alive like I’ve always wanted to be. She is “the mama.”

Ancient Form

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Photo by Pixabay

My hips did not ask questions before assuming a wider stance. They were content to stretch and change in order to bear up the weight of new life growing inside. These hips did not complain as they settled in to this form, both strange because it was new to these cells, and strangely familiar because this shape is as ancient as our race.

So, they take up a little more room on a bench than they used to. They made more space for my children to be held on my lap. They still welcome my lover home like a sacrament. They carry my flesh like a prize, and neither deny nor disappoint the power held within. Perhaps, from now on, I should consult with my bones instead of feeling ashamed for them.

 

Home

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Photo by Pixabay

We were awake late into the night last night, her stomach giving her grief. We laid there, skin-to-skin, her tiny body on my chest, her itty-bitty toes barely reaching my belly button as she finally gave way to sleep. Moments later she stirred, and as if drawn by some primal instinct, she scooted herself up and further up until her head rested directly over my heartbeat. She settled and slept again. Exhausted as I was, I couldn’t sleep in that moment. That holy, holy moment, when I realized that my heartbeat is the music that soothes my baby most.

Her brother still calls it a “heart beep,” and I know that one day he will learn how to spell and probably feel silly for having pronounced it wrong for so long, and wonder why I never corrected him. But these “heart beeps,” man, they are beautiful things. My daughter owns the sound of mine. My son doesn’t remember it like she still does, and I, myself, couldn’t tell you what tempo it keeps. But she knows it like no one else does right now, and she is drawn to it. It settles her in those quiet moments when nothing else does. And that’s when I know that I am her home. My body is her home, like it has been home for my son. And in that holy, holy moment, I found myself at home there, too.