Thursday, May 23, 2013

Lessons for Someday Silas

Right now you don’t require lessons. You require gentle persuasion and thoughtful protection. Gated stairs and softened edges. Fresh foods, frequent naps and a lot of freedom. You are learning without a teacher because every new smell and sound is a mystery to decipher. But someday I’ll be teaching you lessons, both purposely and incidental. You already know how to smile that ridiculous squinty way to get what you want, which is usually just love and words and touch. I feel afraid for when the real lessons start. When I have to fight against the world so that you will never believe that hate is ok and women are weak and asking questions is useless because “it’s always been this way.” I’m afraid that I am not strong enough to teach you that strength has more to do with your mind than your muscles and that weakness is just a trait and you should never be ashamed, whichever the case. I’ll have to teach you that racism is more than a distaste for someone with different skin, it’s a system that’s been in place since humans first came out of their caves and were overcome with fear of the strange. What if I can’t? What if I fail? Can I really fight a culture of ignorance and rage with nothing but love and the stubborn insistence that we can change? I’m going to start making notes on what is beautiful about living so that when the painful lessons become too much for the both of us I can open a book and read to you about doctors that actually save and religious that don’t preach hate, about generosity without limitations and the special smells after rain and how you have a magic capacity to forget past pain. I tend to focus on the parts of life that seem too terrible and if there is lesson that you will learn it’s that it will hurt but you will rise all the same.

Friday, March 8, 2013


This took me months to write. It is the first thing I have done since before I got pregnant. It hurt a lot. But the more times I read it through, the stronger I feel to have let it go.

I should have known from the minute that the window flashed the word and my world felt like it was melting.  Because the books said that I would be tired and hungry but nothing about wanting to veer sharply into the nearest tree.  No one told me I would fantasize about a possible miscarry.  And as the others glow next to me I am a black spot on the family tree.  My mother said she would be happy enough for the both of us, as if her joy could infect me.  She didn’t see that I was already infected with this slithering little thing.  I called It Nugget to keep from saying creature or beast.  I couldn’t say baby.

No one told me. They said I would get swelling in my feet but it would not come close to the swell of my heart when I heard Its first tiny heart beats.  Instead of excitement when we found out It was a He, I cried for weeks.  How could I turn a baby boy into a man of integrity when the world around us told him to look down on me and anyone else with my anatomy?  I waved away the looks of disdainful concern and explained; it was the vomiting.  As soon as the fetus stopped poisoning me I would be happy. I promise.

No one told me that in the weeks leading up to the day my mind would begin to fissure in places integral to its safety.  That by the time He arrived, screaming, there would be weak spots in my skull you could see, if you looked close enough. Thank god there was a tiny thing next to me that took all the eyes from my crumbling shell and let me break peacefully.  Two weeks before, they said He was killing me. That the incubator inside had started to release new venom and soon my veins would tighten and my brain would seize.  I was put on bed rest. As if lying on my side with nothing to do but think would somehow save me.

No one told me that when they cut him out, my brain would lose the ability to connect him with me and I would stare at his face wondering when he would be retrieved. The beautiful little alien.  It wasn’t just my mind that was broken.  He screamed. Because my body would not create the sustenance he needed.  And to drown out the feelings of guilt and disgust with the fact that I couldn’t find the mother in me, I became obsessed.  I spent every day with this tiny little human being clinging to my breast. I wanted so badly for us to succeed. Because the only time I felt connected was when he would feed.

No one told me that when your chest refuses to fulfill the only god damned purpose it has, your insides begin to bleed.  Not with the blood running through your veins but with every oozing ounce of self-hatred and pain.  That your abdominal cavity will be filled with a slushing mixture of sickness and anger so strong that you can’t even look him in the face.  And when, after hours of pumping and praying, despite the fact that you lost your religion long before you gained this burden, you can do nothing but cry quietly while a bottle is made. I failed. In a long line of failures this one was too great.

No one told me that the months would get darker and deeper and the very thought of leaving my home would begin to terrify me. They said I would get the blues like it would be something that made me sing. Something soulful and sad.  As if I would have a voice to use for anything but weeping.  So I kept clinging to this idea that it was normal and I wasn’t broken. That no one talked about this part as a reality because if they did the human race would cease.  And then one day I looked in the mirror and saw a sickness in me.  I remembered telling anyone who would listen that mental illness is just as much a disease and would you just suck it up and get some sunshine for a fractured knee?   Why would you see a doctor for a heart attack but not a broken heart. The day I told my husband I needed help he looked relieved.  He said he knew it was serious if I admitted it was too big for me. 

No one told me that making the phone call to my OB and telling her that I needed something would be so heart wrenching.  Or that she would seem so familiar with the grayness of my face as if she had seen a thousand of me. Because she had. Maybe.  I got two bottles, one for my mind and one to help my milk ducts refill. But after two weeks the sticky haze was coming away from my brain and I could see how much stronger He was in spite of me.  I had missed the moment that the screaming stopped and when His little limbs turned from spindles to trees.  It hurt me to let Him wean. Not the same thick sickening but a bitter pain I knew I would feel a thousand times again when He stopped needing me.

They said the moment I looked into His eyes I would know a kind of love that had until now escaped me. But it took me 19 weeks.  It took until I found a sort of healing, a strength that had so much to do with knowing it was not just for me. No one told me that I would care enough about helping myself, only once someone else lived because of me.  And when I find him in the morning jumping on his bed gleefully, I realize I am smiling to myself and I am so relieved.  Thankful that I didn’t let the capacity for joy die in me.