Of Birth and Butterflies

5 Dec

 

By Bela

 

I once was told that being pregnant was like embodying a butterfly.  Our bodies are incredible, how along with the sacred act of two coming together, we literally weave a cocoon of light within our wombs and are able to birth another into being.  Both mother and child undergo a metamorphosis in a miraculous act of pure beauty, and life as we know it is forever transformed.  

My partner, Joe and I traveled around the states in a small eco-friendly trailer for almost two years together.  During our travels, we had wanted, and at various points had “tried” to have a child, but agreed to put the mission on hold for a while until we were more stable.

“When we plant our seeds in our garden, I will plant my seed in you,” he promised.

Just as we began construction on our earthen home and transplanted our seedlings into our garden, we conceived, and our lives have been on the transformational fast track ever since.

We envisioned ourselves birthing our baby in our round home on the farm, growing our own food, and living close to the sea for several years.  Our local friends had worked with Lisa, a midwife who frequented the area, so we approached her about assisting us in a natural water birth in our new home.

“Unfortunately the political climate in Baja is no longer conducive to the work I do.  The doctors have a huge monopoly on the business of birthing and they have threatened me that if I deliver any more babies outside of the hospitals, they could put me in jail.  Additionally, it’s almost impossible to get a birth certificate because hardly anyone births at home in that area,” Lisa told us.

Given the circumstances, we decided we would head north for the summer and stay until the baby was born, learning quickly to adapt our plans in order to allow our ideals to align with reality.  I would continue to learn throughout the pregnancy to release control of the way I thought I could plan for things to happen.

Joe and I began building our home together, but being pregnant, I was no longer able to dig ditches and lift heavy things.  I spent time in the kitchen and garden, watching him work for 4 months straight – more than twice the time we had projected the foundation to take.   We finished in time to sleep in our new home for just one hot summer night.  It was the end of May and our visas were about to expire, plus it was getting too hot to grow our food – it was clearly time to go north.  We released a lot of emotions as we drove away from that dream, saying we would return, but knowing deep down that chapter was probably over.

Although many people found it absolutely crazy that we moved around so much, (living out of the tiny 60 square foot travel trailer until I was 8 months pregnant) we established routines that gave us a sense of consistency throughout the inconsistent happenings.  Physically, I had somewhat of a textbook perfect pregnancy.  I practiced yoga and meditated every day, and trained with brisk walks and light weights 3 times a week.  I drank nettle and raspberry leaf tea, green juice, Vitamin D, cod liver oil, and took pre-natal vitamins daily.  I never experienced vomiting, swelling, heartburn, or any kind of discomfort, and the only part of my body that grew were my breasts and my belly.  I felt beautiful, and I truly embodied the light within me.  

I had always been healthy, but never had stuck to routine like this before.  It may have been the feeling that suddenly, I was accountable to something bigger than myself.  I had been telling myself that all of this was for the baby – and it was, but as I processed my reasoning, I intentionally created a moment to integrate that this was also for me.  So often in life, it is easier to do things for other people, but challenging to make the time for our selves.  If we truly wish to help others though, we must first be wholly nourished and present – striving to be physically, emotionally and spiritually fit.  I vowed that even after the baby, I would continue with a routine, so that I may offer my gifts to this child and our community with the energetic vigor that I felt while pregnant. 

As I approached the 8-month mark, we found a beautiful cabin to sublet in Northern California, very close to the dwelling of my dear friend and spiritual guide, Ancha, who would be assisting us with our home birth.  She always told me that when I gave birth I would be singing, and this would allow the energy to flow through me and push the baby out.  I couldn’t wrap my head around this completely, because I don’t feel comfortable with my singing voice, nor do I know the lyrics to many songs, but her words still make me smile.  Lisa also agreed to be on call for the birth, and help us deliver our baby, now that we were in the US.  We began to actively dream our ideal birth, meditating together and visualizing a peaceful emergence of our child through the water and into the world.  We practiced forgiveness for our own birth traumas, and cleared space spiritually so that we may not repeat those traumas.  We researched and shopped, planning in every way we knew possible.

Instead of a baby shower, we chose to host a Blessing-Way ceremony, inspired by Native American traditions that honor the rite of passage into motherhood and fatherhood.  After all of our dear friends had gathered together, the men and women split into separate groups and sat in circle, speaking from the heart.  All of the women brought beads, and together we created a birthing necklace, sharing an intention with each addition to the string.  I was gifted with the wishes that I may be like water, that I may emerge into motherhood like a butterfly, that I may be fierce like a tiger, and gentle like a bird.  As I placed my beads on the necklace, I shared my intentions to embody grace, to resist voicing limiting beliefs and only speak positively through labor, and to birth a healthy child.  The ceremony was a truly beautiful gathering, and cleared the space emotionally for us to feel totally empowered in our role as parents.

Joe had been reading lots of Doula and Daddy books, and made sure that we were logistically prepared as well.  He insisted on packing a “bug-out-bag”, in case we had to go the hospital in an emergency.  I resisted, feeling like it was a waste of time, because we obviously weren’t going to need that, but I complied, typing out a birth plan and filling the bag with clothing and toiletries.  We also ordered a birthing pool, loaded our freezer completely full of home made organic meals, stocked up on diapers, setup a changing table, washed all of the baby clothes with fragrance-free detergent, made playlists for the labor, and then waited with a sense of total preparation.  

One day, I went to see Lisa for a pre-natal visit and she felt my belly to check the baby’s position.  There was a lingering sense of hesitation, and she felt around for a long time before she told me that it was possible the baby was breach, and if that was the case that she would not be able to deliver my baby at home.  She recommended that I go immediately to get an ultrasound to confirm the position.  I cried uncontrollably for nearly a half an hour, trying to be strong, but feeling completely vulnerable and afraid.  When she asked me what my fear was, all I could say was, “I don’t want to get cut!”

That night, Joe spent a lot of time online, and showed me various websites with links to birth stories about babies being successfully flipped in the womb, and even women who delivered breach babies during home birth.

“You can do this naturally, no matter what,” he told me. 

I agreed.  I could, and I would.  As we went to the ultrasound appointment the next day, I felt confident that I had addressed my fears, and I was ready to accept whatever position the baby was in with grace, sticking to our plan to have a home birth.  We were extremely grateful when we found out that our baby was in a perfect head-down position, after all. 

My due date came and went.  We continued to go for long hikes, take warm baths, and enjoy the solitude of the mountain as we patiently awaited the coming of our “Sprout”.  Patience turned to excited anticipation as we approached 42 weeks.  Lisa warned us that if we waited any longer than that, the baby could be in danger, and she would recommend a natural method of inducing labor the following day.  I had an emotional resistance to inducing, simply because I felt like it was an attempt to control a process that would eventually happen naturally.  We continued to pray for things to unfold exactly as they needed to, and I went into labor that evening.

Realizing that it was actually happening was an ecstatic rush.  We timed my contractions for about 2 hours, and woke Lisa around midnight.  I began laboring in the upstairs bathtub, and found myself singing along with the melodic cello music through every contraction.  In toning, I found a resonance with the cramps that seemed to dissolve the pain and allow me to open simultaneously.  

I felt the urge for a change of scenery, and slowly approached the stairs just as Joe was arriving at the same point to escort me down.  The birth pool was full, and every step had a small candle to light the way.  Soft music was gently echoing in the open room.  There was a sweet smell of Palo Santo, the wood stove was glowing, and loving friends surrounded me.  Every time I almost experienced a sensation that one could call pain, there were hands on my lower back, soothing the pressure.  Within a few hours, I was almost totally dilated, and I slipped into a trance, enjoying the work of labor through a gorgeous sunrise, nightfall, and another moonrise.  

Everyone thought the baby was on the verge of emerging – for almost 24 hours.  I took castor oil to increase the strength and frequency of contractions, and tried pushing for several more hours, still, with little progression.  I was getting very tired, and struggling to hold it together.  I remembered my intentions that I had shared at the Blessing-Way, and told myself that I shouldn’t voice my concerns, although I truly felt like something was preventing me from completing this sacred task.  As my mental perseverance waned, I began to voice my doubts.  Everyone encouraged me to continue on, and I did.

When Lisa checked me again, she felt she had figured out why we were at a stand still.  She suggested breaking my water, as the baby’s head had been so close for so long, and the water sac was presenting itself.  I agreed, and proceeded to lay on my back to push, in what she described as the most effective position – pulling my knees up, pressing my chin to my chest, rounding my back, and bearing down with all of my strength.  I heard over and over again that the baby was about to be born, that its head had emerged 2cm, and only had a few to go, but I didn’t feel like there was a lot of cooperation going on from inside of me.  The waning moon had passed beyond the ridgeline and I again became aware of the passage of time.  I was incredibly overwhelmed by the combination of exhaustion and confusion, and distraught by the voices in my head that told me to simultaneously stay strong and positive, or to admit that I simply could not do this.

To the best of my ability, I expressed myself to Lisa and she gave me a choice: either push out the baby, or go to the hospital.  I responded with confidence that it was time to go. Everyone calmly scattered around, preparing for our 25-minute ride to the hospital.  Joe grabbed the bug-out-bag in tears, afraid of what was happening.  My contractions were about 2-minutes apart, and they were very intense.  The dark and windy roads were challenging, but we arrived safely to the small hospital, where the women’s care unit was awaiting our arrival in the birthing room.

After quickly signing some papers, we were introduced to the doctor, a midwife, a pediatrician, and a team of nurses.  The midwife immediately began trying to encourage me to birth the baby without intervention, relaying her personal experience of a 40-hour labor.  I felt like I was in between worlds, and I had to focus with all of my power to speak clearly.

“I appreciate your support.  I did everything I could to have this baby naturally.  If I thought I could, I would still be home.  But I am here because I need some kind of help.”

“It’s normal to feel like you can’t do it, but you are so strong, and I know you can do this…” she continued on, singing my praises and attempting to inspire me.

With tired eyes, I looked at Joe, Ancha, and Lisa and I asked, “Can someone please be my advocate?  Explain to her what we’ve been through and tell them that we just want them to try the vacuum…”

It felt very ironic that here I was, begging the hospital staff for intervention while they tried to convince me to do it naturally.  I think normally it’s the other way around, and vulnerable birthing women are often coerced into taking drugs, or agreeing to procedures that will simply make things quicker.  Although I felt a little frustrated at the time, I also felt incredibly fortunate to be in the hands of people who favored a natural approach.  

The doctor explained that the vacuum extractor doesn’t actually pull the baby out, it just guides the head, that I would still have to do the hard work of pushing.  He saw the intense pain I was in, and suggested that I could relax my muscles better with some pain medication.  He further advised us that the vacuum isn’t used without risk, and that we should be absolutely sure it was necessary before resorting to that option.  Joe and I agreed it would be best that I begin with an epidural, and if that didn’t work, then we would try the vacuum extraction second.

The anesthesiologist was on call, so we awaited his arrival for one very long hour.  Even the word “epidural” had a negative stigma to it in my mind, and I tried to forgive myself as I laid there yearning for relief.  To attach the needle, he asked me to sit on the edge of the bed, holding Joe with a rounded spine.  Within a matter of minutes I had absolutely no pain.  I looked at myself and could hardly believe what was happening.  I was hooked up to an IV, a blood pressure cuff, a fetal monitor, was wearing another belt that recorded my contractions, and I was breathing oxygen through a tube in my nose.  The monitor showed us that Sprout’s heartbeat was still healthy, and after a brief rest, I was told it was time to get back to work.  

The nurse informed me that since I had received the pain medication, it seemed like the baby had moved an additional centimeter and was now “+3”, so I only had about 2 cm to go before the baby’s head would be out.  I couldn’t feel anything between my belly button and my knees, so I waited for someone to tell me when the contraction was happening, and I assumed the same pushing position; pulling on my knees and pushing with all of my might.  It was a very strange sensation to be aware of my pelvic floor muscles, but so out of touch with them.  Everyone in the room was practically cheering me on – I was so close!  But still, the baby’s position didn’t change.  After 45 minutes of pushing, the Doctor agreed it was time to give the vacuum a try.  

He informed me that we would try only three times, and if it didn’t work, that we would have to do an emergency C-section.  I understood the grave importance.  I was determined to make this work.

My first push may have been the hardest of my entire labor.  Joe later told me he witnessed my vagina flowering opening completely, while the head remained exactly where it was.  The vacuum handle began to stretch, and the Doctor stopped.  He told me he would not be trying again, because there was too much risk in injuring the baby and or my pelvis.  It was now clear that our child was indeed quite stuck, and the only way to get him or her out would be through surgery.  They would assemble a team to go into the OR and be ready for me within half an hour.  All I could say was, “I understand.”

Joe referred to our birth plan, inquiring if he would be able to accompany me to the operating room.  

“Of course,” the Doctor answered.

He also asked if he could be the one to announce the sex of our child to me, if we could opt-out of a bath for the baby and leave as much of the vernix on as possible, and if he could stay with the baby while I was in recovery, having skin-to-skin contact as soon as possible.  He also requested that conversation amongst the staff during surgery be limited to absolutely necessary medical-related talk, as that space and time would be sacred to us, being the birth of our first-born child.

The Doctor assured us with a smile that all of our wishes would be honored.

I knew that surgery was the last thing that I wanted when I had imagined this birth, but in this moment, I felt grateful knowing that I had done everything I could.  I had a beautiful home labor, and I gave it my all.  And now, I could rest.  I held Joe’s hand, and I fell asleep.

I awoke as two nurses (who were also brothers) entered the room with a bed that would be used to transport me to the operating room.  They brought in a jovial energy and we joked around, smiling and laughing our way down the hall.  Joe was escorted into a room on our way, where he would receive scrubs and await a cue to enter the room once I was totally prepped.  

Just before Joe entered, the Doctor asked the nine other medical personnel in the room to gather around and pray with him.  He asked the Lord to honor everyone’s gifts so that they may perform to the absolute best of their ability, and asked that the baby and I may be safe and blessed.  The staff responded with a unified “Amen” and moments later, Joe was present, holding my hand again.  I was amazed by how comfortable I felt, in such a typically uncomfortable situation.

The room fell silent and I began to feel pressure as they made the incision and pulled my muscles apart.  The pressure mounted, and even from my side of the curtain, I could tell that they were working quickly.  Joe watched the entire thing.  I winced a little bit as they pulled the baby out, and then Joe looked at me and said, “We have a baby boy!”  I smiled bigger than ever before in my life.  The pulling and pressure increased, but my endorphins were flying.  We have a son!  I was so surprised, and so happy.

“True is here!” I said to Joe.  We had agreed upon this name, as we had felt a calm, meditative energy of the child that was in my belly.  His name is True Zen.

The Doctor called over to the team that was cleaning the baby, and reminded them to leave the vernix on.  Joe went over to the table and was by his side immediately.  Our son didn’t cry at all, and was soon breathing.  As they brought him towards the nursery, they paused near me, so that I could see him.  He had wide-open, bright blue eyes, a little bit of hair, a balanced complexion, and was absolutely beautiful.  As they left the room, I closed my eyes, still smiling, and drifted into another world until the surgery was over.

I awoke as I caught the end of a strange conversation and of course, more pressure, this time in my rectal area.

“What are you putting in my butt?” I asked.

“Tylenol,” the Doctor replied.  “You spiked a very high fever during surgery – 104 degrees – so we are doing this to stabilize your temperature.  It’s likely that you had an infection, so we’ll be doing some tests to determine if you’ll also need antibiotics.  We’re finished in here, so you’ll be heading to the recovery unit where you’ll get your blood work done and then you can go be with your son.”  

The nurses in the recovery unit knew that I was anxious to breastfeed, and got me in and out as quickly as possible.  I was brought directly to our room, arriving just minutes before Joe and True. 

Although I was numb, immobilized, had tubes running in every direction, and was generally feeling a little bit shocked from the momentum of the way everything unfolded, I was now holding my son for the first time, and nothing else mattered.  True latched onto my breast naturally and the sensation of nourishing him for the first time was absolutely incredible.  I knew everything was perfect, because both the baby and I were safe and in good hands.  As Ancha always tells me, “In life, there are no mistakes.”

The next three days in the hospital were surprisingly accommodating.  The same two nurses were checking in on us, day and night, so we quickly became comfortable with them and appreciated their help around the clock.  My road to recovery was way more intense than I had imagined, re-learning how to walk, just so I could use the bathroom was a painful challenge.  But the nurses were right; it got a little bit easier every time.  I practiced my exercises of breathing, walking, and rolling over diligently so that we could be discharged as soon as possible.  

True was naked except for his diaper, and laying on either Joe or myself the entire time; the constant skin-to-skin contact helped his temperature stabilize and also gave us a deep sense of bonding.  Ancha and Lisa brought us hot broth and homemade food, and we felt totally supported by everyone around us.

On the third morning, the doctor came in to assess our progress.  She told me that my lab results had been positive for an infection, so it was a very good thing I had been taking the antibiotics.  She undressed my wound and said it looked as if I were healing very well.  I requested to see the scar, and she brought me a hand mirror so I could examine it below my belly.  I had over a dozen little butterfly stitches holding my skin together.  She told me they would fall off in about 2 weeks, and at that point I could begin to slowly resume normal activities such as walking and taking baths – until that time, there would be a lot of bed rest.

Our homecoming was quiet and sweet.  Lisa had cleaned the entire house for us, our bed had clean sheets and there was a vase of flowers on the dresser.  My mother had sent a fruit and nut basket, and the mini-fridge Joe had set up next to the bed was stocked with snacks.  The sun was shining in the window and I was so incredibly content to curl up into our family bed with my husband and son.  We cried a lot of happy tears, just watching him sleep, feeling relieved to be home.

There is a small part of me that feels like a brat, that is yelling, “It’s not fair!  Why me?”  I had wanted so badly to have a home birth – to feel the sensation of birthing my own baby vaginally – to welcome my child into the world without medication.  That little voice tells me I was a failure, and I was incapable of doing something that women were naturally built to do.  That same little voice is embarrassed to bear a scar, and is angry that if I do want to have another child in the future, my risk is now compounded by both physical complications and deep fears of possibly going through another C-section.  

When I ask “why”, many things go through my mind.  Did I eat too many cookies?  Hike too far?  Should I have taken the herbs to induce earlier?  Should I have tried different birthing positions?  I will never know the answer to those questions, but there is one thing that pops out in my mind.  I think back to the day when I was on Lisa’s couch, crying when I was afraid that my baby may be breach.  I had addressed that possibility, but that was not my primary fear.  The primary fear was that I did not want to get cut.  I have always believed that whatever we put our energy into will eventually manifest, and fear generates an unseen amount of energy.  I now carry with me a very valuable lesson; that in order to clear space in our hearts for the most desired outcome, we must truly take the time to be honest with our deepest emotions.  I believe this is a lesson that will serve me throughout the rest of my life in ways that are important beyond my comprehension.  

Overall, I AM grateful.  I know that life only hands us what we are able to handle, and that this birth experience was an absolute metamorphosis. I indeed feel like a butterfly, as I have transformed into a mother, and True has brought more love and beauty into my life than I’ve ever known possible.  I honor my lovely home labor, the supportive birthing team, and the accommodating and skilled hospital staff – all who greatly contributed to the safe arrival of our healthy son.  I owe so much of the easeful process to Lisa, who knew when to give me firm choices, and supported me when I said it was time to go, and to Joe, who was prepared for every step of the process – from being a supportive partner in labor, to having the hospital bag packed, just in case we had to fly.  

I forgive myself, I love myself, and I honor my process.  I am grateful for my son, I am grateful for my health, and I am at home in my body.  I am grateful that my scar is minimal, and that it looks like a smile.  I am grateful for a transformational birth I will always remember. 

Advertisements

A Mighty Wind

15 Oct

by Emily Gresham

The musings of a self-proclaimed StarChild:Oh how the soul needs the body! How strange it is to keep so many memories and thoughts and feelings inside a tiny heart. They become tangled there and then grow that way-beautifully, strangely, painfully. The following are a few musings of one girl inside such a body.

She keeps a bucket list- but it changes so often that she no longer has a clue what is on it. In her dreams, she is many things. She is the leader in protecting the Rhinos from poachers, she is volunteering in the favelas of Brazil, she is traveling with her soul mate, she is a mother. She chooses to think of her dreams as visualizations, one day hopefully manifesting themselves through self-love.

She wants to give everyone a chance- which later makes it difficult in the dating world. But how magnificent it is to watch people evolve when they are given affection and trust! They bloom like lovely flowers on the first day of spring. And oh, how she loves flowers! All of them- every size, color, type. Every scent. Of course, lavender will always be her favorite.

She keeps a lavender satchel on her pillow, and one in her feminine drawer. She has 100% lavender body soap, as well as essential oil. It reminds her to try and let go of all the human baggage that is so unnecessary.

On the days she feels her best, she falls to her knees in awe of what heaven will feel like. She embraces age because she believes it brings her one day closer to God. She thinks it dreadful she is stuck in a world where society is trying to be younger, act younger, look younger. Age has grace and beauty. She will always believe that.

She often muses over things humans attach so much importance to, including herself. Looks- peer acceptance- money- and finds it ironic that these are what nature and animals attach the least importance to. How did things get so turned around?
On the days she feels strong- Ann Kennedy strong- she fights for what is right. She fights for love and forgiveness and acceptance- the three most powerful tools, in her opinion.

On the days she feels weak, she prays. For herself. For the world. For the pain. For her pain. When she finds herself in situations she is not comfortable with, she tries her hardest to forgive herself and does the best with where she’s at. If everyone were to forgive themselves, she muses, the world would be a much more delightful and easygoing place.

She muses about a lot of things, and had given herself the title of Queen of the Musers. She has also been The Seashell Queen, Moon Princess, Duchess of Sunshine, and StarChild.

She is annoyed at times that she has to drive a car. Her favorite form of transportation would be a horse or an elephant- but as both of those are unrealistic and annoying to the animal- she attempts to use her bike instead.

Oh, how horses remind her of him. Of his flaming red, golden hair. Of his smile and easy laugh. Of the way he fit her like a puzzle piece. Of how his hand felt curled around her small fingers. Of when they road through the California mountains together on horseback, staying at B&B’s- making love anywhere and everywhere. Taking too many pictures, drinking too much wine, sitting by the creek hand in hand without a care in the world. He could do that to her- make her forget everything and just love, love, love till her jaw hurt from smiling. Till happiness oozed from her pores and she moaned when they made love in the moonlight. Till she wondered what it would be like to spend her forever with him.

Thousands of miles apart now, worlds apart, memories lost, she sends her love to him quietly and moves on. Days have turned into weeks, which have turned into months. Her body has almost forgotten his smell, his touch, and his softness. Her body has met other lovers, has felt other hands on her hand, has whispered loving things into the night to someone else. But has her heart forgotten? When she misses him deeply this way, she reminds herself that he is, after all, one of billions of humans to love.

And suffering is part of being human. Which is why she holds on tight to compassion. She wonders whether or not other bodies share her struggles, her pain, and her emptiness. Do they ache for past lovers, for those suffering, for sins of the world, for a God they can’t understand? Do they love horses and flowers and sunshine? Do they roll down all four windows on the highway and pretend like they are part of the mighty wind? Do they weep sometimes at night for a reason they have yet to figure out? And do they close their eyes and smile, breathing deep, and just love?

Yes, they do- they have to, she muses.

A Story

13 Aug
by Meredith Pepper
Dear Body,
I know that you are only a series of chemical reactions. Don’t lie. We both know it’s true. That said, I feel that you are so much more than that.  My mind and soul, my view of the world and how I affect it, belong, in part, to you.
I am young; visions of the future preoccupy me at inopportune moments. I rarely give you a thought except when I’m putting on my clothes, or applying makeup, or comparing you to nameless models, or…oh. Okay. I get it now. This is a fun little game, isn’t it, this reproductive competition business? Yeah, well, I don’t need to be chained to you and your little hormones.  And yet I am.
I stay awake drunk on thoughts because you have shifted your rhythms to favor the exhilarating obscurity of night.  I revel in your emerging beauty; I want to put new colors and patterns and textures on you just to see how you look.  I see your reflection and know that you are invincible.  When I run, I feel the spring in your step and the wind in your hair.  I feel free.
Shortly, though, your gait ceases to catapult me across the ground.  I slow to a walk, red-faced and gasping for breath.  Your lungs always were your weakness.  You aren’t so invincible after all, are you?
No, you aren’t.  Nope.  You’ll get old (I’ll make sure of it).  When you do, I’ll be forced to follow you into dependence.  I fear it even now as I still rely on my parents for food and shelter.  My current dependence is loosening, and one day soon I will go off on my own into the world and figure things out for myself.  It is the beginning.  That far-off dependence is different.  It is one step out of the grave.  By that time, the world will either know me or it will not.  I will have made my life, and you, body, will be wrinkled and frail.  I know you can’t help it.  Some people would say that you will betray me, but, really I will have worn you down like a really great pencil.  I’ll sharpen you, to be sure, but you’ll keep getting shorter and duller.
I’m sorry I’m going to do that to you.  I’m sorry for what I already have done to you.  It’s not fair the way I tried (and failed, thank goodness) to starve you in the eighth grade.  It wasn’t right those times I made you look at all that lovely food, knowing you wanted it, and then forced you to settle for a glass of water or a little bit of tea.  No wonder you actually got heavier.  You were angry with me.
I wish I knew what was going to happen to you.  I wish I knew what our story will be. I hope you will never be simply an object to anyone, and I hope you will always be treated with respect.  I hope that happens, but if it doesn’t, please forgive me.  I may have to use you for my own gain.  It’s not fair, and it shouldn’t happen, but if it does (because that’s the culture we have), then I will scream like there’s no tomorrow about how I shouldn’t have had to do it.
Body, you’re really lucky to be inhabited by a girl like me. I’m a book. People don’t see you.  Or they usually don’t.  If they see you before me I get a little pissed because then they just know I’m a ditz because you have big eyes and plump lips and awesomesauce eyebrows, long legs and minimal fat.  But usually that doesn’t happen.  The people I’m around remember when you were awkward, and they don’t see you.  Maybe sometimes I want them to see you, just sometimes.
Other times I wish I didn’t have you.  It would be a heck of a lot easier to be a guy sometimes.  Like when you’re kicking my butt because I’m not pregnant.  Or those days I just don’t feel like smearing stuff on you to make you look “pretty.”  Or when I have to waste time and water removing hair (though it’s a nice excuse to linger in the warm spray of the shower).  Especially on days like today, when I didn’t want to Get Dressed.  Girls have to Get Dressed, you know.  Guys just have to put on clothes.  Of course, there’s also the issue of undressing.  As much as I may want to in these hot Southern summers, I can’t rip a shirt off you, body, or we’ll be charged with indecent exposure.  Of course, then everyone would see how small those boobs really are…
Well, I guess what I’m trying to say, body, is that even though society and I may give you a bunch of crap, I love you anyway.  In this physical world, you are me and I am you and we go everywhere together (just like in a love song or something).  One day that will change, of course, and you and I will go our separate ways, but there’s a good chance that we’ll be stuck with each other for at least seventy more years.  Yay! I’m really looking forward to it, but for the time being I must briefly divorce myself from everything but your eyes, brain, and fingers in order to do my math homework.  During that time, you may bounce your leg up and down in an unconscious tic of concentration.

Thanks! See you again at dinner!

Me ☺

P.S.- Could you stop sending antibodies rushing to my defense whenever I pet a dog?  I wanna puppy! *pouts*

Words of Famous Wisdom by Friedrich Nietzsche

14 Jun

“The body is a big sagacity, a plurality with one sense, a war and a peace, a flock and a shepherd.”

“There is more wisdom in your body than in your deepest philosophy.”

“Your soul will be dead even before your body: fear nothing further.”

“I consist of body and soul – in the worlds of a child. And why shouldn’t we speak like children? But the enlightened, the knowledgealbe would say: I am body through and through, nothing more; and the soul is just a word for something on the body.”

  Friedrich Nietzsche

 
 The Dispisers of the Body

To the despisers of the body will I speak my word.  I wish them neither to learn afresh, nor teach anew  but only to bid farewell to their own bodies – and thus be dumb.  “Body am I, and soul” – so says the child.  And why should one not speak like children?  But the awakened one, the knowing one, says: “Body am I entirely, and nothing more; and soul is only the name of something in the body”.  The body is a great intelligence, a multiplicity with one sense, a war and a peace, a flock and a shepherd.  An instrument of your body is also your small intelligence, my brother, which you call “spirit” – a little instrument and plaything of your great intelligence.  “I,” say you, and are proud of that word.  But the greater thing – in which you are unwilling to believe – is your body with its great intelligence; which does not say “I,” but performs it.  What the sense feels, what the spirit perceives, is never an end in itself.  But sense and spirit would like to persuade you that they are the end of all things: so vain are they.  Instruments and playthings are sense and spirit: behind them there is still the Self.  The Self seeks with the eyes of the senses, it Listens also with the ears of the spirit.  Ever Listens the Self, and seeks; it compares, masters, conquers, and destroys.  It rules, and is also the ego’s ruler.  Behind your thoughts and feelings, my brother, there is a mighty lord, an unknown wise man – it is called Self; it dwells in your body, it is your body.  There is more intelligence in your body than in your best wisdom.  And who then knows why your body requires just your best wisdom?  Your Self laughs at your ego, and its proud prancings.  “What are these prancings and flights of thought to me”?  it says to itself.  “A by way to my purpose.  I am the leading string of the ego, and the prompter of its notions”.  The Self says to the ego: “Feel pain”!  And then it suffers, and thinks how it may put an end thereto – and for that very purpose it is meant to think.  The Self says to the ego: “Feel pleasure”!  Then it rejoices, and thinks how it may often rejoice – and for that very purpose it is meant to think.  To the despisers of the body will I speak a word.  That they despise is caused by their esteem.  What is it that created esteeming and despising and worth and will?  The creating Self created for itself esteeming and despising, it created for itself joy and woe.  The creating body created for itself spirit, as a hand to its will.  Even in your folly and despising you each serve your Self, you despisers of the body.  I tell you, your very Self wants to die, and turns away from life.  No longer can your Self do that which it desires most: – create beyond itself.  That is what it desires most; that is all its fervour.  But it is now too late to do so: – so your Self wishes to perish, you despisers of the body.  To perish – so wishes your Self; and therefore you have become despisers of the body.  For you can no longer create beyond yourselves.  And therefore are you now angry with life and with the earth.  And unconscious envy is in the sidelong look of your contempt.  I go not your way, you despisers of the body!  You are no bridges for me to the Superman!  Thus spoke Zarathustra.

Middlesex

7 Jun

Jeffrey Eugenides’ Middlesex explores the complicated life of Calliope Stephanides, a girl, a boy, trapped in a body that society does not recognize. The book begins with this:

“I was born twice: first as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974. Specialized readers many have come across me in Dr. Peter Luce’s study, ‘Gender Identity in 5-Alpha-Reductase Pseudohermaphrodites,” published in the Journal of Pediatric Endocrinology in 1975. Or maybe you’ve seen my photograph in chapter sixteen of the now sadly outdated Genetics and Heredity. That’s me on page 578, standing naked beside a height chart with a black box covering my eyes.

My birth certificate lists my name as Calliope Helen Stephanides. My most recent driver’s license (from the Federal Republic of Germany) records my first name simply as Cal. I’m a former field hockey goalie, long-standing member of the Save-the-Manatee Foundation, rare attendant at the Greek Orthodox liturgy and, for most of my adult life, an employee of the U.S. State Department. Like Tiresias, I was first one thing and then the other. I’ve been ridiculed by classmates, guinea-pigged by doctors, palpated by specialists, and researched by the March of Dimes. A redheaded girl Grosse Point fell in love with me, not knowing what I was. (Her brother liked me, too). An army tank led me into urban battle once; a swimming pool turned me into myth; I’ve left my body in order to occupy others–and all this happened before I turned sixteen.

But now, at the age of forty-one, I feel another birth coming on. After decades of neglect, I find myself thinking about departed great-aunts and uncles, long-lost grandfathers, unknown fifth cousins, or, in the case of an inbred family like mine, all those things in one. And so before it’s too late I want to get it down for good: this roller-coaster ride of a single gene through time. Sing now, O Muse, of the recessive mutation on my fifth chromosome! Sing how it bloomed two and a half centuries ago on the slopes of Mount Olympus, while the goats bleated and the olives dropped. Sing how it passed down through nine generations, gathering invisibility within the polluted pool of the Stephanides family. And sing how Providence, in the guise of a massacre, sent the gene flying again; how it blew like a seed across the sea to America, where it drifted through our industrial rains until it fell onto earth in the fertile soil of my mother’s own midwestern womb.

Sorry if I get a little Homeric at times. That’s genetic, too.”

Defying the Odds

28 May

By Cathy Morton

I am going tomorrow for my yearly mammogram.  I love entering the waiting room.  Women politely smile at each other knowing full well that in just a few minutes, one by one, we will stand buck naked from the waist up and have our boobs pressed into a vice.  We will do this while carrying on small talk with the nice woman putting our breasts into the death grip.  Did I mention that we have to go without deodorant until our appointed time?  I am telling you there are some people who really need their daily deodorant.

We all know why we do it.  Breast cancer is one of the things they can usually treat if caught early enough.  It isn’t fun but we do it.  There is also the yearly female parts exam.  I won’t go into the fun encountered getting ready for the colonoscopy.  We allow techs with huge rubber bands to strap our arms and draw vial after vial of blood each year to be sure our bodies are working effectively.  We do all of these things in order to keep our bodies healthy and running effectively.

At sixty, I am more aware than ever of the need for screening and physicals.  I wonder if it will be enough to overcome the years of abuse my body endured.  As a child, I was overweight.  I was an emotional binge eater as early as ten years old.  Many days I ate dinner at home with my grandmother and then headed to straight to my best friend’s house.  They always allowed me to sit at the table and eat with them.   They knew Grandmother and I ate at 5:00pm on the dot every day.   I usually told them I didn’t like what she made or didn’t eat much at home.

I hated my body.   My grandmother reminded me constantly that I was FAT.  My pediatrician joined the chorus and mentioned my weight problems every time I was in the office.  He didn’t talk to my grandmother who bought and cooked the overly salty, fatty foods.  He didn’t mention to her that baking chocolate cake and allowing me to drink Coca Cola every day wasn’t the smartest idea for an overweight kid.

Bullying is a hot topic these days, but isn’t anything new.  Kids at school taunted me.  “Fatty, Fatty , Two by Four Can’t get  Through the Bathroom door” is a song I heard quite often.    I was the kid picked last for everything at recess.  “We don’t want her on our team. She can’t run” was followed by giggles and laughter.   Name-calling, exclusion from activities, being pushed, and more were my life in elementary school and junior high.

I realize I ate as a way of trying to take control of something in a little girl’s world that was out of control.  Physical abuse and sexual abuse was a part of my life in my early years.  Later years left those behind but kept the verbal, emotional, mental, and spiritual abuse intact.  As a young adult, wife, and mother, I continued to use food to cope.  The doctors added valium to the mix.  As time went on, smoking, alcohol and other drugs would take their place.

During my years of addiction, I didn’t take care of my body at all.  I often put myself in dangerous situations.  I engaged in many forms of risky behavior.  I won’t go into detail; I think you can imagine the lifestyle I was living.  Drinking and drugs were more important than proper nutrition.   They were more important than anything else was.  Not feeling was the best feeling in the world.  In another blog, I wrote about my challenges with some mental health issues.  I didn’t know what was wrong with me but I knew I didn’t think or react like other people.  When I first started using, I felt “normal” for the first time in my life.  As time went on, those feeling left.

I was thirty-five when I got sober.   In my first year, I had pneumonia, a DVT (deep vein thrombosis-blood clot) in my leg, and some problems with iron, etc.   My monthly cycles were a mess.  In time, things got better. However, I still struggled with my weight, unhealthy eating, lack of exercise, and smoking.  It would be another twelve years before I would quit smoking.

Anti-depression medications and mood stabilizers became part of my life.  They have changed my life dramatically.  They also come with a variety of side effects.  One of the most common is weight gain.  After starting on one of the medications, I gained over one hundred pounds in three years.   My doctors and I decided that I had to give that one up and try something else.   Try is the key word.  Medication is often a crapshoot.  All come with a different set of side effects.  Finding the right combination can take time.

After the weight gain, I developed high blood pressure and pre diabetes.  I have very mild preliminary COPD.  I also have osteoarthritis and knee problems.   I developed problems with my gall bladder and those pesky female parts.  I had gall bladder surgery and a complete hysterectomy thus solving those problems.  During the hysterectomy, I had a bladder tuck performed.   If you are a woman who has given birth and you “leak when you laugh (or smile in my case), you know the problems.  The bladder tuck was AMAZING.  Weight creates complications with all of these issues, however.

Exercise, good nutrition, and losing weight allow me to live life to the fullest today.  It has been a difficult journey at times.  I no longer have to take medication or test my blood for pre diabetes.  I have perfect blood sugar levels without medication.  I still take blood pressure meds.  With my family genetics, I may always have to do that. I have lost 78 pounds so far.  I go to the gym, swim, and take Karate. During the past couple of years, I have had two injuries that required surgery.  Each time was a setback, but I didn’t quit.  I just had my annual physical and the doctor reports that my blood sugars, cholesterol, and all the other things they test for were all within normal limits. I do have a small heart arrhythmia that medication controls.  Unfortunately, that medication also slows down your metabolism making weight loss more difficult.  My body isn’t totally cooperating with me here.

As I am aging, my body is changing.  I have those horrible sunspots on my face.  I have wrinkles and grey hair.  The hair isn’t a problem, since I have an amazing hairdresser who keeps everyone guessing.  Right now, I am sporting a lovely red hair color.  I shrunk half an inch over the years.  I am only five feet and half an inch.  If I shrink much more, I will have to ride in the back seat of the car. That could make driving difficult.  I started wearing reading glasses a few years ago.  I have now graduated to wearing “invisalign” bifocals full time.

My body and I have a comfortable relationship today.  I don’t always like it and it doesn’t always like me.  My body has done an amazing job of surviving everything it was put through over the years.   I plan on living to celebrate my 100th birthday.   I want my letter from the President of the United States.  I am counting on that being a woman by that time.  And, I want to appear on NBC’s The Today Show.  I hope they still do that segment when I turn 100.  I want to sit in front of the camera with my corsage and have someone ask me how it feels to be 100. I am going to tell them, “It feels pretty damn good.”

More from Cathy at http://cathysvoicenow.wordpress.com.

Words of Wisdom by Peggy Tabor Millin

23 May

From “Women, Writing and Soul-Making, Creativity and the Sacred Feminine,” by Peggy Tabor Millin, a must for all women writers.

Published by Story Water Press in Asheville, North Carolina, 2009, quotes begin on page 119

i. Minding the Body

“The blood-raw savage is the heart of my creativity, which can only be creative if brazen and raw and free. The blood-raw savage leaves the tribe in order to thrive. To be creative, to be a writer, requires questioning, and at times rejecting, the societal collective. Creativity is necessarily unconventional and can only be inspired outside the usual social boundaries. We women are challenged by this demand. Through generations we have integrated messages of our intellectual inferiority and of the limitations imposed by our role as nurtures. Our very bodies seem to conspire against our desire to express our innermost selves. Our biological function is to create and raise children. Though hopefully we respect and honor this role, many of us feel pulled between–sometimes pulled apart by–our love for our families  and our need for creative expression and inner fulfillment.

Freeing the Body

The blood-raw savage is what our writing leads is towards: the embodiment of our unique perspective and therefore of our creative potential. Full embodiment of our individuality and our creativity requres us to reencounter all our history–all our experience, feelings, and emotions–many of which we have only partially lived. To embody our lives, we must tap into the unconscious where all of our experience is stored and permit what is there to become conscious. This movement from unconscious to conscious results spontaneously from creative expression, meditation, and bodywork. In fact, if we attempt to make it happen we are likely to block the flow through endless self-analysis or denial and avoidance. Whenever we release our inhibitions and relax into our bodies, messages from the unconscious arise spontaneously from the body and become conscious in the brain. ….

ii. Writing a Woman’s Body

As women, our bodies hold generations of shame, blame, betrayal, and victimization, both given and received. Many of our negative emotions are centered on the body itself. Even as liberated women today, we treat the cycles of the female body as disease states and accept and make jokes about premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and menopause. Instead of connecting out body’s wisdom, we deny the body’s deep needs.

To practice the hard work of writing, the blood-raw savage insists we confront life raw, unearthing and releasing the stories that can heal us. In this way we claim our creativity and release our cultural conditioning. Because creative writing is somatic, grounded in sensations, sensory experience, feelings, and emotions, we can rely on the body to lead us. The exploration is not cognitive but energetic. We do not need to know the story line. We need only to give the body, with its emotions and feelings, the freedom to express.

A young artist friend tracks her creativity and emotions in relation to her ovulation. She finds her creativity surges when she is fertile, while an interval of depression and doubt accompanies her menses. She equates this latter period with an innate grief at the loss of a creative opportunity. ….

The blood-raw savage has an ally in menopause, a time at which, according to gynecologist Dr. Christiane Northrup, the shift in hormonal balance frees us to focus on our soul’s demands instead of on society’s. Many of us at this stage of life discover we are less afraid to speak out and are more willing to use our increased intuitive ability and wisdom and to explore our creativity.

Listening to the body is not easy for most of us because we have long-established patterns of ignoring and neglecting it. We also fear the call of the blood-raw savage because she lures us out of our comfort zones. Yet, our bodies are the source of our voice–and more than anything we long for our voice to be heard. We must acknowledge the ways in which our culture, families, and we, ourselves, have metaphorically cut our throats and forced us to swallow our words and our truth. Such acknowledgement arouses anger, judgement, and a myriad of other negative emotions that we have learned are unacceptable for women to express. The blood-raw savage urges us to take the step. As creatives we must learn to thoroughly live the present moment, as well as experience and express what the body has stored. Very possibly, the degree to which we block access to our bodies is the degree to which out truth remains unexpressed.”