Tag Archives: mothering

the After Birth

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After giving birth, I bled. I’d been so focused on opening and releasing that after my babies came, I just stayed wide open. Prepared to give until my life slipped away. I didn’t feel the shot of Pitocin to my thigh. The IV pricked cold into my wrist. It felt so good to put my head back on my futon, as if I could sleep forever. But my midwife put her head squarely in front of mine—“Keep your eyes open.” I battled her, reminding her that I’d not slept for two nights—but in the end she won and so did I, I stayed with them.

I’ve been thinking about birth a lot. Maybe it is because my sister, Zarine, just had a baby. Or maybe because my daughters are turning six. Babyhood is very much over.

Nothing could have prepared me for what I faced after the homebirth of my twin daughters. Ixchel was transferred to the hospital. Her breathing was unstable. I lost so much blood that I could not bend over without almost passing out. I’d never been so physically unable. Unable to prepare food. Unable to pick up a sock on the floor. Unable to wash my dishes. And I was full of needs—so hungry, wanting steak. Needing help even to shower. It was two days before I showered.

I had two infants. This is what no one tells you—that when you are a mom you still have to get through the hard times, but now you have to guide your children, even when you are knocked to the ground.

Kali was in my arms, eating from me, requiring more than I’d ever given. And Ixchel was separated from me. The news kept getting worse—her blood was too thick. They had her in an isolation unit with a tube in her throat. Morphine. Salination. Too many decisions. I was not there.

Her father and the midwives went to the hospital with her that first night.

And then she was alone.

My baby was in the hospital. I was too weak to go. I could not let myself feel the pain. I just knew she’d be OK. I’ve never known something with such ferocity. She was born a warrior. I don’t think I cried. Every part of me had to hold steady. There was no room for panic or fear.

My sister, Sarai, saved me. Without me asking her. We had planned for her to photograph the birth. But in the end she stayed. She called her boss and took two weeks off of work. She slept on the lumpy, blue folded futon in the living room. Birth, death, and sickness provide this pinpoint clarity. How in one moment you can make a decision to pack your life up and arrive to hold someone up.

My mother, aunt, sister, father, friends, son, and kids’ dad were all stepping in and up and helping. It took everyone and then some. But I remember Sarai most during this time. Every day Sarai went to the hospital. When there was a medical decision to make about my daughter, she called. When they pulled out formula to feed my baby, she went to the freezer and grabbed my breast milk. When they tried to give Ixchel morphine, she gave her Reiki and got Ixchel to be still and calm. She made me breakfast in the morning and changed Kali’s diaper at night.

She cooked up my placenta for me. Really. I don’t know whose idea it was, but I ate it with basil on toast. The rest she cured, pulverized, and freeze dried, so I could use it as medicine. I still do.

It was humbling. Needing so much.

Sarai was the glue that held me together. She protected my daughter when I could not. She held her hand. And she held mine. That first time I went to the hospital, I came in a wheelchair and she pushed me there.

When I held Ixchel in my arms, everything was wet: my cheeks, my shirt. I was covered in milk and tears.

My daughters are six now and don’t remember their Auntie Sarai. At first I was angry. Then I was scared and then like so many things it just hurt too much. So I accepted that she was lost to me. She called me a few months back. It’s hard to pick-up the pieces of a relationship after so many years. I didn’t say, “Thank you for keeping me sane when my girls were born.”

I did say that I understood why she left. I told her that I love her. At least that is what I remember saying.

A Note to My Son

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I never said thank you for that time you put your hand on my back and told me it was OK to leave. I’d left you sobbing on your bed. You were in fifth grade then. Arms lean muscles reaching to cover bone. Lanky in form, but small in frame and wailing when I said that I was leaving your dad. Even though I was raising you, I had no legal or biological claim to you. Leaving your dad was leaving you.

I came back a few days later to take care of you. Your moon face beaming at me. And we pretended like nothing had changed, your hand warm in mine as we walked home from school. Your shoelaces dragged, untied through the gutter as we crossed the street. Without being asked, you did your homework. If you were good enough, sweet enough maybe I would stay.

When your dad and I finally split up for good, you were 16 and no longer good or sweet. Your voice dropped and hung flat. “I don’t give a shit,” you said. “It doesn’t matter to me.” The gaping holes in your teeth replaced by braces. The round of your eyes bloodshot red and lidded with weed.

Now, you are gone from me. On the day you collected the posters from your wall, you couldn’t stop shaking your foot. Even your voice trembled. I could not see the scabs under your shirt, but I knew they were there, trying to stake a claim to the pain you tried to cut away. I recycled the empty bottles of tequila in your room. Most of the calls have stopped—the substance abuse program, your CPS worker, the counselor from the county shelter.

You call me when you need something. A place to stay. A tent. Money. And I can only sometimes bring myself to pick up the phone when you call. My stomach tightens and heat rushes to my cheeks. Joy, longing, and anger collide. I tell myself that I don’t hunger for you. I pick up the phone. We, for a moment, pretend not to be strangers. Mother and son. And that still exists even if not bound by blood or law. On your 18th birthday, you called me back to ask me to sign over your college account to you. “You’re not in college,” I said.

I want to be angry because it gives me something to feel that takes the pain away. But I remember how we were.

When you were in fifth grade, you put your hand on the square of my back, so you could feel my heart beat right into it. You knew that I came back for you. To take care of you. Because you asked me to. The plan was that I would leave before your dad came home. But he left work early.

I made for the door. He grabbed my elbow. The desperate hard grab, skating toward an edge. Thick pads of fingers, pulling me toward him. There would be no bruises from the force. “Don’t leave,” he said. My eyes filled with tears. My hair streaked in my face. And the animalistic fear came. Your dad was close to the edge. Hands on my shoulders. Voice out of control. I told him to get his hands off of me. His grip tightened. Every part of me wanted to leave, to break free. But there was you.

“Stop, dad,” you said. And you put your small thin frame between us. Your father stepped back, released me. That is when you put your hand on my back. I was sitting on the stairs. “It’s OK. You can go. Go.”

You gave me permission. Before I walked out that door, I held you. All 46-pounds of you, balled up as if you could become a fetus that would fit inside of me and go back into my womb and be born again as my child.

The Mamilogues is a forum about the journey of being a mom, because mothering is raw and gritty.