my mother's anger

I wear my mother’s anger like a winter coat. She bundled me in it, somehow, when I was rather young. I like to think that it grew too heavy for her to carry on her shoulders alone, so she simply had to cut a piece off and sew it onto me. I’m thankful, I guess. If she hadn’t shed at least a little, she might have crippled under the weight of it.

But now, here it is. Inherited fury. Borrowed rage. A woolen, stinking thing, fuzzing up my vision during the sleepless, tear-stained nights spent tending to the screams of my newborn babe. I love my daughter dearly, as my mother loved me, but at two and three and four in the morning, when all the world is dark save for my little bedroom light cutting a yellow square into the inky street, I allow my mother’s anger to make me itch, and sweat, and shake.

I want to rock Aspen’s bassinet over and over and over again until she stops crying. I want to give her wailing body to someone, anyone, for just a minute so that I can have a solid inhale and exhale without the sound of screams pooling in my skull. I hold her in my heavy arms and cry, and feel embarrassed that she’s watching my cry, and accuse her of a million impossible things. My husband wakes to me asking the baby why she hates me, why she wants me to die, why she won’t let me sleep.

Anger is, by far, the ugliest of emotions. It turns the mind black, the stomach sour, the heart cold. There is never a time when it’s needed. Not ever, not once. It never helps. Anger is only kindled, never relieved. Only passed on, like draping the winter coat around another’s shoulders, causing them to itch, and sweat, and shake, too. 

I don’t want Aspen to inherit my anger. I don’t want to unknowingly sew some of it to her, especially to this silky soft baby skin before me. And so, I’ve learned quickly to pause. To remember, and say aloud: What does my daughter need, right now?

Maybe a diaper change. Or to be held. Or to be left alone. Or to be close to my breast. Maybe nothing at all. Sometimes, I don’t know what she needs, and I’ll never know. But I can be sure that the one thing she absolutely doesn’t need is anger. Not now, not ever.

Knowing that, I calm. I can pick away at the fibers of my mother’s anger. I can slowly, surely, happily remove the weight of this winter coat without ever having to loan some of it to Aspen. 

the lost weeks

Aspen is a strange and wonderful little beastie. Trapped somewhere between the spirit world and ours, ocean eyes searching the walls, the sky, the skin on my face. Knowing nothing and everything, all at once. She is the most marvelous sort of empty. Like the desert, like the cosmos, spacious and new and old and allowing all the world to pour into her. I feel the presence of many ancient and wise beings with her in these early days, maybe guardians sent to watch over her transition from one side, to the other. 

I thought that I would know her completely when she was placed on my chest at birth. Like we would be old friends. Instead, she’s a wild and unfamiliar creature, all animal noises and smacking, thirsty lips. She teaches me what soothes her (steady bouncing, constant movement, cradling her fuzzy head in my palms) and I teach her how to smile, how to coo, how to sleep soundly in the crook of my arm. We’re slowly learning how to handle one another. And it’s a beautiful relationship, really. More than just a mother towering over her child, always right, always older. Rather, we are equal. Both children: new, learning. I hope it’s always like this, even when she’s as old as I am now. Her learning from me, and I from her, a friendship, sharing, growing together in love, and in life, and in Spirit.

These early weeks will be lost before long, I can tell. They’re already such a blur of messy diapers and midnight milk soaked towels and bedsheets. But I don’t want to forget. Not the way the apartment smells (kind of sour, kind of sweet, all covered up with lavender and incense), or the way chores that used to only take a moment (putting a fresh bag in the trash) now take minutes on end and one hand, not two. Not the way she throws her little, dinosaur arms into the air and frowns every time a noise or a touch startles her. Not the way her papa looks at her in wonder, strokes her cheek with his thumb, calls her his squid, his little bird, his love. Not the way she fall asleep like a frog on my chest. Not the way she is right here, right now, all soft and new and perfectly empty.

how we stay together

No one ever told me how much having a baby would make me miss my husband. I ache for him all over, the way things used to be, freely loving and laying about the apartment and talking about silly, little things into the early hours of the morning. I miss him now, more than I ever have, even when he’s sitting right next to me. 

It’s part of the old me that’s hanging around, I think. Clinging white-knuckled to the way things were. She’s the part of me that mostly slipped away when Aspen was born, and what’s lef of her is resisting change, even though for the most part, the change is lovely and sweet.

I miss my husband, and so for a few days in the early weeks of Aspen’s life, I hated him, because he seemed like a foreign, lazy creature that sat about while I vaccuumed and bled through my underwear and slung a screaming beastie over my breast for the third time in an hour. I didn’t ask him to help, even though I should have. I expected him to know that I needed him. And when he didn’t, my insides silently soured. 

On the ninth night, he woke up to the sound of me sobbing over a child that I loved too much to put down, and I was too tired to control the words on my tongue, so I told him that I hated him, that I couldn’t stand him, that I felt like a single mother. And then I watched my husband cry for the rest of the night. I was too tired to sort through the words in my head, so we both lay there, quiet and broken and sorry, with a squirming bundle of new life snuggled up between us.

But there was relief, on day thirteen. We ate. We rested. We slept. Aspen found solice in the sound of the rain, and fell asleep soundly by noon. My husband lay down and closed his eyes, and I found the crook of his arm that used to be familiar and made myself a home there. I inhaled slowly, remembered his smell, and knew then that nothing had really changed.

“I’m sorry for what I said,” I told him, and he said that he was sorry, too.

And for three rainy, afternoon hours, we lay skin to skin, waking every so often to get closer after drifting apart in slumber, always finding each other once more, lacing fingers, tracing constelations of freckle and scar.

They told me that having a child would make me fall more deeply in love with my husband. For the first twelve days, I called them all liars. But on day thirteen, I understood. It’s like falling in love a second time, climbing over mountains and scraping your knees but continuing to climb, tumbling together, deeper and deeper still.

dear aspen (sé lest)

I’ve been wholly and completely changed since you came into the world. Different entirely, in body, mind, and spirit.

I woke up nearly forty-eight hours after giving birth and walked into the bathroom. The woman looking back at me from the mirror was worn and awful and I hardly recognized her sunken face. She shed nearly thirty pounds overnight, and the sudden change in weight and shape, along with the searing pain between her hips, was causing her to stand with a dramatic lean in her spine. Crooked like an old woman, rail thin, like she was as a girl. Her hair was wild and still sweat stained from labor. 

But pained as she was, I marveled at this woman. For she was completely foreign to me. And though I knew I was looking at the same physical form that I’ve hauled around for twenty-two years, I still felt that I was seeing myself for the very first time. And I was.

I am a new being. 

The woman I was on September 26th has passed away, just like I expected that she would. And though wildly unfamiliar yet, this new form that I’ve taken on is something ancient, and comfortable. It’s what I was supposed to become, I think, right from the very beginning.

It’s hard to describe, this change. I’m no longer living in one body - my soul has split into two. I guess I feel a bit like a child myself. 

Lost and present and living in wonder.

I took a walk outside the apartment last night, alone for the first time since you were born. It’s Autumn now, but in Texas it still has that very late summer feel, like apples and fireflies and night skies fit for stargazing. I slipped my shoes off and walked in the grass, and I swore for a moment that I was ten years old again, and it was almost dark out, the streetlights all just coming on, and I would hear the sound of a screen door slamming from down the street, my mother calling me home from somewhere far off. I would run, run, over the freshly mowed lawns between the neighbor’s house and my own, all the while judging the time by the sweet cool hair of the Earth beneath my feet.

I can’t wait to learn about this new woman. I can’t wait to learn about you, my love. We are making magic together already, the three of us, your father, and you, and I. Children again, growing older, living in constant wonder. Watching, waiting, holding our breath.


ps - Aspen's birth story will be posted as soon as we receive our labor & delivery pictures from our photographer! I can't wait to share the experience with you.