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.

these messy things

As always, I am wildly unprepared for this. 

I have a nasty habit of jumping into things with both feet, thrashing about, trying to make the best of a situation that, with some time, and a list, and maybe a breathing exercise or two, could have been much more easily managed.

I guess it’s because I like for things to be messy. I like the stories that come from cleaning them up. 

This time, again, I forgot to prepare. Or I chose not to, if I’m being honest. And now, I’m wildly unprepared for the pain of child birth.

I’ve spent the last two (or has it been three?) days floating around in early labor. I realized almost immediately, as the first few contractions wrapped themselves around from my belly, to my back, that I hadn’t finished any of my birthing books. I hadn’t learned any breathing exercises. I never recorded my guided meditation. I hadn’t uploaded my playlist to my phone. The surges began coming every 5 minutes, then 4, then 3, lasting longer, turning my back into forever smoldering embers and my belly inside out. 

“I think this is it,” I said, half to the pillow and half to KC after one of the surges caused me to shake. I’m bleeding from the inside, I thought.  I can’t get up. I can’t move. I can’t do this. I can’t.

“Are you sure?” He didn’t know whether to touch me, or to leave me alone, so he was sitting on the edge of the bed, one hand half-reaching, frozen between his knee and my back.

“How the fuck should I know? I’ve never done this before.”

We zipped up our bags and got dressed and for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what to pull from the closet, so I ended up sliding into the car wearing a flannel that was all buttoned wrong, and the pink pajama pants that I had bought in California when I was first starting to show.

I think I realized that it wasn’t really time while we were driving to the hospital. There was a honey haze hanging about the waning moon, and the weather was cool and wet and changing, finally.

The perfect night - yet not the night. 

I should have told KC to turn the car back. But it hurt more than anything I had ever felt before. And I was wildly unprepared. So we drove on.

“4 centimeters dilated and still at 80% thinned, sweetie. That’s good, but not quite enough for you to stay. We’ll check you again in an hour, just to be sure. Is that okay?” The doctor on call was sweet, and it made me sad that I would probably never see her again.

I nodded and picked at the balls of teal lint that were stuck to the blanket. Progress. But not enough. 

“Hey, you’ve almost got half of it out of the way,” KC said after she left the room.

He was right. I patted the skin on my belly and waited for it to catch fire again. I felt so far away from her then, even though this sacred womb time is the closest to one another we will ever be.

I don’t know if I can do this, little one. I’m ready to see you. To be your mother. But this is the worst pain I’ve ever felt. Already. And I’m wildly unprepared.

This morning, I woke with a sore belly, no contractions, and two equally present thoughts.

I think I might need some kind of pain management during active labor.

And then...

What a coward I’ll be, if I opt for drugs. Any kind of drugs. What will others think? Will they still consider me a mother? Will my baby be disppointed that I couldn’t bring her little, cosmic body earth side without the help of a needle?

A natural, drug-free labor is important to me. Because I want to feel everything. I want to know her skin and her heartbeat and her first cry as it really is, not through a half-awake state of painlessness.

Feeling safe is important to me. Because I want to be present. I want to be calm and loving and fearless. I don’t want my pain to paint a haze over my eyes and spoil the feeling of her skin, the sound of her heartbeat against mine, the sound of her first earthen cry.

And I fear that those two things will not find a proper point to intersect. We’ve cultivated such a sense of smuggery about birth - that mothers who cave and choose pain relief are not quite as honorable as those who did the whole thing ‘naturally.’ I used to believe this, too. Now, not so much.

I don’t know what I’ll do. As always, I’m wildly unprepared. This is messy, and I haven’t got a lot of time left to clean up. Maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll just allow the whole thing to tip over, to spill, to happen as it must, as it should, and I’ll float with it, and over it, and through it.

dear aspen

The other evening I was laying in bed when a cracked bit of my brain broke open.

That happens, sometimes, and it’s so strange when it does, because memories that you never even knew existed come dancing out, like they were just curled up in there, waiting for something to set them free - a smell, maybe (frying oil; saw dust) or the sound of summer leaves swiftly dying. Something familiar. Something old.

When I was a child, seven or eight maybe, the sky would get cold and my parents would take me into the woods while they cut dead trees into firewood to use during the winter. We would stop at the gas station on the edge of town first, and pick three donuts. I remember tapping on the glass case and choosing one that was much too big for me - two slabs of fried dough, covered in chocolate and split neatly with a layer of cream. I would eat the whole thing, licking my fingers, as my father drove the hooptie out past the lumber mill, the water tank on the top of the hill, through a locked, green gate, and onto a dirt road that surely led nowhere.

For a day, the forest was my home.

I was a wild, running dryad, all moss-kneed and bark-skinned, sister to the Pine, mother of chipmunks, hunter of butterflies. My father pulled the truck to the side of the road and squinted out the window, tipping back the last of his coffee, surveying the land.

“Here - this is good.” he would say. The doors opened and slammed, they gathered the saws and gasoline from the bed of the truck and headed off into the sun-streaked patch of woods, hunting for the dried corpses of fallen trees.

I would stay close, but somewhere far off, a tiny, curious thing, lost under the criss-crossed arms of ancient oak, and pine, and cedar. And oh! the stories they told! I could close my eyes and hear them whispering as a chainsaw started rumbling down the road.

The other night, laying in bed, I was seven or eight again - for a moment, a young girl nestled in twenty-two year old skin. The memories leaked from the broken bit of my brain, bringing with them both happiness, and sadness, because I feel that my imagination has been boarded up behind years of adulthood.

I miss being a child. I wish I still had the wild wonder that fueled ten thousand stories scribbled in print on paper receipts and donut napkins.

“I need to write something down!” I would shout, and I knew that the stories would be sucked back into the mouths of the trees if I didn’t catch them by the tails. So my father searched the sticky floor of the hooptie and found a pen, and I wrote them down quickly, stories about elves and witches and wandering, hooded girls.

I hope you like to write, too. I hope the stories of the forest tie knots around your heart. I’ll kneel down and you can whisper the secrets they tell you into my ear - the ones that I’ve grown too old to hear myself.

Maybe I can still hear them. Maybe I just needed to remember how. Maybe you'll teach me.

You’re going to inspire me to tell stories again. I can already tell. Not just the serious ones, like I do now, but the fairytales. The wild ones. The ones about mermaids and elves and girls with magic hoods.

My Aspen, my love, for you, I’ll write them all down.