Birth Story Part 3

This morning I made muffins for breakfast while B. slept in with the boy. This is not at all our usual arrangement, but B. was up with the babe from 5 till 6, and then I settled him into sleep, and then I was awake and hungry. Also, it is it’s own pleasure to cook alone in a quiet kitchen with the radio playing. We picnicked on the rug with an eye on the boy who was sleeping in. I allowed myself one moment to rue all that sleep I could have been getting. We ate and then, my idea, stripped down to have sex on the rug, super quick, before B.’s work departure. But the boy woke up, and we had to rush the finish, and so my O was skipped over. Again, not at all our usual arrangement. I jumped into bed to scoop the boy, still breathing hard, and even my hand still scented with me, and he immediately latched on and began nursing. Seconds before my husband gasping behind me his hands on my hips and now my son, his mouth on my breast.

My body.

My body gives pleasure and sustenance; my baby wants to be held more than he wants words. And B. and I also often need each other’s touch more than each other’s words. It’s easy to forget that; the boy can subsume all our physical energy until we shrivel and snap at the other. Now that it’s getting chillier I stand under hot showers for a long time.

My water broke in a huge, hollywood gush on a Tuesday evening.  The second B. touched a knife to the frosting of a red velvet cake it burst out of me, soaked my dress, pooled on the chair and ran down our slanted wooden floor. There was not a reason that this night was special, and yet we had both made an effort to treat each other. I had cooked dinner; he had brought cake.

We called our midwife and doula, and they said, go to bed, go to bed, go to bed.

I began to clean. B. shooed me into bed. He read me a few pages from Fellowship and then I suppose we fell asleep because the contraction woke me. It was a tectonic pain. Period cramps the tremors to this deeper than bone shifting.

I didn’t want to wake B. yet. I peed, I think, returned to bed. Could not lie down. Went onto my hands and knees, breathing and rolling forward and back and then B. was awake too.

And it began and it did come in waves and then in between there was stillness. My labor was long and slow; the contractions never gathered into one rush of sensation, not even in the very end, always they were five, six minutes apart. At the fastest it was three or four. Every push was a decision to push. In that way he was moved millimeter by millimeter through me. Finally, my midwife said, “Would you like to feel him?”.  And she guided my hand and there was his head; rock hard and covered with hair. I cried. He was so close. He was in fact going to arrive. But still, it would take hours more to move him out of me.

I threw up a few times.

I did not feel closer to God or the universe or a higher power, as I thought I would. I did not feel that the curtain between life and death had thinned and that I was in the land between. I did not feel closer to the miraculous. I did not transcend my body. It was the opposite. I was only my body. I was held in it, caught in it, could not imagine a land beyond it. I stared at my belly and tried to imagine where he was inside me. Had he left my uterus? Was he in the pelvic tunnel? Where was he? I wanted to know exactly. His heart beat steady and sure. My cervix did exactly what it was supposed to; thinned and softened and opened. He moved and he moved; fractions of millimeters at a time. My uterus squeezed and released. Squeezed and released. Cups with bendy straws were held in front of my face and I obediently sipped and then buckets were held for me to spit up into. I paced and sensed B. trailing behind me. I pressed my forehead against a wall and he pressed into my lower back. We paced some more.

I lay on my side half conscious while the contractions pulsed through me. I dozed through them somehow. A cold washcloth was pressed to my forehead. Someone massaged my foot; my hand. The day began again. I listened to the movies we played with my eyes closed; Blue Crush and The Neverending Story. I heard B. and our doula and our midwife talking; they in their own dance of care for me and care for themselves and care for each other.

“Do you want to go outside? Walk around?”

No!

I gave up on pants. And then underwear. I wore only a shirt. I crouched and bore down and pooped little dark curlicues in front of everyone. I puked and I puked. I sat backwards in a chair while B. or our midwife or our doula pressed into my back. I sat on the toilet and contracted there; peeing and pooping and spitting up. My feet were swollen and I hated the sight of my fat toes beneath the horizon line of my belly.

They put me in a hot shower and I laughed at how good it felt.

I floated in the warm birth tub.

I asked B. to put on Paul Simon’s Graceland which I hadn’t listened to in years and years but with the first notes of the album, I said, “Oh no. Turn it off.”

I tried to open my sphincters by singing.  B. and I were alone upstairs and I relaxed my throat and I don’t sing really ever and we circled the floor and these noises came from me and B. trailed me and I heard that he was crying and I knew he was deeply moved and he said something like, “So beautiful.” He told me later that as we drifted through the rooms, he was listening to these incredible sounds coming from me, nothing ever like them before, and at the same time seeing the objects in our home, most of them given or made by people we loved, and he was overcome by the love and the beauty and the depth of our life.

And the boy’s heartbeat was sure and steady. And my body kept on doing just what it was supposed to. Just very, very slowly.

They call it posterior labor, or back labor, the baby flipped so that its weight, its back doesn’t press into the front of my body but into my back. It’s slower than standard labor and more deliberate. A baby born in this position is called “sunny side up” though I think when he came out he was on his side.

I didn’t feel mythic or beautiful. I was sweat and piss and skin and hair.

I did what they told me to do, when they told me to do it. At least I tried. I believed what they told me. I gave myself completely to their care. I abandoned myself, my baby, to them, and that was the gilded net that held me. This is what kept fear or doubt at bay. I was moving my baby through me. He knew what to do. B. and our doula and our midwife; they knew what to do. My body knew what to do. I knew nothing.

The only conscious decision I made in the whole thing, my only exertion of will came at three in the morning, after what we called “the big sleep” when the midwife went home for awhile and the rest of us slept for about three hours. I went alone to the bathroom and decided that it was time to start pushing. And I squatted and began the long, slow pushing of the babe.

The last morning the game changing visit from the acupuncturist. My energy went up, my contractions came stronger and closer together, the babe in my pelvis; I felt the weight of him there; something to push into. The midwife brought my hand to his head and I cried.

I lay on my back on my bed. B. by one leg, our doula by the other, the midwife next to us on the couch. When a contraction came, I said, “Ok” and B. took one leg, and our doula the other, and then the midwife put her finger just inside me to show me where to push into, and I grabbed my thighs and lifted my head and grunted and pushed and then it was done, and we waited again for the next contraction.

I paced. I crouched. I stared at my belly.

We moved to the couch upstairs and somehow there I could really push. The midwife, “Do you want to see?”

Yes, but mistake! All that pain and just the barest oval of his damp, dark hair. It’s too small a hole, I thought. And, This is going to hurt.

Finally she said, “One more push like that and we’re going down to the tub.”

The push did more than she thought it would.

“Okay, we have to move now.”

To his great frustration, I wouldn’t let B. get in front of me on the stairs because I could not pause. I felt the baby as if his head was already out of my body. B. helped me into the tub and I draped my body over the side. I think I shouted out, “What do I do?”

And she said push, and I did and the pain was everything, mind scrambling, there was nothing to grab on to, there was no thought, it was a flash that lit my brain up and left not a single shadow to duck into. And then there was one more, and my mind skittered like a bead of water on a stove, and again, there was nowhere to go, but then it was done. And they handed him to me. And he was tremendous. Huge and solid and real.

Relief.

Wonder.

A quieter sweetness than I expected.

The rest is the simple miracle of it. The afternoon light in our room with the yellow ceiling. The water in the birth tub turned murky and I felt like I was sitting in the primordial swamp of all creation. My boy my boy my boy. B. beside us. Our boy. The women cared for the babe and for me and after some amount of time B. held him while I showered and there were clean clothes for me, and the women cleaned the rooms and I held the boy and we called my mother, but I can’t remember the words. It was dark then. The bed with fresh sheets and the babe measured and weighed and tended to, and the women left us with kisses and promises of return the next day. The cat re-emerged but she was frightened and had scratched a bare spot into her chin. We went downstairs briefly, to B.’s mother’s apartment to show her the boy. She had waited there through her worry, resisting her urge to knock on the door.

I ate a little chicken and hummus and salad because B. couldn’t handle it if I went any longer without eating but I was not hungry. The house was silent. We lay the boy between us on the bed and stared at him; the adoration that has been repeated for millenia. We eased into sleep. I woke up at dawn and my guys were asleep beside me. Finally I was hungry. I walked up to the kitchen and fried two eggs and ate them with toast and butter and watched the sky lighten outside of the window. I felt scrubbed clean and more awake than I had ever been. And everything was scrubbed clean; brighter and fresher and lighter than any day had ever been. I went back to bed and the next time we woke it was into the first morning to include the boy as, I hope more than anything, will every day for the rest of my time here.

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Birth Story; Part 2

My mother gave birth to me on The Farm, the commune in Tennessee from which come Ina May’s teachings. My mother never lived there, but ever since she’d read Ina May’s book she’d known she didn’t want to give birth in a hospital. She bought Spiritual Midwifery from a bookstore in Hardwick, Vermont on July 13, 1978. The place and date are written in black pen on the inside of the worn paperback cover. She was on a road trip with her boyfriend, Paul. Paul is not my father though the ending of their relationship is what set in motion the events that led to my conception on October 8, 1980, on another commune, this one in Pennsylvania.

When she was in her second trimester, she and her mother drove from New York to Tennessee to check out The Farm. They drove the Blue Ridge but it was too foggy for views. In St. Louis (why were they in St. Louis?) they saw an eagle swoop down and grab a squirrel from the path right in front of them and eat it in the tree above them.

When she was eight months pregnant she again made the trip from New York, this time in a greyhound to Nashville. She packed vodka in case she needed to slow down any early contractions. In Nashville, a man tried to pick her up as she was walking to the church mission where she’d spend the night. The next day a woman in a pickup came for her and drove her to The Farm. My father arrived a few days later. He had been in Mexico getting his affairs in order which I believe included selling film equipment in order to buy us a big yellow van. However we got the van, he built a bed in the back of it so that in the coming months we’d be able to sleep in it as we traveled from The Farm up to Connecticut where my mother’s mother was waiting, and then back through Texas and into Mexico where we would live for the next few years.

I was two weeks late. The contractions began, kind of, the night before. They made love. Went to bed. By 9 the next morning the labor had truly begun. She remembers not knowing what to do when it came time to push. She couldn’t understand where/what she was supposed to push into. The midwife manually broke her waters which she wishes she hadn’t done since who knows, maybe I could have been born in the caul, an intact amniotic sac, a significant omen. Dali Lamas must be born in the caul. Near the end of her labor she went to stand and push by the window. She heard a hammering and spotted a huge red, white and black woodpecker in the trees. That is your bird, she tells me. Around 5 pm (a 9-5 labor she says) she pushed me out and my father danced in celebration.

She says the first time she looked at me she felt like she was looking at her own self.

I was born on July 13; three  years to the day after she first bought her copy of Spiritual Midwifery. When I was younger I only looked occasionally at the photos of the women in labor. The dark heads emerging from vaginas suddenly huge with effort both drew and repelled. Later, I’ve noticed that many of them look as if they are cumming; mouths open as if in the peak of an orgasm.

Birth Story; Part 1. (Though it’s an odd way to begin.)

This morning I dreamt of my cousin who died by hanging himself from a tree in a small grove outside his apartment near the airport. To move so far out of his town, to live alone, we wish over and over that we had heeded the signs that were all there. My uncle says that when he saw him there was a beatific expression on his face. In my dream he was a boy of about six, but the memory is not from a time with him but from a photograph of him at that age. I placed my hand on his back and I could feel him with my palm and it was exactly like my palm on my boy’s back. My sister in law was with me, and she said, “Yes, it’s inevitable.” That he was going to grow up to be the young man who would die by suicide (die of suicide); that we only had this time now. My crying woke me up. (Or, I woke up crying.)

My uncle’s loss is vivid to me now that I have the boy. My son. His son. I remember the back of my uncle’s neck while we carried the coffin. My uncle believes in tradition, in authenticity, to be genuine; we were actually carrying the coffin, it was not for show, and the weight was shocking and I was scared I wouldn’t be able to do it, my shoes even had small heels, but I knew also that I had to. The church rang a bell slowly and I watched his neck and I knew I would remember that this was happening always. My hand was calloused after and I posted an image of it to instagram without explanation.

When my grandmother gave birth to my uncle, her first child, it followed years of trying to get pregnant. It followed a doctor telling her, “Madame, you are categorically barren.” She was “old” for a first child. 35. She had married at 23 because she’d wanted a family and was afraid she was running out of time. The irony, she says, is that she thought he would be a good father. In the hospital the maternity ward was right down the hall from infectious illnesses. She heard the coughing. After the birth  (I never asked her for her birth story, not really, and she never told me, though she told me so many other stories) the doctor told her he had given her an extra stitch, “for her husband.” She never told me this. My mother did.

She had a second child, her daughter, my mother, four years later. I never heard anything of this birth story either.

Postscript to Three Months and Eight Days

I’ve brought the babe back into the bed at night and I’m letting him nap on me again. I think I thought that at three months he was going to cross some magic line, or we were going to, and once on the other side I was supposed to turn into a mother with a child who lies down for a morning and afternoon hour and a half long nap every day, who sleeps six hours in a row without getting hungry, who I can walk away from for a few hours. And maybe I could be that mother, and he could be that child, if we had to be. But we don’t have to be. There are no other siblings tugging at my hand and I don’t have to juggle a work schedule yet and the truth is I love it when he naps on me and I sit there under the fan reading a book. That is a lovely lovely thing.

I think I’ve been trying to be more independent than I actually want to be. That’s always what I sought…to be unfettered, strong, strong willed. But with him, now, I’m more relaxed when he’s close to me. I need some breaks for sure, but turns out not as many as I thought, and not as long as I thought. The tension for the last few weeks was building as I kept trying to create that distance, trying to turn him over to my mother for long and longer stretches, but it didn’t work for either of us. I’m even a little embarrassed writing this now…scared to be judged…a mother who’s too soft, too lenient, too attached.

But I feel better these last few days than I have in weeks.

Our nights now this rhythmic weaving in and out of deep and light sleep that are leaving me calm and rested. I don’t care about the trucks squealing by in the middle of the night; I don’t wake up to see if he’s breathing, resting my hand, a feather, on his chest. The night simply passes; not in hours of uninterrupted sleep but something else, hazy and mellow and sweet. I’m amazed that it’s working but it is.

And he has woken from his nap just now, beside me this time, not with a startled cry but smiling. He’s looking at the fan and pooping. I’m showered though not dressed. The day is early still and I know this afternoon could have a hot, stressful bout of hard crying because there’s always that chance, but for now I’m happy to have him sit on my lap while I type this last line. I thought I needed more space, but for now, his feet pushing my laptop away is what’s making me happy.

Three months and eight days.

Next to me are three squares of salted dark chocolate on a small china plate with pink roses that belonged to my great-grandmother, a glass vase of marigolds, Eclipse, the third book in the Twilight series, and my nursing pillow with a slip cover on it decorated with whales. Just a second ago, the record stopped playing Nina Simone’s “I Shall Be Released.” I’m crying. The boy is with B., my mother and my step-father. B. has swooped in to rescue me and has promised me an hour which by now only has 35 minutes left in it. I poured a bath downstairs but I have a feeling if I get into it it will be with the boy as part of his bedtime routine. I want to be eating chocolate and reading Eclipse while in the bath while listening to Nina but here I am.

When my mother called to tell me the boy was crying and I should come meet them and my previously planned hour alone disappeared it was like a gate shutting. But then when I found them and scooped up the boy it was a relief to be close to him again.

It’s been a rough few nights. He’s waking up every two hours for the first time in a while but also I’m having trouble sleeping. I’m not sleeping during his intervals and when I finally am slipping off he wakes to eat. Add to this the cat who’s enjoying some kind of summer revelry and the nights have been constantly interrupted. This leaves me with little patience for B.’s dark flashes of mood, my mother’s earnest emotional conversations, and none for myself. I feel like I’ve just spent this whole day figuring out how to get the boy his rest and now it’s evening and it’s as if I haven’t actually spent time with him, only spent time at him, trying to rock sway bounce him into naps. When I was walking up the stairs for my hour in the house he was in B.’s lap smiling and shouting in his new strange language and I was instantly jealous. Where were our smiles today? Also guilty–have I just been hounding the poor kid all day to eat and sleep and not leaving him any time to just be a baby and coo at the universe?

I carried him and he was a part of me and now he is his own person.

Last week I went to yoga for the first time, a class for both pregnant ladies and post-pregnant ladies. It was my first time back since giving birth and I was completely unprepared for how it would feel to be back in that room. The teacher told the room to put our hands on our bellies and feel our babies there but he was gone, somewhere out on the street with his father, with me watching the door to see if they would appear, needing me, or my milk.

24 minutes until they get home.

I could just move around the world then, with my baby, not alone, but still a complete unit. Now when I am alone, I am not alone, part of me is always with him. Is this endless then? Infinite? To never be whole onto myself again? Dear lord, I think of the trips I went on while dismissing my mother’s worries and I can’t imagine him being gone for those weeks and months. How I might live a daily life while he flings himself around the globe? Or forget the globe, the city. The neighborhood.

The joy and the love are beyond words. And so is the vulnerability.

This is it in terms of entries. There is only one more to come which will be my birth story. Maybe a mistake to write this on such a teary, over-stretched day. I am jagged for sure. Just too tired. As simple as that, but sleeplessness is like cocaine for my emotions. It amps them up, gets them chattering, and then crashes them hard.

I know it’s too soon to come to conclusions and in a month, let alone a year, I’m sure I will know a million things about being a mother that I don’t know yet, but for now, today, this week, it is this…that what I feared was exactly true: I am not alone anymore and it’s not possible to be fully alone ever again.

And it is both the great toll and the great joy of this new life.

Fifteen minutes. And yes, I want more time, and yes, I’m already missing them, B. and the boy. My guys. I’ll kiss B. and kiss the boy on his head and we’ll bathe him and play his music box and get him into pajamas and then I’ll nurse him and then B. will swaddle him and rock into sleep and we will spend a tired hour or so on the couch with my phone on speaker beside me transmitting the quiet buzz of his sleep. Then B. and I will climb into bed and eventually the boy will wake and when I pick him up he’ll press his legs into his bum like a frog’s, one thumb in his mouth, and his eyes won’t even open really as I settle him into me, tummy to tummy, and he will nurse with his eyes closed and one intent fist by his cheek and another hand holding my shirt, and then I will re-swaddle him and rock him back into his bassinet and this will repeat a few times until morning when I will know he is actually awake because when I look sleepily into his bassinet he will look up at me with bright eyes and a big smile. When I was pregnant i used to greet him every morning, but not out loud. I simply thought thoughts at him and that was how we communicated. But he is here now, outside of me, and every morning, every single morning of his life so far, he is happy to see me and happy it’s morning and happy to be in his body. Sure, as he should be, of being loved.

One minute more.

Three months and one day.

8 AM.

The boy slept last night but I didn’t. Some summer nights this happens. I fell asleep early, while nursing him in my lap on the couch and then dozed with him on me. Eventually B. took him and got him into bed and I thought I would go too but wanted to stay in the wife space of the living room verses the mother space of our bedroom. I lay on the couch under the fan while B. meandered the internet and then he read aloud to us from The Alchemist, which we have both read. This time though the book is causing him some stress and that’s what had him up in the middle of the night. Me, it was the summer heat and the odd chill that comes from too many hours under a fan and also when I fall asleep early and don’t actually get into bed, it’s often like this, a chance for deep sleep that passes and then doesn’t return for many hours. Sleep can be like this for me; a bit jealous, a bit vindictive.

An insomnia night is much more high stakes with a babe but I repeated my old mantra, passed to me from my grandmother, “Even if you can’t sleep, just try to rest.” I tried to rest, though from some weird shifting in my vagina I always feel like I have to pee at night.  I’m trying to remember to do a set of kegels every time I nurse but for some reason I only remember to do this during the barely conscious, middle of the night, sessions.

After an interlude of smiling, wiggling wakefulness (which is his typical morning way) the boy fell back asleep on my chest this morning, while I was standing and swaying on the top of the stoop. While standing there I imagined my father walking up and looking at me from the bottom of the stairs. I smile and put a quieting finger to my lips and then invite him in with a tilt of my head. We climb all the way up because B. is still sleeping and then I ease the boy into the rocker.

“Are you hungry?” I ask my dad. “I can make you some eggs.”

I put on the coffee, and we sit down under the fan.

“Why did you name the boy Rafael?”, he asks. (It was his father’s name first and in my mind he is currently mad at me for using it. I have no idea if this is true or not. I haven’t heard from him though, since the boy, since Rafael, was born.)

“Because that was his name,” I tell him, and it’s the kind of answer my father likes and he smiles.

I got no further in the scene because a garbage truck was coming down the streets and the squeal of the air brakes tends to wake the boy up. I went back inside the house, and then to the bathroom mirror to take a peak at the cuteness of him asleep on me. He was stunning of course, but then I looked at my own face too and held my own gaze. I saw there a tired and beautiful woman.

Two months and 3/4

Boobs.

Boobs boobs boobs boobs.

The fourth trimester is almost over.

Sometimes in the mirror I can see a network of blue veins beneath my skin-they start around my collar bone and spread, a web, before focusing again at the nexus of my nipples. Again and again the physicality of this new life. My body! I am in my body. My boobs are at times satisfyingly round and straining the edge of my bra, but they are so clearly functional—industrial even. Worker bees. I continuously forget a nursing pad when I sit down to feed him. The boy on one boob triggers the other, and without a pad (or a towel or a paper towel or one of his shirts lying within reach) the milk runs down my side and collects at my waistline. I have milk spots in the middle of most of my shirts. I can’t fudge laundry anymore; once I have worn a thing it can not be worn again. It is milk after all, and it smells just as bad when it turns. The scent surprises me sometimes in new places, like the sleeve of a sweater. Also behind the boy’s ears. Although on him it’s different because I smell it most when he is nuzzling his face into my neck.

The varicose vein behind my knee that began in college is officially much bigger. A speckle of tiny spider veins is visible up and down my legs. And across my body I have more moles and spots then I did before, all appearing in the last year since I first became pregnant.

My body.

Sometimes when he is nursing he rests the palm of his hand flat on my boob. Sometimes when I go to kiss his head, he swivels and it lands in his neck. Sometimes these motions fire currents into the parts of me reserved for lovers, for B. I’ve been ashamed of these whiffs of arousal but I confessed them finally to B. and he thinks it’s just the body doing what it does; autopilot triggers beyond my control. I know that this intimacy between the boy and I is fleeting and that after these few years of childhood I won’t ever again know his body as I do now. Nor he mine. I wonder when it will be that he will be too old for us to take baths together. Once I was at the house of a family friend and their young daughter called to me from the bathroom. When I stepped in she was sitting on the toilet and  she told me she was ready for help wiping. It wasn’t the fact of her needing help that surprised me but that she would have been fine with me doing this for her. Walking in my neighborhood, I look at boys of eight, of thirteen, young men of twenty and try to imagine the boy at these ages. I spotted one ten year old pushing another, and taunting him. Which will my boy be on any given day? Will he tell me?

Sometimes I crave B.’s touch as a counter to all this mothering, and sometimes I want no one to touch me at all, and sometimes I want us all to nuzzle into each other like a stack of spoons.

I’m unsure if the boy still needs constant comfort or if it is good for him for me to step away and let him be alone to look out a window and smile at no one in particular. I know a few moms with their second kids and I see their babies doing fine when they walk away but I’m still caught by the impossible goal of trying to prevent him any distress at all. Something I fail at every day anyway, judging by the volume of his cries and the glare he’s been giving me from the car seat on this road trip.

That thing still happens in the middle of night when he wakes me up; I feel as if he is literally in my arms and I freeze, afraid to move, to roll onto him, to drop him. I feel his form in my hands but it’s as if I can’t find him, and I search in the sheets until I am awake enough to understand he is beside me in the bassinet. And then this new thing…with my eyes closed I feel as if I am myself a baby, not that I am literally an infant, but like I am being held as a babe is held, as I hold him. I feel the arms cradling me and sense eyes gazing and hear the sounds of being soothed. This is at night, but also in the bright quiet afternoon when I close my eyes.

B. right now holding the boy and rocking him back into a nap. The sound of very light rain on the trees of our friend’s orchard. Why do any of us have to work ever? Our rhythms have continued to smooth and we’re sharing the care of him ever more seamlessly.  I tell myself it’s going to be fun to get into an outfit and roll the boy downtown and meet B. for lunch. Which I know it will be. But what happens when the quiet of the house becomes too quiet and I can’t get myself out the door? What happens when my part time hours start and we’ve had a sleepless night and B. is not there to help? And there’s this whole new realm of money sharing coming our way. My mother keeps telling me my job is to care for the boy, and everyone else’s job is to care for me. I’ve never let B. care for me in so many ways before. Many of our fights of these last two and a half months were triggered by me feeling guilty for not doing enough and picking at him to cover up this guilt. And now financially too.  I’ve always kept my money private and we’ve functioned almost as two roommates would with shared bills. Our only truly joint ventures have been our travels. I keep calling the boy our biggest adventure, so maybe I can think of it that way.

In college I read one radical feminist who argued an idea along the lines that the care of house and children could be literally quantified and that it’s a societal responsibility to reimburse women financially for that work. My worth is certainly not going to be determined by my salary, although I’ve never really made enough money for it to give much satisfaction. Not since I was a bartender at least, making the most I’ve ever made in my early twenties.  When we get home from this trip, we’re going to have to start prepping for B.’s new work, and I suppose mine too.

This trip has seen a few milestones: Hiking with the boy, me driving the boy alone, the boy’s first wedding, and…the very first time the boy has woken up from a nap while B. and I were still having sex. We didn’t stop and as B. said, “That’s a new life experience,” because yes, we finished (albeit quickly) while the boy howled in the other room.

Oh yes, and the boy is rolling! It’s a huge deal and he is exceedingly proud of himself.

…and 13.

We’ve decided that the boy was not conceived in the Adirondacks but actually two and a half weeks earlier, on my birthday when we were on our epic trip to Turkey. The trip that was our big adventure before baby trip. Which means that the boy has been in existence for a year now.

It can be depressing or wonderful that the simple act of riding my bike for 25 minutes today was a revelation. The first blocks were pure pleasure. The whole thing was pure pleasure. It’s hard to comprehend that in my former life I could ride my bike wherever I wanted to on a summer evening. I saw a woman bike by, slim, in a pretty blue dress with toned arms, and thought this: “She’s so free.” But when I was so free it was so hard for me to feel settled. Or at peace. And I feel at peace all the fucking time now. One writer I love wrote that he didn’t feel truly grounded after finishing his first novel, or after buying a house, or coming to know his father again; it was only this, having a child, that did it.

I used to have this thing, biking around the park in the warm weather, where I would be watching the summer scene and wish that I could be a part of it. And then I’d remind myself that by virtue of being there I was in fact part of it. But it didn’t feel that way. The setting as a glossy postcard I could not enter. But now, with the boy, I always feel a part of it. I feel fully here.

It’s hard when the boy cries. And he cries a lot. Less than other babies, and more than some other babies. But these last few days he turns it up to full howling quickly and easily and his red-faced, stiff bodied crying has been punctuating our days. Both B. and I have crying-baby fatigue. Today the un-shaded blocks on our way home from our morning wanderings were our own personal Death Valley and B. lost hope a few blocks from home. We keep on trying to convince the boy that he likes the stroller. He is not yet sold, and when one of us picks him up his cries very quickly settle and he gets that this watchful, knowing expression on his face, and I imagine him thinking, “How many times do I have to tell you guys just to carry me in your arms everywhere you go and all will be well?”

But then! We brought the boy into bed under the ceiling fan and what followed was two epic hours of him napping and nursing between us. I read a little, slept a little, opened my eyes to one of B’s joyful eyes on me. When it was all done, B. said, “That was like an entire vacation.” And it truly was. The boy also slept for just the exact right half hour in the stroller today to allow us to eat ice cream cones for lunch.

You know, grown-up stuff.

What in the world did I use to do with all that time?

Two months and twelve days.

Tomorrow is my birthday and today I’ve been crying because the crazy ache for this boy needs some kind of release. Today he is too vulnerable, too small, too loved for me to contain. Today when he cried it was too much for me to not know why or what to do exactly to fix it. Sometimes I nurse him lying on my side, and he is also on his side facing me, and I curve around him and that is the impulse today. The impossible impulse. To be the barrier between him and every single hurt; between him and the world.

Thought today that I’ll be ready for the time when he’ll be able to tell me in words what it is and what I can do.

I am too powerful and too powerless.