Week 30

I’ve become enchanted by the pelvic tunnel. After the cervix fully dilates–and wait, let me tell you that before the birthing videos and the dated computerized animation, I had this image of dilation as if the cervix was opening while the baby was suspended above waiting patiently, as if for a portal in a future space ship hallway that will open with a mechanical exhale. But no, this is not it at all. The cervix is opening around the head of the baby as it pushes down down, the force of the baby stretching, the uterus pulsing, the uterus pushing. So yes, this portal does not gradually ease open of its own accord, the babe waiting patiently; no, it is opening because the babe is there pushing on that exit. After this stage the babe rotates in order to squeeze first through the bones of the pelvic inlet and then leaves through the outlet and this part of the process is somehow my favorite because (I think) I never thought nor even heard of, certainly did not focus on, this stage–the babe passing through a tunnel of bone and cartilage. It seems almost graceful. Swimmerly. After that (I’m pretty sure I’m getting my stages right) comes the active pushing and that is something else but right now I like the tunnel best…as if the babe is diving out of a cave with an underwater entrance. Or perhaps this; did you ever swim beneath a floating dock to pop up in a new area of the lake? Hah, like a beaver’s den.

I don’t know how to write myself fully. I’ve been writing a memoir, and have been shaping and changing it for years, and it is almost right, but always I come up against this wall–and it feels like a literal wall. I can tell that on the other side is a more authentic voice, a voice I can access when writing other parts of myself, but which I lose when I try to write the stories of my father, of Mexico, of my skin. I still, after years of thinking and talking and reading, can’t tell this all the way. I stopped speaking those parts of myself when I was fourteen and it has been so much harder to begin to tell it again than I imagined it would be. I thought the deciding to tell it would be the hard part. But no, I’ve decided, and I still often feel like I’m tunneling through a wall of rock. Or bone.

I am afraid and as much as I don’t want to be I still am. I want to be free in my body, in my skin, in my voice. To be free in my body will be the same as being free in the telling of my body.

Across the street is a school. At night various windows light up as, I think, janitors move through the rooms cleaning. My school is not cleaned by janitors at night. The students clean at the end of every day, and we help, and on the weekends two people come in and do the deeper scrubbing. My school is not orderly. Sometimes when adults visit they are turned off by the almost-chaotic jumble of it. It can be hard to see what it is happening beneath the precarious stack of books in the library; the glitter coating the art room table. But it is a space for kids, and not an adult’s vision of what those kids want from a space. This is my third year there and the lesson that has taken me some time to learn is that to truly hold a young person’s view at the center of their education is a much more radical re-thinking than I’d previously imagined. The simple act of accepting that I do not see a room in the same as a ten year old does, and that the ten year old’s vision has it’s own worth…Many of us prefer the vision of school in which rooms are cleaned at night when children are gone, rooms organized and maintained by adults. I wonder what the kids think of that? To leave a space and return to it magically swept bare of the detritus of the day before as if it never existed.

When I get into trouble is when I get feeling that there is no me, just versions of me, and that the gaze of others, what they perceive is what determines who I am. That feeling of being constantly changeable. Wait, that is not what I’m afraid of. I feel that way, yes, changeable, but what I’m startled by, uneasy with, is that…and here is the wall once again. I think I’m afraid of the chaotic room.

As if I could control how I am perceived in the world. As if anyone can.

I have not accepted the skin I live in. What an odd statement.

Some stories done’t have resolution.

But I am going to give birth. In one form or another. I’ll moan and move and make low humming noises to open the sphincter of my throat so that the sphincter that is my cervix will open wider and probably in all that opening and moaning I’m going to poop and it will be in front of other people, in front of B., who I don’t even like to fart in front of if I can help it. And everything will be opening and I’ll be moaning and making noises and movements and I will be in a land beyond care or concern or even thought of what others or the world think of me; I will be deep down in my body, letting my body lead me, and how could there be a thing as poisonous as pretense in the midst of all that?

Week 24

There’s a thing I’ve been avoiding.

Last week a student raised his arm to his chest, as if to begin a backhand, and asked, “Do you want me to slap you or something?”. He had been angry at me for two days, through two rounds of group meetings, because of a rule I was holding and the way I was holding it. This student is already in a man’s body; he is broad and strong, though not taller than me. In the moment I was relieved. I could even describe the feeling as happy. Odd, no? It was the second day, and his anger had been building, his tone when he spoke to me becoming more dismissive, his accusations both increasingly vague and vitriolic, and here finally was something that was indisputably wrong. He had crossed a clear line, and I could stop trying to handle it alone.

We began the necessary follow-up, he surprising me at first by not resisting our trip to the office, or the conversations that followed. I was calm, mostly, that whole afternoon, and into the evening. As the night progressed and I told B. the story, the certainty that I had handled the situation the right way, and adrenalin too, kept me alert, hyper even. This lasted until I wrote up the incident report. I sat down to type, recording the meetings and the conversations and then I got to the sentence, “Do you want me to slap you or something?” and I remembered suddenly that he had raised his hand to his chest when he said it, as if to begin a backhand. And instantly that I was sure and strong about, and the fuel of my adrenalin, drained away. And it’s still doing it, the angry glare, the sentence, and the hand, and I can see it and then I am not his teacher, nor he my student. I can’t see his actions in any kind of perspective, can’t weigh them against the challenges I know he faces, his unique needs and hardships in the world; all I can be is exposed.

The next day, when we began a new round of meetings I came to understand why he had not resisted our trip to the office, or any of the follow-up: He still thought he was right. He informed me that he had said that sentence, he would not use the world “threaten”, because I had “crossed a line.”

The drama of the incident is passing. The staff has had to shift to considering the over-arching questions of the relationship between this student and the school.

I haven’t gotten to the thing I’ve been avoiding; that thing is about skin, meaning skin color, and that will come, but this comes first, because of course this is not the first time a man, a boy, whatever, has reacted with rage to what they determine to be my crossing of a line. It’s not the first time a man has hated me. It happens on the street and on subways; it happened when I stood posing and hustling behind a bar; and it’s happened in my family.

I do wonder what memories my brain has locked away from me. I’ve wondered that for a long time. But regardless of what I may never remember, I do know the feeling of my body as symbol, as key that unlocks male fury, and I can never be quite sure what will do it. It comes at random, punctures days that begin peaceful and sure. Sometimes it beads right off me. Sometimes it seeps in and quickly, collects and stays and sloshes in me while I go about my day.

And sometimes there are days when my sense of who I am splits entirely from my body. I am me and apart from that me is my body: a thing that was done to me; a thing that traps me; a thing that draws attention even when I don’t want it to. Sometimes the very fact of being seen, of walking down the street, is exhausting.

I’m grateful that nothing more happened than a threat. That my life is not violent. But, and I can’t explain it, a few sentences and the sweep of an arm have been enough to shake me.

My body is the safest space this babe of mine knows. I thought that this was my grace period; the nine months I get to keep it absolutely safe before I expose it to the world that is. But that’s not true. And maybe that’s why I’m uneasy these days. Because I can’t give what I can’t get.

Week 19

I’m growing. I’m ravenous before every meal. Which actually feels kind of amazing. I feel very…vital. Every meal I sit down to is like the meal that comes after being in the ocean. This is post-surfing hunger. I get an email every Tuesday that tells me about the week of pregnancy I’m about to begin. It tells me the size of my baby according to fruits and vegetables (a kumquat, a turnip, way back when it was a sesame seed), it tells me what the baby can do now, what it looks like, and it gives me hints as to what might be happening in my body during this given week. At the bottom, it gives me a task. I try really really hard to not read the task. From the ones I’ve accidentally read, by now I should have found a pediatrician and I believe this week I’m supposed to be mapping out childcare. Yeah.

Two and a half years ago I took a full-time job, and what I said then was that I wanted to have a job because I wanted to know I could still earn money if I broke my leg. But I was lying. What I meant was that I wanted maternity leave. I didn’t want a baby yet. But I wanted to know if I wanted a baby, and nothing about my previous lifestyle or manner of earning seemed suitable to it. My mother, though, always disagreed with me when I said I didn’t have enough money for a child. “That’s bullshit,” she’d say, “when you want one, you’ll want one no matter what.”

I’m discovering she was both right and wrong. When I applied for this job, B. and I had decided that if I didn’t get it, we would move back to Mexico for six months where we could live cheap enough for me to finish my book. I was convinced that if I was going to be a starving artist, I should at least be more of an artist. I always felt hectic then, always rushed, a day never gave up enough hours to me, every day was one I was failing a little bit. And while that likely had as much to do with my brain as my work, I didn’t know that then. All I knew was that something needed to change drastically, and so when they offered me this job I took it.

For the first time I was working the same schedule as everyone else. Monday-Friday. 8-4. I began to live “a stable life.”

Some of it has been glorious. My money comes at consistent intervals. I get paid vacations. I get paid when I stay home sick. My coworkers are wonderful. The job I am doing is worthwhile. It doesn’t take me ten minutes to explain “what I do.” And I get paid maternity leave. By the end of the first year I was ready to get pregnant. But B. wasn’t. So we waited. Life things happened. We traveled to Turkey. Had adventures.

But I also spent most mornings of that second year, last year, convincing myself that it was absolutely normal to feel a weight settling on me every morning while I threw on clothes after my sunrise writing hours. I began to believe that there was no other way for me to earn money; that this was a good job, a good job, a good job, and any dissatisfaction was for me to dissolve, to process away in long talks until I got sick of hearing my own voice saying the same sentences over and over again. Last winter was a darker time than I realized it was then. I was scared more than I admitted. Sadder. Tired. And all of it made somehow worse by the fact that I adore my coworkers, and believe in the purpose and ethics of what we do. I love working with these youth. I believe in our work. But.

But this last summer, every day of August was like me pulling on a rope with a tremendous weight on the other end; hand over hand, an inevitable task that I had no power to set down. Every morning I meditated and set a daily intention:  Be present. Don’t count down.

I found out I was pregnant six days before the start of the new school year. It was not unplanned (I think I’ve mentioned this) but it was still shockingly instantaneous.

And suddenly, my mother is right. Now I don’t care about money. I don’t care about stability. I don’t care about planning. Even from within the swirling hours of near constant nausea of the first trimester, I saw only goodness when I looked forward. The optimism is startling. I’ve never lived in so much calm for so many days and weeks in a row. All the things I thought B. and I had to have in our lives in order to be parents are being thrown into question. I don’t know what my employment will look like next year; same for B. . I don’t know where the money or time will come. Even where we live…we’re questioning everything. And I’m not worried. It’s insane really. But I like it. A lot.

According to the Week 19 email, the babe is the size of an heirloom tomato, and can most likely hear. It’s arms and legs are in their right proportions. I think it has thicker skin too, or a special coating on it’s skin, I forget. The email also notes that the next few weeks are going to be a time of rapid growth for both me and the babe. I was informed that though I may think the changes have been dramatic so far (and I do; I have a bump!), I haven’t seen anything yet. And I can feel how that’s true. It’s a little terrifying. I sense how dramatically my body is being worked on. My deep hunger. My muscles aching and my bones shifting. Everything has been set in motion, and the pace is picking up.