So, after initially posting about being more anxious for the delivery this time around I've mostly slipped back into my usual dissociative state. No longer struggling to understand why the whole natural/pain-free/hypno-birthing movement can't seem to produce any reliable first-person accounts. I've lost interest -- which is what I do, I guess, when something makes me anxious. (The dissociative state I've come to realize only works for me for mid-level life concerns -- college, kids, careers, relationships, money, etc. I've never been able to employ when it comes to big existential fears or minor neurotic insecurities.)
Before I had Wally a friend told me how strange it is, the end of labor, because you have to bear down into the pain. You have to go against instinct and make it worse. Dive into the wreck.
Another friend, this one from California, said he ran into Adrienne Rich's Diving into the Wreck again at a bookstore a few weeks ago and was floored by it.
I first read that poem in March not so many years ago. I was in a tiny used bookstore in Connecticut, in the town where my grandparents used to live. I had gotten off the train and was poking around the little downtown area before I was going to call a cab to bring me to the cottage. It was empty by then and my mom and her siblings were getting ready to sell it. But it was still intact, still had the lovely tea cups Kate Sullivan brought on the ship with her from Ireland, the pink curtains, the key in the yellow vase on the front porch.
Inside that afternoon I drank tea and worked on my novel. That one is still undone and long abandoned. I put a few Blue Moon beers in the snow drift on the roof sloping away from the upstairs bedroom. My sister and her family were on their way to meet me there that night and stay over as well. I was still in the single phase. We'd had our CD release party at the end of January, and though the band was falling apart I wasn't thinking about any big life decisions at that time. I still had the time and energy to be a fully-dedicated aunt. It's a role I unwillingly gave up. I feel bad about it, but I can't see any way around it. That night drinking Blue Moons with my brother-in-law I wasn't anywhere near thinking about having my own kids. Yet a year later I was listening to nature lullabies with Wally in the bassinet beside me.
I'll have to reread the poem. It's amazing how gender roles have changed so much since then in some ways, but in others, not at all. There are breast pumps, daycares, nannies, even, for $49.99 "Mr. Milker" --"Now Men Can Breastfeed" contraption As Seen on TV. Still, there is not all that much you can do to escape biology. I remember a friend of mine who said, after having her first baby, that her husband was frustrated about not being able to drink as often or stay out as late with friends. Every single thing in my life has changed -- she thought to herself. And he's annoyed about leaving the bar before closing time. Adrienne Rich wasn't talking about parenting roles, but that's where my mind keeps circling around now.
I am hearing some of the same kinds of dire warnings now about having two kids compared to one. A few people say the leap to a second child is not as hard as the leap from 0 to 1, but most say it's just way way harder to have two kids than one. I'm being advised, again, to prepare myself, "Life will never be the same!" People really like dire warnings, I think. At every stage, there are those further down the line waiting to tell you how much harder the next stage is. Now I am pretty quick to believe that, because the age Wally is at now seems really pretty easy.
He wrote a story today about the baby. People have been issuing warnings to him, too. It's made an impression on him, I guess, because in the story he described this scene: "In the middle of the night, I couldn't sleep because she was crying so much. I sang her more lullabies until she went back to sleep so I could take a long, long nap."
There is a car alarm that has been going off for over an hour outside. Alex finally shaved the beard that was driving me nuts. We had Easter by the ocean at the house of my aunt who never had kids of her own and could always be and remains a fully-dedicated aunt. The house in Connecticut by the ocean near the other house by the ocean, the cottage where my grandparents used to live which I last visited after reading the Adrienne Rich poem and taking the cab through the snow-filled sea-town streets five years ago.
Having a baby obviously means your family grows and your connections grow and people just seem to be so drawn to babies -- not me, I'm not one of those people, but the world seems to be full of them (maybe mostly women). Women full of good advice and bad, bearing lovely pink ribbon dresses and beautiful hand-knit blankets, having a baby feels like this very social thing. And yet there is such an aloneness to the actual task, the actual feat of bringing the baby here. There is a line from Rich's poem I am thinking of now.
"I have to learn alone
to turn my body without force
in the deep element."