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."


  1. Have you not found any first person natural child birth accounts? (or just hypnobirthing?) Because I have 2 first person natural and completely drug free personal accounts and they were both amazing. I wouldn't even call them painful- intense, yes, but not pain. There was an end in sight. But I was prepared.And for me, pushing was the best part. It felt like exactly what I was supposed to do. I'd love to talk about this further- it is something i am so passionate about!

  2. Well, in terms of Wally's story - Zoe never woke Eric up with night crying. I worried about that before she was born, but it never happened.

    I did give natural childbirth to Zoe (no drugs of any kind). It was NOT pain free, but it was much better than my labor with Eric, because it was faster, and it was empowering.

  3. Holly - I'd love to talk about it further, too. I meant I couldn't find anyone who testified that the natural/ drug-free/deep breathing approach pain-free or even tolerable pain. So - you're the first! There are people who've described it as empowering, liberating, amazing, wonderful, but it's always accompanied by a warning like this one from one friend, "don't get me wrong - it hurt like hell". So I just wondered - if there are these books and CDs and programs on meditative labor and how peaceful it all can be, how come no one can actually report that to be their experience?

    Bearette - I can't believe Zoe never woke up Eric!! That's great. I can't get over how fast the Zoe labor was. i feel like I never got the full scoop from you on how that one went.

  4. What an amazing entry. so true about the social/ alone part of the experience....I completely feel that way and vascillate as to which I want at any given time. also the dire warnings since enetering much to comment upon but am limited with a baby on my lap that I'm trying to get to sleep. see you on the other side......

  5. Having had two natural births, I can attest that I would not have wanted it any other way, unless it had been a safety issue. You once told me that opening yourself up to be vulnerable, even if it means feeling a little pain is the only way to really know that you are alive. I sort of see it that way. I have never felt more alive. As for the pushing, I couldn't get to it fast enough. You feel like the end is near, and your prize will be there at any second when that part comes. I was so enlivened by watching them "dar a luz" (give to the light) that I didn't quite notice the discomfort at that point. Breathe, moan, feel free to express any sensation, just go with the flow. I visualized a lotus blossom opening and gave into the intensity I was feeling...and I made a lot of deep groaning before push time came, because it felt good to release some energy.

    As for the two kids, I can't imagine it any other way. My boys drive each other crazy at times (given they really never have a break from each other...never), but they are each others lobster. It adds to the creative play element, teaches them tolerance, and I hope that they will never be alone, even when their father and I are gone.

    And Mael NEVER woke Remi up. Granted Remi woke Mael up from naps with his loud pretend play, but he was two years old. I imagine Wally will be better at controlling that, and at school much of the time. There is nothing like a sibling. I can't wait to hear how Wally receives her. He is such a sweet little man. I can only imagine it will be a beautiful thing. I wish I could be a fly on the wall.

    May the force be with you! Or, more aptly put: May you be with the force!

  6. Having had two natural births, I can assure you that I would not have done it any other way, unless of course it were a safety issue. You once told me that you have to be vulnerable, even if it means feeling pain. That it is the only way to live, to really feel alive. I have never felt more alive than birthing my children. My midwife joked that I should become a professional birther. I enjoyed it that much. I visualized a lotus blossom slowly opening...and made a lot of noise, because it felt right to release all the energy I was experiencing. Allow your body to fully embrace the intensity that is flowing within. It is a moment in time when you can utter anything you wish, stay totally silent, roar, scream, whatever works for you. As for the pushing, it couldn't come fast enough. I felt like I wanted to push the whole time, so when the moment came, I was so utterly grateful for it. I was so mesmerized watching my mini men "dar a luz", give to the light, that I hardly noticed any discomfort. And then there was that moment of ecstasy when you were done with the marathon, and had this amazing gift to study.

    As for the addition of another child, I am so grateful that Remi has his brother. Even when their father and I are gone, si Dios quiere, they will have each other. Mind you, they drive each other (and me) crazy at times since they really never get a break from each other...never. But, they are each others lobster, and I hope they always will be. Having each other increases their creative thinking and play, teaches them tolerance, and gives me a break from always being the playmate. There is no friendship that can replicate siblinghood.

    So, you are in my thoughts. May the force be with you! Or to put it more aptly: May you be with the force!

  7. Such wonderfully, supportive comments - thank you. Roo and Moo - It does sound like you could be a professional birther - and there is such thing, right? (Surrogate)...It's amazing how until you have a child you can't imagine caring about the details of someone's birth story and then when you do you want to hear every single detail, every decision and how they made it, every dilation update. Although having said that about not being curious before going through it oneself, I just had this flash memory of being up in the loft in Washington Drive and reading a a letter/journal entry your mother had written about your birth...and being riveted by you still have that? Where were you, btw - birthing center or hospital? I know you weren't at home b/c I remember the fear of not getting to the midwife on time. I woke up this morning thinking about Remi and Mael as each other's lobster; so sweet. Thank you. Eli - still more to say about the social/alone dichotomy, the issue of postpartum visitors, and leaving the cocoon...

  8. I totally agree that people have different tolerances for pain. I do not have a high tolerance. I wanted to avoid an epidural for Max and had a shot that took the edge off, but when it went on and on I gave up. You should do whatever feels right to you and the time and not worry about a plan.A woman in my book club had 3 natural births (b/c it was the 70s and that's what you were supposed to do) and she has nightmares. Audrey, as you know, had her baby at home with nothing- but the whole thing lasted 45 minutes, and she has a much higher tolerance than I do. I agree with Alex that now you know what you are getting into- the first time you really can't imagine. But it will be very different b/c the baby will be a different person than Wally. And I am one of those women who love babies.....

  9. Thanks Jenny for your advice. I don't know how Audrey managed that home birth of hers..was she at home for S as well? I didn't know you had the automatic love for babies.. my sister has it too, though now I can't remember if she only developed it after having her own kids. I've heard of another woman who has nightmares about her natural birth. I can't believe the book club woman did it 3 times if the experience was that terrible.

    still waiting. starting to feel like it's overdue or something b/c of the way people seem annoyed with the lack of news


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