Thursday, June 24, 2010

letter to a sister student midwife

I just finished a conversation with my 85 year-old grandmother who regaled me in detail about the birth of her first baby: a post-WWII birth in an overcrowded maternity ward where she labored entirely by herself, at times on a gurney in a hallway, and was forced by nurses not to push--nurses who slapped her face and laid themselves over her legs to keep them closed until the doctor could arrive, who promply knocked her out and pulled out her baby--her beautiful, black-haired baby girl--and when she awoke with empty arms and no recollection of the glory and payday of all her hard work, she had to beg, plead, insist, and finally bellow at the nurses to let her meet her baby--HER baby, HER baby.

Yes, my grandmother remembers everything--everything that was said (and not said), everything that was done (and not done), everything she wishes she had been conscious to experience, everything. She remembers everything. Meanwhile, the love of her life waited down the street at a bar (there was nowhere else to go, the waiting room was so crowded) because, of course, men weren't even allowed on the labor and delivery floor, nevermind in the delivery room. Yes, my grandfather, a war hero who had just earned a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star at Okinawa--a war hero who could get his ass blown off in a foxhole and watch his buddies die horrific, bloody deaths, but God forbid he witness the bloody miracle of the birth of his own child.

"That's just how babies were born back then..."

My grandmother's story is every American mother's story from that era. And yet. To this day. She knows in her heart, she knows to the center of her bones it was wrong, it was wrong. It was wrong. At 85 years old, still she grieves. Her motherheart, her womanheart will never forget how she gave her sacred body, her sacred birth, her sacred baby willingly and unquestioningly to a system that didn't know--and still does not know, and does not want to know, and never wanted to know--it is important how babies are born; it is important how mothers are born; it is important how fathers are born. She will never forget.

We. Mothers. Never. Forget.

This work is important. This work is more important than we even know, this calling to stand guard at the brave and infinite threshold of birth. Unfurl the pirate flag, sister. We sail for no country, no system, no insurance company, no hospital, no maternity ward, no doctor, no maniacal trend, no despicable standard of care, no twisted billion dollar industry. How many of our sisters--our pitocin-epidural-cesarean sisters--will look back with still-broken hearts and have nothing but the cold comfort of saying, "That's just how babies were born back then..."?

Well, not on our clock. We're taking it back. And we'll do it one woman at a time, but we're taking it back, so help me God.

daydreaming of our physic garden...

things are, as usual, running at quite a clip around there......spring has wilted into summer; only the hardy will thrive in the undulating heat; strawberry season surrenders to blueberry season; the first pale green tomatoes peek out from their leafy umbrella; the broad leaves of zucchini, gourd, pumpkin open eagerly in the long sun. if we are lucky, we will soon have have warm, red tomatoes by the armful, green beans, zucchini...rosemary, basil, dill, parsley, cilantro, thyme, oregano, mint, chives, marjoram, sage. on the front porch in the evening, the scent of gardenia dances in the rising heat; the last day of school has come, and any day now the cicadas will begin their summer song. the season's storms wake us at night with raucous thunder and glorious light, rain landing like jewels on grateful soil. the children wear shoes in the yard for the bees in the clover and run screaming through the sprinkler. we have waited so long for these days, so we turn our faces to the sky, breathe in delicacies of lavender and rose, and open our bodies like a garden to the faithful sun.

we study herbs in midwifery school, gina and i, and fall in love with our plant sisters, daydreaming of our physic garden: shepherd's purse, borage, chamomile.........verbena, feverfew, burdock, lobelia........echinacea.........comfrey, evening primrose......motherwort, valerian......ladyslipper, blessed thistle. soon we will need a cauldron, mortar and pestle, black hats.

i will be converting part of my yard into a medicinal garden--plans are already underway...i feel the cloak and the staff of the healer, circling, coming near, ready to become part and parcel of me...i feel the heat of the shaman's sacred fire...i see the bear, her huge, quiet frame in the darkening woods, her patient, long breath...i am walking the labyrinth, coming closer and closer to the center...

Monday, June 21, 2010

how did we get so lucky...?

look at these beautiful children with their daddy on father's family. sigh...i don't know what i did in my last life to deserve such love, but man, whatever it was, i did it up right! few things make me happier (aaaaand crazier) than looking through the lens at this group of radiant souls and trying to coax all of them into looking at the camera at the same time. this was the best shot of the evening. as you can tell, portraiture is not my forte. nevertheless, i believe this shot pretty well captures the soul of the moment, and i love it for its unfailing ability to make me howl with laughter every time i look at it.
i'm not entirely sure it was the best father's day gift to send jay out to the sun-drenched deck late yesterday afternoon to grill chicken and corn in temperatures that that would make steel melt, but the man was so positively gleeful about having all his kids over, he didn't even seem to break a sweat. sometimes i think he would even grill HIMSELF if it meant all the kids would hang out with him for a little bit.
until i became a parent, i did not understand the phenomenon of the complete and unparalleled happiness that comes simply from having everyone in the family together at the same time. everything feels so intact, so right, so indestructibly whole...

Sunday, June 20, 2010