Monthly Archives: April 2011

NPFP Guest Post: After The World Stopped Turning

Welcome to RMB’s Naked Pictures of Faceless People, a series of guest posts from diverse anonymous bloggers. (Read more about NPFP’s origins.) These are the posts that are jumping to get out of us, but for whatever reason — safety, embarrassment, conflict of interest, protection of loved ones’ reputations or feelings, or so on — we don’t or won’t or can’t post at our own blogs. Anyone, whether blogger or reader only, is welcome to submit or discuss a potential post by emailing me at arwyn at raisingmyboychick dot com.

Trigger Warning: There is a trigger warning on this post for stillbirth and suicide ideation.

After The World Stopped Turning

We had been sequestered in our home for days. I was so fragile that I could crack and crumble to the floor if I began thinking about anything more than breathing in and out. I had my husband, but he didn’t understand. I had my 14 month old, but he didn’t understand. I had friends who might understand, but I wouldn’t let them help me.

I ventured out of the house because the fall weather was calling to my 14 month old and I couldn’t keep him from life even though I was no longer with the living. I strapped him into his carseat tightly and took him to the playground.

He couldn’t wait to be free of me as I lowered him to the grass at the side of the car. He ran toward the slide and I panicked. I slammed the car door shut and quickly caught up his hand in mind. He smiled his sunlit smile and I tried to respond like I used to.

I climbed to the heights above the smallest slide, placed my son carefully on my lap and slowly slid down, cradling him tightly against me to protect him. I made certain not to allow any of his limbs to extend outward because a broken joint could happen so quickly on a slide.

When my feet touched the ground, he squirmed away from me and ran back to the steps. I struggled to catch him up, but he was already climbing up and there were children between us. He was at the top of the towering play structure, a full three feet off the ground, and I knew I was about to watch my child die.

I watched from my trapped mind as he fell those three feet onto the padded, recycled tire covering around the play structure. I saw with my horror-filled imagination as his head hit the padding and crushed his life away. In my imagination, I couldn’t get to him in time to save him.

As he slid down the slide and ran up behind me giggling, I was frozen in my horrible panicked fantasy. My 14 month old son would die within my imagination just as surely as my daughter had died within my body a few days earlier. She was twenty-three weeks when her heart failed. I knew she was already dead when I gave birth to her body unassisted at home.

If I was going to let my son live, then I needed to stop hovering. Walking 10 feet away from the play structure to sit on the bench was hard. I wasn’t sure I would make it without crumbling apart, but I did it. I could do that for my son, if not for myself.

I did crumble when a playgroup arrived shortly after with three heavily pregnant mothers, smiling and unknowing how painful it was to see them. I cried silently behind my Jackie O sunglasses and watched my son play. I still believed that he would fall to his death at any moment.

Once I had myself together enough to gather up my son and get back to the car, we returned to our house and I began my new plan. I was staying alive to give my son breastmilk, but if I pumped and built up a large enough freezer stash, I felt I could be free to end my life.

Unfortunately, my husband was warned by my midwife to watch me for such a plan. He told me to get some professional help. I fought against it, but agreed to do it as long as I could continue unhindered in my milk-stash plan.

I saw a therapist who specialized in birth PTSD. She helped me a little, but my body had other therapy planned for me. I discovered I was pregnant for a third time. I knew it was a boy and I knew my body can nurture and birth boys well. I may still not have been be sure whether I’m meant to stay here, but I knew this growing healthy boy was.

*******

I look back on this time after having birthed two more thriving baby boys. If my daughter had survived, I would not have my second and third sons. I have not reconciled my desire for all four of my children to be alive with me. But, I have found a sort of peace in the exercise of letting my children run and play without a hovering mom. It is getting easier, even though it is not getting better. I no longer keep any milk stashed in my freezer.

——————————

Please support the Naked Pictures of Faceless People project by commenting on the posts. Comments which attack or attempt to guess the identity or any aspect of the identity of the blogger will be deleted, however. Protect and respect this space as though it were your own work on display here, naked and faceless.

Anonymous comments are welcome on NPFP posts. Simply put “Anonymous” or any pseudonym in Name, and either your own or a fake email addresses (ex me@me.com) as the email. NOTE: If you have a Gravatar associated with your email address, it will show up even with an anonymous name, in which case please use a different or a fake email address.

On mothers’ groups and men-bashing

“Yeah, my husband will change diapers when I ask him to, but only if we have the man-friendly/easy-to-use ones clean.”

“Sure he says he’ll clean the bathroom, but he’s a man, it’s like he doesn’t see the dirt.”

“My spouse is such a GUY — fifty things to do before my family comes over, and he spends an hour on one that’s not even on the list.”

“Bloody men!”

I hate hearing phrases like these. Hate. (Loathe might be a more accurate word.) They drive me absolutely up the wall, and occasionally send me to a safe space (or Twitter) to rant about how much I cringe upon hearing them — and I do, seemingly inevitably though to greater or lesser extents, any time a group of women (especially mothers) gather together.

A short list of the problems with these and similar phrases:

  • They extrapolate from one man to all men as though men are a monolith, each identical to the other. (Sometimes this is “reduced” to “only” straight men — because “gay” and “straight” are two discrete categories, and within each all individuals are the same.)
  • Related, they extrapolate from “once” (or, granted, a historical pattern) to “always”, thus encouraging (which is not to say entirely creating) a self-fulfilling prophesy.
  • They assume inadequate performance is due to inherent incompetence rather than cultural learning (or lack thereof).
  • They assign said incompetence to gender — or sometimes, explicitly to (inevitably cissexist) symbols of gender, such as cocks or Y-chromosomes.
  • They excuse, and thus encourage, said incompetence — after all, he can’t change that he’s a man/guy/has a penis; plus, who wants to do more of anything that gets them berated?
  • They exclude men from the domestic sphere, leaving women as the ones who must be competent at home, thus denying them the freedom to move into the public sphere.
  • They’re wrong, both factually an morally, for all the above reasons.

Yet — I almost never say anything when they’re said. What could I say? I’m one of the “lucky” ones1, so any protests would read as either bragging, preaching, or rubbing their noses in what many others don’t have and I do. Yet murmur vague concurring noises, and I’m agreeing to sexism — not “reverse sexism”, but the logical sequela of women-need-to-stay-at-home misogyny. Go off on a rant about society and the damage of kyriarchy, and I’ve both lost my audience (a minor issue) and completely ignored the emotional content of my friends’ complaints (a rather more major one).

For there are reasons women complain about the incompetence of the men in their lives, not least because it’s true — if not as a generalization, then for them, in their lives. And it’s crappy, and of course they want to complain and vent to a supportive audience of their peers, many of whom experience similar personal aggravations and injustices. These phrases do reinforce misogyny and sexism, both personally and culturally, but ultimately it’s not women’s job to make sure men do theirs, not our job (alone) to eliminate sexism, and in many relationships it’s just not as simple as stepping back and changing our words and trusting that suddenly, magically, the men will step up and do their share.

I wish that were always the case — and it sometimes is, and I invite you to decide to what extent that’s true in your relationship, because I surely am not going to attempt to — but sometimes leaving things up to a woman’s partner puts her children at risk; sometimes ceasing to excuse him increases the antagonism at home; sometimes it increases verbal/emotional abuse, or risks turning it into physical abuse. Complaining, though often counterproductive, is sometimes a woman’s only coping mechanism in a situation where she has little power and a very small set of crappy options. Furthermore, generalizing those complaints to “men” instead of her man places her in solidarity with other (male-partnered) women rather than (falsely!) placing the blame on her and her “bad choice” of a partner. I can’t — won’t — deprive someone of their coping mechanism, won’t condescend to presume even that such is true for every woman I’m listening to, won’t offend by assuming ill-intent or laziness.

And so I cringe, say nothing, and think of my child — self-declared boy, statistically likely to be straight and one day woman-partnered — and I hope that he never gives his lover cause to evoke these phrases, never is hobbled in his parenting or partnership by these all too pervasive cultural ideas.

ETA: And just in case we needed evidence this is hardly a mothers-started idea, making it even more pointless to blame individual women, here’s evidence of just how pervasive the-incompetent-dad idea is.

  1. A phrase which itself silences the few complaints with my partner I may have, because then not only would I be placing myself as “perfect” — hah! — to his “imperfect”, I’m also not “appreciating” my “luck”.

On the artistic potential of the reproductive organ of the Malus domestica

The Boychick? Is freakin’ awesome.

My proof:

A smiley face. Rendered in apple.

NOT ONLY is it a smiley face in an apple, and NOT ONLY did he do it entirely on his own (his dad and I didn’t even know what he was doing until he, quite happy with himself, showed it to us), and NOT ONLY is it proof that we have damaged him irreparably with television he is as much a scifi geek as his parents, it is his very first smiley face. In apple. Apple, people! Paper and pen? Pah! That’s for amateurs.

I’ve been feeling aggravated and triggered by parenting far too often recently, so it’s nice to have a vivid reminder of not only how much I love this kid (and I do, even when I’m wanting to run away) but how much I plain ol’ like him, too.

Because I really, really do.

Dancing my life

The only time is now, and the only step I can take is the one before me. And so I do, and again, and again, and trust that each is right, and I will, one step and another, dance my life into being.

And it mostly works. Better than the obsession-with-perfection-without-movement that was my “life” for far too long.

But sometimes I miss. Miss a calendar marking, which misses an appointment, which misses an opportunity for… connection, expansion, life. I did today — or rather, did last week, and the misstep was revealed today.

The hardest thing isn’t living with myself knowing I misstepped, missed a chance, messed up, let down a dancemate. The hardest is taking that next step, and not just falling down, digging down, into that hole that was my hiding spot, so small and dark and familiar. The hardest is continuing to try, to do, to dance, knowing sometimes I’ll fail, I’ll fumble, I’ll fall. So much easier, says the darkness, to come back here, still, safe, simple. So much less risk. So much less work. Yes. I remember. I feel the tug of gravity, of inertia, down, down, slow, stop.

But movement has its own momentum, if I let it. Not frenetic, for I fall so much faster then, but steady and, dare I say?, graceful. So much less work, yes, I say, turning from the dark, but so much less life.

I want to live. And so I breathe, and step again.

A blatant excuse for pregnancy pictures

The gestating: it continues.

The fetus does the mamba multiple times a day now, with (alas) the occasional cervical jig1. One night a couple weeks ago, The Man and I finally had a moment to talk about the upcoming baby, and for him to talk TO the fetus, and s/he2 responded by dancing more vigorously than ever before, giving hir other parent his first chance to feel hir himself.

Plus, I’m kinda starting to look just a smidgeon pregnant.

The dandelion marks where my fundus (top of uterus) is. Also my bellybutton. (The Boychick brought it to me right before I was going to do the pics, and I figured, why not?)

And in case that doesn’t look much changed to you, have a standing one:

20 weeks, dressed and standing

I took this pic the day I walked into the house and The Man looked up and declared "You're pregnant!" You think?

There are rants I want to write about society and pregnancy, but I think I’d rather pretend that everything is as awesome as it is in my little baby-belly world, at least for a little while. Because look! Baby belly! And only ~20 more weeks to go!3 So that’s it for this installment in The Pregnancy.

(Hey, I did warn you this post was nothing but a fluffy excuse for pictures. Did you think I was lying?)

  1. That is just not a body part one ever gets used to feeling prodded from the inside.
  2. I used the pronouns “s/he” and “hir” while pregnant with the Boychick, and I’m using them again with this pregnancy. They reflect both the unknown of a pre-gender-assigned child and, with the pronunciation of “she” and “her” respectively, challenge the male-as-default-gender. (Whether that default holds true for fetuses, in a culture that associates “female” with “not-fully-human”/”delicate”/”childlike”, is another question, but that was my motivation in choosing these pronouns.)
  3. And don’t think that isn’t a sad thought all on its own; if all goes well, this will be the last ~20 weeks I’ll ever get to experience pregnancy, in all its body-annexing, cervix-punching glory. *Sniffle*