love set you going like a fat gold watch

I’ve always loved Sylvia Plath, though I think she is a kind of Rorschach blotch that says more about the interpreter than the interpreter can reveal about who she really was. We are all such mysteries to one another, even to those most intimate to us. Biographers and scholars and angsty teen girls, 20-something poets, thirty something mothers who don’t find time or inspiration to write anymore amongst the dirty laundry and the floor needing vacuumed and the grocery lists and the car licensing due dates are all grateful someone gives their inner state such apt utterance. Her motherhood poems speak to me at this point in my life, while her father issues and black moods spoke to me in another. I think people mythologize her in unhealthy ways because of her suicide, and that bookend has made her legendary in a way that sadly eclipses her craftsmanship, not unlike Kurt Cobain and so many others.

If I remember correctly, she wrote Ariel by getting up at something like 4 a.m. on a daily basis, to have the luxury of being a mind separate from others, to work, to think, before the children she was raising without her husband awoke. It is hard to think freely in the proximity of other people, and sometimes we have to escape into ourselves, even from those we love more than our own selves.

But the dark hours of early morning are heavy, too, with the duty of parenthood. I think often of my father rising at 5 a.m., packing lunches, stoking the fire, as well as working out in the basement before his work day began. There’s a poem by Robert Hayden, Those Winter Sundays, that describes his own father doing the same:

Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,

Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices?

Perhaps daughters are different, because while we may have never thanked my father explicitly, we knew the extent of his labors for all of us, and we loved him for it. His hands, too, were cracked with his labors, and calloused from years of them. We sometimes helped stack the wood that he split with a Zen-like cheer and a practiced, masterful efficiency he had developed over many years of swinging an axe. My father was an artisan, in his way, and a soft spoken, gentle man, and our home was warm, though I think sometimes of his quietness, his gaze into the horizon, and I wonder who he was to himself, what thoughts were his in his quiet mornings carved out to be alone with them.

Mornings are my own, for now, until the night wakings, the haze of 3 a.m. nursings begin, the blue hours of dawn and the contented murmurs of an infant become my life again. That is not a complaint. There is something deeply content about those moments, and quiet, and transcendent.

Is that quiet blissfulness merely oxytocin? Merely, as if the brain chemicals that code are experience are somehow less real for being chemical and determined by forces other than our inner monologue that thinks it is our true self? So much of the self changes in this pregnant state and the nursing, caretaking state later, in response to biology’s programming, chemical surges that seep into and color the narrative we tell ourselves about who we are and what matters, that it often unnerves me.  Another line from Plath’s Morning Song:

One cry, and I stumble from bed, cow-heavy and floral
In my Victorian nightgown.
With my son, I felt almost alien to myself, life-long brooder transformed by my body’s responses to pregnancy into a contentment I hadn’t felt before, though with a vulnerability snaked through it that found me sobbing over news coverage of the BP oil spill in the Gulf that had begun over the three days while I was induced and in labor (and which they’d wisely hidden from me until after the birth), news stories about the ugliness and exploitation that come so readily to us from all over the world. I felt such joy at my son’s being and yet such fear and worry for a creature that must learn about suffering and death and I, helpless to lighten the burden of such knowledge, with no answers to give, despite all my own years of wrestling with questions about what it means to be alive, to love, to try to connect with anyone in this fragile, beautiful. painful world.
For a long time, that contentment inoculated me from much of my own sadness. All it took to keep me happy was enjoying the presence and infectious joys of my happy little infant, and then toddler, and on and on. He is no less a wonder and no less a joy to me, but as the years have progressed, I could feel that biological contentment drain gradually from me and the old clouds return, but in a strange way, it wasn’t a bad thing. I felt like my mind was my own familiar dark wood again, though my son will always be the sun filtering through the canopy of leaves, the birdsong, the sweetness within it. It is easier for me to believe in my own mind and its workings when it incorporates the shadow as well as the light. I feel less sharp, somehow, when my contentments dull me.
Along with nursing comes a kind of isolation, because you and your infant are on a timetable that doesn’t correspond to those around you, and there are times when you do choose to be alone with your baby to nurse. I’m of two minds about this, because I am a shy person and I don’t want to feel vulnerable and exposed to the scrutiny or bear the burden of the intricate symbolic politics of it all when I’m waiting to pick up my son from school, for example. While I fully support women who want to nurse publicly and not feel obligated to cover and I think it’s good for us as a society to accept and support that, there are some times I don’t want to, and I feel like that also makes a certain kind of unintentional gesture of acquiescence to cultural prudishness. I don’t want my breasts to be a political arena, and I don’t want to feel like my own awkwardness with my own public nudity makes me somehow less feminist.
On the other hand, there are some places where I am comfortable enough that I feel like it should be a non-issue, with family or friends, but it clearly is going to make others uncomfortable about what they or their children are seeing and so, whether it’s right or not, you find yourself ducking into side rooms for half hour chunks of time to spare the awkwardness of relatives at family BBQs and that kind of thing. When you’re in the early phases of caring for an infant, you two are alone at home most of the time, and the majority of your discourse with the world is cooing monosyllables and listening to yourself babble and babble, though the call and response of it all and the sing song of an infant is beautiful in its own right. You often miss adults, and belly laughter, and naughty jokes, and talk about the weather, so having to shut yourself away from it when you have the opportunity to participate in adult silliness is incredibly frustrating. When family refuses to even come inside your house because you are nursing in the living room and they’d rather just wait on the porch and yet you’re too damn stubborn to move or cover, yeah, that’s awkward and sort of rage-evoking. (There’s a whole speel I could get into about the weirdly personal nature of formula versus breast milk commentary from family, and the pressure and guilt I see some women put themselves through regarding output, but that’s a rant for another day.)
So here I am again, wrestling with myself and being gradually internally transitioned into and to change far more still into cow-heavy blissfulness. And I do have so many reasons to be happy. Our genetic tests all came back with good results and all seems to be well. The test revealed that we’re having a daughter, which is what I’d hoped and perhaps even intuited, and which will probably bring a pleasant balance to our home. Maybe fewer tentacles and explosions and a little bit more fairy tales and lace around here, though with my tomboy genes and our feelings that a child should choose for itself what it likes (rather than only providing traditional gender specific options), there might just be more engines and dinosaurs and toy cars to fall over, and that’s okay, too. We heard her heartbeat for the first time yesterday, and our son was with us, too, smiling and burying his face into his dad’s neck, overwhelmed a bit with it all, but happy. Same here, really. Overthinking and conflicted and broody about it all, but in my way, happy.
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reset the 1 days without pregnancy tears counter, gorilla newborn bonding is trending on twitter *sobs*

I was doing pretty well for awhile. I almost lost it earlier this week when I went to the grocery store and brought home a seedless watermelon with every intention of eating half of it in one sitting, cut it open, relished the smell, bit into it and almost puked because it was overripe and mushy. I cannot convey with words the depth of my disappointment as I silently carried it out to the trash.
But then this morning, this:

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Had an appointment yesterday for an ultrasound to screen for any potential genetic issues, and a short rehash of high school biology class re: chromosome duplication in the human reproductive process, although I didn’t  really process much of it because 85% of my brain was concentrated on not peeing on the genetic counselor’s couch. For the ultrasound they say that a full bladder is required, and that one should drink 24oz of clear fluid an hour before the appointment. To which I think every pregnant woman could respond by paraphrasing the Hulk: My bladder is always full. Combine a constant need to urinate with a ton of water and an hour of wait time and then my bladder was so full it was pushing the uterus back and away from view, so then I had to go empty my bladder anyway in a shared bathroom with three doors, one of which I noticed from my seated, out of reach position was opened into a hallway, but I was operating on pure lizard brain by then and relief > shits given. Such, such are the joys.

The ultrasound was really neat, though, because most of the utter bewilderment and raw panic had been burned through the last time we had an ultrasound, and because it was abdominal rather than via a big phallic rod up jammed up in my business (though they would have resorted to that if needed to get a good image). The baby was visibly bouncing off my uterine wall and it gave me all the squishy mommy feels, because it seemed so much like exuberant little bouncy house bouncings in there that I could feel sort of awed and something like happy about it all.

The genetic testing was new to me this time around, and since I’m above x age for certain statistical probabilities of risks of x,y, and z to increase, we opted to screen for everything. This is a bizarre process, because these tests are done early enough in the pregnancy that you have the feeling that if certain results come back, that there are certain very hard choices that people have to make, but even though you get a 20 minute slideshow of what human chromosomes look like and a brief lesson on trisomy, those possibilities are never mentioned and you feel like a monster for even assuming  some people do choose to end pregnancies when testing shows certain conditions about which nothing can be done. If it were only me, I think I’d not test for anything, because if a screening shows a chance of something, I’ll make myself sick for six months worrying about it, and the cortisol onslaught would probably be more harmful than any genetic potentialities. I also know that even if tests came back showing something, I don’t think I could choose anything other than continuing on and hoping against everything in my cynical nature for the best, though I don’t judge anyone’s choices to do otherwise. Heavy shit for a Monday morning.

The way they do this particular test, the NIPT (non-invasive prenatal testing), is to have blood drawn so that they can count fragments of the baby’s DNA that are in the mother’s bloodstream from the placenta. Having watched Alien: Covenant this weekend, let’s just say that thinking too much about sharing a bloodstream with another creature, even my baby, makes me queasy. Thinking too much about the mechanics of the biological structure housing me as a person makes me queasy anyway, which is why I could watch the baby during the ultrasound but when they started checking out my ovaries I stared at the wall. I know consciously I’m just the illusion of a self delicately tethered to this meat, but I don’t want to think too much about the actual status of the meat, k? And I am a huge baby about having blood drawn. Huge. I once tried to give blood in high school and passed out during the health questions they ask you *before* the needle was even in view.

So despite having had a triumph of self control and having blood drawn last week like A Grown Ass Adult without incident, unless you count staring at the wall and stress babbling like a manic standup comedian, yesterday’s blood draw was rough. Bedside manner is everything; the wielder of the needle should not try to drag me back from my disassociation from my own body by meta talk about the process which she is doing, the status of my skinny veins, or any potential difficulties she foresees ahead, lest she drag me back from my vacation in Camp Denial of Reality. This lady was a nightmare, patting my veins and sighing, rattling tubes, et cetera, while I closed my eyes and concentrated on breathing for four counts in, four counts out like just I tell my poor anxious kiddo to do when he’s stressed out. Luckily my significant other was with me holding one shaky hand and with the other steady in the middle of my back in case I lost it. We aren’t much for explicit discussions of big feelings, but I have to say that feeling a steady hand on my back even when I’m upset about something that seems silly from another person’s perspective was a pretty big deal. As is being comfortable enough to be vulnerable and visibly under duress in front of another person. I don’t do that well.

It was good he was spotting me, too, because even though I made it through the draw process just fine, after she was done and had me hold the gauze chunk on my arm, she drew it back a few times and said, “Oh, you’re a giver.” That blew my fragile little mind and I started to feel pukey and floaty and to feel an urgent need to get off the exam table and onto the cold floor where I had nowhere to fall, which came out as a seated person insisting that she needed to sit down, so they just laid me down for a few minutes. Vasovagal response, maybe, where your heart rate slows and blood pressure drops in reaction to certain triggers. Since anxiety increases the heartrate, it’s unusual to actually faint from it, unless you experience a vasovagal syncope, which I think might be why I once passed out and crashed through a book display at a Barnes and Noble job orientation. (And never went back, despite working in a book store being a long-coveted job of my youth.) Yikes. My mom does the same thing over stuff like her kids getting injuries, changing earrings for the first time, or stabbing herself in the finger sewing, which is kind of hilarious, because she’s pretty damn invincible otherwise.

But we made it through the process, and we’ll have results relatively soon. What’s also cool is that we get a gender reveal out of the deal, since the chromosomes will make that obvious. I’m glad we’ll know that soon, and have been brooding a lot on what potential differences there might be in parenting a boy and girl as a person with a lot of complicated thoughts on gender and society. More on that after I stew, for sure. Also fun was that they think from the fetal development I’m a bit farther along than the initial LMP based estimate, and my due date is now Halloween, which brings joy to my black Morticia Addams heart.

8 weeks down, 32 to go. :/

We had the first prenatal visit and ultrasound a few days ago, which has helped, in that I have gone two whole actual days without uncontrollably sobbing every 3 hours. It’s good to feel some agency or some control over my emotions for now, and to feel actually energetic enough to want to try to do something.

The first visit was reassuring, in that I liked this doctor better than my first, in that my partner was with me throughout it this time, in that the (*gulp* transvaginal alien probe) ultrasound showed enough detail that we could see little arms moving and wiggling happening in real time. During the first pregnancy, my son didn’t become a real little person to me until much later, when I could watch him bounce around with elbows and feet and knees poking out of my belly. Sometimes the thought of a little person down there is a comfort. Sometimes, though, it induces a little throb of claustrophobia, as if this body is too crowded and I can’t escape it. Some women love it, and more power to them, but it feels a bit like being a host in an Alien movie sometimes, like something might burst out. (P.s. body horror as a genre is not working for me right now.)

The physical changes and the discomforts are more immediately obvious to me than during my first pregnancy.  I’m already showing and uncomfortable in my clothes. My lower abdomen is more sensitive to pressure, so wearing pants low or unbuttoned isn’t going to work like it did till about month 6 of pregnancy number one. I have worn pajama pants to take my son to school *twice* now, which is unheard of for someone who uses clothing as a social armor to hide behind.

So my mission for Easter weekend is to make some pants. They have to come up over the bump in the front, and for comfort’s sake, I’ll be going with a back zipper closure on pretty much everything for the next year of my life. At this point, a basic full abdomen alteration will suffice, I think. Hot Patterns has the best tutorial I’ve seen so far on how to do this (here). An illustration of the flat pattern changes from their page:

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I have a pair of very large men’s dress pants that I bought from Goodwill that I might disassemble for fabric for this one, if my energy holds up. Updates to follow. 🙂

Belated 2017 Roundup / Obligatory Rambles About Lifegoals and Resolve

2017 was … intense, macrocosmically and microcosmically. But it’s been ever upward and onward, and rounding up the things I created over the last year really makes me feel pretty great about how far my lingerie making and sewing skills have progressed. I also feel a sense of accomplishment about trying fabric design!

So here’s a sampling of my sewn work over the last year, all self-drafted:

 

And here are some of the fabric designs I printed using Spoonflower (shameless self promotion, my shop is here):

It’s somehow cheering to see it all in one place. It’s easy to think of all I’d hoped to accomplish and did not; it’s harder to realize how far I’ve actually come.

My biggest goal for 2018 are to finally open up an etsy shop for handmade lingerie, and I’m moving toward being able to do that probably within the next week or two. Lots of samples sewn and processes mastered and materials hoarded toward that end.  Still to do: photos to take, copy to write, listings to create. I’d like to offer patterns and design more fabrics to use in my collections as well. It may seem unrelated, but for me this is inextricably connected to my more personal urge to declutter and simplify and work towards realizing the more minimalist approach to living I’ve always wanted. To me, clearing the physical clutter is tied to clearing the psychological hesitation to focus on what I really want to be doing with my time.  I went around my house taking pictures to have a “before” state to see what progress I can make and have a nice list of TED talks to work through for inspiration. But mostly I hope to be able to declutter enough to actually sew in my sewing room instead of just piling it full of sewing-related junk.

Here’s hoping. 🙂

RIP, Chris Cornell.

Poor Chris Cornell. His passing has definitely triggered some heavy thinking on subjective meaning and the stories we tell ourselves about the sum value of our lives in isolation. Suicide scares me; it’s something that has felt like a dark figure in the periphery of my social circle for a long time. When I was very, very young, my father found his friend, our neighbor, in his barn. The first boy I ever kissed committed suicide. My grandfather did, for reasons I don’t understand and he did not explain. During some nightmarish teen years, I considered it myself. Luckily, I never found the resolve, and life improved and took me places I never imagined and gave me many, many reasons to be thankful to be here. I don’t feel in danger anymore, myself, though when something happens like a relatable creative figure choosing the act (despite seeming to have mastered their own emotional turbulence, having every reason to be satisfied with life, having resources to do what they want and positive influence in the world) it frightens me. It’s worse since Chris Cornell was such a large figure of my youth, and I’d been enjoying his music right up to the present; he seemed to have come to a good place of sobriety, contentment, seemed like a decent human being, and to be a great family man, too.

This song used to make me cry in a happy girly way, hopeful for the peace of middle age and the companionship of family. Now it makes me sad for a daughter without a father and burdened forever with the mystery of his reasons. For the mystery all of us are doomed to be to each other.

He spoke in a Rolling Stone interview in 2014 about the death of Kurt Cobain and a few other friends and how it colored the time around the creation of the Superunknown album. What he said sums up the feeling around his death, too:

“It’s not so much the person and the relationship with them, but the creative inspiration that person has and I would get from that person. My perception of the world of music at large artistically shrank, because suddenly this brilliant guy was gone. I’m not even talking about what he meant culturally; I’m talking about his creativity. It was super inspiring from the very first demo I ever heard. It broadened my mental picture of what the world was creatively, and suddenly a big chunk of it fell off…The tragedy was much more than the fact that I would never see him again – it was that I would never hear him again. There’s this projection I had with Andy, Kurt, Jeff Buckley and other friends of mine that died of looking into the future at all these amazing things they’re going to do. I’ll never be able to predict what that is. All this music that will come out that will challenge me and inspire me – that sort of romantic, dramatic version of the perspective. When that goes away, for me in particular, it was a really hard thing. And it continues to be a hard thing.”

Maybe it was the Ativan he was on. As maybe in my grandfather’s case, it was the Ambien–I’ll never know. Or maybe some of us have brains that are prone to falling in to something that we can’t always crawl out of, independent of our lives’ circumstances. Luckily for me a tendency toward emotional turbulence seems to be tempered by a rapid cycling through of emotions; the worst is usually soon passed. As long as there’s hope of improvement and I still enjoy my obsessive interests, my tendency is to just grind through unhappiness. But feeling isolated compounds it all…which gives more impetus to try to connect in some way, at least, to other people and to remember to work at some kind of expression.

I used to write constantly. I’m a lapsed poet, even, which has something to do with my personality type (INTP, stereotypical nerd) and not wanting to live in my emotions, so I pretend they just aren’t there. It’s kind of impossible to write poetry without exposing feelings. Even if I mistrust my emotions as something ephemeral and more like weather moving over a landscape and not something upon which to base my actions, they are going to have an effect. I’m not the rational creature I tell myself I am; no one is. I read a description of INTP emotion that compared the emotions to a quiet passenger in a limo seated in the back behind closed, tinted glass. You, your in your head monologue version of yourself is the semi-rational, driving agent at the wheel, pretending the passenger isn’t there, and going about your business. That’s all fine and good, until, as if in some Godfather movie, emotions assert their existence despite you and the passenger swarms up from the backseat to try to choke you and your supposed control out and you wreck the car. It’s sad how apt a metaphor that is for my own life experiences. The modern version of Plato’s horse drawn chariot.

So my desire is to crack those windows a bit, between emotion/cerebral inner monologue, self and social world. I may be shit at small talk, but I can strive for a semi-regular “this is what I’m working on and this is what it means to me” ramble.

Lately, just bras that experiment with posture control, some work at an 1860s style corset cover. Bullet journals and lifehack systems. The former, nostalgic femininity; the latter, comforting illusions of structure and control.

Bye for now.