X is for Chemical X

Chemical X
Sugar. Spice. And everything nice. These were the ingredients chosen to create the perfect little girl. But Professor Utonium accidentally added an EXTRA INGREDIENT to the concoction…. CHEMICAL X. Thus, the POWERPUFF GIRLS WERE BORN

In April 2008 my daughter was born. She was exactly 8lbs, had all of her fingers and toes, she was perfect. A c-section helped.Asha42508_zps40ff6b64

 

A small note about c-sections, I don’t understand why anyone would get one voluntarily. I’d choose the pain over and over again. My daughter was breach despite every effort to shift her. I was strapped down and I couldn’t hold this baby that I was getting to keep, it broke my heart. Thankfully it was a sad whisper among a joyful noise.

My room was filled with people and gifts and smiles. I couldn’t have asked for a better welcome for this new life.  Spring, sprung in during the time I was in the hospital and everything seemed to of flowered to welcome this child destined for sunshine and warmth. It was  a stark difference from how alone I was the first time, or how very sad I was then. Instead of loss and heartbreak, this was all about love and life.

5660_148663340751_3041154_nI named her Asha which means “Hope” in Sanskrit and “Life” in Swahili. It seemed apt. I think names are important, they are one of a mothers’ first gifts afetr life and I hope hers’ shapes her well.

When I spoke with The Boy after she was born, he asked how much she weighed (he was 8.6) and he was quick to point out he was bigger. I brought her up to see them when she was 4 months old. It was probably one of the easiest visits I had ever had, as the dynamic began to shift.

I was only a few years older than their oldest niece and nephew, yet I was not a peer for those kids or for the adults, it had always been an 1113_51130610751_8253_nunsettled place to find footing, along with all of the rest. Now, a decade later,  I was a mother in the true sense, and it was new unblemished ground.

4503_110684995751_3927311_nI still don’t know if it’s accurate to say that Gretch and Gwynn started speaking to me differently or if I just started listening better. The shift felt massive to me, but again, who knows? I spoke to them about baby stuff and they happily shared their experiences. I didn’t have this anywhere else, there was no mother, Auntie or grandmother to call with questions. I don’t want to give the impression that they were my go-to, because I was never that comfortable (which is on me) but they were a touchstone that I didn’t have anywhere else. I’m sure they would of answered had I been willing to reach out.

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I was the first of my friends to have a child, and they assumed I’d just figure it out, I had always been that type of person. I do not know what parents did before Google.  I was at a loss and in the ER, for diaper rash, more often than I would like to admit. My daughters first year, like the rest of my life was a lot of trial and error.

When I had left the hospital with her, I remember thinking “What is wrong with these people? Why are they letting me leave?? I have no idea how to take care of this tiny person!”.

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Most days, I still feel that way.

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V is for Value

V

val·ue
ˈvalyo͞o/
noun
1. the regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something.
2. a person’s principles or standards of behavior; one’s judgment of what is important in life.
verb
 1. estimate the monetary worth of (something).
2. consider (someone or something) to be important or beneficial; have a high opinion of.

How do you qualify value? I sat around a lot with that question rolling around and bumping against old wounds. Joseph felt I didn’t have any. My own family felt I had even less. All of that really felt like the faded strains of an old sad song that I really didn’t have time for. I was just sick of that sad, sad tale. What did I have to offer NOW?

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Joseph had been right about me not having much, but I had people. I have written about some of them, a few that were part of seminal moments or personal realizations; but over the years, those numbers had risen, friends that grew over time through trial, tribulation and celebration.

I was surprised by their reaction to the “Oh fuck! I’m pregnant” news. They seemed to of had caught Jori’s fever, they said “Yay! Baby!”. I had never been good at asking for help, I went hungry or homeless instead of asking for help, but that all had to change now. I asked, and it was like they had just been waiting for that allowance of pride from me.

Jori and her partner Diana headed up the posse. They sent out emails, made up ads on craigslist and called in favors. They took out a much larger storage space, than I had for my pile of books and they started filling it. Diapers, formula, crib, car seats, clothes to cover this new life for the first two years of its life…SO much stuff, we had to upgrade storage space.  Another friend let me have first crack at the estate sale of an interior designer, and my friends filled up another van full of the furniture, I was never in one place long enough, to collect.

My friends didn’t want me to leave and they wanted to be a part of this baby’s life. They talked me through panic and tears. They helped with plans and finding a place to live. I don’t know how to sound anything but trite with this, but these people who chose to be in my life, they made keeping this baby possible, they let me keep my promise to provide support and a net to hold us up when we fell. They thought I had value, that I could be a mother, they believed in me.

What was my value? If it could be measured by the company I kept, it was far greater than I had given any merit to.

Ultrasound 11.02.07 (1)

Of course, they could all be delusional..

U is for Upheaval

U

up·heav·al
əpˈhēvəl/
noun|
1.  a violent or sudden change or disruption to something.
~ an upward displacement of part of the earth’s crust.

This is another moment of upheaval in my life, so much so, that I have a hard time making it coherent enough for this medium; but I will try.

I came back from the meditation seminar and on the ride back, finally broke up with Nikki the Jerkface. I quickly decided that a new direction was needed in my life and set down a plan of action. I like action plans, really anything with bullet points.

BeijingMy friend Kor, had been working and traveling in China, and had settled in Beijing. He had been trying to entice me over for some time and I decided, why not? I sold everything I owned, other than the books I couldn’t part with, which went into a small storage space. I stayed with friends in Bloomfield and started the process of dismantling my life in the states. I applied for teaching positions in China and quickly had some offers.

I also decided to try dating. I had been with Nikki for almost 5 years and that adventure had cut me off from a lot of life. I was
tired of hiding and I was tired of women. I was also going to leave the country for at least a year and needed some fun. I put an ad online saying pretty much that and what do you know, plenty of people were willing to take me out to dinner.

 

I had never really dated, lesbians don’t really date, they fall into each other and stick.  I wanted to give it a try. So I did, I went on lots of dates with different people, mostly men, but some women too. I had nice dinners, lunches and drinks with perfect strangers, and I didn’t sleep withlesbianuhaul any of them! As far as I was concerned this was a psychological breakthrough. I had almost nothing of physical value, a contract or two I was debating between, a grand adventure was about to begin and plenty of new conversations. It was really quite pleasant.

Then I met Joseph. We had nice dates too, and then we had some more nice dates. We went back to his place and played Scrabble on his table, which was a slice from a beautiful tree. He was an engineer, in the final process of becoming a professional engineer. He wanted nothing but the short-term company I could offer, we had good conversation. I decided, okay time for some fun.

Remember the old adages about your first time? Or the percentage of safe sex encounters that still go awry? This was the first time I was with a man in a very long time, we were very safe.

Two weeks later, I KNEW. I knew with The Boy and I knew now. I waited, and I peed on the stick, I was pregnant.

preganancy tests

I wanted a second opinion, though I really had no doubt. I went to Planned Parenthood and they confirmed it. I was hysterical. My phone rang on my way out. It was Jori.

“What’s wrong??!!?”

“I am fucking pregnant, I was safe and it was just once, and I am still fucking PREGNANT!”

“YAY! BABY”

“Fuck you Jori! It is NOT YAY BABY time!”

I called Joseph and he said he we’d figure it out and he’d talk to me after work. After work, we talked and he had the abortion scheduled. He said that it would be a sin for me to keep this baby, since I had nothing to offer other than the same poverty he and I had both grown up in, the same instability. He said I would be selfish and no better than my own people if I kept this baby. He said I wasn’t the person he was going to have a baby with, I wasn’t educated or well off enough, this was not part of his plan. I was not appropriate. I had nothing, no home, no stuff, no family. It was like Jekyll and Hyde. I don’t know what happened to the nice, smart man, but I never saw him again. Unfortunately he was right about a few things, but luckily not all. I wasn’t alone anymore.

I called my people, my friends, my chosen ones and we came up with a new plan (there were bullet points). I was keeping this baby.

keep-calm-cause-you-are-not-alone

D is for Delivery

D

de·liv·er·y
diˈlivərē/
noun
1. the action of delivering letters, packages, or ordered goods
2. the process of giving birth.

I am pretty sure we are all aware enough to know that birth is a beautiful miracle that encapsulates the human experience in so many variations of symbolism, it’s mind boggling. I also believe most people know it is also a messy, painful, sometimes ugly, bizarre experience as well.

BacklaborAt 17 I was delivering my first child naturally and without drugs. I wanted to give this kid whatever I could for this portion of his lifes’ journey.  I had quit smoking right away and changed my diet, and now in the home stretch I took the hit and did my best to get through it. My boyfriend and I had gone through lamaze and birthing classes and had been told that the chances of my circumstances were very low and not to worry about back labor. If you are unaware, back labor means the baby’s head is hitting the base of the spine instead of the cervix, so in short, it hurts a lot more.  I was worried, 5 hours in, 10 hours in, 15 hours in. Somewhere around this point I realized that I had never had such a large audience for my vagina and started giggling. I am not sure if it was funny or pure exhaustion, but it let me discard the thought instead of  obsessing about that little gem.

I had started dating Lucas two months into my pregnancy and he had stuck by me the whole time. He was there in the room equipped with radio, ice chips and pressure point massage. It wasn’t his fault I wanted to hit him, this wasn’t his fault at all, but his kindness and patience was getting on my nerves when usually I loved it.

After meeting them and knowing in my gut they were right, I picked the Maine couple. Their names were Gretchen and Gwyneth, which is almost sitcom worthy in its absurdity and cuteness. They were also in the room, witnesses to my vaginas’ destruction. I don’t hug people often or partake in easy physical contact with people I don’t know well, or really at all and the whole situation was overwhelmingly surreal to me. I didn’t scream or cry, I don’t do that in front of people either, irrelevant of the pain. What would they think of me?

I had two midwives, both present, along with a nurse and a doctor was added after the 15hr marker of back labor torture, was hit. They all conferred and some decision was made before the doctor left and the midwives had everyone leave so they could have a word. Here is was, I was too tired, I needed help holding my own legs up and my eyelids kept falling despite me being very much awake. The doctor wanted to consider c-section. I did not want to consider any such thing. They brought up the fact that I had told the nurse to just cut the baby out and let me go, I wasn’t that important at this point. They laid it out, c-section or I took the epidural and slept so I might actually be able to push, if this kid ever came out. I hadn’t dilated beyond 4 cm and I had been having contractions for two days prior and hadn’t slept more than 2-3 hours in the last 72 hrs. I admitted defeat with very little grace and accepted the drug option.

clock

“On a scale of 1 to ten, ten being a toothache, how much does it hurt” the doctor asked. I kicked him, they gave me the needle and I slept.

When I woke up, everyone had finally taken a break from the vigil and were down in the cafeteria for dinner. The midwife checked me out and I had finally dilated, 8.5cm and all it had taken is my stubbornness being defeated and a nap. I secretly thought everyone leaving helped too. They paged them all up from their meals and said it was time.

I didn’t mind pain. There are all kinds of pain and this one was brutal but there was a finite amount to go around. It would end and I would meet my kid for the first time. I made this life, almost singlehandedly, I had made life and I could manage that kind of pain. I welcomed the pain as the drugs wore off and I was ordered to finally push.

I pushed and eventually after 23 hrs of labor I gave birth to a 8.6lbs baby boy who screamed his little heart out as he was forced into this world. They gave him to me, and I looked at him, still covered in mess, face scrunched up in shock and rage and he was so lovely. Gwynn and Gretchen held him too and I saw them melt.  The nurse took him to clean him up properly and I focused on three things

tiny feet

One, I knew, without a doubt, that I couldn’t be in charge of that perfect needy little life. I was too selfish, untried and stupid at this juncture of my own journey. Two, I really hoped something wasn’t wrong with him, his balls were HUGE, way too big for his little body but no one said anything or looked like it was weird so I was hoping it was normal. Three, I was starving and I wondered if someone would get me a greek pita wrap from Wendy’s.

B is for Baby

B

ba·by
ˈbābē/
1. a very young child, esp. one newly or recently born

 

I took the bus from Whole Foods in Montclair, down Bloomfield Avenue to the State Street Diner stop in Bloomfield. Sometimes I stopped in for something to bring home, I loved the old diner with it’s ancient cigarette machines, regulars that seemed to permanently occupy the stools and booths and waitresses well past their prime in heels, thick make-up, long nails and teased hair. Most of the time I passed it by and walked down to Broad street, made a left and headed towards home. I passed the library on my left and frequently made a stop there too. The college was across the street and I wondered what it felt like to just be a student somewhere.

diner corner

It was a mile from the bus stop to my door. My belly was just starting to harden but not yet sticking out and I couldn’t help but hold it like it might disappear from my body or be attacked my tire-iron wielding madmen on the uneventful walk.  I still didn’t know how I felt about the life inside of me, or more accurately I didn’t understand the feelings I was feeling.  I was pretty sure this was euphoria mixed with madness. I was up and down but surprisingly cheerful about it all.

I had found an agency, Friends in Adoption, up in Vermont. From what I gathered, it was run by hippies that thought adoption should be personal and easier than most agencies made it, for everyone involved.  I had received a pile of pamphlets from them too, but this time they all met my criteria and apparently I didn’t require constant counseling and a go betweens to be trusted to make a decision. I could contact these families as I saw fit, and having that bit of control felt much better to me.

I walked and thought about babies and families. I was not a baby person. I did not get all gooey and weird at the site of infants, I had limited interest in holding them or caring for them. They seemed like very needy, cute, wiggly, moist creatures that might eventually be human.  I liked older children more but had limited experience with them as well. All of the younger foster siblings I had, had were more like me and cynical by 4 or 5 and I could relate to them; most normal children were a complete mystery to me. I had even less experience with families, though I had been a resident within several over the years, it still felt like my childhood was a sociological study I made and not so much a true life experience.

By Lennart Nilsson : A Child Is Born, published by Jonathan Cape

By Lennart Nilsson : A Child Is Born, published by Jonathan Cape

I walked and held my belly and felt the faintest butterflies inside of myself. Was it the baby? I didn’t know and there wasn’t anyone to ask, but I liked to think it was. For this time, while my body did its thing and created another human ( and how bizarre is THAT?), this baby was mine and I had a secret I was trying keep even from myself. I loved it. It was like a perfect secret inside of me. I was at peace about giving the baby up, it was never a choice to keep it, not for me; but this part? This weird parasitic, brilliant, miraculous, shifting, morphing, awkward experience? This was mine and no one could have it or take it. I knew I wasn’t cut out for the after part, the crying, pooping, comforting, insanity of parenthood, I knew that in my bones. Not now, maybe not ever, despite how much I desperately WANTED a family, I knew I wasn’t selfless enough for that right now.  I hoped I would be one day. What I could do, was give this life a chance and share it with people that were ready. For right now I could secretly revel in every change, every shift every tiny butterfly, because I was giving this baby away to people that would make sure it was never alone I could love it now, wholeheartedly, and not be afraid. I could chat with, sing to and hold my belly and for a little while, and not be alone.

 

A is for Adopt

A

a·dopt

1. legally take another’s child and bring it up as one’s own.

2. take up or start to use or follow (an idea, method, or course of action).

3. take on or assume (an attitude or position).

preggers

He was drunk, I could smell the beer and his hand was shaking when he rested it on my belly.

“ Keep the baby” He said, with a slight rise at the end, like he wasn’t sure if it was a question or not or if he had meant to say anything at all. We both knew that we weren’t a couple, he wasn’t a father and this was just an obligatory nod to ideals neither of us had.


 

“ What are you gonna do?” TJ asked. We were lying on my bed together, looking at the ceiling full of plastic stars.

“ I don’t know. Abort?… No. Foster?… No. Keep it?… No.” I said each choice with space in between, trying out the concepts and finding none of them fit. We had done this a few times already.

Disco fries “ Well that pretty much covers all of it”

 “ Yeah, maybe we should go to the diner for disco fries”

 “Okay”


 

“If you’re not going to abort, what about adoption?” The blonde girl in the front office asked. I couldn’t remember her name, maybe Alicia or Alice? Definitely an A.

“I couldn’t just give a baby away and not know how that went, you know? “ I was trying to get away from this conversation, a conversation that seemed to be taking over every waking hour. I was going to be late for class.

“Yeah but there’s open adoption, my cousin went through it, you can pick the family and they send you pictures and letters about the baby”

I stopped, and re-ran that little nugget of information, saying it over in my head.

“ I’ve never heard of that kind of adoption”

“ I’ll ask her for more info and bring it in for you Monday, yeah?” She swung around in the chair as she said it and I left the tiny office feeling a little less hostile, like something might fit this time. I still can’t remember her name.


 

“Spence Chapin! How can I help you?”

“ I am pregnant, and I’m thinking about giving the baby up for adoption, an open adoption, but I don’t know anything about the process” I am sitting in my brightly lit kitchen on the house phone. My dog Honey, is leaning on my legs begging for attention and I am slowly wrapping and unwrapping the cord of the phone around my finger. The woman puts me on hold but comes back to take my information and connect me with a counselor. She is very eager and friendly. I am transferred and another woman picks up, she has a calmer voice, she asks me questions about being pregnant, why I am looking into adoption and if it’s okay to send me some information. I tell her that’s fine and she is sure to use my first name and keep that comforting tone.

I am inundated with pamphlets, folders and general information overload. I now have a social worker who wants to set up preliminary interviews, connect with my doctors and begin the seemingly endless process that seems very far from actually being in contact with anyone that might be a good parent for this baby. The couples I see on the foldouts are all smiling but almost none of them meet my criteria.

1) They must be a same sex couple

2) No extreme religious affiliations

3) A mixed race child must be there first choice

The first criteria is what has them confused, they just don’t have many options, and I am starting to feel like I’m drowning.

I paged through the magazines and picked up Rolling Stone. Little Plastic Castles from Ani DiFranco was being reviewed and I took it with me to a table with my books. At the back of the magazine there were ads and I read them while I drank my tea. “ Pregnant? Looking for a home and family for your baby? Call us, we are here to help you”  or something like that. I ran to the bookstore to hide and I couldn’t even find some peace here, my longtime refuge. I kept reading and the ad spoke about open adoptions with same sex couples. I bought the magazine.

friends-in-adoption-logo