More pictures

These days, I’ve been making a daily doodle and posting them on Facebook and Instagram. It’s more manageable and helpful (I’m finding) than trying to tackle bigger projects right now. If you want to follow, feel free, though I’ll probably post them in batches on here every once in a while 🙂 stay safe and sane!

My last first period after having a baby

I keep looking it up and I get a bit of science: your first period after having a baby may come 6-8 weeks after childbirth, or if you are nursing, may come as late as a year or later. Your first period may be especially heavy and painful, and may involve the removal of excess lining that wasn’t shed immediately after birth. Your first period after having a baby signifies the first egg released from your ovaries since having a baby, and this is important, because you need to know that you can get pregnant before your first period after having a baby.

You, meaning, the hypothetical you. Not me—we took care of that, severed the gateway between ovaries and womb. If we have more children, it will be in years ahead when our two babies are older, when I feel in good health, when our finances are stable. If we have children in the years ahead, I will not have carried them.

So I’m having this, my last first period after having a baby. I’m pulling out the old equipment—literally. I still have pads from an earlier era, and I use a menstrual cup, which I mention because I only heard about if a few years ago and I think its genius. If you have periods, look it up.

My abdomen is cramping and I am bleeding. Unlike every period I’ve had before, no egg will come out in this shedding. It is, I presume, stuck at the dead end of a Fallopian tube. 

I forgot, by the way, how messy it is, or at least how messy it would have been a couple hundred years ago, if all I had to staunch the bleeding was cloth—can you imagine? So I guess I don’t envy women of old. 

So I’m thinking about my two babies, my four year old and my just-barely-turned-one year old. How pregnancy was like spinning out on ice in the middle of my carefully planned road trip. Both times, laid up and ill for the entirety of pregnancy, and weaker afterwards for the ordeal. How sweet it was to finally have my babies, hold them. Not easy—exhausting, sleepless, difficult. Bone wearying and at times devastating, to see my babies get hurt, to see my own limitations, to fear for their safety. But sweet, and revolutionary. An atomic evolution of my deepest desires.

I would have another right now, if I didn’t know what pregnancy would do to me and my family. And if I hadn’t foreclosed the option—but I stand by the reason I did. These babies need a mom more than this mom needs more babies.

So I’m having my last first period after having a baby, and I almost want this moment to last. I almost like the familiar clingy plastic that covers the pads I unwrap. I almost love that I can expect this monthly mess for the next three decades of my life. I keep wanting this to be a special right of passage, or if not that than some kind of sad occasion. I keep looking it up online as if I will find the answers I want. I keep reminding myself I won’t get the answers online so I need to just write it out, which is why I’m here. But I missed the apex of my moment. I waited, and my period is already almost over. I didn’t expect it to pass so quickly.

On Just Mercy and the difference between racism and ableism

First, the film Just Mercy is incredible. It is really hard, and really hopeful–which is not just a cliche. The most hopeful things are always companion to the worst tragedies and wrongs.

It was a gut punch to realize that much of this took place in 1988, the year Michael was born, and that the Sheriff was never arrested and reelected sheriff, serving until 2019.

I highly recommend you watch it, and this month you can watch it for free, either at Amazon or YouTube and I believe elsewhere.

Before and since watching, I’ve been thinking about the nature of privilege, and wondering about the differences between racism and sexism or ableism.

I use the graphs to point out that privilege is not about individuals, but about group trends. Some individuals in a privileged class will have more hardship that some individuals in a vulnerable class, but there is still a demographic gap that needs attention, especially for Black people and Non-Black people of color.

Sexism and ableism are both real and can be very dangerous. Michael has had the cops called on him twice just for being with our kids when I’m not there, just because he has Cerebral Palsy (even though he is an attorney and was close to our home both times). People with disabilities are at a huge risk of being killed by police. Nearly half of all people killed by the police have a disability—more on that another day. Women are also at serious risk of a variety of violent crimes, particularly within their own households. The same goes for children and the elderly.

However, sexism and ableism do not involve the kind of public, violent societal posturing that racism or nationalism have. I think this in part because racism and nationalism are about one community or group having power over another community or group, rather than within. There will be women and disabled people in every community, and women and disabled people have naturally occurring vulnerabilities that can be easy to exploit and systemically perpetuate or amplify.

But when you are talking about an entire community of people, the uneven playing field is not naturally occurring. It may be a remnant of the past, but given a fair start, either community is not naturally less powerful than another community. This means that, as long as another community is in power and as long as *some members* of that community want to stay in relative power, there will need to be more public displays of violence.

That doesn’t have to mean violence towards everyone in the community they want to oppress; it only takes a few instances to make “examples.” Even if only a small number of black men are killed innocently and never receive justice, that sends a message.

Most white people do not want to send that message or perpetuate community differences. However, there are SOME white people who do, and until ALL white people recognize that some cops or judges or politicians want to keep racial power, there’s no way to check the inordinate power of those cops and judges and politicians. That doesn’t address every aspect of privilege or racism, and doesn’t get take into account implicit bias, but I think it is a critical part of what is going on now.

I don’t know exactly what to do with that recognition, in part because I believe the answer to that will be different for different people. But nothing else can change without that recognition.

“Reflections on Pressing Pants and My Husband’s Cerebral Palsy”

A few years back, I published an essay “Pressing Pants” in Waccamaw Journal. I’m super excited that The Mighty has picked it up, as “Reflections on Pressing Pants and My Husband’s Cerebral Palsy.

It’s one of my favorite essays, and will probably always be, even if my writerly style changes more over time. Life is a little different now that we have kids, but it’s a really sweet reminder of our dating and newly wed days.

We need Covid-19 testing–but maybe there’s a better way

Michael was under the weather. I had a sore throat that seemed a little worse than usual. Someone in the area had a birthday party and dozens attended. Our local hospital asked everyone in our area to receive the test. Combine all that with my natural inclination to be an obedient citizen, and getting a test just seemed like the “right” thing to do. Now, I wish I hadn’t.

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Sometimes you critique something you think is important. This is one of those times. We need Covid-19 testing. I just think we need testing to be more transparent and more workable for patients.

First and foremost, I put my family at risk. Going to get the test was the most exposure to covid-19 I have likely had. Social distancing at the testing site? Yeah, sort of. In a technical kind of way. Masks? Most people wore them, but not everyone, and it’s nearly impossible not to fidget with a cloth mask when you are sweltering under the hot son. Anyway, masks are mostly supposed to protect others, not the wearer–so that didn’t seem super effective when only some people were wearing them. Going meant leaving our careful little bubble and coming in close proximity to a group of people who had a high chance of being infectious.

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Second, going took up our hospital’s time, space, and resources. We had been distancing well. There was always a chance we had been exposed through, say, our groceries, but we had no reason to suspect it. Feeling a little under the weather was attributable to spring allergies, which Michael and I both have.

I took up time. Given the long lines, I’d guess the hospital staff had to stay later than they originally planned. I also took up space in the line, which was a big deal given how many people who were elderly had to wait in line the whole time. (Seriously. Elderly patients should not be asked to wait in line under a hot son for an hour).

To be fair, I feel like I should have kept my wits about me better and reasoned that I was not likely to have Covid. But it might have felt a little more intuitive to stay home if the hospital had not requested that everyone, including those without any symptoms and without any outside contact, come in for a test. Especially when so many had to wait in line in the heat, including the sick and elderly.

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Third, going to get the test took a toll on me personally–which isn’t the end of the world, but it would have helped to know beforehand so my family could plan around it better.

It was hot and sunny, and I was not prepared to stand outside for the hour it took. I thought the test would be a drive-up test, as I had seen in videos on Facebook. I was told that if I pre-registered (which I did), it would take a total of 5-10 minutes. My guess is that there were more people than they expected, and they weren’t prepared to handle so much. Which is not their fault, and I don’t think anyone deserves blame. But I still think it’s fair to talk about so people know better what to expect, and if enough people talk about it, maybe some sites could be better prepared.

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Fourth and last, (and probably least important, but still), the test hurt. A lot. I left crying involuntarily, as did the girl behind me. In the single article I’ve found talking about this, commenters said things like They must have been millennials and Some people can’t take a pinprick and It’s just like the flu shot, no big deal. I even saw several comments say that calling the test “painful” was irresponsible.

Well. It isn’t necessarily just like the flu swab, as there are different flu nasal swab tests. Some go an inch into your nose; some go four inches into your nose and back to your pharynx. This one goes back to your pharynx. Most of the people who’ve had it that I’ve talked to said it was some level of painful.

Also, even if some people don’t find it painful, that doesn’t mean it won’t be very painful for others. For one, everyone has a different nose. Someone could have a different size or shape of their nostril, which could have a big impact on how painful a test was. Someone could have had already inflamed nasal passageways, which could make it more painful. The test felt very painful and invasive to me, and it just feels manipulative when everything I read online says “It might be uncomfortable, but not painful.” Judging by my experience, the test could have have sent Michael into spasms and could have seriously injured him (and hurt the tester, really), had he come with me and received the test. It’s still an important test, but people should know what they are getting into.

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You can indeed have snow capped mountains on a hot summer day.

Some of these issues were specific to my location. I think a drive-by would have been much better, which is what I’ve heard of from most people. That seems less likely to cause exposure in those getting tested. It also would be more sustainable for the sick and elderly.

I think it also might be worth embracing alternative testing methods, such as at-home saliva tests, in addition to the formal test. I know that they have a higher chance of producing a false-negative, and that could result in a false sense of security. However, I think the same could be said for the nasal swab if masses of people congregate to the same place for testing. I, for example, received a negative result. If I had become infected at the testing site, I would still have received a negative result, but would have had an even stronger false sense of security than if I had only taken an at-home test.

I also think we need some sense of moving forward and looking for better options–which means being allowed to talk about the risks and problems of getting tested in the first place. I think it is important to offer accurate information for other people who might receive a test. I think people deserve to know if their will be a line with other people or if the test will be painful, even if that would be politicized unfairly. It has to be okay to talk about these things, to raise issues and concerns.

This is a new, strange, bizarre journey for all of us. I hope we can make it the best it can be.

A Spotlight on Sweet: A Literary Confection

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One thing (among many) that I love about the journal Sweet: A Literary Confection is that they spotlight previous contributors and give them a chance to talk a bit about their writing and reading. It was fun to think about what I’m doing with reading and writing at the moment, and putting it into words.

You can check out the spotlight here.

And, if you want to read the original piece I published with them, “On Book Curses: An Apology,” you can check it out here.

Stay safe and sane, and happy social distancing!

 

In Praise of Fiber Arts

Knitting and crocheting and other fiber arts have made somewhat of a comeback in recent years, but they remain, in my estimation, underestimated.

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Baby shoes I made for the youngest.

As a process, yarn crafting and fiber arts offer meditative stillness and gentle momentum. The repetition of pulling through a loop or threading a stitch is natural and ancestral. It bears the rhythm of the elements, the ebb and flow of water and the current of wind. Fiber art pieces develop slowly, appearing in completion like a morning glory after days or weeks of winding upward. Yarn crafting is therapeutic, reducing depression, anxiety, insomnia and dementia, along with having other health benefits.

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Freehand toddler mitten. My son could never quite get his thumb in the right spot, though, so I never made the other side.

For some, now could be an ideal time to learn crocheting, knitting, cross-stitching or hand-sewing. While much thought can go into the colors and design, the bulk of the work is done in simple, repetitive steps. I sometimes tell myself that if I feed my brain good “food,” I won’t want to “snack” as much during the day with, say, endless social media scrolling. I consider crochet as part of the good food category, even though it isn’t as dense or chewy as some things.

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Slip-stitch mittens

Lately I’ve mostly made a bit of progress on a sleeping mat I am making. This is a huge project I’ve already spent, I’d guess, over fifty hours on (including cutting up plastic bags into two-inch rings and looping them together to make plarn). This project is easier done in groups just because of the sheer size of the project, though I’ve also found it fulfilling to work on alone. When I’m done, we’ll bring it to our local homeless shelter. The mats are lightweight and easy to carry, easy to wash off, pretty durable, insulating, thick and cushy.

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This is about half of what I’ve got. I still have about two feet left to go.

Happy social distancing. Stay safe and sane!

 

On a Spring Morning in 2016

Michael and I leave for the hospital at five in the morning. I’m 39 weeks and scheduled for a c-section because my son is breech with a cord wrapped around his neck. My mom, who drove us to the hospital, takes a picture of me in my large pink shirt and black maternity leggings, my hair pulled back into an elastic.

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The receptionist at the desk picks up the phone and says, “Alizabeth? They’re ready for you.”

*

A nurse’s assistant takes me and Michael to our room. There is a round bath with jets that I will not use, a sink, a bed, a cot, and a monitor. Everything seems white, blue or green.

I ask Michael to grab the birth plan from the hospital bag. The fold is uneven and my punctuation is sketchy. Not as glamorous as I envisioned, and I’m embarrassed about it’s lack of professionalism. I give it to the nurse when she comes in with a surgical robe for me to put on, and she reads it. “Skin to skin?” she asks, looking over the paper. “You will be having surgery. Your abdominal cavity will be completely exposed.”

“Will my chest be covered?” I ask, even though I probably sound ignorant or aggressive.

“Yes,” she says. “Your entire body will be covered, and a screen will be in front of your face.”

“Okay, but my OB said I could do skin-to-skin.” Silence. I ask, “How long will it take for them to finish the surgery after he’s born?”

“Not long,” she says. “It shouldn’t be more than an hour and a half.”

For the hours I spent looking up C-sections, I missed the detail that I would be in the operating room for an hour and a half after Jeffrey’s birth, my body out of commission.

I’m disappointed. I need my body for that hour after birth, the so-called “golden hour” of skin-to-skin and the first time breastfeeding. And not just for my baby. I need it for me, too.

The nurse starts an IV on the back of my hand but it blows out, a dark balloon of puffy skin, and she restarts it on the other side.

*

My OB comes in wearing green scrubs. At our last visit he said, “We’ll have a birthday party.” He looks at the birth plan and says it looks great. The nurse asks about skin to skin, and he says “We usually do cheek to cheek.” Not what I had in mind, but it’s something.

The anesthesiologist comes in. He’s friendly, calm. He tells me what I will feel at each step as he is working: it will feel like cold water here, like I’m pressing your back here. I assume he’s washing my skin with Iodine and putting on a patch or something, but he soon says that the spinal is done. He tells me that I will be completely without feeling in my lower body.

I start to feel nauseated. Crippling nausea, like those first weeks of pregnancy before finding Zofran and Diclegis, which helped take off the edge a little. I tell him, almost choking. He calmly says that he can fix that, and I close my eyes and wait. This is what I have done for so much of pregnancy: closed eyes, waiting, trying to stay still while my body tells me to puke. More voices. Another doctor comes in.

They put a giant paper pillow inflated with warm air over me in the cold room. Bright, glinting lights. After a few minutes, it occurs to me that I don’t feel nauseated anymore. I tell the doctor “I feel better” and he says “I thought so.” Everything seems a little hazy and disjointed, perhaps for no other reason than that I know I am about to have my abdomen cut open, about to give birth. A body is about to come out of my body.

*

The production starts, faster than I expect. I tell Michael, who sits by my head, that he isn’t allowed to look at the surgery. I check out again, like I have been doing all morning, willing myself into a mental blackout. On the operating table, I don’t even try to eavesdrop on the doctors performing my surgery right in front of me, though they are talking the whole time in a light, casual tone.

I catch one of the doctors saying, “Definitely a boy,” followed soon after by a baby’s cry, the harbinger of all good things in a delivery. Someone explains to me that the room must be very cold for the operation and that my baby will be especially cold, so they are going to take him out and put him in a warmer, and I am fine with that, I just want them to keep my baby warm.

*

I no longer need to check out. I hear the doctors clearly, surprised that they are mostly talking to me. I am able to pay attention, granted the lucidity of joy. My son is carried in, swaddled in receiving blankets and wearing a hat, his eyes open. I kiss him as many times as I can, his cheek held by mine for a minute or so. They take him back to the other room, and Michael follows.

A pediatrician tells me that my son will need CPAP to recruit liquid from his lungs. They will take him to a transitionary NICU. But they aren’t quite ready: he is being weighed or bathed or something. I’m quiet and jittery with surprise, the terrific reality of it all, the actuality of the baby I could never quite believe in when I was pregnant. But somehow, here he is. Even in the other room, I hear him. I hear Michael, suddenly and fervently a father, calling him by name.