thoughts on birth. just after i gave birth this last time, i was thinking about what birth is like, what birth feels like (emotionally) and i was wondering why anyone would want to not feel it. when we opt for the epidural, what exactly are we anesthetizing ourselves to? there are people though - lots of people - who anesthetize themselves to the way that they feel all the time. my upstairs neighbor for instance is a whirlwind of different artificial scents. her laundry reeks of petroleum-based cleansers and softeners, she has one of those little air fresheners in her car, and she herself leaves behind the scent of tammy-faye-having-exploded every time she passes through the hallway. and it begs the question - does she ever smell anything that isn't manufactured? why all the nose-blockers? what's the need? must be that the dirty, stinky, musky odor of everyday life is too much. a lot of people in this country don't want to smell, feel or experience anything too raw or real. they want it compartmentalized and pre-packaged - we get our adventure at theme parks, we package up our dead and dying, our food comes pre-processed looking nothing like its origins, our interactions are reduced to 1s and 0s or hi-fi, fiber optic connections - we do very little that's real. to get outside, we "pack up the jet skis and go up to the mountains" - it's all prepackaged, pre-ordained, ordered, compartmentalized. we try very hard to avoid too much reality at all costs. even our "reality" programming on television is devoid of reality. so when mainstream america thinks of having babies, they think of little packaged babies smelling of powder, all clean and all bright, being handed over from the doctor/nurse. that's the money shot of childbirth in all of our entertainment - that moment when the mother is sitting up in bed and is handed her little "bundle of joy", all wrapped and diapered and clean. someone this summer who was newly pregnant wanted to smell my baby, who was all of five weeks old at the time. she said she loved the smell of babies. she came and sniffed his head and wrinkled up her nose, confused. he didn't smell like a baby. i had to explain that we don't use baby powder or disposable diapers and he drinks breastmilk, so instead of smelling like a nursery, he smells like a human. personally, i love his smell. i love breastmilk-breath. i love the smell of his head, his little pheromones. i still sniff my three-year-old's head. they smell like mine. there is a disconnect somewhere between baby and pregnancy/birth in this culture. it's handled, it's manufactured, it's artificial. there's no ritual for getting the mother from here to there, and it's not talked about except in the terms and the language of the hospital. in order to get an experience out of it that is not handled by somebody else, you have to do a whole lotta thinking. you have to navigate it all yourself. that's not right. there need to be rituals for this. our rituals do not suffice. our rituals do not honor the mother or the baby. our rituals if anything, torture mothers and babies. women are not birthing in this country, they are being delivered. just as there is someone who takes away our waste, treats and bottles our water, and freshens our air, there is someone to deliver us to motherhood in the most brutal manner imaginable. who would not want to anesthetize themselves to the interventions thrown at you in the hospital - the strangers, the needles, the electronic beeping of monitors? the whole process requires that we dull our senses because there's no way being delivered feels like the impossible transformation birth really is and deserves to be. when we birth, we are bigger than ourselves. we are the beginning of the universe, the start of time and there is no way that the beginning of the universe is a clean, quiet ordeal. the beginning of the universe is an explosion, it is a swirling mass of cosmos. our hormones, the blood, the poop, the mucous, the grunting, moaning sounds that we make, the gush of fluids, the stretching wide of flesh, bone against bone - it's incredible, raw, messy stuff. i think the beginning of life deserves that. life is like that - it's a spiraling rush of energy in a perpetual forward motion, and damn if we don't constantly make messes of it.
fundamental differences in brain chemistry are at fault for the divide that exists between the perspectives of myself and my son. his testosterone-laden mind is aggressive and spacial where i am more empathetic and verbal. he needs to occupy a large amount of space, spilling each activity out onto the floor after brief encounters. he moves from place to place in the house, pulling costumes out of drawers, dumping blocks from baskets, crayons from boxes, searching out action figures he has hidden in the sofa (complaining loudly in unbearably whiny tones for hours about darth vader gone missing, only to abandon him again in some random locale). he is a sweet boy; a boy's boy. something i understand so little about despite having spent my formative years in a boy-crazed stupor, trying desperately either to attract them or fit in with them, trying to get them to understand and to love me. how self-centered and foolish it all was. it seems fitting payback that i should now be forced into the position of having to try to understand them. how else will i raise them but to uncover them at their roots, to understand what it is that makes boys boys. surely understanding will lend me the perspective necessary to stop from tearing out my hair when all that is necessary to them is chaos to me. surely insight will grant me the patience to wait through refusals to discuss one's feelings, or wall up my sanity against tidal waves of aggression, destruction, sudden outbursts of inarticulatable frustration. how i know love will have to be put aside for how i am able to receive it. one day soon enough my boys will push me away, will want to strike out on their own as men and i will not have the sobbing, screaming, hitting mess of a three year old clinging to my leg. certainly one day this will be but aching nostalgia. this will be what i miss most - the point in their lives when they needed me most. i am terribly saddened to confess that i badly wanted a daughter, that i might experience being needed forever and ever. i know that to say absolutely that i will not get the opportunity at the relationship i desire with my children just because i have boys is most likely a gross over-simplification of the matter, but i think it is highly more likely to be true than the alternative where my boys talk to me in ways that i understand and go on forever needing me to mother them. it is such a shame that i have the knack for empathy my mother never had and still no children to really offer it to in a reciprocal manner. as my sons are only three years and five months respectively, maybe i should lay off the future and deal with the current tugging on my arm.
house of girls, house of boys. having grown up surrounded by my own sex, i am now spending my adult life surrounded by the opposite. the change was slow and unnoticed at first. even now, i only quite realize the full scope of boy surrounding me in my eldest son, the tornado he is, the running, jumping, screaming, death-defying el chupacabra. he is so boy it is unfathomable. he plays with sticks and makes paper into light sabers. in fact, he makes everything into light sabers - food, cups, junk mail, crayons and colored pencils, cloth diapers and cloth wipes, blocks, the stuffed inchworm, silverware, pretty much anything remotely resembling a stick has the potential to become a light saber. i love that there is potential for play in everything around him at the same time i loathe being made to fight another round and of course the disaster left in his wake. but all his aggression is served up with a hearty amount of joy, something i find myself inadvertently trying to squash when the wreckage is just too much for me. there is such a tender side to him too - his need for me, his capacity to love and to snuggle. he is so surprisingly fragile at times, despite his whirlwind nature. he will crumble and cry at things that surprise me, and when i am angry and i am uncontrolled, he says, so sadly, fat tears upon his cheeks, "be nice to me." he is needy as often as he is independent. i want him to be who he is, i want him to be a whole person. i am learning daily how to recognize and appreciate all the parts of him - the flaws and the virtues, his varying capacities and talents, his strengths and weaknesses. it is all such a new journey for me, the everyday of living surrounded by all that is boy and ever realizing the complexities that entails. it is so easy from the other side of the gender pond to write boys off as one thing or another. in truth, there is much that they share in common with girls and much that makes them different. i am on the path of discovery everyday.