However, there aren’t as many boxes of jewelry and sculptures stacked around my living room when I have a baby usually! Streeeeetch tiiiiiiime.
I posted the above as my Facebook status yesterday morning after having returned from a four-day trip to a festival in Kansas. When I originally wrote: “streeeeetch tiiiiime!” I was thinking of a fantasy of literally being able to expand time, but realized immediately after posting that it can more rightfully be read as time to stretch my own capacities. Just like giving birth.
I feel like I’ve been pushing myself incredibly hard over the last two months. I keep thinking: just this one more thing and then I can rest. But, one thing leads to another thing and then just one more thing (hmm. Is that like labor too? One contraction at a time…) Of course, like most of my life, all the things are good things, there are just a heck of a lot of them. I also recognize this as a recurrent fall season feeling for me, regardless of pregnancy. I date my awareness of it to my first miscarriage in 2009, but perhaps I engaged in this same cycle of drawing away, folding in, and wishing to retreat before that as well and just didn’t write it down.
My oldest son turned 11 this week! Isn’t that incredibly big?! I’m glad he is gracious enough to have his birthday celebration this coming weekend, since I didn’t get home from Kansas until 6:30 on the night of his birthday. Having his brand new computer as an early gift right before I left for my trip helped a lot! Speaking of his birth, here are three versions of his birth story, one from my mom…
I arrived at the Remer home at about 10 p.m., where Mark let me in and told me Molly was in the shower. When I got upstairs, and unloaded my belongings, I could hear Molly humming “Woman am I” from behind the bathroom door. When she came out, wrapped in a green towel, she was so adorable that I had to take a couple of pictures. She said she’d had 7 contractions while in the shower, and was glad I was there.
One from Lann himself…
Swimming down out of mama.
And one from me:
After checking the baby’s heart rate and my blood pressure, the midwife asked if I wanted an internal exam. I said that I did. She checked and said, “the baby is at +2 and I can’t find a cervix.” This was highly confusing to all of us and so we asked what she meant and she said, “your cervix has disappeared” and then said, “you can start pushing when you feel the urge.” I was in complete disbelief and stared at her and said in total seriousness, “are you telling me the truth?”
One of the things that made the prior week extremely difficult and stressful (and is the reason that I completely skipped making any posts for the week), is that Mark’s back went out and he was in extreme, lying-on-the-floor pain and thus unable to finish the molding and casting we had planned for sculptures for the Gaea Goddess Gathering, nor able to do any finishing work on the large quantities of pewter inventory we needed for me to be able to take for my booth there. I did not do a very good job taking care of him at all. It was an unexpected, very bad-timing hurdle and I did not handling it gracefully or with any Zen-like aplomb, instead felt over-the-top stressed and unhappy, especially since I was also supposed to be able to grade midterms during that time and did not get a chance to grade a single one until the actual day of my class, and then only under stress, duress, rushing, pushing, and snapping. WAHHHHHH!
This experience reminded me that the problem I find with the often repeated and popular self-care advice about “asking for help” or “learning to receive” is that almost always everyone I can think of to ask for help has just as many things on their plate and on their minds as I do. Adding to someone else’s to-do list doesn’t feel like “receiving,” it feels like abusing! When I posted this thought on Facebook, a gracious friend responded in a way that soothed my heart:
“There are seasons to these things. I feel like we’re all paying into a giant karmic pot…I try not to pass up what feel to me like simple or easy ways to give (if it’s easy, it doesn’t count, right? Wrong.) even when I’m in a season of receiving. Have you considered that your writing, which probably comes as naturally to you as breathing, is a huge gift to the community? If I lived near you, I would totally offer to double some of our meals to share (or clean your bathroom or whatever), out of gratitude for what I’ve gained from reading your blog posts and articles. It may well be that what you need now, and hesitate to ask for, could be on someone else’s “easy” list. And if it’s not, well, we have to trust each other to express our boundaries.“
Some things, like grading midterms, just can’t be passed to someone else, much as I’d like to. Others can be. My example that actually prompted me to post was a really simple and semi-stupid one and it was that I needed a piece of black fabric cut in a circle. I couldn’t get to where it was stored by myself with my big pregnant belly and Mark couldn’t get it for me because he was lying on the floor with horrible pain (chiropractor appointment the next morning helped, luckily). I couldn’t ask my mom because she was driving to KS. So, I messaged two friends who both kindly agreed to do it for me without hesitation, BUT, I know that in asking it added one more piddly task to their own huge to-do lists and meant that they had to dig in their closets for me, since I couldn’t dig in my own. While small, it was exactly the kind of thing I mean—passing on a piece of something that is on my personal list, grows someone else’s and it doesn’t seem “fair.”
This is by far not the first time I’ve had this thought—Mark being out of commission suddenly and unexpectedly is what prompted it this time—but I think it whenever I read a “tips” list and also sometimes when someone reaches out to ME for support, receiving, or help and it feels like it is going to tip me over the edge from “handling it all” to “freaked out and need to hide” and I don’t want to be that person for someone else…like we’re all just passing it down the line! Theoretically it might be a “seasons” thing and most of my people are in a similar season with similar balancing and juggling experiences of their own. But, I don’t know. My mom is 61 now and her overall commitments don’t seem to have slowed down any in this new season of hers—instead of just plain old regular kids needing time and attention from her it is adult kids PLUS grandkids, as well as still friends, husband, projects etc.
All that said, I do feel very grateful that my current class at FLW is one of the Best Classes Ever ™. I am not in an emotional position right now to handle problem students or class conflicts and this class has neither, just interesting, engaged, responsive, fun, committed people from lots of diverse backgrounds. They are working on a great class project right now too: Community Outreach Project.
Regardless of everything else, fireside drumming and dancing was on my agenda and I off I went. Two friends and I packed up my car and headed for Gaea Goddess Gathering in McLouth, KS, where we met my mom, my sister-in-law (and nephew!), and another friend as well as friends we’ve made at past festivals. I had a booth for Brigid’s Grove and also gave a presentation on Womanrunes on Saturday afternoon. I had the beautiful experience of meeting some Brigid’s Grove fans in real life who touched me with their stories and honored me with sharing their journeys. I later overheard one describe me to someone else as I walked by as, “she is my favorite artist.” <blush>
While we had stocked up on our various goddess pendant designs, I was surprised to find that my niche is apparently still in birth art, regardless of setting. The pieces that spoke to the women at this festival were still our birth spiral pendant, our baby in the heart pendant, and our mama goddess pendants. Until this year, I did not fully realize it was possible to make these kinds of connections with others through the creative work of my hands and it really feels like a sacred trust.
Here are some pictures of our (very red) booth:
And, I have to note that if I was about two more weeks pregnant, I think these stairs at Camp Gaea would tip me over the edge into labor!
Speaking of pregnancy, I am 35 weeks now. I have what feels like a million contractions a day AND I have to admit that I still sometimes think the baby is twins, despite the two ultrasounds and the fact that I am not measuring big. I’m so weird! I haven’t checked his heartbeat myself for months now, because he is so wiggly all the time, but yesterday I felt like checking it and I still found two heartbeats in distinct locations, both with the “clop-clop” classic sound of a real heartbeat rather than one with the “whoosh” of a cord. They were different rates too—one on each side of my belly (still have that sensation of having “two sides” that I referenced a long time ago) and when I went to listen for the “other one,” I knew exactly where it was and went straight to it, just like I knew where the real baby’s heartbeat was. I’m a freak, I tell you.
Speaking of twins though, my friend Bibi finished writing up her surprise homebirth of twins story recently and it is a wonderful read:
…We talked about the possibility of an ultrasound to find out about possible birth defects or twins or the hundred other scenarios that had run through my mind. The best idea that our midwife gave me was to sit quietly with myself and determine what I really needed. So that’s what I did. Every night I asked my baby if he or she was okay.
The answer was yes. There is no other way to describe it, but I just knew that everything was okay. I knew that there was a mystery to this pregnancy, and I certainly suspected twins, but with no concrete evidence I thought it was wishful thinking…or maybe I didn’t want to know because the idea of twins scared me as much as it thrilled me.
And, returning to birth art, here is my MANA birth art display mock-up pic (as best as I could do on a concrete wall, that is!). This involves complicated couriering of the items by my sister-in-law to her midwife in KC, who will transport them to St. Louis for MANA in October (we can’t attend as vendors because it is the same week as my due date, but we were asked by the organizers to provide a “local birth artist display”) and then back to KC for my SIL to eventually get back to me in Rolla. I just love circles of women and how needed connections are found or work out…
While at GGG, I also finally had a chance to wear my belly bindi to this year’s main ritual!My mother blessing is tomorrow afternoon and today we needed to make a belly cast to paint during the mother blessing as well as clean house and so forth… (even though I just got home Sunday night. What am I doing?!) Oh, and grade all the papers that were submitted over the weekend?!?! I felt on the edge of tears from the time I woke up almost until the time we did the belly cast—feeling stressed, rushed, and WHY. However, we had a great time doing the cast (even though we had to stop to rescue a hummingbird from the actual jaws of a cat, save Alaina from being clawed by another cat, and answer computer questions from the boys. Sometimes I have to pause and realize that the overwhelm I feel lately is probably just a feature of the realities of having three kids with various needs already, a job, a business, a dissertation to write, books waiting to be born, and several serious life passions and be preparing to add another human to the family. Perhaps it would be weird if I didn’t feel overwhelmed and a little panicky, rather than it feeling like it is a personal failing that this is how I’ve spent a lot of time feeling lately.) And, I truly think it turned out to be my prettiest cast:
After we finished, I felt like I’d finally shifted gears in my brain to accepting that this is what I was spending my day on, not scrubbing the toilet or grading 25 papers. I then set up my birth altar for the mother blessing:
I had a lovely time. (And then I did clean the toilet and the bathroom sink.)
Today Mark also hung up a poster that I’ve had for a year. I want to remember this!I got a lot of lovely brand new mama goddesses listed on etsy this evening too: