Minor Survival

I’ve committed to myself, as of today, to spend 5-10 minutes with The Daily Post Daily Prompt, well, daily.

Today’s one word prompt is survival, a word that–in the context of this week– veers dangerously far from mommy-blogging territory.

Tuesday, I had a minor surgical procedure done. I was nervous about it, as one sometimes is for such things. Deep down, though, I was sure I’d bounce back quickly, go back to work that afternoon, and maybe have a funny anecdote or two to tell about it. My arrival at the hospital that morning certainly encouraged that idea– I had a wisecracking nurse, I joshed the anesthesiologist about my upcoming “nap” which I felt was well deserved, and the patient across the hall from me was doing astrological readings for every member of his health care team.

The nurse anesthetist dropped some kind of antianxiety/woooooooooo med in my IV and my bed was off to the OR. I expected to wake up, newly dysplasia-free.

Instead, I awoke in chaos, and parts of my body that had been previously traumatized were alive with pain. I was trying to grab the rope of consciousness, but I couldn’t, and the nightmares that have been torturing my sleep for the past few months were ever present.

The surgery went okay. One minor mistake/complication. My throat is raw and sore from the breathing tube they inserted, and I didn’t remember my discharge instructions. I’ve been physically sick from the anesthesia since Tuesday, and my brain is scrambled. The pain has lessened, but I wasn’t prepared for how intense it would be immediately following– it brought me to my knees on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, unable to sleep.

But here I am. Dressed. Washed. Medicated. Fed. Coffee’d. I’ve snuggled my girls, rescheduled a doctor’s appointment, watered the plants, and I’m off to work.

I stumble, I misjudge, I survive–through no great momentum of my own.

 

 

 

Lately

My friend Gina at Popcorn and Pandas does this great recurring series called “Lately” that she adapted from another blogger (you can check out all of Gina’s Lately posts with links to the inspiration here).  I love the idea of checking in with yourself and creating a record of the things that drive us every day. With that in mind, I’m snagging the idea, adapting a few of the gerunds myself!

Lately I’ve been…

reading A Short Introduction to the Hebrew Bible; Jesus and the Disinherited; Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, and Judges. You know, light stuff. I’m about a third of the way through the first year of a four year course affiliated with the Episcopal Church called Education for Ministry, for which these are our texts so far. Here’s a great explanation of the course from Sewanee:

Every baptized person is called to ministry. The Education for Ministry (EfM) program provides people with the education to carry out that ministry. During the Service of Confirmation we ask God to “Renew in these your servants the covenant you made with them at Baptism. Send them forth in the power of the Spirit to perform the service you set before them.” EfM offers an opportunity to discover how to respond to the call to Christian service. 

writing  Descriptions for our new classes, press releases for events, and email after email after email.

listening  Right now, to sweet, sweet silence, but we have a lot of Jack’s Big Music Show on heavy rotation, and I had a major craving for some Tracy Chapman today, so the self-titled album was on repeat.

thinking About how to better organize my time, so that I’m giving my best to myself and others. And also about the fact that’s nearly swimming hole weather!

smelling Lilacs. Everything is in bloom despite the fact that our last frost day isn’t for another few weeks. I can’t get enough lilac, though, since it always seems like they fade far before I am ready for them to go.  

watching The big, blue (and purple and pink and orange) New Mexico sky.  When we first moved here, I was a little overwhelmed by the size of the sky and the intensity of the light, but now I crave it, every day. It’s a wonder, that sky.

wearing  So much linen, y’all. Consignment shops +  Santa Fe ladies that give up their Eileen Fisher wardrobes for the betterment of others have been rocking my world. Linen pants, linen shirts, linen jackets, linen skirts. So many neutrals, so little time.

eating  The leftovers from the popsicles Winnie and I made yesterday: coconut milk, avocado, frozen blueberries and raspberries, and a couple bananas. I filled all the molds, but some of the puree was leftover, and, ya know, somebody’s gotta eat it.

drinking My first ever cup of totally homemade dandelion root tea!  I’m obsessed with roasted dandelion root tea, so Winnie and I dug up some roots in the backyard yesterday (or as Winnie called it, “gardening”) and then I washed, roasted, and ground them today. It’s a whole lot of work for something I can pick up at the store pretty easily, but it was so cool to know that it’s just right at my fingertips like that! And the flavor was spectacular. My liver is giving me a high five right now.

feeling Ready to do some gardening. We have a couple raised beds in the back, and lots of seeds started, so I’m ready to see things get going!  We’re hosting a meetup of local parents and kids next week to do a seed and seeding swap, and I’m really looking forward to it.

wanting For all of my thoughts, actions, and belongings to be organized and purposeful. Is that so much to ask? (In other words, put down your damn phone, Sascha.)

needing  To prep for tomorrow’s coffee and cheese pairing run through. Excited to cup coffee and pair with cheese– totally unexpected, but really delicious.

loving  Our little community. The folks we’ve met here, the people we run into day after day, and the new people who keep popping up at every turn, have totally made our transition to a new place

wishing I were going to to be in Brooklyn when my friend Elizabeth Mangum-Sarach (of BirthFocus) hosts the inimitable respectful parenting guru Janet Lansbury for an intimate tea at Elizabeth’s new space, Nurture(Bklyn). What a cool opportunity!

hoping  For excellent weather for Saturday’s Spring Fair, hosted by Winnie’s preschool. We think this nature-based preschool is just magic, and I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to connect with other Dragonfly parents and share a little bit of that Dragonfly magic with other folks in the community!

craving  A veggie burrito from the Betterday Coffee Shop: homemade tortilla, red chile, squash, greens. It’s so ridiculously good.

clicking  On todoist.com every other second.  It’s the only way I can keep my to-dos in order, between work, home, Winnie’s school, church, volunteer obligations, our garden, and the like. As soon as it pops in my head, it goes on a list, or I’ll never remember it.

Oh, and in keeping with the Lately theme: since I last posted, we got to hang with a pal from NYC, I went to a spa in the mountains and had no cell reception and soaked in a tub and walked around in a robe and it was AMAZING, we flew as a family of four for the first time to Mike’s sister Jenny’s wedding and it was fabulous– so great to see family and meet Jen’s friends,  we threw a Fleetwood Mac & Cheese party at the shop, we signed a lease on a house, and Winnie has gotten really into shouting ALLELUIA during quiet moments at church, which is totally liturgically appropriate (for now.)

 

Alleluia, y’all!

 

My D&C, Or: I Know It Was Supposed To Be Terrible, But It Wasn’t & Here’s Why, Or: On Barbecue & Babies, Manicures & Miscarriage

I like painting my nails. It’s sort of how I like cleaning the bathroom, a small room that can be done in an hour.  I can’t handle the commitment to a daily makeup or hair routine, my clothes are a mess, but I can find a color that makes me happy, and throw it on my nails with skill, and look down at something that pleases me, every once in a while. I write with those hands, too, which isn’t lost on me.

 

That day, my nails were pretty delightful. I’d tried out these crazy stick-on things that week, white polish with black script, as though I’d really taken the writing metaphor all the way. We woke up and went to the place we were supposed to, gripping each other. I went to sign in, and the person at the desk looked at me, and my hands, and said kindly, “Oh, my! Those are beautiful! Can I see?” She took my hand. I wanted to stay there, to say thank you for holding my hand, I know you know what I’m here for, that I thought I was nearly about to break except they told me I was already broken, and here you are holding my hand, sharing this interest that holds no weight, no special tie to the fetus that is still inside me, but holding my hand anyway.

 

I sat back down.

 

I read an email from a colleague. We had a work trip planned, something new and exciting, a project that showcased my skills and took me to a place I’d never been. Colleague was keen to get a move on planning it. Colleague had heard the bad news, said the email, but colleague didn’t want to talk about it, colleague said. Oh. Okay. Well, anything for you, colleague.

 

Text from another colleague. They knew I’d told them before, but could I remind them of the password? It’s “buzz off”, I wanted to write. Don’t you know where I am? I texted back the password, plus some pre-emptive answers to questions I knew would come up in my absence. “Just FYI, I’m going offline,” I wrote. ‘Gotta dilate this cervix and remove the fetal tissue now, deliverables, etc,’ I didn’t write.

 

We went back to an exam room. There was an ultrasound machine, on, but with no picture, just a grayscale blank the shape a windshield wiper clears in the snow. This was the same sort of screen on which we had seen the heartbeat weeks ago. This was the same sort of picture we had sent to friends and family. This is the same sort of screen we had been peering at when a technician I’d never met said, “No. No baby! No heartbeat. Growth stopped. No baby. Sorry.” Sorry. No baby, no parents. Go back to your day job.

 

I lost it. I hated that screen. I wanted to smash it to bits, to ban it from all medical facilities everywhere. “It’s okay,” the doctor said. “You can do whatever you need to.” He had curly hair, and his scrubs were a green blue that the internet tells me is something called “terrace garden” or “forest canopy”, printed with the name of the hospital, ad infinitum. He was a resident, I learned, and he was so good at his job.

 

What followed was what I think every doctor, every patient wants but almost never has. It was just time, time spent talking, time spent quiet. Time filled with logistical questions, and unanswerable questions, and resolutions that the doctor didn’t need to know but I told him. “We thought we were parents,” I said. “You still are, you still can be,” he said. “This is hard,” he said. “Impossible.”

 

He laid out my options, with no judgement. You can go home, he said. Right now, he said, if you want to. You can wait, or we can give you a medicine to help the process along. It’s hard, he said. But you might want it, he said. You’ll need to come in for another ultrasound to be sure there is no remaining tissue, and it can be quick and painless, or take a long time and have lots of cramping.  But it’s about what you need emotionally. We’re here for you.

 

And they were.

 

The other option was what I came for. General anesthesia. Dilating my cervix. Removing the fetus. Curettage or vacuum aspiration to remove the remaining tissue. And then I would wake up, and no longer be pregnant.  And then I could mourn my loss, because I would have lost it, and it would be done. It would be done.

 

I was thankful for modern medicine. I’ve suffered trauma, and that makes me sort of afraid of the range of emotions I know I’m capable of. Structure is good where grief is concerned. Let’s not do this in my bathroom at home, the one where I saw the positive test, the one where I soaked in a bath, the temperature of which I’d measured so as not to harm the growing fetus.

 

I still felt pregnant. I was still vomiting every day. I’d been on my honeymoon with a dead baby in me, taking pictures of my still growing belly, calling the little bundle a strawberry. We canceled all of the cider tasting, pub visiting, horseback riding across Somerset when we found out. There was joy in being pregnant, so I didn’t regret it. But–well, it was what it was.

 

I’d lit a candle in the Wells Cathedral. I wonder what that candle ended up being for, after all. I took a picture of it, the singular flame. I don’t believe in a tit-for-tat kind of God, the kind who agrees that I know best and gives me just what I ask for, even if I rarely ask. I didn’t think that candle provided special womb protection, traveled back to the moment of conception and assured against any chromosomal abnormalities that would lead me to miscarry. But when I lit it, I did think it carried the light of my new role, the light I felt glowing around me each time I remembered I was pregnant.

 

The D&C, the removal of the tissue, the procedure, the anesthesia, etc, was decided. The doctor left me, and a nurse came in. She read the room, and declared that she had to see my nails. “The whole office is talking about them,” she said. Never had a girl felt more impressive with a drugstore accessory than I did that day. And never had I experienced such an unobtrusive way of coaxing me into being cared for, doted upon, for having an excuse to hold hands when I would have never asked.

 

We moved from the room of the barren-ultrasound-machine to one of a series of curtained off sections in a large open area, like an ER of sorts. Conversations buzzed around us, welcome distractions and reminders that we weren’t alone. It felt strangely comforting to hear snippets of the experiences of others, people we couldn’t see and wouldn’t see again. “You can take ibuprofen for the pain, or call us if it’s not enough.” “You’ll see bleeding for a few days.”  “When can we try again?” “You might feel some cramping.” “Could you tell what it was?”

 

The anesthesiologist came to see us. I was most worried about the anesthesia, as I’d never gone under before. It seemed like diving off the edge of a great precipice, being robbed of all sensory input, of all cognitive awareness, of the ability to feel and think. It seemed frightening– and completely glorious. To learn of none of it.

 

The pace picked up, and soon I was being wheeled into another room. There was a chair with stirrups, lots of lights, instruments, some sort of mask for me to inhale things through. It hit me that I was having surgery, that I was in an operating room, that I was surrounded by surgeons and they were preparing to operate on me. And I was terrified.

 

Everyone spoke in calm, soothing voices to me, and in the most professional, no-nonsense tones to one another. I choked out to a nurse, across the room, “Please help. I am scared shitless.” It wasn’t my most eloquent. It was how I felt. Again, the hand. She grabbed my hand and started rubbing it furiously.

 

“I like to talk about food,” she said. “You must be starving! And after all this, you can eat whatever you want. What are you going to eat first?”

 

I hadn’t eaten for something like 16 hours. Food sounded fabulous. I had a craving deep down for something heavy and comforting, rich and overwhelming. I wanted barbecue so bad.

 

“Barbecue. All I want is barbecue. And I have no idea where to get it! I don’t even know of any good barbecue spots in the city!” I wanted the kind of weird but glorious barbecue you can find in crock pots and chafing dishes in gas stations in the south– or maybe cheap and delicious Tex-Mex, a banh mi from that building shaped like a milk bottle and an Indian taco served at a fundraiser, fourteen thin paper plates supporting its weight. I wanted food from home.

 

The resident perked up. “BARBECUE! YES! How about Fette Sau? It’s insane.” The room buzzed. “Ooooh, where is that?”

 

“Is that French?” The awkward anesthesiologist chimed in.

 

“It’s barbecue. It’s fucking delicious,” replied the resident.

 

The oxygen mask went on my face. A kind doctor stood over me. I remembered her from my initial google searches for gynecologists upon my move to this new, foreign city. “I know you,” I said. “You have an MPH.”  It was important to me, a focus on public health. It didn’t really matter right now.

 

She smiled. “I do!” Things sped up, slowed down, at once.

 

“Okay!” chirped the anesthesiologist, done futzing with whatever it was he was doing with the drugs I would soon be breathing in. He seemed less than impressed with barbecue. That’s okay, he wasn’t invited anyway.

 

Everything shifted, monumentally. “Whoa,” I muttered. “I feel craaaaaaaaaaaazy.” I was flying, or swimming, or something. Maybe I was falling into my own womb.

 

“Go with it,” said the resident, and I could have sworn we held eye contact as I floated away.

 

I awoke 15 seconds, an hour, or a couple of years later. Mike was there. I immediately tried to sit up, to shake the sleep off, to acknowledge that I was still alive. I mean, I think they knew, but I wasn’t sure.

 

Dr. Public Health had gone to let Mike know everything had gone okay. She told him I needed barbecue and they recommended Fette Sau.

 

The nurse who brought him back to me in the recovery area had also reminded him that I was hungry, and he should take me out for barbecue. The place was in Williamsburg, she said, and the other doctor would know the name.

 

They came to give me the summary: all went well, and they were able to remove all of the tissue. I was grateful. I had been sitting in grey-blue light of spring, alone, for far too many hours with death inside of me. Even though a part of me had died, was wounded, needed to grieve, I was glad to be rid of that talisman. Ready to create some space for Mike and I to cry and cling; and then, eventually, to move forward.

 

And barbecue. Two more people stopped by to remind us. They told us to order the burnt ends. The resident stopped by again, and noted my MPH comment. Oh. So it had happened. I really had outed my encyclopedic memory of the credentials of every person I’ve ever googled. “I’m glad it’s important to you. It’s important to us. It’s intrinsic in what we do,” he said. “We care. We care a lot.”

 

I got dressed, took home discharge instructions on a brightly colored flyer. Mike and I ordered take-out Indian food and ate it on the couch that night. I wasn’t in any shape to go out for barbecue, but deeply appreciated the theatrics and continuity of care regarding my next meal, even if we all had an inkling that it was a ruse.

 

We went camping the next day. I didn’t want to be in our home. It was quiet, and some deer took a walk with us. We rowed a boat on a lake, meandered, and I drank a beer, because I could now. I cried because I could. It felt awful. It tasted fine.

 

It took us just a few months before I was pregnant again, pregnant with the nearly three-year-old girl now following her daddy around the house, telling him stories a mile long. My due date with her  (and many subsequent days) came and went, and so I showed up at the hospital for an induction in the same way a kid shows up to school on field trip day. The high-risk OB I’d seen a few times during the pregnancy stopped by to wish me luck. “Trust your pelvis,” she advised.

 

I walked back to the labor ward, where I would, in a few hours, deliver Winnie into an overly warm and terrifically welcoming room. Among the doctors and nurses , I caught a glimpse of the curly-haired resident, furiously entering notes on a computer. I didn’t need to go back to that place, didn’t need some great catharsis. But I noted to my OB when she checked in between contractions later that he and the rest of their staff had made what should have been one of the worst experiences of my life into one of the most healing, and I was glad to see his face. And maybe I’d get that barbecue, one of these days. It came highly recommended, after all.

 

Sowing Seeds

I am not a farmer.

Well, duh.

I wish I were; all of the things I wish for myself–discipline, consistency, faith, foresight, intuition, production, connection to land and season and creature– are contained within the farm. I know some incredible farmers.  I have visited some incredible farms. I’ve put in a couple of hours of work here and there on a handful of farms. Oh, boy, do I long in my gut to be a farmer. But I am not a farmer.

 

I am just barely a gardener. I have read a lot of books about gardening. I have thought lots and lots about gardening. I have visited many gardens, made lots of spreadsheets and plans, talked to gardeners and urban gardeners and master gardeners. I’ve grown some things, even eaten some things I’ve grown. But gardener is not exactly a word I would use to describe myself.

One day, just before I found out I was pregnant with Winnie, I decided Mike and I needed a break from the city. We needed to touch some land, say hello to some livestock, and the like. I bought tickets to a tomato seed saving workshop upstate, and we decided to stop off at a Rockefeller manse turned agricultural center on the way. We ate heirloom tomatoes on thick toast, bought a couple of sweet little jars, and set off for the workshop at yet another Hudson Valley agricultural center.

The workshop was taught by someone I knew distantly from my hometown, and included a tour of the farm garden. She and her husband were looking for land to start a farm, and she worked for an incredible seed company, the Hudson Valley Seed Library. I learned about tomatoes named for Russian astronauts, and how to hand pollinate squash. In a funny turn, years later I would book a job with the same agricultural foundation where we stood to help spread the word on the importance of orchards and farm-based cider. But I still didn’t have a garden.

I collected some seeds here and there. We didn’t have a lot of direct sunlight in our apartment, so I couldn’t figure out how to make containers work besides growing some leggy lettuce and killing a number of well-intentioned herbs. I found birthing babies and subsequent parenting to be far easier than keeping a plant alive.

We tried to get a spot in the community garden a block over, but our timing was always off.  We joined the neighborhood CSA and made friends with our farmers’ market farmers (our oyster gentleman could remember Winnie and her size from season to season, and the fruit farmers did make fun of our kale habit, but marveled at the volume of peaches and eggplant we could plow through in a week). A youth market would pop up outside of the library in the heat of the summer, with local grains and honey and eggs, and it felt like our little concrete neighborhood exploded with life.

Despite our lack of growing, things still grew. We learned how to forage, and found dandelion roots and greens, persimmons, ginko nuts, lambs quarters, purslane, sumac, wild black cherries, sarsaparilla, and so much more in the park near our house.

 

In my third trimester, while perusing the library storytime calendar, I saw a notice for a meeting about the gardening group at the library. Why not? I thought.  There were some decorative beds surrounding the library, one with explosive roses bound with a vigorous clematis that had been present during my last few weeks with Winnie, and which was now beginning its bloom just as I entered my last weeks with Georgie.

So I bounced over to the library common room on a Saturday morning, where grow lights were fostering seedlings, and a handful of neighbors made a plan to grow.  Little did I know, half of the parking lot behind the library had been transformed to raised beds, which we weeded and composted and conditioned.  I dug out the seed packets I’d collected over the years, and shared them with my fellow gardeners. We had incredible luck with dill and collards, plus a middling bok choi, radish and carrot crop. Sage was taking off when we left the city, and I didn’t have the heart to destroy the tomato volunteers from the last year, so they taught me an excellent lesson about hybrids (it might look like a sungold, but it ain’t gonna taste like a sungold).

Winnie and I watered on Tuesdays throughout late spring, and as my belly grew, so did the eyes of my fellow gardeners when they saw us out back, hauling water around to the beds. It was fabulous– I felt strong, I felt productive, I felt useful. And so did Winnie.

 

I went into labor with Georgie on a Saturday. While in active labor, I walked past our little garden, past the youth market, past the CSA pickups and the folks headed to their community garden workshifts. I had a baby. She’s a delight. My mom came into town, and so did Mike’s sister. I went home from the hospital on Monday, Winnie’s birthday, and a strawberry-rhubarb spooncake was in order. Tuesday was our watering day. We had four adults, a child, and a baby.  I insisted.

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So that’s me, three days postpartum, wrangling a bunch of folks to water a garden, filling watering cans and explaining earthboxes, and why raised beds helped circumvent the heavy metal content of the soil.  Check out that postpartum belly, y’all! They all thought I was crazy, but they didn’t dare say anything.

Winnie loved sharing her garden with her friends after storytime, showing them the swallowtail caterpillars that had taken up residence on the dill. Soon the dill began to flower (delicious) and eventually those flowers turned into the most prolific and incredible seed heads.

 

Do you see those seeds on the right?  I planted maybe a dozen seeds.  I thinned the seedlings.  We watered on Tuesday, clipped dill when we needed it, and LOOK!  Look how we were rewarded!  Seeds for us, our neighbors, our friends, our fellow gardeners.  Seeds for the wind, seeds for the tiny creatures looking to munch. Seeds for days and weeks and years.  Seeds in the same sweet little jars we had bought on our first seed saving adventure years before.

We moved across the country, and whatever I had learned in my one community garden season in New York was out the window. Alkaline soil? Drought? Last frost day in May? But things grow, as evidenced by one of the best farmers’ markets in the country.

 

I’ve signed the paperwork for our next community garden plot. We worked as a family, alongside other families, to prepare the massive garden at Winnie’s school for planting. We attended a community seed exchange, and were lucky enough to happen upon the Seed Broadcast truck, a truck that serves to record and broadcast the stories of seeds, and to share those seeds with others. And a few days ago, Ken Greene, the founder of the Hudson Valley Seed Library mentioned above, just came to speak at  our farmers’ market.

He spoke of his transition through seeds, spurred by a career in education and a passion for libraries (and a little bit of e-bay thrown in for good measure). He talked of GMOs and biotech companies, not in the OH NOES FRANKENFOOD WILL CERTAINLY KILL US ALL way, but of the very grounded reality that foods that are not open pollinated belong to someone, not everyone, and that indeed they are and will be bred as a product that requires another product (pesticides), that traps farmers into a cycle of buying in order to sell, and that does nothing to preserve the traditional foodways and seed sovereignty of individual communities. He spoke of the stories told through seeds, of indigenous peoples, of African American communities, of immigrant communities, and of the seed-saving practices of someone’s father, who always selected the best beans for baking, whose seeds now lived on, in perpetuity.

I once saw seed-saving as a quirky DIY task that made me feel pretty neat, a way to continue my own cycle of growth, but now I see it as necessary– to support my local food growers, to preserve the history written within each seed, to help us grow and adapt as our climate most certainly changes.

As the slide pictured above proclaims, “Every seed is a story.” I know which stories I want to tell. Do you?

The Seed Library Social Network

List of 230+ Heirloom, Independent Seed Companies

 

 

 

 

His countenance was modified, his clothing was aflame

Each week in celebration of the Holy Eucharist, we proclaim the mystery (indeed, mystery!) of our faith:

Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.

That’s it, just those three little (huge) bits.

And within the Nicene Creed, we acknowledge one God in three expressions.

First:

the Father, the Almighty,
    maker of heaven and earth,
    of all that is, seen and unseen.
And then:
Jesus Christ,
    the only Son of God,
    eternally begotten of the Father,
    God from God, Light from Light,
    true God from true God,
    begotten, not made,
    of one Being with the Father.
    Through him all things were made.
    For us and for our salvation
        he came down from heaven:
    by the power of the Holy Spirit
        he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
        and was made man.
    For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
        he suffered death and was buried.
        On the third day he rose again
            in accordance with the Scriptures;
        he ascended into heaven
            and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
   He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
        and his kingdom will have no end.
It includes a smidge of the prelude to “Christ has died”, namely that Christ was begotten, made incarnate, and born– that whole holiday we just celebrated and all.
And finally:
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
    who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
    Who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified
    and has spoken through the Prophets.
    We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
    We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
    We look for the resurrection of the dead,
        and the life of the world to come.
I know you’re not supposed to have a favorite expression of the Holy Trinity, but that last one is my favorite. The Holy Spirit! What fun!
These expressions of faith capture the heart of what it is we celebrate, but the beauty of the liturgical calendar and the lectionary lies in illuminating the bits just outside of the boundaries– and in doing so, reminding me of why I’m here in the first place.
Today: The Transfiguration. That time when Jesus takes Larry, Moe, and Curly Peter, James, and John to a mountaintop, and then starts GLOWING LIKE A CRAZY PERSON. Two long-deceased prophets appear, Peter wants to know if he should throw together some tents for them, God yells love for God’s son at the apostles and is all, LISTEN TO HIM YOU GUYS, and then after all of this, Jesus is like, “Keep that on the DL, okay? The blinding white light and prophets and divine hollering and stuff. Just until I rise from the dead, I mean.” NBD, basic God stuff.
I like the rhythm of going to Mass each week. I believe that in joining with this community, I am doing the right thing for my spiritual formation and the formation of my family. I believe that at its best, my faith carries a net positive into the world. I can pretty calmly explain a good portion of why I believe what I do, how it fits neatly into the life I want to live, a life I hope is lived in service of others.
And also– I sure do love it when it gets reallllllllll weird. I mean, I’m not going to the Ethical Society on Sunday’s, y’all. I never claimed to be a humanist. I didn’t write down my beliefs on a piece of graph paper and plug them into a logic puzzle, or pick my faith based on cost-benefit analysis. It’s FAITH. It’s WEIRD. It’s doesn’t make sense, and it’s messy, and sometimes it’s a friend who glows brighter than all the LEDs in the whole wide world, whose dad yells at you and also happens to be God, and then tells you to just hush about it till he resurrects himself from the dead.
Plus, just a little later in the chapter Jesus asks my very favorite question: “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again?”
Because really, what good *is* salt if it’s not salty?
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I really do adore Sufjan Stevens’ take on the Transfiguration:

Interests Include Mommy Blogging & Tandem Nursing

Two funny stories

One: About a year ago, I was courted to be a mommy blogger. For real! Like, for money. Lololololol. And I wrote some things, emails stopped, payment never came, etc. I moved on to other things, like having another baby and moving across the country. But I have these funny sort of clickbait-y posts hanging around in my Google Drive that I see every now and then. Titles like, “10 Things You Can Do While Babywearing”, “Why I Vaccinate My Baby (And Why You Should, Too)”, and “5 Things To Consider Before Tandem Nursing”. That last one becomes important with the next little vignette.

Two: When I became pregnant with Georgie, I experienced horrible nursing aversion and agitation when breastfeeding Winnie. I didn’t have enough energy to parent without the boob in my first trimester (seriously, the boob + B6 + magnesium + Daniel Tiger saved me), but in my second, we tried gentle weaning (weaning while cosleeping is no joke, y’all!). Our timing worked out, Winnie was fine with it, and she weaned in three days, with few tears.  I was a little sad, but it felt right.

Georgie is now nearly eight months old. She is just mad about food, and eats three meals a day. Like, full meals. And now, at the age of two-and-a-half, Winnie has decided she needs to nurse again. And I am sort of fine with it. I’m not going to say things like, “You’re a big kid, and big kids don’t nurse” because I don’t believe that. She’s been sick, and she’s going through some HUGE developmental changes right now (she’s been getting herself fully dressed, her verbal skills have gotten crazy, and her physical coordination is growing by leaps and bounds), and it’s comforting to her.  It’s funny because she’s asked to nurse about once a week ever since she weaned– I didn’t want for it to be a point of contention, and frankly it wasn’t that I didn’t want her to nurse occasionally, just that hormonally I couldn’t handle the constant nursing– and I always gave her a nonchalant, “sure”. She would start to latch, and then sort of laugh, and say, “No, thank you!”  Except then one day she didn’t. So here we are. Tandem nursing after a year of being weaned and eight months with a little sister.

It’s… fine. She needs it, and I’m fine with it. Her ability to understand bodies and boundaries has grown significantly, and I’m confident she’ll understand when it’s time for me to stop.  She’ll probably hate it, sure, but she’ll get it. And from that she’ll learn that she can ask for her body to be respected, too.

Anyway, here’s the hilarious blog post I wrote. My notes from actually being a tandem nursing mother in italics. Because writing about parenting issues before they happen to you is the biggest LOL of all time. #noscreentime #nocoffeewhilepregnant #onlyorganicwoolgarmentsforthelittles #weclothdiaperedwinnieforalmosttwoyearstho

5 Things to Consider Before Tandem Nursing

I always knew I would be a nursing mother, but I never guessed I might be a tandem nursing mother! [Because I didn’t ever look at a calendar?] When I found out I was expecting, with a due date just shy of my not-yet-weaned daughter’s second birthday, I found myself faced with questions. [Like “HOLY SHIT WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO?”]  Should I wean before the new baby arrives?  Would I be able to nurse them both?  Tandem nursing (breastfeeding more than one child, either together or separately) isn’t for everyone– but many mothers find the process incredibly rewarding. [Note: I have yet to meet them. My tandem nursing Facebook group was full of moms on their phones wearing stretched out shirts, lap full of kids like, whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy.] Deciding whether or not to pursue tandem nursing is an individual decision, but thinking about the following can make that decision easier. [LOL “decision”]

 

Do you want to tandem nurse?  It sounds simple enough, but if you feel like you should tandem nurse out of obligation to your child, partner, or the judgy mom down the block– don’t worry about it!  Your body is yours, and every major health organization advocates breastfeeding as long as it is mutually desired by both mother and baby.  If you don’t want to, don’t! At the same time, don’t let anyone dissuade you by saying it’s weird or impossible– neither of which is true. [Almost everything I do is either weird or impossible, especially re: raising these two humans.]

 

Who is your tandem nursing team? [I don’t know but I would like to subscribe to their newsletter.] Now that you’ve nursed one child (or more), you know how important a nursing support system can be.  Identify people who can help you through your next chapter, like your partner, family members, friends, organizations like La Leche League, or even online support like Kellymom.com [Also, refreshing the Iowa caucus results and FiveThirtyEight.com on your phone can be really helpful online resources for feeling connected to the adult world while nursing a brood.]

 

How can others help you tandem nurse? Once you’ve made a list of those who can support you, think about the ways in which they can do so.  Maybe your spouse can pick up a greater portion of household tasks, or leave the fridge stocked with easy snacks and filling meals (you’ll need the fuel while nursing two!).  Set a weekly date with other nursing moms in your neighborhood.  Plan for family or friends to visit to change diapers, play with your toddler, and give you a break from being “on.” [AHHHH SEND HELP]

 

Does tandem nursing work with your lifestyle? [If not, too bad!] Do you plan to co-sleep or settle your newborn in her own room?  Is your toddler night-weaned?  Will you head back to work soon after the birth and tandem nurse on weekends and after work?  Think about the logistics of your time, sleep, and space, and tweak anything you can now to be prepared for later.  

 

Make a tandem nursing plan– and be okay with letting it go.  After you’ve lined up your team, sleeping arrangements, and identified your motivation for tandem nursing, you’ve got the makings of a great plan!  Now visualize letting it go.  You may nurse your toddler for longer than you plan– or you may decide that you’re too exhausted to nurse more than one baby.  You may prepare for agitation while nursing both children– or it may not be a problem at all.  Stay flexible and in tune with yourself, and you can’t go wrong. [Okay, this part is for real, tho.]

 

How I Cope

It’s no secret to anyone who has known me for any amount of time (or sometimes even to the nice mom I meet in the coffee shop, within about five minutes of chatting–sorry, nice person!) that I have struggled with depression and anxiety for most of my life. Like many chronic illnesses, it ebbs and flows, and I’ve had varying degrees of success in treating it over the last sixteen years. Indeed, it was half a lifetime ago that I booked my first appointment with a mental health professional, and I can’t help but feel some sense of strength and accomplishment from this journey, from what I have learned, and from the nitty-gritty work I’ve put in.

The years have been full of trial and error, and when I first became pregnant in the spring of 2012, it felt as though the rules of the game had changed.  Now, my body (and accompanying hormones) were rapidly changing; now, I had to consider the growing bundle inside of me; now, I scared my psychiatrist, whose experience in treating pregnant women was lacking. Within that time, I lost the pregnancy, which brought a new set of challenges, of grief and hope, for both Michael and me.

All of the bits and bobs of this story, of the journey up and over, around and through the darkness and light warrant another post, or two or three. But through three pregnancies, two births, and many, many, many-many cups of coffee and tea with my fellow mothers-in-arms, I’ve learned a few things. Right now, I am at the point postpartum with Georgie where, with Winnie, I recognized that things had become very dark, and thus I am hyper aware of the challenges I face right now and how I can work through them. I write this in the hope that perhaps my footsteps can serve to help another mother who struggles with a Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder— but also as a roadmap, a reminder, for myself as I work through the next months and years.

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Mindfulness Practice

Far and away the lowest barrier to entry, most effective, “bang-for-my-buck” if you will, tool in my recovery toolkit has been mindfulness practice, both through dedicated mindfulness meditations and the continuation of those practices throughout my day. Guys, I am not a meditator. Before I started mindfulness meditation, I could barely close my eyes if not asleep nor could I concentrate on breathing if not, you know, gasping for air or something. The suggestion of “deep breaths” was enough for me to never return to see a therapist or psychiatrist. Part of this was, of course, that I struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of childhood trauma– closing my eyes and opening my mind to the possibility of re-experiencing the trauma was terrifying. I half-heartedly read The Healing Power of the Breath, which was developed with trauma survivors in mind, and much to my surprise, I found the tangible focus to be helpful; in fact, I used its techniques during Winnie’s birth. Also while preparing for Winnie’s birth, I stumbled on Mindful Birthing, which utilizes mindfulness techniques to help women work through the sensations of pregnancy and childbirth, as well as the postpartum period.

After postpartum depression and anxiety reared all manner of ugly heads when Winnie was around seven months old, I established an exceptionally trusting relationship with a healthcare provider (more on that later) and when she suggested mindfulness practice, I took her up on it and checked out Mindfulness for Beginners from the public library. I uploaded a few meditations onto my phone and began to practice daily. Holy crap, you guys– it worked! Unsurprisingly, I suppose, when you practice something, you get better at it. The dedicated daily time to practice breathing, to practice allowing thoughts to exist without judgement, to practice moving between difficult thoughts and comforting sensations in a safe space reduced the fear I had of my emotions and my ability to co-exist with them. It particularly helped with the heightened emotions I had as a result of hormonal changes during my pregnancy with Georgie, and with the intrusive thoughts that followed a few weeks after her birth. With Winnie, I spent nights awake in a panic, in fear and disgust at such thoughts– how could a good mother think such things? Where were these thoughts coming from? Did intrusive thoughts mean that I would act on them? No, it absolutely didn’t– but my fixation on the thoughts, my judgement of them and my fear of them exacerbated them. Mindfulness practice taught me to allow the thoughts to pass without judgement, and because of this, they resolved quickly, without the panic and terror they had previously caused.

Now, I practice mindfulness daily: I set a meditation goal using the Strides app (my other Strides goal is flossing, in case you were wondering) and use either the Mindfulness Coach app (developed by the US Department of Veterans Affairs for veterans suffering from PTSD, but helpful for anyone) or the free guided meditations from the Mindfulness Awareness Research Center at UCLA (the Working through Difficulty and Loving-Kindness meditations are my favorite). To me, mindfulness practice is, at its core, a way to practice being the person you want to be, with the brain you want to have.

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Finding My Team

Real talk: finding a mental health team is a pain in the ass. No, it’s worse. It’s nearly criminal. It’s expensive, time consuming, requires a ridiculous level of information literacy and perseverance, all of which is completely overwhelming to someone suffering from a mood or anxiety disorder. When you think you’re worthless, when you think you’re helpless and hopeless, how are you supposed to justify the hours of google searches, phone calls to doctors, messages left, phone menus navigated, “not taking new patients”, “out of network”, ad nauseum? If you’re a danger to yourself or others, go to the ER, otherwise you’ll need to wait months and months in your own emotional hell to see if this provider might– just MIGHT– be a fit for you. It is a dance I have done, and one I wish to avoid for the rest of my life.

Luckily, there are some resources. First, from my own experience: Postpartum Support International. PSI offers a warm-line, online support meetings, free weekly phone support meetings with a postpartum expert, a Facebook group, and– my personal favorite– a resources map with area coordinators. Before we moved to New Mexico, I contacted the PSI coordinator for the area, and she provided me with a list of resources, tracked down doctors, support groups, and therapists. She even called doctors’ offices to see if they had experience treating PMAD. So much footwork done, so many obstacles removed. (PS: PSI has resources for dads, too.)  I haven’t personally used their services, but many recommend Postpartum Progress, as well.

I also can’t stress enough how important a trusting relationship with a mental health provider is, once you’ve jumped through those hoops. I was lucky to find an incredible psychiatrist with training in reproductive psychiatry, who took an integrative approach to my care: she ran blood work to test for nutritional markers and any other physical problem that could interfere with my recovery, she recommended mindfulness practice and respected my desire not to delve into trauma work, instead recommending structured Dialectical Behavioral work. She helped me balance breastfeeding, pregnancy, and medication, giving me the vocabulary I needed to approach the issues with my birthing team. I had never before put in the work that I did with Dr. Hermann, and it was the trust we built that led me to do so.

I was, admittedly, nervous when I moved and changed doctors. Memories lingered of a bad experience following my first pregnancy loss and subsequent pregnancy with Winnie. The psychiatrist I had seen then was less than supportive, reluctant to provide any information about treating depression with medication during pregnancy outside of FDA pregnancy categories, and seemed to think that my decision to get pregnant while still struggling with depression had been a mistake, and that was that. But after the work I put in treating my PPD/PPA after Winnie,  I felt armed with the knowledge that the medications I was taking were safe, that any risks were outweighed by the benefit of having a whole, present mother, and that I deserved answers to questions and treatment as a human.  And lo! The psychiatrist I saw here in New Mexico totally agreed! We discussed each medicine, each supplement, and concrete exercises to overcome a recent flare-up of traumatic experiences, recurring nightmares. We both talked about how if a doctor/patient relationship doesn’t work, you can and should find someone else, but at the end of my appointment, when I expressed relief and my previous apprehension, she smiled sincerely and said, “Don’t worry– I’ll take good care of you.” Isn’t that just what every patient wants to know?

So, I don’t do therapy, and I won’t until I’m in a place to pursue trauma work, but I know it’s so important for people. My other “team” tool, in addition to a capable mental healthcare provider (be it psychiatrist or therapist), is pretty simple: other moms.

For me this meant  a local moms group (shoutout to my Summer13 Cortelyoumoms! woo woo, party people!), full of women who had and hadn’t experienced depression and/or anxiety, full of women who were approaching the same challenges every day, full of women who could go for a walk, or make a joke about diaper on Facebook. Parents’ groups are an invaluable resource– I’m not a joiner, and I was afraid that either I would hate everyone in the group, or everyone in the group would hate me, but it turns out that people are people, and being able to talk about Dinosaur Jr while wrangling a toddler or about Judith Butler while nursing is pretty rad, and definitely helps mental health!

Finding my mom team also meant attending a support group after Georgie’s birth to process my experiences and learn new tools. Hearing the varied experiences of other women, empathizing, and in some cases, even being able to offer my own experience as valuable, as a tool for others, was incredibly empowering. Brooklyn moms, I highly recommend Sarah Moore’s PMAD group as a part of your toolkit.

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Self Care

Okay, here’s the fluffy but oh-so-important stuff:

  • Taking a shower.
  • Brushing my teeth, not once but twice (!) a day.
  • Eating good fats and proteins.
  • Having a hot (or warmish) cup of coffee in the morning.
  • Getting sun on my face.
  • Putting on real pants. If I’m feeling extra in-need, real pants THAT FIT.
  • Listening to WQXR.
  • Calling a friend.
  • Wearing wool socks.
  • Spraying this stuff on my face.
  • Checking out a library book, because it feels kind of like guilt-free shopping
  • Taking my prescribed medicines at the same time, every day
  • Taking the vitamins I need, like B-Complex, postnatal, and vitamin D
  • Turmeric supplements for depression, because it might help, and my doc says it can’t hurt

This list changes, but there is *always* a list, and there must be. I need to start each day with a bank of things that can lift me up if I start to fall. When I was in crisis mode following Georgie’s birth, after Mike had gone back to work, family was all gone, and I was alone with two lovely creatures who desperately needed me and also sometimes hurt me (I struggled mightily with the physicality of parenting) and a rollercoaster of postpartum hormones, I sometimes felt like the sky was (metaphorically) falling. And during those times, I put Georgie in the carrier, Winnie in the stroller, filled up a mason jar with coffee, and walked and walked and walked and walked. Miles. All throughout Prospect Park, where I could find a grassy spot, near people but not too near them, let Winnie sleep in the stroller and Georgie in the carrier, in such a way that they were cared for but I didn’t have to actively engage, and I would just CRY. Quietly, but fully. We were all safe. We were all loved. I’d certainly rather have filled my days with less crying, less emotional turbulence, but there it was. We did it.

We’re doing it. Every day, getting by.

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