Thursday, December 31, 2009

if the world is a stain, let me love what spilled

I want you to start right this second and come slowly into focus. Be relentless. Be slow, infinitesimally slow, and infinitely persistent. Be slippery. If I’m afraid, slip around it, slip under it. Start with a warmth. Slowly let it spread. Make it like that day at Balmoral Beach when the sand was white and glittering and the air was warm and cool and the bay was still underneath its small busyness. Everything bad had drained away and I was on Earth but I wouldn’t have believed it. The inside was unrecognizable. The green and yellow ferryboats were gliding silently by and my ring was shining. We were on our knees in the sand. You propose to me like that. Then start lifting the veil, and like I said, do it slowly. Make everything get clearer and brighter. Let it all be visible. Where it's beautiful, I should know the extent. Where it's awful, I should know the extent of the damage. It should be slow, but don’t let it stop. Don’t make me wonder if you’ve left. If I have to see something that I’m afraid to see, let me know you’re with me. Do it by a warmth. Do it by a hand on my shoulder. Never make me wonder if you’ve left. I will begin as a newborn kitten, I'll blackmail you like that for gentle treatment. These training wheels should soon become funny. When you can tell by my heart rate that I’m properly strong, then you can splash it out. Throw out something dazzling, like a vast cape of fireworks-flowers-something I can't imagine. Something with teeth, something that burns. Cause awe. Sustain it until it crumples everything weak in me, until only a worthy companion is left. When I’m really strong, make your move. Surprise me. Kill me if you have to. Bounce me up and out of it and then you can decide if you’ll keep me or throw me back. If you keep me, I shouldn’t mind. If you throw me back, keep my illusions. Let me know what it’s like to move down here without sticking to it. Give me the thing that unlocks the suffering, the light that shines behind it and reveals a different shadow play. This is a prop, and that is a prop, and these were the actors. Credits.

Monday, December 21, 2009

emergency techniques

1. Emerge.
2. Check for bleeding. Are you bleeding? You're not. Good. The accident was a metaphor.
3. If you are bleeding, please stop reading this list.
4. Imagine that the accident only just happened a second ago. Assume you're in shock. Assume the accident was grave. Your responsibilities diminish immediately. Let others determine fault. All you need to do is accept the blanket and the cup of coffee and let yourself be squired to a nice hotel.
5. Watch movies on hotel cable.
6. Pretend you have amnesia and that this ignominious business is nothing to do with you. Nothing whatsoever. You're a Habsburg, for the love of all that is holy. You're descended from Confucius. This is all too ridiculous and will all be straightened out presently.
7. Just get here. "What happened? I just got here!" "There's too much to explain. Just wash this." "Okay." Do this constantly.
8. Many of the techniques have to do with denial. Note: these are emergency techniques.
9. I'm just a nice little hedgehog who lives in a tree with her seven children! Has there been some hullabaloo? Hm. Well. It all sounds awfully difficult. Off to bed, everyone! But not until you finish eating all your jam. My, my.
10. A classic technique is to be French. "It is complicated."
11. Hatch a plan, very impossible, with a rapidly approaching deadline. I have to be elected President by when? Jesus. I better get to work.
12. While campaigning, don't be alarmed if others are alarmed by the sight of all the imaginary blood on your shirt. Fold this into your campaign in a positive way. There's no time to change shirts! Only to roll up sleeves and solve problems!
13. When you're elected, this will be an accident of a different color, and completely consuming. You will have advisors to help you develop new techniques for your new problems. And finally, you will be able to launch an investigation into everything that happened previously. Don't do it, though.

Friday, October 23, 2009

letter to a good friend

What if you were one, and what if I wrote you a letter? Not an important letter. Just the letter of the kind that good friends used to write each other when they lived far away. And long ago, too, before emails. I just want to write you a rambling letter.

This is what I'm thinking about.

(I'd ask you first about all of your things, but there are too many of you and I don't know all of you. I trust that Aunt Karen is on the mend, and that your quilt is coming along, and that the charges were ultimately dropped. Tell me if I'm wrong.)

I'm thinking about October, ten years ago.

Wait, first let me tell you that I've been thinking about acting, and how I've missed it. I read an article in Vanity Fair about Penelope Cruz, and how immediately after she stopped filming her last scene in "Nine" (a musical number sliding down a rope, which blistered her hands), immediately upon reaching the bottom of the rope, she slipped behind something to cry because she was done with this role. I'd been doing fine without acting - really well, thank you - until I read that.

Ten years ago this October, one of my favorite acting teachers was in town from Vladivostok. (Hang on - oh, my goodness. Giant cascade of yellow leaves shooting by outside my window. All right. It's stopped. I can go on.) Leonid Anissimov. He was teaching a class at a loft in Belltown; we were working on The Cherry Orchard. We never rehearsed with artificial lights, only ever with lots of candlelight. Class felt like church, in the best way. I remember sitting there next to the little makeshift stage, with its hanging windowpanes, and being filled with eagerness. Everything about me was on the edge of my seat, ready to lift off. It's an exquisite feeling being in a room with someone who knows all sorts of things that you want to know, someone that you believe in, someone who's like this giant, oh, let's call it a samovar full of tea, and you're a cup, totally empty and all you want is to be filled over and over with this tea.

I remember a moment when we were talking the script, and suddenly I was filled with this understanding about Ranevskaya. No, it wasn't understanding. It was a feeling, like I was Ranevskaya, and I was overwhelmed with her shame. Tears, everything. My hand shot up and I could barely talk fast enough to explain what I knew. Laura, Leonid's translator (I loved Laura. She was so warm and calm and beautiful, and she called me "Tinochka" which made me feel scooped up, part of a family) murmured what I was saying to Leonid. He looked serious, and nodded, and then was suddenly full of energy and looked right at me. "Da! Da! Yes." He said something in Russian and Laura translated, "Now we are rehearsing."

When I used to perform, what I would do in the few minutes while I was hovering backstage waiting to make my entrance was this: I would touch everything, all the objects around, to take their temperatures. I was especially glad whenever I found anything cold, because it would wake me up. I was really looking for cold things to touch, that was the real mission. Another thing I liked to do, while I was warming up, was to go out into the house and touch every seat. I thought it would open something up between myself and the person who would eventually occupy it. I remember reading that Michael Chekhov wouldn't perform, wouldn't go on stage until he loved everyone in the audience. My word. I wouldn't have even one performance under my belt. I'd still be waiting to go on in The King and Queen Can't Speak, back at Ridge Street School, back in 1975.

Leonid used to take a nice long time talking about different things before the real work of class began, in order to get us ready. The idea was that you shouldn't get up and work until you're in the water. That's how he described it. When you were ready to work, some transformation would have occurred. You can't swim until you're in the water. I thought I understood the concept pretty well. And then once, during a performance of The Seagull many months later, I found myself in the water! I was on stage, but I was in the water. I didn't have to do a thing; I was in the water. Buoyance was palpable, and ease, effortlessness. No decisions to make, just letting the water bob me where I had to be. I arrived everywhere perfectly, lightly, fully. This is not a tribute to my great skill. This was more like receiving a blessing. I was weightless. I couldn't miss.

I thought that maybe I would never need to do it again, but I miss it. With Finn and Fred so young, it's difficult to imagine rehearsing and performing an actual play. It's too much time away, now. Maybe I will take a class, just so I can feel those muscles working.

Here come those leaves again.

What else, what else, is that it? Is that all I have to say to you?

One more thing. I discovered something. I'm always discovering ways to outwit my worries. This is what I discovered today. It's just another way to say the same thing that everyone always says, so don't get too excited. But so, here: I'm hiding from my brain, right here in my life! It will never find me here. I'm hiding in the curtains, in the sink, in the counter, in Fred, in soap. It can't get me when I'm out here. And what's out there can't get me when I'm in here. I feel like I've been whisked to the Canadian Rockies, to a safe retreat, right in front of me. And then I don't have to work so hard to fight my worries, and I don't have to browbeat myself about them. I'm on vacation, on retreat, hiding away and I brought everything with me, and nothing that I don't need.

That might not make sense, but if you're my friend you'll just let it go.

Write me.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

what you are unaware of is this

The sky is a low ceiling with your death directly on the other side of it. Anyone not present is a fairy tale until you see them with your own eyes. When someone leaves the room, they may as well be stepping off the edge of a skyscraper. The play you are watching is the only play ever to have been performed. These are the first actors in the world. You are a wine glass made of air and you could shatter at any minute. Everything apparently solid is a fakeout, a dream, a mass of congealed sound waves. Every word floats between invisible quotation marks, pointing to a terrible underlying purity of experience. Could anything be more frightening? If your solar plexus doesn't recoil at the thought of such purity, you are thinking of something else. Where you are going, language isn't following. Language clings to everything with the desperation of that knowledge. You will be hit by a bus, just as everyone said could happen. Everyone will be hit by a bus. You're going. You're going. While your blood is leaving you all your possibilities will rush away from you, the one more kiss, embrace, look, not one, your rightful thousand, your rightful million. Your favorite books are leaving you. The kind of light you like that comes in from the side: the light in the morning, the light in the late afternoon, the light from a lamp. Goodbye to gentle sideways light. Blood red, cobalt and canary line up to administer their last kiss but you have no time to receive these kisses and your lingering hunger for color could drive you into an unfortunate rebirth. Emerald stands waving forlornly at the gate but you have already gone and will never know how it loved you. You are going towards an overhead light that comes up from the middle and travels everywhere and has no gradation, the quality of which is unfamiliar. It is a terrible light and you are required to love it. It is reputed to be wonderful but it is peeling away everything you know, even your old stuffed horse, even your mother, especially your lover and so you hate it. You will be thrown towards this light again and again until you receive its message. There has been talk of love but you are conscious only of brutality. The part that is conscious of brutality is being killed by the light. Something will remain and you will receive more instructions at that point. Some of this is true. Some of this is not true. Something, ultimately, is the truth. You must practice disappearing to know which part is true and to receive vital further instructions. If you rely on instinct, your instinct will fail you. Everyone here is wearing fifty layers of clothing over a fat suit, making it so that no one can perceive anything correctly. No one wants to. This is why everyone says, "You never know." But the clothing is coming off and the suit is coming off and your bones are coming off and you do know.

Monday, September 28, 2009

when ganesha met sally

I love Hinduism. It's in my top two world religions. Among other reasons, it’s the only religion that’s ever marched right up into my face and said hello. (Your move, Buddhism.)

Once I heard it speak, or someone I can only imagine was connected with it, somehow. I was sitting on my bed one evening reading Autobiography of a Yogi, and I was reading some bit about The Divine Mother, and all of a sudden I heard....well, it wasn’t inside my head, but it also wasn’t outside my head. It sounded as though it were coming down through a tube about fifteen feet over my head, but the tube was, in fact, in my head. Whatever. It was a beautiful female voice, and the voice said, mysteriously and simply, and as clear as a bell, “I live forever.” And this wasn’t my voice, my thinking voice. This was a completely separate voice from my own, sugar-sweet. And that’s all it said. “I live forever.” I’ve never heard a voice before that and I’ve never heard one since.

But that took place a couple of months after the story I’m going to tell you now, which is when Hinduism introduced itself to me.

So Hinduism has a doorman, and his name is Ganesha. Surely you’ve seen him. He’s an elephant-headed god with a bulky man’s body. Hinduism has a long list of marvelous gods and goddesses. But Hindu protocol says you’re not heading to those VIP tables until you have a conversation with and pay your respects to Ganesha.

This is the story of how my big, floppy-eared Godfather-in-the-Sky and I met.

In a time I like to call The Sensitive Summer of 1999, I was a raw nerve. There's no time here to tell you why and there's no need. But maybe I’d taken some Ecstasy a couple of months earlier. And maybe things went a little haywire after that. It’s not important. Just know that I was like an antenna made out of a mimosa plant, hyper-alert and wobbly.

One day towards the beginning of this summer, I went on the spur of the moment to a yoga class. I was not a yoga go-er, but I needed the medicine that day, so I prescribed myself a Level One class. I'd say Level One was approximately one level too difficult for me. I was struggling, gasping, tipping over. Maxed out.

Eventually, it came time for the meditation. The nice part. Relief! We were guided through. We sat with straight spines. We were told to breathe through our noses. And that’s what I did, breathing in and out.

And then things started getting peculiar. On every exhalation, it felt like my nose was lengthening and dropping, like a trunk! Not my nose itself, but...let’s call it my spirit nose. (I know.) Anyway, yes. Every exhalation, longer and longer, this thing, this essence, this wispy elemental protuberance from the middle of my face. Back in 1999, we didn't have these expressions like OMG or WTF, but if we would have....


All right. Never mind. Continue. I have a trunk now. Whatever. That's cool. Yoga is wa-a-ack but there you go. Mine is not to wonder why. Now we're told to envision ourselves looking in a mirror. Very good. Hello, mirror. There I am. Nothing special going on there. And now we're told to envision ourselves looking in not a regular mirror, but an internal mirror. We are looking inward to ourselves, in an internal mirror. I wonder what I look like in an internal mirror, how that’s different from an internal external mirror. Let’s see.

I look like a charred elephant head. My head is an elephant head, blackened to a crisp.

Let me just shut and rub my internal eyes really hard and try that again. I look like a what?

Charred elephant head.

Okay, Eight Limbs, thank you for the incredibly difficult and super-freaky class! I will be on my way now.

Later that night, at my boyfriend's apartment, I had something close to a panic attack as I was trying to fall asleep. I was agitated, and everything felt ominous and rubbery, but I sweated through the sensation and eventually sleep took over.

And then I’m woken up. Speaking of sensations, I’m woken up. I feel for all the world like I am being pierced all over, like I'm being sewn. Not my body, more like the air around my body, but it's me. I can feel it. We can call it my aura if we want. I don't know. It was my airspace, palpable. Prick, prick, prick. I don't open my eyes because I don't want to see what might be doing this. I am supremely uninterested, if by uninterested I mean scared shitless. This pricking, sewing sensation just goes on and on and doesn't stop.

Then, behind my closed eyes, I see this clear pattern form. It's a pattern of green and white floral geometric arrows. Like a futuristic sort of feminine wallpaper. Arrows, with their stems wrapped in these soft flowering lines. Green background, white lines delineating these arrow and flower shapes.

Aha. Okay. And all the while, the piercing continues.

Now the next stop on the Lunatic Express is this sensation: do you know how normally you feel that your consciousness is in your head? Behind your eyes, say? That's command central, right? Go ahead, take a second and place yourself. You sort of think that you are in your head, yes? Well, my me dropped. My consciousness, my self, my command central dropped a foot or so down the hollow tree trunk of myself, right into the neighborhood of my heart. If I opened my eyes, I would have fully expected to be looking right out of the middle of my torso. I was there. I could even hear my heart beating right next to me, freshly loud. Right on top of me.

And all the while, the piercing.

I was terrified. I thought maybe these were aliens. Truly. Like extra-terrestrials were performing some kind of surgery on me, or some kind of examination. It just didn’t stop and I was petrified.

And then suddenly I remembered yoga class, and the elephant head. It crept into my consciousness that the Hindus...don't they have an elephant-headed God? Right, Ganesha. Right. I'm going to think about Ganesha. Maybe that will help. Maybe he'll help me. And the minute, the minute I do that, the fear disappears and the most delicious feeling in the world comes over me. I feel like I’m suddenly in a warm shower – not of water, just of warmth, flowing down over my head as I lie there, and I feel so sweet and peaceful, even though the piercing has never stopped. And then! Then! Instead of the trunk I had in yoga class, I suddenly feel like I have giant, floppy elephant ears! Waving back and forth next to my head! This is surprising and super-amusing and very comforting, and I find myself getting drowsy again and I drift back to sleep, while all of it - the piercing, the sense of relocation, the floral arrows, the warm shower, the flapping ear feeling - all of it continues.

You can imagine that the next morning I am awfully very goddamn curious about Ganesha. So I go to a little spiritual bookshop and seek out a book. There must be something. Hindu shelf, Ganesha, Ganesha. I'm expecting that I might find a slim little tome. OH. What have we here? Who's THIS fatty? I’ve found an 800-page number called Loving Ganesha: Hinduism’s Endearing Elephant-Faced God, by Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami. An illustrated resource on Dharma’s Benevolent Deity, Remover of Obstacles, Patron of Art and Science, honored as first among the Celestials. This will do!

I go home and start devouring this giant, weird, delightful book, which is like the most fun bible of Ganesha you can imagine, with all kinds of stories and lore and drawings and poems and imagined letters from Ganesha. I read about the Milk Miracle, which happened on September 21st, 1995, wherein statues of Ganesha all over the world accepted and drank milk for 24 hours. This is a real thing. They reported it in the New York Times. Devotees would hold up spoonfuls of milk to these statues, and the milk would disappear. It happened in India, in Canada, in Nepal, in Kenya. It happened in L.A. It happened in Queens. The crowds went wild. Milk disappeared by the gallon, through straws, out of trays. Sometimes the Ganeshas would refuse the milk from devout believers and gobble the milk offered by nonbelievers. Anyway. Well into the book is a big section that has a list with drawings of all the symbols associated with Ganesha. Heaps of them.

Now, it took me a while to get to this part. It took me a few days. And then I saw this.

Pushpashara, Flower Arrow: Loving Ganesha shoots flower-covered arrows from His sugar cane bow in guidance to devotees, so they will not wander too far from dharma's path of true fulfillment.

What do I make of all of this? I don’t know, and I think it’s foolish to try and make anything. There’s nothing flimsier in this world than a conclusion. But somebody else said it well, and I’ll finish by handing him the mic, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” And to that I say “Word, Bard.”

Thursday, July 09, 2009

now i can call him fred: the birth story

Sixteen, going on seventeen days old. Fred Harrison David Rowley. Here he is on Day One:

Stats at birth:

Entrance into world on Monday, 6/22/09, 3:48 p.m.
20 inches long.
8 lbs 4 ounces...wide.
Apgar* scores of 8 and 9

*Score measuring general robustness of baby, administered once and then again in disbelief. Is he really that awesomely robust?? Yes, and then some.

Story time.

I awake Sunday night/Monday morning at around 3:30 from my tiny, two-hour sleep. Braxton Hicks contractions* are afoot, as they have been for a good while towards the end of this pregnancy, but these ones have a spark about them, a feeling of show time. I get up and noodle around on the internet. I get a message from an old friend I hadn't been in contact with for fifteen years, and I'm so delighted by this that the Braxton Hicks contractions change out of their rehearsal clothes and put on their real costumes and also cross off the "Braxton Hicks" from their dressing room doors. I call the doctor around 4:30 and describe what's going on, and she says we ought to head on over to the hospital.

*These are contractions that happen throughout a good portion of a pregnancy, sort of like practice contractions. On the American Idol finale during the year Finn was born, Taylor Hicks and Toni Braxton performed a duet. I couldn't believe it and I'm still mad that they didn't form a band called "The Braxton Hicks Contraction".

Team Fred's Birth consists of myself, Dave, my dear friend Elizabeth and whoever happens to be on call at Swedish that day. (Hey, wait. Last you knew about it, you blog readers, I was going to have a c-section. Well, some things happened and I changed my mind and a nice lady took out my cerclage stitch and the c-section was cancelled.) I was hoping beyond hope that the aforementioned nice lady would be on call that day, and she WAS. Dr. Susan Harvey. Cool Hand Luke! The first good news of so many good newses of the day.

Elizabeth comes to get us, we go to triage, iv/blood draw, blah blah, and then we are shipped off to our room, where we meet our second good news of the day: our nurse, Ms. Tracy Sharp. Oh, Tracy. Oh, sister. She's bossy and pushy and all business but in the best way, a kind way. She ascertains that we're trying for a vaginal birth, now, as opposed to the repeat c-section. Nurse Tracy lets us know that if a baby CAN be born outta there, SHE can MAKE IT be born outta there. If SHE can NOT make it be born outta there, IT can NOT be born outta there. Nurse Tracy apparently makes it a point of pride with herself that this baby will leave through the traditional exit, but she tells me that I will have to be putty in her hands all day long. She gets to flip me around and move me here and there and I have to do whatever she says. As I do not have the conviction that I can make a baby do anything in particular at all in regards to its being born, I gladly throw myself at her mercy. All day long, I am all "HOW HIGH?!" before she can even get the "Jump" out.

One of my annoying personal qualities is a sort of Zelig* phenomenon wherein I inadvertently mirror the energy of any person I am in contact with for more than five minutes. (I eventually had to stop seeing this one particular hairstylist because she was this loud, obnoxious, Texan party girl and I couldn't stand myself whenever I had an appointment with her. I was all, HA HA, OH MY GOD, I KNOW! Old ladies who live in the apartment beneath you and are just trying to sleep while you have loud parties are total bitches who deserve to have cruel practical jokes played on them for months on end! TOTALLY! Also, I think I will not schedule my next haircut just now, thanks. I will slink away with my cute hair and never return.) Also, I can be a bit of an ass-kisser. These are not positive traits but it appears that I was born with them just for this very day! Just like Owen Meany and his crazy voice, my Zeliggy ass-kissing would bloom into great purposefulness on one pivotal day, this day of Fred's birth. I would have Nurse Tracy on my side. I would zigzag back and forth between ass-kissing and mirroring all day long. Doulas? I agree! They're totally stupid! I know! We hired one, but we fired her because we suddenly realized that they're totally stupid and against everything good! You feel that way, too? I feel that way, too! We want to bring our placenta home, though. I mean, no, we don't! Of COURSE you can move my leg that way. Also, you're really pretty. And a saint!

*Great Woody Allen movie. His character, Zelig, morphs *but exactly* into whomever he's with. If he's talking to a psychiatrist, he becomes a psychiatrist. If he's talking to an old Chinese man, he physically turns into an old Chinese man. If you haven't seen this movie, rent it now and then come back and read the rest of this post later.

Dr. Harvey broke my water around 8 in the morning, and then we didn't see her until later in the day. (I have changed tense. I might do it again. It's late.) For a while, Dave and I walked the halls of the childbirth wing with our iv tree and me very large in my hospital gown and little hospital socks, waiting for labor to intensify, feeling like a a couple about to give birth in a Hollywood movie. Oh, honey. A baby! Stroll, stroll. Pause. Ouch. Resume stroll. Oh, honey. A baby! Stroll, stroll. Switch direction.

Nurse Tracy said that I was progressing really well, and that I could have an epidural any time I wanted, but the longer I could hold out, the better the chances to avoid a c-section. I couldn't believe that I had arrived at the point where I could have an epidural already! Glorious! So do-able, so far! We strolled some more, and then the contractions got more powerful, and Tracy steered me to a rocking chair, which...good. Very good. Elizabeth had gone to seek coffee and breakfast, and when she returned I was heading into the most serious contractions I would have to feel all day.

I put myself down a little, earlier in the post, talking about my Zeligness and asskissomania. Here's where I give myself a dose of the opposite. I am incredibly, incredibly good in difficult, hospitally situations. I do say so myself. Elizabeth said I was like a Jedi during contractions...and I WAS. I WAS like a Jedi. The pain would kick in and I would get very quiet and peaceful and root myself to some solid place within. All stillness, all acceptance. Very strong-feeling. Eventually, the pain was enough that I didn't want any more like it, and I gave the word for the epidural. The anesthesiologist arrived in her hat with cupcakes all over it, and administered the epidural. Did I flinch? I did not. Did I stay perfectly still, even during contractions? You know that I did. When a person came into the room to ask me a question, did I hold a calm finger up during her question and say, "Just a moment. I'm going to have a contraction right now, " and assume my silent, meditative contraction pose, and then did I peacefully open my eyes and address her question? Friend, I did. Nurse Tracy talked me up to the nurse who filled in for her during lunch. "She is awesome," said difficult-to-impress Tracy to lunchtime Deirdre, "She NEVER COMPLAINS." She bade Deirdre treat me right, and Deirdre did.

After the epidural, I had to lie in a funny position for a good while in order that Fred might change positions. He was facing the wrong way, sunny-side-up, and Tracy knew the trick to convince him to move. I lay on my side with the uppermost leg curled up toward my chest, shaking and shaking from the epidural, and Fred worked away for a couple of hours to reorient himself. (Small hero. Helpful wonderbubble.) I had a fever. There was a cool washcloth. I knew when contractions were happening, but they didn't bother me. I slept a little. Everything progressed beautifully. Fred turned and descended, I dilated and thinned, all at a steady clip. At 2:00 pm, Fred and I arrived at our places. I was at 10 centimeters, he was down at the entrance to the exit. We were ready to push.

Clever Tracy. Before we began pushing, she turned off my epidural without telling me. She wanted me to be able to feel what was going on in order to be able to push effectively, but she also wanted me to stay relaxed and avoid internal freakouts about pain levels. So she just quietly turned things off. I love you, Tracy.

Dave was stationed at my left knee, Elizabeth at my right. The pushing began.

All right. So. Pushing. A baby. Out. Is not my idea. Of. A good time. First of all, it feels totally futile. No, first of all, what it feels like is doing situps wherein you're also not allowed to breathe and you're also making some kind of heroic physical effort at something you don't quite comprehend. You're directed to push down with this part here but also push the baby up towards the light, and whatever you're doing is great, really great, but you should also do it, like, five times harder, whatever the fuck it is you're doing, which you're not quite sure but it's really fucking hard already. Second of all, it feels futile. It doesn't feel like anyone is getting anywhere! And your loved ones (which now include your nurse) are telling you, "You're doing so great! He's moving!" And you're thinking, "Why are they saying that? Why are they lying to me?" And then they're like, "Ok, push! Push!" And you're thinking, "No shit?! I should push? Like I was going to do something else during this contraction? 'Hey, you guys, with this one I'm just going to do a great visualization! And with the next one, will you hand me that magazine?' Of course I'm going to fucking push, whatever that means, for whatever that's worth, which is NOTHING, not that you're ever going to level with me about that!" And then they're like, "Push harder! Harder, now!" And you're like, "THAT IS EASY FOR YOU TO SAY, MOTHERFUCKER. ALSO, HOW ARE YOU GAUGING HOW HARD I AM PUSHING?? DO I NOT APPEAR TO BE OPERATING AT MAXIMUM??!" And then Tracy says "Go!" which means "Take a deep breath and hold it and begin pushing" so you take a breath and then someone else says "Breathe!" and you breathe again but realize you already did that and you're supposed to be holding your breath and so you do this stutter breath and you have to figure out how to kick off into this round of pushing on this weird stutter breath, and you plan to speak up when your next little rest period comes up between contractions. Between contractions, all you want to do is breathe deeply and go limp. You have to give some notes, though, to your birth team, because you're all figuring out how to do this. You say, "Don't say 'breathe' after Tracey says 'go' because then I do a double breath," and your team is incredibly sweet and understanding and receives this note like a champ. Next rest period, you say, "Don't say 'push' so much." Next rest period, you say, "When you tell me not to arch my back but then tell me to push Fred UP, I get confused," and they say, "Cool, great, we don't do that any more." During the next rest period, they say, "His head is showing, do you want to feel it?" And you do, halfheartedly, and there it is, but whatever, you just want to breathe cool air and lie there like a dead fish. And during another rest period, they say, "Do you want me to get a mirror so you can see?" and the question seems so irrelevant and far-fetched, like, "Hey, there's this really neat documentary about spiders on right now, do you want to watch it?" No, I don't want to watch a documentary right now. I'm trying to have a baby. I don't even want to watch a documentary specifically about me, Tina Rowley, having a baby named Fred. I just want to have that baby. I have no time for these sideshows.

At one excellent, beautiful point, however, Tracy announces, "He's going to fit." He's going to fit. This is not going to be a c-section. This is the moment when we know it. I am going to have this baby the way nature intended. Lift, rush, lightness, amazement, joy. The c-section with Finn was terribly difficult, our meeting was delayed by a few hours and dimmed by medicated sleepiness, the recovery was slow and painful, and as a result my bonding with Finn was adversely affected for a while, and a fierce depression ensued. I felt useless, wanted to fall off the face of the earth. So, that, THAT, was not going to happen this time. Whatever did happen would not be that. It would be better, for sure, maybe good, maybe great. He's going to fit! (We later found out at that his head is in the 25th percentile, circumference-wise. My beloved small-head. My considerate bunny rabbit.)

At the most excellent point of all, Fred rounded the toughest corner of the exit and made his way to the light. His small, thoughtful head worked its way out. They call that bit "the ring of fire". Fire, no. Ring of OW, FUCKERS, yes. Fire is an exaggeration, though. But his head came out. Then Dr. Harvey was there and she pulled his body out. And then he was up where I could see him, in the light. A baby. Mine. Fred. Visible. Lit from within, sure, but definitely lit from without. Jaw drops. Tears of joy. 3:48 p.m. And then he was wiped off and wrapped in a blanket and then he was on my chest, warm and squirming, with his soft face and soft limbs and soft head, warm like a bread roll. (Bun in the oven is the perfect description of the thing. Bun out of oven.) Heat, weight, movement, sound, happiness. Can't convey.

Other things happened, fine things, good things, but nothing else matters. Fred is born. Stop typing now. The story is told. Maybe a few more details later, maybe not. Shh. Fred is here.

Friday, May 08, 2009


I have to stop calling him Fred. This is not because we're not going to name him Fred, or something like that. He, if he stays the he that we believe he is, will be named Fred sans fail. No, I have to stop calling him Fred because it's making a problem right now.

It's making me mechanical.

I found this out by not calling him Fred for once. I found this out a few minutes ago lying on my couch, drinking some cold water. Cold things and sweet things (and also hot things and...anything I ingest at all) make this child move around. Evening does it, too, makes him move. The operative word in this paragraph, though, is "child".

There's a human child in there. It's not as obvious as you might think. It's particularly easy to forget, weirdly, if you are the person carrying the child. This whole thing can just seem like a large, semi-permanent medical condition wherein your midsection expands and a little constellation of other symptoms gather around it, and this midsection does some occasional flips and things. And even though you know it's a baby, your baby, it just gets to be background noise. Also, it's just par for the course to fall metaphorically asleep and sleep through your life and organize yourself in such a way that you aren't rousable, aren't disturbable. Par for my course, at least. You may be a wide-awake, blinking, vividly present monk type who eats a wild strawberry and enjoys it with every cell while a tiger chases you over a cliff to your death and you feel that, too. My waking moments are few and far between, I'm afraid, as much as I love them.

But I at least had one this evening, and it happened when I was able to strip away or at least manage in time not to add unnecessary language to the moment when the child I'm carrying moved in response to the cold water. Bang. Awake. Me. I was.

I comprehended that there was a human child in there. Not "my" child, because that puts a whole story on to the situation, a story that I already know and makes me fall asleep. No, a child. A human child. Not mine. Just in me. A child, shifting around, trying for a better position or reacting involuntarily to the cold. I was more moved by "a" child than "my" child, because "a" child is all children, everywhere. Helpless. This was a flash of something primal. Throw a child upon the earth without its parents or someone to care for it and it will die. A child in nature. Small limbs, confusion, need.

This activated something in me so much more maternal than the phrase "my child" or even more instinct-killingly, the name "Fred" does. Naming the child is necessary, but it's also distancing. You start relating to some imaginary idea of who this child is. It's the difference between an empty picture frame and a picture frame with a random photograph of an attractive model that you haven't taken out yet. Calling this baby "Fred" before we know him feels like sticking the frame up with the photograph of the model in it and imagining that this model is our loved one.

I'm getting very large, and it's physically painful in ways that are new to me. A few blood cells have burst inside the skin on my stomach, leaving some tender red dots here and there. These red dots exist, and I struggle when I walk sometimes, because of a child who is curled up in my middle. A person. Another person. The other person I keep forgetting about. A person is dangling off of the front of me, encased in my skin.

I know that you know that. But it's news to me.

I'll tell you something nice that's come of this realization. I've been talking about this pregnancy a lot, naturally. I get self-conscious about that, and also self-conscious about simply being a pregnant woman - particularly a pregnant woman with another child, already. I'm thrown so centrally into my identity as a mother. Or worse, or more tritely, a mom. A mom! Hi, I'm a mom. Just a mom! Oh, you know us moms. Recommended by Dr. Mom. It's easy to feel that being pregnant and discussing it, or being a mother and discussing it, or just being either of those things at all is somehow inherently ridiculous or trite. I keep looking at myself through other people's imaginary eyes and getting bored or irritated with my very existence.

But my small moment of awakeness and accompanying burst of fierce maternal instinct to care for this human child within me cured me, at least for a bit. Mothers are ubiquitous, yes. "Moms." It's not unique. It's not "special". It is, however, extremely real and can cut all of the civilization out of you in a heartbeat. You are dropped right into the middle of the wilderness, an internal wilderness, and just like the child in utero reacting to the cold water, you respond to the child's presence involuntarily. You reach for it.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

i totally painted this

In MS Paint. Dear god, I am a genius.

Two items*:

1. Now that I am far bigger than a house, Dave & Finn & I are moving in with Fred in my womb. We need the space.
2. Have I ever, will I ever, is it possible for me to ever have a shower that is just a shower and not an imaginary point-counterpoint face-off with whatever phantom opponent I'm arguing with in my head at the moment I turn the water on? Maybe when I was nine and taking my first showers and my mind was consumed with bearing up under the water pressure, probably not, it would take an act of will greater than I will ever remember or care to give it.
3. Iceburg wedge salad with Russian dressing; strawberry and watermelon agua fresca, all limey and sugary.
4. Six and a half weeks to Fred's airlift into the world. Ach mein Gott. Shawshank Redemption!
5. This is how I like to imagine Finn and Fred in the future:

*I know. But I think it's funnier to say "two" and have five. But it's only funny if I know that you know that I know it. Otherwise it's just gently tragic.

Buona notte,

Monday, May 04, 2009

good intentions snap like yesterday's breadstick

This is a poem of Dave's that was published in the journal "Juked" a while ago. I love it. Also, the title expresses my current feelings about participating in NaBloPoMo. Not quitting. Just saying. Intentions, good ones, they, you know, snap. Not that they are snapping. Just that they do. It's still today's breadstick. But it feels like it's getting late. Yes, I realize that we're only on Day 4. Don't they say something about the first four days being the hardest? Whatever.

To Dave's poem.


Good Intentions Snap Like Yesterday's Breadstick

Eight sets of dinner plates form a stupa
rising from the sink. These seven legs
of ham were harvested from a couple of pigs.
Like art hung from fridge magnets: six ribbons of demerit.

Five quads eye each other with suspicion over dinner.

A four course banquet to commemorate the kitchen fire
goes wrong as the chef is reduced to cinders. Three
marbled steaks and a two fingered Heimlich will satiate
Nina's appetite. One pot of boiling water clarifies things
for the lobster.


Here's the link to the poem as published.
Good Intentions Snap like Yesterday's Breadstick

Tomorrow I will say something.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

a thing that seems cruel and an uplifting thing

Do you know this book? I read it many, many years ago and I wish I had a copy in my hand right now. Sei Shonagon was a member of the court of Empress Sadako back in the 10th century, and she wrote this beautiful mish-mash book of lists and observations. Here she is describing how it came about:

One day Lord Korechika, the Minister of the Centre, brought the Empress a bundle of notebooks. "What shall we do with them?" Her Majesty asked me. "The Emperor has already made arrangements for copying the Records of the Historian".

"Let me make them into a pillow," I said.

"Very well," said Her Majesty. "You may have them."

I now had a vast quantity of paper at my disposal, and I set about filling the notebooks with odd facts, stories from the past, and all sorts of other things, often including the most trivial material....

I was sure that when people saw my book they would say, "It's even worse that I expected. Now one can tell what she is really like."


(Oh, ancient proto-blogger, I know how you feel.)

The book is full of the oddest, most charming lists. Pleasing things, ugly things...I found this one on the web.


Words That Look Commonplace but That Become Impressive When Written in Chinese Characters:

A dew-plant
A prickly water-lily
A walnut
A Doctor of Literature
A Provisional Senior Steward in the Office of the Emperor's Household
Red myrtle
Knotweed is a particularly striking example, since it is written with the characters for "tiger's stick." From the look on a tiger's face one would imagine that he could do without a stick.


What a long lead up to the tiny substance of my post. It's not going to be a list. Or it will be a list of consisting of one item, which might disqualify it. Here's my own pillow book entry for today.

A Thing That Seems Cruel:

The knowledge that a fond memory that you have of yourself and another person might be remembered indifferently or worse by the other person in the memory, making it difficult to treasure the memory uninhibitedly.

Yes, well. Boo. I'm not going to leave that there. I'm going to add a new item. A very potent emotional carbon offset.

An Uplifting Thing:

When you are positive that your very fondest, most sublime memory of yourself and another person is viewed in the same exact glowing light in the other person's memory, and you can look over and confirm this out loud because you have married the other person in the memory.

This doesn't address the first problem, but that's like complaining that there are pebbles sticking out in the Garden of Eden* that a person could trip over.

I'm declaring "Pillow Book" as my theme for May.

*A different Garden of Eden, where you can eat the apples.

Friday, May 01, 2009

strawberry fields forever

Welcome to May, the last month in which Fred Rowley will not see the light of day, the perfect month to attempt NaBloPoMo* and perform CPR on my writing practice, the month with the theme "sweetness". Well, look. The official NaBloPoMo theme is "sweet" but I didn't feel like saying the theme "sweet" because I didn't like the music of that, and also I would prefer a noun where the theme lives. The theme "rebellion"! And also the theme "nitpicker".

Strawberries are sweet. Strawberries are also dangerously high in caffeine, apparently. Ask Fred, who released this statement earlier, "What the FUCK, MOM? Holy shit, what - what- what's happening, I'm - MOM YOU ATE SOMETHING - Holy Christ, I'm jittery, I just need to move, I need to....OHHH MAN...shake it out! Shake it OFF. LEG it. Leg it AROUND. HAND. Fuckin'...twist it. Jesus. FLIP IT. Hey, fuckin' another one. Eat another of it. I can work this. Unh. Knock knock. My name is Lyrics Born AKA Macka Dang Dang. Live from the 0-1-5 doing my Thang Thang. So much soul so much MACHISMO so much control oh so much CHARISMA and that's my trademark baby CALM AND CONFIDENT...."

The statement goes on from there. Thank you, Fred. Keep on keepin' on.

And then we go backwards to the very first sweet, the first notable sweet on record. 1975. (My record. I may be narcissistic but not to the point that I feel that the shit throughout history was savory until I was there to taste otherwise.) Washington D.C. Age six. Indian restaurant. Meal is eaten. Dessert is served! It looks like a big pretzel made of orange jelly. Odd, but it's dessert, so I just know that it will suffice. Bite. Static. Consternation. Sweet. Sweeeet. Sweetness. STATIC. Gather forces. THINK, Tina. Go to what you know. Sweetness is good. Right? RIGHT? Bite again! Oh, shit. My assumptions. Scrambling. These bites are sweet. I live for bites of sweet things. But these bites are...DON'T EVEN THINK IT. Bite again. Oh, damn. I'm too young for this. I'm too young for this Zen bullshit. I'm too young for this Siddhartha Middle Way jive. Fuck me. I can't fight the truth. My dessert is too sweet. I'll tell you what's not sweet, though. The salty tears of confusion, these ones on my CHEEK, that's right. That'll cut the sweetness. Thanks for bringing me here, Mom and Dad. This has been wonderful.

Fred, the strawberries are only the beginning. Wait until you meet your orange pretzel. Let me give you a head start. The whole place is like that. This whole scene. Yes, we have brought you here. I'm sorry. And you're welcome. And I mean that.

Look, I won't be writing about sweetness all month. Far from. So cloying. No no. I will theme it as a last resort. But I will be here all month. Tip your waitress.

Edited to add: Anonymous commenter, thank you, and also you have saved me! I hated the title of this post with a passion. You have re-titled it. You are going on payroll.

*National Blog Posting Month, which it is every month, but this month so am I.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

self portrait and tiny commentary

I just haven't wanted to write. I haven't been longing to write and unable to find the words. I just didn't want to. Still don't, really. I've heard enough out of me. I want to be nice and mute. All I am is pregnant, and all I've done is talk about it, and everything is fine and there is little left to say. ( Also, I've forgotten how to come on here and noodle around genially. All this THE BABY'S DEAD! NO IT'S NOT! YES IT IS! IT WILL BE! NO IT WON'T! business has temporarily squashed that knack.) So, the will to muteness is strong. Let's not call it muteness, even. Let's call it silence. Then there's no problem.

So I'm drawing and drawing. Since going on bed rest, and since being sprung therefrom, I've just curled up with some nice markers and made stacks of drawings*. That way I can say things without talking and I don't even have to know what I'm saying. I will maybe ask Dave to scan some for me and then you can see that I haven't been just dead for a month.

*This self-portrait is not a hand-drawn marker one. This, and all my self-portraits on the blog, are MS Paint. So's you don't imagine I'm that unhandy with a marker. I'd just go ahead and resort to Comic Sans for this whole enclave if that were the story. Hello, little lady! It's wonderful to try hard things.

Facts: Fred is doing excellently well. He's rearranging the furniture all the time. The furniture = all my organs. I am gaining strength. A date has been set for the repeat c-section I am going to have! June 12th is Fred's presumptive birthday. Banana bread is being baked and eaten a lot. Spring proves it again and again; it's my favorite. Massive heroic little green sprouting everywhere is the feel-good movie of the year. Also, OH MY BACK.

That is all. I promise to claw my way back to regular soon as I want to.

P.S. This picture makes it look like I have dreadlocks. I do not have dreadlocks. Another thing I don't have is the patience to fix that picture and make my hair look as triumphantly smooth and shiny as it REALLY REALLY IS.

P.P.S. El Finn, underwhelmed by purple airplane:

P.P.P.S. Handsome husband in spring snow:

Friday, March 13, 2009

mirage and oasis

I don't know what I want to tell you first. The sensible, current, chronological thing to do is to tell you that I've been released from bed rest. And I think I'm supposed to be very celebratory about it, and I am, I am, but my fingers don't approve of my starting on this high note. There's just one more low note I have to relate. I know. Repetitive. But then we can get on to the business of freedom and being sprung and gratitude. I promise that we will really get there and it will get very happy. Just bear with me a moment again.

Two weeks ago, we had what I'm hoping is one last crisis with young Fred. It appeared that I was leaking amniotic fluid, and that the fluid wasn't right. I called the nurse and told her what was happening and she said, "How fast can you get to Swedish?" We got there very fast.

For context, in case you're not a pregnancy and childbirth person, if you're leaking fluid and you're still not too far along and the fluid is green, that's bad. That's very bad. That's bad enough that when you're driving to the hospital with your son wiggling around in your womb, you're certain (repetitive!) that he's going to have to come out. And at this point, if he lives, his chance of survival would hover around 10%. But if your son who's already born and has been here for nearly three years is riding in the car with you to the hospital, you have to play it cool. You can't cry and scream and freak out. You have to be like, "Say, if you like cars, you're going to like this freeway. Hey, did you see that blue truck? Big one! Look, look, there's Mount Rainier. Can you see that mountain?" And you have to keep it up otherwise you're going to go where your hands are, which is on your stomach, patting it, stroking it, silently talking to it, transmitting messages to its contents. Your mouth and face have to do something separate, smiling and talking, "Do you know what's good about when Mom goes to the hospital? You get a present when I come out! The hospital's cool because if you have a problem, they're good at fixing it, so it's cool that we're going here today. What kind of present do you think you might want? A lot of animals, huh?" And your heart, of course, is split in two. One half for Finn, pumping out brightness, and one half for Fred, doing something that I don't even know if I dare look at to try and describe it. I don't even know if I could describe it if I looked. I'm looking and I don't even know how to see it to attach language to it. It's beyond my powers. I can give you two words, maybe. Dark and delicate. Well, part of it is very simple, naturally. That part I can give you. You're saying goodbye. The rest is preparation. Okay, I got more out than I thought I would.

So then there are a few hours in triage. And during the first stretch, I'm in what I keep calling the eerie calm. I've already wept and howled at home getting ready to go to the hospital, and I've already packed that away in the car with Finn, and now that we're at the hospital (Dave and I are there - my mom has taken Finn back home with her) I feel weirdly strong and peaceful. It's like being in the eye of a hurricane, maybe. You know what's around you and you know what the level of destruction can be, but you're calm. There are a few times in my life where I've had this strange feeling like I'm a general going into battle. An old hand. Not averse to the challenge. A readiness. Even a little vestigial feeling of pleasant defiance left over from this mystery general's youth. A touch of the "bring it on". So I had that for a while, propped up there on the gurney, waiting for things to happen.

One phenomenon during this period was the sensation of being cartoon eyeball to cartoon eyeball with Mystery. We had our strong suspicions about what would happen, but we didn't know for sure, and we didn't know when, and we didn't know why. A lot of time was spent staring at the white, textured ceiling tiles there in triage, willing some kind of divine face to poke through and explain itself. When? Why? What? Who? A face persists in not appearing. The tile is relentlessly unchanged.

The mechanics of the event, spread out over hours:

Blood draw. (White blood cell count high. Infection somewhere.) Ultrasound on top. Ultrasound inside. Speculum check. Amniocentesis. (Is the infection in the womb? If so, case closed. Baby is delivered immediately. The ultrasound technician asks the doctor to describe the pull from the amniocentesis. The kind doctor murmurs either "turban" or what I later understand to most likely be "turbid". I ask, "What's turban?" She meets my eye and says, "Cloudy." I like this doctor. I tell her she's extremely charming for the Grim Reaper, and I mean it. I like how she just looked me in the eye and gave it to me, gentle and real. Turban is not good.)

Now we have to wait several hours for the full results of the amniocentesis. First will be the glucose reading, then the gram stain, then a culture. The results will unfurl in phases.

The eerie calm is over with a vengeance. No one seems to think we're going to get a good result. The eye has moved on and now it's wind and sound and feeling, full force. One interesting part of the storm that I watch from the side is my new temporary stutter-curse. "Oh, f-f-f-f-f-f-u-u-ck."

Dave is by my side and he's not going anywhere. We're assigned a room, finally. Elizabeth and Jenn come. We all wait together. Fred is squirming around. The nurse tells us that the womb is showing irritability, and I think she means Fred, but she meant the uterus itself. But I didn't get that until later. I thought (you have to forgive me if I jump from tense to tense) that Fred was irritable because my amniotic fluid was cloudy and polluted and horrible, that he was spending his last few hours choking to death in there. I talked to him on the intercom, which is my hand cupped up against my chest. I tried to help him relax in there. And I talked with Dave and Elizabeth and Jenn about how at this point, I would want there to be a little memorial for Fred. Once a guy is moving around like that, and if he's going to come out alive, then he really landed and lived and deserves a sendoff. We talked about that a little, and I talked into my hand into my chest, and rubbed my belly. And we cried, and I stutter-swore.

At around 10pm, four or five hours after the amniocentesis, while Elizabeth and Jenn were at the store getting me magazines and vitamin C and hand lotion, my doctor came in. "Good news! The glucose test and the gram stain have both come in negative. The chance that the third test will come out positive is so small at this point that it's safe to say that the infection is not in the womb." Safe! Safe! I'll be getting antibiotics for my infection, but Fred is going to be fine! I can go home in the morning! We live to fight another day.

There's such a pleasure when you're lying out flat and you feel like you've been run over by a train, and you know you were lying on tracks and you did see a train pass over you, and then you find that you're lying on the tracks still but you're FINE! You didn't DIE! You weren't even hurt, except for the emotional trauma of lying on train tracks when a train is coming and seemingly rolling over you.

It's amazing how much suffering in this life is a mirage. Like so many terrible dreams. But you wake up shaking and tear-stained, something happened to you. But it didn't. This pregnancy is the longest, most bizarre dream. But Fred is real and I really think we're going to make it. I think we're going to go the whole way. I'm starting to feel confident. He farts around in there reassuringly all day.

While I was in triage, in the eerie calm, I kept having images of Fred as Indiana Jones being chased by the big boulder. I told Dave that if Fred lived, we might have to name him not Fred Harrison David Rowley, but Fred Indiana Harrison Rowley. I was serious, Dave. Dave knew this, and shook his head with his hands over his eyes, headache-style. He pointed out that Indiana Jones is played by Harrison Ford. Dodged a bullet there, my dear. Fred Harrison David Rowley it is. George Harrison with a fedora and a bullwhip. I'm satisfied.

And also, I'm free! Yes! This just in. I went for a follow-up appointment to check my cervix/cerclage, and apparently since it's been a month and everything looks perfect, I no longer have to be on bedrest! I still have to take it easy, but I can walk around, and I can drive a car. Such sweetness, ladies and gentlemen. I got up and made my own toast this morning, and stood there with Finn while he stood on a stepstool, which brought us to nearly the same height, and hugged him and went eyeball to eyeball with him and he asked so many questions, like "Why do you have EYES?" and "Why do you have GLASSES?" and "Why are your eyes BROWN?" and he was so happy and I was so happy and the answer, Finn, is I HAVE NO IDEA.

P.S. You are all so wonderful. I can't get over people. We've been the focus of so much love and care over the last while. I feel as rich as Roosevelt.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

if you see cerclage on the spa menu don't fall for it

It's a beautiful word. Cerclage. It sounds like something with hot towels and lavender oil and firm Swedish old lady hands, ridding your body of toxins and cellulite and dead skin cells, leaving you smooth and glowing and ready for your honeymoon in the French Riviera.


It's an unpleasant surprise your OB/GYN springs on you when you've gone in for what you think will be a routine appointment. You get an ultrasound and your doctor says, "Hmm. That's not my favorite thing to see." And then she says something about your cervix and says the word "funneling" and says "hospital" and suddenly you have an hour to go home and pack your bags and go to Swedish Hospital, which is a totally different kind of therapeutic Swede.

One thing you can do during that hour is break out into a fast-burning fight with your mom in which she might say something like, "I DON'T LIKE THE WAY YOU'RE TALKING TO ME" and then you can say things like "I REALLY DON'T GIVE A SHIT" and "GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY FACE RIGHT NOW" because this is a good way to relax when you're under pressure. It's even better when your small son watches this exchange and looks at you like you've started projectile vomiting werewolves, because then he'll really be in the mood to give you a hug when you leave and won't hide from you as though you were directly coming after him with a shiv. So that's one option.

Another option is for me to stop writing in the second person because I can't keep this up the whole way. I never meant for it to get this far.

Let's jump to me in the hospital. First, a short list of things I don't like:

blood draws

Then, a thing someone might say. Like, an exclamation of sorts:

Too bad!

Let's be balanced, though. A short list of things I like:

adjustable beds
room service
nice ladies

And another short exclamation:


So, that happened. I went in last Thursday, had my blood drawn and hep lock put in for my IV, got amniocentesis to make sure I didn't have an infection, was tended to sweetly by Dave and my friends Elizabeth and George, and on Friday morning had a little surgery to get a cerclage placed. On Friday night I watched "Rain Man" in my hospital bed, which the Percocet rendered quite enjoyable. On Saturday I had another ultrasound, and later had some untoward bleeding followed by the most painful goddamn motherfucking cocksucking exam in history to check the cerclage, made even more undignified by its being conducted on an upside-down bedpan. Why my nice room at the fancy hospital had to turn into some kind of fucked-up makeshift M.A.S.H. unit I will never know. But there was screaming, and also crying, and gripping of hands, but then soon after that I was given the okay to go home.

Cerclage, right. I forgot to tell you what it is. It's when they sew your cervix shut to prevent pre-term labor. There's regular cerclage, which I think is called McDonald cerclage, and then there's Shirodkar cerclage, which is what I got, which involved some crazy shit I was none too happy to be awake for while they were performing it/describing it. (Then there's abdominal cerclage which is even crazier, so thumbs up on not getting that one.) I had a spinal block instead of general anaesthesia - better for Fred, but not a source of tender, soft focus Kodak memories for me. The surgeons were all "knife this", "dissect that" and I was like LA LA LA I DON'T NEED TO KNOW EVERY DAMN THING YOU'RE DOING A-LOUET-TE JE TE ALOUET-TE ALOUET-TE JE TE PLUMERAIS!

While I was in the hospital, Finn asked Dave, "Did Mommy run away?"

I'm getting tired of typing, now. I'm typing with one hand because I'm lying down funny. The cerclage went well, but the upshot is that I now have to be on strict bedrest until Fred is born. His due date isn't for four months. Ai yi yi. I meant to talk about that in this entry, the first stages of facing down that gaping maw of time spent lying down in an uncomfortable position. But that will have to wait until a little later. I'm out of juice.

More details to follow. Once I find a better writing position, I imagine there will be more details accumulating here than the world can bear. Enjoy your reprieve!

Monday, January 26, 2009

the ballad of sir freddie crisp

I'm debating the preamble. Do I put one in? Do I put a disclaimer up top, saying something like "I know this pregnancy has been full of trouble and I'm sure you're tired of hearing about it...[blah blah something about The Perils of Pauline]" or do I just jump in and begin?

The half-disclaimer did it. Allude to some embarrassment/discomfort with telling you about more pregnancy frights, but know somewhere more important that no disclaimer is truly necessary.

We thought we were going to lose Fred on Friday. Oh, I think that disclaimer was more necessary than I knew. I feel like the boy crying wolf. But every time I have cried wolf, there has been a wolf. The wolf just didn't eat anyone. Kill anyone. The wolf didn't kill anyone. But the wolf has been taking enormous bites out of me. Fred remains unharmed.

It began with a call to the doctor about some questionable sensations, and in the middle there were painful contractions up my back, as strong as when I went into labor with Finn, and there were other markers of labor. It headed towards the end with the doctor telling us to come in immediately, and us packing a bag for the hospital and heading for the doctor, certain that we were on our way for me to deliver our son twenty doomed weeks early. It ended well. No pre-term labor. Other reasons for the symptoms. Fred fine.

It's the middle, the goddamned middle, that's still eating me.

This is less a post to describe the particulars than it is an attempt to make some sense of all this trouble, although there will be some more particulars in it. There's sure to be some flailing, here.

I just want to note that this is the third time in the past year in which I have experienced the death/impending death of my child, even if it was really only once, and then very, very early. And the difference obviously matters to an infinite degree, if there can be such a thing. I know that. But it's not nothing, this facing it down all these times. It's fucking ridiculously something.

In the middle, when I was having the contractions and panicking and waiting for the ob/gyn's phone to be turned back on after lunch, I was lying on a couch and trying to listen to a relaxation CD. Word to the wise if you find yourself in this situation: don't.


"Note any feelings that are taking place in your body, and emotions that you may be having."


"Now let them drift away."

is not something you can allow to happen in this situation.

It does not go like this:

Well, I'm shaping up for a second trimester miscarriage. My son will come out and be absolutely unviable for this world, and will die quickly. So...yeah. That can just drift away. Drift away. Because, you know, I just need to relax. OH, my god. That feels so good, to just let that go. Shake it off! Oh, yes. Much better. Keep talking, soothing British man. You're taking me to Bermuda.

It goes like this:

British man drones on pleasantly. You squirm, shift, cry out a few times. You bang your fist on the couch. You want to relax because THIS, what is happening, is not what you want. You want to feel something different, and you remember from somewhere in your life that relaxation is good. But you know that to relax is to agree to shake death's hand and show him to your son's room. (Later, your smart friend points out on the phone that you can't let go of something until you have a hold of it. That is also a good point. But you're not aware of that wrinkle while you're fighting with the relaxation CD.) Finally, you throw off your headphones and proceed to eviscerate anyone who comes within three feet of you who tries to tell you something comforting, or attempts to show you a potential bright side/escape hatch. No one escapes your vicinity without their head being bitten off at least once. You assume the character of the wolf.

It goes like that.

But there were isolated moments with that relaxation CD where I struggled not for relaxation but for some kind of honest-to-God acceptance. And that's why I'm here, that's what I'm writing for, that's the jewel here that I'm trying to unearth. Not acceptance in the specific, as it relates to this incident, but a larger one.

I was lying there, and looking out the window at the midafternoon. Painfully sunny, bright blue sky. Bare branches. And these moments would come where I could see that there was nowhere to run to. Your life is the life that comes right in front of you. It can have absolutely anything in it: beautiful, loathesome, there's no quality control. And I could see in these split-seconds that there's no use, ultimately, in fighting. You fight where you can affect things, but this goes right to the old serenity prayer. The wisdom know the difference. And I thought, well, if this is my life, if the life that has my name on it is one where I lose this child, I can't very well turn away from my life. You have to befriend your life. You have to do it. You don't have anything else.

So I was simultaneously trying not to let death come in and take my son, and trying to let my life in to do what it will. And I only had the one door to work with. Keep death out, let life in. It felt so mind-bogglingly tricky.

My mind keeps flashing back to the George Harrison song, "Ballad of Sir Frankie Crisp". (I didn't quite catch the lyrics properly the first few times I heard it. Instead of "let it roll" I heard "Betty rolled." As far as I could make out, the song was all about someone named Betty.) I love this song.

Let it roll across the floor
Through the hall and out the door
To the fountain of perpetual mirth
Let it roll for all it's worth

This is what I constantly find myself trying to do now. Let it roll. Although everything is fine, I still have a situation going on with this pregnancy that requires extra monitoring. And I don't know how to hold my body. There's an impulse to some kind of magical thinking, something having to do with that door where Life or Death can pass through, wherein if I hold myself right mentally and physically, I can stave off death coming in. So I hold myself in whatever way I think that is. And while I'm doing that, I know I'm not helping anything, not affecting anything. But I don't dare stop it, or I only dare for about five seconds per minute. And I know that those five seconds are the only ones in which I am actually living. I can get from the couch, say, to the dining room table holding myself in some way which reflects the old Native American saying, "Today is a good day to die." It feels excellent, like I imagine surfing feels. It feels dizzy and expansive. Living, incredibly briefly, without fear.

Why do I do this? Why do I tell you these things, these terribly personal things? I worry that it's a kind of emotional exhibitionism, but I try to aim some kind of quality control radar at it, to see if it contains something legitimate. I keep getting a green light. I might be brokenly defaulting to green, but I keep getting green.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

this flavor!

BEEP! Beeeep beeep beep! Honk Honk! Beeeeeep beep!

I can say nothing else that hasn't been said. It's unbelievable. Hello, new world.

But also, moving along....THIS flavor:

Ladies and gentlemen....the contents of my womb. Well. Not the first one. Well, not any of them. Just their collective first name attached to one sweet-ass little growing baby with a handsome profile and long fingers who if you stretched him out would be nine inches long. THAT guy.

The impending Fred Rowley.

We went in thinking otherwise. Then the lady said something about "Here's the scrotum," and I thought, "Why is she saying the word 'scrotum' in relation to my daughter?" followed closely by, "Oh."

And then, "YEAH!"

Fred! Finn and Fred. The small comedy team of my dreams. We're delighted to keep populating the world with Rowley men. This will be the eleventh Rowley man born in a row. Ain't seen no lady Rowleys since the 1930's. You gotta marry in. That's what I did.

In parting, I know that none of you particularly enjoy thinking about my cervix, but if you ever HAPPEN to be thinking about it, which never tell me if you are, think LONG thoughts. It's too short. Which is either fine or totally shitty. Too early to tell. Anyway, this cervix business put a damper on our boy joy, god damn it. The box of paranoia that I keep putting in the mail keeps getting returned to sender. Stop it, fucker. Get out of here. Anyway, long. Length. Lengthiness.

Fred! Fred Fred Fred Fred Fred.


Fred Barack Hussein Michelle Malia Sasha Obama Rowley. I mean, we'll see.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

the thing where you aim the car down a hill and try to start it from downhill momentum

Happy New Year! That's what I'm doing here. Writing is the car and I am the driver. I might also be a person behind the car pushing it if we end up somewhere flat and the car hasn't started yet.

If the engine were running, I would have some sort of direction to take us. This is not a trip to make the car go somewhere in particular. I'm just trying to keep the car alive in case I need to drive it. A person cannot talk and think endlessly about being a writer if she doesn't actually write something ever. It begins to get sort of sad, and being a writer sounds more and more like being a professional skydiver or astronaut or ballerina.

Oh my god. I forgot that nobody likes to read about a writer not writing! Especially when that amounts to approximately a fifth of that writer's output! I'm going to try the ignition now.


I have just opened another tab. 101 Great Posting Ideas.

Oh, Jesus. The first suggestion involves "matching up my readers wants and needs using the Visitor Grid method of brainstorming." I thought this would be like, "Write about the best muffin you ever ate!" The thing is, I don't know your wants and needs, other than those of the person who perpetually arrives here after having googled "milk boobs", and I don't want to get in a grid with that person so much.

*Then they suggest I write a post exploring the pros and cons of an issue. I could, because they told me to, but I don't want to, so I won't. There, I did.

*There are a lot of suggestions involving "my niche". I could interview key people of my niche, or controversial people of my niche, or post about current events in my niche. My niche is not writing. I am the key of that. I find me controversial in that way. And the most current event is I'm writing right now! Totally controversial and key!

Tina: Tina, what's happening?
Tina: I know!
Tina: Et tu, Bruté?
Tina: You can't call this writing, though.
Tina: True! Welcome back to the niche.

(To get that accent over that 'e', I googled André Breton and then copied and pasted. Is there another way? Do French people google André Breton when they need an accent aigu?)

*I'm told I can also spruce up my post with pictures. That's a good idea. I google-imaged good writing. This is something that came up under that rubric. (I also googled "rubric" to double-check. I think I'm all right.)

Really? The Lake House. Well. I congratulate the writers on this victory. And I'm not in a position to be snarky, as these writers have written something.


There are a lot of things, of course, that I could be writing about that are actually things. In less than three weeks we're going to have the ultrasound that tells us who this baby is, if this baby cooperates. I could write about how I feel about the two possibilities, an Oona or a Fred - how I'm going to be kind of intimidated if it's Oona, because I've built the idea of a daughter up in my mind so extensively, and how sort of relaxing Fred sounds in contrast, and how shocked I'll be if it's not Oona anyway. I could write about how this particular pregnancy and the overwhelming physical and emotional toll it's taken during its first trimester has left me feeling completely disconnected from everything except my body, and how I miss other things: meditation/the associated feeling of inclusion into the big stream of life, writing/art/creativity, and very very much my friends. It's like I was throwing up not just the things I ate, but many of the things I care about most. I could write about my sudden adoration of beef. Beef and milk chocolate. I could write about Dave, and how great he's been, and how exciting it is to be in love with my husband in a way I didn't imagine that a person could be after a while. My great good fortune. And I could always write about Finn, but trying to describe that utterly bananas, gorgeous, wackadoo creature is far too humbling for someone as rusty as I am. Just imagine a naked, milky-skinned elf dancing around the kitchen holding hands with his parents and then spinning off and bumping dizzily into the cabinets. That'll have to do for now.

Well. It's a start. Rabbit rabbit.