As I sit down to write, I am combatting the urge to write a list or guidebook of sorts about how to bring life into a world that is falling apart. These “listographies” are the click bait of the hyperactive world we live in and help us to deduce complex, unknowable things into digestible bite sized pieces. Perhaps this is our way of making things feel more manageable and understandable. If we write short, declarative phrases in bold text, we can feel that we have pinned something down. We’ve made the vicious solid. We’ve stopped the sand from flowing through our finger tips.
I am not sure what will come out the other side of this post. At 35 weeks pregnant, I know my energy is low, yet my need to purge some of these thoughts is high. I think writing about my writing before I begin writing gives me some type of courage—like a preamble telling the reader about my mental state before I jump into the unknown— a warning that we both may end up more confused or concerned than when we started.
Since what follows will not be uplifting, I’ll state for the record that pregnancy is a magical and enchanting time. There is exhaustion, heartburn, insomnia and all those other unpleasantries, but there also new life brewing inside of you—a human, a small creature you are learning to love and know more about everyday. You sit in meetings discussing behavior support plans and feel little punches in your pelvis—its like a secret dance between you and your baby that no one else in the world knows about. First graders kiss your belly, knock on your office door and ask to say hi to the baby. They ask you everyday if it’s a boy or a girl—unable to comprehend why you don’t want to know. The love these children send to your womb daily fills my heart with joy.
And then there is the other side of this feeling—the trepidation and fear about bringing new life into this place that feels so ripped apart.
The bathtub is a sacred place for my sore, pregnant body and my weary, tired mind. On days that feel endless, where the new foster student won’t stop trying to climb on the roof and I spend 2.5 hours pacing around the school, negotiating with him about what it will take to get back to class, I think about my bath tub. Sometimes Sugar gets home and finds me partially submerged in the lukewarm water at 4:47pm. His desire to save water on temporary hiatus. (Though he is determined to use every last drop of bath water, sometimes soaking in the tub after me and then washing Pump and Moon.)
Sugar often sits on the toilet and tells me about his day while my toes peak out from the bubbly horizon of the tub. Last Friday, he was in a frenzy about climate change and the 60 year timeline that will likely bring worldwide catastrophe and collapse. Our child will be likely be alive in 60 years and we will most likely be gone. My buoyant, bloated cells push against this idea and want to tell him to stop talking about this, but I don’t, because I can’t, because it’s true.
It’s 8:37am on Thursday, April 11th. I am standing at the intersection of MLK and 21st holding a stop sign, iPhone, a clipboard holding a sheet of paper that contains the amended “strike schedule” and two-way radio. I wish I had another hand or perhaps radio holster embroidered with a colorful Southwest textile. The teachers have just started to gather on the other side of the street, holding their picket signs that contain vague slogans such as “Great teachers together.”
It’s the first teacher’s strike in 30 years. Step back from the immediate scene and you’ll also see a line of mostly white women from out of town, protesting for much-deserved higher wages in a neighborhood where the average family makes less than $40,000 a year. Students and families start to gather at the corner, asking me what is going on today and if there will be any lessons taking place. My job is to assure them that everything is under control and they need to go to the cafeteria instead of their classrooms. “Will Ms. M be here today, Ms. Crashley?” “No, she won’t.” “But why?” My job is also to answer this question for the teachers lining the other side of the street.
There is a break in the flow of children and families at the crossing. I take a moment to squat down and stretch the muscles that attach my hips to my pelvis. It’s now 8:46am. I’ve been at school for 3 hours attempting to plan “outdoor learning activities” for an unknown number of students and “emergency replacement teachers.” “Are you Ok, Ms. Crashley?,” a 20-something, well-meaning, hard working teacher yells across the street. “Yes. Just stretching,” I shoot back. Her question makes me feel like I have somehow feel like I have shown a sign of weakness.
I travelled home for one last visit before our baby is born. My sister cried, because of the shame and guilt she feels around the wreckage of her past—the years of treating people people who love her the most as disposable, of not knowing the boundary between her own mental illness and personal decisions, of finally sitting with the weight we’ve all been carrying for the past ten years. I don’t try to stop her tears or offer support, because this is a weight that needs to be felt.
We sit down for dinner, the four of us, and remember that my brother can’t be there, because he relapsed again. His survival hangs in the perpetual balance. It’s hard to know if this time is worst than last year’s relapse, because last year’s felt like it had to be the bottom. But it always seems to just get worse.
There are tears and most of all there is anger around this dinner table. I become the receiver of grief and vitriol, because perhaps the the nature of hopelessness unfettered is to obliterate all that might bring hope. I take deep breaths in the midst of my panic trying to tell the baby that they are loved and do not need to feel all this. I wake up at 4:30am in a strangers cabin and feel like there is snake wrapping around my chest. The weight of rejection, fear and loneliness is crushing, like someone lifted a million heavy river rocks that had managed to settle in soul.
Some people have baby showers. I have this and I am still not sure why. The meditation I listen to to help calm me down tells me that all this will make sense in retrospect. I want it to make sense now.
Sugar and I left a day early from home. I needed my corner of the world where I could feel safe again. I slept for 6 hours straight snuggled between Moon and Sugar, and could feel the love stitching me back together.
How do we bring babies into this broken world? Perhaps one broken breath at a time.