As the years pass, I am coming more and more to understand that it is the common, everyday blessings of our common everyday lives, for which we should be particularly grateful. They are the things that fill our lives with comfort and our hearts with gladness––just the pure air to breathe and the strength to breath it; just warmth and shelter and home folks; just plain food that gives us strength; the bright sunshine on a cold day; and a cool breeze when the day is warm.
The entire globe is experiencing a pandemic; a novel virus known as COVID-19 has swept the planet, currently having claimed over 70,000 lives in the United States alone.
As horrific as that number is, after two months of quarantine and social distancing, I don’t want things to go back to “normal.” And I feel like the biggest shit head for admitting such a thing.
I want to hug my grandmothers and hold my friends’ babies and shop for candles at Marshall’s. I want small businesses to re-open and weddings to celebrate––but I don’t miss the hustle and errands and excess. People aren’t getting locks of hair dyed or having mink fur glued to their lashes. There’s less traffic on the roads and the parks and woods have become the new means of travel for feet and not cars.
My days are no longer ruled by the clock. I am not rushing to get out the door and get Everett to school. I’m not cramming errands in-between nap time. And I’m not going out for socially obligated ventures. My face has been bare of powder or liner or mascara for literal months, and I’m beginning to feel comfortable with my natural face––not thinking ugh each time I see my reflection. I just see me and don’t see myself as “less” because I’m not painted in a way that’s made to make me prettier.
Having made a new “quarantine schedule,” Marion has transitioned from two naps to one, so both kids sleep in the early afternoon. And it is absolutely glorious. We make a point to get outside and go for walks and Marion is now at the perfect age to have discovered what it means to play in puddles and eat dirt and follow her big brother around the backyard. The two of them have become fast friends, because they’re all they’ve got. I spy on them through the windows, happening to catch Everett, helping his little sister off the ground after a fall. Or observing Marion, as she stubbornly stands her ground against his towering odds. Try as he might, she won’t let him get away with stealing a toy or a bite of her snack––she is no shrinking violet, even though she’s alarmingly darling and dainty and small. It’s like she has stashed rations of spirit and feist, stowed away for the times when her petite size is compromised against anyone who stands in her way.
And concentrating on all this good, even given the alarming circumstances, does not make me ignorant or privileged. It makes me in control of my perspective, which is really the only control any one us have, pandemic or not.
So what happens when the world returns to its familiar state of consumption and rushing and the endless efforts of projecting our lives to be more than what they are?
This tragic virus has gently reminded me of why living privately in the woods, is a dream I’ve had since I was a little girl. A place where I can forget about the world, but also have the luxury to drive out and into it, seeing my family and friends and eating at restaurants––doing all the things humankind is aching to get back to.
Our house construction has finally begun. It took us over a year and a half to get the property in our name; the seller dragged everything out at an incredibly painful pace. I felt like we fought for this land, doubting and wagering and putting our future plans on hold, just waiting for it to be ours. But I refused to budge, even when other options presented themselves. And that continually pushed Chris forward to figure out the utilities and property divisions and communicating with the seller over hundreds of e-mails.
But ever since the building permits were signed and our foundation was dug, the momentum has been steady and moving forward.
We visit the property almost every other day, after the kids get up from their nap. Everett and Marion wear muck boots and play in the shallow mud that surrounds the house, or they run around the framed inside, effortlessly fitting between the planks of wood and exploring their future rooms. It’s so wonderful to watch them play in a space that is already feeling like our home, as I get to slowly fall in love with the layout I once only sketched in my journal, like scribbled lines of hope, underscored with the thought of “some day.”
And that some day is here.
I’ve thought about this house up on the hill, for so long now…what will it feel like to finally move in? What if it doesn’t swallow me up in pure magic the way I’ve always imagined it would? It sounds so stupid, but as each piece of construction is finished, I feel both elated and like the water level is coming up closer to my nose.
Because I can envision myself and my children and Chris living our best life, peaked high up within those trees. I can see my children playing; even the ones who have yet to become. I can picture my chickens and hear the quiet and feel the freedom of a little homestead, like I will somehow embody a version of Laura Ingalls from Little House on the Prairie and transform into my fullest form.
But what if that doesn’t happen? (My fear).
But what if it does? (My focus).
Along with the natural changes that moving into a new house and a different piece of land will bring, I am in the process of becoming a birth doula. Since we’ve last talked, I stopped teaching yoga, for a conglomerate of reasons, and have not returned to a studio. Maybe someday that will change, but for now, I feel settled within this shift.
I have completed the initial doula training phase, but still need to finish a checklist of additional courses and requirements before I can tag on the letters “CD” to my name. One of them is attending three different births, and everything was all lined up to assist my best friend Kati in early May when she delivered. But the pandemic paused our plans, as only one support person was allowed in the room.
She delivered a healthy baby boy on the 28th of April and I’m so proud that she’s now a mom. She’ll be one of the good ones––she’s got it in her. On our quick FaceTime call, I cried when I saw her beautiful baby, and pulsed with joy when she explained her delivery story.
Remember when she and I were waiting for my school bus (she must’ve slept over the night before), sharing an iPod headphone in each ear, standing at the end of the driveway? And you pulled up in your silver SUV, wound down the window, and made some sarcastic comment about how we looked like a couple of dweebs. And later that day, you explained to me that the friendships I have now, won’t always last forever, even if I thought they would––that family is the only thing that’s constant.
And I understood what you were saying, even then, in ninth grade. You weren’t still friends with anyone from high school, so why would I be? But I knew…I knew Kati would always be a best friend. And she is.
I now have two girlfriends who’ve joined me in motherhood, and I have to admit, it’s so nice to have “my people,” understand what it’s like to have a child––what it’s like to gravitate from the center of your own universe, and be swallowed into an eight pound planet.
As for finishing the doula training, my focus is to read the required books, and find expecting mothers who want free birth support. I want to take my time with the certification, allowing opportunities to present themselves at a natural pace. If I find a mom in a month, that’s great…if it’s in ten months from now, that’s fine, too.
I completed a virtual breastfeeding class the other night (check!), and while I Iearned about different nursing positions and the elements of a perfect latch, I realized that there’s an incredible gap for supporting moms who cannot breastfeed. Because it’s understood that as doulas, we support all kinds of feeding; whether that’s breast or bottle or a combination of both. And as soon as the instructor laid out that foundation of care and understanding, she presented several powerpoint slides dedicated to the benefits of breastfeeding––like the bonding and higher IQ’s and precious antibodies.
And that’s when my alarms inside went off. Because you cannot support all sides, and then highlight why one particular method is the best, therefore making the mother who cannot breastfeed, or simply chooses not to, feel like a failure. Or worse, like she’s not giving her baby the best of her.
The Breastfeeding Clinic was also recommended as a reference to give to our clients who are having trouble with latching or positioning, etc. And a bunch of women who were on this training call, talked so highly of this clinic, saying it saved my breastfeeding relationship and so on. The discussions gave the impression that if you can’t breastfeed, go to this place, and the experts will teach you.
I went to that clinic with Everett. As well as two others. And those experts said we were doing a fantastic job, even though my toes curled and my jaw clenched for every feeding process. They also told me to pump (excessively), but never gave warning of the mastitis risks, which I soon developed. Because a pump doesn’t empty a breast the way a baby does. So milk gets stuck, ducts get clogged, and infection happens.
So how does that mother feel, who tried all the recommendations, yet still wasn’t having a positive breastfeeding experience? How will she feel when she breaks or caves and decides to bottle feed, even though no one gave her the permission she desperately wanted? Because throughout her entire pregnancy, she was educated on breastfeeding and its benefits. She was told that mammals make milk for their young, and we should not be giving our babies what a cow makes for theirs––it goes against nature and common sense.
I know how that mother will feel if she decides to bottle feed. I know how the sight of her naked breasts will make her cry when she steps out of the shower, soaked and sobbing at her reflection, because her body’s anatomy cannot fulfill its natural purpose. And my job as a doula will be to validate her, over and over again, in her choices as a new mother. And I truly look forward to whoever that client may be––whether it’s just about breastfeeding or debating in the midst of active labor, whether or not to get an epidural. I will be her validation––and that word and its power and my ability to give it, is what makes becoming a doula, so incredibly exciting.
It’s been one year since Mother Sun was published. And within that time, I’ve only written to you once, in a blog post I’ve since deleted. I also sent my book proposal to twenty-one agents, all who have respectfully declined representation through an automated e-mail or simple silence in my hollow inbox.
Mary Higgins Clark wrote an essay that was rejected forty times before being published in a magazine (and later became one of the most successful authors of all time). So I guess I have nineteen more tries.
I feel accomplished for creating the book. But an equal failure for not getting it represented by an agent.
I’ve been marinating in this “failure attitude” for a long time now. Every time I start to write to you, I feel embarrassed or scared of commitment and the vulnerability within people’s potential judgments. She’s still writing to her dead mother?
And then the other day happened, when I walked alone within our future home, continually crying as I looked at the beams and the stairs and the slants of the ceiling. How can I not show her this? How can I not walk her through this dream and show her what Chris and I created?
Something about the house is making it necessary to write again. Maybe just for today or maybe for a long while––I don’t know. But as this entry flows through my fingers and onto the keyboard, I’m becoming aware of how stagnant I’ve been this past year, like one of those milk ducts, clogged and stuck in the uncertainty of how to keep writing, despite any “encouragement” from the publishing industry.
I’ve wanted someone to give me permission to continue journaling to you. However, I now know I have to be my own source of validation.
I won’t lose my connection with you because of what other people think of me––or worse, what I think they think of me or my writing. Because their opinions, are none of my business. And I think that’s the main component of the “stay at home order” that has made me so comfortable in the freedom I feel: not worrying what others think of me––even my best friends.
It’s just me. And my kids. And Chris. And you.
And to live a life with a cozy home and fresh surrounding air, with the family I’ve found and created––when it comes down to it, that’s all I need. That’s all anyone needs.
If writing to you always makes me feel immediately plugged into Source (or God), I must trust it. Even if I haven’t gotten a book deal. Even if I never get a book deal––this journal helps me remember my purpose: to love my family, and to never forget how to continue loving you.