Archive for the 'Highly personal' Category

Blogging for Choice

Yeah, yeah, so I’m a day late, but this is too good to pass by.


Blog for Choice Day - January 22, 2007

Why I’m pro-choice:

-Because if it can’t survive outside of my body, then it still falls under the realm of MY body. Yes, let’s say it again. MY body. Not yours, not your religion’s. MINE.
-Because if you take away my right to choose, all my other rights follow suit.
-Because everyone makes mistakes. Often terrible, life-changing, stupid mistakes. You do and I do. We all do.
-Because you don’t even want to know the catostrophic chain of events that will occur if abortion is made illegal. You don’t even want to see a glimpse of what the world will become. Because unfortunately, everyone won’t all go abstinent. Many women will still refuse birth control. Maybe because it screws up their hormones. Maybe because they’re alcoholics or drug addicts or homeless and can’t afford it or can’t remember or just aren’t responsible enough. Or maybe because, like me, they can take all the birth control and precautions ever invented and still end up with an unwanted pregnancy. You don’t even want to know how many women will die horrific and gruesome deaths, how many babies will be found in trash cans, in toilets. How many children will be brought into this world addicted to drugs, damaged beyond repair.
-Because I will never regret my abortions, will always know that I made the right decision–because I was ALLOWED to make that decision. Because I was allowed the power, the responsibility to have control over myself and my body. And because I will never forget the non-judgmental, empathetic support I received from Planned Parenthood. I hope you never find yourself between a rock and a hard place like I did. But if you do, be thankful that an underground procedure with a rusted coat hanger is not in your future.

“…She heads for the clinic
and she gets some static walking through the door.
They call her a killer
and they call her a sinner
and they call her a whore.

God forbid you ever had to walk a mile in her shoes–
Then you really might know what its like
to have to choose.” -Everlast, What it’s Like

Pigpen & PPD

Last month, my birth story won Thordora’s Pulsate Olympics.

This month, the topic pertains to the Postpartum Crazy Race. I wasn’t planning on participating. Mainly because I never was treated for postpartum depression, which seems to be the main purpose of Thordora’s topic choice. However, she has recently posted that the entries for this month are few and far between, so I’m going to say something.

I’m going to tell you about my pregnancy and postpartum period with Pigpen. And I’m not going to put it into nicely flowing paragraphs. I just don’t have time for that, but I will ALWAYS have time to openly and honestly share my experience with others. You all should know that virtually everything during pregnancy, birth, and postpartum is a variation of normal.

Ahem.

I became pregnant with Pigpen only a few months after my first abortion. Einstein was only 10 months old. I didn’t want another baby. B didn’t want a baby. I was still living with my parents. Neither of us were working. We weren’t in a position to be having another child. I wasn’t in a position to be caring for the one I had. And yet, my previous abortion loomed over our heads. I knew that someday I would want another child. I was afraid of ruining my chances of a healthy pregnancy with another abortion. I thought about the doctor who had shook his head at the patient before me who had been in for numerous procedures. I didn’t want to be that girl. I buckled down. I would marry B. We would figure it out. I would deal with the pregnancy like a punishment. And I did. For 5 months I hid my pregnancy. I was embarassed. Unmarried and with a small toddler. I couldn’t believe I had fucked up again. It was humiliating. I wasn’t excited for another baby. I already had a baby. What the hell was I going to do with another one? I kept telling myself I would quit smoking. I never did. Every evening I would come home from work and finally have a long awaited cigarette, away from the gawking stares of the public. And then I’d smoke pot. Every night. Every single night I’d smoke, and I’d convince myself and B that it was okay. In the womb, Pigpen was quiet. There were days that he wouldn’t move for 12 hours at a time. B and I moved into our own apartment and we struggled. We fought like crazy. He cheated on me. I sobbed and I hated life, and I found myself looking at adoption ads in the classifieds. In my third trimester, I looked for clinics that would perform late abortions.

Pigpen was born six days after the new millenium. A “Y2K baby.” His birth was easy, medicated, unfeeling. I was wheeled out into the courtyard shortly after for a cigarette. I had no desire to breastfeed him. Less than a week after trying to nurse, I gave in to the bottle. Besides, I couldn’t quit smoking and somehow the thought of breastfeeding and nicotine was even more despicable than smoking through a pregnancy. I had gained an enormous amount of weight, never having lost some of the baby weight from the first pregnancy. I was huge. I felt disgusting. I sat at home with a newborn and a high needs 18 month old. I couldn’t even go to the grocery store. My toddler wouldn’t walk on his own and so I would balance him on my hip and carry the infant seat in my other arm, sweating and cursing all the way to the doctor appointments. Our baby was born with RSV. He made several trips to the ER in his first month of life for breathing difficulties, no doubt tied to my prenatal smoking habits. When I think back on it all, it seems like a flatline. Total apathy. Ambivalence. I just felt…nothing. Pigpen was amazingly calm. He slept through the night from Day 1 onwards. He rarely cried. His cry was so unfamiliar that it would cause us to stare in shock. He slept 18-20 hours per day. We started propping his bottle. He became a fixture, sitting in the bouncy seat or the swing, a bottle propped with a rolled up receiving blanket. Sometimes I would forget that he was even there. B would come home from work and go hours without even glancing at the baby. He didn’t know how to treat an infant. He was only following my lead.

It only took a few months before I started to describe the feeling of “the walls closing in around me.” The apartment literally kept growing smaller and smaller until I felt suffocated. We packed it all up and moved. Little by little, I began to feel better. The space began to open up and everything inside didn’t feel so tight anymore.

It wasn’t until Pigpen was about 18 months old that I spent time with him. Just me and him. I clearly remember pushing him along in a shopping cart, and looking at his smiling face and thinking “Oh my God, I love him. I fucking LOVE him!” The bonding process began. A year and a half late, but fierce. Partly because of the guilt, I spent a great deal of time babying abd favoring him. But also because of his sweet and happy personality. Yesterday he turned seven years old, and his smiling face, quirky demeanor and loving spirit has been a constant source of sunshine in my life.

There will always be regrets about the way I treated my pregnancy and Pigpen’s babyhood. Just like any other bad decision I’ve made, I’ll always wish that I had done things differently. It’s never fun to have regrets about things you have done or said to your children. But just like every other regret in my life, it served its purpose. It taught me, changed me, and molded me into a woman who can empathize and relate to others in a non-threatening manner.

It wasn’t until many years later that I began to suspect that some of the issues I had after Pigpen was born could have been more than just situational depression. I wish that someone else could have had the same suspicions and come to my aid before things had spun out of control. I can only hope that my experience will make it possible for me to notice any red flags in other mamas.

Tears and fears

Yesterday, B had planned to go straight from work to his cousin’s house, and spend the night there. His cousin lives right near our storage unit, so it made sense for him to be closeby so he could wake up this morning and easily get there.

Instead, he took a detour on the way to his cousin’s house and decided to “go out to dinner with his sister.” I immediately smelled trouble. “Going out to dinner” meant going to a bar with his sister, her alcoholic husband, and his asshole friend.

B does not do well in these kinds of situations, although he likes to think he does. At 145 pounds, he’s a bit of a lightweight, and especially with beer. For some reason, beer fucks him up. It also gives him incredible hangovers. And yet, he was chugging beer. This is what I call “competetive drinking.” It’s what boys do when they socialize, trying to keep up with each other and look manly. And so of course, B had too much to drink.

Now when B has too much to drink in a “competetive drinking atmosphere”, he turns into a major dick. He gets a whole shitload of liquid courage and turns from the passive nice guy that he is into the world’s biggest asshole. He pokes fun at everyone in sight and keeps prodding and needling until you just want to smack him upside the head. Apparently, one of the guys couldn’t take it anymore, and proceeded to bitch B out. The guy told him that he “was a dick to his friends and a dick to his family.” B flipped out, walked out the bar, throwing his beer glass down on the ground as he exited. And even though his sister had firmly told him that he WOULDN’T be driving, he drove. He drove drunk on New Year’s weekend. And while he drove, he called me. And while he drove and called me, he sobbed like a baby. Now this part is important. I have NEVER, EVER seen or heard B cry. Not even when his grandmother died, not even when our children were born. He claims that he hasn’t cried since he was 12 years old. I was pissed at him, pissed at his sister for not doing more to stop him from driving, and I was shocked at his tears. Over and over he was saying things like “I’m a dick and nobody likes me. You hate me, my family hates me, and I don’t like the person I am. I give up, I’m not doing it anymore, I just give up.” It was really, really distressing. I made him hang up the phone while I frantically called his cousin to explain the situation and to warn him that a very intoxicated B was on his way there.

His cousin is in AA and has been sober for several years. I knew this would make for a very interesting night.

I shook violently and my teeth chattered until I got the call that he had arrived safely and was sobering up. I spoke to him for a few minutes and assured him that he was a good person, that everyone liked him, but yes, he IS a dick when he drinks, and that perhaps it’s time to say goodbye to The Drink. Perhaps for me too.

I’ve never loved him more.

Punishment

This month marks the 9 year anniversary of my first abortion.

I hear that this is something that a woman keeps a secret, a private issue.

For me, it’s always been something that I’ve wanted to be open and honest about. It’s not that I don’t feel shame. I do. Of course I do. I’m human, I’m female, I’m a mother.

I found myself pregnant when my firstborn was four months old. My boyfriend was a wreck, completely unstable. Our relationship was wild, crazed, psychotic. I was madly in love with him, but I knew that there was no way that I could keep a clear conscience and bring his child into the world. He was in no way suitable for fatherhood. And then there was the simple fact that I already had one infant that I couldn’t support, and his father was just as bad.

We made the mistake of telling our parents. They were crushed. They begged me to change my mind. His mother told me she’d take custody. Mine wrote me a heartwrenching letter and pleaded for the life of their second grandchild. Adoption was the answer, they said. It was unthinkable. Keep the first baby but abandon the other? My own adoption issues kept me from considering the option. I wouldn’t send my child into the arms of strangers, have her raised with identity and trust issues, feeling rejected and alone. I know what you’re thinking–better to kill her, right? I focused on the fact that I was barely pregnant at the time of my appointment. 6 weeks they estimated, the earliest an abortion can be performed.

Someone tentatively gave me the money to cover the procedure. She was afraid that I would grow to regret it and I would resent her for making it possible. I never did. Not once. And not to say it wasn’t a traumatic experience. There isn’t any easy way to go about playing God.

In the clinic, a nurse met with me beforehand. She wanted to know if I was sure. She asked me why. I told her about my son. She asked me if I was a natural redhead. I wasn’t, and I asked why. She said that in her experience, redheads were emotional. They had a hard time with the procedure, but I would be okay.

On the exam table, legs spread and placed in the stirrups, I was shaking. My teeth were chattering. I had asked for a sedative by IV. It was slowly making it’s way into my veins, but not nearly strong enough. I doubt that anything could have calmed my nerves. The doctor was old, short, bald and round. He had an accent. Russian maybe. I had heard that the sucking noises would be the worst. I stared at the poster on the ceiling and tried to drown them out. The nurse and doctor talked during the procedure. They gossiped about the girl in the next room who was on her fourth abortion. I couldn’t believe how unprofessional they were. But what did they care? What was I going to do? At 19 years old, was I going to make a complaint about the rude conversation that ocurred during the procedure that sucked my baby out of my womb? Of course not. I was going to go quietly and hope to God I’d never have to come back. Afterwards, the doctor told me not to have sex for 6 weeks. I could “suck dick but no sex” he said. I was shocked, taken aback. And yet I just nodded, numb. I walked out, into the waiting room where my boyfriend was waiting. His head was down. He was crying. It was the hardest moment of the entire experience. He drove me home and put me to bed, and in my dreams I named my child. China. Doll-like. She would have had fair hair and porcelain skin, bright blue eyes and dark lashes. I knew I had conceived a daughter. I felt sure of it, and knew that if there was a God, he would never allow me to birth another daughter. I had thrown away the greatest gift he could give. Nine years later and here I am with two more children. Sons. And I cannot shake the intense desire to keep trying for a girl. I guess I have to believe that God will forgive me, or that better yet, I will forgive myself.

Gratitude

Ah, the subject of gratitude. It continually pops up in my life at various intervals, showing off its nice white plastic smile and little index finger wagging. “Tsk tsk tsk!” it chides, “you should be grateful.”

I’ve had an Anonymous comment reminding me this week that instead of feeling entitled to what I have, I should just be gracious. This is all well and good, and believe you me, I understand this concept quite well. In fact, I wish I could find a way to explain to you just how long and hard I have fought the battle inside my head for gratitude. Oprah even came out with this great idea of a “Gratitude journal”, where everyday you just write a little tidbit of something you are thankful for. The end product, of course, is that each evening you settle in to bed with a content little smile because you are lucky. Lucky to be alive. Lucky to be healthy. Lucky to have a roof over your head and food to eat. Lucky to have children when others cannot. Lucky to have a spouse that loves you and treats you well.

And yet, for me, focusing on gratitude just leaves me feeling guilty and selfish. I’m sorry that I cannot just be grateful. I’m sorry that I’m restless, never content, wanting more and needing better. I’m alive, I am healthy, my cholesterol is low, my blood pressure is fantastic, but I want to be leaner and stronger. I have a place to live and food on my plate but I want my own space with a view of the ocean and organically grown vegetables in my crisper. I thank God for my kids and without them I would not be here, but I wish they had come later and sometimes, I wish they hadn’t come at all. I have a husband who worships me and yet it makes me feel empty and bored and I crave a man who will challenge me. I’m sorry. I’m sorry that I cannot be still and satisfied. I’m sorry.

All apologies

Sometimes the act of apologizing can be so powerful, especially when it comes without an excuse. Especially when you think you’re right.

Step 9 of the 12 Steps is “Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.” I never got there when I was working the steps, and I wish I would have. Offering up an apology is such a humbling experience, and I’m going to try my hand at it.

Dear Mom,

I’m sorry that I never gave you the reassurance you needed, that you would always be my Momma, no matter what.

Dear Dad,

I’m sorry that I didn’t come visit you in your hospital room.

Dear Little Brother,

I’m sorry for calling you a retard, and I’m sorry that I never recognized how much you looked up to me and wanted to be around me.

Dear Jewel,

I’m sorry for being so judgmental about your mothering skills when we lived together. I’m also sorry for accusing you of being high on coke at my wedding.

Dear Einstein,

I’m sorry for telling you that you’re going to hell. I don’t even believe in hell.

Dear Pigpen,

I’m sorry for smoking cigarettes and pot when I was pregnant. Boy, was I stupid.

Dear Animal,

I’m sorry for yelling at you when you were a newborn and blaming you for a bad latch. I know it wasn’t your fault.

Dear Jeannine,

So much, so much. But most of all, I’m sorry for judging the way you are raising Kaya without religion, and for telling you that you’re a mean drunk.

Dear Jade,

I’m sorry for sleeping with your boyfriend when you were upstairs.

Dear Tamara,

I’m sorry for stealing your underwear at camp and hanging it up for everybody to see.

Dear B,

I’m sorry for all of the lying and the cheating.

Dear Me,

I’m sorry for trying to fool you, for making you settle for less, and for making you forget about your dreams.

Love,

Estella

On not having a daughter

When I was pregnant with Einstein, strangers were constantly saying things like “Wow, you look like you’re about to pop”, even when I had several months left until my due date. With Pigpen, people kept asking me if I was going to have twins. One time, someone even asked me “when I was due” when I wasn’t even pregnant.

I don’t know why people ask and say the sorts of shit they do. I wonder if they realize how rude they are.

Nowadays, since Animal’s birth, I have been bombarded by the following:

“Wow, you have THREE BOYS???”

“Didn’t you/don’t you want a girl?”

“You HAVE to try again for a girl”

“You really need a daughter.”

Every once in awhile, I’ll come across a foreigner (usually Asian) who will tell me how lucky I am to have three sons. But the rest of the time, I’m getting sympathetic smiles or the shake of the head and the “tsk tsk, what a shame.”

I thought the pregnancy comments were terrible. Yes, they were embarassing, but nothing like this. I wonder if these people realize that they might actually be rubbing salt in an open wound, that perhaps it’s quite painful to be constantly reminded of the fact that I don’t (and will probably never) have a daughter. It’s almost as if they act like it’s my fucking fault. Like I made a decision. Like I refused a female child.

Of course, I react by smiling politely. I nod. I say “Oh yes, it’s a busy life. Lots of sports. Lots of food.” I then try to turn away, or find a quick escape. But sometimes the conversation continues, and that person will say something to the effect of “Oh girls are such trouble anyway. Boys are so much easier.” As if maybe they have finally realized that perhaps they have been rude, and they are now trying to fix it. Make me feel better. It doesn’t work.

I am afraid that one day, I’m just going to crack and I’m going to tell that person just how much I’ve always wanted a daughter. I’m going to tell them how I wished and hoped and prayed. I’ll explain how I cried after every ultrasound. I’ll tell them how I couldn’t even believe it until my boys were born and realized for sure, that the ultrasound results had been correct. I’ll give them the list of names. Mia. Ava. Olivia. I’ll tell them about the hours I spent looking at little pink dresses, hair bows, easter hats, patent leather shoes. I’ll tell them about the jealousy, when 5 of my closest friends bore daughters. I’ll share my pain of never attending a ballet recital or planning a wedding.

It’s one of those things that I really should come to terms with. I’m just not sure I ever will. I seriously imagine myself getting older, going into menopause and realizing “it really, truly is not going to happen.” I don’t think I’ll really be able to grieve it until then.

You always hear this stupid little saying: “Don’t give up your dreams.” I hate that phrase. Doesn’t anyone realize that the biggest dreams are ones you have no control over?