Sunday, 9 September 2018

Lavender and Love

Sharing some sweetness here. Almost every day, Dash and I do a garden happy hour. (Typically a dry affair, short of his splashing in hose water.)

At some point, I carry him up the hill on the flagstone path, and he demands a lavender flower. Dutifully, I pick out just the right one, with some foliage for good measure. He holds them in one chubby little hand while pointing ever higher on the trail.

When we came inside today, I set his flowers and foliage on his play table in his room. We got whisked away for dinner, and I forgot about them until James asked, "Where did he get the lavender?"

At bedtime, he had his flowers in his hand, and he held onto them as he was nursing. He knows I love to smell them, so he held them up for me to sniff as he nursed until his little arm was too tired. Even then, he held onto them, his hot tiny palm warming up that relaxing scent as sleep gradually took hold.

I was going to put him to bed with them, letting him keep the comfort of them in his grip and building the association with lavender and calm, but he eventually let them go into my lap. I will keep them for him, a sweet shared treasure from my loving baby, who already knows I love to smell flowers with him.

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Within Their Sights

So, just a reminder: This awful administration is going to damage all of us, even you have not yet internalized a sense of being squarely within their aim.

My baby was delivered by midwives. My husband has a foreign accent, and is an immigrant even if he is also a US citizen. It would be convenient to imagine his documents would be respected, if we were afforded due process, but we are actually seeing US citizens with legitimate birth certificates deported right now because federal agents independently decided they were insufficiently American.

The erosion of due process has already begun. That applies to all of us.

I already know they are coming for me. I know it as a woman, as a protester, and as a traveler. This is a misogynistic, xenophobic, insecure government, and I tick all of the boxes to trigger them. They will come for my bodily autonomy, but they will try to restrict my rights in other ways first, I have no doubt.

I have also been worried about my family, knowing that my husband would present as foreign first, and there might not be an opportunity to protect him with papers. One of my contractors told me that one of his employees, Irish by birth but a US citizen, was rounded up at a job site here in San Francisco and taken to an unspecified detention center because he forgot his ID at home one day. He also has a family and children.

I must admit, however, that the stories of border region midwife deliveries being called into question open up a new avenue for concern. It hadn't occurred to me that my child's citizenship might be on the block. Here it is, though.

And it makes me so angry. I chose to give birth in the wonderful care of our midwives because they are excellent, attentive, and diligent, offering practical and supportive care to pregnant women and newborns. That the professionalism of these women would also be called into question, while simultaneously throwing children into bureaucratic chaos, is yet another reminder of the pernicious attitudes of this administration and its supporters.

I know they are coming for me. But you shouldn't have to know they are coming for you to push back against this.

This woman's story could easily become my own. This is how the slide into statelessness begins, and threatening citizens in such a manner is chilling, racist harassment:

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Choice, Time & Imbalance

I totally understand the dropping birth rate. I love my son so much, and I also often feel swindled about the motherhood deal.

The thing is, it's not even close to enough to have one reliable person at your side when it comes to kids. I have a wonderful husband, who is a fixer and a doer and an excellent daddy, who also works for a company that is portrayed as "family friendly," and I am still stuck with no help incredibly frequently.

I am the only one I can count on to look after my kid.

I am lucky that I do not have to choose between a conventional career or my child, because I do not see how I could reliably get to an office right now. And I'm the person that bears being constantly on-call so that my husband can have a conventional job. (Hats off to the households that are pulling off two parents having 9-5 gigs. I literally do not know how you do this.)

While it is an honor to be with my child each day, I also feel very stuck here. I have the flexibility to never be able to reliably plan anything, lest someone else's time become more important without notice.

It used to be the case that new parents had family nearby to ease the stresses of parenthood, extra hands that could either hold the baby or do the dishes or generally pitch in to the work of life. There used to be an economy of scale, with similar ages of children occupying each other, allowing for something less than a 1:1 ratio with supervising adults.

Women, very rationally, are doing the math, and realizing that at about the time they have built up enough stability in their own lives to support a tiny human, they will be constantly on the verge of giving up that vocation to ensure the little one has a caregiver. Kids require resources, but they really require time, and there is an unbearable tension that remains unresolved, pulling at mothers far more than anyone else.

In almost everything I do these days, I can feel how our society is not built to support women and children. I feel it like sandbags heaped upon my shoulders while I'm trying to carry a beautiful little being through the world and grow him up right.

Tuesday, 31 July 2018


This story is breaking my heart. It reaches right into new fissures in me that pulse with the primal universality of motherhood, and the suffering of children lost.

Today, I cried for this whale and her grief. I cried for black mothers interviewed on the radio, who were never told of extra risks their babies faced, part of the stresses of living under racism. Tears for the ruptured families seeking safety here in my country, only for infants to be kidnapped by a hostile government and misplaced within uncaring chaos.

I grieve with these mothers, even as I hold my own child close. I rage at the specific cruelty of humankind, but also find myself impaled on the animal emotion of delicate new life broken in so many ways, despite the love and care bursting forth from mothers of every kind.

I think of the lost children in my own family, those missing from their places, whose absence echoes through generations. I feel the pain of friends whose babies did not make it, often secretly held in the silence of miscarriage.

Tahlequah swims with her precious baby, her grief echoing that thing all mothers know too well. Her devotion cannot carve out a place for her spirit to rest, holding in her heart the intimate knowledge of the little being that is gone.

I despair that that love is not enough, because it is the core of my offering and I quake in fear that it will be bereft and inadequate.

Would that I could mend the Earth, and spare these sacred bonds such harm. There is so much healing to be done in us human animals, and our pain multiplies in the world around us. Life's longing for itself perseveres, fragmented and wounded by injustice and disregard.

May we all be kinder, and work to buttress each other. Strength is so tender, really.

Thursday, 21 June 2018

Excising the Heart

Babies crave closeness. I read this somewhere amongst my wanderings through child development literature. It sticks with me as I read the news today, of children torn from their mothers' breasts and put into cages where the instructions for staff are to not touch or hold traumatized children to comfort them.

I think of how my own baby, almost a toddler, clutches my legs and implores me to pick him up when we are in the kitchen together, because the safest spot in the world for him is my right hip. I think of how his closeness sped my healing in the immediate postpartum period, and how his proximity still enables an almost psychic connection to his rhythms and needs.

At the ripe old age of one year, my son is much more mature than the 8- and 9-month-old infants that have been showing up in the dead of night in unmarked holding facilities for migrant children. Their parents cannot find them, are caught up in a different, invisible court system, often across state lines from their little ones. They may be deported without notice. These families may never be reunified, and our government has no plans for doing so.

I think of my own breastfeeding baby, and how he struggles with bottles. I think of that mother's milk supply dwindling in a prison, her aching breasts and endless tears, her baby crying elsewhere, both unable to understand what is happening to them. I wonder if her baby will eventually relent, and take formula from a stranger who has been instructed not to cuddle or coo, or if the baby will succumb to dehydration and abandonment.

I read of children, forcibly injected with powerful, misused drugs to calm their wild grief among unfamiliar faces as they are secreted through a slapdash system of empty Wal-Marts and tent cities, clutching copies of their parents' ID cards and speaking a different language than their captors.

I weep.

We are a carrying species. Our young cling to us to move through the world, just as our cousins' baby gorillas and chimpanzees channel all of their strength into strong little handfuls of fur to survive. Close, so close, never apart. I think of the long journeys to the dream of safety, how desperate and scared one must be to leave all that is known with a babe in arms, to carry that child such a long way for the hope of something better. To take your precious child elsewhere so they might thrive, only to have them taken away with the promise of a bath in a detention center, never to be seen again.

This is being compared to torture. There is no comparison. Take my fingernails or my breath, but do not crudely excise my heart. Do not take my child.

It is a wonder that any of these ICE agents and private prison staffers are still alive. They are messing with something so primal, it seems inevitable they will be overrun by grieving parents with nothing left to lose. Whether the lack of violence is a testament to the remaining hope of these parents or their debilitating devastation, I do not know.

I think of these things every time I hold my baby now. His peaceful, gentle little world seems so fragile, with a ruthless government that idealizes brutal dictatorships and withdraws from accountability on human rights.

Hot tears burning my eyes, I fight to keep him safe. I am ready to fight for all of these tender, tiny people and their protectors, who have already been through so much. We all deserve better than this horror.

Sunday, 13 May 2018

First Mother's Day

A few minutes before midnight, I’m washed up and ready to crawl into bed. You cry, just a little, and I go into your room to see you standing sleepily and looking over the rail of your crib for me.

I scoop you up, bundled in your little sleep sack, with your puppy pacifier that you really don’t need so much anymore. I snuggle with you into the rocking chair to nurse, half asleep. A moment later, I look up at the clock in your room, and it’s midnight. 

So begins my first Mother’s Day. It’s late, and I’m gently rocking us back and forth, lulling the two of us into slumber. 

Illuminated by a gentle nightlight, I see your perfect little face, relaxed into rest. I stroke your silky, silly baby hair. I feel how my cheekbone fits just right against your temple as I cuddle you close. I kiss your soft baby cheek, eyebrow, forehead. 

I whisper softly how grateful I am that you came down from the stars to be my baby. I love you so much, it’s just impossible to ever put words on it. Tomorrow, I will wake up loving you even more. This feeling of being your mother grows greater, stronger, prouder every day, even though the days are often hard and I am always tired.

I scoop you up close to my body, stand rocking you next to your crib, and settle you down into bed. My next wakeup call will come too soon, but I bet it will make my eyes burn with tears again, as I marvel at the wonder of you and this deep wellspring of blessing and transformation.

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Drifting and Landing

It's a gorgeously warm night, and a lovely breeze is drifting through the house. BBC radio is playing and all is, for the moment, calm.

In the past few days, I've gotten some lovely invitations to dance and also had the opportunity to recount my own history of dancing in the UK.

Is twelve years of life many or few? Marveling at the audacity of my youth and the peace of now. Life is so rich; difficult at turns but gorgeous and so full.

Exactly now, I feel the strength, the weft and weave, of all of my threads together in a private tapestry. I have crafted this little scene that is London and San Francisco, everywhere and singular, and it is mine--temporary and lovely.