As Certain as the Sky

I’ve long thought Lindsey Mead a beautiful, thoughtful writer, as she illustrates here in her personal story of the birth of her daughter, Grace. Lindsey continues the series of visiting writers here at True STORIES. discussing the times they were most scared:

“Matt!” I stared at him, panicked.  I was wearing a loose hospital Johnny, which was open in the back, and sitting on a big blue birthing ball.  “We can’t do this.  No way.  We aren’t ready to have a baby.”  I pushed sweaty hair out of my face and shook my head.

“Linds.”  Matt stood in front of me, holding my hands.  He looked bewildered.  “What, precisely, is your plan?”

I had been in labor 32 hours and was 8 centimeters dilated.  Grace’s birth was about fear and resistance. It was about my gritting my teeth and stubbornly laying in for the stay. Part of the resistance was that she was posterior, but it was also about my own utter lack of preparation to be a mother. I was in battle against myself: I was holding on, not ready to embrace a new life (mine, not hers) and identity. I was not ready to face the end of a phase of my life, the multiple deaths that are contained in birth. The inexorable force of a baby descending the birth canal went to war against my own quite powerful subconscious.  I was in labor for over 36 hours and at 9+ centimeters for 3 hours.

I cried and I screamed and I begged to be put out of my misery: I distinctly recall asking my midwife, completely seriously, to put a bullet in my head and just cut the baby out. The pain was both incendiary and incandescent. It was a crucible through which I had to pass, the heat so extreme that I was rendered molten. It was an animal experience, a raw, passionate, and terrifying introduction to a ferocity I had never imagined I possessed.

imagesI delivered Grace myself. At my midwife’s instruction, I reached down and put my thumbs under her armpits and pulled her onto my own chest. I am more grateful than I can express for photographs of this moment, because my own memories of it are jumbled, refracted through a prism of emotion I did not understand.

I thought I had been afraid as I labored.  But that paled compared to the overwhelming fear that swamped me in the next weeks.

It took me many months to climb out of the darkness that descended suddenly and undeniably after Grace’s birth.  I have never been as afraid as I was in those dark, early-winter weeks: afraid that she would never stop crying, afraid that I had made a huge mistake, afraid that I would never figure out how to love this baby girl.

Of course, I did.  My love for my daughter, who is now ten, is as all-encompassing and as certain as the sky.  But I can never forget the terrible, toxic fear of those first few weeks.  Having made it through that bleak time with Grace’s hand in mine, I’m pretty sure I will never be that scared again.

Lindsey Mead writes at A Design So Vast and Huffington Post.

Postpartum Depression

Chicago Tribune, January 31, 2013

Dear Editor,

Thank you for the article “Man defends wife who stabbed baby; Postpartum depression becoming more widely understood…” I am 89-and-a-half years old and want to share my experience, which I’ve never talked about before.

Our first baby was stillborn; a year-and-a-half later, I bore a beautiful baby girl. When I got home from the hospital, my husband, who was a minister, explained that he had to supervise a summer work camp for our denomination’s youth. This meant that I would be home alone for that first week.

I had never handled a baby before because my parents would not let me take baby-sitting jobs. After five days the baby was still crying so much, I was exhausted. That day, I decided that I would turn on the gas at night without lighting it so that the baby and I could sleep. Fortunately, the parsonage we lived in was large, and a small apartment was rented to another couple, who invited me upstairs for dinner. We finally managed to get the baby to sleep, and their invitation obviously saved my life.

I never told my husband about it even when another minister friend tragically lost his wife. A week after their baby was born, the wife jumped off the roof of the hospital and died.

I share my story now in the hopes it might help someone else.

Bernice Klosterman, Evanston, Illinois

That’s a True Story if I ever heard one.

Rape in the Year 2012

“If I have to listen to one more gray-faced man with a two-dollar haircut explain to me what rape is, I’m gonna lose my mind. I watch these guys and I’m, like, ‘What is happening? Am I a secretary on ‘Mad Men? What’s happening?’”  

–Tina Fey

In light of the latest caveman orating about rape, here are some bits that haven’t gotten as much news, from Jill Filipovic at The Guardian:

  • Sharron Angle, who ran for a US Senate seat out of Nevada, said she would tell a young girl wanting an abortion after being raped and impregnated by her father that “two wrongs don’t make a right” and that she should make a “lemon situation into lemonade“.
  • Douglas Henry, a Tennessee state senator, told his colleagues:  “Rape, ladies and gentlemen, is not today what rape was. Rape, when I was learning these things, was the violation of a chaste woman, against her will, by some party not her spouse.”
  • Republican activist Phyllis Schlafly declared that marital rape doesn’t exist, because when you get married you sign up to be sexually available to your husband at all times.
  • And when asked a few years back about what kind of rape victim should be allowed to have an abortion, South Dakota Republican Bill Napoli answered:  “A real-life description to me would be a rape victim, brutally raped, savaged. The girl was a virgin. She was religious. She planned on saving her virginity until she was married. She was brutalized and raped, sodomized as bad as you can possibly make it, and is impregnated. I mean, that girl could be so messed up, physically and psychologically, that carrying that child could very well threaten her life.”

A final thought, from a friend of mine:  I wonder if all of the politicians, MALE politicians, telling American women that rape is “legitimate” or “God’s will” would tell that to the boys Sandusky raped? Perhaps they could explain the implied irony of God’s will to the boys raped by priests? Or if they were raped themselves–you know, God willing?

New Yahoo CEO’s wife’s pregnancy spurs talk on work-life balance

News that Mark Mayer, 37, a top Google executive for 13 years, was taking over as Yahoo chief executive broke on Monday, the same day Mayer told Fortune magazine that his wife was pregnant with their first child, due in October. The 11-member Yahoo executive board was aware of his wife’s pregnancy before it unanimously voted to hire him for the position.

Mayer’s announcement of his wife’s pregnancy rippled across the blogosphere Tuesday, sparking discussions that touched on the continued rarity of male CEOs at Fortune 500 companies, the roles of mothers, and the fatherhood challenges faced by everyday working men.

Mayer joins just 481 other male CEOs at Fortune 500 companies, according to a 2011 study by Catalyst.

Anne Ladky, executive director of Women Employed, calls Mayer’s promotion to CEO at a major company a “rare situation.”

“To have him become CEO at his wife’s childbearing age, and to have his wife also be pregnant, is a very rare circumstance, but it’s very worth noting,” Ladky said. “He might not be thinking ‘I can have it all,’ but rather, ‘I can do both.'”

Kelly Grier, office managing partner at Ernst & Young’s Chicago office and mother of a 12-year-old son, believes it is “absolutely terrific” that Mayer is stepping into the role and said the board appeared very thoughtful in its decision.

“From everything I’ve read, the least of their considerations was his wife’s pregnancy and that’s exactly how it should be,” said Grier.

*The above article was taken word for word from the Chicago Tribune–except I made Mayer a man. The actual article is about Yahoo’s new CEO, Marissa Mayer, who is pregnant.

Elizabeth

She says it was like a bad after-school special, and laughs. But there is sadness in her eyes, and shame. Not much, but it is there, I think. I want to say the right things, but it is hard to find the words when she tells me her story.

Jake* was older than I was, a frat boy. I’d had a crush on him for months and I was newly single, having just broken up with my boyfriend of three years. And now Jake and I were at the same party.

He fed me drinks all night. I laughed and flirted. My friend asked if I was going to hook up with him, but I said no. I was still sad over the break-up. My ex-boyfriend was the only guy I’d ever been with.

I blacked out for a while. I don’t recall walking upstairs. The next thing I remember is standing in a bedroom. Jake locked the door. We kissed on the bed but I was very drunk. I could barely move. He took off my pants and I remember saying, “No, I don’t want to do this.”

“You think you don’t, but you do,” he said.

He kneeled on my thighs to keep my legs open and held my hands over my head with one hand. He was inside me and I began to cry. I remember feeling like I couldn’t stop it. I don’t know why. I was just—resigned.

I told him if he was going to force me to at least use a condom. He was still holding my hands over my head when he flashed a condom in front of me. I assumed he put it on.

When he finished, he left and I lay there crying for a while. I got up and put on my pants, wiped my eyes, and left the room to find my friends. There was no drama, no yelling. No one at the party knew what had happened, except my friends. On the way out, we ran into him. My friend said, “She liked you.” He shrugged and said, “Sorry.”

I didn’t even think of going to the police. I wondered if I’d led him on. I even thought that since I had liked him, maybe somehow it wasn’t “rape.” Even though I was aware you could be raped by someone you know, when it happened, I just—I don’t know. It was hard to accept that it was rape. It wasn’t bloody. I didn’t have a knife held to my throat. I wasn’t punched. No broken ribs.  But I did have bruises on my thighs and wrists where he held me down.

I saw him on campus that week and he waved.

Two months later, I found out I was pregnant. And I had an STD.

I called my mom from a bathroom stall in my dorm. She booked a flight for me and when I got home, my parents told me what was going to happen. They didn’t ask me, but I think they were just trying to make it easier. I don’t know if I could have made the decision.

The first trip to the abortion clinic, I couldn’t sign the papers so my mom drove me home. Two days later, I went back. I don’t remember much about the procedure, except that I cried a lot. In the recovery room, I listened to two mothers talk about their other children’s soccer practice later that day. That made me cry harder.

I was gone from school for three weeks, but I kept up with the work. When I returned, I just stepped back into things. Whenever I saw Jake on campus, he would wave and smile. A true, genuine smile. Not gloating, not mean. So I’m not sure he thought he did anything wrong.

A few years after I graduated, he tried to connect with me on MySpace. He sent me a note like nothing happened and asked if we could get together the next time he was in Chicago. I wanted to seem unaffected, like he did. So I wrote back. But I said no, we couldn’t get together.

I had a hard time with it for a while. I tried to date my high school boyfriend again, to go back to what was safe, I think. But when I told him what had happened, he said it was my fault. Then I went through a slutty phase.

But then I decided I was going to be by myself for a while. And that was the smartest thing I did. I became friends with myself again.

She feels healed now. She thinks about her husband, the way he loves her. She thinks about his goodness and his gentleness. It’s the only time she ever cries.