Sunday, July 31, 2011

You turn me into Somebody Loved

One for my baby and one for me!

When a child is born, the entire universe has to shift to make room. Another entity capable of free will, and therefore capable of becoming God, has been born. In that way, every child’s birth is exactly like the birth of a world teacher. Every child born is a living Buddha. Some of them only get to be a living Buddha for a moment, because nobody believes it. Nobody knows it, and they get treated like they’re dumb. Babies are not dumb. Just because they don’t speak English doesn’t mean they’re dumb. A newborn infant is just as intelligent as you are. When you are relating with her, you should consider that you are relating with a very intelligent being who just doesn’t speak your language yet. And you shouldn’t do anything gross to her before she learns to speak with you. –Stephen Gaskin

"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."

"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.

"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."

"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

"I suppose you are real?" said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive.

But the Skin Horse only smiled.

--Margery Williams (from the Velveteen Rabbit)

Monday, July 18, 2011

My Birthing Warrior

I knew that having a child would change my life, but honestly I had never given much thought to the what the birth would mean to me. In fact, I always just had the idea that we would go to the hospital and the doctors would take care of it and I'd probably just hold Rachel's hand. Luckily I married an amazing girl who had thought about it much more than I had. I want to share something I wrote in my journal. I really wasn't prepared for what that experience would mean for me, partly because I never really considered that I would really have much of an active part in it. Given, Rachel did all of the work! But I got to observe her and support her when I could.

Here it is:

Jonathan Chai was born on 6/7/11! He is such a cutie. He has my lips and it's really sweet. He is a beautiful, mostly calm boy. I'm really writing to write about Rachel's home birth...It was so amazing! Her water broke at about 11 am. She called me to let me know. It was so exciting . I was at work correcting papers. Then she called me again around 4:30 and wanted me to come be with her, she had begun laboring. So I came home and watched her start to have contractions. It was so sweet and lovely! Soon enough laurel, wendy and laura were all at our house talking to rachel and affirming her. We had to wait for the contractions to get closer together so it quieted down and everyone went home. Rachel knelt by the couch and I put on a movie, which i really didn't watch, and gave her soft touch massage while she had contractions. at around 1200 we called the midwife and she came back. Then at around 130 rachel told me to call the girls. They all showed up! They were so affirming to Rachel. Rachel did this awesome birthsong that sounded somewhat like a whale call during each contraction! It was hypnotizing. I loved it! It was really cute. And everyone in the room seemed to follow it. It was mesmerizing. She labored through the night and then at about 4:00 she was at a 9! OH also, earlier on the baby had been posterior but the midwife had her do some lunges and other positions and then he flipped!

At this time Rachel got into the pool and started having almost non-stop contractions. I remember looking at her so calm in the pool, but yet in such pain. She has never appeared so beautiful to me, not ever! I was amazed! She looked infinitely strong and I suddenly had not a doubt that she could do this and do it well! She began pushing at about 450 AM and I was stunned! It was one of the most powerful things I've ever witnessed. She would let out these great powerful roar/bellows that made me want to flex my muscles and pretend I had power. It was intense! I was so proud of her and so much in awe of her. It is strange, but I think that I learned a lot about womanhood. I respect Rachel in a completely new way. I'm in awe of her in a way that I wasn't before. And I love her in a way that is new. She amazed me, and I will never be the same. I couldn't help but think about how much taking the significance out of birth from women (or making birth a medical phenomenon) takes them away from the power that is rightfully theirs. I could never think of Rachel as weak after that. She so obviously wasn't! She had done something so amazing, so magical, and she had done it herself. She had so much support, as she should have. But it was HER birth.

I wonder that maybe man was able to look at the female sex as weaker and "fairer" because they (men) weren't allowed to be involved with birth. If they had seen what I had seen, they could not consider women weak. I feel like every woman in the world should know of her power, a power I shall never have. It is rightfully theirs. It brings me sadness when people perceive that being powerful is to be more like a man. Clearly they have not seen what I have seen, or they would know there is no need for this, they have a power just as powerful inside of them. It isn't about being like someone or some group of people. This is something women are capable of. It is theirs! It belongs to them! Why we gave it wholly up to men, of all people, is beyond me. They are the people least likely to understand it as they couldn't possibly experience it themselves. The fact that anybody would ever allow shame to be associated with pregnancy and birth is beyond me! How could they! It should be a grand celebration of life and creation. It was a beautifully triumphant experience. I felt like everything was alive! For that moment I was untouched by decay. I am absolutely in awe!

It is amazing how some experiences change you. This was one of them. I feel so close to Rachel. It was a beautiful end to the sexual cycle. I told Rachel that its part of the cycle of just meeting her, and everything we have been through together! It is beautiful. It's crazy to think that for Chai to be created things needed to happen just as they did. If they hadn't, he probably would have been made out of some other different swimmer and some other different egg. Chai is the product of a wonderful relationship and a wonderful experience.

OK that was all I want to share from the journal, but I want to close with this:

When I saw my son for the first time, his eyes looked so interested. He cried for just a little bit and then started looking around! He was put directly into Rachels arms and she had the most beautiful, overwhelmed expression on her face as she was crying! There is a picture of it and it warms my heart every time I see it. But he was a beautiful boy. He just looked around and was so quiet. I felt like we had done something amazing, though admittedly it was mostly only racher. We were a family suddenly! I was very suddenly a father. It was crazy. Rachel and I were going to take care of little Chai. Wow...It was wonderful! It was beautiful and peaceful. I am so thankful to Rachel and EVERYONE, the many, who supported her directly or indirectly with the birth. It was the experience of a lifetime!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Ocean mother, ocean child, are you mine or are you wild?

Whenever someone tells me to imagine a "happy place," I find myself on this beach in San Carlos Mexico. It has been part of my life since before I can remember (family reunions with my mother's family the Paces). We used to take a Mexico trip every 3 years and I loved that my age during the Mexico summers was always a multiple of 3 (6 9 12 15 21 24 27). I was 3 years old when someone caught little me in this picture, darting towards the sea. The landscape has changed a lot in the last 20+ years, but my beloved ocean and Las Tetas, the mountains in the background (so aptly named) greet me every time like old friends. They saw me grow up. Since I'm always drowning in syrupy nostalgia I'll spare you the memories of ancient times and write about the glory of this summer, of Now.

Mexico was a song and a relief and a sweet ocean breeze filling me with hope and memory. I felt restored to myself; at the same time it was very different from any Mexico before when I’ve been able to spend endless hours wandering the beach with my CD player/ipod in hand, letting the golden sun ooze over my skin and paint me dark so that when I finally stripped off my swimsuit, my skin was the colors of Neapolitan ice cream. This time I returned to this beloved place of my childhood with my own child—my 3 ½ week old child. I had a few doubts about taking him once he was born and the reality of the complete absorption of caring for him distilled upon me, but I’m so glad we did take him!

My sweet little boo was so patient and darling on the long car trip, (I think he only cried about 3 times, and never for long) and it felt so good for me to be around more people, all of whom were falling over each other to hold him and play with him.

Since Chai isn’t old enough to really enjoy any aspect of the beach or the town, and his conversational skills are limited, his vacation highlights included screams of indignation the first time he felt the humidity seep into the car when my Dad turned off the AC, nursing while I walked across an intersection in Nogales, nursing while tilted sideways in his snugli in front of a Walmart in Guaymas, taking a nap in his playpen which we set up on the beach, meeting thousands of relatives who commented on his swarthy size and enormous lips, being adored by the members of the Miramas ward (“esta bien rojo!” “tiene unas manos bien curiosas!”), and falling asleep on the dryer with me singing to him after a particularly potent meltdown. Ha. Those are probably actually the lowlights.

I do think he must have been a little aware of how obsessed my family is with him. Every morning when I brought him into the room we were greeted by a chorus of “It’s Chai!” “Let me hold him!” “Give him to me!” Even my parents squabble over who gets a turn with him next (“Do you want me to hold him, Ed?” “Just hang on, Lorena, he’s doing fine!”) My Dad makes clicking noises at him which do calm him down and claims he is teaching Chai Swahili.
Doug and Emily were our roommates and always asking if they could help. Mary and Diana “danced” him by moving his arms and legs in time to humiliating OHS fight songs, which I thought was mortifying, but Chai actually seemed to love it. Cow told me, “You’re just jealous because this is the happiest he’s ever been in his life.” Ouch. It felt so good to be able to place him in loving hands, it eased the responsibility-anxiety knots that have been twisting my heart and my muscles. I guess they won't ever go away for good now that we have a child, but it was so nice to have little breaks. I love my adorable son...I want to squiiiish him. I love kissing him all over his male-pattern baldness head.

I learned to fit play into the brief little pockets of time allotted by long naps when my mother or one of my brothers or sisters was willing to keep an eye on Chai. Those little pockets of fun were more than enough for me. All I really wanted was to hang out with everyone, swim in the ocean every day and go on a couple of walks on the beach where I could listen to music—which I did twice, and it was so relaxing and fantastic! Those walks and the songs I listen to are like keeping an old, old promise to myself. I always feel like I can walk straight into the sun, they make me so happy. The beach was lovely, hardly anyone there besides our extended family and no jellyfish this year. We usually see dolphins swimming near the beach in the mornings; this year they came so close and we paddled out to see them (“swimming to China”). They were so close to us I got a little nervous, but oh, they were beautiful! Jonathan got even closer, so close that I think he learned their ways and they accepted him as one of them, even offering him a dolphin bride. Luckily he turned them down and came back to me.

Whenever Jonathan and I got a chance to do something alone together—even walking back and forth from other condos—I’d say, “Is this a date? Are we on a date?” One night right after Chai went to sleep we ran down the beach together for an impulsive night swim, and it felt so good splashing in the warm light water and kissing in the was amazing! I had so much fun talking with family; my parents, my siblings, my cousins and my tios. I watched the 25th Les Mis anniversary concert with my grandparents. My grandmother wept all the way through; sometimes at the tragedies of the characters, other times surely at the wretched miscasting of Nick Jonas as Marius. It felt so good to be with everyone. On one of the last nights the twinners and I were conducting one of our Awkward Photo sessions and caught the interest of some of my aunts, who requested that awkward photos also be taken of them and their spouses. It was so fun!

>I'd been looking forward to Mexico ever since we got back last year, so it's been a little rough to come home, but gracias a Dios there is always more to look forward to. Up next...Scott's wedding, grad school applications, the cabin? every single one of these glorious sunny days that zip by way too quickly lately.

Also, living with Jonny Strange is always an adventure. I really do look forward to being with him every day, even just hanging out at home together, talking and admiring our baby. He's so fiduciary and makes life so good. I've been a little bit of a disaster sometimes lately and he is always so calm, loving and steady. Everlastingly patient. People say feelings fade with time but it hasn't worn off for me yet, I don't think it ever will. Jonny, I love you real bad!

Floriberto mi chulito. I'm obsessed with him.
View from the twinners' balcony