First, a quick book update: I have some events scheduled and up on my website. My first reading will actually be in New York on June 4 (where I'll be in conversation with Emily Gould), and the Seattle launch will be a Town Hall event on June 13 (where I'll be in conversation with my brilliant friend Lindy West). As always, you can pre-order the book (out May 29) from your local bookstore or Amazon.
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15 April 2018
I'm writing this (finishing, really—I've been trying to write this for over two weeks 😂) during an hour-and-a-half of solo time that Will has given my by taking our girls to toddler gym at a nearby community center. Time is fleeting, and it feels especially so right now.
I blew 20 of my 90 minutes on a very hot shower (something I'd typically forgo but, just before leaving, the baby showered me in her most dramatic and voluminous spit up to date). I also don't need to look at a clock to know that precious minutes have passed; soon enough a familiar, vaguely painful, tingling will strike my nipples, they'll begin leaking and, because I have once again forgotten to slip nursing pads into my bra, I'll know my time is up. It almost makes me want to stop what I'm doing right now, lie down, and try to take a short nap instead.
On March 7, we added a fresh, perfect human being, as well as a wondrous new dimension, to our family. I also acquired a serious energy problem. To borrow the words our three-year-old friend Mateo said while on a hike last summer, "My energy fell down."
It's easy to point to causes—caring for a helpless person day and night, lack of sleep, recovering from surgery—but the other day I felt it most profoundly while sitting in the living room nursing Ligaya. I felt simultaneously like I might just melt into the chair and disappear, or that she might suck all of me into her tiny mouth and I would simply vanish inside of her like a breath, cease to exist. Breastfeeding has felt much harder this time around—not the physical act of it, which thankfully has been going smoothly, but the toll it takes on my vitality and sense of self.
I am currently reading three books on postpartum health and "the fourth trimester." (More accurately, I read a few pages of whichever book happens to be closest to me before nodding off or having to respond to the screams of a small person in need of my attention.) The books I am reading deal more with the sacred/divine feminine and energy fields than I am currently comfortable with. Not that I don't buy in on some level, but my concerns feel more concrete, urgent. I'm just trying to get more than two hours of sleep in a row, to remember to put absorbent pads in my ill-fitting bras, to time my next bowel movement so it might happen uninterrupted, alone. I am less concerned with slow-braising a red date and goji berry stew that will restore my yang than I am with having enough kinds of chips around the house to meet my round-the-clock, beast-like hunger.
Women are pulling cosmic energy down through their bodies, into the earthly, material realm. During your birth, your energy field expanded as much as it probably ever will in your life. That expanded field is helpful in allowing you to open to greater wisdom and strength than normally available. For day-to-day life and new mothering, it is important to restore your energy field to a manageable size.
If we can gently assist our energy field in returning to a comfortable size and guide the birth energy out and through, we will experience more focused awareness and less overall confusion and disorientation.The process of consolidating our energy postpartum requires that we seal the energy at the pelvis and the crown of the head.
Imagine dense and loving golden light is nourishing you with the love and connection that you need. Imagine being lightly draped in a gossamer net. Feel the contours of your skin and relax into your own body.
I suggest that each new mom choose a bowl to eat from that is hers only. The bowl itself is a symbol of the womb. Committing to being sustained from this bowl and not sharing what is in it allows a new mother to maintain a sense of dignity and boundaries. Another suggestions is to have a bowl of water and a flower in it on your bedside table, mantel, or altar space.
I mean, this all sounds great, but closing my portals feels like an abstract luxury at this point. Also, I don't have an altar.
Another thing I don't have: the same patience I had just two months ago for my sweet restless toddler who is constantly searching, now with her entire body and mind, for stimulation and attention. (It doesn't help poor Noli's cause that she currently has a particularly juicy, lingering cough and cold, kicks me in my still tender abdomen every time she crawls into bed with us, has recently started waking up with truly terrible morning breath, and literally never stops talking.) Will called me out on my shortness with her the other day. It stung but I knew it was true, and that I needed to be told.
Once, when I was still pregnant with Ligaya, after a dance class a woman asked if I was open to hearing something she wished she had heard before she had her second child. I'm not normally in the business of taking unsolicited advice from people I barely know, but I really like the way this woman moves. She told me that, amid all the joy and emotions of having another baby, she continually found herself feeling sad. Sad because the relationship she had with her first son up until that point had ended, was over. I felt grateful to her in that moment, and even more so now as I navigate this experience for myself. (Khadijah, wherever you are, thank you.)
In some ways, I feel like I am going through a weird breakup with Noli. Like I am in a relationship in which I am hyper-aware (but also slightly in denial) of the fact that I am unable to maintain it. That I will surely, in some way, disappoint and hurt this person. Sometimes I want to tell her, "It's not you, it's me." (The words on the infamous Berger breakup Post-It note from Sex and the City actually come to the tip of my tongue when I have to say no to lifting her up, taking her to school: "I'm sorry. I can't. Don't hate me.") Sometimes I even feel myself pushing her away a bit, towards her father, towards my parents—people who can give her more of what she needs right now. I know it's not a breakup, of course, rather a shift, a necessary change that will reveal its nuances over time. But, for now, it is hard not to perceive it as a loss.
But, as I told Will the other day as a way of defending explaining myself, it's fucking hard. All I do is give, pay attention, provide warmth and comfort, literally get the life sucked out of me every two hours. I am pure output. Even as I am as I am showering, dripping with water, I am outputting, dripping with milk. Both deep in my feelings and inability to visualize a gossamer net draping my expanding, sagging curves, I instead view my current problem as economic. An issue of supply and demand: I have only so much energy in a given day, and when it's gone, it's gone. To complicate things, I have no idea when the energy will run out. But it is, inevitably, well before everyone in my family has gotten what they need.
So what feeds me, gives me generative energy, replenishes my supplies? Physical activity, time with Will (like romantic times, not frantic, tag-team parenting for mere survival time), writing and creative work, time with friends. I'm getting so little of all of these things right now that it is hard to imagine I'll ever be able to fill the well. C-section recovery means it will be another few weeks before I can go dancing again, be able to walk more than two miles without feeling it for a few days after.
I've been wanting to work on pieces to pitch around the time my book is released, to write Ligaya's birth story, pick up Noli without wincing, but I can't just yet. Recovery and caring for a newborn requires moving slowly, looking inward, dwelling in the domestic, being bored. It is beautiful and satisfying in its own ways, but they are ways I seem to only be able to catch in flashes and glimpses. In rapturous moments sniffing Ligaya's funky scalp, petting the dark fur that still lines the backs of her ears, watching Noli do her "art spins" across the living room (while ignoring her self-aggrandizing narration of it all). Talk to me in two months, though, when I am traveling to promote my book and doing events, and I will likely romanticize my current situation.
My mom has started coming over for a few hours a couple of days a week so I can do things I need to do. I catch up on email, take long showers, go to the coffee shop for a latte. I go for a walk in my favorite park where, free from Ligaya and any sort of baby carrier, I look at mothers with their babies and wish that I bore some sort of signifier that I am one of them. Not just a random woman alone, incomplete, slightly lost.
All of this (and the big, bright green monstera leaf sitting in an old bottle on my nightstand—no altar or special womb bowl for me, but I am apparently still open to attempting to map my energy fields and certainly maintaining my dignity and boundaries!) will have to do for now. At least until my energy can pick itself up and walk—then run, jump, dance, do a nasty drop.
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