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Guest Posts, Abortion, No Bullshit Motherhood

The Pull of My Own

August 26, 2020

By Isa Nye

I craved a little being to nurture, to suckle. I dreamed of nursing a newborn – I felt the pull of the moon at night – procreate procreate procreate. But I waited. I waited and waited. Because the first time was wrong. I let the first baby go not knowing how I couldn’t, not knowing how I could, in a sweat, in a nightmare, in a dream, in a doctor’s office, in desperation. Metal medical equipment and cheap posters on the wall. I waited years then. I waited for everything to be right – to hold my baby in my arms, nurture it, give it my milk, and all my love.

The CIA says every five seconds 20 babies are born and 10 people die – all day, all night, over and over and over –so many humans come and go, and yet when it is my own baby my world re-aligns and spins around this tiny being, my own baby, even in the womb, my baby pulls at gravity and becomes the center of my very existence.

My third baby waited eighteen days past when he was due to be born. Each one of those eighteen days dragged past – each of those nights it seemed as if the sun would never set, the moon never rise, like the day would never come where I would meet my boy. But I did.

There were the cramps – they started low, below the belly, a tightening, like everything inside me was constricting inward to a point that it could not reach, straining and tensing. “I think this is it. I think I’m going into labor,” I said through gritted teeth, writhing on the hospital bed, monitors already attached to me. “Take the cords off. Take them off!,” I said, loudly, pulling at them, throwing them away from my body, and climbing from the stiff sheets, touching the cold floor with my bare feet, squatting down, standing up, grabbing at my belly, leaning over, breathing in. “This is it. I’m pretty sure this is it,” I said, sucking in air, breathing out loudly, squeezing my eyes closed tightly, and everything in the world reduced to the sensation in my body – the contraction of uterine muscles sending out shock waves in an earthquake all my own.

This was my third baby. On the maternity ward a lullaby played every time a baby was born, marking a new being’s arrival on earth. Several women were in labor at the same time as me, and nurses busily rushed from room to room, a night’s work for them.

He was born into water. I pushed him from me with a roar of strength I did not know I had and may never feel again. A lullaby must have rung out across the maternity ward, but I did not hear it. I only heard him. “My baby, my baby, my baby,” is what I said over and over as I cradled him to me, naked and wet, his skin against mine, as around us the nurses, midwives, and doctors hustled, as my husband cut the cord.

The second baby had not come so easily. Not like the third. She was born amid struggle, after hours of effort, hours of pain that took over everything and became everything and then subsided and returned and subsided and returned. I bore down so hard I though my intestines would come out. She drug her placenta behind her on a short cord and when at last I pushed her from me, she took a moment to catch her breath. “Say hello to her!” the midwife said, “She needs to hear your voice!” They had taken her to a table where they were working on her, getting fluid from her mouth and nose; her tiny hand clasped my husband’s finger. “Hi, baby. Hi. Hi, baby,” I said, my voice sounding foreign to me, disconnected. “Hi baby. C’mon, baby. Hi, baby.” A cry erupted from her and she sucked in her first breath of oxygen on earth. During my twelve hours of laboring her from me to the world, roughly 180,000 babies were born, statistically speaking, but only one of them was mine.

My first baby I never saw nor heard, but felt, yes. That baby’s exit from my body was not so monumental, miraculous, mythical. It was mechanical, methodical, medical. My breasts ached for that baby who I never knew was a boy or girl, or in between those. I didn’t know. The baby let me let it go, or so I told myself because everything was at stake. I was strong then too, on the operating table, waiting for the doctor. While she sucked the baby from my womb, I was strong. I did not cry or let out a cry. On the hour drive home I laid my head against the cool window of the passenger seat and did not talk, or cry. My boyfriend cried in the backseat. My friend drove us home, and for that I was grateful. During that hour long drive from the clinic to my bed, about 6,000 people died, statistically speaking, but none of them were mine. I might have been numb the but it was mine I knew I would mourn, and even if I knew I didn’t question my choice, I would feel the loss.

Isa Nye has written ever since she could. She was raised in Montana among cowboys and professors, and she turned to the written word to both escape and to make sense of that life. She now lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two young children, and writing still brings her both solace and clarity.

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Guest Posts, Pregnancy, Women

A Week Late

January 23, 2015


By Martina Clark.

I’m a week late. Not on my rent, for my period. I’m never late. Ten years ago – or five, heck, even one or two – I would have panicked and immediately gone to pee on a stick. But now, just months shy of my 50th birthday, I’m totally confused. Am I pregnant? (We use protection but nothing is 100% sure.) Am I starting menopause? (Did I mention that I’m almost 50?) Or am I just a week late and it is what it is and I should shut up and have another piece of chocolate?

The only thing I know for certain is that this has never happened before – at least not in the twenty years since I stopped using the pill – and I’m not quite sure how to proceed. My sisters – seven and eight years older, respectively – both experienced pre-menopausal symptoms starting in their early 40s and after hearing their stories I feel like I’ve been waiting every month for a summons from hell.

“Ma’am, please step away from the happy times and come with us. I’m afraid you have been sentenced to a decade of evil mood swings, drenching night sweats and flame inducing hot flashes. Any resistance will just cause you more misery and unsightly sweat stains. Welcome to the prison that is menopause.”

And, although I hadn’t really experienced anything to be concerned about, I do remember discussing this with my doctor a year or two back when I asked what kind of signs to expect with pre-menopause. She laughed.

“Martina, at this point, if you have signs, they’re not pre anything. They’re just menopause.”

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

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Guest Posts, Inspiration


August 16, 2014

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-blackBy Dena Young.

I can remember just a few months back, sitting under a tree, lamenting the change of season.  Spring was shifting into summer and, though I love summer, I could already feel a longing for the early bloom of springtime.

This was the first year, maybe ever, I felt present every day, open to the new life unfolding.  I allowed myself to have my breath taken away at each turned corner, open to the surprise of a burst of yellow from the forsythia that always seem to appear first, then to the patches of pink tulips, drooping from the weight of their too-heavy heads.  I loved crossing the street and being charmed by the powerful scent of hyacinths and the voluptuous lushness of cherry blossoms. I let it amaze and astonish me.

And then I began to mourn it, even before it was over.

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Now Leaving Childhood. By Amy Ferris.

July 23, 2014

By Amy Ferris

He was a spiritual advisor/therapist of sorts. More like a healer/shaman. I had known him for years. I told him that I felt empty, lost… completely depleted. “I think I need to re-connect with a spiritual path,” I said. “It finds you,” he told me. “One day you’ll be doing something, standing somewhere, driving in the car… and you’ll just feel it, get it… know it. You’ll know it. It’ll wash over you.”

“Oh,” I said, “you mean like an Aha moment.”

“More like an Ah-yes moment. Aha is a light bulb, Ah-yes is the whole wiring system. It’s not a fall-to-my-knees moment, it’s pure clarity.”

It was sort of like an impulse buy.

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courage, Guest Posts, Truth

The Abortion.

July 14, 2014

The Abortion by Judy Bolton-Fasman.

I am weightless, airborne as I look down at my body on the examination table.

Like my mother and her mother, my post-baby weight has gathered in my belly, making me appear several months pregnant even at nine weeks. My legs are spread wide so the doctor can apply a cream to soften my cervix, easing my body to give way to the abortion.

Sometimes I wish this story had a cinematic ending. But I did not jump off the table, holding the back of my gown together, walking away backwards saying, “This is a mistake.” Saying, “I’ll keep the baby.”

Six months earlier, I was nine months pregnant, also waiting for my cervix to be effaced. At ten centimeters I could begin pushing my first baby out of fluid darkness.

“What will we call the baby? I asked my husband before the Pitocin made me heavy then delirious with pain. Later on in labor I disconnected from my body after an epidural paralyzed my legs so that pushing felt mechanical rather than necessary. I worried that without ripples of crushing pain I had not fully earned the right to be a mother.


The second pregnancy was like the flowering surprise of a bloodstain blooming on a crisp white bed sheet. I breastfed my first baby and hadn’t had a period yet. My husband and I should have known that I could get pregnant, but that would have meant taking the time to fumble for a condom or the diaphragm. There could be no barriers between us on that cold, starless January night. And given how difficult it was to get pregnant the first time, we never thought it could happen so effortlessly. In the two years we tried to conceive our first baby we desperately willed our bodies to do what they were meant for. When I was finally pregnant, it was as if I were the first woman in the world to carry a baby.


That first time I tested for a pregnancy, I rejoiced that a drugstore kit rarely registered a false positive. The second time I tested for a pregnancy I prayed to be the exception.


In the late afternoon the baby would not stop screaming and squirming in my arms. I often had fantasies of popping her in the microwave, cooking her until she was quiet. “Do you want to hurt your baby?” a therapist asked. “Wring her neck like you would a small chick?”

I lay the baby down in a basket plumped with clean clothes as if I were sending her away like Moses on the Nile. She rubbed her eyes and let out a few cries before succumbing to exhaustion. I hated parents who were nostalgic for a child that fit into their arms, that couldn’t answer them back. I longed for independence, for words to articulate how long the days were. “Yes,” said one of those parents, “the days are long and intense, but the years are short.” Liar, I thought.



My breasts were tender—a sure sign that I would bleed at any moment. I peed on the telltale stick anyway. Twenty minutes later two pink lines appeared. One for each baby I could have within the year. Pink is for girl. Two baby girls—one on each hip. I thought of my mother and her panic when she believed she was pregnant for a fourth time. She cried for a miscarriage. That was also the summer of her continuous migraine. “I can’t take this anymore,” she said about her headaches and her motherhood. She stripped down to bra and panties and lay in bed with a wet washcloth over her eyes. Her long dark hair was down from its bun and splayed on the pillow.


My baby girl was two months old when the Susan Smith drama unfolded on CNN. Each night at dinnertime I breastfed my colic baby to quiet her as I watched the police piece their way to the inevitable conclusion that Smith strapped her little boys into their car seats and rolled her car into a lake. She murdered her children to be free to pursue a romance. Was I, who was terrified of microwaving my baby to free myself from the long twilight days, so different than Susan Smith?


The summer I was due with my first baby, a series of business trips kept my husband from attending all but one childbirth class with me. I called my sister to come down to be my temporary birth partner. She was game until the instructor passed around a metal prod used to break the amniotic sac. It turns out I was a natural water breaker. Two weeks before my baby’s due date, I lay down to go to sleep and my water broke. Soaked and scared, I went to the hospital only to be sent back home until I had labor pains. The pains never came. They must have been waylaid deep inside my body.

The night before my labor was induced, I was tucked into bed among other women also awaiting their babies. We were curtained off from each other for some semblance of privacy. A couple of hours after I had had a sonogram to establish the baby’s position, a nurse came in and told me that I was having a boy. I called my husband in the middle of the night to tell him to prepare for a brit—a circumcision—in the next week. He would be marked like his father.

With Pitocin, Demerol and spinal block flooding my veins, my baby was born sluggish. She took a few minutes to cry. When the doctor finally announced that I had had a girl, I managed to sit up and ask if she was absolutely sure. “I’ve been doing this a long time,” she said to me.


The doctor who delivered my baby girl snaps off her gloves after she spreads the cream on my cervix. “It’s early enough so that all you’ll need is a D&C. It’s also encouraging that you’ve been spotting the last couple of days. You might have had a miscarriage.”


After I saw specks of blood on my underwear, I took long hot baths to hasten a miscarriage. My grandmother had done the same when she became pregnant with my uncle. She also tried to ripen her cervix with olive oil. Her two daughters, born a year apart, had frequently sent her to convalesce in the hospital. My grandmother gave birth to her only son born seven years after her first child, my mother. Mom brought him up.


The morning of the abortion I am still nine weeks pregnant. My husband drives in wide circles around the hospital for what seems like hours before we check into the day surgery. “You don’t have to do this,” he tells me. He holds my hand in the car as I explain to him again that Jewish law makes room for an early pregnancy termination if the mother’s health is at risk. “I’m in no shape to have two children fifteen months apart,” I say. And yet I want him to tell me that I can mother two young children if I have to. I want him to tell me that he will hire someone so that I can grocery shop alone and come home to folded laundry.


Abortion is what the unmarried do. What the unhappily married do. At that moment, I somehow manage to be both.


This is where the story could have another cinematic ending. I could tell my husband to drive me home. If my cervix holds up, I will have the baby. If I miscarry, at least I made the decision to keep the baby. But we walk into the same hospital where I gave birth to my baby girl, grateful that there are no screaming placards accusing us of murder. Just a waiting room wrapped in the quiet euphemism that I am there for a D&C. My cervix will be dilated and the doctor will scrape my uterus and scoop the cluster of cells. I mostly convince myself that there is just tissue lining my uterus.

I part from my husband to undress—the gown opened in the back—and I lay down on yet another table where I shade my eyes from the fluorescent lights. “Will I hear a vacuum sound?” I ask the nurse. As soon as the question floats between us I wonder how such a domestic machine can undo such a domestic act.

“We give you drugs that make you forget,” she says. That’s the conventional wisdom about the pain of childbirth too. I am the exception. I remember all of it.

Feet in stirrups, sheet draped over my legs, the doctor asks me to “scoot down” and count backwards into blankness. The number 97 is the last thing I remember. I wake up in a cold amnesia, shaking. Excitement is the other side of anxiety, and mania has taken hold of me.

I am lighter, unburdened, triumphant. I want to know the sex. Another girl? I don’t believe the doctor when she says that the sex cannot be determined so early in the pregnancy.

I catch myself thinking that I would have named the baby for my father and I cry for the first time that day. No matter that my father is still alive then. I follow Spanish-Jewish tradition. And right then and there only the living count. The abortion is for the baby I already have.

The abortion is also for the baby boy I will give birth to three years later. He is named for my father. He’s almost a man now—six feet tall with a deep voice, nerves of steel and the heart of a saint—yet I’m afraid to tell him about the abortion. What if he asks me if he would have been born if I hadn’t had terminated my pregnancy? I can’t give him a vague answer about the alignment of the stars determining his fate. He’s a smart boy and he won’t be convinced if I simply tell him that he was meant to be born. Meant to be ours. I can only tell him that he is wanted, needed.

 Judy Bolton-Fasman lives outside of Boston with her husband and two children. Her essays and reviews have appeared in the Rumpus, Cognoscenti, the New York Times, the Boston Globe and other venues. She has just completed a draft of her memoir 1735 Asylum Avenue: A Family Memoir.

Judy Bolton-Fasman lives outside of Boston with her husband and two children. Her essays and reviews have appeared in The Rumpus, Cognoscenti, The New York Times, The Boston Globe and other venues. She has just completed a draft of her memoir 1735 Asylum Avenue: A Family Memoir.


Jennifer Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Her work has been featured on The Rumpus, The Nervous Breakdown, Jezebel, Salon, and more. Jen leads her signature Manifestation Retreats & Workshops all over the world. The next retreat is to Ojai, Calif over Labor Day. Check out for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Next up: SeattleLondon, Atlanta, South Dakota, NYC, Dallas, Tucson & The Berkshires (guest speaker Canyon Ranch.) She tweets/instagrams at @jenpastiloff.

Next Manifestation workshops: Seattle July 26/27, Atlanta August 9th.