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pregnancy

Binders, Guest Posts, Pregnancy

A Bend in the Light

June 18, 2015
Book Girl Power: You Are Enough now! Space is limited. Sep 19 Princeton! Sep 20th NYC. The book is also forthcoming from Jen Pastiloff.

Book Girl Power: You Are Enough now! Space is limited. Sep 19 Princeton! Sep 20th NYC. The book is also forthcoming from Jen Pastiloff.

 

By Aileen Weintraub

It was the morning of my son’s eighth birthday and I was having trouble getting out of bed. In three hours, fifteen family members, including grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles, would descend upon my house to celebrate. I pulled the cream colored sheets up to my chin and then tucked the thin tattered quilt firmly around my shoulders to make sure I was wrapped tight. It was a habit I had retained from five months of pregnancy-related bed rest leading up to the birth of my son. The last eight years seemed to have flown by, but when I think about those five months, it still feels like a life sentence. I ignored the familiar pang in my chest that accompanied the memory. Even now, so many years later, I still struggle with remnants.

I had made a promise to myself all those years ago: if this baby survived, no matter what, I would will myself out of bed every morning to care for him. By now I knew that I could face the day, as long as I eased into it. I ticked off a list of to do items for the party: prepare crudités, defrost burgers, clean bathrooms. I gave myself two more minutes under covers, watching the shadows dance on the wall, another habit I had picked up from what I came to refer to as bed rest purgatory. Maybe it was the way the light hit the wall this morning or the fact that we had come so far, but something inside me triggered details I had tried unsuccessfully to cast aside.

It was right around my twenty-ninth day of bed rest, at which point I had become an expert on two fronts: light patterns on varying surfaces and the direction in which dust swirls before it settles. That particular afternoon was a hot June day, and I lay in bed watching the sun streaming through the window making rainbow prisms on the wooden floor. The pressure in my lower belly was unbearable and I raised my hips up onto a yoga block in a poor attempt at relief. Even now, thinking back, I can almost feel the summer’s breath caress the curve of my neck as it passed between the crinkled white curtains. What made this day different than the previous ones is that by then, all the hoopla of bed rest had died down. The phone had ceased ringing, there were no packages in the mail, and I was undeniably alone. The hustle of setting up my space and receiving visitors had held the sadness at bay for the first few weeks. But then, the house fell silent as all the well meaning people went back to their workaday lives. I was unsettled because the very next day would mark the one month anniversary of the emergency sonogram that showed I had three monster fibroids invading my uterus.

Fibroids are bulbous growths that form on the uterine wall. One of them was pressing up against my cervix causing early effacement. Most of the time they are relatively harmless, unless of course they are trying to escape. There was a battle inside my belly, and I was told in no uncertain terms that the fibroids would likely win. The doctor, whom I now only remember as a bleached blond with Louboutin heels and bright red lipstick told me with her head still between my legs that I’d be lucky if my baby made it to twenty-four weeks. I had been eighteen weeks along at the time. Go to bed. Don’t get up. Wait. That was the only treatment she offered. And there I was on that twenty-ninth day, just skimming the surface of the first full month.

The initial shock and fear eventually simmered, leaving in its wake a hollow shell of guilt. In the space of the silent afternoon, just around the time when the light pattern darkened on my bedroom wall, I began to obsess. I worried what people thought of me and I judged myself against other pregnant women. No matter what anyone else had to say, at the time, there was only one way for me to see this. I had failed at the very essence of womanhood. I was an incubator, a stationary vessel in the truest sense.

My mother, in her well meaning way, told me to keep busy, and, to get my mind off my situation, she would send care packages. But once the mail had already arrived, or the UPS driver hadn’t shown up on his morning run, I had nothing left to look forward to for the rest of the day. The afternoons were ruthless.

I had dubbed the hours between 1:00 and 3:00 ‘the endless’ hours. Not a single car on the road drove by, television became a wasteland of soap operas and reruns, and this is when the sadness hit the hardest. I struggled to distinguish the physical pain of the fibroids pressing up against my cervix from the emotional pain that dug a deep pit in my middle. I could drown during those hours, turn deep inside, and never come up for air if I allowed myself to slip. By 3:00, I could muster energy enough to reach over and click on the television remote to watch talk show hosts crack jokes that left me cold.

Each day after that twenty-ninth one I continued to observe the slow and relentless disintegration of my body as if it were detached from me entirely. At every turn, something new failed me: first my uterus, then my cervix, my blood sugar, my joints, the list goes on, and soon I had a small army of vitamins, pills, needles, and medications. For the first time I could sympathize with elderly people who lived inside flesh and bones that just could not keep time with their soaring spirit. I realized what it meant to be in pain every single moment of the day and how it could change your entire personality. I imagined each little joint, artery, and nerve ending, blessing them and saying silent prayers that nothing else would fail and that this baby would thrive. Even now to this day I say a prayer, thankful for my life right down to my smallest blood vessel.

It took a while to realize, but sometimes there is simply no pill or procedure, or anything else. Sometimes it’s just you and whatever or whomever you believe in trying to figure out how to get through the next moment. Unlike other people suffering from depression, by the very nature of this beast, I could not change my environment. I could not “take my mind off things” even if I wanted to. It was a test not only of emotional and physical endurance but of mental acuity. It would have been so easy to follow the darkness in its entirety, to go deeper.

My husband was dutiful, making me a cooler packed with food in the mornings and leaving it bedside, calling once a day, and even stopping by with the occasional chocolate ice cream shake or other goody. But he had just bought a lawn and power equipment dealership that, it turns out, we had no idea how to run. As a matter of fact, we closed on the business the very day I was sentenced to purgatory. How’s that for tear your hair out stress? He tried to hold it all together, juggling a sick wife who cried all day and a fledging business. Mostly he came home and vomited from stress.

In the evenings, once he had shoveled a handful of cashews or almonds into his mouth, probably his only dinner, he would make his way into the bedroom and stand over the bed, his tall, slim figure casting a looming shadow. One night he asked me how I was holding up. I didn’t know how to answer so instead we made small talk. Our marriage was fresh and new, and we were not well equipped to deal with the impending tragedy of a child lost. But then again, who is? That night he watched me with love in his eyes, but tempered by a look of pity and concern. That was when I knew he felt as hopeless as I did. From then on, I began to sleep away the days, but even that was not without hesitation because my dreams were riddled with nightmares.

Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Pregnancy

First Response.

May 19, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Diana Whitney

Nothing makes you feel youthful like walking into your local Rite Aid and asking the pale pimply girl behind the counter where to find the pregnancy tests.  Giving her a casual smile, talking fast.  Trying to keep your composure, as if you were looking for sunscreen or Q-tips, nothing to be ashamed of, nothing to conceal.

Of course the people who work in drugstores deal in all manner of products to treat the humiliations of the body—Wart Remover, Pepto-bismol, Ex-lax, Tampax, Depends, Trojans…  At this point in my life I could request condoms without blushing. But their polar opposite? I never thought I‘d need another.

Choose your color—Clear Blue Easy or Disney-Princess pink First Response, which I bought because it was on sale, two for $12.99, and because the name suggested an emergency, and the answer to an emergency.  By now I scorned the promises implied on the blue box, knowing there was nothing clear or easy about my situation.

A slinking, adolescent mood came over me as I made my purchase, trying to camouflage the pink tests among neutral items like soap and Ibuprofen. In the makeup aisle I’d caught a glimpse of myself in a face-sized mirror— cheeks flushed with a girlish glow.  My skin was bathed in a hormone cocktail more potent than an antioxidant facial or a night of orgasms.  Meanwhile my daughters were out in the car listening to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.  I’d given them gum and strode off into the drugstore, leaving them free to roam the seats and practice blowing bubbles while Harry walked alone into the Forbidden Forest to give himself up to the Dark Lord for the last time.

Did the counter girl assume I was hopeful about the test?  She couldn’t know I’d gotten the IUD out after almost six years—the copper Y inside me a foreign body triggering torrential monthly bleeding even while it served its baby-proofing purpose.   Goodbye and good riddance, I’d thought.  The doctor had tried to coax me onto the pill right then and there but I stood my ground, feet still in the stirrups—no more hormones, no more chemicals.

You see, Doctor, my man promised he’d get a vasectomy and until then we’d use old school methods like Pull Out and Pray.  We were practiced at this kind of prayer.  Plus, how easy could it be to get pregnant at 40?  With the IUD gone I felt light and airy.  I floated across the parking lot and ambitiously bought a 20-pack of lambskin condoms, looking the cashier right in the eye.

In Chinese medicine there is a fifth season between summer and fall, and in this late August torpor a window opened, blue and gold and loud with cricket-song.  The veil between the worlds parted and I found myself half off the bed, hair grazing the floor.

His mouth on my exposed throat, my mouth on the warm curve of his ear, we moved without thought or effort, fallen gods in a pile of sheets who never paused to peel open foil.  Time collapsed into breath and sunlight, arch and abandon, levitation of pleasure.

A few weeks later I found myself in that unwieldy act of peeing on a bright pink stick for “NOT LONGER THAN 5 SECONDS”—counting one-one thousand, two-one thousand, three-one thousand, etc. Then replacing the cap on the absorbent tip and laying the stick with the display window face-up on the bathroom counter and folding laundry, urgently, for the requisite three-minute wait.  How many absorbent tips have I wet in my lifetime? How this awkward rite unites me with nameless women everywhere, in our common hopes or fears, our shock, elation or despair.

Driving home from Rite Aid I had to pause Harry Potter, unable to bear the boy’s bravery and sacrifice in the face of my impending choice.  In the silence, Ava and Carmen immediately started squabbling over the last piece of bubble gum.

“Girls,” I mused, not for the first time, “what would you do if you had a little brother back there in a baby seat?”

“I’d kick him in the butt!” snarled Carmen.

“I’d HATE him,” said Ava simply.  End of discussion. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Pregnancy, Relationships

I Used To Believe In Magic

April 18, 2015

By Natalie D-Napoleon

My father was an atheist who believed that facts and science were the only thing worth basing your life on.  My mother is a Catholic, and believes in faith and prayer. Me? I used to believe in magic.

###

I’m embarrassed to say I believed Santa existed until I was 11, and my mother had to tell me he wasn’t real. I was the eldest child of four and the eldest cousin of 11, so there were no older siblings or cousins to pop my magic-believing bubble.

From the mystical power of pyramids to prevent cheese from molding and hanging upside down in yoga poses to increase the capacity of my brain I graduated to an interest in tarot cards, Jung and astrology. Jung’s signs of synchronicity and deja vu governed my life for a time, and their appearance I always took as a pointer that my life was going in the right direction; that magic was happening and I was where I needed to be in that moment.

But over time I stopped believing in magic. Magic was lies adults told to children to get them to behave, it was mythology and fairy tales, serendipity and synchronicity. The adult world taught me those things no longer existed, that magic was for children, and for those who wanted to stay children longer than they should.

My father had always been right. Magic was for those who are by nature dreamers, and my dreams had become boring, tedious, painful and adult.

###

I was sitting in my Mazda 3 in the parking lot of the university where I worked, on my cell phone, talking to Steve and sobbing.  “I can’t do it. I can’t do exploratory surgery when we don’t even know for sure if that will give us the answers we’re looking for.”

“Nat, I don’t know what to say.  Do you want to get pregnant or not?”

“I do, but…”

“Then have the laparoscopy, don’t cancel it.”

“I can’t. She said in most cases they don’t even find anything. It’s exploratory surgery. I just… I can’t do it.”

I called back the doctor’s office where I’d just finished completing my admissions forms for a laparoscopy and endoscopy in eight weeks’ time, and cancelled the surgery.

###

For two and a half years we had been trying to get pregnant.

We had tried everything.

I’d had blood tests every morning for weeks to track my hormones at a fertility clinic, plastered with pictures of happy mothers and families with babies on the walls; we’d fucked like rabbits in every position imaginable; and, finally we’d tried the Creighton Model Fertility Care System – no invasive techniques for this natural couple.  The CMFS involved a system of tracking cervical mucus using an infuriating and methodical system of checking wiped toilet tissue and recording my cervical mucus consistency, length and color, every day of the month to determine when I was ovulating. All the while we watched my best friend get pregnant, twice, my sister in law unknowingly use the girl’s name I’d picked, Lillian, and attended so many first birthday parties for our friends’ children that they now outnumbered the adult parties we went to.

It was not long after that that I ended up in the bathroom with a men’s Bic safety razor in my hands.

###

Steve screamed from the other side of the door at me to open it or he was going to smash it in.

I hated the fact that I loved my possessions so much and the door of my house so much that I couldn’t stand the thought of it being smashed. Fuck! I hated that money was so tight I hated spending it on anything unnecessary – for the sake of him finding me balling with a shaving razor in my hand.

I unlocked the door. And I sobbed a cry from so deep inside me that I thought I might never regain my “self”.  I wasn’t really going to slash my wrists but I was so desperate for a way out of the thousandth fight/conversation/emotional meltdown about our fertility problems that I didn’t know what else to do.

I was grieving for the loss of my fertility, my relationship, my music career, and my dreams of having a child to play on the lawn we had tended to in the yard. We had dug the trenches for the reticulation with my dad who had also helped us lay the pipe and solder it to the water main. We had spread the fertilizer on the ground, then worked in the lawn runners, watered it every day for the first month, then two or three times a week after that to get the runners to take. The lawnmower guy came over once every two weeks to mow it. And I spent my free time hand-weeding, to make sure there were no pesticides or herbicides used on our property.

The lawn was verdant and lush was waiting for tiny feet. All the while we tended to our lawn I had visions of my child or children running around on the grass, playing, giggling, and falling down.

Being safe, being home.

Instead I was sitting at the edge of the bath tub sobbing; impotent and holding a man’s safety razor in my hands.  There was no magic left in my life only the grinding reality of our infertility.

###

I met Steve when I bought a Rickenbacker on lay-away from him at a local music store.  I had started my first band and we’d just started gigging. When I returned the fourth time to make my last payment I asked Steve if he knew anyone who gave electric guitar lessons. He answered, “Yeah, I do.” We set up a date and a time to meet at his place and I set off with those little moths of impending love beating their wings in my chest.

When I turned up for my first guitar lesson synchronicity seemed to be at work again when I noticed he had a block-mounted poster of Susannah Hoffs from the Bangles propped against the wall in his bedroom, holding her black and white Rickenbacker, the same model as mine. I went for a guitar lesson, we started dating and I and never got another formal lesson from him – a running joke in our relationship.

When we separated I sold that Rickenbacker to fund the first solo EP I recorded, “After the Flood”.

###

We fell in love then moved in together eight months later, just after I turned 22.  He convinced me the guys in my band weren’t on my musical trajectory, so I broke up the band before it had run its course. I wanted to move on and fulfil my musical vision, and I let him convince me we could write better songs together.

The first song we wrote together happened so easily I thought that was the sign confirming that fate was at work once again. The song had a haunting guitar part in open D tuning. I began to sing over the chords and the words of the chorus tumbled out of my mouth, a gift, “My fear of falling eats me and it swallows me up / My fear of falling eats me and it fills my cup.”

After this Steve was never happy unless we wrote a song together. Once we’d started performing together as an acoustic duo, I wrote three songs on my own and played them to him, hungry for feedback. He made no comment on the songs, but instead asked, “What about me, where’s my place in this?  I…I just don’t know where my place is in our duo if you go off and write songs on your own.”

I enrolled in a Master of Arts in Creative Writing and withdrew because he said I needed to choose what I wanted to do, play music or write, because I couldn’t do both.

My problem was I wanted to do everything.

My problem was I was too afraid to follow my dreams.

My partner and I were like idealistic children adrift in a sea of adult responsibility, clinging to each other, yet drowning the other person in our panic to hang onto our dreams.

That was it, the map of what was to become was all there in that first song. The pomegranate had been split open, Persephone had taken a bite. From this song on I would be forever trapped in this underworld of my own making.

###

I wasn’t “ill” but I was suffering physically. Infertility leaves its sufferers in an illness purgatory. I didn’t look sick, but my body was painfully and clearly failing to do what it should: to make a baby, grow a baby, and bring a baby into the world.

There was not a single person in our family or social circle who had dealt with infertility. Admitting our struggle to family and friends only made the situation worse. “You two just need to relax,” became the empty advice mantra, which implied our problems were the fault of our character or attitude, rather than a fault of our bodily functions. So, from then on we vowed to keep our struggles “personal” and by implication secret and cloaked in shame. I took it upon myself to solve the problem by becoming consumed with the task of getting pregnant, and it was the one thing that filled my every waking hour.

Having a child would save our relationship and the life I’d built with my partner, Steve, who I had loved desperately, had imagined growing old with, having children with and continuing to share my creative musical life with.

The doctor we were working with in the Crighton Model Fertility System sent me back to the fertility clinic to get another hormonal blood work up, to track my levels of Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH), estrogen and progesterone levels, which involved returning every second day for almost two weeks. The marks on my easily bruised arms covered up by Band-Aids and long-sleeved tops.

I had to believe making a child involved some sort of combination of magic, voodoo and timing we hadn’t yet worked out the hidden formula to. The answer was there, all we needed to do was hang on as we’d been doing for the last two and a half years.

###

“Nat you have to check his phone.” I talking to my best friend Donna and she was getting annoyed with me and the high moral ground stance I’d taken.

“But I can’t, it’s not fair. I can’t go behind his back and do that. That’s not the type of person I am. I’ve asked him, I’ve asked him already 20 times. He said there’s nothing going on with her.”

Then she told me she saw it, a few other people saw it. He was playing with her bracelet at my birthday party at a local craft brewery, and it wasn’t the action alone, but the intimacy of the gesture. This was another incident to add to the list of events that had transpired in the last seven months and cumulated with the bracelet-touching incident.

The phone, his phone had become the thing.

Steve spent most of his free time checking his phone, holding it underneath the table during most of my cousin’s wedding, disappearing around corners to check it, and leaving the table at family dinners. His cell phone’s constant beeping became a background to our home life and he spent most of his time hiding from me, tapping away text messages, searching for a way out.

During this week the intensity of his phone use increased, and the woman I suspected he’d been texting had been away in Europe for that week with her boyfriend visiting family. I knew it was her, but it couldn’t be her. We’d been camping together, had couples’ dinners together, I had worked with her just before I left the college.  She had a handsome, gentle, intelligent boyfriend who loved her. She’d been to my house and admired my things, picked up my grandmother’s blue 60’s Jeanie bottle, touched it and complimented me on my taste. The two of them had been working together at the college for seven months, in a job I’d gotten for him since another of his musical ventures had failed and I’d moved on to ESL teaching.

The next morning was a Saturday; while Steve had a shower I got up and grabbed his phone off our cream linoleum kitchen bench. I opened it quickly before I could second guess myself again and read the first text. It was from her:

“I L U & I miss U. Can’t w8 2 C U again. XXX.”

And one before from him, “1 wk 2 go til I C U again. I L U. XXX”

Just like that a knife had been taken to my heart and popped the magic believing bubble that held our love and our life together.

Babies lost, a lawn untread by children’s feet, songs never to be recorded and falling, falling with nowhere to land.

A line from ‘Fear of Falling’, the first song we wrote together, echoed through my mind as the room began to move, “Eve felt it too, that cold, wet, dark drop / Eve felt the fall before the apple dropped”.

I grabbed the edge of the kitchen sink and as if in some Lifetime B-grade film the walls of the room closed in towards me, the ground beneath me seemed to ripple. By the time I was able to breathe again I bolted to our en-suite and shoved the messages in his face as he stepped out of the shower naked.

He had no lies or excuses left. I knew; I had known all along. Our relationship was over. Like watching a structurally unsound high rise building get demolished by explosives the trying was over. It felt good to know where I stood once again. The walls stopped moving, the ground stood still and I knew from this moment on that there would be no more shame or secrets or lies. Only the solid ground I chose to walk on beneath my feet.

###

After we separated I continued seeing the couples’ therapist we had been to. One afternoon I went in for a solo appointment and told her about a dream I’d had that morning.

“I was underground, in a tunnel. This strange man had captured me and had kept me there for a long time. I was in a foreign country, somewhere in South-East Asia, maybe Malaysia. And all I had to eat was noodles. He gave me the same thing to eat every day. Noodles. The strange thing was, when I ate the noodles he let me go above ground, where we would eat in an outdoor restaurant, with a thatched roof, by the roadside. That was the best part of the day; I liked that, being out of the dark tunnel. In the dream I decided I’d finally had enough, so I told him, ‘I’m sick of eating noodles. I don’t want to eat the same thing anymore’. And I just got up and walked away into the street, disappearing into a crowd of people. I didn’t look back and he didn’t come after me or try to stop me.”

“Well, I don’t think you need me to tell you what that means,” she smiled. “I guess you won’t be eating noodles anymore.”

###

What happened to magic? The answer is I still play music, but I learned to ignore the voice that told me I couldn’t write songs or perform alone. I recorded an album of songs I wrote in the United States called “Leaving Me Dry”, with the help of a group of like-minded musicians. I began writing again and recently re-enrolled in a Master’s of Writing. I met a man, Brett, who helped me heal, who is kind and gentle and lets me be the person I need to be. We eloped and got married in California. Then, when we were ready I scheduled an endoscopy and laparoscopy.

Two days before the surgery I received an email from Steve. The subject of the email seemed neutral enough so I opened it. Inside the email he told me that the she of the text messages and he were married and pregnant. For the last time I put aside my pride and hurt, and the feelings of fear I had for the wolf at the door. I opened the door a crack and replied, “Congratulations. I’m sure you’ll have the happy life you deserve together. BTW in two days’ time I’m going in to have a laparoscopy and endoscopy”.

It was no surprise to me when he never replied to my email.

When I had the surgery the surgeon discovered five lesions of endometriosis and a benign cyst on one ovary that he removed.

One month later, after I’d recovered from the surgery, I took the fertility drug Clomid, to help stimulate ovulation and increase egg production. Then I made myself a little shrine in my room, with a picture of the Virgin Mary, a Buddha statue, a rock of amethyst and Brett’s favorite sea shell. Then I prayed to a higher power for the child I’d always dreamt of. I told my mother we were trying, and she said she’d pray for me. I didn’t say anything to my father, I knew he’d say it would all come down to science and medicine, and that it would be up to sperm and eggs and fallopian tubes and mucus to function in the way they were meant to.

I fell pregnant the first month we tried after the surgery.

I no longer dream of running through dark tunnels.

I started eating noodles again.

Sometimes magic comes when you call it, and sometimes no matter how hard you try, even magic needs a little help from fate and science.

Natalie D-Napoleon was raised on a farm on the outskirts of, Perth, Western Australia. She began writing poetry at ten years of age to cure her childhood insomnia. For 20 years she toured and performed as a singer-songwriter playing shows from Sweden, across Australia and in the United States. Currently, she lives in California and works as a writing tutor at a community college while completing a Master of Arts in Writing. She has had short stories, poetry and editorials published at The Manifest-Station, Literary Orphans, LA Yoga Magazine and The Santa Barbara News-Press.
The 12 Day Detox is here. Sign up now for May 25th cleanse. Space is limited. This detox comes at just the perfect time. Reprogram your body and mind as we move into the new season of spring. This is your time of rejuvenation and renewal.This is not a juice fast, or a detox based on deprivation.

The 12 Day Detox is here. Sign up now for May 25th cleanse. Space is limited. This detox comes at just the perfect time. Reprogram your body and mind as we move into the new season of spring. This is your time of rejuvenation and renewal.This is not a juice fast, or a detox based on deprivation.

Mother's Day Retreat! Join Jen Pastiloff in Ojai, Calif this May for a life-changing weekend retreat. May 8-10th. No yoga experience required. Just be a human being.  Click photo to book.   "Here’s the thing about Jen Pastiloff, folks. Here’s the revolutionary thing. She listens. She listens with an intent focus, a focus that follows your words inside you. Because she has hearing problems, she watches your lips as you speak, and she plucks the ash of your words from the air and takes it inside herself and lays it beside her heart, where before too long your words start beating as if they were strong, capable, living mammals. And then she gives them back to you. Boiled down, this is the secret to Jen’s popularity. She can call what she does Beauty Hunting–she is for sure out there helping people find beauty. She can start a campaign called “Don’t be an asshole” and remind us all to stop a second and please, please, please be our better selves. She can use words like attention, space, time, connection, intimacy. She can ask participants to answer questions like What gets in your way? What stories are you carrying around in your body? What makes you come alive? Who would you be if nobody told you who you were? All of that is what it is. But why it works is because of her kind of listening. And what her kind of listening does is simple: It saves lives." ~ Jane Eaton Hamilton.

Mother’s Day Retreat! Join Jen Pastiloff in Ojai, Calif this May for a life-changing weekend retreat. May 8-10th. No yoga experience required. Just be a human being. Click photo to book.
“Here’s the thing about Jen Pastiloff, folks. Here’s the revolutionary thing.
She listens.
She listens with an intent focus, a focus that follows your words inside you. Because she has hearing problems, she watches your lips as you speak, and she plucks the ash of your words from the air and takes it inside herself and lays it beside her heart, where before too long your words start beating as if they were strong, capable, living mammals. And then she gives them back to you.
Boiled down, this is the secret to Jen’s popularity. She can call what she does Beauty Hunting–she is for sure out there helping people find beauty. She can start a campaign called “Don’t be an asshole” and remind us all to stop a second and please, please, please be our better selves. She can use words like attention, space, time, connection, intimacy. She can ask participants to answer questions like What gets in your way? What stories are you carrying around in your body? What makes you come alive? Who would you be if nobody told you who you were? All of that is what it is. But why it works is because of her kind of listening.
And what her kind of listening does is simple:
It saves lives.” ~ Jane Eaton Hamilton.

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. Yoga + Writing + Connection. We go deep. Bring an open heart and a sense of humor- that's it! Summer or Fall 2015. It is LIFE CHANGING!

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. Yoga + Writing + Connection. We go deep. Bring an open heart and a sense of humor- that’s it! Summer or Fall 2015. It is LIFE CHANGING!

 

Featured image by Joe Longo.

Guest Posts, Pregnancy, Women

A Week Late

January 23, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black

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.

Continue Reading…

Anonymous, Guest Posts, Pregnancy

I Could’ve Bought A Baby This Morning.

January 19, 2015

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By Anonymous.

Pregnancy. Even my therapist is pregnant. She tells me this the day after I go to a fertility doctor, whose office is decorated like a unicorn’s sugar fart. It’s lavender, silver, acrylic, has tufted sofas, Barbie’s dream fertility doctor. If Barbie focused on her career for fifteen years and woke up mid thirties needing a haircut and a baby. The décor is the same as Kate Sommerville, where I get facials and once, botox!  After the doctor who feels like she could be related to Melissa Gilbert/Laura Ingalls, explains how my tubes work and how at 38 even if I have buckets of eggs, I still “can’t rest easy because it’s all about age.” They’re old, these eggs. She explains all of it to me. She asks if I want a sperm donor. It occurs to me, while sitting across from her desk, with a savings account, and functioning eggs, I could say yes and be pregnant in a week. It blows my  mind. I say no to the sperm, like I’m saying no to an after dinner cordial. “Oooohhkay,” she says. Like, you’re missing out. These cordials are the bomb. There you are sitting there acting like cordial is just gonna spring up outta the ground like a geyser, well sister, you gotta another thing coming.

“I’m conservative,” I say. Which is code for, I wanna do this with a partner who loves me enough to watch me get fat and stretchy and then hold our little love larvae in the middle of the night when  I am so full of colostrum my teets are a proverbial cheese store. I want that.  She nods, “So do you want to freeze your eggs?” I’d rather dye my eggs than freeze my eggs. “I just want to know how they are,” I said, hoping they aren’t little puffs of ovum dust. She nods, bored by me. I’m her regular customer. I just want a report. I’m not one of the outliers buying sperm or a little Japanese hotel for my eggs to rest in until I’m 47 and defrosting them. She cautions me, “the very best thing to do is freeze an embryo.” I nod, my seventh grade health textbook smashing through my head. “So that means?” “Yes, we would fertilize your egg with sperm from a donor and then freeze it.” I nod. The next scenario rolling out through my head. I meet my husband after doing this, when I really am only ovum dust, and I say to him, “Babe! Good news! I have a future baby waiting for us at a cryobank in Westwood! I’m as old as Methuselah, but you can raise your dream genetically mysterious modified baby and I wont even charge you the sperm donor fee, cause really, you donate your sperm to me, only in a different way, but it still totally counts! Whadday say baby? Babay!”

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.

Continue Reading…

death, Grief, Guest Posts, loss, Miscarriage

Finding My Vocabulary.

January 10, 2015

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By Carly Williams.

I’ve learned a new vocabulary.

Dead. Death. Dead baby. Stillbirth. Stillborn. Neonatal death. Miscarriage. Bereaved.

At times I surprise myself at the ease with which death rolls off my tongue.

This fresh plethora of words flows easily from my unsilenced lips, slips calmly from my soured mouth.

For some, my emerging voice rings discordant. I wear, for all to see, the dark grief of random loss. Who wants to look at me, when my son’s death reflects the frailty of all life? Who wants to hear a language they don’t ever want to learn?

Language spirals uselessly around the death of a child or baby. I watch as the eyes of observers dart around, in search of an alternative to my truth. There is no alternative.

My vocabulary is the truth, my truth. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, loss, motherhood, Pregnancy

Safekeeping.

December 31, 2014

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By Rachel Blumenfeld.

She asks me if I want her to take it back.  “No,” I say, in the way that means no but that also means that it’s slowly killing me, that sweater, hanging in my closet.  I can feel it even when the door’s closed, even when it blends in perfectly with all the other neutrals.  It doesn’t matter if I buy colors; I wear the same grays and browns I already owned.

“I might still need it,” I say, and I feel that now I’m making this a talisman.  Or a curse.  If I keep it, it means I will get to use it, right?  Or am I being too hopeful, and the fact that I have this sweater waiting for me will somehow prolong my wait to use it?  Is it like women’s favorite pants from high school that they keep in their closet, even after three kids and fifty pounds, swearing one day they will fit back into them?  How long until a sign of hope turns into a sign of pitifulness?

My friend, my loving, compassionate friend, asks me how best to support me.  She asks if it would be best not to talk about her situation for a while.  She makes sure to ask me every day how I’m feeling, and while I know that she truly does want to know, and does want me to be okay, deep down she’s thankful that this isn’t her.  She’s happy that the baby in her womb is still alive, that hers isn’t the one who died.

There were three of us, friends pregnant at the same time.  Due November 9, November 12, and November 20th.  Since about 30 percent of pregnancies end up miscarrying, it was statistically bound to happen to one of us, and it’s not that I’d wish this on either of my friends, but I know they both must be glad, to some extent, that it’s me who was chosen.

More than likely, the miscarriage was caused by a chromosomal abnormality, the culprit in up to 70 percent of prenatal losses.  In Annie Dillard’s For the Time Being, she writes that there are 8.4 million ways for two people’s DNA to combine.  I imagine the two strands of DNA dancing, the nucleobases seeking each other out, eyeing each other like two young lovers across a bar, moving closer, but still spinning and circling until they are close enough to reach for the other’s hand.  I see the cytosine reach out for the adenine, get rejected, and the party is over.  Without this merger in the middle of the line, none of the other bases can match up either.  They can’t get close enough with this gap looming between them. Continue Reading…

Abuse, Guest Posts, healing, motherhood

Underwater.

December 19, 2014

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By Kelly Thompson.

The first time. The shock of being punched.

Walking down Nevada Avenue after an afternoon shopping. We look at fish tanks in a pet store. Greg is captivated by the angelfish and chooses two blue ones, a small tank, supplies; all are tucked into the baby stroller with Shawna in it; she reaches fat baby fingers to touch the fish before they are tucked away in the catch-all. The fish stare through big eyes – dart and dash about the plastic bubble.  The costliest purchase, a life-like resin castle, causes a brief disagreement.  I worry about the groceries it might replace and start to say something, but Greg shoots me a warning glance.  Later, when we get home and release the fish into the glass box, their bluish wings will flash like warnings as they weave between the swaying green plants, flit behind the castle turrets, disappear in its corners.

We buy ice cream; a Jimmy cone for me, Greg shares his banana split with the baby. She laughs. He gives her the cherry. We stroll by the park, a warm day. Sunshine. The trees are old and offer what must have been welcome shade on a hot summer day. I am surprised to see someone I was acquainted with in high school walking our way. He recognizes me, nods, and pauses, as if to talk. We say hello, have the briefest of conversations. Yes, this is my baby. My boyfriend Greg. Nice to see you. Take care. It seems there was a breeze blowing, caressing my hair. I always wore it long back then. I imagine I felt beautiful, carefree, the afternoon spent leisurely, my boyfriend and baby with me. A day as good as any I’d enjoyed with Greg. My naive ideas of romance, love, marriage, how to be a grownup, a mother, this must be what it looks like, are tumbling, jigsaw puzzle pieces, in the air.

The blow comes moments, seconds after the high school acquaintance has passed. His fist slams into my face. Who was that? What? Who was that? What? What? Who was he? John! I don’t even know him. From high school. What?

Disbelief. Followed by interrogation. I barely knew the guy who had been politely conversant as he passed us on the street. I might have last seen him in the halls of Palmer High School a year before, maybe less before I dropped out, a teenager displaced by unwed motherhood, to join Greg, a lost boy I met in a bowling alley, who grew up in foster homes, juvenile hall, abandoned by his mother. There is no discussion about our future. As soon as we meet, I’m his. Continue Reading…

Forgiveness, Guest Posts, Pregnancy, The Hard Stuff

How to Get Through It.

December 4, 2014

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By Jillian M. Phillips.

Step One

Two days after Christmas, realize your period is late. Triple-check the calendar, just to be sure. Ask a friend to drive you to the Planned Parenthood. When you get there, keep your head down, hoping no one you know sees you. You don’t want to explain that you’re neurotic about your flow and too poor to buy an eight-dollar pregnancy test.

When the doctor comes in and confirms that you’re pregnant, hide your smile. Try to appear appropriately distressed because you’re not married. Nod along to everything she says. Pretend that you are interested in “Options.” Accept every pamphlet gratefully and solemnly, as if each one contains a sacred promise.

When your friend drives you home, share the news with her. Allow her to see your joy, but don’t tell anyone else. You know how hard your life has been lately. Your rent is way overdue. You’ve received two disconnection notices from the power company. You don’t want people telling you that your baby is a mistake. You don’t want it to be a problem people tell you to fix. Rationalize that you have eight more months to be in a better apartment in a better neighborhood. Your boyfriend, X, has a new job. If you watch your budget carefully, you can save enough to get a nicer place.

 

Step Two

Write in your journal about how excited you are. You know this baby will be a boy. Name him Caleb. Picture him with black hair and gray-blue eyes. See him in your mind as a voracious reader with a contemplative nature. He will be a poet. He will have a strong will. He will speak softly, but firmly, and use literary quotes in everyday conversation.

Decide that you are unwilling to allow X any say in this pregnancy, because he will tell you to get rid of it. He’ll tell you that you are financially unstable, barely able to take care of yourself, not ready. Write in your journal that you will wait until your second trimester, when you can’t legally terminate the pregnancy. It’s only two months away. You can keep your mouth shut for that long.

 

Step Three

Call yourself an idiot for leaving your journal open on the kitchen table while you were cooking dinner. Curse your stupidity at not putting it away in your nightstand, where it belonged, instead of letting X find it. Now he knows you’re pregnant. He tells you exactly what you thought he would, and is even angrier because he knows you were planning to lie to him.

X tells you to “do what’s right.” He reminds you that you have always been Pro- Choice. Curse yourself again for not having strong enough faith in your religion to hide behind. You have no argument other than that you’ve already come up with a name. The moment you rolled the syllables around in your mouth and felt them on your tongue, pregnancy ceased to be an abstract concept. Caleb is no longer a scientific term— embryo, zygote—he’s a person to you.

Listen to X’s argument. Let him pace around the living room as he rants on and on that you can barely put food in your own mouths, let alone a child’s. In a self-satisfied, fuck-you tone of voice, tell him that you are planning to breastfeed, which negates his argument. Casually add that he was the one who didn’t put on a condom. This is his fault as much as yours. He ignores this. You always forget to take your pill on time. One simple thing and you can’t even do that. Mutter something about subconscious intentions.

Continue Reading…

Anonymous, Guest Posts, Pregnancy, The Hard Stuff

Sharing Your Worst.

December 1, 2014

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By Anonymous.

 

They say everything happens for a reason- and I found that easier to believe for a while.

But I call bullshit. Sometimes the worst happens for no reason whatsoever.

My daughter is a deep empath. She absorbs all of the family stories, feels sad for Godzilla when the M.U.T.O.S. are getting the upper hand. When she was about five when she wanted to take every homeless person home with us, as we had plenty of good food. They could sleep on her floor, she offered, or in sleeping bags in the living room. When I tell her stories about my childhood and how my brothers were mean to me (I usually tell them because the stories are hilarious,) she feels terrible for me and wants to somehow make it better.

So I can’t publicly write about one thing that happened to me because I’m worried it will somehow hurt her. There’s this part of me, this protective mama instinct that wants me to keep the truly ugly shit from her. I want my daughter to grow up thinking that pregnancy should be healthy. That the stories she hears that happen to strangers couldn’t possibly happen to her. When I thought of writing about this before, I imagined her years down the road thinking of this story, having been told, and worrying through her own first pregnancy, “What if it happens to me?” Or worse, that she would spend her pregnancy feeling sad for me and my experience – because that’s how she’s wired. Maybe this is the wrong approach, but as I’ve found in parenting, this is seat of the pants instinct stuff, so I’m going with my gut on this one. Hence, the anonymous story.

So why write it at all? To work it through?

No. I made my peace with this-or as much peace as you can make with the truly bad things that happen in your life- years ago. But there’s another part of me that remembers how very alone I was when all of this happened. I had heard no other story like mine, had nothing to compare to or sympathize with. Aside from the nurses who worked at the place where I got the procedure done, and my mother, and my husband, there was no one to talk to about this. It took a few years before I even saw an article where this had happened to someone else. And I did write about it once, anonymously for Salon in an op-ed piece because they were going to make “late-term” abortions illegal in my state. And for a time, they did. And I would have had no help at all had this happened to us a few years later.

My husband and I had shacked up for a few years when he figured it would be a good idea to get married. I was working, he was working, we enjoyed our early marriage as we had our first years together and four years into our marriage we bought a house. All of our ducks were in a row, he had a profession that could support us both, it was time to have a baby. I had contracted Lyme disease- nowhere near its east coast origins and had just finished my course of antibiotics and at my doctor’s advice, had allowed a month to pass after that. It was time to give it a whirl. I got pregnant in the first month. My husband had wanted kids since he was small, I was a bit more apprehensive about the whole thing, but was thrilled nonetheless. We were twelve weeks in and everything looked fine, so we came out of the closet, sat on our sunny bed on a Sunday morning with the phone (back when they were attached to walls) and called everyone we wanted to share the news with. Everyone was thrilled. This was really happening. I got the standard blood tests and we celebrated Christmas with family and I was 14 weeks along. My belly was getting round and hard. My brother said, “Oh, I just thought you were getting fat.” The day after Christmas I got a phone call. My doctor said that something in my blood test said we should probably get an in-depth ultrasound and an amnio. The chances were small, but something was up. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Pregnancy

Red-Handed: On Shoplifting and Infertility.

October 17, 2014

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By Jennifer Maher.

Resolve, The National Infertility Association of America, lists a variety of emotional and physical symptoms in response to not getting pregnant when you want to get pregnant. They include but are not limited to:

  • Lack of energy (especially when you have an unsuccessful cycle, on medical appointment days, or when you will see a pregnant friend);
  • Headaches
  • Irritability (snapping at people or making mountains out of molehills)
  • Insomnia
  • Extreme sadness
  • Inability to concentrate

Shoplifting is nowhere on this list.

Yet in the nearly three years it took me to conceive, along with over $22,000 in home-refinancing and credit card debt, I also acquired the following:

  • One black large-ring pullback belt with double buckle
  • A boxy caramel suede jacket with fringe on the front pockets and hem
  • Decadent Fig, Orchid Surrender, and Cheating Heart lipstick (Estee Lauder)
  • Two bottles of 2006 Chalone Vineyard Pinot Noir
  • The complete boxed set of My So-Called-Life

Much like infertility, shoplifting requires a certain kind of seat-of-your-pants creativity. Some seasoned lifters, for instance, line empty bags with aluminum foil to get past the door sensors; others rig bags with springs or wear enormous coats with hand-sewn secret pockets inside. Whatever the method of concealment, though, recreational shoplifting has long been considered an archetypal feminine vice, an impulsive pilfering of the phallus and the mirror image of castration anxiety. Secreting a skin cream in the feminine folds of your purse couldn’t be more obvious in this respect. Or imagine a necklace up your coat-sleeve, its laminated price tag held fast like a nascent IUD. Think about the fact that just this year in a South Carolina outlet mall, they arrested a woman with over $1700 dollars’ worth of stolen clothes in an empty infant car seat. Continue Reading…

cancer, Guest Posts, Pregnancy

Love In The Time of Drought.

September 28, 2014

By Cheryl Klein.

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1. Sunday Story

A couple of weeks ago, I said to AK, “Can we talk about The Hospital List again?”

She said no. I’d just had minor surgery, and she felt like we needed to deal with that first. I felt like she was making excuses, blaming me and my difficult body. More about that in a minute.

This morning, one of the hottest this summer, we went for a hike in the foothills of Los Angeles. I was excited because most Sunday mornings, she goes hiking with her therapist buddies and leaves me behind. Today I had her undivided attention and I didn’t want to squander it, although I knew from past experience that Hospital List conversations were risky. She might prefer to discuss Attachment Theory with her colleagues than act out real early-childhood issues with me. Continue Reading…

Anonymous, courage, Guest Posts, healing

Shame to Love: Learning To Live Again After Rape.

August 24, 2014

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Trigger warning: rape/stalking.

By Anonymous.

On our second date, he raped me.

It wasn’t “rape” like I had imagined rape would be. I intended to have sex with him- when we first met, the chemistry was amazing. He was tall, fit, handsome, and charming. Plus, my aunt set us up, which in my mind made him safe. We danced to that stupid “Pina Colada Song” after drinks on date two, and going back to his place might have even been my suggestion.

But there we were, in his bedroom, and my condoms were in my purse downstairs. When I tried to get up to one, he pushed me back. I tried to explain what I was doing.

He called me a slut and held me down. I pushed against him, this 6-foot tall kickboxer, to no avail. I begged him to get a condom, but he wasn’t even hearing me any more.

Oddly, I remember saying to myself, “It’s not rape if you don’t fight back.” Maybe that should have been my nudge to fight this beast. Instead, I resigned.

Continue Reading…

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 jenniferpastiloff.com 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.

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