I can thank Donald Trump for one thing.

Donald Trump helped me realize I have a problem with alcohol.  Now, Donald Trump is helping me get sober. 

I have always liked to drink.  Over the years, I have acquired a love of all types of libations. The bitter, tingle of an IPA as it hits the back of your tongue, a dewy bottle of chilled white wine waiting in the fridge after stressful day at work, a bloody Mary made with all the fermented fixing.  I love the feeling of warmth that opens up in your chest after your third glass of Chardonnay,  the heady, irreverent buzz of taking a shot of tequila while sipping a Coors light or sitting next to your best friend, an open fire crackling on a sandy beach while sipping Bulleit bourbon straight from the bottle and feeling like a pair of untamable, feral women. 

For me, alcohol was everything.  It was relaxation, stress relief, fun, sophistication, adventure and a centerpiece of all social events.   

While I have always enjoyed drinking, alcohol took on a new meaning in my life after I turned 30. My thirties have been filled with anxiety and excitement.  The endless photos of marriages, babies and houses purchased that cling to my psyche after I close the Facebook window, the uncomfortable pang of wanting a child so bad I can feel it in bones (it hits me at the strangest times!), the realization that I am not wealthy and I can’t afford to build a life in Central California, a skyrocketing career doing work I really care about, the discomfort a being a young woman in a board room full of old, white men, the election of a fascist, misogynistic, pig head and the spiral into darkness: these are the things that have made turning 30 so amazing and so utterly, disorienting.  These are also the reasons I started drinking—a lot. 

Alan Carr makes an analogy about drinking that I find very useful.   He says that drinking is like the sipping the nectar from a “pitcher plant,” a flower that slowly lures insects toward their death with a sweet,sugary juice.  The insect lands on the plant and starts drinking.  At first, the nectar is delicious, intoxicating.   Slowly, the insect starts to slip.  The downward slope is so gradual that the insect doesn’t notice.  It just keeps drinking the nectar, oblivious.  Eventually, the insect slips too far down, it can no longer escape.  It looks around and sees it’s surrounded by death, empty exoskeletons of ants, flies and other insects suspended, weightless in the heavy syrup.  By the time the insect realizes its in trouble, everything around it is dead.

As I struggle to make sense of my relationship with alcohol (am I an alcoholic? can I even drink? why do I feel so out of control? what the fuck did I say last night?), Alan Carr’s theory of alcoholism has been helpful.  He and many other believe that there is no such thing as an “alcoholic,” a word that is both scary and stigmatizing.  There isn’t an invisible line that divides people who drink into two distinct categories: causal drinkers and alcoholics.  Rather, he believes that everyone who drinks is sitting on the edge of the pitcher plant slowly moving downward towards addiction and “alcoholism.”  Some of us, those with a genetic disposition and exposure to certain environmental factors, will slip more quickly—much more quickly—toward the point of no return.  Some people never get there.  Yet, at it’s core, alcohol is an addictive, destructive substance that ultimately leads to death.

In retrospect, with clear, sober vision, I realize that I had been slipping quickly for the past two years.  And on November 10, 2016, after Donald Trump became the President-Elect of the United States, things got bad—really, really, really bad.  For me and for just about everything I care about.  I got really angry, really drunk,  many times and hurt some people I care about.

So, Donald Trump showed me I need to get sober to keep up the fight that will be the next 4 years and to keep everything I love in my life.   And that’s what this blog is all about, the battle of sobriety and stickin’ it to Donald Trump. Thanks for joining me on this journey!


This is a photo of my post TRUMP matic stress relief: a new puppy.  His name for now is “chub chub.”  He will arriving shortly after Xmas.  Baby animals will definitely be my #1 source of strength as I get sober and fight fascism.  

What we let go of, What we hold onto

I had to cancel my New Years Eve plan this year. I planned on sitting around a fire, outside, appropriately spaced from the two other households who are “not in my bubble,” watching the fire crackle and drinking some celebratory nonalcoholic beverage after putting my 18 month old toddler to sleep. Instead I sit here, in the comfort of my living room, watching a Christmas burn and crackle, a bushy green vibrant tree reduced to a naked, half burning branch.

New Year’s Eve is a time of forced reflection–of resisting the anesthesia of Netflix and choosing to sit right here with myself and my woefully neglected blog. Nonetheless, the neurons that zap thoughts into existence, making connections between ideas, memories and laying the groundwork of a new path are not here tonight. Instead, there is a fog and a powerful pull to retreat. So, this is my attempt to stay rather than go. To shout into the abyss when I would prefer to curl up with my heating pad and self pity.

What do you want to hold onto? What do you want to let go of as the year 2020 fades and we begin another trip around the sun?

I want to let go of:


2020 was a year of shattering and the undoing is far from through. I want to know whether or not the death spiral of dwindling education funding will cause me to lose my job. I feel a great sense of anxiety around this prospect since working hard and “doing good” are such pillars of my identity. I find myself imagining all the possible scenarios that would play out at work and how I will respond. The merry go round of possibilities, who will get laid off, who will retire, where we will all end up, how will we pay our bills, what will I have to change, will I ever get back to where, haunts me at odd hours. It’s the same tired track, well worn path of anxiety and tedium.

So in 2021, I’d like to let go of all this desire to know the unknowable and trying to “plan” my way out of what it beyond my control. There is a rhythm to the unfolding. There is peace in letting go. There is wisdom in not creating plans that are rooted in fear and anxiety.

Let go or be dragged.- my kitchen magnet

Also: staring judgmentally at my forehead, obligatory housework (fuck housework, let the laundry pile become a tower), pleasantries, restrained conversation, half truths, my body looking or feeling a certain way, guilt about not doing enough or being enough, fear of the present and future, grocery lists.

I want to hold onto:

The quiet voice.

Beneath the waves of crushing anxiety, the homework, the papers, the plans, the debt, the responsibilities, there is a quiet voice. When I slow down enough, when I sit on the meditation cushion enough, when I breathe deeply enough, I can hear this quiet voice. It sounds like trust, truth, love, faith and community. It sounds like “enough.” May I nurture the quiet voice inside in 2021. May I lean in and learn to notice when I am not listening.

Also: home made pasta, new friends and 57 degree river swims, learning to roller ski, planning trips and taking them, seeing Jenny, baked macaroni and cheese and my ambition to return to veganism (I am large, I contain multitudes), sobriety, sweet, sweet, sobriety, emotional, physical sobriety, my daily meditation and biweekly RAIN meditation, cross country skiing, everything that is my daughter, Finn and Morning holding hands, fires in the hearth, trusting my own worthiness and goodness.

“I can’t relate to anyone who has said 2020 is such a bad year. For the first time in as long as I can remember, I had a roof over my head for the whole year. I have housing! I haven’t been to the hospital. I have worked my menial job at Door dash. For me, 2020 has been the best year.” – my brother called while I was writing and this is what he said. 12/31/2020. 9:05 pm.

City soundscapes

There is a game Sugar and I play as we lay in bed, the back door propped open to let the air move through the house. Firework or gun shot. I’ve gotten better at distinguishing the two since moving here, to the white side of the street. The firework starts off sharp and ends with a dull, expanding poof like stomping on a mushroom. The gunshot is metallic, sharp and decisive, ending as quickly as it started.

There is fire in the grill at the park across the street. A woman in a black tube dress that seems to choke her chest stands near. A siren wails. Frog or crickets, the can’t tell the difference, creak methodically, a mob of pulsating, chirpy twinkle lights. The bike rolls by the sound of hip hop pours from the blue tooth speaker, a wave of sound. Mosquito sting my feet. Engines rev and cars drive too fast, offending my maternal sensibilities.

There is a virus traveling through the veins of our communities. The pandemic is pulling us apart, shutting us in, but the streets are not quiet tonight.

White women sensibilities

I am sitting behind the steering wheel of my Toyota highlander, sweat dripping down the flacid skin of my shrinking milk boobs, the air conditioner humming and the digital clock reads 2:27, temperature 91 degree Fahrenheit. I am watching the clock as my two free hours are ticking slowly away and soon I return to the all consuming wonder and tedium of mothering my one year old daughter.

The murder of George Floyd and the unleashing of COVID 19 cracked through the center of our shallow and fragile American social and economic “system.” (System feels likes to strong a word to describe the chaotic, dysfunctional patchwork of bureaucratic, underfunded programs that we call a “social safety net.”) The myth of American exceptionalism died with the portable morgues, macabrely repurposed grocery trucks, on the streets of New York. George called out for his mother, urinated on himself and uttered what has become a refrain of Black men as they are lynched by the police, “I can’t breathe.” Nonprofits and think tanks and corporations are all marketing their commitment to black lives. White folks are showing up, getting “woke,” scribbling idealistic sentiments on pieces of worn out card board and promising to do better.

This is all happening and the weeks and months unfold, time stretches out for an eternity in front of us obliterating the distinctions between a Tuesday and Sunday, between 10:00am and 3:00pm. We are unequally crushed by the falling of the giant and nonsense of daily Zoom meetings. Together, we watch the monolithic death tolls tick slowly upward as we sip coffee. The number is incomprehensibly large and monochromatic. The number represents bodies, lives, souls, disproportionately black and brown and poor. The number ticking upward doesn’t remind us of that. It just keeps growing.

There is a refrain that is hopeful in times of disaster. As things fall apart, we remind ourselves that we must build new systems, give life to new inclusive and equitable ideas. There is no going back to the way things were (who the hell would want that anyways?), only opportunity to build from the rubble. I wonder about this idea constantly, about hope and the prospect of building things anew, about this dull and tedious moment swollen with possibility.

My delicate hope has a darker underside. I am skeptical about the attention span of us white folks and our ability to care in ways that have any sort of cost. So much of white, middle class progressive culture, of the yard signs and bummer sticker on hybrid cars, seeks to create an image of wokeness and equality that appeals to our political and moral sensibilities, but does so little to engage in any sustained effort to create a more just world for black and brown children. We start book clubs and listen podcasts. We show up and post photos from the protest on the internet, and the headlines fade and our calendars fill with Zoom meetings and socially distant play dates. It’s August and the malaise, the sameness, the distance has set in again.

I am writing this, because this is who I am. This getting swept up in the inertia of daily living happens to me and it scares me, the way the time fills, the way the memory of the video fades, my engagement becomes more selective and conditional, the way I (and we) preserve the sameness.

I am bargaining with myself as I drive to the protest the city manager’s house. The desire to break through the sameness, to build the new system, paralyzed by the neurotic pull of my own white, middle class sensibilities.

Will there is social distancing at the protest? I’m so tired. I have been chasing my toddler around the park, trying to pry micro plastic pieces of trash from her curious grip, for what feels like eternity. Isn’t that enough for a day? Can I protect the vulnerable who live in my house while still supporting the movement? I’m not sure. It’s just too damn hot and too risky. I don’t like the organizers of our local Black Lives Matter chapter. I don’t like pink pussy hats. I’ll go to the die in, but only stay for an hour. I have to be home by bed time.

This is what it feels like inside of my white, middle class mom brain– a privileged and slightly neurotic thought cycle animated by a deep sense of shame that is baked into my DNA.

I have shown up to 3 protests since the video of George. I stayed mostly in the back, tucked away from the crowds listening to AA meetings over Zoom as I marched down empty streets.

I feel at times an overwhelming sense of guilt (white guilt) for not doing more. I feel defensive and want to create a billboard or maybe a cardboard sign listing all my social justice credentials, so I can feel like one of the “good white folks.” Not those other white folks—the bad ones who never know how to say the right thing at the right time. Not the the 53% of white women who voted for Trump.

Because I know, in my core, that people like me, the progressive, white, liberal folks, are the reason why the system is the way it is. We are why things have been the same for so long.

A question we don’t ask enough is: Are we serious this time? Or will we continue to ask black and brown bodies to pay the cost for our conditional engagement, our fleeting attention spans, our lack of willingness to give anything that has an actual cost? How often do we have these sorts of polite conversations where we understand, rationalize and defend our own conditional engagement to each other, because we are all overwhelmed with Zoom meetings and juggling childcare right now?

We white folks want it to have it both ways—to stay safe and to engage in change when it’s convenient for us. It’s the cowardly and invisible force, a virus of a different sort, that keeps the black and brown children over there, across the street, and our kids over here, in the bubble where they are “safe” and can learn French and get into a good college.

Some of this, I hope, is starting to shift THIS time, but I struggle more and more to believe this. Because we can’t deny that for whatever reason, this time a Black man was lynched and everyone seems to care. For me, it’s shifting in ways I am still trying to understand. It’s a shift that started before George and COVID and is now shaped by both.

For me, the way I care about children, my child and other people’s children, has changed on a spiritual, political and cellular level since giving birth on June 5, 2019. Primary caregivers of infants have an enlarged amygdala that constantly scans the environment looking for threats. There is a momma bear that lives inside me and will murder you if I perceive you as a threat to my child. And this momma bear wants to protect other people’s children too.

I read a headline about a 5 year old drowning and something primal grumbles in my stomach. I can feel a small fraction of the wild, animalistic sadness and grief that mother feels leaving a memorial day barbecue without her baby. The sense of connection I feel to that pain scares me, because now I can imagine it in a new way. This same primal urge grumbles when I think about all those kids shut in right now, shut in their homes with alcoholic fathers, mentally ill mothers, without anyone there to pull back the curtain and say “are you OK?” These thoughts and feelings are scary and I decide to push down the beast with an episode of the “Tiger King” on Netflix.

This seems to be a superpower that Mom’s possess, a primal urge that emerges when you are a caregiver for a baby. Yet, it also feels like an evolutionary double edged sword. On the one hand, the pain of other mother’s ignites within us a powerful compassion and connection that we can chose to embrace. On the other hand, we are always overly concerned with the well being of our own children, scanning the environment for threats, stuffing plastic into outlets, buying too much shit on Amazon and propping up all the systems that keep black and brown kids out of “good” white schools. Our minds create a sense of scarcity, we fear for our children’s future, so we horde the opportunities and resources to make sure our own white children are safe and protected and enrolled in a sufficient number of extra curricular activities and speciality high school programs.

Our constant preoccupation with our own children feels like a biological necessity, a hardwiring that comes from our reptilian past and innate “thing” that we Momma bears just do, because it’s what we do. Yet, our obsession with our own children costs other people’s children so much. We till the soil for our own, black out our social media for one day to show the world that we think black lives matter and through our own inaction we become segregations constant gardeners.

How do we acknowledge this complicity, to each other and other white folks? How do we, white women, white mothers, change the tide? How do we push back against ourselves, against each other? How do we override these the tides of history that is written on our bodies, baked into our DNA?

The antidote to the malaise, to conditional engagement, to the forgetting about black people’s pain, to the opportunity hoarding, requires us white folks to build a different culture and conversation around our relationship to our own Whiteness. The bedrock of this new, albeit fledgling, white culture has to be cultivating the emotional and spiritual ability to tolerate discomfort. It will require a restructuring of our white DNA. It also has to include ways we, white folks, hold each other accountable to sustaining our caring and engaging in actions that actually create change. How real and honest will we be with each other, with our white, liberal, friend and colleagues? How do we build a different white culture together?

My daughter is one year old. I know someday I will have a conversation with her about the year 2020. What will I tell her about this moment? What will I tell her about us, white folks, about what we did and didn’t do when so many lost so much?

This post was super inspired by this podcast and this talk.

Sleep deprivation

It’s 8:03am on Monday morning.  A blurry stop light glows in front of my windshield.  The rhythmic groan of windshield wipers interrupts the patter of rain falling.  Wrappers, crumbs and La Croix cans are strewn the grey floor of my Honda Insight, the aftermath of the tornado of activity that defines my coming and going.  New moms should sprout an extra set of arms after birth, arms for carrying the recycling from the car floor.  

I am paused here at this stop light.  A rare moment alone.  Seconds creep forward slowly moving the day into life.  Tears roll my cheeks. My hands grip the wheel.

I haven’t slept for more than 3 hours in the last 5 days  My brain feels like it is wrapped in cellophane. The muscles in my jaw aches.  My shoulders are in knots.  It’s Monday.  The work week is just beginning.  Anxiety creeps like a daddy long legs, wrapping sticky fibers around my rib cage.  

The number of hours between now and when I come home again feels infinite.  The number of tasks that make up the day are innumerable.  The stoplight is a pregnant pause, a time to feel the weight and let it consume me. Coffee and adrenaline course through my veins, a veneer of artificial energy.  I cry, because I am exhausted.  I cry, because I am certain I will not survive this day without a very public meltdown. I imagine myself in a puddle behind my cubicle door.

This is what it feels like to be a working mom on Monday morning.

There is a small light that balances this weight. It is the soft fibers for your hair that tickle my cheek as you gently suck at my breast.  Your precious and tiny toes pluck along my ribs.  I hold you and your breathe settles into a relaxed rhythm that sharply contrasts the desperate howl that ripped me from the depths of a delirious slumber moments ago.  Only I can bring you instant peace within your tiny world of chaos.  It is you and I here in the incomprehensibility of 3am.  There is no one else in the whole wide world.

And it is just me, here, at this stoplight, letting my tears fill the space between the rain drops.  The light changes to green and I turn left.

Writing about motherhood

It’s the day after Thanksgiving and the inertia, the pull to slow down, turn inward and rethink and revision is present as the final brown leaves of Fall cling to naked trees, revealing the scrawny, exposed branches.  Those tiny twigs give birth to such a firestorm of color before turning inward. I haven’t ever really appreciated the courageousness of a naked tree.  The trees just stand there, exposed, damp decay all around.

This year, I’d like change the way I have been writing.  It was cathartic to
start a “blog” almost three years ago.  It gave me a vehicle to communicate with others and myself as I got sober.  It also forced me to start writing again.  I am thankful for all of this.

 Now, the idea of “blogging” has become a container in my mind that I don’t feel like I fit into.  It’s constraining.  Blogs feel like they need to written thematically and “listy” and there is something about a “blog” that pushes my mind into those spaces. There were many times in the past 3 years when I would have something to say or want to write, but I would stop myself, because I didn’t feel like I has a title or a theme or anything.   I can’t help but think of other blogs I have read and admired and then subconsciously try to mimic styles or concepts that are already “out there.”  It’s derivative in a way that counteracts authenticity, so I need to abandon the idea and construct of “blogging.”  (Though I believe the definition of a blog is just stuff you write on a webpage, so technically what I am doing next is still blogging, but maybe you get the drift.  If not, who cares?)   

I’d like to write more in the New Year, specifically around motherhood.  I’d like to be to connect with others around what it means to be a mom and how motherhood shapes us.  For me, motherhood is more conducive to writing in smaller, more frequent and raw bursts; rather than preconceived ideas or themes that build up inside over time. 

I’d also like to write to piece my identity back together.  Motherhood requires us to rebirth ourselves.  It has also worn me out and slowed me down.  When I had my second miscarriage, I ran a moonlight half marathon while listening to classical piano music to cope with the pain and loss.  Now, I can’t job .5 miles without leaking pee into the liner of my running shorts, my sitz bones aching as each foot hits the pavement.  I am also a workaholic who is working less now.  So writing is a way to find meaning in the slowing down, to force a sort of sleep deprived poetry from a mind that often feels numb, a body that is achy.  How can I eek some beauty out of my ever-present malaise of laundry and sleep deprivation?

I also want to write in a new way, so I connect with people I love more deeply.  I am incessantly texting and scheduling phone dates with friends, but even in the catching up, there is often not enough space to drop into the marrow, the joyous and painful heartbeat of whats happening within each of us. Thats ultimately my motivation for writing—to integrate and to connect and to do so in a way that feel more authentic and true.

So, I envision what follows to be an online journal written during nap times and possibly at 4am. So, feel free to follow this new journey from close or afar. So, please reach out or comment or email me if you want to follow or if something strikes you!

Dollitics, the middle way, coming undone comes full circle

I acknowledged 3 years of living life sober—free from any mood or mind altering chemicals—on November 26, 2019.  Sugar asked me what I wanted to do on that day and I said I wanted to write.  Writing is not something I wanted to do, but something I needed to do.

So, I sat down the couch as Morning napped and began to trace some ideas in a scarlet, tissued paper covered notebook.  I scribbled pathways between various pieces of information I consumed, conversations I have had, ideas that are becoming the edges, the container, for the person I am becoming.  The writing on this blog has always been about coming apart and coming back together.  My need to explore the past is collapsing.  My desire to continue building a political, spiritual roadmap to help me feel like I have a place to stand in this crazy new world is expanding..

What follows is some unscripted ramblings.  Attempts to use my sleep deprived brain in ways that don’t involve redirecting traumatized children at my family resource center or trying to think of a quick witted response to the text my girlfriend just sent.

But speaking of texts, my oldest friend Gwenny sent me a text about a podcast I had recently listened to.  “This is hitting me in so many ways,” the letters glowed in a green bubble on my I-phone.  (I am always tickled when a friend texts me an article or podcast or webpage that I have already consumed, like there is some law of attraction that pulled us to the same spot within the ever expanding void of information that is the internet.)  

She was referencing a podcast I had also listened to the previous week on my short drive to work.  Krista Tippet interviewing a black Buddhist reverend, angel Kyodo williams.  The interview spans topics from queerness, intergeneration trauma and transmission of pain (“Wait, this is not my house. Someone else has lived here.”) and place and race and class.  The conversation felt so fluid and free flowing, yet structured and grounded, guided by an ethos that was animating every word and idea.  I listened to the conversation three times, specifically, last night while laying bath tub, my iPhone in speaker mode sitting on top of the closed toilet bowl, casting an electronic white light into the grayness of the candle lit bathroom.  My headphones weren’t charged, so I made do with this bathroom hack.  

angel Kyodo williams spoke of love, the capacity to cultivate spaciousness within ourselves to allow others to be exactly as they are, and the need to find the humaneness of the other—the Trump supporter, the man in blue with the baton.  “It’s hard,” angel says, knowingly.  

How can I come to understand love in this way?  How can I practice this? 

We say that term “hold space” when we talk about having hard conversations about race, privilege, difference.  We hold space for the addict who still suffers by sitting in circles in musty church basements.  I ask children to sit in circles and talk about harm and repair.  

Yet, I get angry.  I feel my chest tightened.  I want to be right.  I want to be woke. I want to be radical.  And all of this seems to contradict this idea about what it means to love.  What does creating space force me to let go of?  And what of all this am I trying to hold onto?    


I am also part of a loosely organized “feminist book club.”  It’s not a club nor do we even read books, so perhaps we need to rethink the title.  It’s a bunch people who identify as woman getting together to discuss something related to the topic of what it means to identify as a woman today.  We are listening to a 9 part podcast series called Dolly Parton’s America.  I suggested we switch from print material to podcasts, because 3 of us are new mothers and reading is something that I don’t seem to have the brain power to do with any sort of reliability.  

Dolly Parton is an icon I have paid very little attention to, but after episode 1, Sad Ass Songs.  I was fully intrigued.  Like angel Kyodo williams, she seems to move through the world in a way that asks us to come to the middle.  Unlike angel, she’s not a spiritual leader nor is she an activist or someone who even sought to create change in the world, she is an entertainer who unintentionally started a movement for workplace equality and becoming the most celebrated and prolific song writer of all time.  

Dolly is also a master of diversion, deflecting comments and conversations about politics and activism for nearly 4 decades while building arguably the world’s most diverse and large fan base.  Her songs were played in prisons in South Africa and at the political rallies of Hillary and Elizabeth.  

One of the podcast episodes calls out a moment when Dolly was presenting an award alongside Lilly Tomlin and Jane Fonda.  The trio starred in the movie 9 to 5 in 1980.    

“In that movie, we refused to be controlled by a sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot,” said Fonda.”And in 2017, we still refuse to be controlled by a sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot,” added Tomlin.

 Dolly stands in the middle—refusing to offer comment, choosing to make a joke about her breast instead.  Turns out this is a tactic Dolly often uses when asked about politics, using her teflon coated bra as a shield from political forces that want to try to eek an opinion out of her regarding our current and or past political shitshow.

I have spent 5 hours listening to stories about Dolly and many more thinking about her.  I can’t help but feel pulled toward her and her stance, regardless of the fact that boob jokes are really not my thing.  I feel like the world needs more Dolly and less of us shouting, reposting woke quote of political activists we barely know or understand.  

While she remains tight lipped about politics, during one episode, she offers a strategy, a hint of how she feels we might endure these current times. She asks instead of criticizing Trump, what if we just stopped and prayed for him?  

What is we prayed for Trump?  This feels like such a cop out to me…….and on some cellular level it feels right.  It feels like praying for Trump might be a way we collectively inhale and breathe more space into the world.  And space is love, right? Space is what allows others to be exactly as they are.

BUT, do I still get to be right if I pray for Trump?  Do I still get to be woke? Do I still get to be radical?  And will you like my instagram posts?


I spent several hours tonight prepping for a Thanksgiving Feast for two.  Our Thanksgiving plans this year have taken many turns including a brother relapsing and ending up in a shed in my parents yard and a cancelled Friendsgiving.  So, it seems that we’ll be spending a quiet night at home with Morning and Sugar, eating $300 worth of food I purchased at the co-op.

As I cut bread into tiny squares and let Morning taste her first orange (she didn’t like it, nor does she seem to like any food she has tried), I started listening to a podcast series called Startup about a charter school network in NY called Success Academy.  I wanted a binge-able podcast to help walk me through the holidays and I am always interested in a debate about public education, so I started this charter school, start up podcast series and got hooked.

Normally, I’d have my mind made up about charter schools.  Charter schools are bad.  They take money from public education.  They have very limited accountability and not enough space.  They leave out students who don’t fit their model and the massively unjust and inequitable juggernaut that is public education in the US churns on.  But I tell myself to make space and hold space as I listen to this engrossing story about the founding and expansion of these Success Academies in NYC.

As I dump a cup of Kosher salt into a large pot and get ready to brine the turkey, I listen to debates about the role of standardized tests as a measurement of the Success Academies performance.  The argument is that the Success Academies do as well as rich white schools on standardized tests, so they are effectively closing the achievement gap between black and white kids in America.  I hate standardized tests, but I listen to both sides of the story—the one that says tests are part of education, and that teaching poor black and brown kids how to do well on tests will help to “make up” for what they lack in social capital and connections that white kids have by design.  Rich white kids don’t need tests, because their paths are already set for them, carved out by the first slave ships that docked in American ports.  State tests are not necessary or important for these white kids, so their parents opt-out and these students get to have classrooms filled with project based learning about Maya temples and architecture.  

Part of me wants to go on “woke” rage about how much I hate standardized tests and charter schools.  But part of me wants to hold a space for Jayden Clark, the third grader who came to Success Academy not knowing how to read and now feels like he can accomplish something, because he learned read and did well on the test.

I stir the Turkey brine and watch the salt dissolve, I wonder which part the container that holds me have started to fade away.  I wonder if I will let these parts go, or if I will continue to be dragged by my own dogged sense of what right, by my need to be radical, to be woke, to be “liked.”  

I hope I can cultivate the spaciousness to allow others to be exactly as they are.

The Birth of Morning

The desire to write the story of my daughter’s birth has been gnawing at my insides since she made her journey Earthside.  The story needs to be explored in it’s totality: the who, the what, the why, the before, the after.  So, my next few posts will explore each of these interconnecting parts.  

Why home birth?

My motivation to have home birth was at first entirely political.  Birth is bound up in the social, political and economic contours that define our society.  So, in the US (and many other places in the world), birth is a patriarchal, capitalist endeavor where liability, profit and male convenience take precedent over a women’s inherent wisdom, autonomy and desires. 

Birth outcomes in the US reflect this phenomenon. Maternal death in the US is staggering for a developed country.  About 700 women die annually from childbirth. Black women and Native women die at 3.5 times the rate of white women.  Cesarean rates hover around 30%.

Midwifery and the home birth are the antidote to these patriarchal trends. At it’s core, the home birth movement is defined by a radical form a feminism that aims to respect, empower and values every aspect of the body, mind and soul.  It aims to “de-medicalize” birth and empower individuals with all the information and options needed to make decisions about their care and birth.  The midwifery model of care is all about building relationship with your caregiver and addressing all aspects of health from our fears about birth to the food we eat to nourish the life growing inside of us.  All of this aligns with who I am, who we are as a family and what we wanted birth to be.

After Sugar and I met with our midwife, Kris, we were sold. The shelves in Kris’ office were lined with books about reproductive justice.  Kris is queer and uses they/them/their pronouns.  Their calm, understanding and open energy connected to both Sugar and I in a way that felt right. After our hour long consultation, Sugar bounced down the creaking stairs and onto the street, he jumped on his bike and said, “that was awesome. Let’s do it.”  

So, we were both in. 

Preparing for birth

Preparing for childbirth is a physical, mental and spiritual process.  I am by nature a workaholic and there was a part of me that wanted to believe that if I prepared enough, I would achieve the birth I had envisioned.

Reflecting back, I realize there was always this tension inside of me that didn’t really believe the narrative that a lot of birth preparation materials spout.  Most of what I read followed this idea that if I thoroughly expelled all the fear mongering ideas that surround birth, I created a vision and I prepared as much as I could, I too would be “entitled” to the birth I wanted.  (It turns out that birth doesn’t care about your work ethic.)

But I had always been a visionary and a hard worker, and my life had never unfolded in the way I thought that it would.  But there is not playbook for surrendering to birth.  It’s much more difficult to acknowledge and embrace our lack of control, to let go and give into the unknown.  

So, I treated my birth preparation like I was training for a marathon.  I was obsessive, meticulous and committed.  I created a vision of successful birth, I planned, I did research, I tried to anticipate everything that might get in the way of me achieving peaceful, natural birth at home.

Preparing the body

I have always been an adrenaline junkie with an addiction to exercise endorphins.  Exhaustion was a good way for me to achieve a state of calm inside my physical and mental system that tended towards imbalance.   I spent decades running marathons, snowboarding, playing soccer in college and in the men’s over 30 league.  I attempted to achieve internal equilibrium through exhaustion.  I bruised my tailbone and had several concussions and a body bound by muscles that don’t easily release.  

And none of this accounts for the emotional wounds that are also lodged the fibers of our muscles and memory.  I think about the tension in my jaw that started when my sister had her psychotic break and my relationship of seven years fell apart.  I try to release this tension as I do my morning pregnancy affirmations.  

I attempted to undo decades of physical trauma with massage and prenatal chiropractic work.  A prenatal massage specialist loosened the scar tissue around my tailbone and massaged all the itty bitty ligaments around the vagina that need to stretch and open to allow a child to pass through.  

I remember laying on the massage table wondering why I hadn’t paid more attention to this part of my body.  The pelvis is the connection point that linked everything in my body.  I thought about how many times I stretched by groins as I slide tackled my opponents or swung my leg to fire a shot at the goal.  Yet, no hands had ever touched the muscle groups that were fundamental to movement and life.  Standing, walking, sitting, all of these activities require some type of pelvic engagement. 

I also saw a prenatal chiropractor to work on my physical alignment. My chiropractor used muscle activators to try balance my severely misaligned pelvis.  The doctor assures me that my pelvis and hips were perfectly balanced and ready for birth. 

Releasing fear, preparing the mind 

I prepare my mind, I completed at at home hypnobirthing course.  Hypnobirth is about undoing the negative conditioning society has about birth being a painful, medical event.   It seeks to reprogram our minds to believe that birth can (and should) be different.

 Every morning during the second and third trimester, I woke and listened to pregnancy and birth affirmations.  I worked on my mantras and breathing techniques.  I watched videos of hypnobirths online.  I wrote a story about how my birth would go. I completed a self-study course.

I let myself believe the naive mantras that passed through my wireless headphones.  “Every woman has the right to a pain free, peaceful birth,” a woman with a soothing Australian accent said.  

I listened to dozens of birth stories on podcasts like the Birth Hour and Doing It at Home and read Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth. I watched the documentary “Orgasmic Birth.” Stories poured through my car speakers and flooded my mind with fascination.  I didn’t want to listen to very many stories about struggle and C-sections for fear that they might break the loose grip I had on the narrative of natural and pain free labor.  

In the end, my birth was not at home, not “natural” and very far from pain-free.  

“We make plans and God laughs.”

Birth: The fucking real deal

My daughter Morning’s birth was an exercise in patience, endurance— a physical and mental feat that challenged, stretched and pulled me apart.  Birth reassembled me into a new person whose bits and pieces I am still trying to understand.  

Waiting for Morning to arrive was excruciatingly long, weepy and tiresome.  She was born either 2 weeks or 8 days “late” depending on which “due date” is taken in account.  (My due date changed when I was 40+4 based on an ultrasound error a nurse practitioner made early in my pregnancy.)

I went on maternity leave the week before she was due—tying up lose ends, sending emails and trying to anticipate all the things that might happen at work while I was gone.  When I finally put up the “autoreply” on my email and unplugged, I thought for sure she would make her arrival soon.  I was ready.  Should she be?

But she did not.  The days leading up to her birth passed like a broken record, spinning around an axis of anticipation and then landing at the same place—me laying uncomfortably in bed or on the couch, answering people’s incessant texts and phone calls inquiring, “baby here yet?”  

I tried to “make the most” of my last days as a “single” person.  I went on a “due date date” with Bob the Farmer on my initial due date.  I forced myself to get out of my paper thing gray pajama bottoms and put on a cute, low cut, black and white striped maternity dress I purchased second hand  from ThredUp, an online thrift store.  We strolled around midtown buying plants and drinking over priced Kombucha from a trendy health food bar.  My belly felt as large as the universe, stretched as taut as a drum head about to burst.  I had to pay attention to every step and movement I made so as not to strain my already aching back and hips.

Sugar and I went out for our “last meal” several times—scrolling yelp reviews, trying to find places that felt “special.”  We did this four times.

I neurotically checked my underwear for signs of a “bloody show” every time I went to the bathroom, pulling the crotch of my cotton panties taut and sighing disappointedly when all I saw was dinghy, dry white cotton cloth staring back at me.  I read the evidence based articles on due dates over and over again convincing myself that everything I was  feeling was completely normal and that most first time mom’s don’t give birth until 5 days after their “due dates.”

California law does not allow home birth after 42 weeks, so I felt this ticking clock slowly taking away my chances of having the birth I imagined.   

 At 40 weeks and 7 days “over due,”  Sugar and I went to the OB’s office for a non-stress test and a vaginal exam.  My OB’s schedule was booked back to back with patients giving her only 15 minutes to talk with us. She immediately started talking about induction without asking me how I felt or checking Morning’s fluid levels and heart rate.  She swabbed my vagina to retest for GHB without asking for my consent.  

I told her that  based on my ovulation chart, I thought my due date was wrong and wanted her to change it.  I was desperate to gain “more time” to have a home birth.

“We don’t change due dates this late in a pregnancy,” she told me.  “But let me review your records.”

She found that the due date initially assigned to me was based on the wrong ultrasound, so my “new due date” made me only 2 days and not 7 days overdue. 

Sugar and I left the appointment feeling victorious—my intuition and calculation was right and the large HMO hospitals date was wrong.  The nonstress test revealed that our baby was perfectly healthy.  

Still, more days passed.  The anniversary of my grandmother’s death, my best friends birthday, the evening when we went strolling around the neighborhood and the light was this perfect pale orange color and all the flowers that lined our cracked sidewalk were in bursting in bloom.  All of these days felt like the perfect day to have Morning arrived, yet she still did not come.

On the evening of June 1st, as Sugar and I were finishing up Season 8 of Game of Thrones.  In the evenings, I was using a breast pump on and off for 20 minutes to try to stimulate labor.  Some research showed that pumping helped to release oxytocin which can help to send “late” women into labor.  

This evening, I began to feel a dull ache in my pelvis, similar to a period cramp.  The cramps continued for the entire evening, coming and going with no particular pattern.  The pain wasn’t enough to constitute active labor, but it was enough to keep me awake and uncomfortable all night, laying on the couch, clutching my cell phone trying to time contractions, or “waves” as hypnobirth would call them.  No real pattern.  Just pain and not sleep. 

I laid on the couch waiting for time to pass, so I could contact my midwife at a “reasonable” hour.  (My attempts to keep everyone else comfortable in my early days of labor didn’t serve me well.)  At 6am the next morning, I texted Kris, my midwife, and said, “well, last night was no fun.”  

She told me to take a Benadryl and a bath and try to get some rest.  I took a warm bath and breathed through the irregular contractions.  Sugar built a mountain of pillows on the bed and I tied a heating pad around my waist to try to get some relief from the waves of pain.  By 1:30 pm, all the contractions had stopped.  I texted Kris again and they encouraged me to try to rest, because it was likely that contracts would pick up again in the evening.  

The evening of June 2nd looked a lot like June 1st, Sugar and I sitting on the couches watching Game of Thrones and waiting, the breast pump churning rhythmically in the background.  At around midnight, I felt stronger contractions, enough that I had to walk around move through them to manage the discomfort.  I had regular contractions, about 1 every 3 minutes, for an hour and then the distance between the waves of pain would, frustratingly, increase.  

Sugar fell asleep and I spent the night on the couch, staring at the twinkle lights I hung on the wall, gripping my hips and trying to breathe and through each wave of pain.  I watched the hours pass by backlit cell phone and grew increasingly scared and frustrated.  I knew that the lack of sleep was draining my energy and that inconsistent contractions were not a sign of true labor.  I needed more support, but wanted to let Sugar sleep and knew I couldn’t call my midwife without a more consistent pattern.

By 6am on June 3, I hadn’t really slept in 48 hours and was still in pain from the inconsistent contractions.  The pain picked up that morning, feeling like waves of lightning passing through my pelvis.  We called Kris and asked her to come to our house.  My friend and fellow recovery warrior, Alex came over to help support me.  Alex would be my steadfast friend and doula through my grueling labor.

At around noon, Kris and their assistant, Jimena, came to check on me.  “This baby is coming soon,” Kris reassured me, placing a gentle hand on my arm.  

Kris asked if they could conduct a vaginal exam to check my progress.  I laid on our bed and pressed my feet together, letting my knees fall to the sides.  Jimena, their assistant, placed a glove on her hand and pressed her fingers towards my cervix.  I felt pressure all through my pelvis as she moved her hand around.  Jimena said I was only 2 cm dilated and about 50% effaced.  The baby was at a station of 2.  This was disappointing to say the least.

Jimena did a membrane sweep to help jump start my labor.  She inserted her finger into my cervix and separate the placenta from the uterine wall.  I felt a surge of pressure and then the sweep was over.  

Laying on my bed with Jimena and Kris standing over me, I continued to wince though the inconsistent contractions.  Exhaustion was taking over my body and mind.  I fantasized about drugs and the comparative ease of a C-section.  I asked Kris to walk me through what a C-section looks and feels like.  My mind and body already were scheming ways to get out of this incredible discomfort and exhaustion.  I confessed that my addict brain was starting to become active and seeking outlets which really scared me.  I wept and blubbered and Kris again reassured me that the baby was coming soon.

As Jimena and Kris walked out the front door, I felt a rush of warm fluid between my thighs.  My water had broken, finally.  This is typical after a membrane sweep. I vomited wilted lettuce into the sink. Sugar sent Kris a text to let them know what was happening.  “Woo hoo.  That’s great news!”  Kris responded.  (I learned that a midwife’s job is to remain patiently optimistic even when things are not going as planned.) They said they would come back when contractions picked up.  

I laid on the couch and attempted to watch a movie with Alex.  We selected “Wine Country” on Netflix in hopes of lightening our mood.  Sugar crawled in bed and attempted to take a nap.  We only made is about 5 minutes into the film when my contractions strengthened.  I laid curled up on my side with a mountain of pillows between my legs and on my back.  Alex sat on the ottoman facing me, holding my hand through each contraction and pressing on my hips to help ease the pain.  This continued for four hours. I had a contraction every 3 minutes for 1 minute.  I feel asleep for 2-3 minutes between waves, completely overcome by exhaustion.  Alex held my hand with her left and checked her email on her phone with her left.  Labor is an exercise in staying present and patient while finding ways to pass the time.  

Jimena and Kris came back at around 5:00pm.  The birth team felt a renewed sense of purpose.  We’d have this baby tonight, we all thought, as if we could will my baby into the world with our shear determination.  I chugged a lemony electrolyte beverage to try to get some fluid in my body.

My contractions got stronger throughout the day.  I hadn’t slept in about 60 hours and hadn’t eaten in almost 24 hours, so I was growing feeble in body and mind.  Someone needed to be next to me at all times to help me cope with the pain and growing fears.  Whatever mantras I had learned in hypnobirth no longer seemed to apply.  

As the pain grew, I remember wailing on the couch at around midnight with Kris, the midwife trying to nap in the living and Jimena sitting next to me, pushing hard on my hips through each contraction.  Jimena was texting with Kris in the other room.  Based on the guttural sounds I was making and my inability to speak as the contractions ripped though  me, Kris said I could get into the birth pool.  

Sugar sprang into action and filled the tub with luke warm water.  I looked at the translucent blue plastic walls and wondered by the hell I was going to get my body into the tub.  I had fantasized about having a water birth, so the moment felt good.  I was so relieved that I could get in the water and finally feel some comfort after days of suffering.  Sugar and Jimena helped me step up on three step stool and hurl myself over the side.  

The water wasn’t quite warm and the tub was quite full enough to cover my lower back.  Kris came in from her nap and told the team to fill up the tub with hot water.  I draped my arms over the side of the plastic wall, scared to move, because movement would cause incredibly painful contractions.  I felt my stomach tense and insides rumble and began puking into a green plastic bag.  Whatever liquids, I managed to gulp down promptly spewed out of my mouth.  I fell asleep on the side of the birth tub, puking and moaning through each contractions.

After about ten minutes in the tub, the contractions stopped.  Every few minutes I would feel a wave whip through me, but again, the distance between the contractions didn’t add up to active labor.  I wiggled my hips around, Sugar handed me my manual breast pump and I tried to start labor again by pumping my breasts.  It was 4:00am and the team all looked weary,  Alex sitting on the stool, Jimena in the corner and Kris kneeling next to me.

It was time to get out of the tub and reassess our plan.  I crept over the to the bedroom with Alex and Sugar holding my arms.  I stopped and screamed in pain and dry heaved every time a contraction hit.  I laid on the bed and Jimena did a vaginal exam.  I was only 5 cm dilated and 80% effaced.  

I should have been disappointed, but I didn’t have the energy to feel much of anything anymore.  The more pressing issue was that I hadn’t slept in almost 72 hours and had any fluids in about 12 hours.  Kris told the team that I would need an IV and that we should all try to get some rest.

I looked away toward my off white walls as Jimena tried to insert the IV needle in the arm.  She wasn’t able a vein and poked and prodded.  I usually terrified of needles, but the pain paled in comparison to the contractions.  Kris took over, found a vein and hung the IV bag from our curtain rod.

At 4:30am, everyone left Sugar and I in the bedroom to the try to rest.  Alex left to go to work.  Sugar was completely exhausted and fell asleep.  I laid there terrified with an IV bag hanging above me.  Contractions came and went and I screamed to Sugar, “I need help!”  But he didn’t respond.  I saw blood creeping up the IV line. “Sugar, is this supposed to happen?”  I screamed.  Sugar looked at the bag and promptly moved me and the fluid to the living room.  

“Is this supposed to happen?,”  he asked Kris, pointing to the red blood plastic line.  “No,” they replied and adjusted the height IV bag.  

Sugar crawled back into bed.  I laid on the couch with the IV bag hanging from a tree branch I had nailed to the wall.

Everyone was sleeping besides me.  I cried to Jimena and asked her not to leave me alone.  I laid on the couch with Jimena, dry heaving between contractions, unable to rest or move, tears streaming down my face, a bag a fluid hanging over my head.

At 6:00am, Kris emerged from the living room and came to check on Jimena and I.  I tried to get off the couch my rolling onto all fours.  Every time I moved, my body reeled from the intense contractions and my stomach retched.  There wasn’t any fluid left in my system to dispel.  

“We are going to need to have a more active day today to try to get your labor to pick up the pace,” Kris said as I stood gripping the kitchen counter.  Every time I moved, a contraction would rip through me and cause me to dry heave.  I knew that an “active day” wasn’t going to happen for me.

After more than 72 hours of no sleep, about 18 hours of not being able to hold down fluid and over 24 hours without eating, I had nothing left and was physically incapable of eating, drinking or sleeping.  I was done.  I asked Kris and Jimena what it would look like if we went to the hospital.  

Sugar woke up and came to the living room.  Kris and Jimena told him that we were considering a hospital transfer.  Sugar agreed that this was a good idea.

I put on my fuzzy winter robe and stood on the porch, gripping the white metal pillars that hold up our roof.  The rising sun felt warm.  There was dew on the grass.  “I haven’t been outside in days,” I said to Jimena.  “It’s beautiful out today.”

Jimena, Sugar and I piled into my Honda insight and drove to the hospital.  I sat in the back seat gripping the plastic handle above the door, feeling a sense of relief that some of the pain might subside soon.

The hospital transfer

We arrived at the hospital.  Jimena walked me to the labor and delivery wing while Sugar parked the car.  I stopped every few feet as we moved down the white, sterile hallway toward the reception, gripping the siding on the wall as the contractions inconsistently came and went.  

The receptionist was asked me what type of pain relief I was looking for and I told her I wanted an epidural.  Kris explained my options for pain relief before we left the house and said that the epidural might help my tight muscles to relax, so that my body could take over and allow the labor to progress.

I was admitted, placed in a wheel chair and rolled into a labor room.  I was nervous the hospital staff would judge me for having a home birth.  A nurse with chocolate black skin, round glasses and a wiry hair, black hair cropped close to her head greeted me.  Her name was Summer.  Jimena gave her a timeline and my status.  She nodded and took notes.  “I’m a big supporter of the home birth movement,”  Summer said.  “And it seems like you all made the right decisions.”

Another nurse, named Spring, bounced into the room.  She had dirty blonde hair pulled back into a pony tail and an energy that vibrated high with positivity.  “My sister tried to have a home birth twice.  It just never worked out for her,” Spring said as she stroked my arm.  A doctor named Kate came in and reviewed the notes and checked my cervix.  I was 6 cm dilated and 80% effaced.  

“I can’t believe how nice you all are,” I said with surprise in my voice.  “Thank you for not judging me.”

Summer, Spring and the doctor were all taken back by my surprise.  “We support your decisions,” the doctor said.

The lack of judgment and support  received from this team was starkly different than all the horror stories I had heard about hospital births.  

Spring explained to me that anesthesiologist would be coming soon to insert the epidural.  A needle would be inserted into my spinal column and the numb my body from the waist down.

A 40 something Asian man came in shortly after and asked me to sit up on the hospital bed.  Spring explained that I would have to stay very still while the needle was inserted.  Staying completely still while having a contraction at 6 cm is not easy.  I also had to crunch my body forward to round my spine, so that the needle could fit between my vertebrate.  

Spring put her forehead on my forehead as I leaned forward and the doctor tried to find a place to put the needle.  I reeled in pain as the contractions ripped through my body causing my stomach to clench tight.  

“You can do this,” Summer assured me.

“Just a few more seconds,”  the doctor said.

“Is it over yet?” I begged.

“I can’t seem to find a good vertebrate.  You have a little scoliosis,” said the doctor as he poked and prodded my spin trying to insert the needle.

In retrospect, Sugar would say this was the most difficult part of the entire labor—watching me scream as a doctor repeatedly stabbed a needle into my spine.  

After several failed attempts, the doctor inserted the needle and within a few minutes, the pain began to subside.  

Kris, Jimena and Alex had arrived and were sitting on the couch.  I sat up and smiled for the first time in days.

“Whoa, this is crazy. I can’t feel my legs,” I said to Kris.

“I know, but you need to try to sleep now,” Kris said.


I dozed off for about 30 minutes when a nurse woke me up and told me they were going to administer pitocin, because my contractions were still irregular.  Alex, Jimena and Kris had all gone to get coffee and Sugar was the only person left in the room.

“Is that OK?,” I asked Sugar.  I was in a desert land, so completely drained and so far from the birth I had imagined that I needed others to make decisions for me.  

“Yes, Kris said we would probably need pitocin.”

I told the nurse OK and she went to the giant boxes of machines and pushed a few buttons.  A new drug was now coursing through my veins, overriding the natural instincts that had apparently gone astray.

At this point, I was scared.  A part of me believed that going to the hospital would mean a quicker and easier birth.  Yet, this wasn’t happening.  I was scared that one intervention would lead to another and another and another and soon I would unwilling be on the operating table.  The hum of anxiety and unease kept me awake.  I put on a podcast, This American Life, and tried to block out the thoughts and sleep.  

The next 9 hours passed in a blur.  I remember having conversations with people, cracking jokes and watching as my abdomen clenched with each contraction, I was unable to feel any of it.  Machines that monitored Mornings heart rate whirled in the background.  I could hear a steady beep and I knew that she was OK.  

There was a change in shift and a new nurse was assigned to us.  She had a nose ring, tattoos and shaved head.  She had tattoo of a coffee carafe and her energy buzzed like a gnat.  I was instantly annoyed by her presence.

Dr. Singh, an round Indian woman with  warm presence, was now on call.  She checked my cervix and told the team I was almost fully dilated, 9.5 cm, and 90% effaced.  Everyone breathed a sigh of relief.  I didn’t feel much at this point.  Dr. Singh wrapped a tight band around my abdomen to try to shift Mornings position as she made her way through my pelvis.

Kris told me I should have the baby before midnight, so Dr. Singh could deliver her.  Everyone seemed sure that the baby was coming soon.

Midnight came and went and yet another shift change at the hospital happened.  Labor progressed slowly.  The doctor’s left and a certified nurse midwife named Morning Water was assigned to my room.  Nurse Water had been delivering babies for 30 years and was a supporter of the home birth movement.  She had a soft short, white haircut, thin silver rimmed glasses and a calm, grandmother like energy that gave me confidence.

She came in and checked my progress.  I was fully dilated and 100% effaced.  

I remember thinking, “OK, what now?  Shouldn’t the baby just come out?  Isn’t that what all these drugs are supposed to do?”

Morning told me I was OK to start pushing.  

My birth team surrounded me with Sugar by my head, Alex holding my right leg, Jimena holding my left leg, and Kris next to Nurse Water by my feet.

Nurse Water took the lead on teaching me how to push.  She explained that I needed to crunch forward and curl my body around the baby.  I needed to breathe in and then hold my breath and push with everything I had.  

I tried to follow instructions and mimic Nurse Water’s motion and crunch my abdomen while holding my breath. My swollen legs felt like dead tree trunks and I had zero feeling from my waist down.  

“I can’t feel anything,” I said, bewildered as to how I could push a baby out my vagina with zero sensation in my lower body.  “Can you turn down this epidural?”

“Just practice,” Nurse Water said as she smiled and left the room.  “I’ll be back to check on you.”  Nurse Water alerted the anesthesiologist to my request to turn down the epidural.

The door clicked shut. I felt like I was on another planet— my swollen body was limp and listless.  A dull panic crept over me.  I would need to push this baby out of me without any feeling in lower body.  How the fuck was I going to do that?

Kris snapped a glove onto hand and placed two fingers into my vagina.  Midwives don’t have “hospital privileges” so this was a risky move for Kris.  

“Try to push out my fingers,” they said.

“I can’t feel your fingers,”I replied.

I felt everyone’s eyes staring back at me.  My birth team had been up for about 36 hours  already and now we had to do this together.

Kris grabbed a bedsheet and twisted into the shape of a rope.  They held onto both ends of the sheet and had me grab the middle forming a U-shape.  

“Breathe in and pull as hard as you can on this sheet as you can on this sheet as you breathe out,” Kris instructed.

It was me and Kris in tug of war with a bed sheet for the next 5 hours.  

I had to leave my physical body to bring my daughter, Morning, into this world and find a source of primal strength to transcend my unrecognizable body.  I hadn’t slept in 4 days, eaten anything 2 days and I had gained about 60lbs that was mostly fluid.  I have climbed mountains, run marathons and nothing compares to the physical feat of pushing out Morning.  

It took 2 hours to regain any feeling in my lower body after the epidural was turned down.  

What I remember most vividly was the feeling of Morning’s head coming through my pelvis.  It was like your bones are splitting in half and the only way to stop the pain is to summon some sort of internal strength and to keep pushing.  The feeling of cracking open, of not being able to escape the pain is completely terrifying.  You have to have touch down with that terror and very quickly roll yourself back or else you completely lose your mind.    

At some point as Morning’s head descended closer to the opening of my vagina, a nurse brought in a large mirror to help me push.  I didn’t recognize what I saw in the mirror.

“What’s that?,” I asked as I stared at the reflection of my genitals.

My labia looked like one of those miniature bananas that grow on stalks in the tropics. My anus was covered by hemorrhoids were the size of golfballs.  There was a clear plastic tube coming out of my vagina that was inserted to measure the strength of my uterine contractions.  It was a totally foreign landscape.  

“That’s your vagina.  You see this hole.  You need to try to move this hole,”  Kris said as she pointed to my vaginal opening.

Something clicked for me at this moment.  As I exhaled and pushed with whatever fibers of strength remained, I could see the muscles and ligaments of vagina expand and contract ever so slightly.  I had a visual target, a goal, and could finally connect the upper and lower hemispheres of my body.

“Let’s do this,” I grunted harnessing the kind of energy I needed to motivate my soccer team during a double overtime match.  

With each contraction, my vaginal opening slowly expanded.  With each push, I saw the excitement in my birth teams eyes grow wider.  Their energy motivated me to just keep going. 

Nurse Water moved aside my swollen labia and showed me a small, dark triangle of matted hair.  

“You see that? That’s your baby’s head.”  

With each push, the triangle moved outward and expanded, slowly revealing more hair and white mucus.  Nurse Water poured mineral oil over the crown of her head.  She massaged my perineum and while my baby’s head slowly emerged, each contraction and push leaving a ring around her soft skull.  

“Now, I need you to give me a bunch of little pushes,” Nurse Water said.  “Go slowly.”

I gave a few staccato exhaled her head emerged.  With the next contraction, her limp body flopped out of me.  

I feel sad sometimes when I think about the moments after Morning’s birth. My memory after Morning’s birth is limited, because I was so exhausted I could not stay conscious.  

I remember her being flopped on my belly and huge burst of meconium covering my stomach.  I remember nurses scrambling to wipe up the mess with piles of staunch white towels.  I looked between her legs.  She had a vagina and therefore would be assigned the gender “female.”  “Girl,” I said to Sugar as I looked up into his tear stained eyes. “This is your daughter.”

“I feel overwhelmed with emotion,” he choked.

Morning laid on my chest and I fell into a deeply exhausted sleep.  My eyes shot open when she latched onto my nipple for first time, surprised by the intense pressure of the reflex. 

I woke up later and was in my dark hospital room, Morning in a plastic bassinet under a heating lamp next to me, Sugar curled up on the couch sleeping.  My birth team was gone.

A small Asian woman who was the new nurse came into the room.

“I need food,” I told her.

She brought in a tray of last night’s dinner, a potato curry dish in a white plastic tray.  Pads of butter wrapped in metallic gold in one compartment, a brown roll in another, a fruit  cup, apple juice, I ate it all and felt completely satisfied.

Bringing Babies into A Broken World

As I sit down to write, I am combatting the urge to write a list or guidebook of sorts about how to bring life into a world that is falling apart.  These “listographies” are the click bait of the hyperactive world we live in and help us to deduce complex, unknowable things into digestible bite sized pieces.  Perhaps this is our way of making things feel more manageable and understandable.  If we write short, declarative phrases in bold text, we can feel that we have pinned something down.  We’ve made the vicious solid.  We’ve stopped the sand from flowing through our finger tips.

I am not sure what will come out the other side of this post.  At 35 weeks pregnant, I know my energy is low, yet my need to purge some of these thoughts is high.  I think writing about my writing before I begin writing gives me some type of courage—like a preamble telling the reader about my mental state before I jump into the unknown— a warning that we both may end up more confused or concerned than when we started.

Since what follows will not be uplifting,  I’ll state for the record that pregnancy is a magical and enchanting time.  There is exhaustion, heartburn, insomnia and all those other unpleasantries, but there also new life brewing inside of you—a human, a small creature you are learning to love and know more about everyday.  You sit in meetings discussing behavior support plans and feel little punches in your pelvis—its like a secret dance between you and your baby that no one else in the world knows about.  First graders kiss your belly, knock on your office door and ask to say hi to the baby.  They ask you everyday if it’s a boy or a girl—unable to comprehend why you don’t want to know.  The love these children send to your womb daily fills my heart with joy.

And then there is the other side of this feeling—the trepidation and fear about bringing new life into this place that feels so ripped apart.  

The bathtub is a sacred place for my sore, pregnant body and my weary, tired mind.  On days that feel endless, where the new foster student won’t stop trying to climb on the roof and I spend 2.5 hours pacing around the school, negotiating with him about what it will take to get back to class, I think about my bath tub.  Sometimes Sugar gets home and finds me partially submerged in the lukewarm water at 4:47pm.  His desire to save water on temporary hiatus. (Though he is determined to use every last drop of bath water, sometimes soaking in the tub after me and then washing Pump and Moon.)

Sugar often sits on the toilet and tells me about his day while my toes peak out from the bubbly horizon of the tub.  Last Friday, he was in a  frenzy about climate change and the 60 year timeline that will likely bring worldwide catastrophe and collapse.  Our child will be likely be alive in 60 years and we will most likely be gone.  My buoyant, bloated cells push against this idea and want to tell him to stop talking about this, but I don’t, because I can’t, because it’s true. 


It’s 8:37am on Thursday, April 11th.  I am standing at the intersection of MLK and 21st holding a stop sign, iPhone, a clipboard holding a sheet of paper that contains the amended “strike schedule” and two-way radio.  I wish I had another hand or perhaps radio holster embroidered with a colorful Southwest textile.  The teachers have just started to gather on the other side of the street, holding their picket signs that contain vague slogans such as “Great teachers together.”  

It’s the first teacher’s strike in 30 years. Step back from the immediate scene and you’ll also see a line of mostly white women from out of town, protesting for much-deserved higher wages in a neighborhood where the average family makes less than $40,000 a year.  Students and families start to gather at the corner, asking me what is going on today and if there will be any lessons taking place.  My job is to assure them that everything is under control and they need to go to the cafeteria instead of their classrooms.  “Will Ms. M be here today, Ms. Crashley?”  “No, she won’t.”  “But why?”  My job is also to answer this question for the teachers lining the other side of the street.  

There is a break in the flow of children and families at the crossing.  I take a moment to squat down and stretch the muscles that attach my hips to my pelvis.  It’s now 8:46am.  I’ve been at school for 3 hours attempting to plan “outdoor learning activities” for an unknown number of students and “emergency replacement teachers.”  “Are you Ok, Ms. Crashley?,” a 20-something, well-meaning, hard working teacher yells across the street.  “Yes.  Just stretching,” I shoot back.  Her question makes me feel like I have somehow feel like I have shown a sign of weakness.  


I travelled home for one last visit before our baby is born.  My sister cried, because of the shame and guilt she feels around the wreckage of her past—the years of treating people people who love her the most as disposable, of not knowing the boundary between her own mental illness and personal decisions, of finally sitting with the weight we’ve all been carrying for the past ten years.  I don’t try to stop her tears or offer support, because this is a weight that needs to be felt.    

We sit down for dinner, the four of us, and remember that my brother can’t be there, because he relapsed again.  His survival hangs in the perpetual balance.  It’s hard to know if this time is worst than last year’s relapse, because last year’s felt like it had to be the bottom.  But it always seems to just get worse.

  There are tears and most of all there is anger around this dinner table.  I become the receiver of grief and vitriol, because perhaps the the nature of hopelessness unfettered is to obliterate all that might bring hope.  I take deep breaths in the midst of my panic trying to tell the baby that they are loved and do not need to feel all this.  I wake up at 4:30am in a strangers cabin and feel like there is snake wrapping around my chest.  The weight of rejection, fear and loneliness is crushing, like someone lifted a million heavy river rocks that had managed to settle in soul.  

Some people have baby showers.  I have this and I am still not sure why.  The meditation I listen to to help calm me down tells me that all this will make sense in retrospect.  I want it to make sense now.

Sugar and I left a day early from home.  I needed my corner of the world where I could feel safe again.  I slept for 6 hours straight snuggled between Moon and Sugar, and could feel the love stitching me back together.  

How do we bring babies into this broken world?  Perhaps one broken breath at a time.    

The Ofrenda

The pace of life seems to grinds to a halt this time year.  For those prone to freneticism, the slowing of time, the long days of darkness, is disorienting.  It feels like getting sucked in through the back of the fan and spit out all over the room.  I wander around picking up fragments of myself and trying to stitch them back together.    

The Christmas seasons brings with it a particular type of pain and desperation for poor communities.  It’s a type of pain that feels chaotic, and desperate—like the universe is giving us a final test of fate before the darkest day of the year.  For us “workers” (the families in Salinas always referred to us social worker type people as ‘trabajadoras,’ which literally translates to ‘workers,’ I always liked this phrase, so I am gonna roll with it), there is a mass of contradicting emotions to sort through this time of year.  For weeks, endless lines of people come to the family resource center and crack themselves open, one after another after another. 

Where can I get Christmas presents for my eight kids?  The lights got turned off and the bill is $534.  I don’t have enough gas to get my daughter to her court-mandated counseling appointment.  My son shot himself in the bathroom during this time last year.  I used to be addicted to meth, but now I just smoke and drink. I can control it.  An adorable boy with silver teeth shows up with a jacket and no shirt. 

The unraveling feels endless, yet many of the homeless people who live along Stockton blvd are wearing Santa hats or bright red polyester jackets over their dirty flannel pajamas.  As the cross walk blinks go, men in their Christmas costumes give a fist bump and say happy holidays, a soggy, limp cigarettes hanging from limps.  Their expressions convey something that looks like joy.  I drive to working thinking about how those cheap Santa suits all look so flammable. 

There is talk of massive lay offs and state-take over of our school district due to fiscal insolvency.  This means places like the family resource center are at risk of closing, because our services are not “state mandated.” 

On the last day of work before Christmas break, I felt myself fighting back tears all day, because I don’t want to stop.  I fear the slowing down.  I fear not being apart of this energy anymore.  When I tell people about my fears around the tenuous situation at our district, they say “great, now you can be a stay at home mom.”   This makes me want to scream and throw a temper tantrum. 


Sugar and I are smashing down walls in the kitchen.  Muddy paw prints and sheet rock dust line the floors.  We can’t turn the heater on, because there is a hole in the ceiling.  If you punch holes in ceiling, you can hear the rain drops on the roof.  You will also have to wear a parka and wool hat while typing your end of year blog post.  Trade offs.

I started this post with the intention of writing chronology of the large and small internal transformations that have occurred this year. I scratched a timeline on an oversized yellow post-it note, grabbing a hold of the things that punctuate my memory and forcing them out in black, glittery ink.  Here’s a list in rough chronological order of the mostly painful shit that shook me up and imprinted on my DNA this year.


I realize I have a love/hate relationship with text messages as I scroll through a years worth of conversation fragments with Farmer Bob.  I’m trying to reconstruct a timeline of my miscarriages.  Trauma blurs the memory, throws you from your axis into a borderless blackness where things that happened a decade ago feel as present as the sound of Sugar hacking apart sheetrock in the kitchen.  I can’t remember when each moment of tenuous hope and crippling disappoint unfurled, but my I-phone knows that exact dates and times.  Looking back at these messages highlighted in tiny green boxes, I can remember exactly where I was, sitting in my dull gray cubicle with breath frozen in my chest.  February 5 at 2:46 pm is the first photos of a positive pregnancy test.  There is another on April 18th at 2:25pm and another on September 15 at 7:42am.

I remember crawling into bed after the first positive turned negative pregnancy test in February and sobbing into my pillow.  There was a crack in my sorrow, a space between my sobs where something broke through.  I am not the “woo woo” mystical, crystal wearing, “lets all burn sage and hold hands” type, but I heard a wiser voice speak to me in that moment of groundless sadness.  The voice said, “now you know what this feels like.”  And for a split second, the future me who was not so utterly wrecked believed that to be the truth I was supposed to learn. 

I thought I was done learning the lesson after the first miscarriage.  I thought the voice I heard was the final voice.  I dusted myself off pretty quickly, and took some refuge in the idea that my body was capable of getting pregnant (though it fucking sucks when the random well-meaning person uses that line to distance themselves from your pain.)

But it would happen again and feel infinitely more painful the second time around (I laid that experience to bare in a previous post and don’t feel the need to rehash it here.)

Miscarriage is one of many sorrows that women bare alone.  A deep grief that is so common and yet we remain utterly silent about it’s existence.  Now that I am 19 weeks pregnant and unable to hide my protruding belly from the world, I make a point to talk about miscarriage to pretty much anyone who feels the need to comment on my pregnancy.  For me, the two storylines– of loss and life–are inextricable.  When the random co-worker naively squeals, “you are pregnant! How exciting!”  After experiencing multiple miscarriage, “excitement” is an emotion you access with great hesitation. So, I usually respond with, “well, it has been a long journey.  I had tow miscarriages.” 

Pregnancy after miscarriage

I am pretty sure the 4.5 month old baby inside of me moved for the first time this morning.  I felt a percussive thump that was distinct from a gas bubble moving through my abdomen as I lay in bed enshrouded in a billowy, white pregnancy pillow.   

Pregnancy after miscarriage is a tenuous state.  I didn’t want let myself think about childbirth until about 2 weeks ago when Sugar and I toured a maternity ward and interviewed a midwife.  A few weeks before that, I was talking to Farmer Bob, who is also pregnant, about birth options and said “you know I am just not interested in child birth,” which couldn’t be further from the truth.  What I meant to say was, “I am still scared I might not even give birth,” but saying that was too hard.

Planning a birth requires a certain kind of imagination I don’t quite have access to just yet.  I am working on this part of my brain though, the part that allows me invest some mental currency in a positive expectation—a vision of an idealized outcome that is wholly out of your control.    

The massive identity shift that is pregnancy (and of course motherhood) is landscape I am still learning how to navigate.  I imagine 2019 will be filled with all sorts of musing on this topic.      

We bought a house.

But we aren’t home owners.  That’s the myth.  The bank owns the house, but now we can bust open closets and mount tree branches to the walls with reckless abandon.  The truth is I don’t feel a greater sense of permanence or stability paying mortgage as opposed to paying a landlord.  Perhaps this is a byproduct of living through the housing crisis.  Yet, I can imagine my unborn child playing on the play structure with kids like Anitra and Damariah and feel like I might finally be building a space where I can stay for awhile.

A murder and a science experiment

A high school student creates a science project positing that whites and North Asians have a higher IQs than black, latinos and south Asians.  He uses this logic to justify the disproportionate representation in the honors program at his high school.  It’s both a rupture and media shitstorm.  Ann Coulter comments.  CNN picks up the beat.  A month later, on March 18th, Stephon Clark was murdered by police in his grandmother’s backyard—shot six times in the side and back.

I spent weeks shutting down freeways and stadiums.  Screaming and dancing in the street riding my bicycle from demonstration to demonstration.  The DA built a fence around her office to keep protesters out.  There was a barbecue on her front lawn everyday for months.  After the science experiment, I talked to 700 high school students about race relations on their campuses and in the community. 

By standing in the middle of these fires and learning how to listen, bear witness and make space.

Elders passed away

Elders passed away this year.  My grandmother, Mamique, my therapist of five years and Sister Claire, my AA co-sponsor, all passed away this year.  I was never close to my grandparents so the feeling of losing an elder is foreign to me—a pain I watched others experience but could never really grasp.  Sister Claire passing changed that.  I sit with her every morning and feel her smiling down on me from up there in the clouds.

Some intentions for the new year:

2019 may bring the loss of jobs, the birth of a child and the reimagining of life and self in some fundamentally new ways.  The challenge for me is to let go, learn what it means to have hope and trust that there is a greater plan and meaning to all of this.

The pit of rage.

I don’t have trap doors anymore.  No places to hide when the anger starts to simmer, no wine hidden in an aluminum travel mug, no secret slugs of icy vodka pulled from the back of the refrigerator.  Let’s face it, the booze only made this particular brand of anger fester and then explode.  That’s what brought me to this page in the first place.

I am at my women’s meeting.  I am counting one dollar bills and carefully stacking them in a pink plastic bowl, the weekly tithing for the gift of feminine solidarity and sobriety.   A women I have come to love and admire fiercely (we’ll call her Anaheim) stands across the table.  I lift my head and meet her gaze.  She gives me an air hug from across the table.  I drop the bill in the plastic bowl and say, “I need the real thing right now” and walk toward her with open arms.

Anaheim knows a lot about the justice system.  The more I learn about the fucked up corruption in the “justice” system, the more I love Anaheim and that the fact that there are teeny, tiny brave, wise women like her out there. 

Anaheim is a couple decades older than me.  She is a slight women with a silver, white hair cropped close to her head, faded grey blue eyes behind an unassuming pair of thin silver glasses.  She dresses like a person who always has something more important to think about, wearing anonymous conservative black and grey dresses and practical black ballet flats.  Her frame is tiny, strong and jagged.  I can feel her shoulder blades as we hug.

“We’ve never through anything like this,” I say.  She knows the “we” I am referring to is women of my generation, those of us who are awake, alive, aware and in our mid thirties.

I have been asking Anaheim for advice, wisdom, solace since the Brett Kavanaugh shit show first began.  She is my “reality check”  when I know my vision is too narrow or short. 

When I first heard of Anthony Kennedy’s retirement, I felt bewildered and adrift again–a feeling reminiscent of how I felt on 11/10/16.  The discomfort is a cue and my brain looks for a trap door, a way out.  I start randomly Googling to try to understand what might happen if Trump gets his SECOND pick for the Supreme Court.  Google leads me to my answer, my temporary trap door: two female Senators who hail from the hinterlands of Maine and Alaska. 

A few weeks ago, I asked Anaheim what she thought about the prospective of these women voting against Kavanaugh.  

“They will not,” she tells me as we stand in the parking lot, the gravel poking through my thrift store sandals.  “They will vote for him, because he is not unqualified,” she says with razor sharp certainty.  This truth leaves me sinking, but her wisdom pulls me back.  She tells me about how the political pendulum always swings from one extreme to the next.  She says with profound calmness and clarity that we will have to find ways to get women access to abortions and we’ll rely on civil society to do to so.   She tells me we will survive this and I believe her. Her wisdom and perspective is my buoy.    

The feeling of lightness is replaced by sinking now.  If I sink down far enough, I will find the place where I hide all the rage.

Yesterday, as we stood there hugging next to the table, she told me that she remembers watching Anita Hill testify during the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearing 25 years ago and how she has found herself thinking “have we not learned anything?” as she watched the shit show unfold on national TV.  She is going out of town and won’t be at the meeting for the next three weeks.  I instantly feel bad for myself.

Trauma is experienced collectively.  It unmoors itself and circulates through communities at specific times—cued up my the callous actions, fear and animosity of white men.  I have learned this through my own efforts to “decolonize” my mind and develop an understanding of how black people feel when a police car drives by.  While I won’t set up a false equivalency, there is a parallel experience women are feeling right now, a pain that has some common origins.  It’s a deep, hidden pain that has been built through decades of assault and abuse by white men—a pain that is circulating amongst all of us who identify as women right now. 

I have been wondering lately, what is my #metoo story?  Do I have one?  I have never been raped or assaulted though like many I have had some close calls.  I could list the same litany of things we do everyday to avoid being sexually assaulted like the fact that I run on the treadmill everyday since Mollie Tibbetts and Wendy Martinez, or my inability to sleep in home alone without taking Benadryl and triple checking to make sure all the doors are locked when I home alone.  There is the boss that snuck up behind me and unhooked my bar as a “practical joke.” There are the drunken nights when I didn’t say no, but didn’t say yes either.  There is waking up and wondering if I deserved to feel like shit.  There are the more subtle forms of domination that happen in our daily silencing by men who do not see us for who we are, that are blinded by their own sense of knowing. 

There are the countless stories I hear every week from survivors in recovery. There is my friend who recently relapsed.  I remember the bruises on the top of her breasts as she pulled her oversized white shirt to the side.  She showed me the marks after our meeting when everyone went out to get $10 tattoos.  It was sex work, sure, but she didn’t tell him he could do that.  She’s a beautiful women who photographs births.   

There is my sister in the hospital—a scene that is defined by unknowns that characterize the type of rape that happens through a toxic mixture of drugs, alcohol, groups of belligerent white men and vulnerable young, intoxicated women.  There is the not knowing what types of drugs they put in her drink, who did it or how many.  There is her inability to tell us anything about it.  There is her wild disassociation from reality, her decent into schizophrenia, the disintegration of her being and our lives as we knew them.  Eight years later, she talks to me about what happened at CZ and how she still needs to “address it.”  There is a part of my brain that will never understand what happened, so I just say, “yes, you didn’t deserve that and I hope you can heal.”  I let all the unknowns fall down into the pit.    

I was sitting on the couch this evening looking for my new version of a trap door, one that does not involve a secret trip to the corner liquor store.  I woke up feeling like I needed get away.  I tried to buy a “trashy” book on my kindle.  I tossed and turned on the couch. I didn’t want to talk or be touched.  I want to curl up in a ball, so I can protect myself. 

As I let go of Anaheim last night, I tell her “there is pit of rage I have buried deep down.”  She gives me a knowing look. 

What will we do with all this anger?  What will we do with all this pain? Where will it go?