Hi readers–are you still there? If so, thanks for sticking around If not, I’ll just be screaming into the void, again, as usual. That’s not so bad. Enough angst! Gah.
I’ve spent the past several months in a period of intense activity, and also privacy. I’ve been regrouping, after several crises–in my family, and in my circle of friends and birth-workers. These events have forced me to retreat and to think deeply about where I’m going, and how I’m going about it all.
All of these deep thoughts and unforeseen events have led me to initiate some major changes in my life and family. I don’t care too much about what other people think of me, for the most part…then again, I’d love to be loved, like everyone. Nonetheless, my focus lately has been primarily on my family, and on how I can continue to serve my community, as I feel I’ve been called to do. I hope that for some women, this blog is something of a resource, if only as a testament to birth being possible, and mothering being possible…just that it’s all possible–if messy.
Since the inception of this blog (in 2008!) I’ve struggled with how to strike a balance between writing about birth-and-family related issues that fall outside of the “norm”, and using this space as a virtual journal of sorts–a running memoir. Maybe it’s all ok, and I should (still, again) try not to overthink it (! revelation!).
But then again, I’m a woman, and everything that female people do is scrutinized and assessed and judged. This climate of scrutiny and interrogation has become heightened over the past couple of years to a shocking degree. We have seen a disturbing regression, politically, in our ability as women to organize as a class and to author our own experiences, rooted as they so profoundly are, in our biology. I suppose this is somewhat at the core of my recent reticence. My personal trials and challenges and triumphs have absorbed much of my energy, and when I have (and I frequently do, don’t worry) had the wherewithal to formulate a cogent argument, I immediately realize that my thoughts are largely verboten, criminal, despised. I have become increasingly alienated from the “progressive” left, and I feel politically at a loss, to be quite honest, as it seems that women who refuse to participate in their own erasure are now automatically elided with right wing conservatives, and I certainly don’t fit in there. Instead, I spend my time in secret online spaces, where my sisters-in-arms and I holler and collude, underground.
And as always, for women who write, and write about their lives with some degree of intimacy, there is a constant tension between what we reveal, and how we are seen, and read, by others. I have problems, like everyone. Criticism lands when we share too much, and when our lives seem, from our Instagram feeds or our blog images, “too perfect” (actually, my instagram feeds are decidedly imperfect–@bauhauswife and @yoclark if you’re curious).
Somehow, this is all pertinent, I think, to the state of the world. It seems that we’re at a crossroads…but when is that not the case? I’ve had my share of dark moments. The state of birth deteriorates, and radical midwifery seems to recede from public consciousness. But I’m buoyed by the brilliant women I know who refuse to pretend that everything is roses, who refuse to capitulate, who refuse to throw their sisters under the bus. There are intermittent flickers of hope.
After receiving several threatening cease-and-desist letters over the years from the regulated midwifery organization in New Brunswick, I reached a point where I couldn’t handle the pressure any more, so I have restructured my business to focus on consulting only. I’ve also taken a fabulous job in marketing and communications, which I love, and following, I made the initially very difficult decision to enrol Horus, Treva and Felix in school.
Homeschooling is my preference, and was my dream. But now that it’s necessary for me to be working even more outside our home, expecting Lee to take on the responsibility of educating our kids is untenable for a number of reasons, including the fact that homeschooling is just simply not Lee’s interest, or in his nature–all valid. The kids now attend a wonderful tiny independent school, and I’m happy to say they are thriving. I’m able to drop them off and pick them up, and the teachers have been incredibly accommodating and helpful in every way. There were some hiccups at the beginning, especially for Horus who took a little while to acclimate. But now that our new routine has been in place for a couple of months, everyone is happy: excited to wake up in the morning, contented when we get home in the evenings.
Cosmo and little seven-month old Xanthe are at home with Lee during the days, and despite my initial heartbreak, that arrangement too, is working wonderfully. Lee is an amazing and deeply loving and attentive father, and he and Xanthe especially have a deep bond. Every day when I come home, she is delighted to see me, but more importantly, delighted with everything about her life. I pump or express breastmilk while I’m at work, and Xan now nurses constantly, all night long (which can be tiring, but worth it). I’m very very lucky. And I hardly ever cry in the bathroom at work anymore.
When I was forced to turn to breast pumps and bottles and even to give Xanthe a little bit of (homemade) formula a few months ago, due to her tongue-tie, I received a torrent of supportive comments, and also some comments about how I should look at this experience (the tongue-tie, the bottles, the formula) as a gift–now I can finally be compassionate and empathetic towards those mothers who have to use bottles and formula!. Well, no. Not that I’m not able to be compassionate, but that I honestly don’t think I’ve ever been lacking in it. I’m sure people meant well–but the assumption that my prior views would have been different if I had *needed* to use formula (or whatever) before, is deeply irritating to me. Some of the comments carried the suggestion that perhaps what took place with Xanthe was karmic in some way–that I’m being punished by the universe, for hurting all those bottle-feeding mothers’ feelings.
I’m sure there will be, on the part of some, an element of schadenfreude in regards to my apparent defection from homeschooling, from breastfeeding, from all of my ideals.
Haters love to hate.
The truth is, my views haven’t changed at all. Not one iota. I pumped breastmilk for Xanthe, and I fed her with a bottle. I mixed up goat’s milk and a number of other ingredients (message me at sasamat(dot)clark(at)gmail.com if you’d like my recipe, I won’t publish it here, such would be the disapproval of many), and I gave it to her in a bottle. I stopped homeschooling my children and they now go to school, including my 4-year old who is in kindergarten. I have left my 7-month old and 2-year old with my husband, and I go to work every day to support my family.
And yet, I still think bottles are gross and morbid. I still think anything other than breastmilk for babies is sub-optimal, and sad, and kind of awful. I still think school is the opiate of the masses, among other things (both good and bad). I think babies should be velcroed to their mothers’ bodies for the first year of their lives, and attended to by their mothers for years after that–not left with family members.
My point (again) is that I have, and will continue, to make choices based on necessity, that run contrary to my values. This past year has involved the most apparently dramatic examples of this veering away from my ideals thus far, but as a parent, and in particular as a mother, life is a constant negotiation between what we want, and what we have to do to survive. I make deals, and trade-offs and sacrifices as we all do. And we’re all ok! We really are.
And I’m sure there’s more to come. More changes, more excitement, more discomfort, more life.