The Saltwater Recollections

Letters from the shore

Can we listen to the parents who lose their child to violence?

I saw friend in the store yesterday. I’ll call her Jane. Jane gives amazing hugs. Part of what makes them so great is that it’s her greeting. She goes right past hello and before you know it she’s warmly embracing you. Most days I get a Jane hug, I absolutely need them. I’m almost brought to tears, they are that special.

On this day though, midhugging I feel a tremble and realize that Jane is the one crying. I keep hugging her. I knew this feeling so well. The weight of life sometimes just collapses into a well intentioned embrace. But this feels much deeper.

While were are hugging she starts saying her daughters name. It’s the name of a daughter I’ve never met but have heard so much about. It’s her daughter who passed away too soon.

She starts apologizing, and before I can stop her from doing that she explains that the last few days have been really hard. That the shootings in Florida have brought her own feelings of loss to the surface and it’s been unbearable. “ I know how that feels” she tells me “it’s killing me that any parent has to experience this. All those parents who just lost her kid. I know that feeling”

She’s wiping away tears and the only thing I can mutter is I’m sorry. “You’re right” I tell her, and I’m so sorry.

As we part ways I feel guilty for having so few words. But the truth is I don’t know that feeling. I don’t know what it’s like to make funeral arrangements for a child. Or wake up every morning knowing your child no longer shares this world with you.

My lack of understanding left me with little to say except I’m sorry.

Before leaving the store I run into Jane again but this time she’s talking with someone else. I give her a little smile and go on my way, but pick up a fragment of the conversation that she’s having with this other person.

“Mental health… people with problems…” went the bit I heard being told to Jane.

Obviously I have no idea what occurred before I passed by. Did Jane hug and cry and express what she expressed to me to this other person? Did she talk about the feeling of losing a kid and how every time there’s a shooting she relives that feeling again and again?

I don’t know. What I do know is that the Jane I was hugging did not want to piece together how a persons mental health should be the blame for parents loosing their kids forever.

The Jane that I was hugging and crying with just wanted to feel heard, understood and loved.

And that’s what yesterday taught me. If we listen to the people who have to live and relive this. If we choose them and their suffering over everything else. I think it’s then may get close to ensuring this stops happening and never occurs again.

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The home birth story of Arlo Fox

There were a few parts of Arlos birth I imagined that came to pass.

One was that my husband would be my sole source of comfort. A birthing partner that would give me strength through each surge and guidance when I started to drift.

Second, is that I would labor during the night. I had prodromal labor for a few nights in a row, always starting at midnight and lasting till 4 am. This was my time of early labor with Arlo, and I’m so glad I had those moments of practice labor to find peace in those quite hours of the night.

Lastly is that I birth my baby in the water and bring him to my chest from the womb. One of these things materialized!

Before heading to bed the evening of September 10, I decided this would be the night I go into labor. Just to be sure it happened, I indulged in a bit of raw chocolate cake. Savoring each creamy bite and letting the oxytocin do its thing. I bounced on my ball in chocolate bliss. Yes. This was the night, I kept thinking. I would meet my baby.

So I wasn’t surprised when I woke up at midnight on September 11 with a surge that was tighter and longer than any prodromal labor I had before.

My husband came in the room, still up from the day before, and saw my elated face. I contracted on my own for a few minutes to verify this was indeed labor. When I felt certain it was I called the midwife.

The next few hours, till 3-4 am, were filled with so much empowerment. I worked through these surges with such confidence and calm. I was birthing without pain or fear.

My husband held me as they came. We worked together so well, so naturally. An intense feeling of oneness fell upon us. I couldn’t have been in better hands during this time.

This is the labor I prepared for– calm with a smile on my face.

I confined myself to the bedroom. Even when my midwife said I could walk around the house I shook my head, that idea wasn’t possible. This was my safe zone.

When the tub became available I entered it hoping to feel a connection to the water. I moved on my knees, than on my side. I hung over the sides, and just sat down with my legs out. During each surge in the water I only wanted to feel my body in my husbands arms. And even though he held my hands as I was in the water, I couldn’t release into its weightlessness.

On land, my body worked hard. I began to really open, and with that came the challenge of remaining in control. Staying in my confident calm state.

When a surge was really hard and I moaned a little louder or maybe winced a bit more, I felt some disappointment.

Well of course I shouldn’t have. Labor is, well, laborious! And my body wanted to birth a baby, and did it the only way it could. And that way caused discomfort and intensity most of the time.

During the last few hours, the sun rose. I thought for a few moments that labor was taking too long. Why wasn’t I holding my baby?

As the contraction toppled on top of each other I looked to my midwife for her calming words, which sometimes were “That’s the way” or “Good job, that was a hard one” She stayed so close to me, and I imagine she drew upon her own births to tap into how I was overcoming the more difficult surges. She might have even felt them herself while telling me “you’re so strong, that one was more intense”

I didn’t want to know how dilated I was. I knew I was in labor, so what else did it matter. Even when it felt like I wouldn’t ever be out of labor, I resisted the desire to know how close I really was to the end.

It wasn’t until I was on the bed, laying on my side that I felt an urge to push down with all my strength. “Please check me,” I finally asked. Very close was her answer. So I pushed and felt instant relief, but unsure why. My midwife looked and said it was indeed my water breaking.

For the next few contractions, as hard as they were, I waited to push. I wanted to feel my baby enter the birth canal, and when he was in position I was going to breath him out as gently as I could.

But this wasn’t what my body was asking. My baby wanted to be born and needed me to be a warrior. I couldn’t let another contraction go waiting for the calmness to birth my son. I was in such an intense stage of labor. I needed to be as intense.

I brought all my energy down. Holding onto my husband, I gave every bit of me into the push that allowed my babies head to be born. I brought my hands down and touched his head. I roared with the next surge because he was so close. It was so tough he seemed to be coming out but needed more. I brought more of myself, all of it, more than I knew I had, more and more until his body fell into my hands.

In one moment I am breaking through the sheer pain of childbirth and in the next I’m filled with the high of receiving my child from the womb.

We welcomed him at 9:37am. Riding the high still, I can’t believe it’s been one month already since we met.

Thank you Arlo Fox. Our family is whole.

Intro to Arlos Birth Story

I had spent the summer in several states of extremes. Worry. Grief. Happiness. Anxiety. Joy. They all made up what I’d call a colorful time of varying degrees of breakdowns and celebrations.

My home was a revolving door of crisis. That week without water and a bursting pipe was no longer important when you have a three year old child on liquid IVs, unable to get out of bed from malnutrition and exhaustion. Or the yard, that with good intentions, was ripped up to become a place for children to play falls into neglect and a wannabe Gray Gardens. It really doesn’t have merit when your partner looks and feels like the sickest you’ve ever known. When their life becomes consumed by illness, and your helpless to it.

My pregnancy felt small. The growing life inside me a second thought to my loved ones outside the womb suffering.

That is why the birth mattered so much. Where I had my child, who guided me during labor, and how I felt in the midst of brining a baby earth side.

I wanted my husband fully present. I wanted to be in control. And I wanted it to be everything this pregnancy was not: peaceful and complication free.

This would be our moment of healing. Or so I had hoped.

Motherhood

This is not a state I woke up to with breaking waters.

I felt motherly when I was 10 years old and would swaddle and rock to sleep my newborn sister.

When I took in a sick kitten wandering outside my apartment and brought her to the vet to be treated for her injuries.

Or when I briefly had a beta fish named Ophelia, who I found floating on top of her tank after only a few days of watching her swim elegantly in the dim light of my bedroom and thinking there was nothing as beautiful as her and her nightly dance.

I grew into motherhood like a seed sprouts its first leafy limb, then its bud, then its magnificent petals. It made me so full.

It has left me craving a bond with all the women in my life. To join in a ceremony of sisterhood and reclaim our power to birth life.

I unraveled into motherhood, like the losing of an unnecessary coat of fur in summers heat. Birthing two children from my own body. It empowers me but also leaves me feeling totally bare.

And I wander the areas of my mind before motherhood cautiously. Not to linger too long in a place I may not be welcome anymore.

And I think, is it important I remember at all when I wasn’t a mother to when I was. When I became “mother”.

Is it that simple?

That the butterfly when it glides with the wind isn’t thinking how it went from a teeny crawling critter to one with the ability of flight?

You are shedding love — afternoon meditation.

Think of everyone you’ve ever met. Each person who ever knew you. Picture them in your mind. Find them there, happy.

Everyone has ended up ok.

Now go within. See the story of your life. Your journey has had many eras. But here you are right now. Find yourself in this moment, happy.

You are also ok.

Finally see yourself in the present. You are radiating. So bold and glowing around your whole self. This is all the love lighting from you. The love you give and receive. You have so much of it. It is plentiful. You are never in short supply. So share it freely and openly.

Thank those close to you now and in another time for their love and happiness. Allow it to pass it on. It leaves you with every exhale. It flows in your encounters. It is around you as you work. In your words. In your eyes. You are shedding light.

In your present self, you breath love in. It is coming from those close to you, who love you so deeply and purely. It comes from the ground as you walk. From strangers as you go about your day, radiating and glowing, everyone is full of love and light. Receive it.

Special thoughts to you as you continue to bloom on Earth.

–Beth

You gave me life– a letter to Harper

My son–

You’ve been through more medical emergencies in your three years than I have been in all my rotations around the sun.

I see your worried face as I explain the test that we need to do to check your body is working like it should. You ask me questions. I tell you honestly. You’re afraid but when the time comes you are so unbelievably resilient.

You know all about the pictures, the scans, the needles, the stuff that goes in your mouth and the other end.

And yet there you stand. Smiling next to your robot friend who is keeping you from being dehydrated after weeks of vomiting with no clear answer as to why.

Making the most of it is something most adults couldn’t begin to do, and the most isn’t even the beginning. You turn the discomfort and immobility into an opportunity to learn, grow and play.

They say mothers bring their children into the world. To teach them. Show them how to be human. But I’m afraid in this case you’ve shown me. You gave me life.

I’m so humbled that the person who has shown me some understanding in the complexity of life is you.

Love you deeply and purely

Your mama

You've been completely consumed,
an empty vessel,
when sitting on a piece of earth
just watching the clouds pass
feels privileged.

Yes– the world around is busier and more crowded.
My to-do list wraps around me.
It mummifies my body.
And I collapse most nights from existing.
I am not an extraordinary human.
I simply wake to sleep, sleep to wake.

Until the space between today and tomorrow allows a bit of now.
I nervously tumble into.
And clouds.

I'm met
and jolted by clouds.

Caterpillar hat 


Because you’re an Eric Carle super fan, I dragged my sick pregnant self out of bed today. And I would do it every day, again and again, if it means I get to see you quietly standing in a room full of kids. Observing all the action in your caterpillar hat. 


My child, lover of games and stories. You wait your turn. You remember to share. But home is where you ask to be after some fun with the other children. And at home you really shine. As your mom, I had forgotten how effortless imaginative play is. But then I see you make a piece of paper a crocodile and a hanger a shark. You are so special. And I’m unbelievable proud of everything you are. 

#2 journaling in the snow 

More thoughts 

If your planning your life around other people, be reminded of permanence. Life is almost always moving, shifting, bending around you. If you build your life around another persons plans than you aren’t living your life– your living in theirs. 

#1 journaling in a snowstorm

shared journal thoughts from 1/7/16

I’ve heard it said that your children are not yours. They come through you but they do not belong to you. This is the golden rule of mothering. It gives me peace to know that raising my son is my duty now, but not my bond to him. My bond to him will always be our mother son love. But it is not my place in his adult life to be the receiver of my work. This time is my gift. In adulthood, he owes me nothing but to make choices and live a fulfilling life. 

Mothers who expect their children to still answer to their call in adulthood are no longer mothering. They are punishing their children for growing up.