Rocking the Birth Dogma Boat

I need a midwife

July 11, 2014
1 Comment

And no, I’m not pregnant.  I’m not thinking of becoming pregnant any time soon, and I’ve put myself on the every 10 years plan for annual gyn exams, though I know there’s no evidence base.  I am, however, leaving a violent relationship, and I feel haunted.  On a practical level, I’ve landed after a long jump and a longer free fall: My sweet, sweet dog and I live in a small studio with a big bathtub in a new city, and I’ve tried very hard to make us un-traceable.  A beautiful woman with eyes that had seen it all went to court with me and held my hand gently while I applied for a restraining order.  Describing even the vaguest outline of what I’ve lived through in court was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, and even harder the time my husband was there, yelling that I was crazy, psychotic, suffering from borderline personality disorder, abusing him, a compulsive liar, a bad wife, telling the judge that he had no authority over him and the courtroom filled up with people waiting to contest traffic tickets, asking for reduced fines,or  simply gawking as my marriage exploded and everything I had kept silent, rocked to sleep like it was a child, guarding silence, because he said that if I wasn’t silent, if anyone knew, my dog would die, and then everything I had kept silent spilled into that courtroom as people waiting to contest traffic tickets gawked, and suddenly it wasn’t silent.  My husband had stolen my dog and disappeared, because nothing hurt me more and nothing bought my silence as effectively as my fear for my best friend, that loving heart in a stocky body and waggy tail, and I didn’t have anywhere to go, he knew all my places, all my friends, and I feared for all of us.

And it is better now, or at least  in words. My dog is back; she ran in circles for 15 minutes when she saw me, ran up to the cop who had recovered her and offered him her stuffed monkey, then ran back to me and broke my glasses licking my face so exuberantly.  We are home now, in our new place. She licks my face every morning and the door is tripled locked and the alarm is set and I am on a high floor in a non-descript building in a new city.  My dog and I lay in our big bed each night and she cuddles close and I try to sleep.  I’m afraid of sleep and I fight it, stay up later and later watching the same 6 episodes of the same old TV shows, trying to imagine that I am small child in a small bedroom at the top of the stairs, wearing my dad’s soft undershirt like it’s a nightdress and the voices on TV are the voices of all the grown ups who love me gathered in the living room, talking about civil rights and a better world that my sister and I would inherit, if they could create it through their work and the work of others, all together, with hands joined around the world.  But I’m not a small child, and  the revolution my socialist parents longed for is yet to come, and they work in the corporate world now because the kids got hungry and youthful fire does not really burn all the oppressive structures to the ground so that the flowers can grow, and when I listen closely, I think I hear my husband’s footsteps on the ground, getting closer to finding us, even though I know in my head that it’s just the hum of the fridge and the whir of ceiling fan and the noises of my fear.

So I draw myself a bath and light a candle and remind myself that I am safer now.  I am safe enough to remember what happened.  I am safe enough to notice that my sweet little dog growls whenever a man walks towards me with a raised arm, or anything in his hands.  She cries in her sleep, and she tries to protect me from old men walking their grandchildren home from school.  I’m safe enough that silence is no longer my only option, and I am scared to speak. I’m safe enough to try to heal, to tell the story, and the story comes flooding back and I sit in my bathtub each night and cry.  I remember how sure I was that my dog was dead, and I cry for her body, though she sits right next to me and rests her head on the tub ledge.  I remember how hard I tried to make it better, how I let myself be dismissed over and over, how much I wanted a different ending, flowers growing strong in the ashy ground, how small I felt, how I distrusted myself, and then I remember how I broke the silence and the terror rises in my throat and I am not sure how to breathe.

And everyone has advice, everyone has a solution.  I need a support group, I need a new therapist, I should apply for the address confidentiality program, it’s important to make sure to renew my restraining order, did I get my dog microchipped? Have I tried mindfulness, or meditation, or some new miracle herb, or medication? Why aren’t I leaving work in the middle of the day to go to the women recovering from trauma yoga group? Do I need a referral? Do you have a pen? Can you write this down? Have you read the one book that explains why men do this? You need to focus on yourself and feel strong, and make sure you take care of yourself, take vitamins that cost more than I make, exercise, get a fucking pedicure, make sure to pay my bills.  Everyone has a solution, and the kind, kind woman who sat with me in court and made me really believe that I could speak because her eyes had seen it  all, she only does court accompaniment, not case management, and, that reminds me, you really should make sure you get connected to a domestic violence advocate, that you education your primary care doctor about domestic violence, that you read this other book and do affirmations or whatever the talisman, the charm, the ritual that you cling to in a complicated world where all the oppressive structures my parents fought still shine in the sun  flowers are still not growing from the ashes.

And so I need a midwife.  I was not this every day, or even most days, but I need a midwife who can simply sit with me as all the pain and fear of the last years leaks out of my body into my bathtub while my dog rests her head on the ledge.  I need a midwife to recognize that this hurts, and no magic charm will make it not hurt, no talisman will make it risk free.  And also, a clear strong voice saying that though Mary’s doula helped her through and though Karen loved the epidural, I am is me, and I don’t need a doula or an epidural or Karen or Mary’s dogma, I just need myself and my little dog and faith.  I am all I need, and there is no magic but me.

I need a midwife to sit with me, and not look away.  I need a midwife to remind me that every woman is scared, because this is scary, but also every woman is strong.  I need a midwife to smooth my hair back from my head and say that I am doing the work of arriving at the other side, and all I need is myself. I need a midwife to see me at my most scared, and not look away, not solve anything, not offer me a magic charm or a talisman to keep this pain and fear away so that she can also look away.  I need a midwife to look me in the eyes and tell me it’s nothing she’s never seen before, and I will land, and I will not be alone.  I need a midwife to tell me I’m worth it, I’m worth fighting for and I can keep fighting, keep surviving, and it will get easier and easier as I get stronger and stronger.

And with all our high level training, all our stopping bleeding and unsticking stuck babies, the strength of our model is that we don’t look away.  I want that midwife.  I may have to be her.

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