Cracked Wide Open

Truth, vulnerability, love, loss, envy, fear.  We play the highlight reel, even with those closest to us, rarely talking about what is really going on in our lives, our hearts and minds.  We grin and bare it, keep our tragedies and sad stories to ourselves, quietly suffering, quietly overcoming.  Living in deceptive collusion.  And we are alone roiling in our pain.  We share our successes, and our love, and our happy moments forgetting that without suffering there is no happiness – we are all human, none of us immune.  And one day you whisper, you leak, you share, and find you are not alone.  Here’s to love and pain and heartbreak and vulnerability – we are not alone, you are not alone.  You are just like me, and I just like you.  Maybe not in this, but in some suffering.

All hospital rooms are not created equal. This room left us feeling dirtier just for being there. Left wanting for assurance that everything was going to be ok. The white board across from the bed below the clock was mostly erased remnants of the previous patient’s doctor and nurses names. Scratched and cracked, mostly blank, it gave me the eery feeling that no one was taking care of us. We moved across the hall, the cleanliness was luxurious. No longer under observance in the Maternity ward we were back in labor and delivery. Liz, Betsy and Jodie had just left, a small smile still on your face from the laughter. J arrived from Chicago and the mediocre indian food delivery was a feast. All was quiet – the nurse loved us and moved us to the biggest room. We all had room to rest, your chromatic bed with extra blankets just out of the warmer, me in the chair next to you, J across the room, curled into a tight ball, snoring lightly. I yearned for the filth and neglect of the maternity ward. There was no going back, we were in it for the long haul, 90 more days or 1 more hour.

As I drifted I heard the soft closing of the bathroom door – your constant urge to pee, the easier part of this pregnancy.

Too much time had passed, even at 3:30 in the morning, it felt too long, you couldn’t still be peeing. Peering through the door, your were quivering, white faced. I knew it was time. I woke J, told her to get the doctor.

They arrived in a flurry, prepping the room and you for birth. I sat by your side, holding your hand, prepared to be the best partner I could through the births. Trying to match your strength and support when Henry was born. I am good under pressure, this is my strength, and yet I couldn’t shake the fear that I would let you down.

And then all of a sudden you were pushing. You were so brave and so strong. the words “push push push… push, breathe” came out as the tears rolled down my cheeks. Your strangle grip on my hand gave me strength, this was for you, for Jack, this was our family and our path. There was no going back. After about 10 minutes of pushing, there he was, head crowning, he came out peacefully. There was no screaming, no Apgar, his eyes were closed. The rush of the NICU team hurrying him to the warmer, cleaning him off, checking his vitals. and there it was, his first, ever so slight, breath. his beating heart visible through his delicate skin. 4:48am – Jackson Vincent was alive. I carefully cradled him, taking him from the doctor. we held him, and in an instant loved him so deeply – weeping. taking in each tiny detail of his perfect face and body.  So tiny, yet so heartbreakingly beautiful.

Our perfect moment abruptly interrupted by the attending physician. The contractions had stopped, your cervix stopped dilating, there was hope for Finn. A fleeting moment of hope. But Jack’s placenta hadn’t delivered and was torn. If it didn’t deliver in the next hour you would be induced. The Maternal Fetal Medicine doctor confirmed that their was no decision to be made, if the placenta didn’t come out you would die.

We drank up every second we had with Jack, snuggling, kissing and loving every little bit of him. His short life so peaceful and so full of love, until his last breath in our arms. Your mom held him so gentle and firm, so protective, no longer breathing forever alive. and we waited. no placenta. Finn was still kicking and moving when they started the epideral and pitocin. Tears streaming, no turning back. Your life on the line, your body refusing to budge – refusing to let go of the beautiful life moving about. Your eyes empty, your body strong – your soul exposed. 4 hours later – the contractions finally started, our worst nightmare coming true. How do you push when all you want to do is hold – knowing that each painful contraction and push means coming closer to losing our sweet Finnie boy.

But you did it, you did what you were told, i held your hand and coached you again… to push, push push…almost there, push…and there he was -10:06am Finnean Mathew, bigger than Jackson, rounder, more muscular. Sweet love, mouth open, tiny little breaths. Deep love and adoration, It was over and yet it had just begun.

“Sometimes I feel like I never been nothing but tired.. Sometimes I lay down, no more can I do, then I go on again, because you asked me to. Some days i look down, afraid i will fall. and though the sun shines, I see nothing at all. and I hear your sweet voice, oh, oh, come and then go, come and then go. telling me softly, you love me so. The peaceful valley just over the mountain. I may never get there in this lifetime, but sooner or later, it’s there I will go. Sooner or later, it’s there I will go.” Patty Griffin – Just over the mountain, MLK’s song

The moment

that you feel that just possibly you are walking around naked, exposing your heart and mind

and all that exists on the inside

showing too much of yourself

that’s the moment you are getting it right

that is living an authentic life

if you wish to connect, not control, respond, not react, start from here.

All we need

I recently had the honor of contributing to the naming ceremony and bris for dear friends of ours. While I found many beautiful buddhist prayers and writings, none resonated like the heart inspiring yet simple words of Thich Nhat Hanh.

Adapted by me and read by my heart centered friends to their newborn son;

“We will love and support you to be aware of your innate goodness.
The seeds of love, compassion, generosity, patience and wisdom already exist in your heart and mind.
We will help you to cultivate this aspect of your true nature.

We will cultivate a self confidence in you that is not based on transient, superficial factors, but on a deep awareness of your own inner goodness.”

If only every child could start out in the world with parents that start from here.

Jam Baby

A random smattering of ideas and events all melded into one in my mind this weekend. Berry picking, farm to table, neil young, making homemade jam and Father’s Day all collided into a beautifully sad day.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of my father’s disappearance. He was never found and probably never wanted to be found, but we will never know for sure. The last we heard from him he had dropped my brother and sister off from a short vacation to the Wisconsin Dells, he left to go back to his job as a line cook on an oil rig off the coast in Louisiana. Shortly after my mom received a crude hand written note saying he had run into some trouble.

I don’t know much about Jeff because even before he was missing he was missing. If you have an addict in your life you know what I am talking about, they are never really present. He worked for the Northwestern Railroad as conductor/ticket taker, his routine involved walking to the train, bringing people into the city, two round trips, playing poker, drinking and smoking in the break room until rush hour hit, two more round trips and then home to continue the drinking. You always knew he when we was home, he would bound through the door either yelling and screaming or laughing – you never knew what you were going to get mood wise. He would take off his rancid shoes and socks and the room would immediately fill with the smell of hot rotting trash. If he was in a good mood he would grab you and hug you a little too hard and hold on a little too long, the smell of bourbon and cigarettes sticking to your face. If not it was a good idea to get the hell out of the house.

It’s funny, because after all these years I rarely think of him anymore, except when I smell him, the combo of bourbon and cigarettes triggers me every time. And then there is Father’s Day, it is never the first thing on my mind, but as the day goes on and I notice my restlessness sometime before the day is i over, I slow down enough to remember that it is Father’s Day and that brings it all back. The good memories that I have of my dad mostly involve food. We were poor, but during his manic episodes you would never know it. He would take us out for extravagant dinners, allowing us to order whatever we wanted. I was introduced to oysters, crab, lobster, grilled filet mignon with bernaise, rabbit from traditional german restaurants, you name it. He had an obsession with good food and was the skilled cook in our family, but he rarely cooked. Instead he would butcher my mothers cooking every night, complaining about every little detail.

When you grow up with such a force in your life you do what you can to differentiate, to separate, to detach – at least I did. I spent many hours of my day standing at my kitchen counter, painstakingly hulling 4lbs of strawberries that my son and I had picked fresh the day before, measuring out organic pure cane sugar and juicing the organic lemon before measuring out the 35 year old balsamic vinegar. I sliced the strawberries and added the sugar, allowing them to macerate for a few minutes before plunging my bare hands in to mash them and release their juices. With the stove on I slowly added the lemon juice and stirred methodically until it had reached the jell point, when I added the magic touch, the perfectly aged balsamic. I finished it off by canning it and setting the pints on the counter to rest until the next day.

Rye bourbon in hand with not just any cherry, but a luxardo cherry I moved out to the deck to rest when “old man” came on…”old man look at my life, I’m a lot like you, I need someone to love me the whole day through…I have been first and last, funny how the times goes past”.

Happy Father’s Day, for just when we think we are so different we realize we aren’t.

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