Unstrung and Unsung

Waiting with shallow breath and slumping into the cheap leather of our sofa, my tired testimony is “I can do this, I can do this, I can do this”.

On the phone, I mumble to my husband firmly. “I’m going to the store when you get home”.  Pause while he enthusiastically request we all go together.  “No, I’m going A-LONE”.  I had to repeat it twice, with feeling.

It was one of those mama-days.

  • Steeping over dirty diapers and used wipes.
  • Not caring enough to clean up the thick, green juice that splashed a Rorschach blot on the tile.
  • Remaining horizontal while my girls, naked in all their glory, connect the dots on their body with markers.
  • Following a trail of dog food into each room.
  • Moments of my own body-despise; of the acne and dark circles and wrinkles and pooch and sags and stinky breath

Those days require a form of numbness preferably induced with chocolate and Facebook.  Mine had landed upon me as I waited for my husband to cross the threshold of our front door.


7:50 pm.  Alone.  In the truck, windows rolled down.  The sunset covered the sky with hues like a flowing tie-dyed skirt.  An arid desert breeze kissed my cheeks.

My shoulders sank back down and I gave thanks for this moment of uninterrupted beauty among the sound of tire treads on the highway.   A wave of homesickness washed over me;  this has been happening frequently.  It was the hopeful air that night that reminded me of the summers in my teen years;  of the winding country roads I traveled with friends, and the sleepovers, and the drive-in movies complete with fried chicken and nerds (the candy kind and the boy kind).  It is the visceral feeling that arises when I imagine myself in front of an open window at my dad’s countryside home or lounging on the sofa at my grandma’s house with bustling sounds of the neighborhood traveling through the screen door.

These memories are my peace and my heart’s longing.

I am almost to Wal-Mart and I have to laugh at the idea that I am bursting at the seams to be at Wal-Mart.   It is local.  It is close.  It is in our job-free budget.  It is not my first choice and I decide I’m sick and tired of rationalizing why I shop at Wal-Mart.   And so I stop the rationalization and conjure another pull at my heart strings by recalling the memories at our small town Wal-Mart over the years.  The kites that floated and then dove into the earth.  The bicycle helmets.  The games of Bocce Ball and Badmitton.  The Halloween and Easter candy.  The one last part Dad needed to complete a project.  The last minute Christmas wrapping paper and gifts.  The velvety Lab puppies chasing their tails in a cardboard box that we gave away for free every spring during childhood (and the tears that came with parting).

I arrive.  I want to drink in the enchanting lemonade sky and the moon I see rising in the East, peering between clouds.  I find the furthest parking spot in the lot and turn off the diesel engine.   I release the truck gate, heavy on my forearms, and pull myself onto the tailgate.   Grabbing the Mexican rebozo that my midwife brought back from Chiapas, I fold it into a perfect pillow.    I recline in my dress on the tailgate of a big ol’ truck.  In a Wal-Mart parking lot.  It amuses me.

I watch the sky.  I catch the faint smell of a barbecue in the air.  I notice the couple walking into the store, giggling and flirting.  They most certainly do not have kids, I think.   They are blithe and walk without lumbering.   I have a moment of reflection, of gathering myself to say my goodbye’s to that carefree time before two Little’s came squealing into our world.   I stop myself from any sort of regret;  I cannot.  Jason and I, we had almost 9 years of that life together.   We had 9 years of sleeping until noon, rock crawling in our Jeep on the dusty trails of Arizona and Colorado, snowboarding the mountains of Utah, playing tournaments of “Go to Heck” with my family at midnight, finishing an entire meal at a restaurant, and interrupted nights of making love and snuggling deep into down blankets.

And now, I occasionally see the dawn as my daughter comes padding into our room.    I am bowled over by giggles that rumble the earth and messages from the uni/multi-verse.   I have restored a connection to HERstory through birth and fertility and death .  I have loved my husband in moments I never thought I had the capacity to; through sleep deprivation, unbridled rage, streaming tears, and an open heart that unwinds like the nautilus.   Like the rise of the ocean, we continue to meet each other at the swell.  It is here, on the tip top of fear and vulnerability and massive truth, that we are most authentic.

I have known the white flag of surrender.  She is my muse. And she is white because she is pure and innocenet.  And she is powerful in her bare bones.


I look down in the shower and see the wet heads of each of my girls as they play quietly.  One head is dark.  One is light.  I am fascinated, always, by the shape of their heads.  Perfectly oval from the top.   The remembrance of the way their bones shifted and molded to move through my pelvis and belly.  The pulse visible on their soft spots through infanthood.  The smell of life emanating from their temples.   I notice how they sit, back to back with their tiny legs tucked behind them.  They sing.

My heart joins.

The lyrics do not matter.

All we must do is sing.

One small note.

Off-key or sustained or vibrato or in a shadowy minor key.

We are alive.


7 Comments Add yours

  1. janistan says:

    Gorgeous post.
    love ya much. xoxo

  2. This was so insanely beautiful. I can’t even form thoughts in response. This is exactly how motherhood feels. This is what it is. You are magic. xo

  3. Emily says:

    I’m speechless. That never happens.

  4. Oh girlfriend, I feel this inside and out.

    I went to the grocery store today – ALONE. I bought some prepared food and a cookie (!) and sat in the cafe area. I ate. I didn’t have to take care of anyone else. No food to cut up and distribute. No messes to clean up. No bites off my plate. No hands or faces to wipe. No one to corral and keep at the table. Just me. My food. And peace. It was divine.

    I love my children with a ferocity that is almost scary, but I cannot help but long for those days when the only person I had to worry about was myself.

  5. Courtney says:

    I absolutely love this. I love the vision of you tailgating, as it were, at Wal-Mart. Word. You rock. And you are on the right path. The warrior’s path. The mama’s path. And we are here. Breathing. Alive. Love you.

  6. Kim says:

    Mere Mortal, You left a comment on Dooce’s blog concerning my comment (#649). I can hardly refer to my niece’s death as anecdotal, and it’s really not a third party story. I don’t know which state you’re living in but I am in Washington, one of the 14 states in the nation that allows Direct Entry Midwives to practice. They are not, and many do not, carry any medical supplies. They are not, and many do not, mandated to transfer to hospitals when necessary. My family, over the past 18 months has been working with MANA and other national organizations to get better regulations. In Washington State there are actually more stringent rules for someone to dye your hair or pierce your ears than deliver your baby. We are hoping that out of our tragic situation we can stop it from happening again. We are not anti mid-wife, my sister spoke at the National confenrence of MANA regarding this situation, you might have even been proud of her. Death of a perfect baby girl – not anecdotal!

  7. leighsteele says:

    Kim –
    I am so sorry for your sister’s loss, as I alluded to in my comment. In my comment, I also said “…your opinions are unfounded and based solely on emotion and popular culture(and again, I am not including families who have lost babies, as grief overrides this, understandably and rightly so).” That included you and your beautiful sister.

    That said, my comment was directed, in part, towards the opinion you presented in what you wrote here:

    “Don’t lose sight of the end result, a healthy baby. It becomes so dangerous when the birth itself becomes more important then the baby.”

    This attitude is what home birthers have to contend with most often. What people fail to see (and listen to) is what we want MOST is a healthy baby. Which is why we choose home birth. We feel it is safest. But we also believe the experience – both how we are treated, and our healthy babies – matter as well.

    I am proud of your sister for speaking at MANA. You are right – many, many states need better regulations. Many, like mine (AZ) need LESS restrictions on LM’s and CPM’s. I am glad you and your sister are part of the fight to advocate for more rights and/or more regulations so that women can have healthy, safe options at home. Or in a birth center.

    Thank you for your comment. Respectful discussion is the only way to muddle through this.

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