Saturday, July 9, 2016

Anywhere but here

It is so hot, the air is like a blanket over the house, this town, this lush green valley. The fan whirs dully and the lurid, waxy dreams cling to me like sticky cobwebs as my mind tries to surface from sleep. My limbs are heavy and damp, there are hot animal bodies pressed into me as I fight to open my eyes against the effects of the sleeping pills that blur the shift from night to day. It feels like giving up, admitting to my doctor that I can't sleep, that the sounds of fetal heartbeats, bump....bump.....bump-ing along at sixty beats per minute, half the rate it should be, that this is the soundtrack of my nightmares, playing on repeat over a looping reel of blue, slick, flopping babies pulled from bodies, silent. 
She listens calmly, makes a case for therapy and hands me a prescription for Ambien, which I fill, defeated but exhausted.

*  *  *

She'd just gone to the bathroom and as she climbed back into bed, the anesthesiologist was on his way, she wanted an epidural for this fourth baby's labor which was speeding along and leaving her breathless in its wake.
The nurse moved the fetal monitor all over her belly, her eyes found mine and time started its elastic stretching and pulling. 
Seconds that lasted hours of silence and then occasional beats heard, way, way too slow. 
She's on her hands and knees now, head into the bed, the oxygen is cranking at 10L a minute, I hear the angry hiss and I feel like I'm floating as I hear my voice ask for gloves, I apologize as I fit my whole hand inside her, feeling for a cord and all I can feel is the baby, her cervix, fluid.
Call the team, page the OB, open the OR, I hear my voice saying and there are four nurses now, we're wheeling the patient down the hall, she's on her back now, I pull her gown over her belly and feel silly for caring that the construction workers don't see her exposed because it will be the last thing she cares about if her baby is dead.
Her eyes find mine and I tell her calmly that she needs to keep taking deep breaths and that she's being very cooperative and I'm so sorry that this is happening but that her baby is telling us he needs to be born this very moment and so that is what we're going to do. 
I scrub for half the suggested time, the OB is here, her eyes are piercing as she checks the patient and the scrub tech dumps an operating kit onto the table with a crashing clang, someone slops half a bottle of iodine on her belly and it splashes the floor and stains dark brown. She's fully now, the OB says and makes a split second decision and I'm holding her legs back, I put my arm under her head and say, Now, you need to push like you've never pushed before. 
Deep breath in, that's right, chin to your chest, push with everything you've got. 
That's right, again, big breath in, no you're not contracting, we can't wait for the contractions, you've just got to push. 
They're putting a vacuum on the baby's head to help you, come on, one more time, yes you can do this, I know you can. 
Big breath in again, and now, GO, PUSH, NOW.

The baby takes a few tentative breaths and whimpers. I hold her hand and tell her calmly and quietly, Can you hear that? That's your baby starting to cry. The pediatrician is making sure he's okay. You need a few stitches, so the doctor is going to give you some numbing medicine first. That's right, deep breaths, it's over now, you did it. You did such a good job.
She looks up at me and the tears start in both eyes, running backwards into her ears on the operating table, she tells me with her words in a rush, I am so glad you were here.
I hug her, hard, her sister weeps into my shoulder and all I can think but would never say is, I want to be anywhere but here.

*  *  *

It's not entirely true, of course.
I love being a midwife. Most of the time.
But I wait, every time, for the time it doesn't end like this. 



DISCLAIMER: whenever I tell work stories here, they are conglomerations of multiple patients and I change details such that the actual stories no longer resemble any one patient's individual story. Yeah, HIPAA.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

If it gets any worse

I am awoken from a feverish dream regarding field hockey and a girl I worked with at camp two years ago whose photos I was stalking on Facebook the other day. The pager is unconcerned, it BEEP BEEP BEEPs with cheery insistence while I blink my scratchy eyes and read the text: She's thirty-nine weeks pregnant and wants to talk about some cramping she's having. I sigh a little internally, but note with relief that the migraine I've been nursing all day has retreated to a dull roar by my nap, which has also left me with damp cheeks and sweaty hair stuck to the side of my face. It's gotta be eighty degrees in here with the sun peeking under the shade, I think. I gulp water while I pull up the patient's chart and dial her number.
She answers, breathless and tells me about having cramps "a few times an hour" for the past few hours and she doesn't know what that means, and it feels different than the cramps she was having the other day, and she doesn't think her water has broken, and most importantly - what should she do?!

I speak slowly and calmly and we talk about all the things that are reassuring about her situation - about how she's not bleeding, and her bag of water is almost certainly intact, and it can be very, very normal to have some cramping and some contractions at thirty-nine weeks pregnant and the best thing she can do is drink fluids, and maybe take a bath, try to sleep, and wait for real labor to start.

So...you're telling me to just...wait? Wait for things to get worse? She asks me, a little incredulous.
Yes, I tell her gently. You can call me back at any point if you feel worse or if you have questions. I'll be here all night.

*  *  *

She hangs up and immediately my phone rings and it's my mom, telling me that the worst I had feared is true, that my dad's infection is not getting better, it's actually getting worse and that he's going to be admitted to the hospital for stronger antibiotics and so they can try to figure out what's going on.

 I was just there, I drove fourteen hours round-trip for a two day visit and it was worth every second and yet now I sit, three hundred miles away, feeling utterly helpless and missing them both so much that a lump rises in my throat even as I tell myself - calmly and rationally - that it's just a UTI gone haywire and ceftriaxone is a wonderful and effective drug and that the chances of him being fine and the chances my patient is not in labor are roughly equal (i.e., approaching one hundred percent).

So...I just need to be here. And wait. Hopefully for things to get better, not worse, I tell myself, and I feel paralyzed. Stuck too far away from the people I love, but in a job I adore and a life that is starting to feel like a soft t-shirt that fits just right.

The words are easy, I've already said them once today, to my patient earlier, and now to my dear mama - I'll be here all night. Call me if it gets any worse.

It feels like the most useless thing I've ever said.

Monday, January 4, 2016

New Year's 2016

1. What did you do in 2015 that you had never done before?
Worked as a midwife.
Drove across the country (and back).
Ended a relationship like an adult.

2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I had a goal of running a certain amount of miles in 2015 and nope, I didn't do this. I ran some when I was in Arizona, but I petered out, kinda how I always do. I am deep in the throes of trying to figure this out about myself - how to set goals wherein I celebrate the path of accomplishments on the way to complete "success," rather than going halfway or more and feeling like more of a failure than when I started. Helpful comments from the peanut gallery will be warmly welcomed. Please, I have no idea how to do this.


3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Yes! Two people! My good friend J. had a baby in July and I adore him and am aching now that they've moved to the West Coast but I am determined to go visit as often as I can. My new friend from work also had a baby in November, and while we are new friends (colleagues-becoming-friends?), her baby is a joy and I've been relishing all the time with them I can get.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
No, not this year.

5. What countries did you visit?
The Navajo Nation is technically a sovereign nation, so...

6. What would you like to have in 2016 that you lacked in 2015?
Rootedness. A sense of home. A love that nurtures and supports rather than criticizes and constrains.

7. What dates from 2015 will remain etched into your memory and why?
The day I drove away from Tuba City was a hard, but wonderful day. Breaking up with Richard was gut-wrenching and painful and ultimately a huge relief.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
 Graduating grad school, passing my boards, finding a job as a midwife were all big. But the biggest one was definitely the daily perseverance of being a new midwife. This shit is hard, guys.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Failing to communicate my needs. Not planning for predictable troubles or difficulties ahead.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
No, I've been (physically) lucky.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
My car. Love it so much that I can nearly forget the pain of monthly payments.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
My parents', more than ever. They picked me up and saved me, over and over again.
My puppy's, smartest cutest dog in THE WORLD EVARRR.
My new colleagues', who have wrapped me in love and support and curse words and bad jokes and endless reassurances that yep, this shit sucks and you'll get through it.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Richard's, to some degree. My first MA landlord, for sure. Donald Trump's, as a general rule.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Yale. Moving expenses. Gas.

15. What did you get really, really excited about?
Getting a puppy.
Passing my boards.
Getting a job.

16. What song will always remind you of 2015?
Same Mistakes, by The Echo-Friendly

17. Compared to this time last year are you
a) happier or sadder?
Happier in general, I think - I feel so grateful and relieved to be settled and working through the toughness of where I am. I am sad to be "alone" again, but working through that too. And I am riding the waves of intense and near-daily anxiety and coming to terms with what I have to do about that.

b) thinner or fatter?
Thinner. Perpetual anxiety has shaved about 10 pounds, seemingly permanently, off my frame.

c) richer or poorer?
Well, I have an income now. But it all goes back to Yale, so who can really tell.

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
Running. Speaking freely. Sleeping. Standing up for myself.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
Procrastinating. Panicking. Driving. Staring at my phone.

20. How did you spend Christmas?
I worked. And caught a sweet Christmas baby right under the deadline, at 11:30 PM.

21. Did you fall in love in 2015?
I fell so dramatically and quickly out of love that it made my stomach hurt. Then I turned around and ached with the falling in love of my patients and their babies and this awful and wonderful and terrible job of mine.

22. What was your favorite TV program?
I'm still working through Friends, in order, on Netflix. I'm in season 5 now.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
I don't have the energy to hate anyone. Pretty much ever.

24. What was the best book you read?
Etta and Otto and Russell and James, by Emma Hooper
Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel
Safekeeping, by Jessamyn Hope

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?
I loved Brandi Carlile's new album. Also, without shame - Taylor Swift's 1989 album.

26. What did you want and get?
To be done with school.
To be a midwife.
A dog.

27. What did you want and not get?
A relationship that could become a partnership.

28. What was your favorite film of the year?
I liked The Martian. I can't remember if I saw any other movies in theaters this year...

29. What did you do on your birthday and how old were you?
I turned 27 in Arizona and felt more lonely than I ever had before.
I worked, and I caught a baby girl and tried to convince them to name her after me.
H. sent me a cake and Richard sent me nothing at all.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Not being so far from the people I love.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2015?
Less leggings, more pants. I also cut my hair pretty short just recently.

32. What kept you sane?
My pup. Hiking. New friends. H., always. My parents, forever. Baths.

33. What celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
I'm a Bernie Sanders fan.

34. What political issue stirred you the most?
Always, women's access to healthcare and abortion rights.
Our country's deplorable attitude towards refugees makes me sick.

35. Who did you miss?
Richard, every single day, until abruptly, not at all.
My family, like a fresh wound that never heals.

36. Who was the best new person you met?
All my new coworkers.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2015.
You really don't need gloves on to catch a baby.
Wine and peanut butter is a perfectly reasonable dinner.
You deserve to be loved without hesitation, deeply, and kindly. In spite of - and maybe especially because of - how hard it is to love yourself in this way.
You will fuck things up. And you will apologize, and do better the next time.
Sobbing in the dark in the bathtub feels like shit, but it's better than the following alternatives: hard drugs, alcoholism, unsafe sex with strangers, binge eating and/or purging, quitting, breaking things, and online shopping when you have no money.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up the year.
I remember one night, a drizzling rain
Round my heart I felt an achin' pain
Fare thee well, oh honey, fare thee well.


2015
2014
2013
2012

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Mary's Midwife

I hope that Mary had a midwife. I hope that when the innkeeper sent them to the barn, he woke up his sleeping grandmother or great-aunt, some wise woman who, maybe grumbling a little as she wiped the sleep from her eyes, sat up and got to work. I imagine her sending her dithering grandson of an innkeeper to start boiling some water and gathering herbs while she pulled on her sandals and headed to the barn.

I imagine Joseph, scared and uncertain, wringing his hands while his young wife was wracked with pain. I hope the midwife set him a task and squeezed his hand while she rolled up her sleeves. I am sure that she wiped Mary's brow and felt her belly and watched her face and told her to breathe.

I imagine her pushing firmly into Mary's lower back, swayed and rocked with her while shooing inquisitive animals out of the way. Maybe she held a cool cloth to her temples and wrapped Mary's fingers around her gnarled hand and told her to squeeze as hard as it hurt and then when it was over to breathe, just breathe, and rest until the next one.

I imagine how scared Mary must have been. Young as history predicts she would have been. Riding a donkey in early labor. In exile with a husband who she probably barely knew, running from the law and turned away from every door.

I hope that when she felt like she was being wrenched in half, and she called upon her God and heard nothing but the sound of her bones being ground to dust by the force inside her, the midwife looked into her eyes and told her she was safe, told her it was almost time for her baby to be born, and to be strong for just a little longer. I imagine her speaking the words that cross cultural and linguistic lines - just give me one more push
you can do this
breathe now, deep breaths
it's almost over
this is the hardest part
here he comes
reach down, Mary, and take your baby.

Words that I say. Words I will probably say tomorrow. The words that midwives have been saying for millenia.

I don't even know if I believe in God. I believe in goodness, and being kind, but I can't wrap my head around some magical palace in the sky where we go to live when we die, that some people get into and some don't. But I do believe in birth. I believe in how it opens people, both literally and figuratively. I believe in the transformative power of doing the impossible task, of women being an island of one, the only person who can birth their baby, buoyed up by support and love and faith and warm hands and cool cloths. I believe in who I am when I am there. I believe in midwives, and partners, and mothers, always mothers. I believe that that which breaks us is the only thing that can truly heal the darkest parts of us. I believe that peace on earth begins with birth.



 Merry Christmas, everyone.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Can's and Can't's

There are lots of things that I can't do. Ski, for instance. Run in high heels. Watch a scary movie without having a full-blown panic attack. Grocery shop without buying at least one thing not on the list. Finish a knitting project.


There's a whole other list of things that I can't imagine I could possibly do until I find myself doing them. Moving, for instance. Moving again, that is. (If you're keeping track at home, this is move number 5 in the last 11 months.) As I empty these rooms that I so recently put my stuff down in, I tell my brain shhhh and I turn up the volume on my audiobook. It's no use getting upset about it, just keep loading up the car and moving your shit, and repeating steps 1 and 2 until you are out of here and into there and please god let this be the last time for awhile, I tell myself.

I didn't think I could resolve a shoulder dystocia, either. In my head, I was screaming to myself, I can't do this, oh my dear god, I canNOT do this, please oh please, let this not be my job, and meanwhile I had told the patient to flip over, NOW, and stuck what felt like half my arm inside her and pulled her baby's hand past its shoulder hard enough that I thought I'd break it, all the while knowing that a broken arm is better than a dead baby and then out he flopped, wailing and snatching his arms away from me and it was over and nobody died, not even a little bit.

I still don't think I can live in this body, in this life, forever without always longing for something just outside myself. My patients, every. single. solitary. day, asking me, "Do you have kids?" and I say, No, and smile. I used to say, Not yet.


I look down at myself and squeeze a series of concentric circles on my palms and try to slow my breathing as I idly imagine what it would be like to not feel such an intense disconnect and dysmorphia with my own physical self. Would it be like the moments just before falling asleep, or just after having sex with someone you love, or right in the middle of a run - would it be like those moments but all, or most of the time, rather than these mere flashes of feeling right and whole? I am both wildly curious and utterly disregarding. It is so foreign to me, I cannot even imagine it.

But then again, I couldn't imagine moving again, or being a midwife, or driving across the country, or camping by myself, or living on a reservation, or ending a relationship without once begging to be taken back, or house-training a puppy, or stitching a repair, or a million other things that I have done, am doing, will do.


The running in heels, though. I don't really care if I never figure that out.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

One Month In

I got to see an old college friend last night. She wants to be a midwife too, and so she went to my alma mater for an info session and then trekked even further north to grab a glass of wine together and camp out with me for the night. I had worked all day on the floor and I was beat. I caught a woman's baby who from the moment I walked in her room at 8:00 AM, I knew she was a survivor, and it was going to be a tough day. There is something so gut-wrenching about trying to help a woman who has survived sexual assault, abuse, and/or rape experience labor and birth and it will, I am sure, remain to my dying day one of the worst and hardest and most important parts of my job. It is exhausting and soul-sucking and deeply unsettling and scary, and a million times worse for her. By 8:00 PM, I wanted to lay down and die. She had had her baby, against huge odds, and I just wanted to go home. But I rallied and went and saw my dear friend and we drank wine and ate some french fries and even though I was so, so tired, I could feel my heart slowly filling by being with her.


She is so excited, and passionate, and worried she won't get into midwifery school, which I can only scoff at because she is at least doubly more qualified than I was, and I somehow managed to trick them into admitting me. I watched her gesticulate and talk faster and faster, with bright eyes and a big smile, about why she wants to do this with her life and what she thinks being a midwife means and is all about, and how desperately sick of waiting for this thing to start she is, and I thought, wow. Because that was exactly me, four years ago. To the absolute letter of it all. And even after the terribly hard day I had had, I felt such a swell of gratitude that I teared up a bit sitting in our old college haunt of a bar, in my clunky midwife clogs and giant wool sweater with my sweaty tangled hair tied up on top of my head.

I still can't believe that I get to do this thing, every day. This thing that is so hard but that I love so much. I am learning more than my brain feels it can hold, every minute of every day. I am grateful to have decades of being a midwife ahead of me (God willing), because it will take me three times as long as that to learn all there is to know.

I sit with women while they cry about how they don't know what to do, because this baby is not their husband's, and what should they do?!
I look into women's eyes while they tell me I'm lying to them when I tell them, give me one more push, she'll be here soon.
I laugh with patients when they hear their growing baby's heartbeat for the first time, a sound so joyful that if all I heard was that for the rest of my days, I would die happy.
I cry with patients when I tell them that their baby doesn't have a heartbeat anymore.


I come home to my empty house, snuggle my fur-babies while we all adjust to the single life, and I still, sometimes, feel like I want to curl up and die. But most of the time not. Most of the time, my heart is full of the sweet downy fur of baby heads and the bone-crushing grip of labor, and the love and support I can feel from the amazing colleagues who are mentoring and teaching me every day. I don't eat quite enough. I drink maybe a touch too much wine. I fall into bed, exhausted, every night. But I'm figuring it out. Slowly but surely, I'm finding my place here. It's a good place to be, and one I could barely have imagined four years ago.

I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that my friend will get into midwifery school. I know it with the same certainty that I know all babies come out and that you can always push a little harder than you think you can and that commanding a uterus to clamp down and stop bleeding is not something to laugh at. I know it because I did it. I know it because this world needs a lot of things, and one of those things is more midwives.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Same Mistakes

When Richard and I had been dating for a couple months, we took an overnight trip to New York and went to the MOMA. I had never been, despite living there for two years, so I was excited to go. I was excited about this new guy I was dating, too - he was different than anyone I had ever known before, and I was giddy with the newness of dating someone post-Alix. I felt like an adult - Alix and I were so young when we were together, and this felt different. Look, we were going on a trip to New York! Like a day-long date! It felt like a big deal.


The museum was packed. We started on the top floor, and I wandered happily from painting to painting, reading the descriptors of some but not all of them. I would catch his eye periodically, and we caught up to each other before going down each subsequent floor. I was happy. Anxious, yes - mostly because of how crowded it was and because I was starving but still too freaked to eat in front of this new person (yes, really) - but happy. On the first floor, we sat down on a bench and I could feel the waves of tension and...anger? rolling off of him. I was perplexed. I asked him what he was upset about, I couldn't think of anything that had gone wrong. He turned to me and told me When I asked you out today, I thought we'd be spending it together. You just walked around the whole museum without me and I just don't understand why you'd do that. I was baffled. I stumbled through some messy mix of an apology and a defense of the fact that I usually just wander through museums and if he had wanted us to look at each painting together, he should have said something...? He was pissed. I clearly didn't care about spending time together. It was obvious that the point of going to a museum was to look at stuff together. I should have known that. I got pissed back. I said he needed to communicate something if he expected me to know what the hell he was thinking, that I wasn't a fucking mind reader and that if this was really something he was going to get bent out of shape over, then he could leave.


So he did. He got up, and he walked away. I sat in stunned silence on that bench, my heart pounding and my empty stomach now clenching with nausea. I took some deep breaths. I'll call Jess, I told myself. I'll call Jess, and I'll go stay with her and Scott tonight, and I'll take the train back myself tomorrow. It'll be fine. I can do this. What the hell is wrong with him, wait, no, what the hell is wrong with me? Is this it? Are we done, him and me? I'm so confused. I got up, prepared to walk out the door and head to Brooklyn. I felt better. I felt like maybe, just maybe, I had dodged a bullet.


But there he was. He'd turned around and walked back. He apologized. He said he shouldn't have left like that. I mumbled that it was okay and we went and ate lunch and we never spoke of it again.

* * *

He and I broke up about a week ago, after three years of communicating just as poorly as we'd done that day in New York. I loved him - I still love him - so fucking much. Every day now is a messy mix of anger, shock, depression, guilt, failure, and gut-wrenching loneliness. There is so much more to us, to him, than I've ever written here (out of respect for his and our privacy). There are deep and beautiful things about the person he is and the people we were together. And all those wonderful things couldn't trump the problems we had. His version of this story is undoubtedly different. That's part of the problem. The stories we each have - about who we are, about what we planned, about what's important - don't line up. They don't match. It hurts a lot right now and I miss him.

I feel like I'll never get this right. How can I love the people I love so deeply, and still keep fucking it up so profoundly?

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Moving. Again.

Moving makes me act like a toddler. In Target last night, I saw a stuffed pirate octopus and commenced carrying it around the entire store before purchasing it. Don't ask me why I need a pirate octopus. You know the answer is that I don't. I think it's a coping mechanism for all of the strenuous adult-ing that moving requires. For instance, it's sunny and 91 degrees here in New Haven today. At 9 AM. The only thing enhancing the sweat that has already started collecting between my boobs is the cat hair that's adhered itself because Tucker is so anxious about the missing furniture and piles of boxes that he's attached himself to my person, in spite of the obnoxious heat. The effect is only improved by the reproachful looks he keeps giving me, as if it is my own personal failing that it is so warm and I am so sticky.


On the other hand, moving puts you in touch with all sorts of sympathetic souls. I went to U-Haul this morning to rent a dolly, thinking it'll vastly improve the experience of hauling my worldly possessions from a basement in this heat. The man said Sure, we rent dollies, here, come with me. He took me around back to a virtual breeding ground of dollies (U-Haul in a college town, eat your heart out.) and handed me one. I asked him how much and he smiled. I'm trusting you not to steal it, so you can have it for free. Seriously? I asked. Seriously, he said. I take pity on you guys. Good luck with the move and bring it back when you're done. I might be the first person to ever skip with a dolly.


The octopus, and the buckets of iced coffee, and the nice man with the dolly - it's all a distraction from how hollow my heart feels about leaving this place. I love this house. I love how the sun slants in through the playroom windows, how the toilet and tub are so close together you have to pee sitting sideways, how we'd stand over the heating vents in the winter and let the warm air whoosh up our pajamas. In spite of myself, I even love this town. I love the patients and families that tolerated my fumbles and missteps, the pizza places and markets we walked to hundreds of times, the trails and parks that wore down my sneakers with the many miles I ran. I love our neighbors, the little boy who calls me Auntie Cait and steals my heart with his towheaded grin. I love that I fell in love here, and that I can walk by the place he and I met ten times a day because it's quite literally around the corner.

I will miss this house. I will miss this home. And I will miss the girl I shared it with most of all.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Growing Things

Here in Connecticut, it is so green. So much is growing, and without effort. Frat houses have green lawns and the rhododendron that grows outside the crack den on the end of my street is covered in pink buds.
It's also so humid. It's rained twice in two weeks. The sidewalks are damp afterward and my hair curls obnoxiously into a halo around my head. The dog steps warily around puddles and shakes excessively in the merest drizzle.
I have to check the weather again. It is no longer 75-85 and sunny every day with a low of 45 at night. Three days ago I woke up sweating with the fan on full blast and this morning I woke up shivering under a pile of blankets. New England, what.
I watched three cars run red lights during one errand this morning. Two people cut me off and a third honked maniacally when I signaled to turn left. Yesterday, a man yelled obscenities at me when I walked across the street in a crosswalk, with the light. He said something so nasty that it's not fit to print and made me gag a little bit. For crossing the street.
There is internet everywhere. And cell service. And cars. And people. Everywhere, there are people. There are men, catcalling and staring and so fucking obnoxious that I realize just how good I got at tuning them out before I left and didn't have to hear it once - not once! - for four months. I walk with my keys tucked back into my fist, sharp edges out. I walk quickly, with my gaze in the middle distance. I only let the dog say hello to dogs walked by women. I had forgotten, so briefly, what it is like to be a woman in this world. I was just an outsider in Arizona. I was an outsider, and I was white, and that was enough.
I babysat my neighbor yesterday - two-and-a-half now, he is a muscle-y, squishy, tow-headed toddler who leaps into my lap for "a snuggly hug for Auntie Cait" and my eyes will not stop filling at every little thing. The man who handed me my cap and gown this morning at pick-up told me "Congratulations," and I almost burst into tears, again.
It is both the biggest relief and the most enormous discomfort to be back here.
Here where I also don't belong, where someone else is living in my room and I have to remember to shut the door when I'm peeing and oh yeah, flush afterwards. Here where the apartment is being shown every other day and every little thing reminds me that I am leaving, have already left, should never have come back.
Here, though, where my dearest friends envelop me in tight hugs and eat nachos with me and tell me it's okay that it was hard out there and you don't ever have to go back.
Who sit in endless dressing rooms in four different stores to help me find a graduation dress while I struggle to accept a body that has grown smaller again, except without me starving it, but simply by eating less takeout and hiking with a dog at 7,000 feet every day.
I feel useless and uneasy and anxious and blessed. I drink iced coffee on the sun-warmed grass and the sheer abundance around me feels almost pornographic compared to the barrenness of where I have been.
I feel like this has all been a sham, but then when I'm halfway between sleep and waking, I dream of babies. Heads emerging, mothers moaning, and the way my hands work separate from my brain now. Sure of themselves, flexing and easing life out, corralling pudgy slippery limbs and handing them over, her belly an oasis, her hands reaching. I may not belong here, but I surely belong there.
I feel like a midwife.


Thursday, April 2, 2015

Thorns

Sometimes, everything here feels wrong. The plants are all so sharp. When I walk the trails to the reservoir, the spring winds blow sand into my eyes and my feet still slip and slide over the shifting dirt and I tramp through plants that leave me swearing in pain as they attach themselves to any exposed bit of soft fabric or skin.
The effort it takes for all of us to survive out here is not lost on me.
I feel for these plants, in their mindless effort to leave some mark on this world, even as I curse them and pull their thorny spikes from my continually scratched and bloody calves and palms.
It feels like work to live here.
It's rained once since I got here, and despite that, the reservoir seems to be ever more loosely contained by its banks and so even though I have walked the same paths for weeks, I'll occasionally find myself suddenly unmoored, looking around for a familiar scrub brush or boulder (spoiler alert: they mostly look the same to me) because the water has overtaken yet another path and forced me to tramp through yet more spiky, desperate plants and when I finally lift my sweaty head it is only to realize, yep, I'm lost again.


My car is on its last legs, a cruel joke I feel the universe is levying against me while I am 2,500 miles from all my worldly possessions and my former home and my school to which I must return in order to graduate and pass an enormously expensive test to be given the papers which legitimize this thing I've worked so hard to become.
I skim an email from FedLoan Services while I speak on the phone with the mechanic. He tells me this next repair will be around $100 (the last was $500), but that my car will probably not last another six months. He recommends I start looking for a new car. I make noncommital noises of agreement while I try not to tally the amount of money I and my parents have poured into this car in the last year.
FedLoan Services encourages me to perform my exit interview for the loans I have received so that I may know my "total loan commitment" and begin preparations for paying back the more than six figures I borrowed.
I sip on a $4 cup of coffee that I bought in order to use the free wi-fi that doesn't extend to the reservation, and I am awash in the irony of the entire situation. It's so funny that I fight back tears and when I shift position, something unbearably sharp digs into my foot and I gasp. I reach down and pull a thorn out of my shoe and leave behind a flaming red spot of blood on my heel.


I think that I've learned to stop expecting things to be a certain way, but then I find myself exhausted by the seemingly endless labor a woman who is having her fifth baby endures. There are no guarantees, I tell myself while she shifts positions one more time, and I tell her, again, that I believe in her and that she can do this, and in my head, I ask God to please, for the love of all your creation, turn this baby face-down. She stands, and cries, and I rub her shoulders. She tries to pee, again, and I hand her ice water for a small sip. She sways, and cries some more, and I press hard into the small of her back, and it's been long enough that I need to call the doctor if we're no closer. She lays down, I check her again, I'm losing faith. She pushes twice more, the baby has turned and comes surging out, yelling on a wave of meconium-stained fluid and reaching, reaching for her mama and I am grateful, all over again, for this crazy place and this crazy job, and for the moments that make me forget the shambles my life feels like it's become.