And the sunlight hurts my eyes
And something without warning, love
Bears heavy on my mind”
Everything seems more possible in the morning light. Including, in fact, low grade fevers, pandemics, and the heaviness that sits on my chest, both physically from engorgement, and emotionally by life. I’ve always prided myself on having a high pain tolerance, and my recent birth story certainly doesn’t dismiss that very idea, but lately it’s been hard to get past the problems I’ve been having. Third kid, third go-around, and I’ve had a little cockiness that I know what I’m doing. I don’t! No one does, of course, but I’ve been so knocked down by clogged ducts, soreness, and eventually – mastitis. I had nothing like this with the other two, or at least not this severe, this far in. In the morning light, the lactation consultants returned my call – the call I had made in tears the night before – and I saw possibilities spinning in webs and rays of spiraling and rising sunshine. The idea that I can get through this. We can get through this.
We sing him “Lovely Day” by Bill Withers every day. I don’t even know if he recognizes it yet, but I imagine he does. Five-weeks-old yields starter smiles and locked eyes and amazement. It also yields fussiness and tired eyes and bewilderment. Cassidy calls him “Boo Boo” and sometimes sings the song with “Boo Boo Day.” Des loves Mikey Day from Saturday Night Love, so you can bet we sing him “Mikey Day, Mikey Day” to that very tune. The song sticks into your head, but so does the idea, of this raw loveliness. This perfect, healthy, squirming creature, moving his hands in wonder and confusion, spinning those very webs of ideas and confidence and hope in the spiraling and rising morning light. This little “Boo Boo,” this “Mikey Day,” this “Stephen Strange.”
She called me the day I got mastitis, and by “she”, I mean the representative of the hospital midwives. She’s not a midwife herself, but I had gotten to know her through the virtual pregnancy group meetings. It was the postpartum check-in call, to ask me the important questions I was still learning the answers to, and to help me schedule my six-week postpartum checkup, if I hadn’t already. I had, of course, because I’m super on the ball sometimes – building my own sticky webs of capability and confidence in the spiraling and rising light. Other times I’m caught up and in those very webs, suffocating and suffering against and underneath my own handiwork. She asked me the important questions, and when she got to the one about my moods and emotions and wellbeing, I paused before answering. I wanted to make it very clear.
Tiptoeing in and out of the shadows of the COVID confusion, the early sunsets, and the intense pain and the eventual mastitis I so inevitably got, what do I do when I step into the light pieces in between the dark pieces? I sing, of course, and laugh. So that’s what I said. That’s what I told her. I said that times are very trying, for many of us in the darkest part of the year, but that I find joy and humor in between the heavy dark cloaks. Underneath, despite, and in spite of those heavy dark cloaks – inching and itching dangerously close around the most tender parts of our necks and chests and hearts. I think that matters. Finding ways to stop itching and remain breathing. At the most tender of times, and around our most tender parts, there’s a gift in that ripping off of the cloaked darkness. Then, I look at you, and I know. The world’s alright with me.
Every morning I wake up a minute before him or after him, or even with him. It seems that the more awake he gets, the sleepier I get. We’re not in sync with sleep or pain or sleeping and waking times, and every time I think we are, it shifts again. The challenges we face, and the shadows over our faces. Some days, these days, I wake up and I’m not in pain. Or I am but I realize how very temporary this kind of pain is. I look over at him, and these days, he knows how to social smile. It started yesterday before dawn. My phone died so I fumbled for a portable charger because I need that light, in the darkness, to make sure he’s properly latched when feeding. I got the power back in the phone, flipped on the flashlight, and lit up my face. I looked at him. He looked at me. And then the first full, non-lopsided smile lit up his face. It was over as quickly as it began, as they are at first. That pinprick of hope and light, though. This beginning.
Seems impossible to face
When someone else instead of me
Always seems to know the way”