Saturday, July 19, 2014


Hi.  It is the middle of July and cold in Northern Colorado.  Lots of rain, lots of mosquitoes, and a downstairs neighbor who leaves the back door of our house open and invites in all the flies.  He has a sweet dog - hence the back door left open - with silky black hair, so I forgive him.  Also, this person is very nice, and, while we're on the topic, nice is an underrated quality, I think.

There is that Laurel Thatcher Ulrich quote, "Well-behaved women seldom make history," which a friend recently (and completely flatteringly) mentioned in conjunction with my name, but within that idea and now all this talk about how bossy is a bad word, there seems to me a danger of promoting one more patriarchal idea: it's okay to step on others.  Although there is nuance in all of these discussions, and behaving wildly does not necessarily mean behaving rudely, I'm afraid I esteem tact and kindness more than almost anything and I don't want these virtues to get lost in a race to be noticed.  I hope my daughter is kind and wild and powerful and considerate.  Is it possible?  I'm not sure.  But the men I surround myself with all share these qualities so: why not?  I guess it's a balance thing we're talking about here. 

Am I ranting about how to behave again?  Sorry.  I am shy about what I really want to talk about which is...birth!  That's right.  You had to know it was coming, right? 

1. A book called Labor Day came out recently with the tagline: "True birth stories by today's best women writers."  At first I was like, who says?  Who says these women are the best women writers?!  (Nevermind that old debate about why we have to tack "women" in front of the "writers" bit.  Oy.)

Anyway, the book.  It's freaking awesome.  I recommend it to anyone who has ever had a child and wants to be in conversation with other smart, wry, honest, open women about it - in book form. 

Ina May
2. My friend recommended Ina May Gaskin's Ted Talk recently and I watched it.  Another friend and I have discussed the dangers of obsessing about having a natural labor as pitfall for feeling badly about yourself if your birth goes otherwise, but I really really like Ina May and her talk!  At one point, she speaks about having "good manners" and not telling birth horror stories, so that as a culture we start taking the fear out of birth. 

As a woman who has now given birth, I agree 100% with Ina May - or maybe, like, 93%.  I agree one should (always!) consider audience when telling a tale, and also intention and content.  But, I dunno, it's sometimes helpful to talk about everything and process it.  Ina May suggests this is what a therapist is for but, in my experience, one great girlfriend can offset decades of therapy. 

Birth Story, Internet Style
3. I've gone back and forth about sharing much beyond pictures of Samantha on the internet because I like to follow social etiquette and keep the private private.  Buuuuuut, I'm a writer, and writing is how I know: it is how I listen, how I feel, how I process, how I love.  So I wanted to talk a tiny bit about the birth of my first child because, like most things in my adult life, I once again found that inside challenge are the sweetest kernels of light.  Also, I am newly obsessed with birth stories - see item 1 - and have found other posts on the internet helpful, generous, and comforting.  Like chicken soup for the internets.  So here we go.

I gave birth to my daughter by caesarean section, after many many hours of natural labor.  When I showered finally after giving birth, because of the medication I was on my husband was instructed to stand guard.  I guess narcotics plus wet tiles are not good in combination?  Anyway. 

Among the many things I never understand until I go through them myself (aka everything), one thing I hadn't counted on was how much my stomach would shrink immediately when my daughter was no longer inside me.  The first time I showered, I undressed from the clothing I had specially bought for the hospital which was already now too big.  My hair was in tangles from days of labor and sleep and being transferred from bed to surgical table to bed again by other hands.  My now-soft abdomen wore its pregnancy line, a deep tan stripe from my sternum to my incision, which itself was reminiscent of Frankenstein: strips of tape like zipper teeth holding my skin in place.  In short, I was a mess, and yet my husband and I both thought the same thing.  Actually, I thought, Holy F**k, I am gorgeous while he went so far as to say it.  "You are beautiful," he said, and I knew what he meant.  My body wore its wounds like a badge of honor, the injuries of a passage between two worlds: pregnancy and motherhood, utero and birth.

In the beginning of my pregnancy, I surrendered my body to its animal nature.  As my skin stretched and muscles cramped, I began to think of my body is as a thing to behold - not just in pregnancy but for the rest of my life.  If an excavation team stumbled on my remains in two hundred years, I felt with pride my body would offer them information.  Like a mare or ewe or cow, my body would tell the story of offspring.  I had been a mother: here was proof. 

I'm sure this kind of reducing myself to biological factoids is horrifying on some feminist level, but it's obviously not the first time I've thought of my life in terms of nature.  Last night, in fact, my husband burst out laughing when he overheard me say that spending my days with an infant is not unlike encounters with a wild animal: even though she doesn't speak the English language, in her eyes, the intelligence is all there.  She is one hundred percent present, and intoxicating.  I guess he wasn't used to his daughter being compared, in essence, to stumbling upon a wild buffalo or a wolf, but I say parenting a young child is not terribly different.  For me, respect and intuition are key. 

So there's my story, a piece of it anyway.  And here is my wish, for all of us: that what we have been through matters, to each of us and all of us, and we learn ways of sharing through the grief and the darkness.  Because therein lies the whole of life's experience, and by such practices I believe we may learn, and love, and evolve together. 

To your story, to those with whom you feel safe enough to share it, and to all the gems that come from living through it, like this little banana boat, my own personal buffalo calf:

With love,



  1. Love it, Kara! My birth story with Virginia was very much the same--hours and hours of labor before a c-section. No shame--every birth story is special and unique and results in the same thing--a tiny little miracle. Lots of love...

  2. This is beautiful, Kara!!

    (and I greedily want more!!)


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