Locked On

They put the baby lo-jack on the umbilical stump.

If I had to choose one phrase illustrating how relaxed my most recent and hopefully last tour of a maternity ward was, that would be it.

It may not seem like much, but to me, it’s a huge deal.

Over six years ago, it was an errant lo-jack slipping off my baby’s slender little ankle that precipitated my fall into postpartum mood and anxiety disorders (PPMAD). Her squirming and that slipping gave my irrational mind the fuel it needed to doubt whether I was taking home the right baby.

I haven’t had that fear this time or denial or doubt, and the nurse only mentioned that additional bit of information as we headed for the elevator, but it capped our visit in the best way possible. As the elevator doors slid shut, I looked at my husband with relief and said if she’d told us nothing else, our tour was worth that one statement.

It’s an odd sensation that washes over one as she walks the floors she knows she’ll next be pacing in pain. To see the calm, the fresh beds, the quiet daylight streaming in the windows. I know the harsh fluorescent lights will glare, the linens no longer be fresh, the quiet replaced with beeps and moans and directions. It’s enough to put anyone on edge – either a woman trying to anticipate something she’s never experienced before or one who knows all too well what to expect.

This fourth tour I’ve taken was the least anxious I’ve ever been, however. It was due in large part to the relaxed community atmosphere of this particular ward. I think I also have finally realized that how ever much I dread labor, there is no way around it, only through it.

The nurse was very low-key, gentle and calming, as she shared information and answered our questions. When I asked about labor positions and modifications due to a weak pubic bone, she explained how the end of the bed came off, a yoga ball could be used, a kneel or squat bar . . . she even said she’d make a note in my chart to request an automatic PT consult after the birth. I wanted to hug and kiss her.

And then she made my day even better when she shared the positioning of the lo-jack. I hadn’t mentioned anything about my postpartum experience last time. I hadn’t mentioned that a tiny locator device could be such a trigger. I hadn’t expressed any concerns about security. Maybe it was just that we were approaching the locked door of the ward as the tour ended, but she told us hospitals have changed procedure to attach the device on the umbilical stump because it can’t fall off.

With that one bit of information, that I hadn’t known I needed to hear or was even a possibility, my mind opened up. The iron grip of anxiety I’d unwittingly been living with lifted – if only enough to let me breathe. To see that this labor and delivery and recovery will be different. There will be no fear concerning the baby.

I am hers, she is mine. Everything will happen as it should.

baby feet


To Your Corners

I want definition.

I want nice, neat little boxes.

If not black and white, then broad black borders to contain the colors within.


Classification. Order.


I don’t want things to merge, to blend, to intermingle.


I want to draw a line between thoughts and feelings.

I want to shut off that part of me responsible for irrational.

I don’t want to be able just to identify it, but send it packing.


There’s a difference between knowing and feeling.


I can know it all I want. I have to be able to feel it.

Vantage Point

An exploding moment.

One that stretches out inexorably like a slow motion sequence in film.

When tragedy occurs at breakneck speed, but your body cannot catch up; cannot speed up to stop it.

My four year-old teetered on the edge of a boulder that stretched in a line of them on the causeway. My mind was already fast-forwarding to the next scene, the one where her battered and broken body lay below or plunged into the icy depths of water beyond.

My voice exploded from my lungs in a staccato screech more piercing than that of the gulls above.

“Michael, the baby, the baby, she’s going to go over the edge, get the baby!”

Stuck to that spot by fear, I didn’t spring forward; I shook my arms, I stamped my feet. I screamed for her father to do it.

He saved her, while reprimanding me for just standing there. If I were going to have such a violent reaction to it, surely I’d do something about it . . .

In the instant replay, she hadn’t been teetering on the edge. She’d been dancing on the top, but not close to falling below. From my vantage point, it looked like she’d surely fall away from me.

From my vantage point.

My nine year-old watched me in the moments that followed. I caught her studying me. Sizing me up. Not like a cruel critic, but as if she might be wondering just what my vantage point was. What would make me screech like holy hell at a threat that no one else perceived. Like she’d just had her first cognizant look at her mother’s mental illness.

I felt shamed. I felt like she’d seen the ugly underbelly that, between my disguises and her naivete, I’d managed to hide until now. That now she had seen the irrational powers that ruled me.

I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t think I should explain it away – and didn’t have the words even if I thought I should. I returned her gaze and pulled her into a hug.

A little while later, I watched her as she stood at the shoreline, hands dug deep into her pockets, jeans tucked expertly into her boots. She is becoming a young woman. Yet, in the wake of the waves crashing upon the shore, she looked so small.

And I thought – is that why we come to the ocean? To be reminded of how small we are? How insignificant in the face of the universe? Comforting to think that our worries are but grains of sand. But suffocating to think of the press of dangers and concerns able to crush us out in one single second.

Which vantage point will my daughter take? Will she recoil from the threat around every corner, refusing to turn and meet it? Or will she refuse to be frozen by fear and tackle her problems head on? Will she see my struggles as problems or failings on my part? Or will she see that I soldiered on in spite of them?

This screenplay is an on-going saga. If only I had the control.

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