Patchwork

I am a broken mother
born of a broken mother
born of a broken mother
trying to pull intact pieces
from the aftermath of motherhood –
some that I inherited
some that are borrowed from someone else’s house
some of my own fabrication –
and stitch together a mother
and give her to myself.

To My Inner Critic:

Up in your tower with rifle in hand
ready to quell a rebellion:
“Just stand in perfect formation – Don’t blink and don’t bleed –
Don’t you try anything – unless you succeed.
Don’t show your hunger – Take up the slack –
Don’t be seen thinking you’re something you lack –
Don’t step in places where you don’t belong –
outside these walls they all know you’re a con.”

Acute and unyielding, relentlessly mean –
I want you to know that, my darling, you’re seen.

In the time of the siege when rations were low,
it was you who made sure that consumption stayed slow.
When detente into skirmish invariably broke,
our head below crossfire you kept, and you woke
through the night with your ears tautly tuned
to the rumblings of hellfire
and never assumed what the morning would bring.
You knew that one firefight could change everything –
everything ever and always at stake,
one misstep from us could make everything break,
so you taught us to tiptoe through lands full of mines,
to be diplomat/decoy/defender 
to find what the moment required us to be
and shapeshift so quickly that no one could see.

Your vigilance sheltered me, carried me then.
But the time of the siege…it came to an end.
It ended a while ago, darling. I swear.
If I tune out your voice, don’t assume I don’t care –
you constructed a fortress to help us survive.
Don’t be angry, my love, if I wish now to thrive
in these wide open spaces – I know love – they’re scary –
with no hiding places to shelter the wary.
We’re better at margins and better at walls,
and in places where others can run we still crawl –
but please don’t be angry with us about that.
My darling, it’s just that we’re at where we’re at.

We’re here. And we’re breathing still. After the siege.
With time left to find out what things may yet be.

when i was in my larval stage
before I knew the word “misogyny”

i asked my diary why God
put the dreams of a great man
into the body of a small girl
who had neither the strength nor the intelligence 
to achieve them.

and i was so, so smart,
and i was so, so strong.

For Immediate Release:

It has been determined that women owe it to Precisely No One to look younger than their chronological age. The removal of this obligation extends to all relationships, including those they have with themselves, their partners, colleagues, random strangers, The People Of The Internet, and Friends With Whom They Went To High School.

Furthermore, it has been determined that, should a woman wish to appear younger than she currently does, she is permitted to take measures to do so. This permission extends to any creams, lotions, lasers, injectables, surgeries, enchantments, and blood oaths in which she may wish to engage. It is not permitted for a woman (or any person) to force unwilling parties to engage in said treatments, however it has been determined that if a woman is the sole proprietor of her face, she may do with it Whatever the Actual Hell she shall choose.

Consequently, if a woman has done any of the aforementioned procedures, it is no longer a criminal offense for her to look as if that is the case. It so follows that anyone who has “frozen face,” “pillow face,” “duck face,” or any other manner of face bearing evidence of alteration shall not be tried in the court of public opinion but shall instead be free to go about her Damn Business.

It is now also deemed permissible for women to look younger than their chronological age owing to natural causes including genetics, early avoidance of sun exposure, and sufficient quantities of melanin. As such, it is no longer necessary to resent these women or to speculate as to the degree to which they have engaged in anti-aging treatments. This recommendation stems primarily from this activity having been deemed a deeply uninteresting use of that most finite resource: time. 

It is recommended that the term “aging gracefully” be retired in favour of “aging – what a motherfucking privilege.”

Inasmuch as none of these measures is in service of the Patriarchy, their successful implementation shall depend almost exclusively upon early adoption by All Women. Inasmuch as All Women have heretofore been categorically unable to satisfy a complex and mutually exclusive set of standards with regard to their physical appearance in the process of aging, it is anticipated that All Women will flourish upon gaining access to A Fucking Break.

To All My Sisters

I’m sorry for the time I spent looking for your flaws
when all I ever needed was to bask in your glory.
I’m sorry it took me so long to understand that there is
enough special to go around.
That, in fact, every last one of us is a motherfucking masterpiece.
That we’re sequoias – mighty, heavy and sprawling with interlocking roots
such that when one of us is nourished
we all grow strong.

I’m sorry I didn’t know that pain is not a contest. 
That there has been enough of that to go around.
That it’s not the severity of the wound that makes it important.
It’s the mere fact that you are wounded, and you are important. 
And that when we all tend gently to your hurt
it teaches me that all my own little pain-filled places 
are also worthy of love.

I’m sorry I didn’t see the lies in the stories I was told
about ugly stepsisters and evil cheerleaders.
I’m sorry I thought you had to lose for me to win.

To all of you young ones who dare to know your power,
I’m sorry for pushing onto you the judgment I was served.
To all of you vibrant ones whose magic I begrudged,
I repent.
You see, I believed a lie that I didn’t have enough of my own.
Ha. We are dripping in it. Drowning in it.
As many shades and textures of it as there are sisters.

A Letter To My Son

There are so many things about God I am unlearning right now, just at the time that I am supposed to be teaching you. There are so many things that I do not want to pass down to you.

And yet, there are some things that I really, really want you to know:

I want you to know that you are held.
I want you to know that there is a Love out there that will still envelop you, no matter how long you freefall in a dark space.
I don’t want to tell you that if you have enough faith that everything will turn out alright.
Because, in my experience, it won’t,
and that expectation will become a dagger in your heart.
I don’t want to tell you that you’re going to be healed.
Because, sometimes you will be, and sometimes you won’t.
And sometimes the people you love will be, and sometimes they won’t.
And there really doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to it.
I can say this:
Sometimes you’ll get the miracle you ask for.
And it will blow your mind wide open and fill your heart with wonder and gratitude.
But sometimes you won’t get that miracle.
Sometimes the Worst Possible Thing will happen.
And it will tear your heart wide open and leave your mind stumbling.
But in those times, you’ll find a different sort of miracle – a quieter one but in no way less wondrous.
The miracle is that the Love I told you about will be there in that horrible, horrible void.
That it will wrap itself around you while the whole world falls apart.
And that at some point, you will get up off the floor.
At some point, you will get dressed.
At some point, you will walk back out into the world.
And when you do, you’ll be a little more tender. And your roots will stretch a little deeper.
And you’ll have a power possessed only by people who have been to dark places:
the ability to really see another person, and to sit with them in their own dark places.
And be Love there.
And you’ll find that that kind of miracle is, in fact, the one that keeps all of us going.

a call for help in a time of deconstruction

God who holds everything together
by whom molecules bind and firing neurons form thoughts
Inventor of toddler snuggles and loving glances
by whom rocks banging together can result in
spring thaws
the living sound of water escaping snow under a late february sun
of birds, giddy with newness,
in competition for the most weightless song
incursions of purple into a wasteland of white
as the crocuses sense that something is coming
it’s coming
there’s snow on the ground but we know that it’s coming and you can’t tell us otherwise

God by whom I have been seen
God who has met me
on the floor of that apartment
on the way to that hospital
who has not required of me
perfect dogma
who has only asked me to accept comfort and to know peace
who at times when there was no floor
has told me that I would not fall forever
who has shown me that
even when it is not alright
somehow still I am alright

I’ll call you by the names I know
but I do not expect the name that I call matters
as much as that I call
and ask for a floor
just, at some point, a floor
and that when I land I would not be alone

The Letter

I wrote a letter.

It is a business letter.

Not even a creative letter.

I wrote it for you to use on your committee.

Did you read it?

Have you seen it yet?

Please tell me it is wonderful. 

Not wonderful. That’s not it.

Please tell me it is The Best Letter That Anyone Has Ever Written.

Please tell me it is The Letter That Is Going To Change Everything.

I don’t write a lot of letters these days.

I wipe a lot of bottoms.

I sweep the same floor a lot of times.

I put the same clothes into the machine over, and over, and over again.

I really hope you like the letter.

Because I kind of stapled myself to it.

a rainy afternoon in covidtime

the world has grown small –
just these walls
and some screens but it seems

the world has grown massive
impassive
two hours and forty-five minutes away is now
a year and I fear
it will continue to grow
ever slow
ever swallowing small moments we cannot retrieve

The world has grown quiet.

And by it
I feel l’ve lost you even though
I know
you are twenty-six blocks away

I miss
the clink of your coffee cup on my kitchen counter
small voices squabbling over toys
mottled boys
people noise

What Motherhood Isn’t

WiebeFam-147

I’m a few years into this motherhood thing now – long enough to have some thoughts about what motherhood is. Turns out it is difficult. More so than I thought it would be. It’s relentless, confusing, and isolating. It’s exhausting to the marrow. It empties me of all I have and then empties me some more, forcing me to scrape at the bedrock of my endurance and find what I didn’t know was there to give. Motherhood is helpless. My heart on wobbly legs navigating stairs. I get it. This is why we honor moms. They’ve earned it.

It’s also, in my experience, multiple daily dopamine hits. It’s wonder. It’s encountering the world all over again. It’s being the very first Most Important Person in someone’s life. It’s the quickening in an infant’s eyes at the sound of my voice and the dirt-stained tears on my chest from a preschooler’s cheek. Because that particular spot on my chest, the spot with the sun-damage mole that he loves, is his home. His safest place. It’s being trusted beyond what I’ve earned. It’s being loved simply and forgiven instantly (my kids aren’t teenagers yet). It is sheer privilege.

On Mother’s Day, I feel like we hear a great deal about the struggle and sacrifice of motherhood, and we even hear some about the privilege. But we hear almost nothing about the socially privileged position of motherhood. We live in a society where motherhood is the norm for women, and any woman of a certain age who isn’t a mother is reminded of her noncompliance with this norm in a thousand different ways. Some of them are subtle; some are astoundingly obtuse. Mother’s Day happens to be a day when her noncompliance with the norm is rubbed vigorously in her face. This is why, every year, I like to hold a little bit of space on this day for what motherhood isn’t.

Motherhood is not automatic. About sixty percent of us can schedule babies between vacations and waxing appointments, but one in eight of us will for some period of her life be suspended between a desire to become a mother and an excruciating uncertainty as to when or if that will happen. This can last for years or decades. It can last for a lifetime.

Motherhood is not always visible. About ten to twenty percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage. About one in one hundred pregnancies ends in a stillbirth. Some mothers lose their children when they are older. Still others have had to give their children up. I promise you that you know women who have carried children in their wombs but do not hold them in their arms. You don’t necessarily know who we are. We don’t slap a bumper sticker on our car for each loss, and we might not stand when they’re handing out flowers to the moms in church. But we are mothers. And we will always carry those children.

Motherhood is not biology. Shoutout to all the adoptive mothers who constantly field questions about their child’s “real” mom. (Let’s just stop it, shall we?) And to all the nurturing and fierce women (and men) out there who are guiding people through the world, regardless of who bore them. I have been mothered by many people, several of them peers, some of them women with kids, one of them an eccentric Argentine lady, and, yes, one who gave birth to me. I am thankful for all of them.

Motherhood is not a requirement. It’s hard enough to be a woman in the world without being constantly fed the bullshit that we have not completed our life cycle until we have spawned. While it really seems like at this point I shouldn’t have to say that a woman is a complete human of her own right, I’m going to say it, just in case: no woman owes the world children. Full stop.

Motherhood is not yo’ damn business. I’m just going to posit a mad theory here: let us suppose for a moment that a woman is capable of communicating her reproductive plans with all of the people in her life who need to know – say, her partner (if applicable), her doctor, her inner circle. Are you with me, here? Do we think women are capable of doing that? Great. It logically follows, then, that if a woman has not told you her reproductive plans, then you are not a person who needs to know. Crazy, huh? I encourage you to ask yourself, the next time you want to ask a woman if or when she is planning to have children, “Does this woman owe me this information?” (Hint: the answer is no.) If the answer is no, then go ahead and ask her something less loaded, like how much she weighs.

Motherhood is not womanhood. I was not a mother, and now I am. Guess what? I’m the same person. I have not unlocked secret levels of humanhood. I did not grow lady parts I didn’t have before. I did not suddenly access emotions of which I was heretofore incapable. Can we please stop belittling the life experience of women who do not have children? There are precisely as many ways of being a woman in the world as there are women in it. If we spent less time measuring each other and more time honoring each other, we’d all be stronger for it.

Today, by all means, let us celebrate mothers. But let us expand our idea of what motherhood is, and please, let us remember what it isn’t.