After counting the years until I would move out on my own, without the responsibilities of raising a family, I was having another child. Jessie, who had recently decided to abbreviate her name to Jes., was almost fifteen and Justin was eleven. I felt as though I was in the home stretch. Now, I was back to square one. I considered many options including adoption but soon realized that I couldn’t give up this child that I would carry inside of me for nine months, so I resigned myself to the fact that this was a life changer. However, I was not happy about it. I knew that my unhappiness would affect my unborn child, so I tried to accept it.
I have always used divining tools such as the I-Ching, a form of Chinese divination using coins or sticks. I hate to use the word divination because it’s more about guiding your thinking. One day, I decided to toss the coins and see what reading I got. I read the two hexagrams and started to meditate on them. I’ve never been successful at what I believed was meditation but suddenly I envisioned a golden light emanating from inside of me. I followed the light and saw an early fetus floating in this golden glow. I was awed. Then, I thought to myself, I wonder what sex this baby is. Immediately, the glow was gone, and I was back, like a shot, in the real world. I sat there feeling intense love for my child and, in that moment, totally accepted his coming.
During all of my pregnancies, I had amazing, vivid and colorful dreams, but during this one, they came almost every night. This dream is taken directly from my journal. I was walking through the woods with a friend when we saw a dead bird hanging on a door. I thought at first that it was a pheasant because of the coloring and the design of the dots, but the feathers had eyes like peacock feathers. As the feathers fell out, my friend picked up all of the most beautiful ones, except for one, and I felt disappointed. We walked back into the woods, though still in sight of the door. I suddenly saw an enormous bird – the size of a man – hanging upside down in a tree. He started spinning around, faster and faster. After a while he came flying toward us. I was scared and tried to warn my friend, but she didn’t hear me. The bird swooped at me then flew around and around my head. As he slowed down, I could see that he was a man. He was dressed all in feathers and was weaving a fan of feathers. He took my only beautiful feather to finish it. I started to cry. He told me to throw away what I had in my hand and stop looking for beautiful things. I started to walk away when I noticed another bir4d hanging on that same door. This one was more beautiful than the first. I started to walk away when a voice said, “These are for you.” I picked these beautiful feathers and wove a fan. As I wove, the door opened, and I went inside. Inside there were exquisite flowers hanging upside down on the walls. AN old man sitting there told me to take some of them for my fan, so I plucked some of the petals as if they were feathers on a bird. There was another room with people in it playing music. As I turned to enter that room, I woke up. This was only one of so many incredible dreams during that time.
Although, I had accepted this and was looking forward to meeting my newest child, it was not an easy time. Paul was obsessed with another woman and had started calling out her name while sleeping next to me. At that time, I considered her one of my best friends, and she and her husband spent lots of time with us. When we were considering adoption, we had approached them because they were trying to adopt. With this pregnancy, I quit smoking pot because it didn’t feel good. It only made me more tired than I already was. To Paul, this was a deal breaker. I was his smoking companion. He started more and more time with our other friend who was also a big pothead. I also knew that she had been cheating on her husband and assumed she wouldn’t hesitate to sleep with Paul. Our relationship was already on the rocks, so I finally sat him down and told him to go for it. “Go ahead and sleep with her, then decide who you want to be with,” I said. I figured it was better than the sneaking around that he’d done for years. He chose to pull away from her and stay with me. I had originally asked her to be a support person during my labor but uninvited her after this. At that point, I knew that I would not wait until this child was grown before moving out. I needed to settle into new parenthood again and figure out how to support myself, but I knew I would do it within the next few years.
Meanwhile, I still had adolescent and teenaged children to care for. Jes. was very moody and in love with the young man she’d met at the conference in Oregon. They were writing letters and organizing visits back and forth by train. One day she asked me, “Just out of curiosity, does sex always hurt?” She obviously wasn’t giving me much credit for being a smart and aware mother. My answer was, “How long have you been having sex?” I knew that she was strong-willed and, no matter what I said, she would continue doing as she had been doing, so we made a doctor’s appointment. I was pregnant myself after having used reliable birth control and now had a sexually active daughter. My mind was reeling. Justin was entering adolescence and hanging out with a bunch of troubled boys. Now, I was worried about both of them and wondering how I would deal with everything. Neither of them talked much to their dad about anything of import, and he didn’t really want to know what was going on with them, so I shouldered it all.
During this pregnancy, I continued to do gigs. We played at a festival in Lincoln Park where Governor Andrew Cuomo was jogging by and stopped, with his security detail, to enjoy the show. We were onstage at the time singing a Grateful Dead song “Ship of Fools.” Then we went over and chatted with him for a while. He told us he enjoyed our set, especially that song. We had to laugh. At that same concert, a stranger came up to me and started yelling at me for being obscene. He was upset by the fact that I was quite pregnant up on stage. I was immediately surrounded by many male friends who quickly set this guy straight then shadowed me for the rest of the day. We also played at a few clubs and a couple of weddings. It was a good year for gigs, and I was determined that this pregnancy was not going to hold us back. We’d worked long and hard to get where we were, and the other two kids were finally old enough to be on their own in the evenings when necessary.
Austin was born three weeks late after trying unsuccessfully to induce labor through natural means. Finally, my midwife did an invasive procedure that did get it started. Because of my previous history, I decided to stay at The Family Life Center in Albany rather than risk a home birth forty-five minutes away from town. Jes. and Justin were old enough to stay at the house by themselves for a couple of days, but the days stretched on and on. After two days, I finally went into full out labor. As usual, my labor was horrific. Both of my sons were posterior, which means that they were facing the opposite direction. This often causes back labor and lengthens the time. Although I resisted, eventually, the midwives insisted on taking me to the hospital. Once again, my regular doctor was away, but the doctor who was on call this time was wonderful. My baby was born pretty quickly once I arrived at the hospital. Everything was uneventful until they decided that he was at risk.
He was born with a little bit of meconium in the fluid. Meconium is the discharge from a newborn’s bowels. It was almost insignificant, but the pediatric staff whisked him away to the newborn ICU. He was over nine pounds with a lusty cry, but they didn’t even let me hold him. Paul went with them, holding Austin’s little hands and talking to him while my midwives stayed with me. As soon as I could, I followed after my baby and insisted on holding him. I opened up my gown and held him against my skin where he became calm and his heart rate became normalized. The nurses grabbed him back, and his heart rate climbed. I held him again, right against my skin, and saw that his heart rate was normal again. I pointed this out, and they accused me of jiggling the wires. Then they said they had to do tests. We asked what tests they planned on doing. We refused the chest x-ray and blood tests. We could see that he was fine. My doctor decided to check me into the hospital overnight so I could be with Austin. Paul and I went off to settle me into my room. When we reentered the ICU, we found them trying to take blood for testing. Austin was screaming, and we were furious. Finally, after being up for days, exhausted after another difficult and long labor, we signed a waiver releasing them of any responsibility and left with our baby.
Paul went home to freshen up and get our other two kids to meet their new brother while I settled back into The Family Life Center where I would stay for a few days recovering. My parents came to visit and LoAnne and Ti, her white malamute, came. The Family Life Center was part of The Free School community, so a couple of neighbors also came to check in and bring me meals. By the end of the day, I was exhausted and ready to crash. It was Sunday, and the kids had school the next day, so Paul went home with them. That evening at six o’clock, Austin started to cry. He was inconsolable. I had a lot of experience by now with babies and couldn’t figure out what was wrong. He cried non-stop until eight the next morning while I rocked him, sang to him and often cried along with him. I realized later that those were the same hours that the hospital had intervened with him, poking and prodding him, sticking him with needles and keeping him from me. At eight o’clock, he stopped as though someone had turned a switch. After that, he never really cried much. He would fuss a little when hungry but mostly just did that baby bird open mouth signal. He didn’t cry when he needed a diaper change but just squirmed until I figured it out. He was the most easy-going baby I’d ever encountered. I guessed that he just got the trauma out of his system during that one night. He also had bonded strongly with his dad. Paul was the first contact he’d had, and they remained close.
The next morning, when my breakfast was delivered and my friends and midwives realized that I’d been there alone with a crying infant all night, they arranged for someone be there full-time until I recovered. I finally got some much-needed sleep, waking long enough to nurse my son then go back to sleep. After three more days there, I went back home to my family and my routine. The Free School gave me a year off with my full salary, which I greatly appreciated. I did go in once in a while to visit, but it was a relief not to have to feel obligated to go into work every day. When I did go back, I was given a class of three. They were my son and two other babies of similar ages. It was ideal. And our dog Popsicle, who had been so protective of me while I was pregnant, watched over Austin, bringing him toys and often resting his head on his lap.