I’ve been thinking, recently, about how best to ensure my own creative output. I produce the most work (which eventually becomes the best work) when I have a little breathing room and a little structure. That’s why I originally scheduled these blog updates for Tuesdays and Thursdays–it’s enough of a schedule to keep me motivated, enough free time in between to allow for some time to think.
I began this blog as a reason to write something, anything, twice a week. At first I thought I was going to tell true stories from my life in a funny way, but the blog has turned into a place where I can unspool my thoughts before winding them up neatly. That kind of reaction to real-life events has been invaluable for me. It’s helped me clarify my own feelings about a whole lot of things and has made clear for me how much I care about justice and equality. I’ll go as far as to say that it’s made me an activist.
However, it’s time for me to get back to fiction. I have the rhythms of a typical blog post down, and now I want to work on short stories, plays, songs, maybe even a third attempt at a novel. Unfortunately, the way I live my life, there isn’t enough schedule and breathing room for me to do that and to also update this blog twice a week with rants about feminism.
So for now, I’m taking a hiatus. What that means isn’t that the blog is going dark–not necessarily. I’m just taking time off from the weekly schedule that I’ve struggled to hit the last couple of weeks. I may update intermittently and might even post some of my fiction (reminder, everything on here is Copyright Laura Stratford 2013 and I reserve all rights to it), but I’m just going to take some time off from guarantees.
As a little holiday gift, in case I don’t post again til after the holidays, I’ve got a little–very little–present for you. I’ll post the story below the cut.
Happy Everything, folks.
I made up the nursery by myself. I brought it to life. Dan told me not to. When we got married he joked about some great-great-grandmother from a country only described as “old” who warned against even naming a child for the first few weeks. So that the Devil wouldn’t notice the innocent new life, I guess. So that nothing evil would touch him before his being here was fully established.
The nice thing is, no one stops the mother-to-be. Your wedding day and your pregnancy—the two occasions on which the myth that women periodically turn into hormone-crazed monsters, like werewolves in Wonderbras, works in our favor. Those are the only times in our lives when we can demand what we want, without apologizing for ourselves, and if anyone disagrees, just do it anyway. Just take it.
I chose deep greens for the walls and curtains. I won’t raise a strictly-gendered child. In my home, he’ll have the freedom to like what he likes, to play with what he chooses and not what the rest of the world tells him to choose. No TV. I made Dan take it to the dump. The amount of time that thing can waste—the hours that could be spent reading, learning, playing music—the advertisers’ nonsense and the warped standards of beauty—not for him. Wooden figures are enough. A cardboard box, not CGI effects, as the building block of his flights of imagination. Our backyard to hold all the wonders of a science fiction universe.
The crib is Amish-made. You know there won’t be any pesticides lurking in the crevices of that wood, slowly releasing neurotoxins into a vulnerable brain. It’s big—big enough to last quite some time. Sturdy, solid wood. I sewed the pillows myself. The giraffe-printed fleece made me laugh.
Dan argued that I shouldn’t paint. I still feel perfectly capable of being handy. I want to be able to tell him that I was the one who painted the gazelles, the rhinos, the prowling lions with their hair like flames. I didn’t mind the work. Some nights it was so soothing that I crept out of bed, stepping gingerly onto the drop-cloth, trying not to make it crackle and wake Dan. I’d turn my little desk lamp to face the wall and spend hours there adding detail, outlining and highlighting my little menagerie, until the sun came up and I crept back to lie next to Dan for a few minutes before his alarm. I’d bleach the sheets to get rid of the smudges of tangerine and ochre I hadn’t washed from my arms.
I sense things, now. I sense the life that is about to join me. I sense the hands I will hold and press and wipe clean. I sense the eyes that will reflect me back, perfect, whole, and pure. I sense jealousy in Dan. I can tell that it is hard for him, not being connected like I am to this person who will enter our lives soon, so soon. I can tell when he is trying to hold on to his patience, when it is hard for him to accept that I know things, things that aren’t even conscious thoughts but more than feelings, like instincts rising through the primordial ooze, knowledge passed from mother to mother in the mitochondrial DNA, unlocked within my very cells.
I have tried to involve him. I have asked his input on clothing, toys, the choice between cloth and plastic diapers, the merits and downsides of pacifiers, the best ways to prepare our home. He refuses to participate, like a spoiled child, jealous of the attention a usurping newcomer receives. Instead, he tells me which doctors he wants me to see. When I disagree, when I point out the virtues of home birth, he begs. He sends over friends in the profession. I do not let their antiseptic, vaccine-carrying hands into my home. He holds me hostage, cancelling plans with friends, insisting I not go out in my condition. As a bargaining chip, it isn’t very effective. I’m not inclined to leave the nest. Everything I want, everything my boy will need gets delivered to the door, no signature required. After the crib arrived, after I asked Dan to carry it upstairs, which you would have thought would have pleased him, always so concerned about my health, I heard him in the bathroom. He was crying—softly, but he was crying. Some people do not handle change well.
Soon none of this will matter. Soon I will hold my child, and in his perfect chubby form I will see complete acceptance. Unquestioning love. Raw need. I will nurse him until my breasts are sore, until they bleed, and I will smile at that blood because it will be a sign of his need for me. Soon I will feel the pains Dan says will not come in the stomach he says is too flat, soon I will feel the final kick that my husband is unable to feel, soon water will pour from me and I will crawl into the blankets I have shredded and I will curl up inside my massive custom crib, big enough for two. I will close the padlock and I will push and push until my baby, my miracle baby, the baby that the doctors said would never be cries for the first time, and I will bite off the cord and hold him, my angel, so safe and so warm behind these wooden bars that my husband cannot break.
I will hold him, and I will rest his head on my bloody breast, and I will tell him about the lions.