Nativity

Just a fair warning, it’s 4:49 am. I woke up at 2 and couldn’t fall back asleep. I walked the dog while crying. I came back to our new house and took the baby back from my husband. It’s been a thing that I can’t sleep. Not because of the baby- the baby will be sleeping soundly, grunting and whining. The baby is a great baby. I just can’t sleep. Well, I slept from 8pm to 2am, because I took both benadryl and ibuprofen PM. The past 4 days before that I maybe slept 2 hours a night.

When I’m awake I’m crying a lot, and if my husband is around I’m yelling at him. This is pretty easy to diagnose. I knew before even getting pregnant, long before that, that I have a strong tendency towards depression and that I’d probably get postpartum depression. Then I did.

I have everything I longed for and more and I keep crying and raging.

When I think about the birth I think about two moments. There was maybe 20 minutes where I was on my back, epidural-ed up, and the nurse was yelling at me about how I was pushing. I wasn’t pushing right- I was making too much noise, and scrunching up my face too much, and she told my husband to start yelling at me like she was. Well, she didn’t say “yell at your wife” but she did say something like “tell her to push” and she and the doctor were yelling it, so he yelled it too.

I couldn’t fight. I could barely move. I couldn’t talk back. It was dark and I was scared the baby could be stuck and wouldn’t be able to breathe and would die or have brain damage. So that’s how my son came into the world- with three people yelling at me and me being terrified and feeling like I was failing on a grand, life and death scale.

The other moment I always think about was when they put him in my chest, and he had a conehead from the vacuum, was red and purple and tiny, and he was mewling like a kitten. I didn’t feel a rush of love into my heart like I thought I would. But I did love him. But it wasn’t a rush, it was more like a warmth. It was more like, “oh small thing let’s get you warm, I want you to be warm and I don’t want you to feel scared.” Which is a version of love I guess. I guess any being you want to be warm and relaxed and secure is a being you love.

My doctors know I have ppd and my psychiatrist knows, and my family knows and I certainly know. It was so likely I’d get it and probably if I’d had a perfect birth- where I felt powerful and in control and taken care of- I’d probably still have it. I tend towards feeling powerless and critiqued and distinctly not taken care of. Reparative experiences don’t seem to touch this core default sense of embattled loneliness.

I don’t think about hurting the baby. The baby, again, is a great baby. Other people deal with way harder newborns. He’s cute, he’s healthy, he’s not a miraculous sleeper but he is pretty good at it. The hardest challenge we’ve had from him is just crying because of gas.

I’m just haunted by this sense that I’m garbage and that’s why all these experiences are so not good and why I can’t be effective.

I do think a lot about the nativity these days. Because the whole giving birth in a barn thing has a new kind of horror to it. People point out a lot that the meaning of the manger/barn is that Jesus was such a poor, lowly character in the hierarchy of the world that his parents couldn’t convince anyone to rustle up a clean, comfortable spot for this birth. Which yes, important. But I can’t stop thinking about Mary’s experience. As the pregnancy got farther a long I became a lot more scared of the very bad things that can happen during labor. Like, I could die. Or I could be injured in such a hardcore way I could be permanently paralyzed. Or the kid could die or be egregiously injured. Then when labor really got going, when the contractions were terrible and the nurse kept telling me I had to stop moving because I was getting in the way of the monitor finding his heartbeat, those stakes became all I could think about.

That’s a phrase that I keep writing- “all I could think about.” I am a person at the mercy of her thoughts. My thoughts run me around, I don’t run my thoughts.

Mary had to be thinking that she might die or be injured in a horrible way, which would have really fucked her life up. A poor young lady back then who was also then disabled after giving birth would have been treated like even more garbage by her culture. She was already being treated like garbage by no one being willing to find a clean room for her labor to happen in. And it could’ve gotten so much worse for her.

I know comparatively I’m not being treated like garbage. My rational mind knows that. I got out of that birth very much not injured. I stopped having to wear the pads for the bleeding by two weeks after his birth. It stopped hurting to pee by about a week after. I was able to poop the next day after the birth, and from what I’ve read about other people’s experiences my first poop was a comparatively not scary, not painful experience.

The wise men coming by with luxurious gifts must’ve felt so surreal and besides the point and just fucking weird. Hi, you’re still in a barn with your new baby and you haven’t stopped bleeding yet and here’s some male strangers here to see you, who somehow knew you were here in this barn, and now please take some gold. The stars led us here, to this barn where you’re exhausted and in a lot of pain and I guess you’re waddling over to some kind of outhouse situation to feel like it’s burning you when you pee and like your insides might fall out if you poop. All the angels in heaven are celebrating the birth of your baby and you’ve got dusty hay on your clothes and feet and hair.

I think I understand more how fucking evil everyone was being when they put her in the barn. That’a a truly sadistic thing to do to someone. They must’ve really conceived of her and Joseph as trash to think that was ok.

I was raised on nativity pageants where infant Jesus sleeps peacefully while Mary and Joseph kneel with prayer hands on either side of a crib. There couldn’t be a more deluded take on the first weeks with a new baby. And now I have all these questions. When did Mary’s milk come in? How much weight did Jesus lose before it came in? Did Jesus get jaundice? Was Jesus a good latcher right away? Did he gum at Mary’s nipples while she winced? Did Mary scream at Joseph on the trip back home from Bethlehem? Did Mary ever get to scream at Joseph or was she better than that, with her perfect faith?

This might sound really unhinged but I wonder how bad Mary tore and if there was anyone around to stitch her up. Was there at least a midwife available to visit the barn or was Mary in it fundamentally alone, with only Joseph, who had to be super clueless about assisting a birth as a middle aged carpenter. How could a person be in that situation and not hate a clueless male carpenter trying to be helpful?

Mary, in her perfect faith, had every reason to think the suffering of pregnancy, birth, postpartum had massive meaning in the narrative of world history. She had talked to a freaking angel about the whole thing.

I don’t have that kind of faith about the suffering I go through. My suffering seems both detached from the reality of my good luck and wedded to my own ineffectiveness. I’m so dramatic and vengeful and not grateful and angry. If hell is other people, and certainly being immobile and terrified and getting yelled at felt like hell, I am also a creator of hell. I have been creating hell for my husband. I’ve created lots of hell for lots of people over the years. It makes me want to drive away and never come back. Leave the husband to love the baby and marry someone better than me who his family and kids like better. I would take my dog who is aggressive for no reason and poops in the house.

Mary couldn’t have been the type to create hell. Because she was without sin? I’m so bad with theology. I never can remember what I was taught about these things.

With detransition stuff my christianity has always been a liability. And I’m so lousy at christianity anyways. I think a lot about it but if you were just looking at the ways I act out you’d think I was in a particularly violent cult. And I’m not convinced the concept of sin brings anything useful to the discernment process for the gender dysphoric. And it seems to be particularly a particularly harmful way of thinking for non straight people.

But I do wish I was perfectly faithful ala Mary. I wish I was the kind of person who could endure hell and not create it in turn. I wish I could let go of my expectation and entitlement to positive experiences, and just accept that crappy experiences are inevitable, and the higher stakes an occasion the more likely it will be crappy. And I wish I could stop creating crappy experiences for others. I just wish I were less of an arguer and less of a striver and less of a narcissist and more gentle and wise and accepting. They say people can change but I’ve been trying to change for 39 years and some days it seems like I’m inevitably getting a worse personality as time passes.

If you pray, please pray that I regain my ability to sleep and stop yelling. Please pray my mind stops angry ruminating. Please pray for the baby and the husband and everyone who knew from the get go I was bad news. I am. There’s the good news- which is faith and grace and love and acceptance- then there’s also me.

One thought on “Nativity”

  1. Sending good thoughts to you. You’ve made it through other tough experiences and you will make it through this one, too. Your track record tells you so. Many blessings to your family.

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