Pregnancy lasts so long that by the 9th month, I was convinced that actually giving birth wasn’t for me. Pregnancy seemed interminable. So when my water broke, 10 days after my due date, I was convinced I had just wet my pants. For the first time since I was a little kid. But, the thought that I was actually going into labor was not the first thing I thought of.

“Tanya, I just peed my pants. Is that normal?”,  I asked my midwife, a fairy of a woman with copper hair, freckles, and a distinguished look. A good decade older than me, she was. I was 20 and, she told me, my water had just broken.

“I think your water broke”, she told me. “Call me back if it happens again.”

On the phone with her 5 minutes later, with the same mortifying tale. She was sure of it. I was officially in labor.

It was about 10 or 11 am. All of the usual suspects were still over from the night before, sprawled around my tapestry-covered living room like diapers soon would be. Henry Street was a house where pot was plentiful, the smell mixd with constant community-style stir-fries and body odor. There were some professional dumpster-divers in my clan. Trader Joe’s had just opened in Hadley, and they had not taken measures to protect their “not the best but still good but still thrown away” food from the hippies, the vegans, the anarchists.

We took a hike, cutting up past the power lines behind Henry Street that I prayed would not give me a brain tumor each day, and into a steep woods trail, where I also hoped I would not be mistaken for a deer. This was Amherst. My good girl friend hung back with me, while a few boys walked ahead with my partner. No doubt smoking a very last bowl before being shoed out once we returned home.

I had heard walking and hiking was good for labor so, with that off my list, I did what else I had heard was good for labor. I rested, watched a movie and napped. Then a new mama came by with some food, and her very own 4 month old dark-haired baby girl. Was the  baby there? I can’t really say I recall. The food I recall well. It was “chinese rice”, likely some leftover rice with an egg stirred into it along with some soy sauce. Scratch that, it must have been Bragg’s. You know we are talking about Amherst counterculture when Bragg’s enters a birth story.

It was now getting dark, and all the visitors but my partner’s best friend had gone, to the great stir-fry beyond. Or to Northampton. Same thing.

Finally, things started getting pacey. To the bathroom, to the bed. To the yoga ball, to the bed. To the yoga ball on the bed.

My midwife finally came at 8pm. She had called to check on things and was confident that I was able to get to this point on my own. I called her back, asking, “Are you sure?”, more than once.

Was she there, my midwife, when I threw up every bite of food my friend had prepared for me? I don’t recall. I just recall the heaving. By 9pm I was in the zone. Perhaps that euphemism has been used by too many sports figures to be applicable here without corruption. I was beyond help and beyond words. I recall the color yellow vividly. The feeling of being molested, assaulted or sexually tortured casted shadows in my mind. As if I could just say “No” and this shattering pain would stop, this pain that so clearly was not caused by me. It was an hour I spent enveloped inside every dark thing that has ever happened to me.

My partner had long since become useless. I asked his best friend, a de facto good friend of mine, to leave. He  did leave, although an eternity later, he would be back, saying goodbye as I left henry Street on a stretcher, bleeding to death in the way that women do when they have given all they can, and the device that gave all, the placenta, refuses to come out. As if to say, “I am not done giving. I am not done being connected to my child. Bring her back to primortality where I have everything she needs.”

Did I know that my baby was a “she” when  the 7 minute mark, the 10 minute mark, the 20 minute mark passed by post-birth, and I lay bleeding and attached,  umbilically, to her, and fiercely to my inside, with my placenta? I did wait, wait, and just until I couldn’t bear it, did I richly hands tentatively to the newborn’s privates, to determine what they were. I waited so long under the advice of that friend, who had given my the fried rice that had been my gastronomical undoing hours earlier, but this advice rang deeply in my soul:

“Wait. Wait to find out ‘what’ your baby is. Wait until you have  had a moment, the only moment you’ll ever know, of loving the child you have just had. The one that all too soon will be admired as a boy or girl…”

When I had waited long enough, and I felt around down there, I announced that it was a boy.  My first error as a parent. It was, indeed, a girl! My girl. Raven-haired and fiercely nursing, attached again to me, like only the most insignificant of changes had occurred.

Her father did get to hold her next. I should mention that this postpartum nest in which I was bleeding out profusely was my bed. I had the baby in the bathroom and she and I were carried, processionally, to the bedroom, still attached, me hanging like Jesus on a cross, the cross being the shoulders of midwives.

Maybe her father had his turn to hold her at the 25 minute mark, when it was clear to everyone but me that I was dying, hemmoragging, in dark, hot  weeping blood. I remember he tried to walk away with her, the stoner forgetting that she and I were still attached.

I remember the midwife telling me to keep my eyes open, as her midwife associate called the ambulance that saved my life.

“Keep your eyes open. Talk to us. Talk to us. Stay with us,” she ordered from far away, from far below. I remember floating to the top of the ceiling, my whole body levitating above the bed, and my mind bumping into the paved concrete lines in the ceiling.

I stayed. It was so peaceful up there, and it was only for a few minutes, or seconds, but I had the feeling that I was simply not in my body, the voices were heard as if being spoken to someone else, perhaps that blueish corpse on the blood-soaked bed. That feeling lasted only as long as I did, and then, my consciousness shifted again and I was no longer bumping into the ceiling with my whole face, but there in bed, feeling again-the bite of a small mouth latching to my nipple. And there I stayed, long enough to get to the hospital, and receive the lifesaving surgery and subsequent blood transfusions-multiple- that separated me, and my birth experience, from the ghosts of…IMG_6611the dead,

from the past,

who never got up from the childbearing bed again.






Writing tips from Erica Jong

  • “I think writing elevates my mood because it’s a way of imposing order on chaos.”
  • “In order to tell a story you have to find sequence in experience. Sequence is a way of understanding an experience that has previously been obscure.”
  • “If you want to be a nice person, don’t write. There’s no way to do it without grinding up your loved ones and making them into raw hamburger.”
  • “No one ever asks for a new book, but you need to write it. And your need will eventually infect your reader.”
  • “Whatever is not fixed in language drifts away.”
  • “All autobiography is fiction and all fiction is autobigraphy…”
  • ^Erica JongIMG_7691
  • “All fantastic literature had only 4 plots: The mingling of dream and realty, the double, time travel and the book within the book.”-jorge luis borges

Torn from the page

“As long as I live I will be redefining my daughterhood in the light of my motherhood.”

erica jong


ive been thinking of my old childhood trauma and drama lately, and the above quote, from “What do Women Want”, spoke to me. Well-as an offshoot thought it did. Basically as I lurch into middle school with my daughter (age 11), I am forced to recon front and redefine my horrible, bullied, neglected-feeling middling years. I want to protect myself through my protection of her. I want to provide her the things I never felt I had. Cliche?

You bet.

There is still an indignant Tweenager in me who got spitballs in their hair during CCD, and my hands get clammy waiting outside for my daughter when her catechism classes are over.

The clothes. Oh, I protect her with clothes, and if I could afford it, I would bullet-proof her social status with Lululemon and JCrew for kids. I was terribly dressed as a tween and thus never had a chance to make a good impression.

As the years of childhood race by, we are entering the terrifying years of my past. Where, soon, “I” will dissacociate, reading about possible sexual trauma I endured as a toddler. That’s in 9th grade and was a major blow-one that still feels like the beginning of the end. Then comes the alcohol poisoning, every year, often every month, for the rest of high school.  Sometimes I think that alcohol poisoning is subconscious suicide. How long that went on…how I despair that no one took me home from he hospital and said “You. are .worth. living.” And bought me horseback riding lessons (my extreme allegory of what I imagine quality familial love to provide)…

How can I define my adolescence, even face it? Such a powerfully shameful period in my not-THAT-long life. Yet-as mother to a Tweenager,  I am being drawn back, drawn…back.

Self-regret is painful and luxurious.

My Thin Ghost

Does anyone have a similar story? They once were very thin and are not so thin anymore?

I have a Thin Ghost. She is 7 years old. She only lived in me for a year or two and was my best friend while I was in nursing school, drinking heavily, raising a child in poverty, and meeting and losing my greatest (yet tickets…) love.

The pressure on me was very high. I was working in a school for mentally disturbed elementary kids, which was, disturbingly, the same building as the high school I finished up in, as a rather crazy teenager with a phobia of regular school, regular people, and real life. I had to restrain kids who had a variety of mental illness, and be their “in school suspension monitor”, which was fitting as I had sat in similar seats in regular ed. At about this time, I started dating for the first time since I had broken up with an abusive “Papa” (just using his pet-name so you can feel me cringe), and moved back towards “home” with a preschooler in tow.

I met this guy on an online dating service which I hadn’t quite signed up for fully yet-as in paid for- and so I could not respond to his messages. He found me by a stroke of genius, or biological mating instinct, on Facebook, and we started dating exclusively as soon as we started fucking, which was, passionately and after our first date (sushi). I had no idea what sushi was, other than it was something my sister ate and she had a very decent job so I took it as a sign that this guy was thus well-off.

Soon after we started dating, I got into nursing school, which meant I had a 6 month period to do all my scientific pre-reqs. These were the most callenging science classes I have ever taken. And they were all housed innocently in a 2-year college setting. But every class felt like my entire future rode on it and it was very difficult to hang on.

About this time, I noticed how handsome and perfect my man was, and how vulnerable and alcoholic I was (OkI didn’t  notice that specifically but I did notice that I felt very unworthy of dating someone with a good career. My baby’s father had’ graduated high school…).

I focused all of my energy into controlling who I was, and turning myself into who I could be I could be a hot, rich nurse in just 2 years…Naturally, I needed to lose weight. I started off at about 145lbs, and through a process that included a snowballing exercise regime and calorie restriction, I whitted myself down to 112-115 lbs, for a year, on a 5’7 inch frame. I was finally hot! Maybe now I’d be able to keep a decent man, I hoped. (I still think this is rather accurate).

As the school year progressed at my job as a school aide, I took great pleasure when my favorite teacher, Mr. Mack (really actually name, and he WAS a Mack), pulled me to the side in the hall and said, “I think you’ve just gotten too thin. Don’t lose any more weight.”

That was the first time anyone had ever said that to me, and it touched me on many levels. Firstly, any time I can receive guidance and advice and attention from an older (and hot, helps), male, I am just instantly craving MORE. Yes,I do believe in Daddy-Issues. I believe i have a category all laid out for them, and this applies.

Though the year, I found myself unable to consider certain food groups, mainly starches and fruits and fats.

Jello became an essential.

I did so many sit ups and creates that I wore a little “rug-burn tear in my but crack because my  primitive tail  sorta poled out my ass was so thin.

I would rather drink low-carb beer than eat.

It was hard to be around people because food would be involved. My boyfriend was sometimes the exception…I channeled all my hunger into sex.

I think this is all in my mind now because I think about my thin ghost, and my old boyfriend, whoI basically refer to as “The Big Ex”, often. He himself is a story for another day, but today, I heard the refrain from an old 80’s song that went like this:
“every time you go away, you take a peice of me with you”…and that is how I continue toffee about this man, who has gone away and come back so many times, that he has most all of my pieces.

I thought for a while, last month, that we were going to have our occasional-once every 2-years, fuck-meet-up.I was so excited that he still missed me and desired me…and even though he is completely unavailable physically (MARRIED), I fretted about how I would look to him, would I be good-looking enough compared to that bone-hipped girl with the abs and the legs and the slender slender face? I think I enjoy that panic-burst, because just the thought of reconnecting with the Big Ex makes me want to get skinny again. And my Thin Ghost really wants some time embodied.


She wanted to tell her Facebook friends how old her aborted baby would be, when she saw the sad-haunting-love post where moms she knew wrote down how old their miscarried babies would be…but she knew it would be impolite.

13, she believes. There are not many memories left of the man who created that abortion with her, mostly rides on the red line, walking near train tracks, sneaking into his room when his grandparents when to a 5pm Saturday Mass, and they could finally fuck.

She was still young enough, sexually, that she really took measures to fuck in the dark.  There was a pimple-scar on her ass from middle school that she worried might be noticible from behind. There were yards of slash mark scars on her arms, but wait-she dos not mind them anymore. Sex was always dark and often outdoors.

13 years later, her memories of the pregnancy test are absent. She was a freshman in college, and this was months after the 9/11 terror attacks and very quickly she had told her mom and her boyfriend and nobody at all wanted to have a baby.

Though she was college-age, she still had a withering relationship with her DSS worker, Amy, who seemed to have a 6 month grace period to care for her clients once they turned 18. And this pregnancy was within that window. It was the classic mistake, getting pregnant as a freshman in college. And Amy, a gentle giant from Wisconsin where all people are nice and have the patience and brown eyes of cows, offered to chauffeur the abortion service.

People only write about their abortion stories when they regret them. People who don’t regret them may get a chance to admit to them, but rarely. Where is the audience to read a “feel-good” abortion story?…

Rest assured, this was not a feel good abortion, and all abortion memories are tinged with a rust-stained fantasy of what might have been…

At the last minute, she knocked on her mother’s door, and said she thought she Could have the baby and would it really be so awful? Her mother brushed the idea away like it was absurd. Feeling rebuked, she met with her boyfriend, an electrician, a recovering heroin addict well before the current epidemic, and he said no as well. His mom thought it was a bad idea. There might have been some cloying sad sex but it was still a No.

immediately, then, the next memory is of being lain on a gurney and wheeled into surgery. Was it really a surgery or a suction? What did the D and C stand for? She didn’t have a lot of info, but she knew Amy, her social work turned Good Samaritan, would be there to pick her up and drive her home. She did not have her own car, but you can’t drive after an abortion anyways.

The drugs leading to an abortion felt so good. Euphoria dripped into her veins. The bright surgical light above felt warm and secured her, like she was at the beach, and the medications dripping into her veins made her begin to laugh…

She remembered laughing, later.

when she woke up, she cried. The nurse assured her that this was a reaction to the “waking up medication”. She wasn’t so sure. “I’m so sad, I’m so sad”, she cried. Where was that euphoric feeling? How long would this crushing sadness last?

Was this how  abortions were supposed to feel?  Was she feeling it right? Was she supposed to our or grieve, or would that be an infidelity to her decision, now made, and never to take back?

She then looked at her boyfriend as the father-who-wouldn’t-be, and this filled her with disgust. Him not magically providing her with the resources or false hope, passion needed to carry a baby cast him as impotent in her eyes. Just another man who’d failed her.

Soon, before the winter was over, their relationship was over.

Her relationship with her social worker, also over. The abortion ride seemed like a last-gift, a deeply painful memory among many Amy had witnessed, and in her absence, she gave her a charm necklace, a lovely gained glass, flower-filled circle, that she said was made in Italy.

She still has that necklace, each flower is like a tiny painful secret that no-one knows, now.