Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Disturbing the peace

Welcome to the June 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Embracing Your Birth Experience
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have written about at least one part of their birth experience that they can hold up and cherish.
I just knew that someone had called the cops.  Somewhere in my cracking pelvic bones, I knew.  At the time I was a bit busy, so I would not have this knowledge confirmed for several days, but in those screaming hours, I knew.  And I had a Plan.

The cops were lucky they couldn’t find our house.  As we learned later through our small-town grapevine, the cops were called by our back-fence neighbors, who didn’t actually know our house number.  And our house is set way back behind another house and a lot of trees, so when the cops drove down our street, they couldn’t hear me, and they drove away. 

Had they knocked, my plan (unknown to anyone but me) was to clamber out of the birthtub, and stark naked, wet, and dripping blood between my legs, throw the door open myself.   “GO AHEAD, TAKE ME IN!” I would bellow.  “I AM DAMN WELL DISTURBING THE PEACE.  BECAUSE MY PELVIS IS EXPLODING.  YOU GOT A LAW ABOUT THAT?”

So yeah, probably best all round that they couldn’t find the house.  The neighbors settled for screaming “Shut the fuck UP!” across the fence, to which the midwife yelled back “She’s having a BABY!” And they left us alone after that, embarrassed by either my volume or their intrusion, hard to know which.

The other neighbors woke their middle-school-age daughter so she could hear the goings-on.   So, they said, she would appreciate the agonies of childbirth and the sins of Eve.  Or something like that.  Honestly, even though we all spoke English, we didn’t speak the same language as those neighbors at all.  

And the thing is, you’d probably think, from all this, that we live close to our neighbors.  Um… not so much.  But if you scream loud enough, often enough, people tend to notice, even from way down the hill.

I always thought I’d rock by the fire, quietly, for several hours, then grunt and groan and growl a bit, and then cry tears of joy to meet my baby.  Ha!  It was more like 36 hours of whining, followed by 12 hours of out and out screaming, followed by the midwife trying to get me to “look at your baby” while I was busy hyperventilating and bleeding.  My slow-coming son, he sure didn’t prepare me for motherhood by shoring up my self-esteem about what a calm and competent mother I am. 

Instead, he gave me a voice I never knew I had.

I had literally never, ever made that much noise, nor known myself capable of it.  I more tended toward the nightmare where you try to scream but nothing comes out.  Well, something came out this time.  And it’s not like I really thought I needed to know that I have a screaming banshee somewhere in there, but you don’t always get to pick which lessons life wants to teach you.

So I have a voice, shrill, disturbing, and loud.  And as time passes, and my motherhood matures, I keep trying to learn more about how to use it.  More often than I’d like to admit, it comes out directed at the aforementioned slow-coming son and his siblings.  “WHAT were you thinking???  HOW MANY TIMES do I have to tell you that wanton destruction of useful items is NOT OKAY???!!!”

But in the larger picture, I’m learning to direct it, to allow my sometimes loud voice into the world in ways that I think can change things for the better.  I wrote a book about trying to preserve our hope as parents during a climate crisis.  Seriously, I did, despite never having published a word until after I gave birth.  

 And my mothering has pushed me to start trying to make my small, loud voice be heard in larger arenas as well, such as in the Keystone XL debacle.  And that time, the cops did find me, which was, in fact, the point. 

So, thanks, baby-boy-turned-big-boy, for helping me find that voice.  (I just hope to god I never, ever, have to relive that exploding-pelvis sensation.)  Roar on, loud mamas.  Let’s get the cops over here.


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon June 12 with all the carnival links.)


  1. That is awesome. I would have paid to see the look on the cops' face if it had come to that.

    I did wonder while grunt-groan-yell-ing during the pushing phase of my homebirth, in the middle of the night of course, what exactly the neighbors were thinking. They didn't even pound on the wall!

    Your link to finding your voice through your activism is a beautiful one. Thanks for that image, of birthing a new mother voice, a new passion for what our children must have from us.

  2. Love every bit of this. My hubby likes to tease me that I sounded like a (very loud) Louis Armstrong during the birth of our first. I jazz-sung him out using a voice I'd never known. Getting to know that voice has been quite a journey.

  3. Reading stories like yours makes me wonder what I would have been like if I had gotten to actually push my son out! I was pretty quiet most of my labor, but I never even really felt contractions (my water broke, and not much happened after that, so I had a c-section after a day). I read a stat the other day that women endure something like more than twice the usual human pain tolerance when they give birth. It only makes sense that many of us would respond to that quite noisily!!

  4. Ha! I love your plan. I look forward to the day when I, too when I can use my voice during my homebirth!

  5. Oh Kenna! I love your neighbors and your midwife screaming at each other while you labored. And your plan for the cops. You have such a gift for telling your stories. Erika @cincodemommy

  6. I love that giving birth allowed you to find your voice and I love that you are still putting it to use! I love your plan for the cops and your midwife's response to the neighbors. We're planning a home birth for our second baby (due in early December) and I've been planning to warn my neighbors as our houses are fairly close together...and we're next door to a fire department. I'd rather not have the whole brigade show up while I'm laboring because if it's anything like last time I'll be on the toilet : ) Rock on mama!

  7. LOVED this! I never knew how loud my voice could be until I became a mom, and I am so glad that yours is loud and confident. Cheering you on, mama! <3

  8. Sod the neighbours, too right sister!!!
    I was away with the fairies during my births- apparently I moo-ed like a cow for hours!
    Luckily my neighbours are cool ;-)
    Amy @dailymuttering.blogspot.com

  9. Great tale. I cannot imagine my neighbors calling the cops for something like that. (We are way too polite for that in Canada.) Like you, I tie my want for change on our planet to the moment my daughter was born. Before that it was all just talk - no action. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Haha...nice neighbors you got there! :) I love it that you can be humorous about a situation that was probably not so much fun when you were actually living it. But you survived and now you are stronger than ever which is so encouraging to me as I will be birthing my first baby next month!

  11. Wow. You are officially my hero