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I’ve been working on a collection of ten short stories themed around birth and early infancy in the Kentucky mountains. All the characters are healing, coping, dealing, grieving, rejoicing, and pondering the situations surrounding the birth of a child. Fiction writing is my passion, and ultimately what I hope will become the permanent gig for the rest of my life. I am nearly finished with the collection and am in the process of submitting the individual stories to literary magazines that I enjoy reading.

What I didn’t consider when I started this collection was the outcome it would have on my emotional health. I know many people look to writing as therapy. Healing through getting it all written out. Writing a letter and burning it and all that jazz. I never did really. I looked to it as more of an escape. Except upon the near completion of this collection, I realized that writing it has brought me to a point of acceptance. Accepting the experiences of my own births.

Ro was born at 38 weeks. I had had a wonderfully healthy pregnancy. I gained only 35 pounds. I exercised throughout the entire pregnancy and worked as a teacher. I had written a birth plan for a natural vaginal birth believing that having chosen a practice of all women that that was very likely for me. I had never been in a hospital as a patient. At 38 weeks and after 7 ultrasounds the doctors convinced me, through scare tactics, that attempting a vaginal birth would endanger the health of my baby in tremendous ways. They told me she was upwards of 10 pounds and my pelvis would not accommodate her. I begged for another option, but they gave me a list of bad outcomes. I, crying reluctantly, signed the waiver and had a c-section without experiencing labor. My baby was 8 lbs. 13 oz. We both experienced health problems after the surgery and stayed in the hospital 5 days.

I began grieving this birth immediately. I felt Ro and I had been betrayed by not even being offered the chance to try. I felt as if we had been reduced to a number and an obstacle in the way of the OB’s chance to go home early. I got angry. I was happy to have my baby, but I felt sorry that she was jerked from me before she was ready.

Even though it was never my intention to have more than one child, I started wanting another. I rationalized about how it would be good for Ro to have a sibling (I still believe it is), but the real reason was I wanted another chance. I struggled with getting pregnant again, but I found myself with child in August 2007. I chose to VBAC and to do that at home with an awesome direct entry midwife. I did everything she told me to do. I immersed myself in the world of VBAC and natural childbirth. I learned the anatomy and physiology. I prayed. I took Bradley classes, got chiropractic care, and hired a wonderful doula. At 41 weeks 6 days (April 26th) my water broke in a flood in a restaurant before the onset of labor. My baby was posterior with a cocked head. Her cord was wrapped around her arm several times. After finally laboring intensely for many hours, transitioning, but not dilating, I was transferred to the hospital where eventually I had to agree to another c-section (April 28th) due to health concerns. Plo was 11 pounds. I am so thankful for the experience of natural labor, my midwife and doula who gave me the best possible care I could have received, a healthy baby, being respected and treated like somebody, and for being given a chance. But, I always wondered why the circumstances didn’t line up for the kind achievement I had so longed for.

I could not imagine having another baby at this point. I know if I ever found myself pregnant again, I would chose VBAC and homebirth. I was left a bit jaded, and envious of those who had been able to do what they were created to do – birth without assistance.

When I started my collection, I wanted to visit birth in the mountains throughout history and the present because that is all I could think about. I chose to write about the most triumphant situations, the most devastating, and everything in between. I explored the feelings of both men and women living with their choices, and the outcomes of births that effected them directly. I stayed with them through tears of joy and immense pain. Not running out the door with jealousy, hurt, or anger. I wrote it as real as I could get. As in your face truth of birth. All of the stories, no matter the result, were worthy of words.

Now, that I am coming out on the other side, I am realizing that my births are stories worth sharing as well. That my experience is part of a larger collective of women who have experienced it all. That the experiences were what they were and there is nothing I can do to change it, and that the only way to live with it is to embrace it. Not to say “oh, well”, but to live with the test, the history, the experience that is the reality of birth.

I have found myself in many ways healed. Healed of the constant dwelling. Embracing a new found appreciation for pregnancy, birthing, and the amazing capabilities of a woman’s body. I have found myself more present in the moment. Not revisiting my births, but trying to grow in mothering my beautiful girls. I’m thankful that God put me here with the desire to write, and heal through the process of it.

My awesome man turned the ground for our garden this weekend, and it was a blast to watch him with that tiller. I’m so excited to get my hands in the dirt again. I’ve loved growing things since I was a little girl. I always had my hands in the dirt planting seeds, or making sun-dried pots out of clay I found in our dirt driveway (Some of them still exist!). I relished the time being in the dirt gave me with my dad. He’d be fishing, and I’d be making little houses for the mill worms on the creek bank out of sand and mud. He taught me how to grow things, and I loved to work with him in the garden he always had.

I have some of our seeds already and will be ordering more today. It’s important to us that our produce is organic and non-GMO. As I have mentioned before, we are eating a Traditional Foods diet based on the recommendations of the Weston A. Price Foundation ( My man was reading a Foxfire book in the gardening chapter and one of the old-timers said that garden food don’t taste as good as it used to because things are hybrid now. Amen! Our produce is going to be yummy. I’d love to get a hold of some heirloom seeds.

Organic food is hard to find for us in the mountains. I’m assuming because of the cost (which is an obstacle when also buying pre-packaged foods) and the fact that most don’t feel it is a necessity. Again, another area where commercialism and pop culture has changed our people from embracing our folkways. My dad even believes that the hype surrounding organic foods is a ploy between doctors and organic farmers. I don’t know. I don’t think he has thought that opinion out fully. The main grocery chain here carries limited organics, and I’m thankful for that right now. For the future months, I’m super excited about growing our own.

Our economy is on everyone’s minds, and in moving off-grid my man and I knew it was partly to separate from dependency on the larger world/economy. We live as artists on a very limited income, which is fine. We have found that by developing self-reliance in many areas and going back to a more natural way of living/parenting, we are being more environmentally friendly and saving a ton of money. Growing our own food and having the ambition of having our own laying hens is just one way. I’ll be writing about some of the other ways in future blog entries. Those topics will include cloth diapering, breastfeeding, traditional foods, natural health, and no cost entertainment. In the meantime, I’ll be giddy deciding what seeds to order and dreaming of a plate full of real veggies slathered in bacon grease or real butter this summer.

Turned Ground - progress so far

Turned Ground - progress so far

Here is what I got from for only $47.30. I’ll be adding to it some that I bought at the Dollar General Store. OG stands for organic and I tried my best to stay away from hybrids.

Kentucky Wonder Pole Bean, Painted Hills Multicolor Sweet Corn OG, Sunsweet Watermelon, Calypso Pickling Cucumber, Cocozelle Zucchini, Scarlet Nantes Carrot, Prisma Shallots, Safrane Onion, Salad Bowl Lettuce,Thompson Broccoli OG, Danish Ballhead Cabbage, Safir Cutting Celery, Rosita Eggplant OG, Heirloom Tomato Mix OG, Lemon Queen Sunflower OG

We are going to the hospital this afternoon for the first of the four tests on Ro. She will be getting a renal ultrasound today. Though I don’t look forward to doctor visits, I am looking forward to getting my sweet little girl better. She is looking forward to it too as she isn’t dreading seeing the doctor, and she knows why she needs to go. That is making things a little easier. I’m also thankful that I have been able to avoid the long term antibiotic as of now. I’m working hard at rebuilding her gut flora. It’s very important to have that good bacteria for optimal digestion and to aid her in her fight with environmental allergies. Hopefully, I’ll find that I won’t have to give them at all. We only have a week to go before the biggies. I’ve decided not to over explain things to her about the anesthesia. I’m just going to hold her hand and let her know that things will be fine. I’m not freaking out near as much now. Thanks for all the prayers, thoughts, good vibes, and advice. It means so much. I’ll update when we get back.

Update:  We’re home again.  Things went well.  Actually, the waiting was the hardest part.  We waited over an hour and a half after we registered.  The techinician said she couldn’t disclosed whether things looked off or normal, so we will have to wait for the doctor’s report.  Ro did great.  She was really still and enjoyed seeing the pictures on the screen.  The easy part is over!

Update 2 – Got the results today!  Though her left kidney is a bit large, it is functioning normally as is the right!  This brings us one step closer to ruling out the worst case scenario!

I was asked recently to answer a questionnaire on Facebook that was basically random questions. I was tired, wired, and needing to relax, so I started typing answers. One of the questions asked, if I had one wish what would it be. I had a hard time with that one. I don’t ever think about wishes because for me, my energy is better spent thinking of what I can do with reality. But, I thought the obvious. End the occupation of Iraq and bring the troops home with a great outcome. Feed those who are hungry. Travel the world with my little gals. End racism and sexism. You get the picture. My final answer was that I don’t make many wishes, and I don’t know.

However, Sunday morning at church I decided what my very selfish wish would be. I want breastfeeding mothers to be able to breastfeed anywhere in public without feeling like they are going to offend someone. Normally, I don’t concern myself with whether or not my public breastfeeding offends the average person. I’ll breastfeed in restaurants, stores, at parks, in some doctor’s offices. But, since moving back to the mountains, I have found myself feeling the need to go to a private place to nurse Plo.

The fact is that breastfeeding is not popular here. I am the first in at least three generations of women in my family to breastfeed. I have never seen a mother breastfeeding in public while living here. Kentucky as a state ranks 49th in the amount of mothers initiating breastfeeding. Eastern Kentucky is the lowest ranked area in the state. ( In 2006, only one in five newborns in Harlan, Knott, Owsley, Martin, and Perry Counties left the hospital being breastfed. I reside in Knott County. If I were to get my breast out in church and someone happened to notice that that was in fact what I was doing (I do a decent job of being discrete), I’m sure that someone would deem it inappropriate. I’m not saying in any way that my church is not supportive, nurturing, and an awesome place to be.  I love everyone there very much. I would not attend there if it wasn’t the best place for our family. What I am saying is that breastfeeding is a misunderstood thing when people are not exposed to it as being the norm.

Why don’t I just do it anyway? It is not my place to blatantly offend someone in a place of worship and distract them from their time with God. That would be an offense to God. The only problem is that a distraction is often created by Plo and I. We attend a very small church. Attendance this Sunday was 38. There is no nursery, and only two infants. Plo is with me throughout Sunday school and church services. Most of the time she will need to nurse during one of those services. It begins with whining, turns to crying, and then I have to ease out of the pew, go to an empty room, and breastfeed. After nursing, I ease back into the sanctuary, into the pew, and try to immerse myself back into the lesson or sermon.

Every time this happens numerous people are distracted by Plo’s cries, my movements, and the bustle we create. People don’t seem to mind, and have never commented on it. The reason that I would make this wish is that in those types of situations it would be much less of a distraction for everyone if I just nursed Plo in the pew. I’m very modest, and she nurses very quickly. We wouldn’t disturb anyone, unless we would be offending them because they see nursing in public as not being modest.

I’m writing this without talking to anyone at church about it. So, I may find that I’m so wrong about my assumptions. There is that thing though about culture, that makes certain unspoken truths instinctual to us.  It is not just breastfeeding that would get these types of reactions.  It is the principle. I’m not the only breastfeeding mother at church, but the other mother feeds on a schedule and I feed on demand. She is mostly able to avoid nursing during services. She also separates herself when nursing. I get only bits and pieces of scripture and discussion and sometimes find myself discouraged about it.  Maybe that’s my fault.

I wish that at some point in the near future that it will again become the norm for a woman to chose breastfeeding, and to not feel like she must isolate herself to do it.  I wish back to the principles of a time where to see a bottle, it would be odd. In order for that to happen, people must witness more women breastfeeding in open public areas. This would open them up to how modest and natural breastfeeding is. God gave woman the ability to provide the perfect food for her child. That is the reason we have breasts. God is not offended by our nursing our babies.

my 1st public internet display of breastfeeding - told you I was modest

my 1st public internet display of breastfeeding - told you I was modest

“They are as different as night and day.” It is true. It amazes me how they both came of my man and I. I find myself wondering how I will be able to mother two girls with such different needs.

Ro is night. She is fair, blue eyed, strawberry blonde, tall and slim. My first born, she is three years old. She keeps her hands to herself, being curious at a distance. Ro is contemplative and complicated. I watch her walking along the creek leading her imaginary horses and her fishes and talking to herself. She reminds me of me. She can draw for hours, and loves a good movie. She would sit through more books than I could read her, and begs to do our homeschool preschool lesson even on our off days. She is beautiful and plain. She is obsessive and clean. She is typical and very unique.

Ro - Dec. 2008

Ro - Dec. 2008

Plo is the day. She is dark, eyes of an unknown color, her hair the color of weathered wood, small. My second daughter, she is ten months old. She is a firecracker and I love calling her “wildcat’s kitten.” Her hands are in everything they shouldn’t be and have no interest in her toys. She’s been moving where she wanted to go since she was 5 months old in one way or another. She loves the spotlight and watching people. She knows no stranger. I strongly thought she was a boy my whole pregnancy only to be surprised with a girl at the end. People see her and say, “That one will be your athlete.” Or a talk show host, because she loves making her opinion known even with her five word vocabulary.

Plo - Dec. 2008

Plo - Dec. 2008

I worry that Ro and I are too much alike and we’ll bump heads, and I worry that Plo and I are so different that we’ll bump heads. I never dreamed I’d be the mother of girls, daughters, sisters, women. The challenge is one that never gets easier, or boring, or disappointing. In the now, I have them both in need of me. Needing me like a roof over their head, food in their stomach, clothes on their back. Needing me to feed their soul, personality, their want for love. I pray that I can guide them, discipline them, protect them, nurture them, love them like they need me to. I long to be an old lady walking down the holler with my girls at my side talking of their husbands, their girlfriends, their babies, their dreams. I look forward and hope that one day we’ll talk as women and I’ll know their companionship. I pray they’ll still need me and each other.

Ro wanted to see the elk. Knott County is the elk capital of the world, or something like that. The elk tours in Knott County are conducted off of a reclaimed strip mine that has been stocked with a breed of elk that are not native to Kentucky. We had tried to take her twice before and didn’t see anything.

We had been visiting with my dad who is an environmental engineer and works with coal companies to reclaim strip mines and keep all mines within environmental regulations. He depends on coal for a paycheck just like many hardworking Appalachian men and women. We rode all over the reclaimed job in his new work truck. I could tell he loved riding where cars and trucks don’t go on a typical day. He was bound and determined to let his grandbaby see some elk. “I look out over all that grass and expect to see Indians chasing buffalo,” he said. I can understand what he’s saying, but find it ironic that he is talking about the life of a plains Indian on the top of an eastern Kentucky mountaintop. “I’d love to own all this land. It reminds me of Montana or South Dakota.” He was proud of the job they had done, I could tell, though this wasn’t one of his sites.

We round a corner and over a little embankment nestled in a patch of some trees was an old cemetery. All around where this family had buried around seventy of their loved ones, the ridge lines were blasted off to get at the seams of coal underneath. At times, this cemetery would have been unable to be visited by family without permission from the coal company. Surrounding the final resting place of these people would have been piles of dirt, mud, a sludge pond, heavy machinery, dynamite blasts, and coal. Fortunately, those graves were located in a place where they would not slide off the hillside from erosion. They were not buried by mounds of dirt and forgotten. They weren’t relocated to a site deemed appropriate by the coal company. They were left, and are now dotted with flowers in the middle of horse trails, ATV trails, and elk tours.

I was reminded of seeing this little cemetery when I heard Rich Kirby read “The Week in Coal” on WMMT 88.7 FM. (www.appalshop.org and he reported on a story released by the Associated Press about a man named Walter Young. Young is sixty-three and recently went to check on his great-grandmother’s grave when he heard there was mining surrounding her burial site. He went, and the grave wasn’t there. The coal company could not tell him where the grave had been relocated or if it was. ( The piece continued mentioning an area that rests under a cemetery that hadn’t been used for seventy years. This area contains approximately $5.2 million dollars worth of coal. This would require moving the graves to a place with perpetual care. Eight of the twelve families have given permission.

I am a coal miner’s daughter. I was raised on the money that was brought forth from coal. My family history finds my great-grandmother Golda Ruth Steven Johnson raised in a coal camp in Burdine. It finds my great-grandfather John Thomas Hansel and his father working the underground mines in Harlan. My great-great grandfather was in the area during the time it was called Bloody Harlan when the union and the coal thugs battled it out over wages, living conditions, and workplace safety. I can’t say that I was raised here without the need of coal money. I can say that I firmly believe that many of us would have been better off if it had never been found in these hills.

mine located on Hwy 15 btwn. Isom and Dry Fork

mine located on Hwy 15 btwn. Isom and Dry Fork

So, when I think of a wrongdoing such as that of the coal company against Walter Young, and others who have lost gravesites, or had to endure their loved ones being dug from the ground and moved off family land, it furthers my hope that someday mountaintop removal (strip mining) will not plague our area anymore. I wonder at what point have we as an American people (this isn’t an isolated problem) come to value money over the hearts of people and respect for the dead. I wonder why those outside this area who protest strip mining don’t see how they are as much a part of the problem as the coal companies pulling it from the ground at the lowest cost to them. You too demand cheap electricity, and love the city lights.

I am not in anyway saying that there is currently a solution that justifies taking the jobs of those employed by strip mines, nor am I saying that these miners aren’t to be fully respected and appreciated for the job they do. Doing away with their jobs without a replacement for them would be just as wrong as disturbing those laid to rest. What I am saying is that in order for this region to heal, we need to find viable solutions to the problems we have. One of those is that strip mines (though pulling a vital God-given resource) are tearing up our landscape, causing water pollution, and leaving scars on our psyche. Those in the industry argue that it provides flat land for development and housing. I’m not sure that the mountains need the kind of development that it brings. Do we want shopping malls? Large golf courses? Up-scale housing? Sure, some of you would read this and say, of course. However, I don’t believe our future as mountain dwellers is in blending in with the larger American society. I believe our future is in embracing our cultural heritage, our landscape, and the fact that we were blessed to be born here. We should not seek to lose ourselves in commercialism, but in our own uniqueness. That should be a big part of where our future economy lies.

mine located on Hwy 15 btwn. Wolfpen and Isom

mine located on Hwy 15 btwn. Wolfpen and Isom

I sincerely hope that Walter Young finds his grandmother and can see that her remains are properly taken care of. I hope the coal company pays for mishandling the gravesite. I hope that at some point in the near future our people can find a way to exist with coal, the use of manpower instead of large machinery to pull it from the ground, the possibility of alternative energies in the area (please no wind turbines – those are a nightmare for the wildlife and way too noisy), and a renewal of pride in our rich history of art, music, storytelling, literature, woodworking, cooking, and so much more.

*For more extensive photographs on strip mining in various stages please Google “strip mining” or “mountaintop removal”.  These photographs are the best I could do myself through snowy weather yesterday.  These mines are starting to be reclaimed.

There are those moments in motherhood when you feel like you are standing in the middle of the river, the water is just over your head and you have to stand on your tip-toes to get air.  Not only that, but the water is running swiftly and the ground below you is soft and slick.  It is a constant struggle not to panic.  Not to lose it.

I’ve felt that way the last weeks and yesterday topped it off.  I had been thinking of Ro’s comment.  “Mommy, you’re talking nice to me.”  I’ve felt broken by that and have tried so hard to check myself and my level of stress.  Patience is my weakest area.  Young children need more patience than I’m used to giving.  That is why when I taught for four years and got my Master’s Degree I chose middle school.  There is more opportunity to talk things out at that age.

So, yesterday I decided to take Ro to the library as a treat and a break from the monotony of our recent day to day routine.  I prepare to load the girls up, and my man asks me to pick up our taxes and take them to the insurance office to make copies.  It was on my way, and eventhough I find it difficult to do multiple activities with both girls at this stage, I agree as it is on my way.  I get the girls in the truck, cross the creek, stop at the post office, get to the library and get Ro and I some awesome books.  This all goes smoothly.

Then, we struggle to get back to the truck at the far end of the parking lot with our full hands.  I set Ro’s books on top of the truck and put mine in the floorboard.  I set Plo in her carseat and she immediately begins to scream like a wild banshee.  I quickly get her strapped in and the seat buckled down.  I turn around to get Ro in the truck and she is gone.  I look out across the field next to the library and she has ran to the other end about a football field’s length away and is still running.  My heart starts racing.  I think about how we have to hurry to get back in time to cook my husband’s dinner before he has to go teach.  I yell for her to come back.  I’m upset, but I get her in the truck and take off toward the CPA’s office.

Now, can you guess what I forgot to do?  I left Ro’s books on top of the truck.  I didn’t realize this myself until I’m waiting in the CPA’s office.  By this time not only is my heart racing, but so is my mind, and I’m starting to get a headache.  I get the taxes, take them to the insurance office where the lady asks me about my man’s business being separate entities and having two Schedule Cs.  I’m thinking, it’s not my business, I didn’t do the taxes, and I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about because it’s numbers.  I do words, not numbers.

We get it straightened out only after I notice Ro has taken a pencil and marked all over the lady’s paperwork in her inbox tray.  This while Plo has started crying again.  I load the girls back up and get on the road driving slowly, looking for the books.  I make it back to the library without finding them.  I get the girls back out, go in, and ask the librarian.  She says, “Aren’t they in the parking lot?  Stranger things have happened?”  The books weren’t in the parking lot.  The girls and I set out on foot next to the busy two lane road.  We find one of the books, but I got totally uncomfortable walking the roadside with no curb and gave up finding the other two on foot.  I look again in the truck and don’t see them.  I resign myself to the fact that I may no longer be allowed to check books out after I turn this set in, and drive home.  I turn over and over in my head the fact that I’ve likely wasted money as well.  I’m thinking all this while Ro has started crying for crackers and honey.

I get home and my head is throbbing.  I’ve grouched at Ro.  I’ve stressed myself completely out and I’m on the verge of tears.  Something that I expected to be a fun trip with my girls turned into a trip in a house of mirrors.  I’m not giving my girls a good example of how to handle bad days.  I’m resorting too much to quarreling.  All around, I’m not handling things that go outside of my comfort zone well.  I want to do better.  I want to be able to take things in stride.  To realize that everything I want to get done, won’t get done, and that’s okay.  At some point the girls will be bigger and things will get done.  I’ll, then, be wondering where my babies went.

I want to be able to teach Ro about her misbehaviors instead of just grouching at her.  I’m not sure how to do this when I can’t even stop  my reactions long enough to count to ten.  How do you explain much to a three year old anyway?  Today, is going better.  At church some verses were given to us.  Matthew 6:32-33 “For all these things the Gentiles eagerly seek; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.  But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.”  Is that where I’m going wrong?  Are my priorities out of line and it is creating unnecessary stress?

I’m in the river, fighting the current, and thinking of the hymn.  On Christ the solid rock I stand… all other ground is sinking sand… all other ground is sinking sand.

Yesterday evening, I received the paperwork and instructions for Ro’s urological tests. This as the worst symptoms are rearing their heads again, and it makes it more real and necessary. As bad as I hate to admit it, I need a doctor’s help with this one. After much thought and prayer, I’m finding myself more at peace with the necessity part of all this. What I’m still not comfortable with is the anesthesia and her being on Bactrim everyday until the procedures. The antibiotics will reverse anything I’ve done to heal her gut after having Rocephin in the hospital.

She is first having a renal ultrasound next Tuesday. Then, she will have a cystoscopy, a retrograde x-ray, and a cystogram the next week. It struck me while reading the paperwork that only today do I have the proper names for the tests they are going to be running. When I was pursuing a VBAC, I armed myself with as much medical information as I could. I felt like it was a fight. With this, I feel like the fight is already over. My baby will be put under. I have to start giving Ro the Bactrim. I have to rely on western medicine to take care of my little one.

It is hard to accept this. But, maybe I’m lame and overreacting. I have only been put under once and that as an adult to have my wisdom teeth removed. They asked me to count backwards from ten. I tried my best to stay awake, just to see if I could. I know I didn’t make it to one. I rarely went to the doctor as a child. I didn’t take many antibiotics.  I was a healthy child. I don’t see doctors now until it is absolutely necessary. Like an, I can’t take it anymore, someone please take me to a doctor type of situation.

Ro has had troubles since birth, including her birth. She’s seen several different types of doctors – pediatrician, family doctor, naturopath, chiropractor, orthopedist, allergist, and urologist. She has severe eczema, food and environmental allergies. We fought over a year and a half to find out how to control that. I did everything natural that I could think of and find doing research before seeing the allergist. Now, it is better, sometimes. She takes two medicines for that, a steroid cream and a mild nerve medicine called Atarax. I only use those when she has flare ups. I treat it naturally continuously.

Now, she will go at three where I didn’t even fathom going until adulthood. I hope that we’ll get answers like we did when we saw the allergist. I just want to know what is happening. I need a diagnosis so I’ll know how to inform myself and help her heal.

I’m preparing her as best I can through diet and supplements. She eats traditional foods as we do. She takes a multi-vitamin, DHA and Omega 3, and L. Reuteri probiotic. Those supplements really help with her eczema too. I’ve been getting her outdoors as much as I can.

It is funny how she has changed since all of this. Since, her stay in the hospital, she hasn’t been very active. She wants to watch TV (we don’t have cable, but she has some DVDs) and not eat much. She is craving sweets (which are very limited in our home), and she has become a crier. Horribly whiny. Today in the grocery store she said, “Mommy, I can’t have this (holding a huge lollipop). Sweets makes you puke.” Somehow, she started equating her nausea and vomiting with too many sweets. That’s a fine though, but at other times she begs relentlessly for it.

I lack a lot of patience, so this has been hard. She said to me today, “Mommy, you’re talking nice to me.” My heart hurt when she said that because I know I’ve quarreled too much. I want to be her foundation. Her go-to mommy. I long to get this past us so we can move on. Break bad habits, and live healthily. I want to mother her – well.

The creek that runs beside the hiked hill - with snow

The creek that runs beside the hiked hill - with snow

After a dinner of teriyaki chicken and rice and a visit with George (our neighbor, landlord, friend, and banjo extraordinaire), we took our guests up the mountain to the left of our cabin. It isn’t the hardest hill, but is not the easiest. It makes your heart pick up speed right away. Plo on my back added 18 pounds. My thighs and rear stung with the effort.

Ro rode her daddy piggy back. The six of us moved steadily up the old logging roads. Deer and turkey tracks were scattered in the mud. Little yellow flowers were springing up through the brown that surrounded them. The air was warm with a nip. A long awaited break from the white, the ice, the hard rains, floods, and bitter cold of winter. It felt perfect and necessary to pass that air through my lungs and out again.

We didn’t talk much for the exertion was enough. Dry, beige, scrub grass swayed in the breeze looking out of place amongst the green ferns. We passed the road to the old deep mines and the hunting cabin, taking the high road on up the mountain. Steeper yet. Two deer skip away and we see the white of their tails. No sound from their feet.

At the top we spilt up, each taking our own path. Giant, moss covered, eternal rocks stood against the ridge, balancing. I walk to the top of the ridge, stepping over the dry branches, and getting bit by briars. Aware of the baby on my back. Plo and I reach the top and the wind answers to our presence. I feel it over my skin washing me clean of the funk of days indoors in sterile rooms, and those that are not my own. I love the sound Plo makes when the wind blows. A quiet little hum… ahahahahahahah, again and again.

Soon, the others find me. We look over the other mountains, seeing other rocks, the step and bareness left by a strip mine, valleys dark and deep. We talk of future camping trips, Rainbow people, and homemade swords. How the other hill has a better view. Plo plays in the leaves for the first time and eventually bites off a piece of dried oak leaf and swallows it. Ro is quiet, thinking of how we made it to the top. Then, it is time to return home and to the movements that are life.

with snow on the ground

with snow on the ground

Wrasslin' with the Devil - 2008

Wrasslin' with the Devil - 2008

My husband titled a painting Wrasslin’ with the Devil ( last year. It depicted a snake handling preacher with snake in hands looking oddly fearful and brave at the same time. I feel like I’m that preacher. Ro is going to have a procedure done to check her urinary tract and bladder and some problems she has been having. It’s gotten bad enough that she doesn’t drink enough to keep herself hydrated as she doesn’t want to go to the bathroom. This was enough to land her in the hospital for four days after she caught a stomach virus that everyone had had and recovered quickly from. The problem is that I am having to trust a doctor to treat her properly. She will be under anesthesia, and more than likely I won’t be in the room.

The devil in this situation is many things – me dealing with past, me dealing with fear, me second guessing. Ro’s birth was an unnecessary c-section that happened because I was too trusting that another woman doctor would treat me ethically. Since, it has been hard for me to trust a doctor even with minor things. So, in turn I second guess whether Ro needs the procedure or not. I think what if some of the behaviors are habits now, left over from a problem now healed, not indicative of a larger problem. I wonder if the procedure is necessary. I wonder all this despite the fact that the symptoms are still around and no better. It is the scar that is in my face everyday that is the problem, and I’m trying to protect my child from being affected by that scar any further.

The thought of a child as young as her being put under anesthesia frightens me. I hate the thought of her feeling that loss of control before you slip under. I’m thankful for it too because she won’t remember anything after – the procedure itself – which is the point. I’m still thinking I might request that I be in the room while it is done. It is in the hospital though, so I’m not sure that will fly.

Ro had her first antibiotics ever just last month. I’m adamant about taking pharmaceuticals only when clearly necessary. Then, I’m told by one doctor that he thinks the type of antibiotic used was overkill. She has had to see three different doctors. So, then, I think, overkill, who can I trust not pull an overkill on my baby. I want to say, “You’re not in the practice of playing let’s see how much of what I know I can actually use, but in the practice of assisting the human body in healing itself.” Why is that so hard?

We live off-grid and unfortunately (though improving) the access to quality healthcare is slim. To see most types of specialists one would have to travel at least three hours. I do believe we have a fairly local urologist with good intentions for my child in my head. Now, it’s time to make my heart believe it and make the best decision for my baby.

The vomiting happened again last night and I soon realized where the bravery in the preacher’s eyes came from.  He felt called to handle snakes.  I am called to protect and nurture my child.  In order for him to handle the poisonous snake he had to let go and let God.  In this instance, I have to look beyond my past experiences, and let go and let God.


About Me

An Appalachian woman born and raised, mothering two little girls in a place that is non-existent to AT&T or UPS. Happily working toward a sustainable lifestyle and writing on the demand of a loud muse.

March 2009

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