At the end of a pregnancy, the comments about your body become more urgent. And something in my head fractured my brain from my body as though I could distance myself from the scrutiny. I felt like livestock. My postpartum was a grim thing. And I didn’t recover until I realigned my brain with my body. I came to think of it as re-selfing. I had to come back to my body. To learn to love it. I’m tempted to say again—to learn to love it again—but I’m not sure that’s true. I have, repeatedly, treated my body like a slave trader. It was most apparent after my son was born, and my marriage was ending. Being a wife felt like being strangled.
I am currently in full-fledged panic. I’m not worried about the wedding. I’m not afraid to be married. Now I understand that marriage is what you make it. I’m worried that I’ll be a lousy wife. I’m worried that I’ll fail. I’m worried I’ll disappoint her.
I wrote that blog yesterday because so often women are treated as though we’re naturally good, as though we don’t struggle with our impulses, as though we never have to rein ourselves. We work hard to rein ourselves. Rising above our impulses is an evolutionary feat.
In the hospital, the nurse who finally helped me sort out breastfeeding said, “Let me just get in there,” and grabbed my breast, and my kid’s head, and latched us together. I’d been terrified that my body would fail him, that he’d starve. I should give my body more credit. And my heart. And my love. In the meantime, I’ll let my panic wander around and tell her story. She’ll be quiet when she’s done.
The Panic of Birds
– Olena Kalytiak Davis
The moon is sick
Of pulling at the river, and the river
Fed up with swallowing the rain,
So, in my lukewarm coffee, in the bathroom
Mirror, there’s a restlessness
As black as a raven
Landing heavily on the quiet lines of this house.
Again, the sun takes cover
And the morning is dead
Tired of itself, already, it’s pelting and windy
As I lean into the pane
That proves this world is a cold smooth place.
Wind against window—let the words fight it out—
As I try to remember: What is it
That’s so late in coming? What was it
I understood so well last night, so well it kissed me,
Sweetly, on the forehead?
Wind against window and my late flowering brain,
Heavy, gone to seed. Pacing
From room to room and in each window
A different version of framed woman
Unable to rest, set against the sky
Full of beating wings and abandoned
Directions. Her five chambered heart
Filling with the panic of birds, asking: What?
What if not this?