this was Gabe's take on Angie's project.
One year, 5 months.
by Aquila's daddy-
There are some days that I don't think about my daughter being born already unconscious for several minutes in a rush of blood. Or my toddler boy explaining with wild eyes that his baby sister died coming out. Or my wife devastated. Or the chicken bones that were thrown in the kitchen trash by one of the wonderful families caring for us when we were grieving. Or our basset hound who swallowed the chicken bones and had to be euthanized. Or any of the sharpest pains I felt at that time.
What I have now is the space that is left, where I used to believe that if you did good, if you trusted, that Nature would protect you and your family. I feel anger now, and hatred, mostly at myself. Holding my wife's hand as she had contractions that were too strong, as she had way too much bleeding, not saying, “fuck this we are going to the hospital”. Trusting birth, trusting my midwife who in turn was trained to trust birth. Not remembering my own family's experience with a critical eye.
I was born unassisted by any professional care provider. My mother labored with her best friend and my father with her, in an AirStream trailer in the late-August Texas heat. In her circle of friends in the back-to-nature movement in the seventies, there were a few other couples that did this. One of them did not transfer to the hospital in Johnson City until hours later than they should have. Their daughter was born with severe brain damage. Life didn't bring her (the daughter) any happiness, and she killed herself about three years ago.
So I ask myself, why did I keep on trusting birth? Why did I believe in a supernatural aegis of protection? Did I think my family was more special than her parents? Really, I never thought about it, except to be afraid of not knowing what might happen or not being able to control it, and so responding to my fear I would prostrate myself further to this way of thinking. It would decrease my self-examination and in so doing give myself a reassuring rush of comfort, like a hit of opium. I did that during my wife's labor. Here's a cool rag honey, it will all work out. I should have been defending her and our daughter. My family doesn't need me to think happy thoughts, they need me to protect them.
Now I have this space where faith used to be, not at all convinced that it was ever a virtue. I detest the supernatural explanations for things that used to satisfy me, and I miss the feelings that they used to give me. I sit in the audience at my family's church, which I saw as pleasant and innocuous but not a path to truth before Aquila died, now finding myself powerfully put off by messages everyone else takes as endearing. For example, the sermon where the pastor described climbing up a small but steep hill with his young son holding onto his back, feeling alarmed at one point about their safety but getting through it, and his son's explanation to Mom upon returning home, “No, Mom it wasn't scary. Daddy was there.”
Yes it was safer that Daddy was there, and I don't propose we all raise our kids in gerbil balls. Neither to I propose we try to explain to our toddlers that they could die horribly at any moment. I'm still dealing with my oldest daughter's terrors at night that her parents might unexpectedly die. I would like them to go on not worrying about it when they are children. But I can't bring myself to have faith again like I had as a child. From where I sit, there is no Nature, there is uncaring, insensate nature, that brought us into this world by a self-emergent network of interactions that favored self-propagating networks of interactions, and any old thing could let it all slip away.
I feel anger at irrationality, especially if it hurts kids, like anti-vaxer conspiracy theories, or the reckless narcicism of unassisted child-birthing. I was an anti-vaxer. I was against the hospital birth model before. I feel disgust at the sentiment that death is okay, a natural part of life. We are fortunate enough to be here, and we cease to exist when we die. So how could dying ever be okay? Why is everyone so at peace with 100,000 people dying of old age a day? Or so ecologically conscious all of the sudden that 100,000 deaths per day is a small affair. People believe that there is a Natural Order of Things. Things Happen For a Reason. “Gott mit uns.” Oh, sorry, that last one was the motto of the S.S. God is With Us. They wore that on their belt buckles.
That's where I live now. I lost my trust and faith and got anger and hate. But I've had my spring, too. The things that hurt and terrified me before, that I would have to watch my children realize one day how bad it was all going to hurt, to see them suffer their own losses, to leave them to bury me and their mother, I used to stop thinking about and soothe with comforting beliefs and magical thinking. Now, in the absence of anything to believe in, I feel free to dream of a world without those terrible things, free to plot the victory of humanity over all the terrible facts of our existence. Because if nothing is Meant To Be, then that means our suffering is just a relic of chance, how we got here. We have no divine protection, but then the specters of disease, suffering and death don't either. And so I have dreamed.
I wish I could have been man enough to wake up and look at the world on its terms before this. I looked away and my baby girl died. I try so hard to not hold despair in my eyes when my kids ask me about what things will be like when they grow up, but instead hold onto that hope for them in the world, hope grounded in fact. I want so badly to make that world for them. I go back and forth between wanting to change careers, be a research scientist and find novel disease finding drugs and other therapies, and just doubting the idea that a man so prone to inaction that he watched his daughter die in the womb is what the leading edge defending humanity needs right now. Would she want me to go out and defend the rest of the world after I didn't defend her, or would she have nothing to say, because she never knew me and I just trusted somebody else and let her die?
Turning the Tides
3 weeks ago