Dogs Say Nothing

The day before we left that hotel in Arkansas Bella broke a nail. It had gotten caught in a grate that covered a drainage slope in the sidewalk near the laundry room. We were leaving the next day.

Bella refused to walk on her foot, so S. carried her. He loaded her into the truck and we left for Florida. He carried her into the next hotel, both of them resentful over their predicment. Bella was heavy and they never liked each other.

In fact, S. had been afraid only some weeks prior that she was going to bite him during play. See, Bella wasn’t really aggressive, but sometimes she would get a glint in her eye that was hard to read. I had told him to quit, because I hadn’t been sure either.

But they were reliant on each other while we travelled from Jacksonville, Florida (where I stood in the ocean while S. and his men swam further out; a rare day out for all) to Northern Michigan, somewhere near the Canadian border. I was as crabby as Bella, riding in the passenger’s seat and being four months pregnant or so.

It was late at night when we neared our exit. Bella was laying in the backseat while I manned the GPS. Suddenly, the signs on the road were telling us to get off now. The border was ahead.

“Get off,” I said.

“What does the GPS say?” S. asked, for the GPS hadn’t spoken up yet. The USA and Canada flags were painted on the next overhead sign.

“Just follow the fuckin’ pictures,” I had said.

“But what does the GPS say?”

“Take the exit,” the GPS finally replied.

Bella, as usual, said nothing.

On-Ramps

Skuuuurrrrrrrr.

I’ve just slammed on the brakes. We’re on the shoulder of the on-ramp. You’ve just asked if I was sure I wasn’t trying to hurt my children. You’ve just given me that wide-eyed, what-kind-of-woman-is-this look that I’ve seen over and over again since the incident.

No, no, you’re not getting out this time. It seems you don’t know enough about postpartum yet. So we’re gonna talk about it, symptom by symptom. I just don’t want to see that look again. And no, I never intended to hurt my children. I was in a state of confusion and, though we went for a rough walk, I kept us all together and got in the cop car, went to the hospital, and have done what I am supposed to do.

I’ve read a lot of stories, done some research, talked to my doctors, and reflected enough for a lifetime. I know postpartum and look forward to helping others going through it. But let’s not give each other anymore weird looks, ok?

Vámonos. Let’s go.

Highway Ahead

Once we get on the highway we will start to make some headway. But I’ll be driving faster, and we’ll talk about different things. I just want to make sure you remember everything about me. That I suffered an acute form of postpartum depression. I know I almost left you, but you have been a great passenger, always letting me change my tune. You were a real trooper in the motel, and we agreed on the itinerary at once. You listened so well to how it happened, too. What really happened, what happened the night before, and what happened next. What happened in the hospital surprised you, too, and I haven’t even explained all of that.

I spent nine days in the hospital in total. Those nine days were full of more “tests” and delusional thoughts. They made me eat, but, like I explained to them, I would not eat without my children. Other patients and the nurses made sure I complied, however, and though it was like jail I did receive medical attention that I was needing. I haven’t heard from the hospital since discharge (except for calls from the billing department) and finding a psychiatrist has been difficult. We all know that healthcare in America is lacking. Well, I could write a book. But I’m not writing an expose on mental healthcare in America. I’m just cruising through my emotions, stories, and experiences. And you’ve just happened to come along for the ride. Thanks for your company so far.

Silver Chain

I wear one. I bought it for myself. It’s nothing fancy but it’s real. As I kissed Sergio goodbye he grabbed it. He didn’t want to let go of it. I pulled it from his fingers and shut the door.

I lit up as my children were driven away. Now comes my question for you. Have you ever cried in public? I do it all the time now and yes, it is a sign of a leper. So stay back.

Oh Fiddlesticks, It’s Friday

I’m climbing in the car, off to visit my children. And when I come home I’ll be full of sadness and regret and longing. What feelings for a Friday.

It’s a two hour drive north, through some of Illinois’ finest small towns (and I ride as a passenger due to DCFS rules. With a great driver of course). Sometimes my husband comes but has been having to work more lately. So I’ll go alone. See the babies for three hours, tear myself away, ride two more hours home and then…nothing until next Friday.

Is it too difficult for me? It may be difficult but I don’t miss the chances I’m given to see my pups. They need their bitch of a mother, at least once a week. And only for now. I’ll have ’em back soon enough, I’m sure.

Well, have a good last day of the week. For me. TGIF, right?

Hospital Happenings

I told them that I must have smoked laced weed. That someone must have been putting something in my coffee. I felt drugged. I was manic, but that’s how it feels. My blood tests came back negative for everything besides a small amount of THC (I won’t lie to y’all and say I’m an angel). I’m sure that that news surprised at least one county cop, who my mother reports as having said that the truck “reeked” like alcohol. I try not to drink, and had not had a lick of liquor on the day of the incident.

They asked so many questions. And I asked for water a lot of times. They refused to let my mother see me, who might have been able to connect with me in a meaningful way, in a way that may have snapped me out of my delusions. But she spoke with a loud voice and, being extremely concerned, acted boisterous. A police officer asked her to leave at one point.

Critical decisions were made in those first minutes of my involvement with the hospital and DCFS. I was suffering from a rare condition, one that affects about 1-2 women out of 1,000 births, according to the MGH Center for Women’s Mental Health, yet they decided to take my children into their care. My husband, who arrived later, was not given custody because of his “work schedule.” I hope you can read between the lines here.

As for giving the children to other family members, they decided not to – probably basing their decisions off delusions I reported to them involving family members. Because I was very paranoid about everyone around me and had many delusions involving those close to me. Mistrusting those around you is a common theme I found in my research of postpartum psychosis. But they didn’t have to take my delusions as the word of god.

Now my children are trying to adapt to another home, are learning their ABC’s without me, and struggling to crawl in a daycare center.

So am I an alligator? Not just yet.

What Happened Next

After they took my children, ripping them away from me as if I were truly an alligator wrapped around them in the backseat of the cop car, they got us into the hospital. I was put in a bed, probably a triage unit, and asked questions. All I wanted was water and to see my babies. I got up twice to search for them, hearing their cries coming from the other room.

I was sent back to my room, treated as a danger to my children. I would ask for water and they would ask me another question, like how long had we been in the field? Four hours? I said. Who knew? I didn’t for sure. I only received water after a woman told me she was taking them. I was still delusional and agreed. They gave me water and no water has ever tasted that good. I wish I had refused it though. I wish I had fought harder to see my children.

On the Road Again

Cat got your tongue? 🙂 I know. What do you say to that story? Most people have heard about women doing crazy things to their children postpartum (I’m not researching that stuff right now but you can go for it). So there’s a stigma. Stigmas can’t be changed overnight. I can only relay my experiences. So put your seat belt on and let’s go. I’m not done.

SHOES

Yep, I’m gonna go be a photographer now. Isn’t that artsy? (I respect photographers and know nothing about it. Just bein snarky).

Anyway, let’s not hang around. I know you’re anxious to hear the rest of my story – why I’m in this dark mood. Ugh. I’m workin’ on it. I want you to understand well, so it’s gotta be good. I will tell you. And you can always tell me. Talking about trauma is supposed to help, right?

For now, I’d rather just listen to the radio though. So here’s the aux cord. Put somethin’ chill on.

An Itinerary

Buenos dias. I brought you some coffee.

Oh. You heard me crying last night? Well, aren’t you special. It’s kind of something I do now that my children were taken from me solely because of a mental illness that was in itself caused by childbirth. I cry at the frustration I feel towards the paradox I’m caught up in. I hope your sweet dreams weren’t disrupted.

No, no, you’re fine. I’m fine too. No need for apologies. Let’s just…I don’t know. Here’s the coffee.

I have a map – looks like we’re a ways from the highway now – and I also have some recommendations on things to do locally, thanks to our dear motel keeper.

Like Billy’s gun range. That’s just a couple miles down the road and is supposedly a real popular place. Yeah, I can shoot. But I hate guns.

Or there’s the Country Crock’s Antique Barn. Yeah, I’ve got enough antiques to start my own barn.

Or we could go about ten miles to this farm where we can buy apples and shit. The motel keeper said it’s just beautiful out thatta way.

You’d rather keep driving? Me too. I’ll meet ya in the car. And I say we head north. To where? We have time to decide.

Don’t worry. It’ll be fun.

The Motel

Well this place looks a little sketchy. Just the way I like ’em.

Alright, alright. Don’t look at me like that. Nothing bad is gonna happen to us. Don’t be a scaredy cat. It’s the only place around so hold on and I’ll go get us a room.

Ok. That guy was a talker. But I got us a double bed room and there’s wi-fi! No honey, we ain’t at the Hilton.

Get on in there and I’ll grab our stuff. Then I figure we just go to bed. Oh, you want me to finish the story? Ugh.

Just go inside. Here’s the key. I’ll think about it. And you’re gonna have to tell me a story some day…

Alright, I’ve seen worse. I’ve actually lived in a hotel a few times – another interesting tidbit about me. No, it’s not really that fun. Well, depending on where you’re staying I suppose. But yeah, this place is ok. So sit down. It’s story time again, but not the story you want. Let’s talk about the golden hour.

You can relax. This might make you sleepy. You might not remember yours (hopefully you had one) but the golden hour is a special time immediately after you were born – when the nurse placed you on your mother’s chest simply for your hearts to meet, and for your little lungs to get the rhythm.

The golden hour was incredible each time I gave birth. Having a small human placed on your skin – the human you were dying to meet – is a moment that awakens you to life. To what it is, how to give it, and how to hold it for the very first time.

I can still imagine Sergio’s tiny cheek pressed against me, his newborn eyes blinking in amazement at the light, as he breathed and breathed for the first time. And Marisol, though she was a bit less happy about being out – laid her heavy head on me to learn how to breathe in that golden hour. The golden hour was a bonding time for us, and one that brought us very close…

But yeah. They’re not here now. They’re alive. But someone else has ’em and I’m just sittin’ around tellin’ stories. Go to bed. I’m off to ask that guy for a map.

Change of Tune

I gotta stop talking about my “near-death”. Seriously, talking about that day gets me all panicky. But I can tell you something about Bella. And then we can go back to talking about the kids.

You want to stop for the night? We can. As soon as we find a town.

As for Bella. I’ve gotta tell you this one. I tell it to everyone ‘cuz I think it’s kind of important. I got her when I was like thirteen but I was like 16 when we decided to go for a walk one day. A walk that turned into more of a struggle to get back to society.

I don’t remember why, but I was pissed off about something and decided to take Bella for a walk one day. My car wasn’t working, there was no way to get it started right that second, and I was sick of being in the house! So I strapped her leash on and we set out.

We were gonna go far. Fuck it. I was pissed about something I can’t remember now. Bella was ready – a strong, agile, cheerful, and energetic dog. Fuck ’em, she seemed to agree with me as we strode down our street.

Northern Illinois towns are all surrounded by fields. Fields of soybeans, of corn, of junk. We reached a “small” field soon enough, one that we would cut through to make it to another road faster.

Were we prepared? Not a bit. I think I had tennis shoes on but that’s it when it came to preparedness that day. The field was dry nearest the road and we easily made it down into the rows of older, dry corn that nobody was caring for. The sun shone hot on us. It was fun.

Soon we reached a creek. Not a real creek but one of those arroyos that appear in fields – most likely full of run off. It was low so we crossed it easily. We were doin’ it – strikin’ off on our own, I mean.

During none of this time was I delusional. Just a dumb kid walking with her dog. But “outside” is still much more difficult to traverse than many realize. We soon found that out.

After the arroyo we reached the end of the drier field and the grass became much taller. I couldn’t see the road we were trying to reach anymore. All we could see was grass. Mud was suddenly deep and sucking us in. I had to choose – struggle on or turn back.

We turned back. And turning back was the hardest part. The grass was so tall, the mud so thick and everwhere. And what direction were we going? Finally we came back to drier soil, but we were in a different area and the arroyo was running full right in front of us.

Arroyos can be deceiving – they look shallow but their currents are strong. I, not having crossed many arroyos before, took two steps in, almost lost my balance, and jumped to the other side. Bella had waited, watching me cross, and thought she could do it then.

She had been more tired than I had realized and as soon as she set down a paw into the creek the water picked her up and started to carry her. Thinking fast, I pulled her to me with the leash still connected to her collar. We sat down on the ground after that. Soon enough we picked up and went home, mud-covered, wet, hot, and scared.

As a leader, I sometimes fuck up. I sometimes misjudge currents that I haven’t seen before. But I know an arroyo now. Bella and I never did that shit again – walking around where we don’t know the ground.

The point? I don’t know. I’ll give you a minute to think of one. I see neon up ahead.

Riding in the Passenger’s Seat

Shit, did you see that? It was like, the biggest eagle I’ve ever seen! But I should probably watch the road anyway. You didn’t see it? Man, you should keep an eye out.

I know. You’re nervous now. You have that right. I come off as a little loca sometimes. Really, I’m just stalling on that story. We barely know each other and I’m basically telling you everything. But, whatever. Talk is what one does on a road trip.

Remember where we were going? Me neither. But we are not turning back now.

Ok. The story. Light me a cigarette and I will begin to set the scene.

I’m Planning a Road Trip

I’m going to take you on a trip. To literary wonderlands of thought-provoking, question-inducing blurbs of the reality I’ve invented, and am still working on.

My philosophy comes from thoughts that roll, evolve, and rot in the metaphorical compost pile of my mind. I try to make the accidental seedlings grow. I listen to the Master Gardeners, and envy the green thumbs of others. You can always weed the garden. Or, fuck it. What’s wrong with weed(s)?

Don’t let language control you. Fuck is just a word. To be offended is your perception, and never my intention. See what I did there? #teachingmoment.

Ride Your Road Trip, I’ll Be Fine at Home

How I hate a road trip. They all sound fun in theory, but I’ve been on enough adventures by automobile to know that the fun only lasts for a few miles and mostly occurs during the planning stage.

I come from the fly over states (and you can just keep on flyin’ over ’em, in my opinion) where the corn and soybeans grow and “good values” are treasured above all. Good values must be practiced, but that is another discussion that I won’t partake in for now. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Midwest.

I’ve traveled all over it; from the tippy top of Illinois to the tip-toe bottom of it. I have been to the Dells (not as lively as it once was) and lived in Minnesota for a few years (hell yes it’s cold. Why do you think I left?). We lived in Ohio for a short time when I was young but we didn’t fit in there. Indiana is a strange place where, only an hour or two from Chicago, they speak with a Southern accent. Iowans are somewhat ostracized from their neighbors, partly due to a perceived air of authority (don’t “come for me” over this, it’s really not worth arguing about).

There are huge differences in each of the states: what they believe in, what they eat, see, feel. I have traveled the South, too, where I often feel a sense of distrust and a fog of racism or racist ideology that is so thick a knife could cut it (again, don’t come for me. This is my thought process and some of my ideas that I’ve grown after my life experience and listening.) I don’t contend to know any answers. All I’m saying is, I’ve come to find that I’m always good where I’m at (Drake, are you influencing my writing?) and I don’t do road trips for fun anymore.

Illinois has its problems; I’ve read a lot about them. Indeed, I’m a hermit, so it wouldn’t really matter where I was. I try to find beauty in any land, in any people, in any word. Hopefully, this gives you an idea of what Invent a Place might mean, what it means to me anyway. I literally (there’s that white girl in me!) try to see my own place as beautiful, so that I don’t have to hop in the car and road trip to anywhere else.