The Magnetic Fields

If You Don’t Cry

by Karissa Stein

My daughter had a difficult infancy. Ear-piercing shrieks. Diapers filled with green goo. Gnashing of teeth, mostly mine.

She might have been cute if she weren’t twisted up into a shriveled, wiry, sallow thing all the time. She was like a jaundiced Slim Jim in a pink onesie.

The Doctors said, “There’s nothing wrong with her. Just a little colic.”

The Parents said, “You were the same way when you were a baby.”

The Friends said, “Uh, no. I’m busy that night. Can you get AWAY for a drink?”

Meaning, nobody wanted to come over to my house. And my husband was traveling for work.

I don’t blame my husband. He hated his job. He’s recently moved on to a better one. But I did think a number of times that no job could possibly be worse than the 24-hour a day one which shackled me to a screaming, writhing meat stick.

It’s safe to say I had post-partum depression.

The Doctors said, “It’s normal to feel this way when you’re not getting enough sleep.”

The Parents said, “We were the same way when you were a baby.”

The Friends said, “Uh, no. I’m busy tonight.”

When I was able to convince a friend to come over (and I understand that I have a couple of very good friends, ones who were able to recognize that this child which interrupted our conversations in the most violent manner possible and yet were able to pick up the thread of what we were talking about twenty-five minutes later as if nothing had happened) I could see the energy draining from their faces. Three glasses of wine was not enough.

I began to wonder if I would ever love my child.

At some point one of these friends brought me these CDS, and I put them on the divider. That’s where all the things went, when I was too tired or frazzled to put them in proper places. Our divider looked like it belonged in the basement of an old hoarder. I remember three solid months where I watched an orange first grow mold, and then shrivel up into something hard and waxen, because I only had enough brain power to carry me from one task to the next, and anything else which got in the way was a distraction. And moving an orange, no matter how shriveled, from the divider, was not as a task very high on my list.

But there was a point, a very dark point, where she just kept crying and crying and I just couldn’t listen to her anymore. I needed something to drown her out, even though I was holding her in my arms.

The song which I put on repeat was “If You Don’t Cry.”

If you don’t cry
It isn’t love
If you don’t cry
Then you just don’t feel it deep enough.

And for a moment everything fell into place. Here was my justified. It was love, because I cried. I cried and cried and cried.

We cried together.

Things did not get easier immediately. It was a full six weeks before she began to sleep for more than twenty minutes at a time. But every time I cried, I reminded myself: If you don’t cry, it isn’t love.

My daughter is now four years old. She’s not easy. I doubt if she ever will be. But now that I’ve been able to get something resembling a full night’s sleep from time to time, I’ve realized just how strong she is.

I still wonder what she was experiencing during that time. Was it pain? Was it astonishment? Was it just a reflex? Whatever it was, it came from a little person who came out a warrior. To be able to cry that much, that consistently, takes a lot of strength.

I should know. I did it too.

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The Magnetic Fields

Unicorn Purse

by Andrew Fort

unicorn-purse-2When my first son was less than a year old, that first January came as the capper to an exhausting year. It was cold and miserable. We were iced in, and all I wanted to do was get out of the house and go somewhere. Somewhere new, that I hadn’t been before. I was tired of being stuck at home with this little stranger, who had dropped into my life seemingly out of nowhere. But he was sick. Really sick.

If you’ve never had kids, you might not know how alarmingly high their fevers can get when their sick. If you’ve had kids, you may have forgotten. It’s alarmingly high. Days are measured off by the amount of time between ibuprofen doses, which most often seem to interrupt the blessed oblivion of nap time. Very young children with high fevers either wail constantly, causing you to rue your existence, or lie in your arms in limp, soggy contortions with the disturbing heft of a Ziploc bag filled with liquified leftovers. You worry about the permanent brain damage a high fever can cause, to them and to you. You worry about dehydration. The worry and self-doubt are constant.

For whatever reason, around the first of that most dismal of years, I had decided to challenge my listening habits by trying Chinese Opera. I don’t know what sickness of mind or constitution caused me to set up that particular challenge for myself at that particular time—maybe I was hoping it would be the thing that would simply push me over the edge. Maybe I imagined my son growing up to tell his friends, “Yeah, my dad? He hanged himself because of Chinese Opera.” I have a feeling I wouldn’t be the first.

unicorn-purse-1But whatever the reason, I was determined that I was going to listen to this stuff. My life was tedious and devoid of adventure, and I wanted to send myself somewhere totally foreign. Chinese Opera is pretty foreign. It was a grueling experience.

This particular opera I remember listening to was called Unicorn Purse. It’s a story of poetic justice. In short, a wealthy woman kindly helps a stranger, a poor young bride who describes dismal future full of poverty and worry, by giving her a Unicorn Purse—essentially a bride’s dowry purse full of jewels—to help her get started in life. Later, after a disastrous flood during which she loses everything, the once-wealthy woman takes a job as a nanny in a posh home. One day she sees her Unicorn Purse hanging in one of the rooms. The two women each realize who the other is, and they become lifelong best friends.

At the time, I didn’t know this. I only knew that Unicorn Purse was confusing, tedious, and full of strange whining sounds and weird rhythms. Just like raising children.

But the thing was, I kind of came to like it. The opera, that is. And now, instead of my children annoying and unnerving me with all of their whining and mewling, I am able to annoy them with what seems to be the poetic justice of Chinese Opera. And the gifts these little strangers have given me have more than compensated for the years of poverty and worry.

Dare you listen to Unicorn Purse? Here’s Aria D:

Unicorn Purse

The Cry of Man–Mary Margaret O’Hara

rogue-s-gallery-pirate-ballads-sea-song-and-chanteysby Andrew Fort 


There is a crying in my heart
That never will be still
Like the voice of a lonely bird
Beyond a starry hill.

 

Though I don’t remember exactly, I suspect I first listened to The Cry of Man when my youngest was still a talkative toddler. I suspect this because I recall putting the headphones on when I could no longer stand to do anything else. As the designated stay-at-home parent with two hyper-verbal children aged eight and two-and-a-half, I would regularly reach the end of the day and need nothing so much as to put a blanket over my head and sit in darkness for a while.

Luckily my wife, after returning home from a full day at work, was kind enough to let me.

Out of all the things I’m worried this blog will turn into, the one I worry about the most is that it will be overrun with entries about me being frazzled and having to sit in darkness for a while. With a blanket over my head. It seems like this is the defining state of the last twelve years of my life, and though some of the intensity has faded (like the constant feeling that the top of my head has been sliced open and is being bombarded with stray bits of information which fly in at random–none of which are connected in any way to the other stray bits of information which are flying in at random) I still have it from time to time.

I seem to remember it was Spring, too–Portland, Oregon Spring, which means blazing, Maxfield Parrish clouds and fierce, unexpected hail showers. And the memory of running in cold weather when I was a child, breathing deeply until the spikes of chilled air penetrated my chest with pleasurable pain. These things, coupled with the knowledge that Winter is over, but Summer is far from begun. And the Cry of which O’Hara sings is a primal springtime one–a cry for rebirth.

Which is why this song struck me so at the time. Being bound as I was to two small children, the Cry she sings of reminded me of myself, full of self-pity for being stuck at home, feeling lonely and uninspired, feeling thwarted in my ambitions and guilty for not fully appreciating the two beautiful children I was lucky enough to spend so much time with.

And the Cry reminded me of them, pulled forward into onrushing, reckless life and babble by their own unstoppable natures. And pulling me with them.

At the time I was afraid that the incessant needs of my children would go a long way towards silencing that Cry for good, but I see now that they are the embodiment of that Cry, and sometimes–not as often as I would like, but sometimes–I find myself able to be inspired by their forward-rushingness.

The Cry in action.mary margaret o'hara

There is a crying in my heart
For what, I may not know
Infinite crying of desire,

Because my feet are slow.

Mary Margaret O’Hara on Wikipedia

The Cry of Man–Mary Margaret O’Hara