A Zombie Ate My Baby! Social anxiety and the Walking Dead

March 28, 2016

As we all get ready for next week’s season finale of The Walking Dead it is understandable that our collective thoughts turn to zombies. I’ve loved the zombie genre ever since I saw the low-budget 1968 film Night of the Living Dead. It was at a midnight movie in Stone Mountain when I was 13 and I didn’t sleep all night. But as a parent, my consumption of zombie media has changed a bit. After the last Walking Dead episode I had a flash of stepping into the nursery and seeing a ravenous walker chomping on my daughter. Cozy had a look on her face that just said, “Daddy help me.” The horror. And if you know anything about the undead then you know by that point it’s just too late.

Let me point out before I go any further that there is no such thing as a zombie. Sure there are some people wacked out on bath salts or haunting 80s dance nights that might seem like they are zombies. And of course there are kids who “die” on the operating table and their parents convince them they went to heaven and should write a book that might technically be zombies for a moment. But other than some meth head that thinks your arm is a corndog, there are no zombies. So don’t waste a second worrying about World War Z.

31LT126a4SL._AC_UL320_SR214,320_

But the question remains; What is up with zombie-mania? And is there a feminist take on it? We’ve got movies, TV shows, video-games and comic books. You can buy zombie toys, costumes, t-shirts and even doorstops. We’ve gone zombie crazy! Are we hoping for the zombie apocalypse as a preferable alternative to a Trump presidency? Or is it perhaps an excuse to unleash our inner Rick Grimes and kill at will? What’s the appeal?

Not surprisingly a “sociology of zombies,” has been around for awhile. I would recommend Todd Platt’s “Locating Zombies in the Sociology of Popular Culture” (2013) for a recent overview. Usually, the explanation is rooted in some type of social anxiety, whether it was the Cold War and the fear of a nuclear apocalypse or now, in a post-9/11 world, it is a fear of the collapse of western society. We play out these “What If?” scenarios and imagine how we would respond when the shit hits the fan for real. Would we recreate a new authoritarian hierarchy, form a collectivist team response, or just devolve into every man for himself? (Women and children don’t usually fit anywhere in that last one, at least not in a good way.)

One of my right-wing pals told me yesterday that we don’t need illegal immigrants. And I said, “Who is gonna pick your food?” His response was that there was a time in America when most Americans worked on farms. I said, “Yeah, maybe 1816. In 2016 kids don’t even know what a fucking tomato looks like.” Face it, most of what we eat is processed. After your Kroger gets looted, next on the menu is your family pet. We would not do well in an apocalyptic setting where the food delivery app on your phone stops working.

So maybe the zombie thing is a reflection of our fear that society could collapse at any moment and we would be tested on our social survival skills. It seems like we are perpetually on the verge of the big flame out. Would you just blow your brains out or “man up” to fight the undead? Ah, there is a little clue to another explanation.

top10zombiegames

I was in the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program and my little brother was a sweet kid who had a touch of the developmental disability. He loved video games and taught me how to play Halo (which I found infinitely boring). His big fantasy was a zombie apocalypse so he could kill thousands of zombies. He would go into great detail of how he would shoot them, behead them, and set them on fire. It became clear that the zombies were stand-ins for all the people in his life who he wanted to dispatch with a sharp blade or a shotgun blast. He had a whole list of people he dreamed about killing.

In war movies, we don’t kill human beings. They are nips, gerrys, gooks, and hajis. In Westerns it’s savages. Science fiction body counts are aliens and robots. And in zombie shows, films, and games it is the undead. Each one a less-human than human enemy that we have permission to kill. For its time it is the act of dehumanization that allows us to vent our violent bloodlust against those who threaten our world somehow. Indians and Muslims and Zombies, the infected. Much was written about how the westerns of the 1960s used Native Americans as stand-ins for African Americans who threatened whites living on the urban frontier. Guns and blades allow us to re-establish the white male order over the chaos of the “diseased” other. And if we can bring a few women and people of color (and Michonne) along, all the better.

959bf65e172f9baa9413e922dff00a0b

If you watch The Walking Dead, you know (and probably love) the character Daryl Dixon, played perfectly by Boondog Saint Norman Reedus. I’ll admit I have a man crush in Daryl and would give anything if my hair could be that greasy (without my under-carriage being equally rank). And here’s why. Daryl is the iconic strong silent type and on a steel horse he rides. He’s best on his own. He doesn’t talk about his feelings or much of anything. He squints and kills in a primal way. He is Clint Eastwood in the the first 20 minutes of High Plains Drifter (1973). He is everything that is right about a film or show set in an apocalypse. He is also everything that is wrong with masculinity in our culture. (And Norman Reedus is absolutely nothing like this fictional character.)

In the real world, men don’t need to kill, abandon the group (Oh, there goes Daryl again.) and keep their emotions buried deep behind their “I don’t give a fuck about you” (sultry) eyes. I love Daryl because he is who I was told I was supposed to be when I was a boy. I used to practice squinting like Clint Eastwood when I was a kid. I tried to be silent and menacing. It sucked (or I sucked at it). That way is pain and loneliness. Feminism gave me permission to be a human instead of a cartoon character male. I don’t want to ride into the sunset. I want to hang out with my friends and family. No slaughter necessary.

The same right-wing friend asked me what I would do if some guy called my wife a “cunt.” I told him I’d tell the guy that vaginas are awesome and probably let my wife take it from there. He (and a very confused female friend) were horrified. How could I not immediately respond with violence? What would Daryl do?

I will continue to be a zombie fan. I live for the post-episode discussions of The Walking Dead on reddit. TWD fans are brilliant and clever and can find humor in deep meaning in the handle of Carl’s gun. (Oh, Carl.) I just wonder how much of the appeal is based on the push to use of violence against those who would challenge the existing order. Maybe I should be rooting for the walkers. Just don’t eat my baby!

12939179_10154005790757593_570809958_n

Advertisements

Living in an age of terror: Brussels

March 22, 2015

On September 10, 2001, the day before the 9/11 attacks, I was on a flight from Portland to Birmingham, Alabama. It was one of the last flights before air travel was changed forever. Gone are the days when you could run from the ticket counter to your flight and have your loved ones waiting for you at the concourse gate at the other end. I was flying back across the country in August, 2006 when a plot was uncovered to detonate liquid peroxide bombs on several transatlantic flights and on our Dallas layover we were told to surrender all bottles of liquid and cups of coffee. By then it had become the new normal.

brussels-bomb-575x323

The attacks in Paris (where I have spent much time), San Bernardino (where I have friends) and now Brussels (in a metro station and airport I have waited in) cause us to wonder where all this will end. We respond emotionally because of personal connections with the places and/or victims, but we also become somewhat blasé. Another day, another reminder that there is some strange quasi-war going on that might affect us today. Some call for more bombs from our side. Others remind us that bombs just bring more bombs from their side. Some call for prayer. Others remind us that prayer might be what started this whole thing.

large_tRLOAiimxC3IOftUXzqhJ2L41FR

I just think about the world my daughter will grow up in. I’m reminded of Terry Gilliam’s brilliant and absurd film from 1985, Brazil. In the film terrorism has just become the background noise of modern society, met with a shrug. Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh loved the movie but I fear it’s becoming more prophetic than Gilliam could have envisioned.

Sometimes the media refers to me as a “terrorism expert.” That’s not completely correct. I’m more than comfortable with being tagged as a “domestic terrorism expert,” but there is a an evolution in the world of terror. I am certainly not an expert in international terrorism. I probably know as much as anybody who studies extremism and watches a lot of cable news. I double-majored in Sociology and International Studies at Emory, but that was the 1980s and my focus was on Cold War issues and Latin America. I should have been studying the Middle East.

The new evolution is the domestic-international hybrid personified by the American citizen (born in Chicago) who, inspired by his Pakistani wife and internet websites, killed 14 people in his workplace in San Bernadino last December. The world of terrorism evolves faster than experts, intelligence agents, and law enforcement can keep up. And that’s chilling. It’s an incredibly complex phenomenon that no campaign quip can solve. Senator Ted Cruz wants to “carpet bomb them into oblivion,” wiping out countless civilians in the process. Game show host Donald Trump wants to torture suspects, kill the children of suspected terrorist and (somehow) prevent any Muslim from entering the country. Do any of these people understand the concept of blowback? Maybe they should use Google to find out what the impact of the 2003 abuses at Abu Ghraib had on the terrorism problem.

It’s a complex problem that the “carpet bomb them into oblivion” knuckle-draggers don’t want to understand, dooming us to more of the same until the scenes from Brazil become our reality. However, there are two general strategies that people gravitate to.

The first is “Our bombs are bigger than your bombs,” approach, that there is a moral obligation to use our massive arsenal to wear them down to submission. Of course, one could argue that while that approach, after over a decade of casualties on both sides, finally dispatched Al Qaeda to a few dank caves, it created the environment for the rise of ISIS, Al Qaeda’s psychotic little brother. Any criminologist can tell you that deterrence only works on rational actors. If you are hyped up on religious extremism (this includes more than a few right-wing Christians), you are not making rational choices unless you think your great reward is in heaven.

111415_maajidnawaz

The other approach is understanding why these people “hate us” and interrupting that process. There is plenty of good scholarship here and it has a lot do with globalization, economics, and the power of religion to manipulate people who have a very simplistic (and often uneducated) worldview. Just like street gangs that have a place for their recruits who are “psycho,” jihadists have a position for young men who are psychologically vulnerable. Often it’s strapped to an explosive belt with a promise of heavenly reward and security for their family. While situations and contexts vary, after so many years of this, there are some very useful profiles. Each one offers a strategy that doesn’t involve the use of drones. Right now we should be talking to every single former jihadist and they should be talking to anyone who might be a target for recruitment.

Understanding terrorists as people instead of as evil monsters is understandably difficult. “Killing them all,” is much more emotionally satisfying than the daunting task of understanding them all so you can prevent future attacks. But “kill them all,” includes collateral damage, also known as innocent men, women, and, especially, children. I think if my daughter was killed in someone else’s war, I might be ready to inflict that suffering on some other father. And it goes on and on. Someone must be profiting from this cycle of insanity.

The questions that are coming out of Brussels today ask why do Muslims in Belgium (and Europe) feel so isolated? As a “domestic terrorism expert,” I know that these questions are also asked about right-wing extremists and violent gang members. That question points to a solution to this that is better than any carpet bombing or drone strike. It also explains why the American Muslim community is a model of how things should be in Europe.

120727105203-munich-terrorist-horizontal-large-gallery

The first Olympics I watched were the 1972 Munich games. I watched from home in Stone Mountain, the modern birthplace of America’s first defined terrorist group, the KKK. I wanted to watch Mark Spitz swim but ended up watching 11 Israeli athletes kidnapped and killed by the Black September terrorist group. I have never known a world without terror. I fear my child will not either as the war of all against all continues. But there is reason for hope.

Me and My Shadow: More baby brain fun

March 17, 2016

I read in one of my baby books that at around 18 months old, babies go through a cognitive growth spurt as language skills start to come on line. Today is Cozy’s 19-month birthday and the last month has been fascinating. Andrea and I are living with someone who, seemingly a few weeks ago, was just a fetus the size of a kumquat and is now pretty much a fully functioning alien, ready to pick out an outfit or climb the stares to go dive into the beanbag chair.

It’s incredible to watch this little creature learn how to make sense of the world. Our Cozette has a very real personality now, full of humor and bravery. Freud argues that the personality forms when the pleasure-seeking id is balanced by the external demands of society, which he called the superego. It’s the balance of “I” with “they.” “I want an Elmo cookie but they won’t give me one.” I know there’s a lot of this ahead when the potty training becomes more of a focus, but you can see the wheels in Cozy’s head turning. “What can I get away with?”

One of her favorite words of the moment is cracker. Ritz Crackers are her crack. She’ll point to the kitchen (where the goodies are) and say, “Cracker?” And I’ll say no because she’s already eaten half a box. So she’ll cry loudly like she’s on fire and then, with a sly smile and her head cocked to the side, say, “Cracker?” It gets me every time. She already knows how to manipulate her dad.

11259781_1553304544962002_630065964_n

The language boom is intense. She’s only got about a dozen words in her vocabulary but, “Uh oh!” has now been joined with, “Oh no!” and she knows when to use each. Cozy understands plenty of words, like “Spit it out” and “That’s mommy’s.” The second one comes in handy on a daily basis because she is a bit obsessed with Andrea’s make up and has already ruined a few Mac lipsticks. I don’t know if that’s gendered behavior or she just wants to run off with the circus, but it’s pretty funny. Until mom finds out, that is.

Being a stay-at-home dad gives me lots-of-time to help her cranium along. She’s still clueless about colors but on body parts she’s a valedictorian. Ask her to show you her ears or her toes and she’ll do it with a smile. If she shows you her bellybutton, there will be an expectation of tickling and a “Whatchu talkin’ bout, Willis?” look if you don’t.

10576214_1820710804823086_10074728_n

Today was a rare sunny day in Portland so we took a walk in the neighborhood. (Strollers are for babies.) We met flowers and cats and a guy remolding a hundred-year-old house. She stopped at the first sight of her shadow. Then she raised her hands and realized that this odd phantom was connected to her. Hopping and giggling and dancing, Cozy and her shadow. What must have been going through her mind at that moment. I can’t wait until she has enough words to tell me.

It’s an odd thing how we start out life these completely dependent, relatively inert beings, slightly above sea anemones, and day by day we begin to see ourselves; in a mirror, in a shadow, in our parents eyes, in society’s expectations. I don’t know how any parent can’t be glued to that process. Maybe it’s a “first child” thing. It’s like the first time you have sushi and you wonder why everybody doesn’t know about this amazing thing. All I know is that Cozy’s evolution is the best binge-watching I can imagine.

Baby Brain Wonders 2 – Pickles the Cat

Baby Brain Wonders 1 – My baby is smarter than you (and me)

Twoofus

Who the hell is supporting Donald Trump?

March 10, 2016

When I first started writing about the Trump candidacy last summer it was because his hateful rhetoric reminded of what I had heard in my many years of studying racist groups like the Nazi skinheads and the Ku Klux Klan. I feared for the brown members of my family but hoped that, like so many Trump products, the marketplace of ideas would send the Orange Aristocrat to the dustbin of history; that this “Ivy League” braggart with his horribly misspelled tweets and his potty mouth would be given a permanent time-out by sane political voices.

Well, we were all wrong. Somehow the Trump shell game has only gained followers. So the question is now, who the hell are these people voting for Trump? It’s easy enough to blanket characterize them of as idiotic racists flocking to the game show host’s cult of personality like good little Germans, but that angle is horribly problematic. It denies the fact that these are real people responding to problems that they believe to be real. Their numbers include some of my own friends and family members whom I’d never describe as knuckle-dragging mouth-breathers.

513917024-people-raise-their-arms-as-republican-presidential_1.jpg.CROP.promo-xlarge2

So pollsters and pundsters are wringing their hands trying to figure out who this mob is that might be driving the United States towards fascism while the rest of the world watches in horror and humor. “Donald Trump? Really? Sacré bleu!” YouTube is full of videos of Trumpists saying stupid, racist, and completely wrong things giving credence to the popular belief that they’re an army sub-moronic cretins who have fallen for Trump’s fact-free medicine show. But those folks giving the Donald their stiff-armed pledge don’t tell the whole story.

While ranking Republicans are freaking out, trying to unmask the Trump con (even Glenn Beck has compared him to Hitler) there’s something happening in the country.  And that something is same phenomenon that is also driving people to support Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton.

It’s no longer a blue collar world

skinhead-46482

My master’s research was a thirteen-month study of a group of white supremacist skinheads in Orlando, Florida in 1989 and 1990. I was trying to figure where these little Nazis came from. Were they crazy? Did they have abusive parents? Did black guys steal their girlfriends?  What I found was they were responding to the very real phenomenon of deindustrialization. The economic policies of Ronald Reagan opened the door for manufacturing industries to close up shop and head across the border and overseas in search of cheap labor.

If I work in a factory, I probably belong to a union and that union has used collective bargaining to secure a decent wage, paths to promotion, health care benefits, and maybe even a pension. I can work in an auto plant or a textile mill and still buy a (small) house and send my kid to (state) college. That’s the American Dream right there and it evaporated under Reagan. Of the people to move out of the middle class in the 1980s, two-thirds moved downward, not up. And it got worse when Bill Clinton signed NAFTA in 1993, accelerating manufacturing job loss and replacing them with shitty, low-wage, no benefit service sector jobs. Fifty years ago the number one employer in America was General Motors. Now it’s Wal-Mart.

These skinheads knew lots of people who had been laid off or downsized (including their parents). What was happening to America? they’d ask. The answer came from neo-Nazis like John Metzger (son of White Aryan Resistance leader Tom Metzger) who would tell them exactly why. It was immigration, Affirmative Action and a “Jew-controlled” economy conspiring to take away “their” country. A very real problem (deindustrialization) was given a bogus explanation (Jews) and followed up with a very old-fashioned solution (violence). A recipe that has driven the  racist skinhead movement ever since.

In much of America, this problem persists. Wages are down and benefits are few and far between. The factory is gone and in its place is a Wal-Mart selling American flags made in Vietnam. There must be somebody to blame for this.

Donald Trump as a Strongman

Donald Trump is a hyper-masculine cartoon character. He wants to torture terrorists and kill their children. That is until one of his seemingly slow advisors hands a note saying that’s illegal. He wants to “bomb the crap” out of ISIS, unaware that Obama has been quietly doing just that. He wants to ban all Muslims from entering the U.S., “until we know what the hell is going on,” except for the fact that we do know what the hell is going on. And he goes on and on about how “they” are chopping off our heads (in New Jersey?). Most famously he wants to “build a wall” to magically keep illegal aliens out, seemingly oblivious to the fact that illegal immigration has decreased and deportations have increased under Obama. All that might not play well on college campuses where kids actually keep up on the news, but it’s a huge hit with the white boys in South Carolina and Mississippi.

GOP_Trump_2016-025b0

My Orlando skinheads were little authoritarians who were frightened by the changes in the world and wanted someone to come along and give them a path out of the chaos to order. Unfortunately, it was older Neo-Nazis who gave them that very ordered worldview and action plan. There’s a real parallel with the Trumpists who are scared shitless of Muslims, Mexican immigrants and Black Lives Matters protesters who are upsetting their world. It’s hard enough to keep up with cell phone technology, let alone these non-WASPS who might push terrified whites off the privilege throne. So here comes Trump, railing against “political correctness,” and the “God-given-right” to push back against these darkies. “All lives matter,” he bleats. “I’ve got a big dick!” he promises us. “Believe me.”

Recent research at the University of Massachusetts Amherst found support for this idea. A doctoral student named Matthew MacWilliams found that Trump supporters, unlike the general population, demonstrated authoritarian personalities (just like my skinheads). Trumpists felt threatened by outsiders and were more likely to flock to a strongman who, they believed, would stop the changes that they feared the most. So Donald Trump says he’s going to build a wall on our southern border and suddenly he’s their savior. It might be too obvious to draw the parallels with Hitler here but the xenophobia of Trump and his core following is not exactly new. We can talk about how fear-mongering moves us toward another F word, fascism.

Fear is the Path to the Darkside

We’ve got plenty of evidence about the frightening views Trump supporters hold. A recent YouGov poll found that a third of Trumpists thought placing Japanese-Americans in concentration camps during World War II was a good idea and one in five Trumpists thought freeing the slaves was a bad idea. No wonder Trump has been slow to disavow support from white supremacists. (He’ll disavow it with a hrumpf that says stop making me do this.) And disavowing someone like Klansman David Duke is much different than making a heartfelt statement about the evils of white supremacy. The bottom line is these are Trump’s people!

Screen-Shot-2015-03-01-at-7.50.14-AM

Trump’s support has been less in whiter states, like Oklahoma, where Ted Cruz has been winning. Researchers have shown that you find higher rates of racism among people who believe they are directly competing with minorities for the same jobs. Data has shows that Trump supporters overwhelming believe (wrongly) that Affirmative Action takes jobs away from whites and hands them to blacks. They also have the incorrect idea that their taxes go to welfare for lazy (minority) adults who refuse to work. This was a lie Ronald Reagan pioneered in 1980 to move working class whites away from the Democratic Party. Driving this trend are southern evangelicals who have little to do with Jesus and lot to do with racial resentment, according to recent research done at Vanderbilt University.

Trump protester sucker-punched at North Carolina rally, videos show

Trump has tempered is huge support from white supremacists by pushing a more politically correct version of racism that makes brown the new black. He’ll find a small number of African-Americans who are ginned up on the competition with Latinos for crappy jobs and place them in front of the camera at his rallies. They are victims of the same economic policies that he’s profited from but he tells us that he has a “great relationship with the blacks.” “No on has done more for equality than I have,” he recently proclaimed. So fuck you, MLK.

00008

Earlier this week I was on The Gavin McInnes Show, the right-wing internet show that’s popular with anti-feminists and “angry white men,” having a surprisingly good discussion about racism and Trump with guest host Jim Goad, author of The Redneck Manifesto. I think we both clearly stated our points and I was glad to participate. Afterwards I got a tweet from a fan of the show that said, “ if u dont believe blacks have a problem with violence why do u live in a white city? Move to black Chicago and test your bullshit.” I’m trying not to engage these folks on Twitter but I wanted to explain to him all the years I joyfully lived in downtown Atlanta and that I purposely moved to historically black part of Portland. But he lives in fear and the fear drives his political choices.

The year of the “I’m not a racist, but…” voter

Of course Trump’s coded racism is clearly understood by his followers. The endless data is telling us who his supporters are. They are older, whiter and angrier. They’re angry at the how the country has changed in the last fifty years with all the feminists, homosexuals, non-English speakers, and most symbolically of all, Barack Hussein Obama, their black president. Like the white supremacists I studied, they want somebody to “make America great again,” when a white man could beat up a black protestor and not get labeled as a “hate criminal.”

The anger is also targeted at the “disastrous trade policies” of the “stupid leaders” in Washington (who are mostly Republican) who have been unable to stop the the “Obama agenda” from driving the country off a cliff (or to renewed prosperity, if you look at the actual economic measures). With merely the power of his awesome personality, they believe that Trump will transform the complex workings of all three branches of the federal government. (“Meat Loaf for the Supreme Court!”) Just like Mussolini, who Trump is fond of quoting.

Sanders picketline_1

The great irony is that the Trumpists are motivated by a very real problem, the erosion of the middle class rooted in the very policies that Trump has benefited from to make his money. Trump’s lovely ties are made in China where the cheap labor is. And it’s a problem that impacts EVERYBODY in the working class, not just whites. These policies, including the Clinton-signed NAFTA, are also motivating many Sanders supporters, but instead of blaming the people at the bottom (who are often not white), Sanders and his voters are more likely to understand the problem is systemic magnified by the influence of corporate lobbyists in politics. But that’s a more complex issue. Scapegoating Mexicans is easier for Trumpists.

Bernie Sanders might be able to reach out to these economically dislocated Trump supporters in a way that Hillary Clinton can’t. But they have to be willing to abandon their authoritarian need to bash outsiders and insiders who don’t look (or pray) like them. They will have to let go of their fear. That’s a big “If” and points to the sad reality that after Trump goes back to his golden palace, another strongman will likely arise with the promise of making America great (white) again.

Post-script (Aug. 3, 2016): Warning: This Trump rally video includes vulgarities and racial and ethnic slurs.

 

A Coyote brought her to us – Cozy’s birth week

March 2, 2016

Stephen G Girolami

For the last year and a half I’ve been trying to get around to sending Dr. Stephen Girolami, at Providence St. Vincent Hospital, a thank you note for delivering our baby. He met Andrea when she was in full labor. Not the typical birth scenario. We had intended to “demedicalize” the birth and were on track to have Cozy born in a cozy bathtub at Alma Birth Center with a mid-wife. I had even practiced catching the baby.

But sometimes life has other plans. Cozy was already late so she definitely was planning a grand entrance. Our team at Alma and the Medical staff, including Dr. Girolami, at St. Vincent’s were all amazing and we will forever remember how they were there on our big day. So, here’s how it went down:

Wed. 8/13/14 – Day 1

Pre-labor starts, and we freak out thinking this is it and I cancel my last Prison Culture class at Portland State. We go to brunch at Milo’s, thinking it’s the last day we will be childless. We watch The Business of Being Born in Spanish, so Andrea’s mom and sister, who are here from Mexico, understand why we chose to have Cozy in a birth center. Our doula, Cassandra, comes by as contractions get stronger. No sleep this night.

Thurs. 8/14/14 – Day 2

Screen Shot 2016-03-02 at 12.16.41 PM

One week past the due date. Contractions get stronger and I practice my new ukulele. Cassandra and Bree, our nurse midwife, come over and help Andrea work through the pain. I do an interview live on KGW about the Ferguson riots, hoping I don’t miss the birth. No sleep.

Fri. 8/15/14 – Day 3

Bree, our nurse-midwife, comes over to help. Andrea takes some walks around the neighborhood, howling like a wolf. We keep thinking baby is coming. No sleep.

Sat. 8/16/14 – Day 4

Screen Shot 2016-03-02 at 12.45.00 PM

We check in to Alma at 3:30 pm. We get there a few minutes early and Andrea howling outside the locked gate attracts the attention of cyclists on SE Ankeny. Her sister heads back to Mexico because classes are about to start. Once inside Alma, Andrea gets in the water and Laura, our midwife checks her cervix dilation. Around 10:30 pm her water finally breaks. No sleep. (Maybe a minute for me.)

Sun. 8/17/14 – Day 5

Around 5 am Andrea sends me to get her mother to help comfort her. I see a coyote in Irvington on the way. Cozy’s spirit animal. A coyote brought her mother to America so the circle is complete.

Heavy labor continues. Andrea’s cervix reaches 10 cms, time for birth. But the cervix closes back to 8 cm, revealing a problem and the mid-wives consult on what is best for the baby. Around 2 pm, Laura says we would be best helped in a hospital with an epidural and Pitocin to get the baby out.

Andrea, her mother, and Laura climb in our Prius and I drive us all to St. Vincent’s hospital, which is not in Beaverton. Andrea says she is going to jump out of the car on the Sunset Highway. Alerted to her arrival beforehand, the hospital security guard puts Andrea in a wheelchair and sprints with her to the maternity ward. We all run after, as if in a movie. Laura consults with the nurses and Andrea gets an epidural helping with the pain.

It turns out that Cozy’s head is at a weird angle and she can’t make the tricky passage through the pelvis. A C-section becomes a very real possibility. Dr. Girolami arrives, and with great calm and confidence believes he can help get the baby out.

There in Room 324, with several nurses, Andrea’s mom, Bree, the ICU nurses, and I, Andrea begins her heroic push. Bree is holding her left foot and I am holding her right as Dr. Girolami says he can see the top of her head. Cassandra and Laura arrive, and Laura begins photographing the birth (annoying the doctor, who is focused mightily on getting Cozy out). “Let’s focus on the birth!” I say.

Screen Shot 2016-03-02 at 12.12.03 PM

After an incredible hour or so, at 9:25 pm, Cozette Valentina is born and placed on mom’s chest. She’s 8 lbs. and 6 oz. and 21 inches. I cut the cord and think she looks like my dad. I quickly take a picture of mother and child so our friends on Instagram and Facebook can know that all is well. The nurses hand over the placenta to the midwives for encapsulation. We are moved to Room 447 in the post-partum wing. After 3 nights of no sleep, I fall asleep with my beautiful daughter on my chest.

Mon. 8/18/14 – Day 6

We are ready to go home, but the pediatrician, Dr. Jan, wants us to stay 48 hours and run tests. Bree helps us to advocate for what’s best for Cozy and we agree to stay for an extra day. Andrea gets lots of help with nursing and I change an awful lot of poopy diapers. I take Andrea’s mom home and bring back a burrito from Don Pancho’s. We play lots of Beatles in our room for Cozy, who we can’t stop staring at. I try to watch Under the Dome but Cozy keeps crying.

Tues. 8/19/14 – Day 7

I wake up early and grade a giant stack of PSU papers. Grades are due later in the day. Against the official advice of the doctor, but with the support of our midwife team (and the tacit support of all the female nurses), we are discharged at noon. Cozy is wrapped in the blanket my mother brought me home in 50 years ago. Andrea rides in the back with Cozy, but wants to make a pitstop at Starbucks for a caramel frappuccino.

We get home, neighbors have put up “Welcome home, Cozy” signs on the house and in chalk on the sidewalk. Andrea’s mom (and now Cozy’s abuela) opens the door and we start a new chapter.

10505319_10153073174589307_3229365192039656989_n