I try to embody the modern Queer ideal of radical flexibility. We are staunch and stubborn when we are defending our communities, demanding to be heard, recognized and respected for who we are. But we’re pretty game to explore most other things. Our notions of gender, sexuality, orientation, -isms, pronouns, fashion, function, flavor and twenty million other categories tend to be pretty fluid. We’ll consider almost anything.
So, while it is not my ideal to have a bonus hole or curvy hips or a feminine pregnant posture, it is my ideal to handle popping my kids out with as much bravado as possible. My first birth was a lesson in flexibility and tenacity in an emergency situation, Queer adjectives I would like to apply to every scenario, including my second, hopefully vaginal birth. I consider it my Queer duty to both stand my own ground and sway with the breeze, like a sapling in the wind. A little gay tree, with pink bark and glittery leaves. And a strap-on tree house front and center. Because our community embraces most gleeful raunch.
Finding myself alone with my toddler in a small, fairly conservative town was not what I expected to have happen near the time of my second birth, but shit sometimes prevails, and I had to hike up my big-boy suspenders and find a midwife who only blinked a few times when I talked about fisting and who would let me try a VBAC labor in a birthing tub. Having found said midwife, I let all of the receptionists and nurses in her clinic comment cutely on my unusual haircut, reminded them not to skip over questions about sexual activity, and endured endless marveling over my decision to finish pregnancy away from my partner, whom they all assumed was “husband,” and didn’t pause to think might be the scummy reason for my rushed, late third trimester move back to the Midwest.
Scummy or not, I wanted Partner present for the birth, to support me in the Queer fashion that – no matter his other downsides – he is very fluent in. When I discovered, in the middle of labor, that he had no intention of arriving in time for our second alien’s emergence, I allowed myself a brief breakdown and then went back to pacing. I found a strip of shade in my parents’ sweltering backyard that would allow me to move around enough to hasten delivery. I held my two-year-old’s hand as we went back and forth, embracing his chubby palm and knowing that he had no idea how extensively upside-down his world was about to become.
When the contractions became fast and strong enough, I kissed my sweet firstborn goodbye, left him with his grandfather and then huffed and puffed as calmly as possible through the forty minute drive from our countryside shanty to the nearest hospital. I clenched my teeth and introduced my (lovely, caring, sweet) mother instead of my partner and co-parent. I let the on-call midwife, whom I had never met before, shove her (adept, expert) knuckles against my pelvic bones to check for dilation and position. I did not cry when my cervix reflected my internal tension by refusing to dilate appropriately. I forced slow breaths and held still while my IV was inserted (a contingency required by my previous emergency c-section). I swayed with my pole of saline drips and stared down the birthing tub while my often-resented uterus squeezed my nerve cells hard enough to get blood from that rock.
When I couldn’t take any more, I let go of my hippie, natural ideals and leaned more heavily on my Queer beliefs. I sloughed off my birth plan and grabbed flexibility by the ankles. I convinced myself that it was ok not to be able to handle any more pain and I begged for the epidural. I wasn’t begging because anyone tried to dissuade me; I was begging because I had played tough for too long and was well past my coping threshold.
I clutched the hand of the straight, wholesome nurse who cared for me despite all of our visible differences. We had nothing in common except our status as those who had and were giving birth. It was more than enough. She and my mother propped up my resilience until the anesthesiologist arrived.
I joked with him like the cool dude that I long to be, even when the first dose of medication was one-sided and only numbed my left hemisphere. When the second dose worked correctly, I was free to converse and slur like the drug-enjoying reprobate that I am. I could giggle with the nurse about bodily functions, ask the midwife about the biology of her hamsters eating their newborns and encourage the medical assistants to read more feminist literature. Being flexible and letting myself fall into relief was the best call I could have possibly made. I enjoyed myself for the rest of my labor, progressed quickly as my body gratefully relaxed and was able to relish the vast quantity of giddy raunch I would expect of myself.
As my baby’s head crowned, I could reach down and honestly shriek with glee about how unexpectedly soft and squishy her scalp was, full of wrinkles and wet, dark hair. I enthusiastically encouraged my mother to get up close and personal with my intense, vulnerable undercarriage and take pictures of absolutely everything, so that I could see them later. I held onto my own knees, let my face do whatever it wanted to and pushed like a maniac with more enthusiasm than I could ever muster while in a leather sling at a sex party.
Joyously, triumphantly, I got to reach down and grab my slippery little pile of love and goo and haul her up to my own belly. She was beautiful and filthy and perfect. In addition to soaking her up from the moment she slithered on out, I got to palpate and then cut our cord. I got to stick my nose all over my sopping wet baby and animalistically notice her as my own. Every single, girlie, normative downside was worth the gory, primitive bonding that she and I performed at her birth. I almost didn’t let the nurses bathe her, because I liked her better when she smelled of only herself and me. Amniotic juice, blood and slime that were only our own was so much better than the cloying, yellow, perfume-y soap.
But we couldn’t stay fresh and slick forever; the crusties had to go. They stitched me up, clapped me on the back, happily murmured something about “not average” and sent us on our way. My big, dirty, Queer happiness could not be over shadowed by possessing a bottom much sore-er than after a marathon of butt sex and spanking. While much, much better than recovering from the major abdominal surgery of a c-section, even I could barely comprehend the disaster-scape in my nethers.
If you think you feel tough when you have a new tattoo or scar, you should try getting something engraved on your fanciest bits. It was a special effect master’s dream come true between my very own legs. Make-up guys must wait their entire careers to be asked to make something that looks so insanely gnarly. Everything framed by my curliest hair was grey; so traumatized that it actually took on the color of dead flesh. Just utterly pummeled. If a huge, fat, meaty butterfly had been preserved in formaldehyde after it had been clobbered with a baseball bat, that was my vaginal area. My ass, oh, my asshole was an elderly boxer after a few rounds in the ring with the plucky new challenger, after the old pro convinces the newbie to hit like he means it: purple-red and punched directly in the eye so hard that the asterisk balloons and puckers away from the rest of the tissue. A ripe and swollen baboon butt in the middle of mating season. Ow. Holy shit. Badass genital danglings.
In the shower, I couldn’t really stoop far enough to see what the situation was or if I still had all of my dissolve-able stitches, so I had to mostly feel it out, tenderly dabbing with washcloths that left my fingers to tell me that I was still bleeding. But I was no delicate damsel sitting silently on a barely noticeable cushion, avoiding the knowledge and broadcast of what I had been through. I borrowed my mother’s antique hand mirror to get a good long view of my accomplishments and then I parked that hardworking keister down on an old school, orange, u-shaped life preserver.
I took what is a stereotypically expected, demanded female right of passage (literally), twisted it and honored it for what it was: the most limber, nitty-gritty, basic accomplishment imaginable. I take great pride in many life events, but I might like a special trophy for taking a situation that I never wanted to attempt and frakking nailing the dismount. Adversity sucked my left one. With girlie parts that I never wanted, in the middle of a parenting process that I never planned on, with salt-of-the-earth caretakers in the room, I had a joyously Queer birth. It was dirty as hell and I loved it.