June calls me out of the cave.
It is time to birth myself back into the world. But it's a strange world to enter again. My shoulders have curled around my daughter. My eyes have become a telescope focused on one scene, my world small. Names of other places on the globe evaporate, country, continent, town. Is this how people become tribal and insular? My language has pared down.
I place Eula in her car seat and chug down the road. Just us. I am ready to feel autonomous as a woman in the woods with my daughter. Integrate back into the world. Come down from the astral plane. We are going to take ourselves up to a canyon to hike among lime green leaves.
Everyone comments on her large cheeks.
They are my cheeks, straight from the DNA strand. When Pat-Pat saw a photo of me, her first grandchild, at eight-months old, her words to my mother were: "Oh gawd, look at those cheeks."
As if my cheeks were a problem. My mother still talks about it. "Can you imagine?" she says to me. "My first precious baby and that is what my mother says." I like to hear my mother defend me. I am already defending Eula's cheeks. I will take anyone down.
Eula agrees to face inward, to rest her gorgeous sweaty cheeks on my chest. I hold my breath with the ease of it. Please stay. Please stay. Sun pours through cottonwoods and dapples the ground. We pass an older couple hiking with poles, then a mountain biker. Dogs run past us. I am a woman walking in the woods with my sleeping baby. I am a woman walking in the woods with my sleeping baby. I am a woman walking in the woods with my sleeping baby. And I haven't peed. Is this actually happening? I could burst into a sprint. My feet could lift from the ground and take us to the golden dome of motherhood where, together, we will cartwheel and I will show Eula how to climb trees and roll down hills and jump rope and leap from just high enough places because I will be that mom who is body alive.
I start to make plans for everything we can do now.
As we approach the creek, I hear water rushing and stop. Do a Kegel. Do another Kegel, pulse them now. But it doesn't work. I let go. I let go right there. Pee runs down my legs. It soaks my pad. It overflows, breaks the dam through my pants and into my socks and into my shoes and down into the cracks of the ground. There is nothing I can do. Denial starts to creep toward me. I'm not a senior citizen. I cannot be incontinent. It must be temporary. Once we get past the newborn stage, my body will be fully healed. I rock my body back and forth and shush Eula and watch the coppery water of the creek flow by. I will walk the sticky mile back to my car. I wonder if any other new mothers walk around like this.
What I learn: The wounded woman archetype lives on the pocked streets of our everyday. We are not immune from her. Should we be? I am not immune from her because I am her and — truth — have ached to become different iterations of her my entire life. We have grown up watching her in films, reading her in books, witnessing her in each other. Unlike other women, she is given cultural permission to lose control, go wild and express the unexpressed. Of course, both men and women judge her for what appears to be weakness but that doesn't stop her. Where does she come from? How old is she? When patriarchal rule swept over the world in the early 1200's, it began to overtake and bury land-based, matriarchal ways. This sounds like a gross overstatement. It's not. Mother Earth, and by proxy, women, became feared for their femaleness. Enter the dominator culture. Enter suppression. Enter extreme imbalance. Fast forward to modern life where very little has changed. These days, in the coastal space of new motherhood, I stand on a weedy edge. What do I feel? What do I watch for? What has festered within me for years? Where am I in my conversation — because every woman is somewhere in her conversation — with the wounded woman?