Ch 12 Lies of the Magpie

Out of the Trenches

I have heard of women who labored in the hospital for upwards of twenty four hours before at last giving the final push and welcoming their newborn into the world after a lengthy and excruciating ordeal. In my mind nothing could be more miserable than laboring for hours (or days) in a hospital, strapped to a bed and chained to monitors.

My own grandmother labored for 24 to 48 hours with most of her 12 children, but at least she was at home. I’d much prefer laboring at home where I can move around, distract myself from the pain of contractions by washing dishes or running a load of laundry, taking a walk, or hiding in my closet.

However, being in this car is turning out to be worse than being strapped to a hospital bed. I’m all kinked behind the steering wheel. I can’t stretch out my legs in the short space between contractions. I’m stuck upright in a seated position which is harder than contracting while lying down. What I want is to pull the car over and walk around, but I’m too scared to change positions. I’m afraid that sitting is the only thing keeping my bags of water intact. Standing up might allow the baby to drop that last centimeter until my cervix won’t be able to withstand the pull of gravity. I’m afraid if I exit the car now, I won’t be pregnant when I get back in.

Growing a human being inside of you is a miraculous thing. Even on this, my fourth pregnancy, I’m astonished by the photos in my pregnancy books showcasing the stages of fetal development from the first division of cells to the beginning thump of the tiny heartbeat.

When I was 10, my 5th grade class took a field trip to our local clinic where the lab director showed us a glass jar with a human fetus floating in formaldehyde. The boys made crude Frankenstein jokes, many of the girls screamed, cried, and turned away. The baby had been donated by a woman who had miscarried at 12 weeks. I stared, feeling appalled at the indignity of keeping a baby in a jar, but also fixated on every minute detail formed to perfection down to the intricately-formed fingernail, as the lab director pointed out, on the baby’s pinky finger.

It would be several years before I got my first menstruation cycle, but even at age ten, I wondered what it would feel like to have something like that growing inside of me, with heart, mouth, nose, toes, and fingernails. Me, the glass jar filled with amniotic fluid, not formaldehyde, encasing a living person that would grow and become a human being. That is the artistic wonder of pregnancy and birth, to bring into existence something absolutely unique, which has never been created before. But I wasn’t thinking about the miracle of life last Fall when (unbeknownst to me) that miracle began taking place silently, the zygote making its journey down the fallopian tube to my uterus while I secured my hairpiece and dashed down the hall gathering the visual aids for my seminary object lesson; cells splitting—automatically, I didn’t even tell them to—from one to two, to four, to eight, to sixteen while I picked up Kate from preschool; the blastocyst naturally dividing to form the basis of muscle and skeleton, spine and skin, stomach and lungs.

Unaware of the intricate chain of mechanisms triggering to form new life, I only knew this: that despite having sheltered, nourished, grown, and brought forth three unique individuals, I still hadn’t achieved a sufficient level of success in my life. Being a mother, no matter how miraculous, just really didn’t impress anybody. 

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BONUS: Lies of the Magpie

Maleah Warner

Bonus Reading

This is a BONUS look ahead to future chapters. This is a selection from Chapter 25. 

Kate’s hearing test is scheduled for this week. When we arrive at the lab, I see no signs of padded earphones from the 1970s or finger rubbing like other doctors have done. Dr. Arya leads us down a hallway to a room that looks like a NASA control center. An attendant helps Kate step into a soundproof booth and instructs her to raise either hand when she hears any sound—a beep, music, or spoken words.

She stands perfectly still looking at me through the glass, eager to perform well on this test. As the sounds start, my arms flinch instinctively. Kate flinches her arms when I do, then stops herself from raising her hand all the way, just as I do. She is looking at me for guidance because she can’t hear any of the sounds that are wildly beeping, buzzing, and bouncing all around her. Unable to stop myself from flinching, I finally have to fold my arms tightly across my chest. Like a mirror image, Kate folds her little arms across her chest and waits for my next cue.

My eyes fill with water. While she is hearing nothing, I am hearing the echoes of a hundred interactions with Kate. I hear my voice crescendo with anger and impatience. “Why do you always chose to ignore me,” I grab her little elbow and jerk her around to look into my fiery eyes. “Why do I have to repeat everything ten times to you?” the face she looks into accuses her of being an obstinate, disobedient girl.

I have been yelling at her for years, trying to make her listen. She has spent the same amount of time trying to hear.

I scan the room for a box of tissue, then ask the attendant if there is a restroom on the floor. I hold up a one-minute sign signaling to Kate that I will be right back. I see her face, innocent behind the glass wall. She understands my gesture perfectly. She has become an expert at reading gestures and facial expressions behind soundproof glass.

As I walk out of the room, my heart twists on itself, as I realize that every time I’d gotten to the point of using gestures to communicate with my daughter, I was already way past patient, far beyond angry and the gestures she saw from me were flailing arms, madly flashing eyes, wide-mouthed beratings. In her short six years of life, this is the communication she has had from me.

We schedule her for surgery, but on the way home all Kate wants to know is if she passed the test.

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Ch 11 Lies of the Magpie

This is the REAL Chapter 11. Thanks for waiting. 

Ch 11 The Hairpiece

The road rolls under me, mile after mile passing beneath my tires without seeming to get me any closer to Tucson. I think of the miles I’ve covered in the past eleven months. Have they brought me closer to being enough?

Now that I’m in this car driving, choking down contractions, I wonder why the Maleah of ten months ago was so bent-out-of-shape about being left at the table. She was so consumed with being left out, with not being noticed, with not having something more significant to contribute with her life. Ha! What I would give right now to be left alone sitting at a table with no where I had to go, no deadlines, no appointments, no last-minute crisis calls needing my attention, no all-nighters proof reading to make print deadline. If I could I would march right back through the chaos of the past ten months and tell that version of Maleah, sitting alone at the banquet table, to just stay put. “Honey, if you knew everything you’re going to do in the next ten months, you would sit right here, soak in the stillness, and not move one muscle more than you have to.” I would bask in being left alone. I would bask in sitting at a table. I would bask in sitting. Period.

If I had had a fraction of an inkling that starting January I would be selling advertising for my own magazine,  and that I would be doing it pregnant, I would have never said YES to all the other things that came first.

But I didn’t know. I didn’t have a clue.

That version of me, poised lady-like in the black cocktail dress, was only concerned that her life was too unremarkable. She wanted something bigger, something more noticeable. Something more noteworthy. She wanted a change, and Honey, change was coming.

So enthralled with my new scars, I hardly noticed that the Awards Banquet also left it’s mark on Aaron. In the months following the table incident, while I was ruminating about how I could squeeze more impressive endeavors into my life, Aaron was looking for an exit strategy to leave Goodwin all together. 

As long as I’d known him, Aaron was always on the hunt for new business opportunities. Usually I listened to his latest brainstorm, nodded at the right places, and anticipated a different new idea the next day. So I didn’t pay much attention to how Aaron was becoming increasingly restless with work. He made passing comments about how moving people’s money from CDs to  Mutual Funds, from bonds to Insurance annuities, wasn’t stimulating. “I’m not challenged. I get paid a ridiculous amount of money for the little work that I do.”

At heart Aaron is a builder. He’d built this business, started from scratch, labored to get the flywheel turning. Now that the machine was rolling, he didn’t feel motivated by the day to day repetition of making dollar upon dollar by rolling over IRAs. All day for eight hours he did little else than converse with gray-haired people about facing the end of their life, about death, grief, and trust funds. The job was old.

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Ch. 8 Lies of the Magpie

Maleah Warner Memoir

Ep. 30 Invisible

Last night when I packed my suitcase, I opened my linen closet to find my bag of travel size items which I keep in a plastic storage bin on the bottom shelf.  A wave of shame made me tremble and I retrieved the bag, closed the lid and stuffed the container back in the closet as fast as possible. I rarely think about the closet incident, but every now and then something will trigger the memory and I’m washed with humiliation. Was that really me? Did I really lock my children in their bedrooms and hide in the bottom of a closet? 

Aaron and I have grown closer over the past four years, but he doesn’t know about the closet. I don’t want to freak him out. Nor have I ever told him about driving away from home in the middle of the night planning to change my identity and start a new life in Vegas.

When Kate was about 18 months old, I heard Marie Osmond give an interview talking about her experience with postpartum depression. “One night I got in the car and started to drive,” she said. “I didn’t know where I was going or what I was going to do. All I knew was that I was unfit to be a mother and that everyone—my kids, my husband, even the Osmond family would be better off without me.”

I took in every word. I’d always felt a tiny connection to Marie Osmond. We’re both Mormon and we both have a lot of brothers. And at about the same time, we both got in our cars and drove away from our babies. She traveling north on the Pacific Coast Highway. Me traveling northwest towards towards Las Vegas.

That was the first time I’d ever heard the term “postpartum depression.”

At the end of the interview the audience applauded. She was hailed as courageous for sharing her story, for talking about a taboo subject. She’d had postpartum depression and audiences applauded her for it.

I don’t know if I had postpartum depression.

But I do know, that no one applauded.

Nobody even knew.

I was no Marie Osmond. All the attention, the demands of notoriety were a burden for her. My burden was that nobody noticed me.

Nothing I did was admirable or worthy of attention.

I was invisible.

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Ch 7 Lies of the Magpie

Maleah Warner

Ep. 29  The White House

When I think back about the year after Kate’s birth, my memories come with the wonder of Dr. Jeckyl and the taint of  Mr. Hyde. I was genuinely happy; I wasn’t faking happy. I wasn’t “happy on the surface and sad underneath.” I was happy to the marrow of my bones happy. I experienced joy I didn’t know possible. I had never before known how having children in my life could be so magical.

Danny thrilled me. He was smart, inquisitive, playful, and interactive. He learned quickly, could recognize alphabet letters, learned new sounds daily. He loved dogs and begged to watch Disney’s 101 Dalmatians on VHS every day. We dressed him as a spotted Dalmatian for Halloween.

Kate was the most beautiful baby, strawberry-shaped lips and rose petal cheeks. She was so pink and petite that no one ever mistook her for a boy. She was tiny and strong. She could lift and turn her head a few days after birth and she learned to roll, scoot, and crawl quickly. When she discovered her laugh, it came out hearty and full from deep in the belly, which made her, and the rest of us, laugh harder. Every day she smiled and laughed and flapped her arms the moment Aaron came in the door from work, knowing he would play with and tickle her.

In November, when Kate was six weeks old, nearly all of our family came from Utah for her baby blessing. (A baby blessing is the Mormon version of a Christening, but without the baptism and Godparents.)  Even my brother Kevin made the ten-hour drive, which was miraculous because his health seemed to be getting more fragile.

Kevin was eight years older than me, two years older than Annice. He had turned 33 days before Kate’s birth. He had Down’s Syndrome and a hole in his heart (a common complication of Down’s Syndrome which doctors repair today, but not in 1966 when Kevin was born.). His mind was sharp, but his holey heart struggled to pump enough oxygen to his extremities. After the long drive, his fingers and toes were dark purple. When he arrived at my apartment door, he enveloped me with the largeness of his hug and an exuberant Hello!

“Con-grat-u-la-tions,” he pronounced each syllable deliberately.

“Do you want to meet your niece?” I asked.

He sat on the blue loveseat, situated his body, positioned his arms into the shape of a cradle and smiled up at me, ready to receive this marvelous package. I balanced Kate in his arms steadying her head on his crooked elbow.

“She is beee-au . . . bee-au . . . bee-au-ti-ful.” It took three tries to get his favorite word to come out the way he wanted. He leaned down and kissed her forehead.

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Ch 6 Lies of the Magpie

my journey healing through postpartum depression

Ep 28 Mothering Failure

We brought Kate home and began adjusting to life as a family of four. Danny thought Kate was a toy that squeaked, moved, and cried if you poked it in the eyes. We set up a playpen in the family room—a protective perimeter to separate Danny from Kate. Aaron’s trip to St. Louis had proven profitable, he had passed his tests and was an officially licensed stock broker. His license came with a marvelous perk—a legitimate office of his own, a place to get off his feet during the day and here’s the best part, it came complete with air conditioning. With getting an office, Aaron had permission from Goodwin to hire his own personal office assistant. “I am going to spend eight hours a day with this person, and it will likely be a woman, so I want you to help me interview the candidates.”  Go back to 4 and clarify when I visit Karly that it’s in a temporary office

On the first day in his new office, Aaron came downstairs showered, freshly shaven, and dressed in a new shirt and tie. “You look like a man with important places to go and people to see.” I sat at our card table wearing wrinkled pajamas, my hair scooped up in a messy bun on top of my head, spooning oatmeal into Danny’s mouth. Kate was sleeping in the playpen next to the table, and Danny kept pointing at her with questioning eyes. “It’s Kate,” I’d say.

Aaron kissed the top of my messy bun. “You’re down here early.” He sounded so chipper. I wanted to go back to bed.

“Kate woke up at five to eat. Danny was wide awake at six. He’s been down here playing. I tried to keep him quiet.”

“I didn’t hear a thing,” Aaron poured some juice. “Did Kate wake up in the night?”

“At two thirty and then at five. Congratulations on your new office. Your first day with a real desk and air conditioning. This is a big day.”

“Yes it is. Have fun here. What are you guys going to do today?”

I didn’t know how to answer. What did he think I should do today? What did he think I could do today? In between hooking a six-pound human to my chest every three hours and stopping eleven-month-old Danny from running over his new sister with his fire truck, what did he expect from me?

Did he expect that I would read Barney books to Danny and tell him the name of every plastic alphabet letter he brought to me. Because that’s what I did.

Did he expect that I would wince and cry each time Kate started to suck on my cracked, bleeding nipples? Because that’s what I did.

Did he expect that I would lay Kate down on our bed and fall sound asleep next to her?

Because that’s what I did.

Laiah and I talked most often when I took Kate downstairs for her 2:30 am feedings. Laiah never seemed to need sleep like I did. I sat in the rocking recliner staring foggy-eyed at the bucket of Danny’s toys in the corner. In the dim, mysterious glow of the lamp light, I expected at any moment for the toys to come to life and perform a midnight matinee in the middle of the family room floor.

“I’m not winning any prizes in the mothering arena, am I?” I whispered to Laiah while I leaned my head against the recliner waiting for Kate to finish. “There’s no report card. How do I know if I’m doing this right? What tells me how I measure compared to other women?”

Laiah knew the answer. “The mothering judges aren’t as direct. You have to watch for subtle signs from people around you. They may not come straight out and tell you what they think, but watch their actions and listen for the underlying meaning of what they say, especially Aaron, and you’ll have a good idea of how you rank in your performance as a mother.”

“Nancy, a lady at church, went two weeks overdue. She said I was lucky that I only had eight month pregnancies.”

Laiah nodded, “People will rightly think that you weaseled your way out of those hardest, last weeks of pregnancy.”

“Does Aaron think that?” I asked worried.

“Aaron never fully believed you about the bed rest. He thought you were milking the situation. The bed rest and the false labor embarrassed him. It made him realize that he married a weak woman.”

“How do you know?” I asked.

“You just need to open your eyes and pay attention to Aaron’s cues. What was his reaction after you gave birth to Kate? Did he say you were brave? Did he say you did a good job?”

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Chapter 5 Lies of the Magpie

Maleah Warner

Ep 27 Bed Rest for an Overachiever

In August I had my first prenatal appointment with my new Arizona obstetrician.

The week leading up to the appointment I had started having contractions. I’d hoped the preterm labor I’d experienced with Danny was a fluke, a one-time thing. No such luck. It seemed my uterus was prone to contract more than a team of commissioned corporate lawyers.

“You’re twenty nine weeks and already dilated,” Dr. Magnuson said with a grim expression. “Was you last baby premature?”

“No. He was born at 37-weeks and was perfectly fine. No complications.” I didn’t like where this conversation was going. Dr. Magnuson sent me to Labor & Delivery for monitoring. After two hours they sent me home with a prescription for Brethine and instructions to limit my physical activity.

The next day I didn’t take Danny for our morning stroller walk. I didn’t push him in the playground swing. I didn’t vacuum or scrub bathrooms. We didn’t go to the library or the grocery store. We didn’t go swimming. At naptime I didn’t carry Danny up to bed, but knelt behind as he practiced crawling up the stairs on his own. 

This new routine of non-doing was okay for a solid three days before we were both stir crazy and ornery.

 

The next morning, as usual, Danny was wide awake at 6:00 a.m. Our ever predictable early bird. For convenience, and to not wake up Aaron, I did carry him downstairs where I changed his diaper, fixed him a bottle of formula, and parked him in front of the television feeling grateful that PBS started their children’s programming at 6:30 a.m. with Caillou (in my opinion the second-worst children’s show in the universe only beat out by Teletubbies) followed by an hour of Sesame Street at 7:00 a.m. I fell back asleep on the floral beast and woke to the strains of the Elmo’s World them song at 7:45 a.m. as Aaron quietly closed our front door behind him.

He left without kissing me goodbye.

Immediately I called Laiah. “I think Aaron’s mad or annoyed with me.” I told her. She hurried over and we had an extensive conversation. I couldn’t do much of anything else.

“You can hardly blame him,” she replied. “He’s outside all day every day burning his butt off making money while you sit here in this cushy apartment doing nothing.”

The broken springs on the couch poked into my back. There really was no comfortable position on that couch;  if the floral beast was anything, it wasn’t cushy. “I didn’t ask to sit in an apartment all day,” I argued my case to Laiah. “I didn’t ask to have preterm labor and to be put on limited activity. I would one hundred times rather wash dishes and run errands than be cooped up all day, doesn’t Aaron realize that?”

“Doesn’t matter,” Laiah said. “Aaron’s working hard. You have to suffer equally or your marriage won’t be equal. It’s not fair if Aaron is sweating in the sun while you’re at home relaxing.”

Chapter 4 Lies of the Magpie

Memoir story of my journey healing through postpartum depression and chronic.

Ep. 26 Stay At Home Mother

The word default has two meanings. One, it connotes a failure to meet an obligation or expectation. And this is what happened. By the time I told Aaron the news about our imminent arrival, our internet store had still not made a single sale. We had a hefty monthly business loan payment and zero business income. Default hints at a lapse of judgement, a miss, an overlook, a mistake. But it couldn’t have been Aaron’s fault for enthusiastically jumping onboard when I wanted to buy the same internet retail package that I was selling to business-minded adventurers from Idaho to Iowa. Nor how could Galaxy Mall be blamed for believing that every person with a home computer would be clicking and ordering before the year’s end? Who could have known it would take twenty years to shift the public’s habits away from brick and mortar shopping? Nobody else inside Galaxy Mall was making any sales. My company went under and I found myself pregnant, unemployed, and working assembly-line temp jobs.

But the word default can also mean a predetermined setting that the programmer has chosen the mechanism will automatically revert to when no other alternative is selected by the user. Clocks revert to midnight, calculators revert to zero, computers revert to basic programming. Mothers revert to caring for their offspring. We house, feed, and grow them within our bodies for 9 months, naturally we provide for their sleep, shelter, and food. This is mother’s instinct at its strongest. It’s our default setting.

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Chapter 3 Lies of the Magpie

postpartum depression

Ep. 24 The Story of My Journey Healing Through Postpartum Depression and Chronic Illness

Laiah was the first to see the flyer advertising the Miss Aspen Canyon Community College Pageant. “You should enter.” She ripped the flyer from its tack and handed it to me. “The winner gets a cash scholarship and a new computer.”

How would I compare in a line-up of accomplished young women? Growing up in a society where girls were not my comrades, but my competition, what would it mean to me if the judges scored me as the very best one? No friendships were at stake, my circle of girlfriends remained always the distance of my measuring stick. I filled out the pageant application, submitted a photo, and borrowed a dress.

The night of the pageant I was pacing backstage waiting for my turn in the talent competition when I heard a voice call to me. “Hey stranger,” Aaron walked towards me dressed in a sleek, black tuxedo, a ginormous grin covering his face.

“Well, you clean up pretty well,” I said taking in his aura. His hair was slicked with gel. He straightened his bow tie and winked at me, looking like a GQ model. I was already nervous, wringing my hands and pulling at my numb fingers. His presence filled me with electricity and I wobbled unevenly in my high-heeled shoes, fighting to stay balanced. The air in the dark back stage was frigid, but suddenly I felt an odd mix of hot and cold, as if my entire body had been placed in a furnace, except my arms, which were in a freezer.  I rubbed my shoulders, my wrists, my palms together and blew into them as if I were standing outside in a snowstorm. “What are you doing here?” I asked Aaron, trying to sound completely calm and in control.

“Madame Pageant Director asked the senators to be your escorts this evening,” he spoke with an exaggerated, sophisticated accent. “I just wanted to tell you good luck. You’ll do great out there.” He rocked back and forth in his black dress shoes and I wondered if he was thinking about giving me a hug or a high five. Instead he performed a classic Aaron pivot, and chugged his arms getting his train ready to depart. Before leaving he flashed me his huge smile. Our eyes locked, briefly and in those seconds, all the electric waves surging through me collected as if pulled by a magnet and traveled on one current that connected Aaron’s gaze to me. “Break a leg,” he joked and walked back behind the curtain. A jolt knocked me backwards as the electric connection broke. I stood trying to catch my breath and find my composure before my name was announced for my performance in the talent competition.

After my piano solo, I bowed graciously to the judges, smiled at the crowd, walked off stage and went directly into the dressing room to change into an evening gown and pin up my hair. The temperature felt like a hundred degrees backstage.

Chapter 2 Lies of the Magpie

Postpartum Depression Memoir

Ch. 2 Lies of the Magpie

The story of my journey healing through postpartum depression and chronic illness. 

The thing Aaron remembers most about me from college is my fast-paced walk around campus. His tennis class met at three o’clock at the courts across from my off-campus housing. For weeks he watched me leave my apartment, hurry across the road, rush past the tennis courts, short cut across the grass and disappear into the Humanities Building. His tennis partner noticed him staring and said, “Don’t waste your time. That is Maleah Day. She is the Academic Vice President. Ten bucks says you can’t get her to stop to talk to you. She walks that fast everywhere she goes.”

It was my sophomore year. I was ten years older than the straggly nine-year-old girl from Ms. Wickersham’s fourth grade class. My bean-pole figure had filled out in a few key places. Two years of orthodontic work and contact lenses had tamed my profile, but my ambition—if possible—was still as potent. I’d traded my dream of becoming a firefighter and astronaut to becoming an Airforce pilot and a foreign ambassador. I declared a Political Science major and carried an application for the Peace Corps in my backpack.

Still, I’d never forgotten my dream to become Mrs. Murry from A Wrinkle in Time and have my own kitchen/chemistry lab. My scholarship covered full tuition and fees, regardless of number of credit hours, so in addition to my social science courses, I registered for a Biochemistry Series, Anatomy, Microbiology, and Physiology. These would cover all lab science prerequisites, just in case I changed my mind about Foreign Diplomacy and decided to apply to Medical School. It was a good plan, I thought, to keep both options open.

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