“Am I going to have to put the gloves on, and stick my hand in this goat?”
That’s what I was thinking just a couple weeks ago, as I squatted in my multi-colored chicken print muck boots in the fresh straw of the birthing stall in our barn.

“How messy is this going to get?”

Fortunately I had the goat vet on text chat. “I see one foot.” “Ok. Are the toes pointing up or down?” “Toes pointing up.” “OK good.”

Meanwhile, my mind is floating back to when I birthed my daughter, Clarise. How she looked at me with those big dark eyes full of presence, like… “Are you up to this, Lady?” I remembered how small she looked, how sweet, and yet how freakin intimidating this tiny being was. Looking into her eyes was like looking through a window to God. Birth. Sheesh. Messy terrifying gorgeous stuff.

Back to the goat midwifery. Big tears were now sliding down my cheeks, because as I slid back into this present moment, I realized Clarise was moving out. Tomorrow. She’d be 20 years old in 2 months. 20. That’s, like, “in her twenties.” And then I was sobbing.

But I was sobbing for something else, too, though. Something much bigger.

The mama goat was looking at me like, “Really? Hey, Lady, who’s the one in labor here?”
She was baring her teeth and groaning comically with each contraction. Back to work, Mellissa.

Right. No time to grieve my not-yet-left daughter just yet. Slimy stuff was happening.
Messy slimy stuff. Stuff that resulted in two beautiful baby goats, a boy (Elvis) and a girl (Diana Ross).

After I dried the kids off, I squeezed each baby goat (maybe a little too tight) willing them to be my baby daughter.

It didn’t work.
They were kids. But not my kid. Haha. Ok whatever.
Another wave of grief smacked me down amongst the birth-joy, “she’s leaving me” I thought plaintively, even though my lawyer brain doesn’t believe that insipid crap.

  • And then a huge tsunami of guilt washed up from my belly with creeping nausea. Who the heck am I to be grieving the successful raising of a great daughter?
  • It’s June 2020, and we are in the middle of a racial justice wake-up revolution. The cities are on fire with anarchists and my heart is on fire with the memory of my black Grandma Gram who made the best peach pies and had grown up cleaning white people’s houses on Nob Hill in SF, and
  • My monthly anti-racism study-group of folks is working overtime trying to help the recently-woken-up white folx to stop doing accidental careless harm we didn’t know existed a few years ago. So freaking much is happening that’s more important that my petty little sh*t.

Who am I to be “grieving” this when black and brown folks are carrying so much right now, the rage and the terror. People are dying.

Who am I to be grieving this empty nest thing, when I can only imagine how much more scared I’d be for my kid if she had the skin color of the Caribbean side of our family instead of the Vikings of my wasband’s lineage?

Thanks friends yes I know I know it’s ok to grieve my girl leaving. My healthy blondie happy girl is moving out. Waaa.

But this thing that’s moving in the world – the intrinsic injustice.  People are dying.  The situation that i can barely describe in our country right now. It’s not fair.  It’s not OK. I know it’s not new.  This mess is not new.  It’s just coming to a blessed head.  It’s becoming visible (yay!).  But dang it’s a mess (ugh). A mess we’ve made. A mess that I’ve benefited from for my whole life as a white-appearing woman, thankfully and sickeningly.

Now I had snot streaming down my face. Streaks out my eyes. Goat “dirt” on my chicken boots. There was slime all over my jeans. Blood and goo everywhere.

Birthing is so dang messy. It feels right to feel it all, though. No escaping the goo of today’s world.

It is indeed time to put our gloves on, and go in, though. Expect messy. Expect imperfect. Keep birthing.

Do you look white? Are you privileged like me?
I invite you to put your gloves on, and dive into the goo.
It’s not comfortable. Far from it.
But it’s liberating.
It births something new out of the muck. It births a better you, a more loving you, a more tuned-in connected you. And what it can birth, together, can save lives of brown skinned folk, and maybe even the soul of our nation.

Here’s a resource list from one of my anti-racism teachers, Jen Willsea.
Get started. Be patient. We have work to do. Messy wonderful sickening work.
May it re-birth our culture.

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One Comment

  • Mike Macy says:

    As usual, Mellissa, you’ve outdone me again. I’ve seen calves slide out of their mom’s in biting Montana col, but I never had to midwife one. I haven’t birthed a kid, or a child, or attended a birth.

    As for racism, well, I get the importance of removing symbols of it from state flags and monuments, but the real work and the real change is not so easy. Of course, you’re doing that too. Hat’s off to you.

    Hope you have a good mud room there in Nevada City, sounds like you need it all the time. I kinda like goats and one of my favorite birds, the nighthawks, we see at dusk flying back and forth hovering up bugs. Their family name? Goatsuckers. Don’t you love that.

    A black granny on Nob Hill. This country has so much po tential!

    Be well.

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