CW: brief mention of domestic violence
Yes, that BBC. Squeal.
Big writing moments are few and far between for many of us, so forgive me for reveling a bit.
One day a month or so ago, I woke up to an email from a BBC producer who had found my essay “I failed at breastfeeding my micro-preemie,” published last year in Blood+Milk. He works on a radio show called The Food Chain, which deals with all things food (it’s really wonderful. Please listen to some episodes.). He invited me to participate in a conversation with two other moms about our challenges with breastfeeding, which would be recorded for this show.
I was completely freaked out and scared, the kind of freaked out and scared that lets me know I have to do something.
The entire process was great. I talked with the producer on the phone and we bonded over being preemie parents. He was genuinely kind in receiving my story, more of it than I intended to share with the public. He put me at ease. My love, my moral support, and I drove over to WPSU, the radio station at Penn State, to call in to the BBC when it was time to record the episode, and the two women I talked with, plus the moderator, were so great. Smart and funny and thoughtful. It was validating just to be included among them, let alone that the moderator introduced me as “writer.” Not mom or employee of this or that place, but writer, as if it’s enough on its own. Imagine.
And then it was over and the producer asked me for photos. They wanted to do a photo collage of all three of us moms with our kids as babies, for the show’s website. The hard part was over, right? I did the show, I didn’t um too much or say anything stupid, I didn’t speak for anyone but myself and my own experience.
Sometimes the past comes back in the weirdest ways. There are no pictures from that time that I want to share with the world. There are pictures, of course–of Jax and I doing kangaroo care in the hospital, of post-nap selfies, of first birthday parties. They are all either too intimate or I don’t want to attribute the person who took them or there are pieces of my old life, glimpses of curtain or floor or couch or throw blanket or a borrowed hoodie that I don’t want to see or show. There are no pictures without my dark circles and dying eyes, not because of motherhood, but because of domestic violence.
I looked at all of them. Memoirist that I am, I went back there. Pleaser that I am, I didn’t want to say no to the BBC.
But the best picture of Jax and I from the hospital, the picture I took myself, scrawny white selfie-arm visible at the left border, while wearing a somehow flattering peach-pink hospital gown, his eyes open and a milk-happy look on his face, shows my hand bearing an heirloom engagement ring. Nope. Not happening. I can tell you about it, here in my space where I can control my narrative and say that that ring came off for good just a few months after I took that pic, but I’m not just going to display it without commentary to the entire listener-ship of the BBC.
In the end, I sent a handful of pics I was sure wouldn’t be suitable, plus a few more recent ones, with my apologies. They chose, to my delight, a pic of Jax and I from last spring at one of our favorite hiking spots. We always look best in sunlight.
I hope you’ll listen. Thanks for listening here.