I called my midwife and kept in touch through the early part of my labor. She came and checked on me but my contractions were still far apart. They started to pick up in the afternoon. I drank teas that were supposed to help with my labor but I suspect that I was still anemic and that my labor was affected by that. Revati, my midwife, brought an assistant with her. If I remember correctly her name was Svati. Together they kept tabs on my baby’s heart rate and monitored my dilation. When I was fully dilated I began the ordeal of pushing. I pushed for over three hours with no progress. Finally my son started through the birth canal. (Revati explained that he had been transverse, or facing the wrong direction, even though his head was down.) He seemed stuck at one point and she reached in to find out what was holding him up. He had cupped his chin with his hand. She managed to pull his hand down towards the opening and finally with a few more pushes he was free—and crying for all he was worth. I had a 9 lb. 22 inch son who looked more like he was a month old than like a newborn. His face was a bit puffy and I took my first look at him and said, “Oh no, he looks just like my Mom!” But that was just the swelling. Once it went down I could see his sweet features. I was in love.
I got up to take a shower and was shaky. Revati made sure to check on me because I was a little shocky. I had lost some blood and I felt like I was drifting away. As I got cleaned up from the blood and feces involved in the birth, I happened to look down at my abdomen.
Oh my God! I had this sagging pouch that seemed to form a second belly button. I never really thought about what would happen to all that skin that had stretched and stretched and stretched to hold a 9 lb. baby! This was hideous! I had no idea how I’d ever get rid of it. Meanwhile my breasts had gone from a B cup to a double D. Men no longer made any pretense of looking at my face when they spoke to me. I was really shocked by their lack of manners, coming from Iowa.
Back in my newly cleaned bed (we had wisely put clean sheets underneath plastic and newspaper and an old sheet on top that we simply threw away) I snuggled with my precious newborn and could hardly rest for all the excitement of the long night and day. The first solid food I had was a grilled cheese sandwich made from the bread I had baked when I went into labor. I was in bliss.
The next morning reality set in as I was so bruised inside I could hardly walk. I couldn’t get up from the floor using my own muscles without extreme pain so Mahasraya pulled me up as a dead weight. (I can’t say he never did anything nice for me!) That evening Srilekha and Mitravinda came over bearing food and supplies and I had to crawl over to the door to let them in. They did my laundry for me and brought me some hot food. We didn’t even have a refrigerator for the first six months we lived in the Durango Street apartment. This food was a godsend. I got advice on the care of the umbilical cord stub and nursing, diaper changing and so on.
I was so amazed that out of the previous ten months of hardship I had received this amazing gift of a beautiful son. I named him Lakshmana. I had been reading the Ramayana and I knew his older brother had been named Ramchandra. Since Lord Rama and Lakshmana were half brothers, I felt that it was appropriate to name Lakshmana in relation to his half brother Rama.
We took many pictures in the next few months. Mahasraya seemed happy with the baby also, although the new level of violence continued. I guess that although he was proud to have a son he felt stressed by the new responsibility. He did get a job with the temple doing guard duty so once again he was working all night. He was going ahead with his plans to grow psilocybin mushrooms in our bedroom so we lived in the living room with our new baby while he tried to create a sterile environment for the mushrooms. He was unhappy with the results—his mycelium culture got contaminated somehow. He was forced to throw it out, sterilize again and start from scratch. None of this improved his mood.
One day he was angry at me for something and started yelling at me, calling me a cunt among other things. I snapped at this and yelled back, “I’m not some prostitute on the street—you can’t talk to me like that!”
Next thing I knew I was across the room and on the floor, not quite understanding how I got there. Did he push me or throw me or what? I’ll never know for sure. I was sobbing and completely freaked out. I ended up at Mitravinda’s and he tried to call me there several times and I asked her to say I wasn’t there. Her husband came home at one point and he was upset that she was offering me refuge. He didn’t really approve of our friendship for some reason. I wonder if I reminded him of his abusive first wife. I also think there was a class issue going on. Eventually I went back home and it was hearts and flowers time. But the writing was on the wall; I was beginning to understand that I couldn’t live like this. I still had some hope that I could convince him to stop.
I spoke to his friend Keshava about the beatings hoping he could talk some sense into him. This just made Mahasraya angry.
I remember watching the Incredible Hulk on TV and wishing I could do the same thing and make Mahasraya see how it felt to be beaten, how humiliating and painful it was. Underneath the fear and pain and sadness was a seething rage.
Some of the devotee women were reading a book called Fascinating Womanhood by Helen Andelin. It was geared to fundamentalist Christians (she was a Mormon woman) and was all about how a devout and chaste wife should serve her husband and could use her feminine gifts to guide her husband for the good of the family. Her husband had written a companion book, Man of Steel and Velvet. I looked at these books like a person dying in the desert might look at a glass of water. I felt they were my one chance to make my marriage work. I read FW cover-to-cover and tried to put it all into practice. Although she did have a section in there about how if one is being abused or has an immoral or alcoholic spouse that one should leave until the problem has been addressed, I ignored that part in the hope that my actions could somehow reform my husband. I seemed to see a spark of goodness in him and I was determined to nourish it and see it burst into a steady flame.
I threw myself into the spirit of FW and went all out trying to keep a spotless house, always be presentable, cooking meals on time and so on. This was rather difficult living in one room while our bedroom was psilocybin-central, but I worked hard at it. I even ordered the companion book for Mahasraya, though I never got him to read it. He referred to the book as Man of Steel and Bullshit.
No matter how hard I tried to have everything perfect and clean and so on, Mahasraya could always find a reason to smack me around. After a few months I became resentful that all this hard work was completely unrecognized by the kind of reciprocal attention and appreciation outlined in the book. I finally gave up on it all. Likewise, Mahasraya gave up on growing mushrooms and decided that his mycelium source was “bogus.” So we got our bedroom back.
The beatings continued to escalate and I grew more and more desperate to escape them. I finally hatched a plan to leave in the middle of the night while he was doing guard duty and get a plane to Hawaii. It was during this period that I also tried one night to put his stuff outside and left a note that he should go stay with his friends and that he could get the rest of his stuff the following day. He informed me, through the flimsy door, that he could break it down and kill me before the police would have time to get there.
to be continued...