Tag Archives: prison

Wednesday’s Child

The dull ache at the base of my brain is like a relentless lover scorned. It’s giving way to a kind of vertigo that has shifted the real world into a dream as graspable as black smoke. The stench of it chokes me and turns my stomach. My tongue dries out like it’s licked the heart of the desert and been forever changed. I swallow hard to moisten the scar in my throat and soften the fortifying rock below my solar plexus. My heart beats to a random drum in staccato. Faint and without much interest in continuing.

I’m watching the credits roll and I don’t remember most of the movie. I’m too tired.

Every breath carries a thousand griefs. The tears are so stuck I don’t remember what it’s like to cry but I’m afraid if I suddenly recalled how to sob I would cry out every last drop of blood in my body. My flesh carries the marks of this beating and I’m afraid to look at them in fear I’ll find the bullet hole that went straight to my brain.

I remember a time so long ago that it feels like it belongs to someone else and not me.

There was a wide eyed girl with a heart so open she could have swallowed the whole earth with it. She believed in happy endings and prince charmings. Even though her father died tragically when she was four, she held out for the end believing it would justify the loss.

The darker the tunnel the brighter the outlet will be. The deeper the grief the greater the glory in the end. Every fairy tale says so.

Her hope would not be muted. Not by a hundred insults. Not by the false accusations of wagging tongues. Not by jealousy of lazy narcissists. Not by the inconvenience of the cubicles. Not by the misunderstandings of the ignorant.

But in the end she curled herself up in my head and went to sleep. And left me all alone. Her weight pressing in on my spinal cord.

From my quiet, forgotten corner, I watch as lovers unite and ride off into sunsets. I gaze into the eyes of the hopeful who have felt little pain in their pursuits. I inquire about the arrivals of kings and queens, born into the hands of another. I listen to the complaints of those who do not love the liberties I’ve lost.

I fell off the merry go round very early. The boy who pushed me just offered me a piece of rotten candy if I don’t tell anyone it was him. He doesn’t want it to ruin his holiday in the sun, after all.

I look down at the rags and blood and filth I’m wrapped in. I feel the patches of head where hair used to be. I lift the lids that are heavy with wrinkles and blink hard to moisten the eyes that are so dry it hurts to see. I caress the body that sags into the shape of an old woman prematurely.

And I ask her to press harder in sleep so that the credits will end. I can close my eyes and click my heals and finally go home if it’s still there.

I open my eyes to find that re-entry is never what they tell you. It’s awkward. For everyone. Some things can never be the same again. For the war-child, home vanishes in the smoke.



Day 26: 97.5 Hours Remaining

Conrad Murray Junior. This is the new nickname I get for being the “hardest working woman at the VOA” today. A client who has been begging me for a phone call (tall white women are his “thing,” he says) asked once again for me to spare some time so he can wine and dine me. I explained, again, that I’m not interested in investing my time in this area right now, which caused him to turn to the staff nearby and complain about how I don’t want to have dinner with a black man.

It’s all about race, even when I don’t make it that way.

Somehow things turned to my conviction and the staff mentioned I was involved with a birth.

“Did you cut the cord?” someone asked.

“Yes.” Duh.

The fellah shrugged. Apparently cutting the cord was proof I’m a felon.

It didn’t dawn on me until afterward that I actually DIDN’T cut this particulary baby’s cord. Se la vie. I had already earned the Conrad Jr. title.

Earlier on this morning, while walking to the shelter, Eric asked me what I thought about the verdict. My response came through shivering lips since the temperatures on skid row have now plummeted into the forties.

“I don’t know. The whole thing is complicated. But I do know that the video of the judge reading the verdict and the clerk announcing it… the video of the cheering crowd in response… it made me feel sick.” I’m sure my face demonstrated the terror and grief that rushes through my body any time I remember that moment in my life when a jury of people who know nothing about midwifery found me guilty of a felony.

“Yeah, what people don’t seem to remember is that Dr. Murray and Jackson were friends. I imagine it hurt the doctor to see his friend die. People forget that. They forget what he might be feelin.”

“Perhaps it’s still too close to my own trial date.” I gulp hard here, remembering that Dr. Murray faces four years in prison, max, while I faced three. My body shudders again, remember the stress of awaiting my sentencing date. Each day more excruciating than the last.

There is some level of projected understanding beneath Eric’s tough exterior that feels like he’s been where I’m at. I wish I knew why. I haven’t known many people who have crossed that line through the looking glass. The white rabbit isn’t really all that exciting and most people who’ve actually BEEN there don’t necessarily want to relive the horrors.

But I do. I want to talk and paint and scream it out all over anyone who will listen. I want people to KNOW what real judgement feels like so they learn to protect others from it when it isn’t warranted.

I had lunch with a couple who lost their children a long time ago, despite the fact that they have had their charges dropped. The system still has their children locked away from them. Innocent parents being punished for not being typical parents. They have lost everything in their quest to regain their babies. They are now living on skid row, in a shelter just up the street. So strange to sit across from intelligent, hardworking people, who are forced into subjection by the judgement of a handful of childless social workers. Judgement of victimless crimes is a foe of true liberty.

Day 4: 256 Hours Remaining

So, for some reason I thought right now would be a great time to start training to do a Tough Mudder (http://toughmudder.com/) with a past client, named Stacy, who is a trainer. If you aren’t aware of Tough Mudder, it’s an obstacle course/mud run that raises funds to support the Wounded Warrior Project (http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org/). It’s just on that list of “things I would do if I weren’t on call to catch babies all the dang time.” And, well, I’m not on call. I could ACTUALLY leave my cell phone somewhere and not think about it for the first time in ten years. I could get on a boat and sail far away or jump on a train and visit long lost family.

Oh, except I’m on probation and am restricted from leaving Los Angeles and Orange County. Right.

What did I do to deserve such love?

Anyway… back to Tough Mudder. Stacy and her husband are both built of steel. I kid you not. They can lift small buildings with their pinkies. And they’ve taken it upon themselves to make sure I don’t die running in the mud. I’m flattered.

But on Day Four of my community service sentence for saving a baby’s life, I am finding that the soreness is really setting in. So much so that when I sit on the toilet before I head out for the shelter I literally have to pull myself up using the walls. Which is really lady-like. But so were 55 deep squats, thank you very much.

And I’m looking forward to rolling toilet paper because I can rest. Unfortunately, Jeremy has other plans for me. To my shock, I’m put on litter pickup duty instead.

Jeremy hands me a broom, a dust pan and a flash light. “Sweep the entire courtyard and then go around in all the planters and pick up any trash and cigarette butts. When you done here, you done. You can go sit in the clubhouse til mornin duties.”

I’d never seen so many cigarette butts in planters in all my life. And each one demanded another squat. By the time I finished, my eyes were watering and I was feeling dizzy from the pain.

The clubhouse had become heaven on skid row.

Robert had been replaced by a new community service worker. Everyone had less hours than I did, apparently. The new guy introduced himself as Chris, doing 40 hours for a DUI. And like Robert, he gawked at my hours and wanted to know what I did. I must have beat someone up, of course.

“I delivered a baby.” No sense saying that I caught the baby. Nobody outside of homebirth really cares if you say “delivered” or “caught.” Actually “caught” makes them think someone threw the baby to start with. I was no longer in the mood to explain midwifery to some non-breeder.

“Wait a minute. What’s your name?” He asked, looking at me through hipster glasses.

“Katie McCall.” I’m not going to lie, that made me a little uneasy.

“No shit? I think I read about you on Facebook. My friend wants to be a midwife and she posted a news story about your case.”

“Serious? What’s her name?”

“Rebecca Day.”

I sat in silence for a moment, in awe of how the world can be such a small place. I had cared for Rebecca during her pregnancy with twins and I told Chris so. He likewise expressed his amazement. A couple hours later he became my 1,899th friend on Facebook. That’s how things work in the digital age. Wonder if we’ll swap Christmas cards.

My pain and exhaustion eventually gave way and I pulled my hoody jacket tight around me and tucked myself into a fetal position on the cold concrete floor because it was more comfortable than the 99 cent store stackable chairs that were the only other option.

“Wow,” said Chris. “You really are built for prison, huh?”