[Note: I took 2 days a week off during the first round of Climate Anxiety Counseling sessions, so this is an alternate history from a day I’ve already visited.]
I’m worried about the environment in the big picture, but I don’t have time to think about that in my own life right now. I have to hustle what I can to take care of my child and me. Recycling and what’s happening to our earth, it does bother me, but I’m not in a stable place where I can give time–what’s that called, to volunteer right now.
The next day, we took over the maternity ward of Women and Infants Hospital, and we made sure it had all the things we needed–the heart monitors and the disinfectant, the places to squat or pace. We took over the grocery store and got S some foods she wanted but couldn’t afford, and some vitamins and medicines we knew about. One of us turned a room in their house over to S so she had someplace to live–no lead paint, no mold–and when she couldn’t get along with that person, another person offered. S soaked her swollen feet in water gathered in rain barrels and cooled in the basement.
Three or four of us, one a midwife and one a nurse practitioner, went with her to the hospital and helped her give birth to the baby; we stayed with her while she tried to get it to nurse, and mixed formula and goat milk when after several days it couldn’t figure out how to latch on. She and the other people there to give birth or recover from it talked and griped and moved about freely, with plenty to eat, plenty of light, plenty of rest, plenty of people to take over so they could bathe or sleep. Some of them stayed there with their babies for months. Some of them left their babies there and never came back. Some left for part of the day and came back at night.
Our care of the person that S’s baby would become continued beyond their gestation, their birth, their childhood; our care of S, the people who’d had their babies alongside her, those babies and the people they became, each other, and the plants and animals among us ebbed and flowed, but never faltered. We took over labs and cultured more vaccines; we took over banks and tore up their offgassing plastic carpets; we built farms on great rafts of floating plants and shrines to laugh, cry and rage in; we buried or burned or devoured the dead, with reverence.
But before all that happened, S came back to the house–no lead paint, no mold–with her baby, a hookup for formula and goat milk, a brace to straighten out the turned-in feet, and a plan to go on the night watch when she got restless or consumed with the fury of being responsible for a helpless grub. The person whose house it had been went out back, where in the compost heap springtails and microbes were doing the work of turning the leaves and coffee grounds and potato peels into more dirt, to think about herself, and the child she had decided not to have, and the child and grown woman who lived in her house with her now, and her sisters, and the woman who had grown old and lost her mind slowly in that house long before; and all the other versions of the story.