As this is my first post in awhile, I would like to reflect on the last ten days wherein I have experienced the most epic changes of my life in both my external and internal world. I would like to share some of the highlights of these last ten days from the peaks of the profound to the valleys of the most, seemingly, mundane as well as some of the challenges, the fears, the epicness and the vast beauty that is bearing witness to the birth of a human child and the subsequent care that follows. But as I write this I realize that each of these moments are so grand, that is, they take up such a vast space within me, that I am having trouble reflecting upon them with any semblance of brevity. I notice myself wanting to write a book about experiencing the first poop, or the way this precious baby reaches out to the world when sleeping, or the vigor in which their mouth latches to the breast and sucks so hard you can hear it from the other room.
Because of this, I will need to hone my focus or you will be reading for some time and I will be writing far into the future. Today, let’s focus on two major events.
Allow me to break down a few basic dates and times for you. Brittany started her birthing process at about 2:45 PM on May 19th. Ilya Greyfox was born at 2:45 PM on May 20th. As I write this it is about 2:45 PM on May 29th. The hours of the birthing process have not only been documented via video in the moment they occurred but also via audio a few short days later and both will be released in time. Although I may write my own version of reflections of the first 24 hours, for the purpose of this writing, the two major events I would like to focus on are as follows. The first, the initial hour when Brittany told me she was going to have our baby “very soon” and, the second, falling at the end of hour 23, when Ilya presented themselves to us Earthside, cleared the lungs, and cried, “hello.”
Brittany came home from Barton Springs here in Austin after a morning of ecstatic dance and went directly into the bathroom. Typically I would have joined her in our Sunday morning dance ritual but for some reason I felt an overwhelming urge to stay home and wrap up loose ends for our eminent birth. At the time, I envisioned our birth happening in maybe a few days and more likely a week as we were still two weeks away from our June 1 “due date”. None the less, I followed the urge to stay home and I hung light-proof curtains in our bedroom, organized the fridge, checked my birthing tub kit, did some basic cleaning and worked on a project I wanted to finish up before Ilya arrived. Brittany came out of the bathroom and showed me some toilet paper she had wiped herself with. I saw blood and I saw her smiling.
She said, “I think we’re going to have our baby very soon.” I responded by turning the color from my face from almond-brown to yellow-white, you know, the color before you puke, and swallowed the panic attack that was emerging in my throat like a sudden, late-spring, Texas flood. Over the next hour I set up the birthing tub, the extra bed, moved our floor mats, brought out all our towels, made Brittany a little food, and double checked our box of postpartum herbs and tools. Throughout this hour I began to zone in. I wouldn’t say I was relaxing but I was moving away from the initial shock into a place of strength and preparedness, ready and aware.
The next 23 hours were, for lack of a more accurate word, insane. As Brittany allowed the animal that is the birthing-human, carried on a wave of hormones, to grow and to become her, I continued to root myself to the earth in an attempt to be the ground beneath the wave and something for that beautiful, redheaded animal to reach out to and growl at, as the case became. There is too much to write about here for me to get into the details, suffice it to say we both have determined that time was the “craziest shit that’s ever happened” for us. Then, hour 24 came and in one of the strongest of primordial moments I had witnessed from Brittany, Ilya came through.
Brittany was in the birth tub, it was dark in our room with salt lamps glowing a low, rose-colored light, and the water in the tub was cast in shadow. I couldn’t see through the dark water but Brittany had her hand down below her and said, “I have their head,” and, “I can feel their ear.” In that moment, the ground that I had rooted myself to dropped out, became air, and I started to cry.
Somewhere inside of me I knew this was the moment for action. The one we had talked about. “Let’s try to get a video of them emerging,” we had said weeks ago. I took a big breath and found the camera and I turned it on and I could not for the life of me figure out how to make it work despite owning and operating this camera on a weekly basis for a couple of years. What is this thing in my hands? What is happening? Where am I? These thoughts were not conscious but I could feel them coursing through my useless left-brain.
Instead of turning on the video I accidentally took two photos that, later, we found one had captured a blurry head in occopito-anterior position, but in the moment was, simply, confusing. I finally realized I was on the wrong setting and I moved the little dial on the camera from photo to video and right when I pressed record, like a magic trick where the magician reveals something that was not there before, I looked up and there was a baby.
I completely lost my shit.
A couple hours later we were all laying together, naked, in our room, in the low, rose-colored light of those salt lamps, surrounded by towels, our bodies skewed half-way on our floor mats and propped up with pillows. Brittany and I just looked at each other and sobbed as our baby closed their eyes and slept between breast and arm and chest and warmth and love.
It is now day 11. Or perhaps day 10 and three-quarters is more accurate to note since every moment has so much meaning right now and a day feels like a lifetime. Additionally, everything, as you know if you have found yourself in the presence of a baby, takes a lot longer and what you set out to write one day will easily move into the next and who knows, maybe even the one after that. So, yes, it is day 10 and three-quarters. This morning Ilya and I took a bath and listened to The Microphones. I sang a bit and Ilya just rested on my chest. Now Ilya is laying their sweet little head in Brittany’s arm, ardently sucking from her breast and making snorting noises. Now, Ilya is peeing on Brittany and we are laughing about it. And here I am. Writing and thinking, this is just the beginning.
I am, in case it is not clear, the happiest, most fulfilled, and most in love I have ever been. I am so very proud of Brittany and Ilya and myself and I am completely humbled and raw and open to every moment that is now making up my days. Every moment has such importance and I want for nothing else but to be a part of this beautiful unfolding life that is Ilya Greyfox.
I stopped crying at some point. I am not sure exactly when it was but I think it was around 18 or 19. It wasn’t deliberate. It wasn’t even conscious. It just sort of happened.
When I was 24 (pictured to the right) I found my cat dead. She had been hit by a car and her broken body was pushed up against the curb outside my house. I picked her up. I brought her into the backyard and I buried her. I cried then. A little. And I remember the feeling of letting one or two tears out and the way I shook my head and wiped my face and readjusted myself, stuffing that emotion down deep into my gut. I didn’t cry again until I was 28 despite another cat going missing, my dog, who was like my child, going missing, neither were ever to be found, and my father in law, whom I was close with, slowly dying of cancer over a two year period.
It wasn’t until my wife told me she didn’t want to be with me anymore, and it had been a month or so of living alone, and the reality of my utter emptiness set in that I allowed myself to be overwhelmed with emotion. I lost myself in it. I curled up into a ball on the floor shivering, shaking, and sobbing with tears pouring out of me. I stayed that way for a long time. I can’t say I felt good when I was done but I did feel more present, more aware, and more compassion for myself. In retrospect I can see how that initial release was the first step on a path towards creating a true connection with my emotional world, and indeed, with my truest and highest Self.
I’m 35 now. A lot of work has been done since that cry I had seven years ago. I can find myself easily crying a couple times a week these days. Sometimes it is because I feel emptiness. Sometimes it is because I feel angry. Sometimes it is because I feel sad. Sometimes it is because I feel loved. Regardless of the reason, I always feel more more present, more aware, and more compassion for myself.
The scientific health benefits of crying have long been researched. We know that, quite simply, when we cry from an emotional response we literally cry out stress hormones and toxicity while releasing a gentle dose of the feel-good hormone, oxytocin, into our bodies. But we don’t really need to look to science to prove to us that crying is a crucial element of health. It is intuitively known. And yet, many of us are fighting ourselves, shaking it off, stuffing it down, doing anything we can to avoid letting those tears flow.
We can look more deeply at why we who have been raised as men struggle so deeply with allowing ourselves to cry. We can look more deeply at why we struggle with allowing a myriad of emotions to exist, to flow, to be honored. I think a dedicated blog to the suppression and dare I say, oppression, of emotion in men is on the horizon. But maybe it is enough for now to simply know that crying is not only a basic human necessity for health and well-being but also a reflection of the Divine within us all.
Masculinity and Femininity alike share this Divine power. You, no matter how long it has been and no matter how much you may have stuffed deep down in your gut, can access your ability to cry. You can develop a relationship with it. You can honor yourself through the process. You can can give yourself the gift of a fuller spectrum of emotional expression and I guarantee, it will profoundly enhance your life as a man (as a woman, as a trans-man, trans-woman, non-binary human, or any other label you have chosen to identify as), as a seeker of Divine Masculinity, and as a human being.
I was raised as a man but I was never shown how to be a man. Like so many, I was most impacted by my experiences in the school system. In the school system I found the Divine Masculine hid itself in the fog of male-to-male and peer-to-peer aggression, bullying, shame, fear and confusion. The vulnerable man, the sensitive man, the quite man, the observant man, was not only hidden but, if uncovered, was attacked. I was not taught to be a man in the school system, in fact, I was taught how not to be a man, and here is how.
I learned that in order to be safe I had to laugh at pain instead of feel it. This led me to disassociate from my emotional world and created a lack of empathy for others. It led me to find humor in things like pranks, put-downs, and general bullying.
I learned that in order to be heard I had to speak over others. This led me to have underdeveloped listening skills both in voice and body-language communication. It led me to lack the ability to negotiate and find healthy compromise with others. It led me to dismiss other perspectives, beliefs, approaches and indeed, feelings.
I learned that in order to be loved I had to pretend I didn’t need love. This led me to push people away when I, in fact, desperately needed help and support. It led me to resent and feel repelled by others that outwardly expressed a desire for love. It led me to keeping myself at a distance from real connection and real depth lest I reveal my need for love. It led me to misunderstand and have inhibited forms of physical affection.
I learned that in order to be strong I could not be vulnerable. This led me to create a critical and shaming part inside of myself that attacked my own vulnerability. It led me to attack the vulnerability of my peers. It led to the belief that strength meant aggression. It created overly-defensive parts that were quick to physically and emotionally attack others if I felt I was being seen as vulnerable.
I am fortunate to have found ways throughout my school system years to tap into the Divine Masculine, to be able to feel, to be able to express feeling, to be able to share vulnerability, to be able to show true strength. I used poetry and punk rock to help me step out of the dominant culture, to form a relationship with the Divine, and to allow myself to heal and grow in ways that made sense to me. I feel so fortunate for the small group of peers I had that shared love together as best as we could. I feel a great gratitude for having a loving father that modeled sensitivity, listening, affection and strength. Without them, and without poetry, and without punk rock, I don’t know if I could have gotten to where I am, with the awareness that I have. But even with these assets, it has taken me years and years and years to develop a connection with these very basic human qualities that are empathy, vulnerability, and strength, just to name a few. It has taken me years and years and years to undo concepts of being a man that not only are inaccurate but incredibly damaging for the individual and our human community.
When I remember those days and I remember how much pain there was, my heart breaks for those that are experiencing the residuals of that trauma or are going through it right now. I know this pain from the perspective of being raised as a man. This is my opportunity to be one voice amongst many that can share with other men, for other men, not to exclude the hurt of other populations or humanity as a whole, but rather to give attention to those men that need it so we all can reap the rewards of Divine Masculinity. I share in order to bring awareness, to bring acknowledgement, to bring compassion and most importantly, to bring healing to ourselves, to our culture, and to the generations to come.
This is an opportunity for us ALL to unite, to share our traumas, to unburden ourselves, to find compassion for one another, and to help each other heal and to grow. We are, all of us, connected and what healing we do over there will help heal us right here and vice versa. Bringing attention to healing men does not take away from healing other groups or humanity as a whole, it only enhances and unites us all further.
Learning what being a man really means is still unfolding for me, but I am certain it does not include toxicity but that toxicity is the outcome of trauma and trauma can be integrated and healed with love. Understanding the influence of our actions while being able to take responsibility for those actions is a vital part of acknowledging our own hurt and how we may have contributed to the hurt of others.
Thank you for reading and providing an outlet for healing. Much love to you!