On April 3rd of any given year, and after a few margaritas in celebration of life, my mother is known to tell my friends that I shat on myself moments before I was born. This shitting caused complications. The actual name for these complications is Meconium Aspiration. Basically, I took a crap — my final goodbye to the womb I guess — and was in danger of inhaling said crap, which could thus injure my lungs. So with the crap lingering dangerously close to my face, Dr. Robert M. Shine took swift measures to save my life. He grabbed the forceps and pulled my shit-faced self out of my mom’s crotch.
For the first week of my life my head and face were misshapen and bruised. One can only hope that this entry into the world — shit-faced and bruised with a fucked-up head — would in no way be a harbinger for the life I had before me.
Let’s just hope it’s a funny story.
But, alas, I have followed the premonitions of my birth. First the bipolar disorder (messed up head), then the alcoholism (shit-faced). I was a woman who stumbled around her life, trying to find a way to live that stuck. Nothing was sticking, though, as I only flailed about trying to hold onto something, anything, which turned out to be a drink.
I eventually turned to therapy where my shrink wanted to look at the ways in which my traumatic birth could still be affecting me. She told me her own story of how she was a butt-first baby, and caused a lot of complications for her mother. Now, she thinks of herself as a pain in the ass for her family. And I wonder about my own complications, how the drinking also messed with my head, how I constantly felt mentally bruised, or maybe that was just from the hangovers.
More about my birth: my mother felt me kicking away a few days before I was due to pop out into the world, and so she soaked in the bathtub and drank a glass of red wine, trying to get me to calm down. But I got so excited by that wine, wanting to taste it for myself, that I kicked away at her until her water broke, and I could finally be free to enter the world.
I entered the world on Easter Sunday weighing seven pounds and two ounces. And in my tiny ass town of Laramie, Wyoming, I was the first baby born on that day in 1983. In honor of Jesus, the Wyoming Wool Grower’s Association gave my family ten pounds of mutton as they left the hospital. My family hated lamb. But there they were, entering into a blizzard in Wyoming, holding in their hands more pounds of dead lamb than new baby.
While it took me sixteen years to be able to finally find my lips chugging down that taste of red wine, I quickly became as good at ruining my life with alcohol as my alcoholic father. For my second suicide attempt, I found myself in a psych ward with my father three floors above me in detox. We shared the same doctor. I think Dr. White found this amusing, as did my mother who could visit half of her family members in a one-stop trip. What happened: while I was chugging down a bottle of pills to do something to quiet the dis-ease I felt in my head, my father was doing his own chugging on a bottle of vodka. We were quite the pair, even though we dearly hated each other. And with him three floors above me, I sat in the psych ward trying to act not crazy so I could get back to my nightly routine of drinking a glass of wine in the bathtub. Perhaps I am more like my mother than my father.
After I birthed myself from the psych ward, I went back to my destiny of being shit-faced with a fucked-up head. Some habits die hard, especially when you are born with them.
Chelsey Clammer received her MA in Women’s Studies from Loyola University Chicago. She has been published in THIS, Stone Highway, Spittoon, Sleet and Make/shift among many others. Her essay BodyHome received the Editor’s Pick 2012 Award from Revolution House. She is currently finishing up a collection of essays about finding the concept of home in the body, is working on a second collection of essays tilted There Is Nothing Else to See Here, as well as a memoir about being committed to psychiatric wards. You can read more of her writing at: www.chelseyclammer.wordpress.com.