Stars and stories, aligning

It seems nicely fitting, given the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, that both of the stories I have out this week feature gay married couples.

The first is “Bonsaiships of Venus,” in a really nice audio reading by Keffy Kehrli, at GlitterShip. I’m such a fan of GlitterShip already and thrilled to have a story there.

In another nice bit of star-alignment, GlitterShip also recently podcast “Stalemate” by Rose Lemberg, which was in the same issue of Lackington’s where “Bonsaiships of Venus” first appeared, and as pointed out by Amal El-Mohtar, looked at some of the same themes from a different angle.

The other story is an original at Daily Science Fiction. It’s my 20th paid fiction publication, I think, not counting reprints. And my sixth at Daily SF.

This Is the Humming Hour” is one of the most personal stories I’ve written, an attempt to process the difficult but glorious experience of breastfeeding my son. I wrote a column about my experience for the Ottawa Citizen in 2010; that column has now disappeared from the public Internet, so here’s an excerpt:

My milk was slow coming in because I had a post-partum hemorrhage, so I had to supplement with formula for the first week. To prevent that supplement from affecting my milk supply, I pumped after feedings and used a feeding tube at the breast. It was messy and awkward and my baby hated it, and I’m sure it contributed to the damage I sustained in those first days.

After I developed mastitis — an infection with a fever — a gentle, wise lactation consultant came to my home and told me my baby wasn’t using his tongue properly. So I set about trying to train a baby to stick out his tongue, while I kept trying to get milk into him. As time went on, my wounds got worse.

I went every week to a drop-in breastfeeding clinic. I got to know several lactation consultants and they took to greeting me with literal and figurative pats on the back. My doctor applauded my persistence and offered help and advice from her own experience.

But as the weeks became months, I struggled with the pain and with my decision to keep at it…

My doctor, my partner, my family and the lactation consultants made it clear: They were there to support me, but the decision was mine. That didn’t make it any easier.

It took three months before the severe pain went away, before I could stop using painkillers and prescription ointment. It took five months for my wounds to heal. My stubborn refusal to admit defeat paid off. Nursing is finally the pain-free, enjoyable, convenient experience I wanted it to be. But it took long, hard work to get here….

No woman should ever be made to feel guilty for using formula; I’m grateful it was there for my baby when they wheeled me off to the operating room after my hemorrhage.

I nursed my boy happily until well past his second birthday, but those first few months were one of the most intense, strange, painful periods of my life. It wasn’t an ideological commitment to breastfeeding that kept me at it, but sheer bloody-mindedness. I wanted it desperately, even when it hurt.

“This is the Humming Hour” is not a story about me, but that part of the background of the story was taken from my own experience.

I have always been a lover of fairy-stories, and I remember in particular being fascinated by the stories of magical ointments that could make a person see other worlds. I suppose this story is the alignment of those two sorts of ointments: the kind that can never exist, and the kind that magically got me through the pain of real life.

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