Sister Goddess Patty, Age 54
I was born in a car in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on my way to the hospital.
In those days (1960), since my mother gave birth before arriving at the hospital, I was considered “contaminated” and had to stay in the room with her instead of the nursery. She had often told me that I spoiled her hospital stay.
It’s interesting to think back on my earliest experiences, or lessons, on what it meant to be a woman in this world. Mostly, I think there were just too many of us for my mother (I’m the second of 7 sisters), and my father worked all the time, so we were left to “monkey see, monkey do” when it came to figuring it all out.
I do remember, when I was around 9 or 10, my mother sat me on the couch and handed me what I think was a Time Life book. She asked me to read it and left the room.
I was a voracious reader as a kid, and so I absorbed this book like any other fairy tale I got my hands on. It featured diagrams and photographs of reproductive organs, sex, and birth – but it never occurred to me that all of this was related to myself, my body, or my own situation with getting on the planet.
One photograph I remember vividly was of a fetus in utero, floating, eyes closed and fingers curled. My major concern was, how did they get a camera in someone’s belly to take a picture of a baby? Also, the baby looked gross, nothing like any of my sisters. I felt a little sick.
That was the extent of my education on sex, reproduction, and the miracle of birth. I didn’t have any questions.
The whole thing seemed as fantastical as a story I was reading at the time called The Borrowers about a world of very little people living right under everyone’s noses and using thread spools for dining room tables and matchboxes for beds.
Around the same time, my father had a stash of Playboy magazines which we knew we were not supposed to read but pored through anyway. I knew that was a magazine for men. I knew that the pictures of women were for the pleasure of men. The people, the pictures, and the places seemed like an unreal world. Once again, The Borrowers seemed more real than anything in that magazine.
Then my parents got divorced and my father moved away. We were left with my mother who was overwhelmed. From what I saw, being a woman meant you were tired, lonely, stuck and broke.
The next few decades were a pretty rough ride.
A series of foster homes in my teenage years, because my mother couldn’t “handle” me and turned me over to the state to see if they could do a better job.
At 19, I took a two week trip to the Bahamas to reconnect with my father, who was working there. Although he left about six months after I arrived, I never did. The Bahamas became my home.
I married at 21 and had three beautiful children. We divorced a few years after the death of our youngest daughter.
I joined a 12-step fellowship that helped me to accomplish what I went there for, but there was little joy in my life.
By the time I arrived in my early fifties, I was doing everything a person was “supposed” to do, yet I was as unhappy as a cat in a room of hungry dogs.
Inside I knew I was missing something. That there must be something, some one thing, that I wasn’t doing or wasn’t understanding, that if I could just figure it out, things would change for me. But I didn’t know what it was.
I really had mostly given up, thinking this is just the way life is. Some people are just lucky and some aren’t. Some get hit with the suffering stick and some miss it all together. I figured that if you were smart, like I knew I was, you just accept it. You just have to try and be the best person you can and get through it.
I actually found out about the School of Womanly Arts through Facebook. It showed up in my newsfeed that someone I knew liked a post from Mama Gena’s page. Mama Gena’s School of Womanly Arts? Out of curiosity about the ridiculous name, I clicked.