When I place my hand across my lower belly, I can feel soft undulations and occasionally a gentle throb.
A baby’s kick feels like witnessing a shooting star – wait, hold still, breathe, and suddenly something indescribably beautiful happens too quickly to believe it’s true.
For the time being, this miracle takes place hourly in my womb. I don’t fully believe yet that this newest being, so entwined with my blood and breath, will emerge from my body this spring, distinct and vibrant.
One of the first people my partner Quran and I talked with about our pregnancy was Maggie Bowers, our Carpentry 1 instructor at Durham Tech, and we shared the good news for practical reasons. Durham Tech’s industrial trades classes require textbook study, but they also emphasize many hours of hands-on learning in a workshop with large machines, whirring sharp blades, and billows of sawdust. Maggie teaches rigorous safety precautions, and without proper safety equipment and a perfect score on the written safety exam we were not allowed to enter the workshop. With the news about the little one to come, Maggie let me know about how to be gentle with lifting and how to avoid potential toxins.
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Maggie is an extraordinary instructor. Throughout the semester, I carefully observed her pedagogical techniques, taking note for my own work as a facilitator of anti-oppression and organizing workshops. She offered examples, drew and redrew diagrams until students understood, answered questions with impeccable patience, and treated every member of the classroom with fairness. Beyond her work at Durham Tech, Maggie does licensed home inspections with her company Magnolia Bowers, rooted in over two decades of residential construction and construction management.
I read in Yes Magazine that according to the U.S. Department of Labor, carpentry jobs are expected to grow 20 percent between 2010 and 2020 (significantly more than the average job growth rate of 14 percent), with a median wage of $19 an hour. The article continues: “But the sector is extraordinarily male-dominated. As of 2011, women held 1.4 percent of carpentry positions in the United States – a number that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says has largely remained consistent over the last 35 years. Unless something changes, women will miss out on the almost 200,000 new carpentry jobs the bureau expects to see created in the next decade.”
Though I won’t be making a job of it, taking Carpentry 1 has transformed my beliefs about my ability to make what we need and affect my surroundings. It makes me wonder how things work and how they are put together.
Durham Tech has been teaching this same class forever – my father took the carpentry class when I was a child and I remember him building ambitious weekend projects – a tilt-back chair for the porch, a playground clubhouse with a slide, and tall arbors to grow our kiwis and bittermelons.
I’ve been thinking about the Carpentry 1 class as my first parenting preparation class. From 5:30-10 p.m. every Monday and Wednesday, we learn about hard work, creative problem solving, and forgiveness for ourselves as we inevitably make mistakes. We cooperate on large collective projects and support each other’s solo work. And we learn from our talented woman carpentry instructor that anybody can do what they dare to dream, a lesson to pass on to babies of any gender.
For the past four months, I’ve been working on learning the skills how to build a cradle where we can house our own sleeping wonder. All the components for the cradle are complete now, carved from cherrywood and ready to be assembled. My mother, a parent of three, laughs to herself about the idea that the new baby will allow us to put them down long enough to rest in a cradle, and I laugh along at my own utter inexperience. I enjoy hearing my mother’s stories about her own journey learning to be a mother: a dedicated breastfeeder, intuitive feminist, passer-on of ancestral wisdom, perpetual educator. I want to be all these things, plus courageous beginning carpenter.
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