Bits and Pieces

I feel naturally unaccustomed to the phenomenon of things coming together in my life. I lived in chaos for so long; waking up every morning sick and groggy, doing the bare minimum at whatever job I hated, seeking refuge against myself and any feelings I had with socially sanctioned numbing agents. I both hated myself and wanted to control everything. No thing or body could help me, because of my devastating uniqueness. I was a very special piece of shit.

Unfortunately, I still feel. Fortunately, I get to feel things now like the sensation of being five and someone tells you a huge chocolate cake is right through that doorway and you can eat the whole thing by yourself, which is what it feels like every day at 4 o’clock that I pick my daughter up from daycare. Mostly, the feelings are good, and sometimes they are absolute magic.

But in allowing myself to be present for all of it, I’m learning to sit with the stuff that is more bitter lemon than rainbow sprinkle. Sometimes, there is the piercing shame of an old stunt remembered. Sometimes, it’s just a feeling in my body, a dark wave that rushes through me before my brain gets the heads up that we are now remembering what it felt like to give birth. I’m not having fantasy contractions, but there’s a peach pit in my uterus that says, “Remember when you felt the pain of everything that’s ever happened to you all at one time? Remember how you clawed your way through the dark? Remember how it felt to hold your baby for the first time and understand what light is?”

I still don’t understand it, because I can’t. I have to feel it.

I hardly recognize myself anymore. My skin is different, particularly where the belly used to be. My breasts hang low. I look more worried.

Lately, I’ve been so productive. I’ve been working almost all the time that I’m not taking care of Lu, or cooking or cleaning the house. It feels good.

But this is old behavior; this is me wrapping my fists around my tiny universe and saying, “I can control you, I just need to work harder at it.” Don’t rest. Keep all of the balls in the air, master juggler. You can do everything all at once, just keep holding your breath.

I can’t maintain it, because as soon as there is a hiccup (an unexpected event, a tragedy, bad weather), it’ll all come crashing down on me. I’m not taking care of myself, I’m working, taking care of other people. (Not because I’m a saint- because no one else will do things right. Because I need to do everything. Because I can’t ask for help. Because don’t you see how much I sacrifice? How much I do for you?)

Yesterday, I took the whole day off. I talked to friends on the phone, ate Pho in Connecticut, told my husband that I appreciated and loved him, and I made art, because it helps me ride the terror of an emotional wave.

Today, I’m committed to loosening the reigns. I will not check every box on the list today. Today I will admit that I am still fucked up from giving birth. Today, I will pick Lucy up at daycare at 4 o’clock and feel the Willy Wonka anticipation. I’ll see her face light up when she recognizes mine, and her crooked, stumbling run for my legs. I can feel it already.

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Nursery Decor: It’s All Lies

Back when I was still figuring out what kind of nursery I wanted to create for my first baby (you know, a perfect one that represents every aspiration I’ve ever held for my child in furniture form), I did a lot of Pinteresting. Pinterest is great, but also I hope you are a billionaire who is obsessed with baby grey, yellow, and chevron because that is what you will find there.

There is also a lot of word art. Kyle and I decided to go ahead and make our own art for her walls, because we (I) wanted her to stare at Carl Sagan quotes all night long and then grow up to be a badass woman scientist and win a Nobel prize.

P1030464

But mostly what you see on Pinterest are the same 5 quotes, which really are very cute, but also pretty saccharin and hopeful and so now I’m going to make fun of them. Because what if instead of putting our hopes and dreams onto their nursery walls, we actually told the truth?

little but fierce

Yes, my daughter is both little, and fierce. But little is relative. And fierce mostly when screaming for things all day long.

shit in pants

move bowels

Just once I would like to see the word “bowels” gold-leafed.

dream big

My next kid is getting these. (Unless it works, and Lu becomes a tiny science scholar, in which case my next kid is getting a math room with chalkboard-theorem walls like that high-five montage scene in Good Will Hunting).

Pregnancy Myths, REVEALED! (An Illustrated Guide)

People say a lot of weird things about being pregnant, and it mostly comes from those who are a) not pregnant at that moment, b) are a man, and c) should shut up. People need to stop giving you advice because it’s starting to cut into the 15 hours per day you have allotted to not sleeping and fanatically googling.

Here are some things you might hear around town that are wrong.

  1. You’re glowing!

pregnant

Unless “glowing” now means “fucking exhausted” and “bigger than Donald Trump’s ego” and “more terrified of what’s about to happen than a cat of a cucumber” then no, you are not glowing. Maybe you were glowing, like right after you had sex 9 months ago, or in your second trimester when you finally stopped puking and ate something other than fries for the first time in 2 months. But now? The only thing glowing is your attitude if you run out of Haagen Dazs. (Do NOT run out of Haagen Dazs).

  1. Eating for two is a myth; you’re actually eating for one plus a few extra calories, like in a light yogurt!

eating 2

Okay, this one might technically be true, but shhhh. The only way to describe the unquantifiably enormous amount that you will love your babies to a pregnant lady is in saying, “Imagine a platter of cheeseburgers that goes on for infinite, and then add coffee, various cakes, and sleeping.” You will love your baby a lot. Also, light yogurt is not that delicious. Also, lettuce is a vegetable.

  1. Don’t pet cats!

cat lady pregnant

That is, if you even WANT to pet cats. (If you don’t, feel free to use pregnancy as an excuse to avoid them like the plague). But you can actually pet cats, you just can’t change their litter boxes, which you shouldn’t be doing anyway, because that is why you got married.

BONUS: It is also a myth that any pregnant woman alive who is not insane would wear a button-up shirt and just casually only button two buttons and then let her giant stomach hang over a blanket while she pet a cat. But I’m trying to illustrate a point here, which is that you can touch cats, if you want to and are pregnant.

  1. You have to take at least one picture of your giant stomach with your partner’s hands in a heart framing your cavernous belly button!

hands heart

Myth! Feel free to take this picture, or feel free to ask people to NOT take pictures of you while very pregnant, like when you’re stopping at Dunkin Donuts for the second time in one day and people are giving you sad, sympathetic looks, even when you chuckle nervously at the lady ringing you up and casually mention how much everybody at your office loves donuts. Instead of staging photos, you can also just lie around in bed in a sweatsuit and demand that nobody touch you. Ever again.

  1. Your lopsided bump is indicative of your baby’s gender!

girl or boy

Is your baby sitting a little to the left? Is your belly awkwardly misshapen? Did you do a special little dance during getting-pregnant sex? Did you google that weird “what sex is my baby” birthday chart that a million people swear works and IS REAL? Nope. Sorry! Your physical symptoms point to the condition of “being pregnant.” You’re going to have to wait to find out just like everybody else.

BONUS TIP: This one’s important: if anyone ever says to you, “wow, I can’t believe you’re still pregnant!” or “wow, you are HUGE” give them a black eye.

Now, go eat a pizza in a pair of sweats. Dribble a little tomato sauce down the front for me. If anyone dares enter your nest(flix), start screaming at them in Elvish and crying, alternately, until they fear for their lives.

Motherhood in Sobriety

Three years into sobriety, I gave birth. This is a letter to my daughter about her alcoholic mother.

Dear Lucy,

The second that doctor sliced me open and grabbed you, pulled you out and held you up to the light, I felt a bone-crushing, spooky love that I’d never felt before. My arms were splayed on either side of my body and I couldn’t move them, but they held your cheek up to mine and I felt you. I sobbed hysterically and so did you.

I am a good mother. Today, you are ten months old, so being good means that I read to you, feed you vegetables, build tall towers of blocks for you to knock down, keep you warm, and love you with a fierceness that you never, ever question. It also means that I never take a drink.

Since you’re half my soggy genetic material, I fear someday you might know what I mean.

Drinking made me feel like I fit into my own skin. I was born with a too big, too clunky, too awkward spirit, an amorphous thing, that a god I don’t believe in jammed into a disproportionate, human-shaped meat. Two arms, two legs, all the parts were there, but it felt all wrong.

Taking a drink was like easing into myself. The bitter taste, the slow burn in the throat, the warming in the stomach, and then the release of discomfort, passing in a slow howl, like puncturing a tire. I drank because it made the world make sense, and I made sense in it.

As a young teenager, I learned that drinking instilled in me the confidence I needed to talk to boys. Some of those boys took advantage of me in sickening, disturbing ways. I learned that I couldn’t control what happened to my body when I drank. The only cure for the bad things that happened was to drink more to help me forget.

There were thousands of mornings that I woke up and promised myself that it wouldn’t happen again. Each of those mornings was exactly the same: my eyes flash open; I realize I’m still alive; I check to see where I am; I try to remember how I got there; my head roars like a thunderclap; I tell myself this is the last time. As the hangover dissolves into day, so does my resolve. By six o’clock there’s a martini in my hand, all gin. As I take the first sip, all of the crashing in me starts to calm, nothing but little waves lapping at the shore.

While the first martini squeezes my brain back into my body, the second makes me giddy with excitement. Not only has last night’s replay loop vanished, but now I’m noticing how smart I sound in conversation, how funny my jokes are, how the puffiness and ruddiness of my face add a youthful quality.

Two drinks in and it’s time for dinner; wait any longer and I won’t eat at all. Dinner comes with wine, usually white, at least half a bottle. I feel good, socially apt, sophisticated. I talk about what region the wine is from, where the vegetables were sourced.

After dinner, there’s grappa, Irish coffee, an expensive liquor. I’m teetering on the edge of my chair, saying less now than before, spinning but not badly. I drink coffee to revive myself, because I need to keep drinking. There is an inextinguishable desire woven into my roots that tells me I need to keep going. I quickly think about how much alcohol I have at home: a six pack? Wine? How many bottle are left? One six pack for two people is not enough, because whoever I’m with might drink three. I try to think of a reason to stop at the corner bodega, so I can casually recommend picking up more beer “just to have.”

At home, I crack open the first beer. It’s early, maybe ten. I turn on the television and queue up whatever show I’m currently on. The first beer is ice cold and deeply refreshing. When the first episode ends in a cliffhanger, I push for another one, and then another. In this way, I can drink four or five more beers before heading to bed.

My drinking always had consequences. I drove drunk into a telephone pole and badly hurt my friends. Men abused me. I stopped trying to get anywhere with my life, because as long as I could afford to drink, I was okay. They say a functional alcoholic has a job, but no soul. I always had a job.

I used to wonder if I’d ever be able to have children, because I couldn’t imagine going nine months without a drink. Would I also have to stop drinking if I were just trying to get pregnant? Would that mean a whole year without drinking? Drinking just one or two was never an option for me; one only guaranteed that I would not stop until total obliteration. I drank so I wouldn’t have to feel my life.

One morning, a few years before you were born, I woke up. It was a morning just like all the other ones. I took a minute to figure out where I was (on my couch), how I got there (no idea), and who I was with (my friend Sarah). I noticed the front door to our Brooklyn apartment was wide open, another detail I couldn’t explain. Sarah left, and I dragged myself to the bedroom, where your Dad lay sleeping. I looked at him and said, “I need help.”

That’s what grace is.

By the grace of a higher power I call “whatever”, I made it through that day and night without drinking. I made it through the next day, too. As I sit here writing you this letter, I’ve made it through 1,540 days.

I had to earn those days, one at a time. I had to learn how to sit in my own skin, in all that discomfort, with the shameful memories that snuck up on me and pounced. I had to learn how to go to dinner without drinking, how to watch TV without drinking, how to talk to and relate to other people without drinking. I felt like a teenager again, noticing strange feelings and thoughts suddenly unobscured by the thick fog of a daily alcoholic haze.

After I became pregnant, I’d sit in my alcoholic meetings and cry. I used to not drink for myself, but now I also needed to not drink for you.

When I drink, nothing is more important than figuring out how to keep drinking. I don’t care where I am, who I’m with, how they’re treating me, or how much danger I’m in. I don’t care about anybody or anything besides drinking. I don’t love anybody more than booze.

I’m not going to drink today, and so today I will be capable of loving you. I hope, in this way, I can stack up the days every day of your life. I hope you never have to feel the sting of my absence, because I’ve chosen to disappear.

I love you fiercely. I love you with every deep down particle of myself that I spent years trying to squash.

I urgently hope you don’t share my disease. I hope you grow up knowing how to love, nurture, and take care of yourself. I hope you don’t feel the same pull towards oblivion that I do. I’ll love you even if you do, and I can teach you how to ask for help.

Love,

Mom

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The Goosecamp Adult Coloring Book for New Parents

Apparently, an “adult coloring book” is a collection of very detailed drawings with mature themes, such as flowers or Christianity.

I made my own adult coloring book, which is for new parents. These drawings are meant to relax you, as you color in teeny tiny dots with a marker the dog just tried to eat and get nauseated by your own smell, which is a combination of baby vomit and old poop.

Enjoy.

Drawing 1: You’re Late And You Finally Got Your Baby in the Car Seat and She Used That Moment to Blow Out Her Diaper

 

BLOWOUT.jpg

 

Drawing 2: Old Lady in the Grocery Store Parking Lot Yells At You Because It’s 60 Degrees And Your Baby Is Not Wearing Socks To Walk The 100 Feet Between The Store Entrance And The Car And Is Therefore Doomed 

LADY YELLING ADVICE

 

Drawing 3: You Turned Around For One Second And Now Your Baby Has Just Eaten Driveway Gravel

GRAVEL EATING

 

Drawing 4: Your Baby Is Allergic To Pants, Particularly In Public, And Everybody Is Judging You Because Please Put Pants On Your Baby

HATES PANTS

Psst! The coloring book is REAL and available HERE: http://glamcamp.co/collections/for-you/products/a-coloring-book-for-parents