An Imaginary Exploration of Rohan’s First Birthday

Lucy is turning one on Thursday. To celebrate, I am buying mini muffins at Trader Joe’s and then dropping them off with her at daycare so I can work. But if I were the kind of mother who tooled around with Gwyneth Paltrow, or this fucking lady, I imagine it would go more like this:

I awake at 4am, perfectly revitalized, radiating the warm goodness of the sun goddess, even though she still slumbers (O, lazy empress!). I rise from my organic, lavender-scented cotton bedsheets and walk fiercely to my meditation room. I am surrounded by pillows, bejeweled by Tibetan monks in the brisk mountains of another Asia. I practice cunnilingal yoga, by curling my tongue around a single crystal while in Warrior 2 pose.

After my morning retreat, I levitate towards the kitchen, where I heat electrolyte-enhanced spring water in a small copper kettle. I add a squeeze of organic meyer lemon from my grandmother’s tree. I pour a small bowl of endangered tigers milk, and lap at it like a cat.

Before Rohan wakes, I quietly enter his room with a black velveteen bag of healing crystals. I pass each crystal over his small, perfect body while chanting in Sanskrit. His eyes peel open; they are laced with tears. “I love you, Mama,” he says. These are his first words. I peel a bursting breast from my silken robe and weep as he latches.

At 7am, Rohan and I sit down for breakfast, an alkalizing blended green juice of organic kale and seaweed, filtered through pristine white sands and moon rock. Rohan gazes up at me lovingly, and I down at him, and we stare at each other, getting lost in our love gazes while we sip. The breakfast nook is teeming with warm energy and thick linen curtains. “Happy year of your birth,” I declare. He nods, silently, and slowly sips his green-hued nectar.

We each chew a heaping tablespoon of bee pollen as I dress Rohan. First, his under layer of fine silk. Next, he is wrapped in hand-sewn organic cotton, and topped with a sweater knit from the fur of a single alpaca, who was fed a gluten-free diet of only elderberries and pistachio.

While in his room, I explain to him that the tradition of a day of birth anniversary is to receive a present. From beneath my robe, I pull out (as if by magic!) a small, earthen box. He gazes upon it with delight. “Mama!” he exclaims, stunned by his spoils. As he opens the box, beams of light protrude outward from its geometric prison. He dips his tiny hand into the light, and pulls out a single red ruby, affixed to a silver chain. “For your neck,” I say. He smiles, displaying both of his incandescent white teeth.

Now that the celebrating has commenced, I affix Rohan to my body with cottons and other fibres, and we proceed to walk the 7 miles together through downtown LA to my flagship juice store. He is hungry upon arrival, and requests a floral bouquet of cilantro and thai basil to nibble while I examine this mornings batch of raw almond cacao sea foam activated daisy milk. It is not up to my standards, and must be remade. “Do not waste it,” I explain to my employee, all patience. “Make sure this batch is delivered to the homeless youth.” The sun beams a single ray onto my heart chakra as I speak these words.

Rohan and I spend the rest of the day making pilgrimages around LA to my various juice stores. We stop for a lunch of raw, organic zucchini ribbons and seaweed essence, which we eat only until we are pleasantly full and revitalized. We can feel the cells of the zucchini bursting into our own, the flood of energy: we meditate, holding hands. I feed him a small chard of low glycemic vegan chocolate. Happy birthday, my son.

At the end of the day, Rohan again nestled into my heaping breast, I chant and hum ancient melodies. I catch a small beam of light glinting off his ruby necklace, and know that the universe is benevolent. I gaze upward towards the heavens, and smile. I lay my sleeping baby down, nestled into a cloud of blankets, and float airily towards the door.

Exhausted after a long day, the doorbell chimes. I perk up instantly, knowing that my guru has arrived for our nightly 3 hour advanced Savanasanali yoga session. I plop a single raspberry into my mouth, and feel light and joy course through my being. “Thank you for giving your life so that I may have mine,” I say to the raspberry.

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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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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!

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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!

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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!

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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 10th Circle of Hell: Postpartum Yoga

Welcome to class! Find a comfortable position, close your eyes, and relax.

It is so great that you finally got away from the baby, not that you would ever, you know, not want to be near your baby for five minutes. You read that article about attachment parenting, right? So good. I think we can all agree that going to the mailbox without your baby will probably cause severe emotion problems and bipolar disorder. I slept in my mother’s bed until I went off to graduate school at the Institute of Graceful Bending, and now I’m dating Jude Law’s younger brother who has hair.

Relax and remember, you are in a safe place. The great thing about Equinox gyms is that no one really sweats here? Well except you, but maybe that’s because you wore such a large sweatsuit. Is somebody wearing… barbeque sauce? It smells like ribs in here. I hope no one brought food into class, because I’m allergic to dairy, wheat, alcohol, soy, tree nuts, farmed fish, cheap textiles, and scientific literature. I love juicing so much!

Okay. Surya Namaskar, sun salutation time, guys. Stand at the front of your mats, and then hop or pedal your feet back, coming into downward dog.

Very strong pose, Pringle, just tighten up those hamstrings a little. I’d move them for you, but you’re just too tall! You look amazing, by the way. How old is little Taylee now? 4 weeks? Wow! Well of course she’s sleeping through the night already; your breastmilk is powered by flax, chia, and walnut oil. It’s definitely all about the omega-3’s. I can’t believe you’re back to a double zero size already. Thank Buddha you can get your Lululemon’s customized these days.

Focus on the breath, and exhale into Warrior 1. Nice, guys.

It’s okay if you’re the only person in the class who needs to go into child’s pose every 5 minutes. No one here is judging you. We are just all looking at you to make sure you’re okay. Are you still breathing? It’s really hard to tell with that huge sweatsuit and your more elaborate size. By the way, I think you’re so brave for coming here. Namaste. Oh, you have a little something in your hair here. Ohmygod, is that baby feces? I’m going to need you to buy that mat, okay. Wow.

Core work! Did anyone here have a C-section? No, right? I gave birth at home in a tub of organic eucalyptus flowers, which bloomed the moment my son crowned. I was in labor for THREE HOURS, which sounds so long but really was okay because I just meditated and let my inner goddess guide me. I had a huge orgasm when he came out, and then I had the best quinoa salad. He breastfed no problem.

Oh, really? You had a C-section? I believe we are all entitled to let our intuition guide us, so okay, but wow that really sucks for you huh? Did you try to have a real birth first at least? I should send you this article I read in The Homeopathic Guide to What You’re Doing Wrong, though. I have a monthly subscription. It might change your life.

Savasanah, guys. Lie down in corpse pose, and just totally relax. I’m going to come around and rub some essential oil on your temples, because this room is really starting to smell like lasagna. Seriously, does someone have food in their bag? Because I read this study about why carbs are bad and basically, they stop your brain from functioning. It’s like your neurons see a bagel and are just, bye.

Begin to bring awareness back to your body, like, all of it. You guys did so good today. Most of you seem to really love this new motherhood thing, and are really great at it. If it’s still super hard for you, maybe try reading some more articles and getting more exercise. It’s a really bad time to be so lazy.

Ommm.

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