The honey heavy dew of slumber

For Cathy

I went to a meeting this morning, and because I was told to do this when I woke up at 29 years old suddenly sober, naked and terrified, I shared: I am in pain.

As it were, I’m not the only one. 

Living a sober life can be like sinking to the bottom of the ocean, a black, unknowable, blind pit, in a one-woman submarine, only there’s no release valve for the air pressure, so you go up and down in the water, you can’t see a thing besides what the dinky lamp attached to your craft shoots out, miserable and too small a light, and the pressure just builds. You want to open a window but it’d kill you. Gin is the window. 

So what you’re supposed to do is get on your knees and say, please god release this pressure so I can go help the next one-woman submarine who looks like she’s 5 minutes away from drinking the window. Or you meditate and learn to quietly tolerate the sensation of drowning. Lighten up, as they say.

And if you learn to stop obsessing over the fact that you’re alone in a tiny tin can in huge, unknowable, dark ocean, if you can shut up for long enough about how we’re all dying down here, maybe you notice a fish. Maybe it’s an ugly fish, and you curse at it’s weird lips like two stacked lumbar support pillows and it’s eyes which, due to bad placement (who invented these things?) can only see you with one eye at a time. Fuckface. It swims away and now there’s nothing but plankton, little flakes of white cascading in whirls and whooshes, directed by some kind of physics, I’m sure.

Another fish, less beautiful than the first.

And then you think, fuck, how can you guys stand it down here? This is terrible. It’s dark, it’s wet, it’s boring. The pressure is killing me. An ear pops.

More fish. A school! Numerous slimy silver bullets. Man, what I wouldn’t do for a Coors Light.

The way the light catches them, the little flares like stars on a space highway, it’s not bad. Groovy sci-fi stuff. A moment of grace punctures how sorry your feel for yourself, because suddenly: you’re there, you’re noticing what’s right in front of you, some mundane thing, numerous and circular and bigger than you. 

So you stare out your window and watch them move. After a minute they swim away again, and everything goes dark outside your one woman submarine. For this instant, you’re not so angry. The pain dissolves. Like everything else, it’s fleeting.

You glance down and notice a button. It says SURFACE.

It was always right there in front of you. 

You press it. Up you float.

You remember that you know how to swim. You move towards the light. 

There’s a prayer: It is in self-forgetting that one finds. You die all day to understand what it is to be alive. 

Lucky for us, nothing is solid. Not death, life, feeling, memory, truth, gin, fish, ocean, air. 

For my dear friend who is dying: thank you for showing me the SURFACE. Thank you for helping me find the light.

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Why You Should Love Your Saggy Postpartum Skin

Nine months ago, I looked like this:

large and not in charge

large and not in charge

No, that’s not last years Halloween costume, where I stuck a beach ball under an assless hospital gown and pretending to be incubating quintuplets. That’s what I looked like when I was admitted to the hospital for induction, 41 and a half weeks pregnant, right before fifty hours of labor.

I gained about 60 pounds during my pregnancy, much to the horror of the medical professionals around me. A sonogram technician once told me based on my appearance alone that she was sure I had gestational diabetes (I didn’t). In my third trimester, my midwives advised me to stop eating carbs (which I responded to with hearty laughter and then ate a pizza). I was a giant pregnant lady and I gave birth to a giant baby.

Mostly, the weight has slowly come off, and without rigorous effort on my part. I find formal exercise remarkably unfun, and am also not going to not eat three donuts last Saturday when someone brings donuts to your house. I do eat a pretty healthy vegetarian diet, and I do take walks with Lucy because it puts her to sleep. I’m grateful to be back in a place where I can fit into my old clothes and not have to buy a bunch of new ones.

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The thing about losing weight postpartum is that it’s not like things just go back to where they were before. After a couple months of breastfeeding, my triple F boobs that could have served as flotation devices in a turbulent river completely deflated, morphing into a pair of 3 day old flapjacks. My butt got bigger (which actually, I’m fine with).

is that a boob fold?

is that a boob fold?

My stomach, never my crowning physical glory, droops sadly around the sides of my pants like a ziplock bag full of vanilla pudding. A fold of skin dangles above my bellybutton, presumably protecting it from linty intruders.

hey there

hey there

Despite not being a contender for this years’ Victoria Secret catalogue, I’ve come to appreciate my postpartum body, and feel more comfortable in my skin than I did even pre-pregnancy. This weird, lumpy body grew a tiny, autonomous person, someone who laughs, eats pieces of leaves off the floor, and squats when she farts. That’s a hell of a miracle.

Here’s why you should embrace your new, postpartum skin, too:

1. Winter is coming. And if you believe the not-at-all sensationalist media, it’s going to be a cold one. Save money on outerwear by wearing your layers underneath your skin!

2. Unconventional Storage. Use the folds to your advantage, by tucking away treats and toys for later. You never know when your baby will scream inexplicably and need to be bribed with food (it’s when you’re driving, working, or sleeping).

for example, these teething biscuits, which are not organic

for example, these teething biscuits, which are not organic

3. Your baby needs something to hold on to during airplane turbulence. Or breastfeeding, screaming jags, or when you become your baby’s personal climbing gym. Who knew the term “love handles” was literally a thing?

4. The 90’s are in. Just in case you still consider yourself to be above sweatsuits (I’m not), try on this fantastic current trend. Adopting a 90’s trend will grant you plenty of coverage for your midsection, and has the added bonus of making you look like an insane person who should not be approached. I once wore a side ponytail to Trader Joe’s and noticed a 67% decline in other customers asking my daughter “how old he was.”

via Popsugar

via Popsugar

5. You can’t be more The Best than you already are. Seriously. You made someone. And now you feed it, dress it, love it, and change it’s horrific diapers. There is nothing beyond “The Best,” which is what you already are.

A Guide to Postpartum Fashion for the Brand New Mom

Much like a survivor of tragedy, I’ve largely blocked out the very early days of Lucy’s life. I’m trying to recall now, 7 months later, what it felt like to never sleep more than 2 hours in a row, not eat a meal that wasn’t initially frozen, and simultaneously wear an F cup and a disposable diaper for adult women. Sure, I was in awe of my little newborn because she was beautiful and I loved her, but also because I had no idea how someone that small could shit that much. I mostly remember trying desperately to keep her calm so I could play Donkey Kong or watch Netflix and try to process how my life and my body had completely changed, really it felt like falling apart, overnight.

Based on my experience of having done this one time, I’d like to offer you my guide to postpartum dressing as a simple, four part plan. Dress for success, ladies!

1. Kiss your hospital frump goodbye with this matching, two piece set in luxurious cotton with an embroidered overlay Champion logo.

it's okay to match your cat

it’s okay to match your cat

The elastic accents of the suit will highlight your slimmest features: your wrists and neck. The roomy and fashionable harem-style pant will accommodate the most audacious of adult diapers.

Selecting the suit in orange will hide the electric-colored residue of organic, low calorie snacks, like possibly carrots, but definitely Nacho Cheese Doritos.

Bonus: selecting the suit in blue will likewise hide the evidence of the Cooler Ranch option.

rest when you can

2. Wear something sexy to bed so your husband finds you desirable.

date night

date night

No man wants to come home at the end of a long day to a frumpy wife with streaks of barf collating her unwashed hair into temporary dreadlocks.

While I don’t recommend a lace thong for the days immediately postpartum, a fitted pajama set in heather grey will help to accentuate the bags under your eyes. A delicate, silken robe screams “come hither, and bring the Haagen Dazs or I’ll murder you.”

3. Instead of eating fattening processed meats and cheeses, become the meats and cheeses.

IMG_4304

totally normal

This type of look proudly proclaims, “I swear I’m ready to leave the house!” No one will question you in this outfit. In fact, the moment you put it on, several family members will insist on taking the baby for a few hours so you can get some sleep. Essentially, you are wearing a meat tube with magical powers. (Because sleep is nothing if not pure magic).

4. When in doubt, accessorize your look with a colorful scarf!

scarf barf

ready for anything, for example, a nap

Is that breastmilk leaking through your top? Just pull the scarf a little to one side for a more French interpretation of the look.

You’ll look effortlessly polished and ready to seize the day just by adding a simple scarf. No one at Stop and Shop will be able to tell you just gave birth to a bowling ball while you mindlessly dump 8 kinds of cheese into your cart and try to remember the last time you showered.

If you’re still too overwhelmed by the whole motherhood thing to follow these four simple rules, then just remember this one thing: you are the best.

Now send your partner out to 7-11 and do not let him return without $40 worth of processed snacks. Try not to wipe Cheeto stains on the baby but if you do, it’s okay.  You’re still the best.

I’m Anxious (and I Need Help)

The first feeling I had as a new mom was, “it is not about me anymore.” After they rolled me out of awake-surgery (which is now and forever how I will refer to a C section) they handed me the person I had felt but never met, and everything became instantly about her. This was deeply affirmed in the weeks after she was born, when I attempted to recover from major surgery by not sleeping more than two hours in a row, wincing in pain for hours a day nursing her, and putting every need of mine after hers were met (and babies need to be taken care of constantly, in one or two hour cycles, repeated indefinitely). When I was wheeled into the hospital for induction, I’d spent nine months taking the best care of myself I ever had, in support of her. Once they wheeled me out, I stopped thinking of myself all together.

IMG_0311

I’ve gotten better at that, recognizing my own needs, in the months since Lu’s birth. For the last couple of months I’ve been cruising: I started sleeping again after switching to formula, I get out often, and I’ve felt happy (in control).

Now, at 4 months postpartum, something is shifting. A couple of bad days have turned into a bad week and a half. I’m wrestling with insomnia and bad dreams. The black cloud of doomsday anxiety that cornered me as a kid seems to be taking up residence again. I feel overwhelmed by the thought of caring for Lucy for another whole day without help, which is one of the worst feelings I’ve ever had, because it’s the only thing in the world I want to be able to do. Maybe it’s just a bad week and a half, but maybe it’s deeper than that. Maybe I need help.

There’s a lot going on. I’m home alone with Lucy in a town where I don’t know anybody for 12 hours a day, her sole care provider. During her increasingly infrequent and short naps, I’m trying to start a business so I can continue to stay home with her. My hormones are jacked up from birth and, more recently, birth control. I threw my back out five days ago rocking her to sleep at 2am (because she’s so good at sleep), and then couldn’t turn my head or neck for three days. I don’t have time to heal because I spend 12 hours a day with a 15 pound jellybean on my hip. I think anyone would have anxiety in this situation, right?

I’m deeply wary of psychiatry, having spent more than a few years over a decade ago on a varying cocktail of pills. I’m also skeptical of new-age therapy, where you sit in a little room on a big brown couch while a woman in yoga pants with certificates in Healing Energy guides you through a visualization of your inner rainbow chakra. Neither of these things have worked for me in the past, so why should they work now? (I realize there are other options, and I’ve tried a lot of those, too.)

I need to make a plan, because maybe this will get better, but maybe it won’t. I’m not willing to sit back and roll with it, because I desperately want to be present for my life right now. I’m not sure what I need, but it’s time to start exploring.

I took a restorative yoga class this morning (and god, my back really feels a lot better now). As I was relaxing into stretches, into my body, I fought the urge to break down more than a few times. The moments that almost made me cry were the ones where the teacher came around and put a blanket over my legs because the room was cold, or a small bolster under my neck for support. They were little physical acts of human kindness and gentleness that I have not allowed myself postpartum, because I’ve given them all away.

IMG_5724

I’ve always felt this disconnection between my body and my brain, but it’s so much more pronounced now. After an incredibly traumatic birth (have I mentioned the AWAKE SURGERY), I hated my body for not allowing me the kind of experience I’d imagined: the one where I’d revel in the unity of my body, mind (and, okay), spirit. The one that wouldn’t be held back the physical and sexual trauma it had known. The one that would Overcome Something and Produce Something and make me feel like a fucking warrior.

But what actually happened is that I had a shitty birth experience, and then I turned down the volume on myself, and turned every sensitivity, every nerve, into a way to provide for Lucy. I’ve done everything to feel good and keep it all together, but now it feels like the facade is crumbling. If I really dig deep, the truth is that I’m in pain. I’ve tried to ignore it and fight through it, but the weird, hurt, damaged child in me is starting to feel like a weird, hurt, damaged adult.

I need help, and I’m going to ask for it.