Pregnant, with Guilt.

I’m pooling in guilt. Guilt. Everywhere.

I am guilty of feeling neglectful to both of my children, one of who has yet to even arrive.

I halfheartedly read bedtime stories at night and grit my teeth while my daughter flops around on my lap, pushing the baby sideways inside me. I pray that she drops off to sleep soundlessly, that she does not need my comforting because I can’t wait to lay her down and be able to breathe again. There is little room for her to fit on my lap right now, my guts push into my throat, turning a once savored ritual into nightly torture. And it is only getting worse. I am so uncomfortable, I push her to the side. I keep pushing her aside.

I am running out of room for everything. I am running out of patience. Of endurance. Of time.  I am just running, toward or away from what I don’t know. Rushing, pell-mell, harum-scarum from one thing to the next, and suddenly, I am six months pregnant. Six.

With my first, I celebrated the passing of each week. I counted her kicks, read developmental books religiously, rested my hand on my belly for 90% of the day. I focused on being connected to my pregnancy the ‘right way’. I never laid flat on my back. I purchased every baby-wrap, sling-thing, I read the owner’s manual of her car seat from cover to cover, I inspected my breasts as regular intervals to make sure they were gearing up to do their job. I never bathed in water over ninety degrees. I rolled my car windows up on the highway to seal myself away from harmful vehicle emissions. A moment never passed in which I forgot I was growing a life inside of me. I was a committed pregnant woman.

I am guilty of being too busy to commit to this pregnancy. I am a mom now. I am packing lunches, finding panties, cleaning bath tubs. I am grocery shopping and vacation planning and life living. I am winning small battles of toy-picking-uppage, I am combing through hair lines for ticks, smearing SPF 70 on still-soft skin. I am cooking and cleaning and laundering. I am too pregnant to be the same mom I was before. I am too much of a mom already to be as good at this pregnancy as I was the first. I’m half-assing everything. I am worn. I am worn the fuck out.

I need a remedy for my guilt. I need a serum, an elixir, an answer to why I can’t just be an every-woman. I need this to be over so that I can get our life back to its organized chaos. I am so tired of being this tired mom. I am so tired of being pregnant.

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Epiphany

I wake, still exhausted.

Mentally, physically, emotionally, exhausted.

Every part of my energy is diverted to somewhere more important.

I think this baby is sucking the words from my fingertips as she grows and grows. She’s storing them for fodder. For later, when she is two like her sister is now, to tangle and weave in a pattern of hilarity and sadness.

My oldest climbs the mountain of comforter and slides down into the bend of my shoulder, to a place she can still fit despite the size of my growing belly.

“I want to keep you, Mommy,” she says to me, begging to stay in our bed for one second longer, to breathe in the pocket of warm cuddled air for one moment more. Every part of me says yes. But I have to drag myself away from my child, on to the day that waits.

I inspect my face in the mirror. Pimples. I am fifteen again. My hormones rage and scratch beneath the surface of my nearly bridled insanity, finding little release, they burst through my skin, scarring me. I look away. Twenty six and pock marked. Yet another indecency chalked up to being pregnant.

I pull on my pencil skirt, wrestle my not-short not-long hair into something passable, find my best stilettos, toss them to the back of my closet, and slip into black flats, plain and ordinary, befitting a pregnant woman. I skip the red lipstick, instead opting for a salve to help my chapped lips. I am thirsty nearly every second of the day.

What I am to you is not real

What I am to you, you do not need

What I am to you is not what you mean to me

You give me miles and miles of mountains

And I’ll ask for the sea.

Damien Rice croons from my car stereo. I am crying. Why am I crying? I force the corners of my mouth downward, tightening the tears inside, and put it in park. My daughter squeezes my neck, thankful for the release of the five point harness in the car seat. She trots off to her day, left knee, right knee, hefting herself to the top of my mother’s steps. She turns and waves to me, I blow her a kiss through the open window, and she catches it in her palm with an open smile. My heart expands with a bottomless love and gratitude, calming me.

My day drags on, its pattern worn into the bob and swivel of my desk chair. I stay on autopilot until 5, when I am free again.

Night time rushes forward, pork is braised, vegetables steamed, ice cream rationed. Bath time comes and goes with little to no fuss, kisses and tickles reign for the last hour of light. Finally, I can rest again. Being a mom is a tricky business. Being a mom with a baby in her belly is trickier

We watch as our next American Idol is kinged. My husband’s fingertips stretch wide across my abdomen. I wonder how long it will last. How long will his hand look so large on my belly? The days are numbered, though they feel endless to me.

His eyes fly open wide. “Did you feel that?! Was that her?! I felt her. I FELT her!” Suddenly, I am washed in awareness, of clarity, understanding that this very moment, the look on his face, this is why I am able to do it. This is why I can clamp my eyes shut, dig my fingernails deep, and hold on through the very high highs and very low lows of the next five and a half months.

As she turns and settles inside of me once more, I fully connect to the reality of our changing family. I am terrible at being pregnant, but I am a ferocious mother. This little bean, this tiny belly baby, she is our newest piece, and together we can finally feel her. She is real.

You know what you need? A good dose of reality.

Today, as always, I was excited to read Moments of Exhilaration’s posting. She’s a mom, like me. She is smart and thoughtful, but not preachy or accusatory, and very easy to like. Check her out, you’ll like her too. Anyway, she is open about her struggles with raising her daughter, maintaining her identity, trying to pick the best way to get through this constant, inverted maze of parenthood, so I relate very easily to her. Often, after reading her sometimes poignant, sometimes funny, and often informative postings, I feel connected and calmed. Today she wrote about a book she is reading, “How to Train a Wild Elephant”, a book in practicing mindfulness. So, as I always do when she suggests something, I looked into it.

After ten minutes of reading Amazon’s ‘preview’, I was really interested in reading more of what the author had to say, particularly about anxiety and stress. The author uses mindfulness, the act of being completely present in any given moment, to truly experience what is happening and to assess your reaction to it. Hm. What a novel idea.

The book preview states that anxiety is frequently a catalyst of fear, that it allows itself to run rampant without a reality check. And if you are not present, if you are not aware of your current moment entirely, anxiety can get an ample head start and cut you off before you even have a chance to assess the situation. Of course, at this juncture I am reminded of being in labor with my daughter. I was most certainly present in every moment of that 30 hour stretch, but prior to that, in my mother’s kitchen, my cousin was giving me a crash course in labor classes in between contractions, and it made a lot of sense to me. (I always was better at cramming than preparing….).

She showed me a cyclical chart that said in labor, fear creates tension, and in turn, tension creates pain. Thus, the more nervous and anxious I was, the more pain I was sure to experience. And it would continue on and on throughout labor unless I was able to control the fear and accept that birth is a natural, unstoppable thing. I see little difference between this and the mindfulness concept. Being aware of my pain instead of afraid of my pain made it manageable for me, it put me in control and eased my anxieties about my physical ability to give birth.

The author of “How to Train a Wild Elephant” suggests a similar idea, that being completely aware of what you are feeling and why you are feeling that way puts you in control of your emotions instead of being victim to them. Let me tell you, being a victim to my emotions is my MO, for sure.

I am a twitcher. I am always nervous if I am not in complete control. In an uncertain situation, I think up the most horrible possible outcome and then I sit on it, stew in it, and convince myself that whatever the worst thing that could happen is, it is what will happen to me. If I have gas pain, I need an appendectomy. If my head hurts for more than a few hours, it’s a tumor. If one of my friends or family members is mad at me, I can think of nothing else until the issue is completely solved. Likewise, my emotional responses are very similar in their extremes. I get angry, and when I get angry, I cry. No one enjoys this, (sorry, husband). But if I could be aware of my feelings and emotions more often, I might have more control over their effect on my life and the lives of people around me. If I learn to use the right tools to get myself and my runaway-mind anxiety in check, I think everyone will be happier. So, Moments of Exhilaration extended an invitation to her fellow bloggers to join her on her quest of mindfulness, and I am accepting. (Please allow 5-7 days for shipping, as I refuse to pay 30% extra for expedited UPS).

You just can’t make this shit up.

photo courtesy of thecommunitypaper.com

So I’m really not in the mood to write, but I am making an exception and posting this short excerpt because I feel it is my obligation to share. Since I am an ever-obsessive blogger, I refresh my stats roughly 50,000 times a day, thus making me hyper-aware of how people come across my blog. The search terms, usually, are slightly amusing, but nothing to write home about.

But today, friends, today, they are worth taking the time to slap together an ill-worded, shoddy post for your amusement.

Without further ado, how these people found my blog today, March 29, 2012:

 

Search Terms:

Spanx

Pass the vodka

I have stitches near my taint

Sappy nose definition

Wife made me stand in front of her and shit into my knickers

Mommysaidaswearword

Poke

Oh shit is that slut my mother?

Please come back sweetie I am alone

Assclown

 

 

I do hope that Pass the Vodka, Assclown, and Knicker Shitter subscribed to my blog. The guy with the slutty mother can move on, however.

Happy Friday!

Excuse me?

“I don’t like kids. Never have and never will. I don’t understand why people want so many of them.”

Ever so slowly, I turn my head to the left, where a salesgirl with too long hair and too tight pants is pin-tucking a dress shirt at Men’s Warehouse at a table approximately four feet away from me. She surveys my daughter, quietly playing with my bracelet.

“They are so sticky.”

Yep. That is her.

I look at my husband, who is meticulously choosing the pattern of his vest for underneath his wedding tuxedo, grab his hand, and say. “We are leaving.” I haul my two year old daughter off of my lap, onto my hip, and escort the team of Canadian/American beer league hockey players that is my wedding party out the door.

I can excuse you if you make a comment like this near me, or even to me, if my child is not, quite literally, on my hip. Or if you have no idea that I am a mother. Or even if you are a teenager and think that you don’t like kids, because chances are, you will change your mind in a few years. But if you are a 30 year old sales person in a professional setting where a lady WITH a child who is clearly hers is sitting directly ON her lap and you proceed to proclaim why you dislike children at the top of your voice with my daughter as the offender, I am going to do one of two things:

1) Punch you in your stupid face.

2) Leave the store, with my groomsmen thinking I am a wildly dramatic bride having a ‘moment’.

It has been months since this encounter, yet I have spent much time contemplating what could have taken place that day. What might have transpired  if I had said “You know, usually I dislike clothing salespeople. They are so tacky,” punched her in her stupid face, and then walked out, instead of just leaving without saying a word to anyone? Would I feel better about it? What if I told her that she would be better off not reproducing, that she could consider it her one big gift to society if she remained childless?

But, despite all of my do-over day dreams, realistically I know that I couldn’t do that for two reasons, 1) I do not, in fact,  believe that clothing sales people are tacky, (I used to be one), and 2) I doubt my ability to execute a face-punch, since I have never given one before.  After all, I cannot be a hypocrite AND a pussy. What kind of example would that set for my sticky child?

This Craft.

The ability to write, to write well and thoughtfully and passionately, it is inborn. It cannot be cultivated without space to grow. It cannot stretch without help from experience. It cannot exist without pain, without pleasure.

I am a writer. I have always been a writer, though I spent a good lot of time hiding it from myself. I would search for my own thoughts in the words of others, always looking for that perfect reflection. I would resonate with poetry, buzz with the intricate interlacing of words and emotions. I got to a point in my life, in college, where my inner writer was so suffocated and starved that she flew from my lungs, loudly grasping for air, demanding attention. And she got it.

I wrote first in a Core Creative Writing class, a prerequisite for my biology major. I sat among football players, pot heads, and bitchy freshman girls, and I wrote my heart out. On campus, I was little known. It wasn’t high school anymore. I wasn’t perched ostentatiously on the back of a convertible, driving around in a pretentious circle, waving at the stands for homecoming court. I wasn’t on the volleyball team, or any team for that matter. Here, hardly anyone knew my name. I was free.

At the close of the course, we hosted a poetry reading. My writing was born in the shape of a poem. I hesitantly formed incomplete sentences and strung them together like a popcorn garland. I rolled words on my tongue. I spat them out loud. I hushed them with white space. The public reading was one thing I was never afraid of. I had hosted plenty of events in front of peers and strangers, I was the example chosen by the public speaking professor for the next year’s students, and I was a decent poet. This, standing up and reading five simple lines, this I could do fearlessly.

On a Thursday night in early spring at a poorly lit café on campus, I jaunted to the front of the room, rested my sweaty palms on the podium and took a breath. I stood, stared at the page, and lost my ability to speak. It waved at me, it mocked me, a gaping, wide open hole of raw emotion and apprehension in the free form shape of a poem. With a fear unknown to me, I whispered out the first line. Robotically, I followed the measure of reading aloud, right to the end of the very last line. It was then that I realized I was crying. Quietly, inwardly, I was crying for this piece of me I had let go, that I had thrown out to be eaten alive and dissected piece by rancid piece by the public. It left me feeling more naked than I had ever been. I regretted it, immediately.

And then they stood and clapped.

It takes one time, one positive response, one encouraging hand. It takes one leap of blind, sheer, fearless faith to expose your soul. And then you find out, other people feel the same way too. That girl in the third row? She was labeled in junior high, just like you. That boy sitting next to her? His father beat him, just like yours did to you. That teacher standing in the front row, doling out pass or fail? She bleeds the same shade of shame that you do.

To find an equal part in another writer’s soul is something holy. To read the words that a stranger has written and feel them to your bone, well, to me, that is the truth of the human experience. Fearing the public’s judgment and criticism is a natural response, but hiding your strength is not.

Get out there and write.

 

Either I am PMSy, or you are, in fact, a complete fool.

One of two things is going on here.

1- I am a complete hormonal bitch (completely plausible) Or 2- Five out of every six people I have encountered today are, actually, morons.

 

Now, please allow me to preface this with a backdrop of the last 48 hours. At 11:30 on Sunday night, when I should have been peacefully big-spooning my husband while snuggled deeply into slumber, my mind began racing. After careful consideration, I decided that, yes, that corn chip I spotted lodged underneath the stove burner while making my tea, may in fact still be smoldering, just waiting to catch our house on fire while we slept. And, since we sleep with a fan on high next to our bed, I would inevitably never hear the fire, (because everyone knows you hear fire before you smell it….right? Right.) so I must get up right that instant and go downstairs, down 13 hard stairs, to see if it was still, in fact, smoldering.

 

5 seconds later: THUD BUMP BUMP.

Steve: “BABE! Are you okay?!?!”

Me: open mouthed, unattractive, silent crying as I lay dramatically clutching my thigh, curled up on our carpeted stairwell. (You know what I mean. The Ugly Cry).

Needless to say, I have been in moderate pain since then. Thankfully everything but my pride escaped unbroken, I just feel like I have been in a car wreck. This brings me to today, when I almost GOT in a car wreck with one of the aforementioned morons.

I was driving around the admittedly confusing parking lot of a local gourmet grocery, a man in a tic tac green Chevy S-10 pickup blazed through an open parking spot at triple the appropriate speed, and slammed on his brakes roughly a millimeter away from my front bumper. I also slammed on the brakes in preparation for impact, which jerked my already stiff body around, further injuring my neck. He smiled. I glared. Being the gentleman he so obviously was, he backed up to make room for my CRV to pass by. Swell guy.

I moved slowly down the next aisle searching for an open space, and to my surprise, a front row seat sat waiting for me. Then, Mr.Truck Driver, continuing to move at a high rate of speed despite his close encounter seconds ago, slipped around the corner with his blinker on, aiming for MY spot. His location in relation to the spot and my car didn’t allow me to claim my rightful place, so I was forced to move on, succeeding the coveted spot to him, my nemesis. Then, I looked in my rearview and realized that he wasn’t trying to take my spot, he was only turning left at the end of the aisle so that he could leave the God forsaken parking lot. I swung around the next aisle, ready for attempt number two just as an old lady with blue hair was making a 36 point turn, forcing her over-sized Cadillac into the spot.

I parked at the end of the aisle, furthest from the door, and made the long trek inside. By the time I crossed the entire parking lot, Lady Blue Hair made it to the door. Trying to redeem some of the karma points I lost from swearing and waving my hands at Mr. Truck Driver, I held the door open for her. In she shuffled, headed for my destination: the soup station.

 

Lady Blue Hair: “What is in this soup?”

 

Soup Girl, eyeing  the soup sign that read Vegetable Bean Soup: “Vegetables and beans, ma’am.”

 

Lady Blue Hair: “So it has beans in it?”

 

Soup Girl: “Yes, ma’am, beans and vegetables.”

 

Lady Blue Hair: “What about this one?” pointing to the sign that read Roasted Red Pepper Bisque.

 

Soup Girl: “Red Peppers in a bisque, ma’am.”

 

Lady Blue Hair: “Oh, then give me the Italian Chicken.”

 

 

Lady Blue hair took the very last serving of the Italian Chicken soup. The Italian Chicken Soup I had specifically driven to that grocery for. The Italian Chicken Soup I had risked life and limb in the parking lot to taste.

Evidently, today just is not my day. Please, someone, have mercy. Send chocolate. Or booze. Or a straight jacket- before I really lose it.

 

To fake or not to fake?

I keep my mouth shut a lot. I know it might not seem like it, considering I am hosting this blog and writing strings and strings of endless drivel, and if you asked my mother if I was a calm-keeper, she would laugh in your face. But really. I do. I keep the cool, I don’t rock the boat. I sit in my own turmoil for a very long time before letting any of it spill over into real life. And usually, I am glad I have done so. I am wholeheartedly afraid of confrontation and cannot stand the thought of someone being upset with me. Just the thought of it is making me sweat.

I will go out of my way to do ridiculous things to get back into someone’s good graces. I’ll share food (like a primate would), give them something of mine (like a second grader might), recall a conversation in which they are the lead role and hero/heroine (like any smart person should). If I am the offended party, I quickly give in and reconcile at the first hint of conversation just for the sake of restoring normalcy. (Unless we are talking about my husband. For some reason I have grown a set when it comes to going toe to toe with him. Lucky guy).

I obsess over things that are completely out of my control. And I’m starting to think it is unhealthy for me. Not that I think I should walk around postulating about my rightness in any given circumstance. But I do think it is okay to calmly and kindly say ‘I think you are wrong and I am right and this is why,’ or take a bit of a stand and say ‘You hurt my feelings and crossed the line,’ instead of rolling over and waiting for the eye of the storm to pass and ignoring whatever it was that upset me in the first place.

My mom always said “Be nice, even if you don’t feel nice. Be friendly, even if you don’t feel friendly. You can do it. Fake it till you make it.” And in many many circumstances this works, and I end up actually believing myself, or talking myself into a better mood or friendlier conversation. But I think I extended this advice too far into my daily interactions, I think I have used it as a catch-all instead of using it for its original intent, which is to prevent hurting OTHER people when I am the miserable party.

Faking it til you make it has a real place, it does serve a purpose, to make it through a rough patch of feeling nasty without insulting other people. But what if someone insults me? Do I fake it til I make it then? I don’t know. I always have done this…and I think I was wrong to do so. I think it has made me a bit of a (if not a complete) pushover. I get taken advantage of, knocked around, because I choose to not address issues and ice over them instead of man-ing up and facing them head on.

Well, the buck stops here, baby. I hope that I don’t ostracize, offend, or hurt anyone in my new positioning, but if you give me a backhanded compliment or say something intentionally hurtful, you’re going to hear about it. As Paul Revere and the Raiders (or was it The Monkees? Sex Pistols?) once sang, I I I I I’m not your stepping stone.

Rambles & Rants

There is something deep and profound about blogging. At least for me, it is an experience unlike any I have ever had. It has taken over my brain, expanded the banks of my memory. I see a tree, or read a sentence, or take a picture and think “that would make a good blog topic.” I pay much, much closer attention to detail, to the way I feel at any given moment, so that I am able to recount it later.

There is something equally as profound in the fact that I am recapturing my thoughts and feelings and putting them out there to the public, increasing the likelihood of offending or inspiring someone. It is a powerful thing, that Publish button. It isn’t college where I can sit and mourn over deleted phrases or misplaced periods. It lacks the formality of first second third drafts, peer review, or even submission to a grading professional. It isn’t the same as a rehearsed reading in a coffee shop. I have no sweaty palms, no fear of a microphone, no stage and no audience in view. It is just me, unscripted, and there is something very naked about that.

I have these thoughts when I listen to mid to late 90s grungy music, and I think this is exactly what I want my blog to sound like. It is weird, but for some reason I gravitate toward that atmosphere, an underlying ridge of blues, a heightened shift of rage. I want people to walk away feeling the same way I feel when I’m alone in my car, screaming Pearl Jam lyrics with a cracking voice at the top of my lungs. I want them to feel fulfilled and enriched, inspired, feel a sting of irritation, the raw, meaty grip of emotion.

I never had this driving force in my gut before. It pulls me onward and upward and drags me deeper into myself than I have ever been . At times, I feel critical, other times criticized. I feel exposed and strengthened. It almost feels like a psychological journey, a test of physical strength and mental fortitude. To travel on this road with an unknown destination. People ask me why I do this. Is it to make money? Be heard? Be understood? To ‘make it’?

My college professor once said “if you question why you write, you are not a writer. Writers write because they have no other choice.”

Perhaps the time my mind spent locked up in other foolishness was a respite for my writer soul. Maybe motherhood awoke the part of me that had been in hibernation for so long. Maybe I feel safe enough in myself and my life to let it all hang out, at least for a little while. Suddenly, a huge part of my mind has been released, opened, unchained.

All I know for sure is this: I have no other choice.

First (Ever) Super (Duper) Cool Blogging Award

Mummy Big Bum has given me my first (ever) super (duper) cool blogging award. (Obviously, she’s awesome and has impecible taste, so check her out). As an overly competitive person by nature, I am extremely thankful and excited to have been chosen to participate in this award ceremony of sorts, and I can’t wait to paste that little badge picture onto my page. It feels similar to hanging my diploma on the wall. By receiving and participating in this award, I am a Real Blogger. Woooot!

In order to officially receive this award, I am supposed to release 7 secrets about myself. I hope I can do this without alerting the authorities or jeopardizing my marriage….Here goes!

1) In our house, the toilet paper roll is located about 2 feet above the (only) electric base board heater. I am secretly afraid that the toilet paper is going to spontaneously combust and catch our bathroom on fire, even though the heat is never turned up above 65 degrees in that room.

2) I have a strong distaste for Nicholas Sparks. (I know this is going to piss a lot of women off. But, I’m sorry. I can’t stand him. His writing blows). I secretly want to edit one of his ‘novels’ with a giant red pen and mail it back to him.

3) I got 50 shots of Botox in each of my armpits a few years ago. I sweat (a lot) and I was sick of only being able to wear black, and Botox paralyzes the sweat glands, so I did it. It worked almost immediately. I would definitely do it again.

4) I can’t sleep with a sheet on our bed. Only comforter. (This does not apply in hotels- gross).

5) I stopped believing in Santa at a very, very young age and kind of feel cynical about the whole thing. At a holiday party, when I was about 4 or 5, my friend Shannon and I came across a big black bag of what we thought was presents. We opened the bag and found four sawed off deer legs. The ‘santa’ at the party had used the hooven stubs to make reindeer tracks in the snow, tossed them in a bag in the garage, and didn’t think that any kids would go snooping around looking for gifts on Christmas Eve (Dumb).

6) If I see a sign marquee for a store that is misspelled, I won’t shop there.

7) I have a strong fear of simple math. If I am asked to do a simple equation, such as a tip or discounted percentage, on the spot, I clam up and can’t figure it out. Math never was my thing.

That was harder than I thought! Now for the second part of the award, to name 15 blogs I follow and enjoy:

RuggedGrace

BoobJuice

Doodling Through Life

This Womans Work

Party Spanner

Taking Candy from a Baby

Lesley Carter  

Bitchypants

Things I Can’t Say

They Don’t  Tell You

Mom in  the Muddle

Moments of Exhilaration

BookSnob

Like Water Off a Duck’s Butt

Momma’s Money Matters