Posts Filed Under over-sharing is my talent

16 weeks, totally insane and no end in sight!

by renegademama

Hi. It’s been awhile.

I haven’t written in nearly 3 weeks. That’s the longest I’ve ever gone in the 3 years I’ve been writing this blog.

I wanted to. I mean, I tried. But I’ve been in a spot, you know, one of those dead zones where you just kind of wake up and do your thing and go to bed and that feels like enough, like all you can handle, and everything additional is too heavy.

I was already in that spot, but when one of my best friends faced a personal tragedy that rocked her to her core, I hit some mental state of feeling totally and completely lost.

Does that ever happen to you? It happens to me on a semi-regular basis. I’m going along minding my own business when all of a sudden I’m just not interested in anything. It’s like a fog descends over my eyes and into my brain. It all feels blurred and unclear, gray and, well, foggy.

Part of it is moving in with my mom. These transitions are never easy.

Part of it is that I now have to drive an hour each morning to get my 3 kids to school, and 1.5 hours to get them home. I spend at least 2.5 hours a day driving kids around. It’s not exactly an inspiring situation.

Part of it is that we don’t know where we’ll be living in a couple months, though I would like to joyfully report that I got a job teaching English at a community college about an hour away – two sections of first-year composition. Yes. So lucky. (That was not sarcasm. I am LUCKY as hell to get that job. And I am grateful and excited.)

My insomnia has reached new levels, but at least it’s consistent. I sleep from 11pm til 2:30am. Then I’m awake until 3:30. My husband’s alarm goes off at 4am. I go back to sleep at 4:30 and sleep til 6am. So I average maybe 5.5 hours a night. I wake feeling like I didn’t sleep a wink. I’m groggy and irritated and it’s like my body weighs a thousand pounds.

Do you know that feeling? The body is not rested; it’s only heavy. It’s all so heavy.

I eat crap to make myself feel better, which makes me feel worse, of course.

I regularly wake up with headaches because there’s so much tension in my neck and back and shoulders, none of which is getting released during those you-have-got-to-be-kidding-me nights.

So I’m sleeping like crap which makes me feel like crap which makes me eat crap which makes me feel worse so I sleep worse and fail to do the things that make me feel better.

(If anybody wants to hire me for a life coach, I’m totally available.)

I realize I am in control of this. I realize it’s my responsibility to change it. I realize I am in this spot because of my own rather apparent inability to snap the fuck out of a crap pattern and take care of myself.

But sometimes I just like to ride my misery as long as I can. You know, really draw it out. I like to just hold on to the inaction and insanity of doing the same damn thing each day expecting different results, which is only slightly crazier than doing the same damn thing each day expecting the same crap results.

Today I hit the end, I guess, after yelling at my husband (again) over something infinitely stupid (again).

Today I went to the gym. It took me a solid hour to drag myself into gym clothes and onto the treadmill, and I only spent 25 minutes on it. I spent 15 minutes stretching.

It was all very impressive I assure you.

But I felt better than I have in days.

In unrelated news, I’m 16 weeks pregnant, which blows me away (feels like I was just 9 weeks). I’m gonna level with you, I’m so in love with this baby I can’t quite handle it. I don’t know why. I don’t remember feeling so in love so early – maybe it’s because I know he or she is my last, or maybe it’s because I’m older, but my whole heart is with the tiny beating one in my womb, and this manifests in a warmth beyond words but also a profound fear. I haven’t felt the baby move yet, so other than the fact that I feel like crap I really don’t know I’m pregnant.

The thought keeps running through my brain “Maybe he’s gone. Maybe you’re not pregnant anymore.”

I told you. Crazy. Also, I keep feeling like this baby is a boy, but I don’t know that, and I’m probably going to be one of those assholes who doesn’t find out (which is going to have crippling consequences for my sister-in-law who’s dying to plan my ironic gender reveal party (because we all know how I feel about those fuckers.)

Incidentally, I’ve also gained like 15 pounds. UNCOOL JANELLE, uncool. I’m gonna need to nip that shit in the bud. Of course it doesn’t help that I have these super badass midwives who are like “Whatever. If you’re eating right don’t worry about it.”

Of course I haven’t been eating right. NOBODY EATS RIGHT IN THIS CONDITION. So as much as I want to use their supportive words to justify my fat ass, I know it’s actually the cookies. Winning!

You know life is pretty strange sometimes, the way it corners you in these new ways, backs you into feelings you’ve never quite felt before. I haven’t felt these before. It’s like I’m disconnected from myself. It’s like my physical and mental bodies are not unified. My body feels weak and incapable and generally shitty and my head feels lost.

All the faculties that normally pull me through are all “Fuck you, you’re on your own, bitch.”

I get angry a lot. My irritability is profound. I’ve been spending too much time on my phone, scouring social media and engaging in arguments with egotistical assholes who I really shouldn’t be wasting my time with (acting, on occasion, like an egotistical asshole myself, because let’s be honest, flame wars don’t always bring out our most mature side.)

I think I’ve been escaping through the bright lights of my iPhone.

And the worst part is the tears. I’ve never been a crier. Not that I’m too tough or have some problem with it, I’m just not super prone to tears. Now, oh lord, I cry all the time. It’s pregnancy hormones, I get it. But I feel raw and exposed and like the protection I’ve always had is gone. Now, when my feelings get hurt, I cry.

I cry from hurt feelings! Fuck me.

This is new domain.

Maybe this baby is making me softer. Maybe he’s demanding a new side of me.

Nah.

It’s just the hormones. And they can BITE ME.

One of the worst parts about these mental blank spots and periods of malaise is that I feel like I’m letting you guys down. Not that this blog is like food or air or whatever, but you know, I feel like I should say something entertaining or insightful or whatever, and when I can’t think of anything and I’m unmotivated and tired, each day that goes by leaves me feeling more stressed like I’m NEVER GONNA WRITE AGAIN.

(I told you. CRAZY.)

And I explore every crevice of my brain for a something funny, something amusing at least, and all I get is “Oh my god I’m so tired.” Every crevice says “tired. Unmotivated. I gotta go to bed.”

But then I realize I can just tell you the truth. Normally life amuses me and gives me all kinds of things to write about, it sends me blog posts like pouring rain – it just dumps on my head. I don’t have to think about it. I don’t have to work at it or try or worry or even think. I sit down and the words come like water, just flowing. I laugh as I write them and I cry too sometimes, like really big ass tears (but I’m not a crier!) and I hit publish and that’s that (which is why there’s often typos).

I realize I can tell you the truth because maybe it happens to you, too, maybe not with writing but with life. I don’t know, whatever your thing is that makes you feel more alive and like you’re contributing something. Maybe work or art or cooking or singing or sewing or teaching or coaching or mothering. Whatever it is that makes you feel like you’ve got something inside that might help others, and make you unique.

And all of a sudden the energy driving that creation halts, and life sends you nothing but fog. Those days when the motivation leaves you, the inspiration slips away like your naked toddler as you try to dress her.

But then you get tired of the fog, too, and the silence, and you’re all “Well I guess I’ll have to force the issue, motherfucker,” and you move your pen and feet and hands and just start going again, forward, cause there’s no place else to go.

And you realize the blank spots must balance the vivid ones, or maybe in the end they’re one and the same anyway, and all that worry was for nothing, cause here I am, writing, even though I’ve got nothing to write.

And here I am pregnant. 16 weeks and crazy, and no end in sight. This was right before the gym. Please enjoy the hair. Yes, I went out in public like this.

Hot. Hot is the word you’re looking for.

16 weeks

Dear son, I hope you stay soft

by renegademama

Hey son.

What I want for you is to stay soft.

It’s really un-American of me. It’s really against what “men” stand for, you know. All that machismo badass shit.

The world will eat a soft man alive. For breakfast. Fucking pathetic weakling.

That’s what they’ll say, but I don’t care. I will not harden you. I will not break you. I hold between my mama hands your giant gaping sensitive heart. I refuse to abuse it.

The softness in you. It will remain, intact. As much as it can, anyway.

Rocket

Not because I made you that way, or even envisioned you that way, but because you came that way. Really it’s none of my fucking business.

My job is to not destroy what you are.

You arrived in a birth that felt like the sunrise, and stayed with a light in your gut or behind your eyes, of pain and love and humanity and some weird empathy or clarity that manifests when I want to beat the shit out of people and you say something loving, pierce to the heart of compassion so fast and sure I see my own hardness like a flash across a shocked brain: He is soft. You aren’t. Don’t fuck this up.

You barely spoke until you were 3.

You almost never cried.

You played and watched and loved and watched more and curled in close, to me, daddy, your grandma and grandfather.

You were always soft. When I say it, it sounds like an insult, in a culture like ours. “The boy is soft.”

But they don’t see you.  

rocket and mac

They don’t see you in your scarf, the one you picked out in the women’s section of Old Navy, the one you didn’t wear to school yesterday because you know the kids will make fun of you. They don’t see your locks of curls hanging across eyes that hold mine in another time and space. They don’t see the boy sleeping on our floor and curled against his dad, still, always, forever until you don’t need it anymore, because your dad is soft like you, but was maybe almost hardened somehow, by life, and knows it, and wants differently for you. 

We will not break you.

We will not make you leave.

At the playground, you said, there was a boy with a “really weird face” and he was alone, so you sat by him. I asked if you talked or played with him. You said no, I just sat there by him, because he was alone.

And when I asked you what the hell was wrong with that one kid who was so obnoxious in your class, and I thought the little bastard was exactly that, a little bastard, without blinking you said “His parents divorced and he doesn’t get to see his dad anymore. I think he wants people to think he’s tough.”

164446_10200638158419434_324524180_nYou’re soft, kid, and I’m hard.

Sometimes I want you to be hard, because I worry for you, or you bring pain in me, when you fold into yourself almost paralyzed when I raise my voice, or you come home telling me about the girl at P.E. who said “Don’t sit by me” and I get mad, really mad but then you say “She always misses play time on Friday because her little brother needs her to go to his classroom. I think that must be hard for her.”

You feel empathy. I feel rage. I feel a bit of rage at your empathy. I’m silenced and I learn from your heart.

Sometimes I wonder where you come from. Sometimes you really piss me off, the way you match your sister’s fiery screaming temper with a gentle voice, or a quick tear. Sometimes you yell back, but not without trying a lot and a lot of gentle, first.

Gentle. You. Rocket.

And when you cry because daddy’s been working too much and I’ve been fighting all day with kids and mess and work and my brain and stress and then your tears, your tears falling on freckled cheeks, for a moment I want to yell Damnit kid just toughen up! THIS IS LIFE! I don’t have time for this shit.

You are the kid who was made fun of by their dad and maybe mom. Don’t be a wimp. Don’t be a crybaby.TOUGHEN UP.Don’t be a sissy.BE A MAN.Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.

And one day, you were the boy who stopped crying.

 

I will not be the force slapping the last tear from your eye.

But I will never baby you. I will never cater to you or stroke your ego or let you whine and snivel to get your way. I will make you work. I will make you face your fears and suffer and keep on going. The sensitive ones have to fight too, kid.

But I will never crush or fault or smash you for the gentleness that takes my breath away, that feels pretty foreign sometimes, the way you’re all heart pretty much all the time. The way you walk up to me with those dimples and say “Mama, can we cuddle” and you bury your face in my chest. Still. In the morning when you wake up you roll onto my side of the bed, without a word, and I roll onto my back and you put your head on my shoulder. I kiss your curls. Just as I’ve always done. 

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You’re 8 years old now.

I won’t turn you away. I won’t toughen you up. Ever.

You are the kid who takes a stuffed white seal to class and gets teased.

You are the kid who doesn’t fit.

You are the dyslexic kid, the only one who can’t read yet. But when a girl asks you about it, “Why don’t you read?” You snap “None of your business.”

You know who you are. You are not weak. You are so strong you sword fight and wrestle and wear embroidered flower purses and beg for ballet lessons, maybe simultaneously.

You are so strong YOU WORE YOUR SCARF TO SCHOOL TODAY, told me “I don’t care what they say.”

I watched you walk away and wished for a second you would fight. At 2:30 I’ll pick you up and ask “How did it go, son?” and I already feel fear.

They’ll tell you it’s weak, to love and feel and cry. To live open and exposed. To see more than the rest and act on it, feel it.

They’ll tell you you aren’t a real man. That you’re something else. They won’t say it directly. They’ll say it in advertisements and characters in movies and “the American way” and the hot men that always get the hot women.

But the bravest thing you can do, kid, is to keep that softness intact, to let that heart stay open for all the pain it will entail. The love, the desperation, the agony. That’s some crazy badass shit right there. To fight and work and serve with a sensitivity that could leave you wrecked at any moment, real and in love and raw.

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Most of us are too afraid to do anything of the sort. One day we look around at the pain of this world and the black inside and we snap shut, Boom. Done. You’re out. I’m in. Nothing’s getting through. I did it. I was 8 or 9 and standing in my unicorn bedroom looking into my white mirror over my dresser and I said out loud, quietly, but aloud: “This will not break you, Janelle. Nothing will EVER break you.”

I made a decision that day, in response to a pain I won’t explain now. That moment. That day. I would never need another soul. I was in control. Nothing would ever hurt me again. I was wrong, of course, but I was hard. I would die hard, like the movie. Ha. See what I mean?

My wish for you, son, is that you stay soft.

I pick up your face and see the face of a boy who knows something, beyond hard and soft or good or bad and it’s not my job to shove you into the mold of the world.

My job is to loosen my grip on myself, my hard edges and old ideas, to fit beside you, and hold the softness I almost can’t find in me.

So yeah, America, I’m raising a soft one. I’ll leave it up to you to raise the tough guys.

And when you meet my boy, I hope you love his scarf.

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A friend once told me life gives you what you need. I believe him.

by renegademama

I could have waited and lied to you, faked it, written something interesting or more amusing like I had my act together and haven’t been struggling, but I have been struggling, and that’s why it’s been a week of no writing.

No inspiration. What’s a girl to do?

There’s a temptation to pretend, you know, force myself to do something inauthentic. But I can’t seem to do that to you. Or me.

And the truth is there are times in my life when I’m done. Just done. I don’t know why or how it happens, but it seems like I turn some corner and boom.

Pain.

Not quick and sharp or stabbing pain, but more like a low hum in the back of my mind. A burning deep down.

A quiet simmer of vague discontentment, drifting, rudderless. A sneaking suspicion my life is not being lived, though it may appear so on the outside, and I’m alone. There’s a lot of fear though it can’t be nailed down.

I just feel so LOST.

I’m paralyzed by it all. The house, the mess, the stuff. The kids, the work, the years.

I lose interest in all the things. My temper grows short. Nothing feels enlightening or, to tell you the truth, even vaguely interesting. I feel like I’m faking it. All the time. With my smiles.

Joy passes in moments like a car racing by. I hear it, but by the time I look for it it’s gone. The sound resonates in my ears as my eyes turn back to nothing.

When the pain first descends, I start looking outside for the problem. Outside of me.

It must be that I gained that weight back. I’m fat. That’s what’s wrong.

It’s our money problems. I can’t stand being broke anymore.

I need a job. Obviously!

I need to write. My problem is I haven’t written that book.

It’s my town! I hate this shithole town!

It’s my house. This house is so trashed; nobody could live in this maelstrom of crap.

I used to blame my marriage, but that got too exhausting.

I used to blame everything, anything.

But eventually, I stopped looking, because I’ve already gone down those roads. I know they’ve got nothing for me. I used to read a bunch of existential literature. Sartre gets it. Nietzsche knows. What I need is a little Kierkegaard.

I used to drink, take drugs, get all dressed up and go out partying. Get some attention from some boys. That’ll cheer me up.

But I don’t do any of that anymore.

I know there’s only one way to escape from this, and that’s to move right into it.

Makes no sense, but it’s true.

My greatest fear, I guess, is that existence is meaningless, and that my life will be spent in a shithole town doing absolutely nothing of interest, and the words in my soul will be left unspoken, and my kids will grow as I grow and die, the end. Life will pass me by as I’m running on some plastic wheel made in China manufactured for Walmart, working for something that I can’t even see, for people I don’t even know, and when I’m 80 I’ll wonder what the fuck I was doing all that time.

Why didn’t I live when I could, I’ll ask. Who was I meant to be?

A wasted life. I’ve seen it so many times.

Eventually, with a mix of fury and terror I move headlong into my pain. Because at some point, there’s nowhere else to go. And I want to get to the truth.

If my depression were a room I’d walk into the center of it, where all its energy converges into a glowing face of my own agony, and I’d look it square in the eyes and wait.

“What you got, bitch?”

And I see she’s got nothing. Just the same old shit she’s been feeding me since I was a young girl, lying awake at night contemplating infinity, the crushing weight of it all on a tiny girl’s heart, wishing I could believe the stories I heard in church.

If I look hard enough into that fear, if I’m brave enough to really look, I see she’s full of shit.

I see everything I need is already here.

I see fear exists in the past and the future but never right now, in the center, in this spot, where my feet are, safely.

Where I live, NOW.

Now.

And I feel a little compassion for her, that burning ball of desperation, that sad little whiner deep inside, terrified beyond recall, poor little thing is just sure she’s going down.

I tell her “Honey, you’ve already gone down. And you’re still here.”

What are you afraid of?

And I’m grateful, because that pain comes along sometimes to jolt me alive, reminding me that this is really all I’ve got. And I see the ways I’ve been wasting my hours.

On my phone, screwing around when people are talking to me. Absent.

In anger. Surfing the internet. Escaping.

Worrying. Talking shit. Complaining. Putting off until tomorrow. Always.

Fearing. Fighting what is. Asleep.

Snoring.

Until I get so desperate I pack two of my three kids up (one was at a slumber party), and grab my husband and take a whole day off, of everything, and go to the beach, to surrender to my lack of ideas, hear waves and smell salt air and feel it too, the rocks and white cold water and the burn of the sun on my hungry skin – to feel connected to something again, old friend, the ocean.

And when I’m there I see this…

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I leave laughing.

It’s still humming, the fear, prattling on in the back of my mind, but I don’t care, she’s just running the same old story.

And frankly, I’m no longer interested. You’d think she’d come up with some new shit after all these years. But she doesn’t.

I smile at her antics and drive home, realize I’ve got too much life to live now, you know. The kids want to listen to “Say Yes” by Langhorne Slim. We do.

There’s no time for anything else.

So I just hang out with her for awhile longer, let her do her thing, ride it out as best I can, until one morning I hear the ocean waves in my boy’s breath as he sleeps next to me, alive in perfect rhythm with the universe I’m terrified of.

And I realize I’m doing the same. And always have been.

Later I sit down and write to you all, telling the truth one more day.

Don’t look away

by renegademama

So it happened the other day.

My daughter, she’s eleven. She’ll be twelve in November.

She grew up the other day.

We were going to a town in the wine country, to hear a rock-n-roll band. We were going to have dinner first. It was a lovely evening.

She put on a dress, gloves, boots, a hat – and five years.

She wore them like a loose veil across cheek bones I never noticed, on the poise of squared shoulders, soft over eyes that knew something, something more than me, something adults know, or almost know, if they could remember.

She nearly stopped my heart when I saw her in that get-up, so beautiful she snatched my words away. I looked at her and kept on, harder and harder to see it clearly.

a woman?

The second I saw it it vanished, and there stood again my little one, my first one, who played in the sand and still does.

My Ava.

“Mama, I hate you!”

She yelled and ran off.

I stirred the meat in the pan and heated like the cast iron before me. I thought how dare she speak to me that way. I AM THE MOTHER. I thought about storming down the hall and demanding better treatment. HOW DARE YOU. Who do you think you are?

Well I’m a girl, growing up a little, and it fucking sucks sometimes.

A victim of biology.

Fuck biology.

Fuck hormones. And nature.

For taking my baby from me, even if it’s only in moments still, so young. A victim of a uterus and ovaries a decade or two before she even needs them.

I have no idea how to stand near this child. I have no idea what to say and where to reach as I watch her slip away, only in moments still, of beauty or rage.

So goddamn young.

But always moving away, or so it seems, until she tells me that she wants to hear my voice to feel better, and I want to cling to today for dear life. I want to hold it like a drowning man clings to a raft. I want to weave her back into my skin and hold her there like it was and it’s always been.

except that it isn’t. not anymore.

and I cannot.

“I HATE YOU!” the words sting my core because they’re true, for a moment, and maybe I hate her too. because how can I do anything different with this pain taunting me, dangling in my face. i know it’s coming. it’s right there.

losing her.

No, I don’t hate her, not really, even for a second.

They say she’ll come back, after the teenage years. That she’ll just seem gone.

They say it’s so wonderful again, after those years.

They say supportive things.

But what I see is that my daughter is growing up, and it’s all exactly as it should be, except that this is not a change a human can stomach. how can I take it? how can i accept it?

TELL ME YOU FUCKING WORLD, how can I let go? When all I want is one more day and one more after that of our little family and the oldest child still a child and she’s going.

She’s going anyway.

I can only let go, and yet I cannot.

Once again, here I am. A mother. The Mother.

With nothing.

I stir the meat a little longer and remember eleven and twelve and sixteen and how I couldn’t see myself in myself sometimes, and I didn’t know either. “Who do you think you are?”

I have no fucking clue, mom.

so I walk down the hall and open her door. she’s weeping into her pillow. I sit by her and say nothing, look at the trinkets and the papers and stuffed animals. I look at the jewelry and the books and treasures. I touch her arm. I see the clutter, the mess, the thousands of things on the walls. the notes from friends and things from second, third, fourth grade.

the little girl beneath a towering world.

her little haven in an untouchable world begging her to join it.

her place in my home, her home, all I can offer beyond what I am in all my broken form:  a mother, her mother, a new mother I guess, to a new form of child.

I see again it’s all just a series of being reborn. It’s all just a series of recreation, of being tweaked and carved into something new, as I kick and scream and weep for the old.

Just when I was sure it would never end.

Just when I thought I knew what tomorrow will hold.

I looked away for a moment and lost my baby.

 

In her room, I think I’ll join her.

www.renegademothering.com

 

I became a mother, and died to live.

by renegademama

So I was hanging out the other day with a friend who has a newborn. A freaking gorgeous newborn boy, to be exact.

He is her first baby. She has recently become a mother.

You know, when we hear those words we hear them like it’s no big deal – “become a mother,” like you might “become a doctor” or “become a pet owner.” As if it’s just this thing that happens, without anything else happening – it’s just this exciting addition to one’s life. You add this new thing and go about your business.

Like a new-home owner, or a resident of a new town.

“A mother.”

But this particular transition comes with a cost. A BIG ONE, yet nobody really talks about it.

And if you do talk about it, you have “postpartum depression.”

I have an idea: let’s talk about it, right here and right now, and call it nothing other than a human, adult reaction to a giant shift in identity, a presence of mind recognizing the end of an entire chapter of life, a heart mourning the woman that once was, and a soul shaking under the weight of a new giant world.

I’ve talked about it a little before, and in my case I actually DID have postpartum depression, and obviously I’m not trying to say that having these feelings does not indicate PPD (um DUH). What I’m saying is that it seems to me that every woman who becomes a mother, no matter how much she loves her kid or wants to be a mom, will most likely, at some point, mourn the loss of her previous identity.

And it will hurt.

You’re sitting in the house a few weeks after your perfect baby is born. Everybody has gone home. The help is gone. Your husband (or wife) is back at work.

Your belly is still sagging. Your boobs are exploding. You’re bleeding still, maybe, but you’re definitely leaking milk. There are big pools of it on your bed and couch and everywhere. You don’t really sleep, but rather fade in and out of a half-sleep, alongside your baby, checking him every hour, acutely aware of his breath, as if it were a freight train roaring through the room: do I hear it? Yes, I hear it.

Breathe.

His temperature, his blanket. He stirs and you’re there, boom. Awake. You are infinitely connected. You seem to be melting into this tiny body. He wakes and you stare into his eyes, struck and dumbfounded at his beauty. You coo at him and notice the way he moves his mouth, as if he wants to speak. What will he say?

Someday he will speak. And you know you know him better than everybody else, and always will, and you know when he’s sleeping you’re there when nobody else is there, and you’re watching him breathe so you can breathe and watching him sleep to drift into your own.

And you’re falling into a love you’ve never known. It’s like quicksand; the more you struggle the deeper you fall. Only you’re not struggling, because it’s a gorgeous catastrophe, and there’s nowhere else to go.

But you watch people leave, too. You watch your husband go to work. You see friends come and go, bright and capable with energy and direction, as if the world is still going on outside, out there.

And you’re isolated and stuck.

As you watch them there are moments, moments when you remember when you used to run around and visit people and live your life and work and be alone. You remember when your body was just your own and you were thinner and felt contained and like the owner of your boobs and vagina and life. You remember having a couple shots of tequila or maybe a cigarette with some friends, and you did it like it was nothing, never knowing it was somebody who was going to stand like an old friend some day, a thousand miles away.

You were twenty, twenty-three, thirty, thirty-five. You were free and young and somebody else.

We were free and young and somebody else.

But now, we’re mothers.

At some point the reality will hit us: We are never alone again, no matter where we are, and we are the only ones in the world who have become this person toward this child.

Yeah, that’s right. I said it. NOT EVEN THE DAD.

It’s hard to put into words, but something becomes very apparent when a baby enters a relationship: there is something different between my relationship with this baby, and everybody else in the world.

I am the only one who is The Mother to this child twenty-four hours a day, and will be for the rest of my life.

I’m not trying to speak for everybody. Obviously. I’m speaking for myself, and for my friends, who I’ve seen living the same beautiful catastrophe.

My husband always goes back to work relatively soon after the baby is born. So his life, though obviously irrevocably changed, goes on in more or less the same way it was before. My husband’s sleep patterns haven’t changed. My husband’s body isn’t suddenly owned by a 9-pound nursing machine. My husband’s vagina isn’t, well, let’s change the subject. My husband doesn’t have stretch marks. My husband didn’t give birth.

My husband doesn’t spend hours eye-locked with the newborn, cooing and talking with infinite fascination with a ball of chub. My husband doesn’t pick at the baby’s head and eyes and ears like an attentive monkey.

My husband didn’t become a mother, but I did.

And there are moments when I know it. There are moments when I look at that baby and myself and feel my body that isn’t my body and wonder if maybe I didn’t make the biggest mistake of my life, because what have I given up? What have I done? Was I ready?

Why didn’t I appreciate my life more, when it was mine? What if I want to leave one day?

I’ll never be able to leave one day, ever.

I’ve been the same woman my whole life. What about her? Where is she? Is she just dead?

Yes, she is just dead.

 

Does that seem harsh? Well, it is. So is motherhood.

Perhaps we can soften this whole thing by saying our identities are “transformed,” or we are “forever changed,” but the fact of the matter is that the woman you once were is gone, and she will never come back.

Period.

You can pretend she’s not dead. You can even leave your family and act like a kid again and not a mother. But you will not be free, and you will die under the weight of your lies, because you know you’re something else, and there’s a little girl out there who misses her mama, and has replaced her with a box full of notes and cards and memories and yearning.

I’m speaking from experience.

I will never live a single day as an individual. Always, somewhere, my heart will be beating for that child. Always, somewhere, though I may not even know it, my mind has wrapped itself around her, wondering how she is, seeing a shirt or dog or book, “She would love that.” I miss her.

One thousand miles away, but tied.

And so she’s gone, that woman. Old friend who partied with you and spent hours absorbed in herself, her work. She’s gone, that girl that lived for herself, and maybe you for a moment, but always, in the end, for herself.

And yet, I’m still here. This is still me. I am untouched, unscathed. So maybe I have not died?

If I died, how am I here, nursing and changing and mothering this baby? Who’s doing this work now?

And who is she?

I don’t know her yet, but I will. I’ll know the woman who wraps her baby against her chest and storms the world. I’ll know the woman who goes back to work with one foot and her heart at home, always. I’ll meet the woman who races to preschool to get there on time and holds little hands and chases kids in restaurants.

I’ll meet the woman who disciplines. I’ll meet the woman who yells. I’ll meet the woman who works to be better, who holds a child as it grows and grows and grows and I’ll meet the woman who does it a couple more times, until she’s the one sitting by a friend and a newborn, telling her it’s alright, talking about death, and rebirth.

OF A MOTHER.

Thinking my god, I guess I’ve known her all along.

 

****

We’re all facing the “most sacred job in the world” armed with nothin but ourselves. 

I insist there’s beauty right there. And a shitload of humor. A SHITLOAD OF FUCKING HUMOR. Because it’s funny, goddamnit, the whole thing.

And I wrote that too.
That part was really, really fun. Alongside even the most intense parts of that book, I was laughing my ass off (IN MOMENTS, okay, I’m not a monster). I may be a monster.

Somebody messaged me today saying her favorite passage in the book was the dinosaur porn one. Here it is:

“Let’s not talk about how we all became better versions of ourselves the day we became parents, and, please, would you stop pretending you did? Because your holier-than-thou shit makes me worry you watch dinosaur porn after the kids go to bed. Your steadfast focus on seasonal cupcakes and organic kombucha concerns me. Look, I’ve got some too. I know all about gut flora. But please. Is that all there is?”