Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Things they never tell you in birthing class

Like most expectant Mothers of the time I found myself at Barnes and Noble perusing the parenting aisle looking for the bible of all pregnant Mom's to be: What To Expect When You Are Expecting.  Right there with Brazelton and Leach was the hefty book with a friendly, peaceful looking lady all cozy in a rocking chair.  She looked so happy.  So confident.  So reassured.  All would be well she said to me.  What was I so worried about??!   I was sucked in like a sailor to the siren on the rocks.  Duped into buying that expensive book which I would find in short order was going to rule my pregnancy like a wet blanket soaked in terror.  I was certainly not that calm, collected lady on the front.  And that book was the reason why.  I am sure that it has it's place somewhere.  I'm sure there will be those who come forward and tell me how wrong I am, that the book is informative and wonderful.
Here is the place where I will insert a little nugget of wisdom to those who may consider it:


 Unless you hate her, or like frantic phone calls 5x a day asking if all the horrible things that the book says can happen actually will.

Much of what I endlessly poured over, bookmarked and never read past my weekly chapter on (saving it like a great dessert, one spoonful at a time) was in a word, rubbish.

I certainly didn't need to know all the information they were peddling, all the inaccuracies, all the stuff that can go horribly, devastatingly wrong, reducing me to a pile of rubble, contemplating which blood test I should get next and whether genetic testing was really for me.

As a wise experienced Mother of three now I can truly say that I needed a much different, looser power point presentation as to what was on the horizon for me.  I think it only right and proper to write down what I wish would have been told to me during that special time.

For your kind consideration:

Things someone (doctor, parent, mailman) should have told me as soon as the plus sign appeared

1) Your ass is gonna get fat.  Forget Posh Spice.  Your butt will never look like that.  It will grow at an alarming rate to match your stomach.  Anything less than that and you will topple over.  I have seen Posh fall. It ain't pretty.  Really.

2) While there are a few amazing, incredible women out there that run marathons at 37 weeks and rule the world while pregnant, you do not want to be one of them.  They cry in airport bathrooms while shoving chocolate in their mouths.  Move yes, but sit your behind on the couch and rest.  You're gonna need it.

3) Keep negative people away from you.  Especially that woman (everyone has one) that loves to spout how awful her labor was and how terrible you are going to feel any moment now.  Just give her a shove.  Growl a little too so she thinks your crazy.  The police will understand.  They don't want to arrest a pregnant woman. Do it, you will feel better.  But most importantly DON'T LISTEN.  She's icky and that was her experience. This is yours.

4) Remember that women have this down.  You are not the first nor will be the last to go through this process.  Trust.  Worry does nothing but make you lose the little voice inside you that guides.  You are going to need that little voice.  Especially when people say stupid crap to you in the grocery store.  Voice: do not shove anymore people today.  You do not look like you are carrying triplets.  Ignore and walk away before you get arrested again.

5) Labor will hurt like hell.  But you can do it and you will feel like a bad ass after.  Good job Mom.  That's what you say to yourself as you hold your baby.  Good Job.

And because What To Expect When You Are Expecting gives a little postpartum yummy advice, I submit the following:

6) Your body will resemble Austin Power's Fat Bastard after.  That's O.K.  It will bounce back.  Except your boobs.  Sorry.

7) Milk will squirt sideways out of your breasts making your husband vomit in his mouth a little and look at you like Sigourney Weaver in Aliens.  Oh, and you will kind of feel like her too.

8) Do not expect to get right back in the saddle.  Like #2 there are women who do but they are also the ones who look all pinched in the face.  You just stretched a human being out of your hoo hoo.  Or you were cut open.  Or you just had a newborn placed in your arms.  You are gonna feel nuts, exhausted and like you cannot do this.  You can.  You just are going to feel like you can't for awhile.  And anyone who does should be shoved.  Be careful though; the police are still watching you and you are not pregnant anymore.

9) Accept that this time will not be an episode of Little House On The Prairie.  There will be moments you will HATE your husband.  Much like dispelling the facade of the rocking chair peaceful pregnant lady, do the same with this.  I thought we were supposed to be so ridiculously happy.  And we were.  But we were also sleep deprived and grouchy, overwhelmed and doing everything we could to take care of this new little being.  Be gentle with yourself.  And him.

10)  Enjoy. Like the little old ladies in the grocery store who tell you it goes by so fast, they are honestly not talking smack.  It's true.  One minute you are cuddling your newborn and the next she is rolling her eyes at you asking for 20 bucks and informing you, you have "like, no style whatsoever."

Parenthood is fun.  Cathartic.  Engrossing.  Messy and joyful.  One freakin' wild ride. 
And with it the rule: no rocking chairs allowed.

Monday, May 23, 2011

A good bra can fix anything

I don't care what it is, any problem, no matter how monstrous or trivial, life altering or mundane, can be solved with just one thing; a good bra.  Think about it- world peace, in-law troubles; you name it- all can be taken care of by the simple action of finding that splendid unmentionable and connecting it's maddening hook clasp between our shoulder blades.  A good bra makes us stand a little taller, smile a little brighter, shine that little speck more.  We all know what happens to our morale when we put on a saggy, misshapen, dingy-drab from so many washings it looks like it was grey in the first place- bra.  We feel like that.  We feel the blah, we feel the misshape.  We greet each new set of eyes with an Emily Dickinson-like stare, please don't really see me, I'll be the wallflower in the corner, thank you.

We can't blame ourselves for this, it truly is not our faults.  When we are teenagers and our boobies appear we think they, like the mole on our arm will forever be with us just as they are in that moment.  We take them for granted.  We walk around letting them fly free.  We do not care!  We are 13, 18, 26, 30!  We should be getting the forklift ready for their descent but we don't.  No, we just ignore and look away, we pretend not to see them melting like the polar ice caps.  We get pregnant.  We get forty.  We breastfeed.  We run that 5k with that terrible shot elastic in our sports bra.  And then BAM!  One day, they don't greet the sun quite like they used to.  Or they deflate like a balloon popped by a horrific child.  We look around, we want to yell "WHO IS THAT KID ANYWAY??!!"  We want to blame somebody.  What do you do though when there is no one really to blame?

You stop blaming.  Like the stages of grief you finish your bargaining, anger, and pleading and you hit your own version of acceptance.  You stop buying your bra's at Wallmart and your march yourself into Victoria's Secret.  You ignore the 16 year olds who are asking you "Ma 'am, can I help you?" and you keep walking because homicide is not on the calender for the day.  You tell the most mature salesperson you can find (21 year old girl) that you need something that will help you with the breasts that have betrayed you.  You tell her you want to take the fat from your ass and inject it into your breasts but that you will not do that because 1) you can't afford it and 2) how would you justify it to your daughters that you convince yourself are looking up to you??  Once you have explained all of this to the 21 year old who is texting security you take a deep breath, lift your shirt and say- "can you, for the love of God, help with this please??" "

I have been told that there is a panic button for this kind of moment at Victoria's Secret.  A hush falls over the store, walkie talkies are involved.  You find yourself escorted into a special back room with not a florescent light in sight.  You are placed in a vault-like dressing room where bra's are slipped to you through a secret compartment in the door; gingerly handed to you like little sticks of dynamite.   Tentatively, with jaundice and malice you try the bra on.  Like a golden arch of sunlight piercing the dressing room door, a miracle occurs- you look in the mirror and Voila!  What has forsaken you has been restored, the prodigal son has returned.

You wear it out-you have no concern for the way clothes are made with formaldehyde these days- no need to wash it first, you can't be bothered with such trivial details!   The world has changed!  Hell--oo!   You go to the counter.  You don't check the price- you don't care- you would mortgage your home for this bra!  You walk out of the store with it on under your shirt and close to your heart; your heartbeat and bra are one.  You let people pull out in front of you in traffic!  You laugh off your Mother in-law's comments about how she had it harder than you!  You saunter into your children's school at pick up time and wipe off any trace of Emily Dickinson!  You and your new bra look them all in the eye with the fearlessness of an outlaw at high noon; you don't look away!  You start that letter to the United Nations and it begins with "listen up 'cause this is how it's gonna get done!"  Yes, things are going to be different now folks.  Look out, nothing is ever going to be the same again.  A good bra can fix anything.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

You know it's love when it's 10:00 pm and he's at Target buying you tampons

I want to take a poll. I want to make up a really scientific poll that asks women one important question: "How do you know your man loves you?" I bet I would get all sorts of profound, heart soaring answers that would make me cry, sigh and shoot my husband dirty why don't you do that?! looks.

Love is a very complex thing. Some may argue that you can't even effectively articulate what it is. Even the Gods struggled to quantify it.
 But I think I have them all beat. Yes, I dare come forward and say I know what love is.

Love is being in your PJ's on a rainy Monday night watching the game, getting ready for bed and hearing your wife shriek from the other room-- "Oh crap!!! I am out of my super expanding lifeboat overnight pads!!" and with only a defeated sigh, get up off the couch, get your coat and go to the store to buy her some. That's right ladies; I'm going to say it-- it all comes down to absorbency. The reason I am so sure of his love is not because of our shared life together, our connected hearts, our family- it is because of my feminine hygiene products.

I am fairly confident the dread of buying tampons, pantiliners and pads is something that men are born with, right there with more muscle mass and in most cases, hairier upper lips. The absolute deer in the headlights fear, middle school-octane embarrassment, alarm, the Oh my God will anyone see me at the check out line panic that our guys have when buying "the stuff."

There are varying degrees and category's of this. For example:

Pantiliners are on the lower scale of the terror alert for guys. They can hide the pack under and amongst their Maxim and Men's Health magazines. And make no mistake; their purchase of both Maxim and thong pantiliners together make them feel about as cool as Shawn Cassidy in 1977.

Tampons are presenting less of a shock and awe reaction these days. He may never like getting them, but it's relatively O.K. because the guy next to him has them in his basket too.

 But the knock down, cut you off at the knee's, biggest Mother of all mortifying purchases is the heavy, heavy, super elephantine extra wings to land a 747 ultra sponge, soak up a lake OVERNIGHT PADS.

Diapers in a box.

Fill up a landfill with just one pad.

Oh yes, the big ones.

  There is no way out of the tornado with this one. Nope, nothing cool, no thong time here. Just a nice chap trying to hide your Grandma king size package with his poor little Maxim. And please know he is going to bump into:
His boss.
The principal of your kids school.
The mechanic.
 His running buddies.
His new client that is just getting to know him. Oh, but he knows him now. Yes, he knows more than he wants to about him now.

Hopefully he sees what I see, a man who puts others before himself. A man of great capacity. A man who does not care if he goes over a bridge on the way home because he has a flotation device in his grocery bag.

When I was younger I used to think love and romance were sweeping unspoken hot passionate looks and embraces, sunsets and you and me against the world moments- ala' Say Anything (cue John Cusack image with boom box over head, under window--sigh) As I march towards forty I see what it really is, in all it's blazing glory; true love. Wrapped up neatly in a enormous bag of Niagara cushions for your hoo-hoo.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Throw off the covers Part 2: An emerging woman's guide to life

I realized when I was writing Throw off the Covers that I also had another writing assignment ahead of me~ a personal letter to my oldest, who at thirteen is making an important rite of passage.  I wanted to have what I wrote be about the blind leap marching towards adulthood.  I then realized that the letter, which called me to start from the bones of Throw off the covers, was a letter not just for those who are making the bridge between girlhood to womanhood; but to all girls.  I found it amusing that some of the things I wrote applied equally to both women and girls, that is why some key points remain unaltered.  It was a surprisingly daunting task.  Would I be able to adequately express the good/bad/ugly/hold onto the railing/ stuff of life?  Present an open road? 

And finally; why did I feel it necessary to cross myself before typing the first word?

Here is what inched forward:

Throw off the covers: An emerging woman's guide to life:

Banish the tip toeing, the diplomacy, the hierarchy of how things should be.

 Lets have them how they can be.

Right now.

Here is my how to guide for being a woman of substance.  Pay attention, it gets tricky as you go.

1)  No matter what you are wearing, be it sweatpants or taffeta take time to put on intention and dignity.
And when you do, don't be dainty about it.  Put it on like a girl who knows what's ahead of her.
Even when you don't.

2)  Do not apologize for who you are.  Contrary to what the magazines and some time friends may say, you are enough. No need to be more of anything.  Be you.

3)  Get some sun.  Be bold, go outside, soak it all in.  Bring nature to you like family.  Expand your sights to things bigger than yourself.  Feel humble by the mountains, small by the sea.

4)  Drink water, unplug and breathe.  There is nothing that is so important that cannot wait until you do those things.  Believe me, life will be waiting for you once you return.

5)  Make good friends.  Have them be the people you can call on when that boy breaks your heart and who will cheer for you when you cross the finish line. There will be moments in your life when they will be the ones keeping your head above water.  Cherish them.  Be a good friend back.

6)  Laugh.
So hard and so loud it makes people uncomfortable.  Makes you feel full.

7)  You don't have to answer anybody's questions.  Especially when they are rude and asked with a smile. It's not your business what others think of you, be mysterious; give them something to talk about at the grocery store.

8)  Make it personal.  Forget what you have been told.
If you don't like  /it/him/her/ scrap em' in the bin.

9)  Listen.  To everything.  Every motion and twinge, every single pull of your heart.  It's a road map.
Follow it.
10)  Give till you break.  But only for the things/people that are worth it.  Let me repeat.  Only the ones that are worth it.

11)  Be in the world but not of it.  This world places great importance on things that are frivolous.  Do not get wrapped up in it.  Repeat # 3 and # 4.

12)  Be of service.  There is no greater thing you can do in this world.  It can be within your family or for an entire Country.  What direction that takes is up to you.

13)  Be honest.  Nothing in this world is more precious than being able to put your head on your pillow at night knowing you have done your best and right action has flowed through you.

14)  Remember love does not hurt.  It does not make you scared, confused or trapped.  It does not require you to mend damage; broken wings or cups with breaks.  Love will lift you up, enabling you to settle in your bones.  It compliments, connects and makes our lives rich and pure, trusting and joyful.
Do not settle for anything less.  Ever.

15)  Piggybacking on # 14.  Make sure you know who you are before you become part of an us. 
Choose wisely.  Choose wisely.  Choose wisely.

And finally; know that we are forever in your corner, forever by your side.

Love to you~ Mom

Monday, May 9, 2011

Throw off the covers

OK, so is it acceptable that I want to drink copious amounts of red wine each night instead of going to yoga, instead of cooking dinner, instead of eating dinner, instead of laundry, baths, bedtime and any other item that falls under my current job description??  I want to channel Liz Taylor in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf.  I want to slam down pots and pans, have a snarl when I talk and walk around like a bad ass.  And why not all those things?  I am not interested in boxing myself in the saint or slut container men so often put us in.  I want to go further.  I want to be a little unhinged.  I think the generation before us wanted that too.  If you look hard at the black and white photos you can see the perspiration rings on the pillbox hats, ardor itching to be free.  Don't you think Jackie O. wanted to untie her Valentino, say what she meant and declare what she wanted right then and there with a loud booming anti-Jackie voice?  Throw down the covers, open the curtains and make everyone around her really, really nervous.

Hell yeah.  That's the way to roll.

Banish the tip toeing, the diplomacy, the hierarchy of how things should be.

 Lets have them how they can be.

Right now.

Here is my how to guide for being a bad ass.  Pay attention, it gets tricky as you go.

1)  No matter what you are wearing, be it sweatpants or taffeta put on red lipstick.
And when you do, don't be dainty about it.  Put it on like a woman who knows what's ahead of her.
Even when you don't.

2)  Do not apologize.  Contrary to your family's belief it is not all your fault.
Wear that bit of information like a badge.

3)  Get some sun.  Be bold, throw the sunscreen in the trash and let your cheeks get uncomfortably rosy.

4)  Drink.  As in  luxurious Mimosas at least once a weekend.  Stay in bed, read the paper and say piss off to your "have to" list.

5)  Go out with your friends.  Hit the road, hit the time limit square in the eyes and share, gripe and let it all loose.  These women love you.  Let them see your ugly cry.  Chances are they will join you.

6)  Laugh.
So hard and so loud it makes people uncomfortable.  Makes you feel full.

7)  Wear what you think you can't anymore.  Who made the rules?  Work that nose ring and tell those who look at you funny you also have one where it's not polite to mention.

8)  Make it personal.  Forget what you have been told.
If you don't like  /it/him/her/ scrap em' in the bin.

9)  Listen.  To everything.  Every motion and twinge, every single pull of your heart.  It's a road map.  Follow it.

10)  Give till you break.  But only for the things/people that are worth it.  Let me repeat.  Only the ones that are worth it.

Live it up girls.  Nobody is gonna do it for us.  I'm off to find Liz.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Motherless child

May is a hard time for me.  Mother's Day rolls around and I'm a bit twitchy, there is a definite edge in the air. Even though the torch has been passed to me in celebrating the day, it always goes back to my own Mother. How could it not?  Like the nightlight we forget to turn off in the morning, she's always there in the background.

I lost my Mother 13 years ago to cancer.  Lost is such a funny word in describing death don't you think? Like she went into the grocery store with me and just wandered off.  With so many years passed and so much having happened in those years it feels like my life is truncated into two parts: my childhood with her and the beginning of my adult life.  That's a really strange compartment.  Comparable to playing in the sand one minute to having a house on it the next.

She missed so much.  She will never know my husband,  the man who transformed the way I love.  She will never look into my children's eyes.  She will never see them come into the world, never hold them, never comb their hair.   Never be part of any Christmas or Birthday, never again ring in the new year.  She will not see the radiant smiles walking down the aisle, not laugh at the antics of my Dad.  All this I know.  I wear the finality of it like a coat.  There is nothing to be done with it but sit with it and invite it to the table; less painful than having it linger by the door.

I feel less alone now than when my kids were babies.  So many nights wondering: is this normal? /did I ever have a rash like that?/was she as exhausted-elated-exhausted as I am?  I'd watch my friends Mum's with that look in their eyes- bottomless love, enchantment, that buffer; how they would relish their time; the tender lessons only a Grandmother can teach.
I could do many things but I could not trace her footprint in their lives.

I'll say it.  I'll say it out loud.  I felt cheated.

Gradually though and with much inner destruction, I realized not all paths were meant to be ours.

The ouch of it all did ease with my husband's Mother.  She was not my Mom but she loves her Grandkids. My heart melts every time she plays Crazy eights with them.  Isn't that funny?  Crazy eights.  Who knew that would be what dulls the ache.  My kids are surrounded by people who love them.  My Dad's wife dotes on them like they were her very own.  It's enough.  We all pretend it fills the cup that is cracked.  We put napkins on the floor to cover the drip.  It's enough.

So now May comes around and I garden.  I dig and plant and arrange and concentrate.   I clean my house. I fold my laundry.  I write.  I smile during the Spring tea's at school and love my homemade cards.  And every year I silently say the only prayer I can muster; Happy Mother's day Mom.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Mommy's magic door

Ahhh. The blessed bathroom door. Sanctuary and pure bliss. I'm fairly confident this magical door has saved many marriages, derailed some serious fits of temper and stopped many a woman from setting something on fire. I don't think I have ever paid tribute to the bathroom door and seeing how my forehead rests on it on a near daily basis, it's about time.
What is it about this sacred space? The lock? The cold tile floor? The way it muffles all screams, blocks any and all peanut butter from entering? It is without a doubt the ultimate ultimate Mommy's little helper. Yes, I have been guilty of bringing my wine/chocolate/ipod/ phone/ in there. I have been the one who shuts the door with a loud thud and exhales. I am the one who sits on the floor simultaneously laughing and crying. Nobody better judge me. I'm a desperate woman.

I love my children. They are little bits of pure joy undiluted and free of corn syrup in my life. And they love me. They love me so much that they want to share and share and share all the glory and wonder of their day with me; all at the same time. And I want to hear it all. Every Mother wants to hear it all. I'm just going to need a teeny tiny break for a moment to recharge before it commences that's all. No biggie. Hey, after all it's only a bathroom door. It's not like I am running away to Bermuda. With their pink seashelly beaches. With their blue cocktails and dreamy breezes and...No.
The bathroom is definitely better.

Hey, if we don't take our moments away we will be rocking in a corner. But worse than that, far worse than even that is that we will also be teaching our children that it's all about them. Everything. That everyone in their life will be endlessly available, putting aside their basic sanity to be present all the time.  Whew. I am exhausted just thinking about it. And what a set up for those little bunnies. I don't think when I was dreaming of having a family that I dreamt of having a family of narcissist's. Hmm...nope.
I did give a hearty go at the "all available, all the time" routine though, pre-bathroom door. And it didn't go well. It came roaring in to bite me on the ass, just before I collapsed.

On the bathroom floor.

As I lay there thinking I didn't have another speck of energy to wipe, sing or carry anybody left in me the clouds by the bathroom window parted and a voice spoke to me.

I like to think it was the bathroom God voice.

It said: "Lock the door. Now. Sit on the floor and ignore Raffi drilling a hole in your nervous system.


And you know what? I did. It all turned around for me that day. That day led to even more moments of self care. Daily showers. Walks around the block. Even (gasp) a yoga class out of the house! Those merciful moments given to me that day in the bathroom enabled me to swing open that door with a smile. Everyone learned something that day. My kids learned that Mommy needs a little time for her and that's OK. They learned to start working through the squabble over who's hair elastic it was and not to give themselves a haircut when I was unavailable. It was really a win win.
Bermuda may be an exotic dream but my bathroom door will always be there.

Thank Goodness.