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5

Midlife Crisis, with Toddler

DAY 1

Today I noticed that the oatmeal was getting tired. And we of it. H didn’t eat it. Probably because he was constipated. Generally he gets excited for the morning oatmeal. For that I applaud myself. And his somewhat regular bedtimes. And lack of screen exposure. Everything else I blame myself for—like the constipation. I know if he ate more fruits and vegetables and less cheddar bunnies he’d be taller, happier and healthier.

A tiny amount of milky coffee was totally unpalatable. But emotionally, I wanted it. Then B and I fought. He hadn’t eaten anything and he’d had a coffee—a bad combination. He does this thing where you ask him a question and he doesn’t answer. 'I hate that!' I told him. H and I are always chanting questions at him. What are you doing? What are you doing? What are you doing? Where are you going? Where are you going? Where are you going?

At the Farmer’s Market, the thought of tomatoes brought up that metallic taste in my mouth, a sucking on pennies flavor. I almost bought some Dutch letter cookies but no, I wanted something savory like egg rolls from the Vietnamese vendor. He showed me summer rolls, those looked good too. We're on a budget and I decided it was a frivolous expense so I refrained--and then insisted on eating at the new vegan restaurant, Over the Moon. The carrot soup was salty and delicious. I wanted bread, but there was none. And obviously no butter. I got it for H but, B and I were wolfing it down. We always get things to share with him and then eat it ourselves. No wonder he has started hitting us.

The Happy Curry Bowl was over spiced and I had buyer’s remorse for the popular Helen’s smoked tofu Burrito that I had passed up. The server who had recommended it, was so nice and hopeful, that I lied and I told him it was good. As far as food goes in this small town, it was good enough. B's taco was better. I want to eat more vegetables and rice. Rice with soft bland vegetables--adult baby food essentially. There's a place in town that was previously insignificant to me, Gupta’s vegetarian lunch, and now it's all I crave. Especially that Sambahar, or whatever it’s called. It's what the townies would call a 'Ru' place, in reference to the people, 'gurus,' who followed the Maharishi here in the 70's to practice Transcendental Meditation. I feel a reluctant kinship with them. I now understand the calming effect of mushy bland food amongst others desirous of the same.

Of course, they are driven by their beliefs in an odd little man, now dead. I on the other hand am just pregnant. Not just, it’s a miracle really. One I feel in waves of nausea. I’m looking forward to feeling the kicks and presence of this little being. To having H put his hand on my belly to say Hi to his little sister. We’ve decided it’s a sister, though I don’t know. But I think so. And I’m worried of course, about my age, the health of the babe, the tests, and God—the delivery. I don’t believe i ever stepped closer to the realization of death than when I gave birth. I was fine, i guess, but it didn’t feel that way. i was gasping for the oxygen mask. shaking. the blood pressure alarm kept going off. It broke me or humbled me—i’m not sure which—I was so sure I’d be okay. That it would be hard, but not that hard. And I was so wrong. Yet I’m weirdly optimistic that it won’t be that bad again which goes to show… why we have more children?

DAY 2

Today I noticed that breastfeeding H has become mostly aggravating. He has almost all his teeth. He nurses on one breast while trying to grope and pinch the nipple of the other one while I try to bat him away. 'No hands!' At this point, a lot of the other moms have weaned completely. I still do it in the morning because it buys me an extra half-hour of sleep. Or at least, if not sleep, a little time where I can lie on my back, eyes closed, not moving, not changing a diaper, not coercing a morning toothbrushing, not making oatmeal, not feeling guilty that I haven't let the dog out to pee yet...

There were 2 weeks I had to go on antibiotics and stop breastfeeding. I was so upset. I didn’t want this thing taken away from H and I. It is a bonding, connecting experience in a very primal way. Sex, birth, nursing—all messy, noisy animal things, violent things of joy and pain, things that people generally don’t want to acknowledge in public. H loves to be “naked free!’ In the warm weather, he is forever running out the door with just a t-shirt on and nothing else. They toys scattered in the front yard, a half-naked boy peeing in the grass, me running after him in my pajamas. We must seem a mess. Or maybe just hippies. It’s such a weird town, but you can still cross lines. 

Now nursing is a bartering tool. It buys me time. Sometimes after nap, H wants to nurse, which means I get to read a magazine, or check my email, or look up recipes— my default activity. Sometimes I feel anxious that we are still breastfeeding when the other moms have moved on. It’s a common reaction. Whenever I hear that someone has achieved some kind of milestone—their husband now puts their child to sleep or, they've started potty-training or, they started working again—I feel stabs of anxiety. Like we're falling behind. Anxiety,envy. I even begrudge the moms whose parents live close by. They take their children off their hands for a few hours, do a few loads of dishes, or take them in when the husbands leave for work or camping trips. 

All the moms got knocked-up around the same time and had their babes one after another. So we became a group. We get together at parks and people's houses, we go for walks and bike rides, we have a Facebook page, we commiserate about our kids, our partners, we swap recipes, we gossip. Sometimes I feel I’m in a time capsule from the 50’s, though instead of welcoming the husbands home from work with a cocktail, we usually hand them a child and berate them. For being late, for having the luxury of going to a job, for not understanding that though you love your baby fiercely, you want to poop by yourself. You want to finish a thought. You want to do something other than finish one meal and start planning the next over a pileof dishes.

DAY 3

Today I noticed that I have vaginal fear. Not fear of vaginas. The fear is in my vagina. Such a terrible word, vagina. Penis is not much better, but kind of fun to say. H calls it ‘Peanut!’

We went for the ultrasound. I’m not 11 weeks, I’m 8 weeks and a day. The baby has been demoted from a kumquat to a kidney bean.  It’s heart was beating 155 times a minute. The technician made me wait for that. She was staring at the screen and the screen was tilted towards her so all I could do was stare at her face. I think her name was Heather. Young, blonde, hair pulled back wearing scrubs. Hospital workers look a lot like kitchen workers. In a way, the work is similar. On her name tag, Heather’s hair was down and she was smiling. In the lab, she was unsmiling and inscrutable. Not a talker. It’s a little weird to have someone wanding you with the equivalent of a long skinny dildo while staring intently at a screen in a dark room with new age music playing softly. With B and H watching.

It was when she was about to put the dildo ultrasound wand me that I panicked. Not visibly. The fear remained until she removed it. H had to be forcepped out of me. I’d had an epidural at that point and felt nothing. I was pushing as hard as i could but couldn’t feel that either. The the doctor grabbed some forceps and I remember being astonished that you could dig into a person like that. Like a mechanic trying to wrench something out of a car. Later I had some cranial sacral work done and I was told that my pubic bone was ‘paralyzed.’ To this day, I don’t know what that means. Paralyzed with fear?

The only other thing the technician told me was that the new due date was Valentine’s Day. My dad died on Valentine’s Day. I felt like I had just been given a sign. Not that I will die on Valentine’s Day. I think it was a kiss from heaven, a smile, a reassurance. He’s watching. It will be okay.

DAY 4

Today I noticed that being unfriended without an explanation makes me angry. As opposed to what I try to tell myself which is something along the lines of 'Fuck that bitch' and 'It bothered me but I'm over it.' I don't get over it at all. What do they say about anger? Google says anger is: Sad's bodyguard, love disappointed, hurt turned inward, fear turned inward, fear turned outward, just an emotion. I'm feeling the hurt and fear turned inward and outward.

The hurt is being spurned by someone you thought was a friend. The fear is not knowing why--It's this sense of being found out. The anger is not knowing, which leads to this ongoing rumination of 'What could have happened?' and ends with the shitty belief that, they don't like you for the reasons you don't like you. The NOT KNOWING--that really gets me.

I did have an experience where the person who unfriended me told me to my face. Which in retrospect, I appreciate. She was kind of a heavy burden and, had I been able to be reciprocate her honesty, I would have told her she used me. My main priority at the time was getting fucked up--even committing to a job was becoming a challenge. Committing to plans with a high-maintenance, mostly straight friend was out of the question. In all honesty, it lightened the load. And I understood her. I wouldn't want me as a friend either, unless I wanted to get trashed, but I had my roommate for that.

That roommate and I are no longer friends either. This was about 15 years ago but I just stalked her on Facebook. She wouldn't pay me the last month's rent. She loved cocaine and that's where her money went. She loved cocaine more than me and that's what hurt.

I lost a best friend from high school who I thought of as family. That's what blinded me to the state of our friendship, the unquestioning loyalty. In her case, the crazy beat out the good. To this day, I don't know if I miss her or not. I probably do, but the relief of not being friends is far greater. The only trace of her online is a pinterest page of interior design photos and a case file of her versus the State of New York. Once in a while, she shows up in my dreams. 

A woman I worked with stopped being my friend after she got married. We worked together at a small company where I started sleeping with the boss, who was married. Naturally we didn't tell her but she was hurt that we didn't. I think she finally confronted us. I was surprised. I was not in the habit of thinking about other people's feelings at the time. I threw an engagement party at my apartment for her and got so drunk by the time it started, I passed out and missed the whole thing. Ultimately, I think she realized there wasn't much to me for her to like. I did like her though. Her boyfriend/husband kinda sucked. 

Anyone else? One friend ditched me because I didn't go to her wedding. This was really a situation of a woman with enough money and no toddler not understanding a woman with no money and a toddler trying to get from Buttfuck Midwestern town to Buttfuck Virginia town. I don't speak like this in front of my toddler by the way. I don't sleep with married bosses anymore or get fucked up all the time. I'm old now, and if not a better person, I'm at least not as drunk. 

This recent unfriending though, it puzzles me. We used to see each other at least twice a week. Our toddlers played. We drank coffee and ate pastry and talked about our problems. No more. One day at storytime she was polite but aloof. Often when we bump into each other she beams at H and gives me a friendly but cursory hello. It may be that she's just busy with her life. I don't know if it angers me because I care about our friendship, or because I just care about how it makes me feel. Why don't I know how I feel?

DAY 5

Today I noticed...

That J's dog sniffed out my athlete's foot within minutes of greeting me. The dog probably knows I'm pregnant and have a yeast infection too. I wonder what else she knows. I wonder what she knows and I don't.

That my unfriend was not at the Farmer's Market, as well as some of the other moms. They had taken a field trip to Ikea. Their husbands were in charge of the toddlers instead. E, a mom whose husband may or may not be real, mourned not going. 'Can you imagine having a WHOLE to just browse?' Had she known about it? But just couldn't go because her husband could not materialize to take care of their child ever?

Pictures were posted on FB and Instagram. Smiling, having fun, loading big boxes into vehicles. 

DAY 6

Today I noticed that I was a little scared about how terrible I feel. Chronic Lyme? Would the kidney bean be vulnerable? B and I were up until 2. Talking about the ways in which we don't get along. He had listened to a Ted Talk about a man who cheated on his wife, who is now with the man of her dreams while he lives on an island and helps people. A misdeed that facilitated a painful change that led them to a higher happiness. Would we be better apart?

The anger issues came up. Man rage. I have rage too, but it is different. The man rage can get flipped on by just about anything. Burnt toast, a poopy diaper, a rainy day or for no apparent reason at all. Turns out, if you attend any Mama function, there are plenty of recommendations for therapists. Instances of beating up strollers. Meltdowns in restaurants--the men that is, not the toddlers.

But these baby boys, they are so sweet. They dance, they sing, they hug, they want to be cuddled and held. It's the girls who seem to own the aggression--taking, hitting, punching, hair-grabbing, pushing. So what happens?

DAY 7

Another day, another attack. I read one article about Nice, than ran to Henry, mashing his oatmeal into the table, and hugged him. This small, sweet, weird, dull town feels safe. I'm probably wrong, but it's no New York City or Paris France or even the Paris of the Plains, as Kansas City is called, I believe. My Midwesternry is not extensive. I've always lived as if I'm about to leave--an observer, not a participant.

Last night I FaceTimed Amy--a friend I haven't seen in 26 years. She found me somehow. She had turned into an adult. She lives in France, has four children ranging in age from 8-16, her husband owns a company that employs people, they make enough money for camps, vacations, sailing lessons, trips to the US to see family. I felt stunted, as if I hadn't changed much since the high school arts program where we met. Generally, people think I am younger than I am. It's in my nature to be flattered but my suspicion is that it's an overall immaturity. Amy's younger sister, the one who had built a shrine to New Kids on the Block, is now a buddhist, has 3 kids, a full-time nanny (also a buddhist), a great job in NYC, and two houses in a very desirable neighborhood in Brooklyn. Another adult. 

That thing you're not supposed to do, regret the past, I do. I want to go back in time. All those years I was so busy victimizing myself, I just want to use that time for something else! There were so many things I was interested in and, I did none of them. NONE. Fuck. 

This town I'm in, it's actually a mecca for damaged souls--wounded people looking for healing and transcendence. They found the Maharishi and followed him here. There are two huge golden domes on campus, well yellow really--gold is expensive--like two landed spaceships. One for men, one for women. People meditate there twice a day. Group meditation is supposed to have a power to alter the karma of the world. When things are bad, like they are right now, a newsletter will go out urging people to come to dome and by meditating, alter the world's karma. It seems like a sweet idea, but it literally calls people to passivity instead of action. Terrible things are happening in the world--come sit for a few hours. There was talk in town of a grain elevator being built on the city limits. I overheard some old Rus talking--what should they do to prevent this industrial health hazard? The one man who wanted to actively protest and petition was hushed and the consensus was, go to dome. Well there is a big 7-silo grain elevator on the outskirts of town now. I have to wonder, am I one of these damaged souls that somehow landed in this alien place, in need of healing but too passive to take hold of my life?

DAY 8

I'm 43 and I'm at the very beginning. 9 1/2 weeks. The bean has a heartbeat, a pounding 177 beats a minute. The image on the screen is so tiny--a negative pollywog shaped space--but its heart through the ultrasound is incredibly loud. The doctor and I are both relieved. An image on a screen is abstract, nausea and fatigue are persistent reminders but, the sound of a heartbeat--that's real. 

It's not my first pregnancy--I have a two-year old, but it's not my second either. I've had these feelings in the past few years, that there were supposed to be children. Beings waiting. This could have also been me turning 40, on the cusp of never having children. I know I didn't have these feelings in my early twenties. Back then, I think I felt the feelings that were convenient to feel. I remember the Doctor only gave me a local anesthetic so I could feel what was happening, connect to the decision I was making. Ironically, I experienced the same symptoms then as I did when I gave birth. Turning pale, shaking intensely, my blood pressure dipping low. There was no internet back then, no BabyCenter or TheBump emailing you every week with updates on the size and progress of your baby. "Your baby is the size of a grape. Her heart has finished dividing into four chambers and tiny teeth are forming." A baby was not going to be okay. My parents were not going to be okay. The father of the baby was really not okay. There was a little package of cells that needed to be vacuumed out of the way so we could all move forward. Having a child was never an option and I never paused. I quite literally in my head just saw a red blob of matter, something out of a biology textbook that, yes, would grow into something, a person, a baby. "It's not even alive yet," I told a friend, who came to me when she got pregnant. I know differently now. I know on a week to week basis exactly what fruit or vegetable size it has achieved, when its tail disappears, when to tell my friends and family, when I might feel the swish of its kicks. 

Sometime later, I worked on a farm. In the late fall, they killed the ducks and geese and chickens that had been the petting zoo in the summer. If you volunteered to help slaughter the birds, you could bring one home to eat. I volunteered on principle. I ate meat. Animals were dying for me all the time but I'd never killed one. It was a terrible experience. All the birds were herded into different stalls. They were scared but trusting of course. We took them out one by one, stretched their necks over an indent in a wooden beam and chopped. I had never even used an axe before. I think it took two or three swings. The bird, wings flapping and body jerking was held upside down by it's feet so the blood could pour out of it's neck. All this in front of the other birds. They were agitated and upset but didn't quite comprehend. Then you had to dip the body in hot water, I think, because it helped loosen the feathers so you could pull them out. My shirt and my jeans and my sneakers were soaked in blood by the end. I just ended up throwing them away. I don't remember a lot of the details. I remember some of the geese had managed to eat nails, big nails, that had embedded themselves into their gullets. I remember one girl was unable to kill her bird and dropped her axe and ran away crying. I was a given a turkey for volunteering that day, and I kept it in the freezer for Thanksgiving. My roommate's friends came over one night, tripping on mushrooms and played toss with it. It made me really angry when I found out. I did roast it for thanksgiving, covered in bacon strips to keep it moist. We had a party and it was devoured.

DAY 9

'People are out at cafes' means the immediate crisis is over. 'The truck killed 84 people but today, the promenade has been reopened and the people are out at the cafes.' After we watched my dad die, we stayed with his body all night. In the morning, the boys from the crematory zipped him into a body bag, hauled him out the door and we went out to brunch. We had waved goodbye to each other so many times from that front door. Heading out to college, our jobs, the cities where we lived, we would wave until we could not see each other and then beep the horn a few times. We watched my dad being rolled out the door, then watched the van leave. And then we had to get out of the house so, we went to the overpriced Italian restaurant and ordered drinks and food we did not want. Seven years have gone by. I tell my two-year old about Papou. Who likes to eat oranges? Papou! Who is a big tease, just like you? Who loves you so much? 

DAY 10

Today I noticed how frustrated I am with writing. So many words, I get bogged down and bored with what I'm writing. I somehow end up stranded in details I don't really care about. It's an onerous slog. Oddly enough, during the day I think of lot's of things I'd like to write and explore. When it comes down to doing it, somehow whatever I want to say is being suffocated in dull tangents, dead ends and not very good writing.

I'd like to leave this for a while, come back, read what I've written. If there's anything I like, I'll keep it and then try to refocus. Midlife Crisis with Toddler is real but, it's completely missing from the page. I think I thought I was going to write about the anxieties of being... a middle-aged child with a toddler in an alien place with a very young partner. Not really having friends my age, not having great financial prospects, being far from my family, the people who really care about me. And then being newly pregnant on top of all of it. Poor, penniless, knocked up, old, isolated and in great fear for this beautiful planet. 

7/26

It sucks to be poor. I didn't grow up that way and I'm not handling it very well. I somehow live in a town where a bagel costs $3.50, a double short cappuccino costs $5 with tip, and the Friday croissants--we get croissants on Fridays--start at $5. 'Everybody's,' the local grocery store is more expensive than Whole Foods. You go in for a carton of milk, grab a few other items and cha-ching--$50. Although they might not have milk, they run out of it sometimes. It's from a local, organic dairy. I actually appreciate this quaint inconvenience. I know now that if it's too hot, the cows may underproduce--and who can blame them. I've been producing milk for 26 months now and it's hard work. We spend all our money at Everybody's. I used to think it was called Everybody's because you ran into everybody there. Then I heard that when the TM movement came to town, they had a grocery store but only the meditators could use it. So a local grocery was built, for 'everybody else.' I'm not sure that makes sense though, because it completely caters to the all organic, bulk indian spice, artisanal ghee loving Roos. They have a free soft-serve ice cream day, once a month I think. It's a big deal. You can eat as much as you want. And the Roos like it because it's organic and, free of course. There are patios with umbrellas outside and you can sit and eat your ice cream. 

There's been a heat dome sealed over the Midwest. My phone told me the heat index was 124 one day. Isn't that a baking temperature? Walking outside was like walking into a bathroom after someone's taken a really hot shower. It's been cracked in the last 2 days, not as muggy, but still searing. I get so angry. In the winter, you can't go outside because the wind takes the temperature to silly places like -20. You dream of long sunny days where you can leave your small dark house without layering on mountains of clothes. And then summer comes and... you're back in your dark little house, cursing at the father of your child who dumped you in the middle of nowhere. No family, no money, unfriends. Okay, didn't dump you there, you came willingly, but didn't know he was going to give you SUCH A HARD TIME every time you wanted to visit your family, who mostly, like you, aren't very good at connecting by phone or device. The fact is, you have days where you don't like each other very much, but then you barely spend anything close to quality time together anyway so... who knows. 

There's a new mom in town, J, she's from the East Coast originally. You instantly like this about her. She's an intuitive--which is not a 'Life Coach' she says. Whenever you get together for play dates, she always presents you with some kind of gift--you are an amazing mom. you are authentic with an enormous amount of compassion. Things like that. She laughs easily, which I always appreciate. She'll throw out questions like--so how is everybody's sex life? Which I also appreciate. Today I ran into her at Everybody's and she told me that she discussed me with her psychic. The psychic said I was graceful like a ballerina (this made me blush actually). The psychic also said that J should ask me to make her a gift--like a piece of pottery--because I would find it grounding.

day whatever

once someone told me 'you are wonderful but you are terrible.' it was in a crowded bar, late at night, maybe even new years eve. the guy who said it was tipsy, didn't know me at all, might have said it to every girl in the club but--it was exactly what i wanted to be at that point in my life. i don't know why, exactly. i don't think i ever questioned it. having that kind of edge just seemed like a most romantic kind of power. to be wonderful and terrible. like beautiful and unattainable--which i wasn't. there were times when i could look good enough but god it was a lot of work. i just wanted to be wanted, by everyone. i never really thought past that, but then i never stopped moving long enough to even have the thought. i wanted to be adventurous, reckless and unafraid. i wanted to be a beautiful paradigm shifter. i wanted i wanted and i wanted, as if wanting alone could make something a reality. drinking helped the fantasy. it made everything more fun, more believable. it made me more fun. to this day, my friend b tells me she misses the old me and what i understand when i hear that is, she misses the drunk me. i miss her too. i'm definitely one of those people who feel way happier when i'm drunk. i don't think it works the same way anymore, but i'm not sure. i'm much older, i have a toddler and another one on the way so, getting drunk hasn't been an option. being a good, responsible mom is my work now. it's great and hard and all that stuff but i don't know what's left of me anymore. sometimes i see glimpses--like when i go to take a picture of my son and the camera is flipped so it's my face i see, usually with chins in the forefront--oh it's not pretty. that's who i am now. old many chins.

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