Monday, October 25, 2010

Last Day of Pregnancy

Today is my last day of pregnancy. By sometime tomorrow Baby Lawns will be here and hopefully I will neither look like I sat on a grenade nor was gored by a bull. You know I have an overactive imagination and am a hypochondriac, so several terrifying thoughts have gone through my head regarding childbirth's horrors. It can't be that bad or people just wouldn't keep doing it is what I tell myself.

I am going to the hospital to be induced tonight at 7:30. Hopefully there will be something good on TV because I've been warned this could take hours. Or not. Let's hope not because I'm not in the mood to suffer for hours with anything and I'd like to get the baby out so we can put her pumpkin hat on her and coo over her and start enjoying getting to know her.

Pregnancy has been long and yet, it went by fast at the same time. I guess things always seem fast when you look back, but I also feel like I've been pregnant forever. Surprisingly, it hasn't been all bad. Before I got pregnant I imagined pregnancy to be terrible. There were certainly moments of terrible in the beginning, but after the puking ended there was nothing else that I couldn't deal with or that caused me major suffering. These past few weeks, even though my feet and legs are swollen, I can't roll over in bed without feeling like my hips are coming unhinged and I'm exhausted and out of breath all the time, haven't even been that particularly bad. I'll be glad to feel empty certainly, but I could handle this a little longer if I need to. As many of my fears about actual pregnancy were unfounded, I'm hoping my fears regarding birth will be too.

I feel a lot like I did five years ago when I went into the hospital, into a very scary cancer treatment center no less (way scarier place than a maternity ward) to have my final mega-dose of radiation. Incidentally, there was an article in the New York Times yesterday all about out-patient radiation treatments for thyroid patients exactly like what I had and it describes my experience to a tee. I was so radioactive that I couldn't be around other people, yet they wouldn't admit me to the hospital. You can read the article here if you are interested.

That was a very scary time in my life. I was petrified going to the hospital because I knew in advance I was in for a good week or so of suffering and suffering in isolation. I knew I was going to be sick. I knew it would suck and I knew nothing about the experience would be pleasant. I also knew there was no avoiding it and that I had to face it and get it over with and I did it. And was I right about how bad it was? Well, sort of. It wasn't the most fun and I didn't feel my best, but it wasn't as bad as having a week of the flu and I think it may have been psychologically more difficult than physically. I also spent a lot of the time doped up on phenergan so that I wouldn't barf up radioactive materials and that stuff makes me sleep, which helped too. There was also the sense of what if it doesn't work? What if the radiation damages other tissues (it did, but ended up being no big deal)? What if I die of this stuff eventually? What if I never get better? There were a lot of negative emotions associated with the radiation and especially with having to go to the cancer center several times a week. It freaked me out being there. There were so many sad and hopeless cases. Every day I saw people weeping. Each time I went, I felt so guilty for looking so healthy and being so, well, not sick when the other people there looked like wraiths. Honestly, it was a really depressing time in my life and I think that's why I've never written about it until now. I think maybe I have a slight, lingering PTSD about hospitals and medical procedures because of it and that could be contributing to my childbirth anxiety.

But childbirth isn't like freaking tumor irradiation and Labor and Delivery isn't like Oncology. It's a happier place for the most part where there are lots more tears of joy than grief. Yes, the pain is unavoidable no matter which method brings baby into the world, but I have to keep telling myself that this is not a pain associated with illness or injury. I've been conditioned to believe pain means something is very wrong and that being in pain has to mean I'm in danger. That's just not the case when it comes to baby having. I need to remain conscious of the fact that this pain is part of a healthy, natural process and is not a sign to panic, but to celebrate and draw on my inner strength. And unlike with my thyroid, I won't have to suffer alone feeling like I could harm others. I can be surrounded by loved ones this time. In the end I don't get a knot of dead cells in my neck and a lifetime of medication. I get a sweet little soul to care for and help on her path as she discovers the world and her purpose in life.

I guess it's a sacrifice women make. We get through it because we know the reward is greater than the pain and there is almost always pain associated with real rewards. I mean, look at going to school, or building a house or completing a really hard fitness program. I know people who train for marathons and that is grueling, but the reward is so big for them and they all have enviable physiques from it, so it's worth it.

I am helping a spirit incarnate. She chose me to take care of her and to help her grow the body to house her soul and she wouldn't have done that if she didn't think I was up to the task that she needed me to be. I know I sound kind of out there, but you know how I am. My husband and I just believe very strongly that this baby is not our possession. She belongs to herself and we don't feel that we even created her. We feel honored that she came into our lives and I think for her, I can manage the pain and fear of getting her here. It will all be worth it and it will be over by tomorrow. Then I can have ice cream.

Obviously, I'll be taking a little time off here. I don't know how long I'll be in the hospital or what will happen. I have some posts in draft form that I prepared in advance. I'm not taking my laptop to the hospital, but I'll have my phone. I can check email, Twitter and moderate comments from it. I promise I will let you know all about Baby's arrival as soon as I can. Several people have already requested her birth story, so that should be forthcoming as well, though I don't know how long it will take. 

For my last few hours home, I'm going to relax, take a shower and prepare myself mentally. Wish us luck!
Sunday, October 24, 2010

Hurricane Wilma - 5 Year Anniversary

Today is the five year anniversary of Hurricane Wilma in South Florida and many people have asked me what it was like to live through such an experience, especially while living on the beach in a mandatory evacuation zone. We chose not to evacuate because the hurricane was coming from the west, which lessened the chance of storm surges and because we felt safer at my family's home which was just built, is two stories and all up to current hurricane safety codes. We also had no idea how bad the hurricane was going to be. Luckily we were ok.

Living through that hurricane can be described in a lot of ways. There were scary moments, sure. It was frustrating and uncomfortable at times after the storm had passed. Life was chaos for at least two weeks for most people and three for us because that's how long it took to get our power back (and we were lucky). A lot of the time we were bored, but mostly we managed very well. The biggest surprises of all were the positive effects the hurricane had on me, my family and our friends and neighbors. Hurricane Wilma brought me some of my fondest memories of time spent with people I love and it helped to alter all of our perspectives about what things in life are truly essential. Surprisingly, electricity isn't one of them, but natural Cheetos are.

By the time Wilma got to us, we were hurricane pros. 2004 had been a bad year with Frances and Jeanne hitting back to back, but they didn't hit us here in Broward directly and they weren't that bad where I lived. August of '05 brought Katrina to South Florida first, where it made landfall as a Category 1 before it crossed into the Gulf and really raised holy Hell. It wasn't pretty here, but we managed to get things back together after about a week and by then that storm had devastated New Orleans and we South Floridians felt like we had been spared. For us, Katrina was like getting grazed by a hollow point bullet that went on to hit someone else directly in the heart and then explode.

Had it not been for Katrina, the failed levies, the Superdome and the endless terrible images of bloated bodies carried away in the floods, I believe Wilma's impact on South Florida would have been a much bigger news story. After New Orleans though, it just didn't seem right and no one complained lest we look like a pack of whiny little brats. The news crews paid us no mind because they knew we here in South Florida, most of us anyway, weren't exactly comparable to the underprivileged in Louisiana. We needed to suck it up, clean up, figure things out and wait for the power to come back on and we did. Probably didn't hurt that our governor was the president's brother. I can't remember a single person I know complaining the entire time, but I can remember almost everyone talking about how lucky we were that we weren't New Orleans.

Perhaps it was also Katrina's devastation that made so many of us dismiss the forecasts. Oh some hurricane is down in the Yucatan. Cancun or something, we said and then went back to watching Anderson Cooper exposing the horrors on the bayou in his tight black tee shirts. We ignored our weathermen because after two straight years of hurricane hype, we'd had it. We were over it. Most of the storms didn't amount to anything anyway. They withered away under wind shear or spun into oblivion way out to sea. The tracking cones were unreliable and we all thought the news people were just trying to scare us and create a sensationalized story out of the weather. A lot of us should have probably paid more attention that October.

My husband and I got our marriage license the Friday before and it was a rainy day. After we'd received the document I joked that it was a good thing we got it out of the way because according to Channel 7 the world was ending on Monday. Little did I know that by Monday that courthouse would be almost completely destroyed along with the school board building nearby. It really was a good thing we got our marriage license that day because we wouldn't have been able to get it in time after the storm and our wedding was exactly one month away.

We decided to take our cat and stay with my parents because they had a bigger house, a pool and a gas stove along with an outdoor grill. These things had served us well in past storms and it's much more comfortable to be in a bigger house with impact windows than it is to be in a cramped apartment with no AC or TV.

I don't remember a lot of preparations. My mother made a pot of soup. We probably brought the patio furniture in. My cousin Bella lived here at the time and decided to join us because she was afraid of storms and also lived in a small apartment alone. The atmosphere was generally festive Sunday night, if a little windy outside.

That changed by dawn on Monday when we realized maybe this storm wasn't like the others after all. The lights didn't last long. We watched through the windows as transformer after transformer blew, creating beautiful turquoise arcs in every direction. The wind blew the water out of the canal. We saw our neighbor's roof peel back like the lid of a can and another neighbor's dock collapsing into the waves. Coconuts cannon-balled. A palm fell on our car. The fences all failed as huge trees blew down, ripping up sheets of sod which draped like cheap shag carpeting around their large and complicated root systems. Clusters of small tornadoes, filthy with water and debris dervished destruction through the neighborhood. The wind was at once a solid and a liquid thing. It played with the glass lantern in our entry way until it got frustrated and hurled it against the front door where it shattered and then swept it all away, so that when the storm ended, we couldn't even find where the pieces had blown.

Mostly we all stood in silence and watched. With our camera's video setting, my husband filmed a lot of the storm because he'd just moved from California and had never been in a hurricane like this. Katrina had been his first and it was nothing like Wilma. But really, he wasn't the only one. None of us had been in a hurricane like Wilma.

The storm ended here around one that afternoon. It really didn't last that long, or as long as it could have and after it passed, the sky streaked with blue very quickly. By that evening the sun was out and a cold front had moved in, bringing with it crisp fall weather. That cold front had atheists reconsidering their stance on the divine. It was a miracle because let me tell you, living in South Florida with no AC in the height of sweltering humidity can make a person downright suicidal, and we were quite comfortable with our windows open the night after the storm passed and from then on out.

By that night, everyone slowly emerged from their homes to check on the damage. We all went to the home that lost the roof and to our despair we found that it belonged to a young family with a toddler. The wife was five months pregnant and now they were homeless, with all their things destroyed by the rain and wind. They left immediately for a relative's home.

The rest of us were spared. We just had the darkness and our refrigerators full of rapidly warming food to contend with. A few lucky people had generators and some of these people were kind enough to lend out refrigerator space. What didn't fit had to be eaten, so for the next several days, as freezers melted, large, impromptu block parties ensued where everyone pooled the food together, cooked it and then shared. We ended up eating better than normal. I remember one dinner involved someone's freezer full of Florida lobster tails that they had saved from mini-season. We also feasted on filet mignons, chicken parmesan, shrimp scampi and pots of jambalaya thick with sausage and seafood that would have all gone to waste. These community meals, served outside, lit by citronellas, were easily some of the most delicious things I've ever eaten, but the company was even better. If it hadn't been for the storm they never would have happened. Without TV, we'd sit outside with our friends and neighbors for hours laughing and talking for entertainment. We played cards and Scrabble and forgot that the next day we'd have to go wait in the water line again or that we still couldn't get gas in our cars. It helped us avoid thinking about when the electric might be restored or how we were going to have to haggle with the insurance companies once the power was back on. We just had a good time because we had no other choice.

We were dirty and the water wasn't safe. It was also cold and in our house the water pump must be electric because it wouldn't work in most rooms. I am proud to say that we bathed in the pool and yes we were a little chloriney, but it worked. I washed my hair in a  swimming pool and didn't complain about it. We brushed our teeth with bottled water and didn't complain about that either. There was something a bit freeing about being a little dirtier than usual and it just didn't seem to matter very much.

During the day when we had light we all read. We didn't go out a lot because we needed to conserve gas and because a lot of the roads were still blocked with fallen trees and debris, but we did get stir crazy a few times and venture out to survey the mess. And oh, was there a mess. Strip malls obliterated. Signs in the middle of the highway. A boat storage facility looked as if it had been bombed. Nearly every home's roof had at least one blue tarp tacked to it.

Publix tried to open with a partial generator and most of the store was dark. There were no refrigerated items and we rushed to the shelves to find whatever was left that we could make a meal out of because by then we'd used up all the food from our freezers. We ate a lot of chips and bread, dry cereal and tuna. We cooked canned soup and packages of dried rice and beans. I remember one moment of nirvana involving canned pears. I began to look forward to ice and half and half. Everyone else was drinking black coffee strained through a one cup cone filter, but I need the cream in mine. I'm spoiled like that.

And so that's how it went on. In many ways it was like everyone had been given a vacation all at once (albeit a no-frills camping sort of vacation). We enjoyed not having to go to work. We loved meeting our neighbors and getting out there with them with the chainsaws and helping out. People made friends and told stories. We never missed the televisions or computers. No one I knew did anyway.

Most people went back to work after about ten days or so and by then, all of us were happy to see our co-workers. We had a new found appreciation for our jobs too. My job had electricity with a microwave and a TV that worked. We had ice! Of course no one got any work done for at least another week because we all had to compare hurricane stories and try to top one another. 

This happened everywhere though. It was the only topic of conversation for a very long time. Where we were, what we saw, what got destroyed, what our deductibles were, how bad that other neighborhood got hit and how long it took for us to get our power back. Generally, I found this was done with a spirit of optimism and a sense that we'd been lucky.

The one thing every conversation about Wilma had in common was this. We made it. It could have been so much worse. We are so fortunate. Look at New Orleans. We'll be ok and what can we do to help them instead?

South Florida made me proud five years ago. We pulled together and got through with little complaint. We rose to the occasion pretty well. 

In the five years since, we've had a couple scares and close calls, but we've been spared any more hurricanes. Although we did a good job at getting through Hurricane Wilma and although we managed to create some good memories out of a less than ideal situation, I hope we never have to go through it again.
Friday, October 22, 2010

Betrayed by Blood

The first thing you have to do when you get pregnant is make a doctor's appointment. At this appointment you will fill out so much paperwork that you will feel like you're closing on a house and one of the things they will ask you about is your blood type. O+ I confidently scratched in the blank and moved on to all the questions about STDs. Have you ever? No I have not.

After that the doctor will order the most elaborate round of blood tests to make sure you are telling truth about all those things you've supposedly never had. They will also check to see what your blood type is even though you just told them. I did all this. The last thing I thought about was my blood type. O+ O+. All my life I've been told I was O+. The simplest, most common blood type and exactly the same as my mother's.

"You are identical to me," she repeated throughout my life, as if our shared blood type were a source of pride.

"I remember when you were born, as soon as I woke up I asked them what blood type you were and the nurse told me you were O+ just like me. We're the same."

There is a card pasted into my baby book which had fit into a slot in the front of my incubator listing my measurements. Weight 7 lbs. 11oz. Length 21 1/2 inches long. Baby Girl. Born 11:15pm. Blood type O+. 

Thank God I never needed a transfusion.

At my next month's appointment my folder arrived in the examination room plastered with large, neon orange stickers declaring me RH NEGATIVE! as if I were radioactive. What did that mean I wondered. I had never heard of it.

"It means you have a negative blood type. You're A-," the nurse explained, "so you're husband will have to get tested and if he's positive you have to get a shot at 28 weeks to prevent you from becoming sensitized to the baby in case it gets his blood type."

This was all news to me.

"There's a mistake! I'm O+."

"Nope, the test came back and you are A-."

How was that possible?

The doctor explained to me about hemolytic disease and what they used to call "blue babies" in the olden days. Before the Rhogam shot, many RH negative women could only have one child if their partner was RH positive. Without the shot, subsequent pregnancies were affected. The women would miscarry or the babies could die. In some cases the women themselves died. It used to be a serious thing, but now it's nothing. One of the miracles of modern medicine and as a result, millions of lives are saved every year. Because of the effect the RH status used to have on pregnancy, negative blood types are rarer. It's natural selection. Only about 4% of the world's population overall is A-. It is the third rarest blood type.

So where could I have possibly gotten that? I was retested because of the discrepancy from the hospital where I was born. Turns out, Millpond Memorial made the error. Possibly they mixed up my mother's blood type with mine? Maybe they mixed me up with another baby. I will never know how the error occurred, only that it did.

My mother was livid. It truly did seem to offend her that we did not share a blood type. At first, I didn't understand why this would matter.

For my entire life my mother has loved pointing out our similarities. She loves when people tell us how much we look alike. She gets mad when I disagree, thinking that I don't want to look like her or that I think she's ugly. It's not that. It's just that I don't always see it. I think we look different, aside from a couple of similar features.

"When I was pregnant with you I dreamed to have a little girl identical to me," she has always said.

Frankly, this creeps me out. I have tried not to take her literally. I have never really understood what she meant by that and when I was younger, her saying that she wanted me to be identical to her infuriated me. As I got older it occurred to me that maybe she just wasn't saying exactly what she meant. I think what she meant was that when she got pregnant with me she was lonely and felt unloved. She felt like she didn't get to have the childhood she wanted so in her mind, if she could create another little her, she could fix everything and heal that littler version of herself. I think too that what she wanted was someone all to herself to love her and understand her.

Oh, but how these kinds of plans never work out the way we naively imagine. I think the Universe needed her to learn that lesson.

Sharing a blood type was symbolic of the bond she wanted to share with me. We had the same blood running through us. There is so much meaning when we say "blood." 

So where did my blood type come from then? It's obvious of course to anyone with any sense, but I was in denial. My blood type came from my biological father, the last person on earth who I'd want to share blood with.

I called everyone on my mother's side of the family. There had to be a recessive gene,  I thought, but no one was A-.

I called my biological father's mother and asked what her and my grandfather's blood types had been and proceeded to open up a can of worms I never anticipated. She and my grandfather had both been positive blood types. If my biological father were A- somebody had some explaining to do because that's not genetically possible. I mentioned this and said that well, he must not be A- then.

My grandmother proceeded to throw a fit.

"Don't you ever ask me about this again, do you understand me? Your stepmother brought this up with me years ago and I'm not discussing it with anyone again. I've told you what I know. I'm not  negative and neither was your grandfather and your stepmother insisted that your father was and that it wasn't possible. I don't want to discuss what that woman was implying and neither do you, so drop it!"

I did. It took me a while to realize that my stepmother Louise, in her signature catty, smug manner, had probably implied that my grandfather wasn't really my father's father.

I couldn't call my father. I haven't spoken to the man since I was eleven and I've only seen him at extremely tense and awkward distances. The last thing I wanted to do was call him up and question him on his blood type, but I still had to know because deep down I hoped he wasn't A negative because maybe that would mean that he wasn't really my father after all either. What a relief that would be.

I called my half sister Chastity and asked her what her father's blood type was.

"Is this about your pregnancy? Yeah, you're really A-. We all are. All six of us now. We all got it from Dad. Strong genes huh?"

It sounded so strange to hear someone call him Dad.

"So you and all four of your siblings are A-?"

"Yeah and you too apparently."


Breaking this news to my mother was troubling. I felt like she would be disappointed to know that for 36 years there had been a mistake and that we weren't as identical as she'd hoped after all. Worse yet, acknowledging my blood type meant acknowledging that genetically I was only half hers and that while we could deny and deny that this awful man played any role in my life, biologically he was an undeniable part of me. I felt like I had somehow failed my mother as long as my father's blood ran through my veins.

It was more than that though. It was more than disappointing my mother. It was that I truly believed that I had inherited nothing from that man and wanted it that way. I thought of all the terrible things he'd done, most of all abusing and abandoning a child, his own blood as they say. I thought of how he'd treated my mother and how cold and cruel he'd been in family court. It wasn't just us. He denied his own parents and brothers. He let himself be controlled by a selfish, vicious woman. He gave up his life and identity to a cult-like church with a sick, hateful and vengeful set of beliefs which he clung to because he himself was sick, hateful and vengeful. My father was given to violence. I know this because I had been the object of it. He couldn't get along with people. More than one young girl, now grown women, claim that he molested them and forced himself on them. I received an upsetting email from one of these women whose life had been so traumatized by him that she'd felt it necessary to track me down to tell me about her experience and ask if I was ok, because the image of me as a toddler haunted her. She thought he'd hurt me too like that.

And that was the blood inside of me? No thank you. I could not be half of that man and now I was having a baby who would be a quarter of something that terrible too. I had nightmares reminiscent of Rosemary's Baby.

What terrible genes was I passing on? What darkness pooled in my biology? Was there in me the potential for my father's anger, bitterness and violence? What if I too could hurt a child the way he had? How could half of me be made from something so evil? I was betrayed by my own blood.

I began to look at all of my worst traits. I am judgmental. I often pride myself in how judgmental I can be. I fly into rages and am given to bouts of envy and insecurity where I compare myself relentlessly to other people who I think have it better than I do, even when this is probably not true. I can be rigid, perfectionist, moody, morbid and introverted. But I have never been cruel to a child. I have crossed lines but not that one.

I denied my father's existence in me for years, considering myself entirely my mother's creation, but the truth is I am more than a composite of those two very different people. I am not half one and half the other. I am very different from both of them and while I admit I may have inherited some negative traits from each side, I also inherited good things from both my mother and my father. In me, some of their more extreme traits seem to have balanced out. Yes, I am easily distracted like my mother and share her rebellious streak though it's way toned down in me. I am exacting and inflexible at times like my father but never to the point of hatefullness like him. My creativity comes from both parents. This hair color of mine that I love so much is all my father and for all of his insanity, I would be remiss in leaving out that the man is brilliant and holds two PhDs. Crazy yes, but also smart. I think my ability to draw and paint comes from him and my greatest gift of all, storytelling, is from my mother. Combine her oral tradition with his book-smarts and you've got me here writing everything down. I can't complain about that.

I am not a cut and paste of traits from my parents. I am influenced by my environment and experiences too. There is more to me than biology. I have a spirit with its own plan and destiny to fulfill. I also have free will. I can control my actions. I'm not like a sparrow or giant tortoise or a marine iguana stuck within a small set of instinctually driven urges and habits passed down from mother and father, changing only through the occasional random mutation. I can choose which traits of which parents I'd most like to emulate.

It doesn't matter that when I was eleven that I was betrayed by my blood or that it happened again at 36. It doesn't matter that many years ago a nurse wrote the wrong letters and symbols on my birth card. It is of no consequence that my mother can't donate blood to me and my biological father can even though he wouldn't. The blood I share with my mother has nothing to do with antigens and protein coatings. The blood I share with my father does and yes, my blood type may be A negative, but my life doesn't have to be.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Stuck Baby Update

I wanted to thank everyone who has emailed me or commented both on here and on Twitter their words of encouragement and support about Baby Lawn's imminent arrival. I haven't had time this week to write everyone back, and I usually try to be pretty good about my correspondence, so I apologize. I truly love and appreciate hearing from all of you and your kindness and advice has really helped me a great deal. It's amazing that so many bloggers complain about trolls and criticism, especially when it comes to all things baby. I feel so lucky not to have experienced that (knock on wood). I also haven't gotten any wacko advice. In fact, I've gotten excellent, sensible advice which I've taken, so thanks everyone!

I went to the doctor yesterday to see about when I'd need to be induced. Nothing has progressed at all. My body is still making zero preparations to expel the baby. The doctor said if he induced me now that it wouldn't work, my body and the baby would go into distress, causing unnecessary suffering and would force me to need an emergency C-section. This scenario is best avoided. I'm going back on Friday to see if anything has happened, since this is Week 40 after all and all doctors involved have said that I must not pass Week 40. If nothing has happened by Friday I am going to the hospital Monday night, no ifs ands or buts about it and this baby will be out by Tuesday, firmly securing her spot as a Scorpio.

And that's the story. I can't figure out why my body isn't making any preparations at all. I worry that on some karmic level the baby is afraid of displeasing me by arriving before the house is ready. I don't want my child to worry about pleasing me. Then I worry that something is just wrong with my body. My body has a long history of not cooperating with any of my plans for it after all. I asked the doctor and he said not to worry about it. Oddly enough the same thing happened to my mother, leading to my "barbaric" birth. Apparently my mother had literally 50 shots of something in her leg to try to dilate her, but nothing worked. She doesn't know what the shots were and who knows what they used back then in Millpond Backwards Assed Hospital. The doctor also said not to worry about having an experience like my mother's because that just does not happen anymore, at least not under his watch.

Some people have made comments to me about induction and doctors wanting their free time, etc. implying that induction was wrong and dangerous. Please understand that this induction is medically necessary and not for anyone's convenience. I don't want to get into the gory details of my medical conditions, but I have been told by the perinatologist that because of the high levels of antibodies in my system that the placenta could be attacked and could break down which would lead to the baby's death. This is unlikely, but not something to mess with and the odds of 1 in 1,000 were enough to make me shout for them to bring on the Pitocin. If you are curious about my antibody condition, I have an ANA titer of 350. Normal is around 30, so mine is ten times higher than normal. If you know about medical stuff I am, thank God, negative on SSA and SSB, which can cause heart conditions in a fetus and have twice tested positive for Lupus Anti-Coagulant and twice tested negative for it. I also have well-diagnosed auto-immune thyroid disease and am RH negative, so I took a Rhogam shot to prevent me from making antibodies against the baby, being that my body loves making antibodies. I think I'll get another one of those in the hospital.  None of this stuff has in any way affected my pregnancy. It has been miraculous in that regard. It's just that it's all had to be monitored a lot. Yesterday the nurse told me "this baby has been good to you." I liked the sound of that. I think she has too, except for the puke, but I don't blame her. I just realized that I got into the gory details anyway. Oh well.

So that's it. We're in a holding pattern, which has been nice because I'm getting my house ready and it's basically livable now, if only disorganized.

I promise you that as soon as I go to the hospital and as soon as Baby Lawns gets here that I will let all of you know.

30 Days of Truth - Day 10 Someone You Need to Let Go

I have already let my cousin go. Or maybe she let me go. Or her fiance forced her to let me go. Whatever happened, I hope it's only temporary.

"You need to let it go," my mother tells me.

I haven't seen her since January. We have let go in the physical sense. We haven't spoken or gotten together. We haven't talked on facebook and I think we barely texted once. I have seen two of her sisters, one I love and the other I can't stand, and they both shrugged when I asked about her. The younger sister, the bratty one I don't like, said that my cousin lives like she's in prison and that her fiance won't let her visit us because he doesn't like our company. But even though we've let go, I've been hung up on it. My feelings were hurt and I have worried terribly about her and her situation. I need to let it go emotionally now too.

The thing is, I don't know what specifically happened. She just disappeared out of my life and this is a cousin I was close with. We talked all the time and spent many weekends together. We texted like teenagers. She was in my wedding and never missed a family event. Until it all stopped.

I never thought my cousin would be the type to succumb to an abusive relationship like this. She always seemed so sure of herself and she's the kind of girl that people call a ball-buster. She didn't take crap and get hung up on guys the way some girls do. I never saw her worry if someone she dated was going to call her. Sometimes she'd purposely not answer, just to make a suitor suffer, and lord knows she had plenty of suitors. My cousin was the kind of girl that men unanimously describe as a "hot girl" and I've never seen someone who could dance like her, except my other cousin, who is equally as hot on the other side of my family. Luckily they don't know each other.

She looked terrible at my sister's wedding in December. She brought the fiance, a fat redneck with rosacea whose face is so red and swollen he looks like he's perpetually in need of an epi-pen. He's so out of her league and I think he knows it, which is why he wants to control her. I've always seen her appeal to him, but never vice versa. What does she see in this sullen, angry asshole who hates everyone except his fellow white rednecks? He's not even her type and he's ugly. To make matters worse he has three daughters who are six, eight and ten. They live with him because their mother is the usual fill in the white trash blank of restraining orders, halfway houses, misdemeanors and oxycontin. 

We couldn't wait to see her at the wedding, but she wasn't herself. She didn't dance or socialize. She sat and sulked along with her fiance, who complained and wanted to leave early because his family Christmas party was the next night and they live almost three hours away. He didn't even want to stay for the reception and we insisted, so he got mad.

In January, she came for a weekend after they fought. I didn't hear from her after that and I imagine what happened is that he blew up on her after she got home and forbid her ever coming back down to see me again, like I was a bad influence on her or something. I'm sure he took his guilt trip right out of the Toxic Relationship Handbook.

I can't blame this entirely on the fiance. It's also my aunt, who is mad at my branch of the extended family for putting her in rehab last winter. She's a master manipulator and has convinced several family members that we were actually in the wrong. At first my cousin was on board with us. She knew her mother was a drug addict and begged for our help when her mother OD'd three separate times in just two months. She was at the intervention begging her mother to go, but my cousin grew up in a family dominated by addiction and those family dynamics are complicated and laced with enabling, which she is not immune to. Sadly, she's also not immune to alcohol. Over the past few years I've noticed her starting to use some of her mother's same skills for coping with stress. Too many times I caught my cousin drinking alone and to excess.

It's possible that the combination of abusive mother and abusive fiance forced her denounce her loyalty to me and my side of the family who was only trying to help and save her mother's life. Some people don't want help.

I think my cousin feels torn. I think her mother and fiance manipulate her with guilt. A large part of her problem is that she refuses to live alone. She has an irrational fear of living in an apartment by herself and she always says she can't live with room mates either. This stubborn phobia has caused her to live at home with her drug addict, out of her mind mother into well into her mid-twenties. My cousin has a thriving career and makes plenty of money to support herself financially living on her own. She just can't support herself emotionally.

When my cousin met her fiance, I think she was impressed by the fact that he had a house where she could live. Perhaps the idea of "playing house" appealed to her at first, though I've certainly heard her complain about those three kids, who now call her Mommy. It appears that she feels she has only two choices - go live at home with her desperately ill mother, stepfather and equally disturbed younger sisters or feel like she has her own home and her own family and her own house with the abusive, controlling idiot of a hopefully not future husband. Neither situation is positive or healthy, but maybe being at home with her mother was so bad that home life with her fiance doesn't seem as bad in comparison. To an outsider, it is bad, just in a different way. I just want to shake some sense in her and make her see that getting her own place and living on her own isn't so terrifying. She has other choices. Sadly, she's not able to listen and I learned a long time ago not to offer my opinions on other people's unhealthy relationships because they'll always get mad at you when you do.

She RSVP'ed "yes" to my baby shower. I didn't want her to come because I'm one of those girls who grubs for gifts or wants all the attention. I wanted her to come because I missed her. We all missed her. Everyone wanted to see her. She said she was coming and we were so excited. But then she never called and never showed up. I waited and she stood me up. I wrote to her on facebook that I was really disappointed and wished she could have at least called because I had looked forward to seeing her and spending the weekend with her like we used to do. I never got a response and I spent the next week wondering what could have possibly happened. That was when my mother told me I had to just let it go and let people learn their lessons the hard way.

I'm letting my cousin go, but I hope it's only temporary and that she will soon have the strength to extricate herself from the abuse. I hope that when or if she does that, that we can pick up where we left off and that she'll be down for a weekend of beach, shopping at Ross, lunch at Sweet Tomatoes and romantic comedy matinees again one day.
Friday, October 15, 2010

Friday Night

This morning I went to the doctor who had talked to the perinatologist and determined that I will need to be induced by the end of the next week because Baby Lawns does not want to come out and my body is making no preparations to expel her whatsoever and I mean none. I thought I was having some crampy feelings that could be the start of something, but nope, this is due to pressure and nothing else. I am a little unclear on the whole induction process but it's going to start with some kind of tablet and I'll be in the hospital on Friday and if it doesn't work after a few hours I will have a C-section I guess. I had to sign a bunch of papers about it and then I had to sign a release allowing acupuncture, which I thought was weird. I mean really, don't they do way more dangerous and scary things in hospitals than acupuncture? For goodness sakes, the IVs are a hundred times worse than acupuncture needles. They ordered my freak blood type from the blood bank and I was sent on my way with orders to oil up my crotch and stimulate my nipples (a line I never thought I would ever type) which was accompanied by a disturbing hand gesture I haven't seen since at least sixth grade. Oh, and the doctor told me that based on my ultrasound from Tuesday where Baby Lawns refused to cooperate and show herself, she has a big head. My child has a big head.  

I finished packing my suitcase for the hospital today. I didn't bring much, but I tried to follow all the checklists in the baby books. Do you really need to bake something for the nurses? That seems a bit much to ask of a 9 month pregnant woman to me. I don't think I'm in any shape to bake right now. A friend suggested candy and for the past several days I've had it in my head that it was imperative that I purchase a lot of Halloween candy before the baby was born because I may not be able to get out to get any after I get home from the hospital. Now this is an irrational thought, but it's been bothering me all week and I don't want to be that house with no Halloween candy, so today I went to Target and got some for the nurses and the trick or treaters. I hope the nurses like Reeses Cups and Whoppers because I don't want them to be mean to me. 

So there's Halloween candy in my suitcase along with the going home outfits for both of us and Baby Lawns' pumpkin hat to cover up her gigantic head. I remembered the baby book for her foot stamps too because in addition to the neurosis about the Halloween candy, I had another freak out over the baby book.

Being an overachiever I have two baby books. One is a traditional baby book and the other is a detailed pregnancy journal which I liked even better. I have my own baby book too and over the years I've loved looking at it, but if you read between the lines, my own baby book tells a sad story. It isn't even halfway filled up and this is because I really only lived with my mother as a baby for about a year. It has the important things though - my teeny bracelet, my birth certificate from the hospital with my old name on it, hospital pictures and some notes my teenage mother wrote about what I was like and things that happened. She leaves out a lot though, like the fight over my name, how I got my name, the fact that she gave birth to me completely alone in a manner which my doctor described as utterly barbaric when I told him about it. She never mentions my idiot father either, which is also telling.

I am haunted by the incompleteness of my own baby book. It looks and feels interrupted. It was interrupted. My mother couldn't write about my first day of school because she wasn't there and she wasn't there because she wasn't allowed to be and no one else thought to record my milestones or write down my memories. Maybe that's part of the reason why I'm so obsessed with documenting my own life now. Maybe that incomplete baby book compelled me towards memoir in some way.

In any event, it compelled me to become absolutely zealous about filling out Baby Lawns' two baby books in painstaking detail, though I feel guilty about not pasting in any mementos or photos yet. I wasn't really into taking too many belly pictures as the book suggests, but then I felt inadequate that I didn't. Still, I think I did a really good at the writing and remembering parts. I wrote her notes too and tried to show her my personality and what it was really like to be pregnant with her all these months. I just really want her to have these things. Mostly, I want her books to feel complete.

I'm relieved that the books are up to date and that the candy is purchased, the suitcase packed. There's still so much to do on my house.

This weekend is going to be a barn-raising of sorts. Plagued by unreliable contractors, we were repeatedly delayed and now we're really down to the wire here. The house needs to get done. So many of our friends are devoting their weekends to helping us get the last stuff done and moved in. The problem is that I can't be there because the floor people are gluing down the last of the bamboo floors and I need to avoid the fumes for a few days. The house was painted two weeks ago, so those fumes are now gone. I'd been worried about them too because I'm very fume-phobic. There's also a ton of sawdust and drywall dust that needs to be swept away and I can't be around that either. Friends are working on that as I write, while another friend has pitched in to install all of our fans and ceiling lights tonight. They sent me back to my parents' house.

"Go write a story or something," everyone says, so I obeyed, even though it makes me feel lazy and useless.

We're going to be able to move some furniture in tomorrow and hopefully hang up the TV. There will be significant progress I hope.

There would have been more progress had we not had to deal with a bunch of lazy contractors. I have had it with these people. I really have. If it were just one contractor being late and making a million excuses as to why he can't work, I'd see it as an isolated incident, but it has happened consistently with the plumber, the counter-top guy, the kitchen cabinet people and the electrician. All of these people are licensed contractors and are from separate companies. Only the Steve Buscemi look alike carpenter worked consistently. His problem was that he was a whiny drama queen who called both me and my husband twenty-nine times a day for no reason.

Today, the granite guy and the plumber each bailed on us. The granite guy had promised counter installation finished by Wednesday and disappeared with our deposit. He had a million lame excuses, but none as lame as the plumber's. I hear better BS from my students. The plumber didn't show up because he said he had to  drive to the keys to prepare his house down there for the hurricane. THERE IS NO HURRICANE. Then he said he'd be back by 2:30 and never showed up to finish our bathroom. I was livid and this is coming from a guy who complained that he can't get any work because the illegals are stealing jobs from Americans. I can guarantee you that if I had hired some illegals the job would have been done last week and I intend to tell him this.

Both the granite guy and the plumber promise to be there tomorrow but they both really set us back and they all know we are expecting a baby next week. Next week people. This isn't something to be casual about. It's making me want to write in all caps. I AM HAVING A BABY NEXT WEEK!!! Jesus Christ.

Even writing it sends me into a cold sweat panic attack. This has not been the pregnancy that I planned, imagined or wanted it to be. Everything has gone wrong (a lot I haven't written about so don't think I'm just whining about my house because it goes way past that). I have endured a tremendous amount of stress and strain and I can't help but worry that it has affected the baby or that she can feel it too and has suffered with me. I hope it hasn't harmed her development in any way. I hope it hasn't cursed her with a sad disposition. I keep telling myself this: At least it isn't the Khmer Rouge. That's become my mantra. At least it isn't the Khmer Rouge.

It has occurred to me that maybe this is my book. I've blogged for exactly five years. I've told many stories and vented and talked crap and recorded my life on here for five years and I've always wanted to write a memoir, but when I sit down to do it, nothing really comes. There's never been that necessary framework that a memoir needs to work. I just have a lot of disconnected stories from my life without a lens of meaning to view them through. I think I may have happened upon that lens and really that happened in just the past week. It's about becoming a mother and my own complicated and unusual relationship with my mother and even back to her relationship with her mother. But this is no mommy blogger kind of story. This isn't poop and sleepless nights. This is about that incomplete baby book. Maybe this is about finally filling that book to the last yellowing page. We'll see what happens. We'll see if I have the fortitude to really do it because usually when I get too close I run screaming in the opposite direction and start trying desperately to be really cute and funny to distract myself.
Thursday, October 14, 2010

30 Days of Truth - Flash Version Days 5-10

I don't find some of these prompts useful for writing an entire essay, so I figured I can knock out a few days with a couple short lines.

Day 5 - Something You Hope to Do - Right now the main thing on my mind is that I hope to get this baby out of me as safely and painlessly for both of us as possible. Once that happens and I can get her home, to her own home if miracles truly exist, and I can feed her and keep her alive and well, we'll talk about how I want to go to Japan.

Day 6 - Something You Hope You Never Have to Do - Bury a child. I've been reading a lot of stories lately about people enduring the deaths of their children. I don't want to know what that feels like.

Day 7 - Someone Who Makes Your Life Worth Living For - Seriously? Who wrote that? What kind of grammar is that? I'm offended. I'm not so co-dependent that my life's value depends on someone else being in my life and any answer I'd come up with would be trite and annoying. This question sucks.

Day 8 - Someone Who Made Your Life Hell - I've already written about my step-mother and she died a horrible death which I didn't wish upon her. Anymore harping on the subject is unnecessary. My ex-fiance made me miserable for a couple years, but I don't care about him anymore and I hold no grudges against mean girls from middle school, although I had some satisfaction from learning that the meanest mean girl's husband cheated on her with a teenager he worked with and then left her. Then I felt terrible because that makes me just as mean as she was.

Day 9 - Someone You Lost Touch With - Hello, facebook. Now I talk to people I rode the bus with in third grade.

Day 10 - Someone You Need to Let Go - well, maybe I can write at length on this one...

30 Days of Truth Day 4 - Something You Need to Forgive Someone Else For

Over the weekend, several of my facebook friends posted pictures of the annual Autumn street fair held in the town where I lived in New York. Probably everyone I went to the first half of high school with was there and it was a beautiful day - the kind with the amber honey sunshine. I wish I had been there.

It's this time of year that I miss it the most because I love the fall. All year I wait for this season to come and down here in South Florida where most seasons are pretty much indistinguishable, I have to recreate a false version in orange paper leaves. We have apples and cider, but they're shipped in. Our pumpkin patches are in asphalt parking lots. The whole thing pisses me off, but I enjoy it because it's all I've got. I have to make do.

Since 1989, I've blamed my suffering squarely on my parents. My reverse version of Seasonal Affective Disorder is their fault and no one else's and for twenty-one years I've held a grudge against them for moving to Florida from New York and I haven't been able to truly forgive them for it.

We moved suddenly because my parents lost everything they had the summer between my tenth and eleventh grades. They'd fallen for an advance fee scam that they believed was going to make us rich beyond our wildest dreams. It was the summer of my french exchange student, the summer I met my first love and the summer I lost my virginity. My parents were broke and our house was in foreclosure and my father decided that we had to get out of town and that we needed to get back to Florida where my parents had met and married a decade earlier. I've never been clear on the exact, logical reason for the move. We could have been broke and moved to a smaller house in New York probably more easily than we could have packed up everything we owned, plus dogs, cats and two monkeys and headed far south. Maybe my parents wanted a change. Maybe they felt a fresh start in Florida would bring new opportunities and perhaps they felt it would be easier for them to make a living in a different state. I really don't know. Sometimes I wonder if they weren't just running from their problems and if it wasn't that, maybe they were, once again, indulging their wanderlust and passion for instability.

When I look back on that move, I see it as a major defining moment in my life. I'd been headed in a bad direction on my own. I'll admit that. I'd just been expelled from school and was supposed to be attending a school for troubled teens in New Jersey in the fall anyway. I'd gone to summer school there already and loved it, so, although I'll never truly know, I suspect that school would have set me straight. The move to Florida never allowed me to get back in line and instead, I veered further and further off course. The move set off a chain of negative events in my life that I still haven't been able to fully stop. Because we moved I dropped out of school. Because I was desperate to get away, I made bad relationship choices, repeatedly expecting boys to rescue me and provide the support, protection and stability I wanted from my parents (they never did). 

It sounds unbelievably shallow to say that part of the reason I hate Florida so much is because it is ugly, but I'm saying it anyway. I hate the sixties architecture, the flat expanses of strip malls with no real towns, no Main Streets and nothing but condos and housing developments. I hate gated communities and roads called boulevards that stretch from beach to swamp. I despise the lack of anything old, traditional and beautiful. I think palms, ficus hedges and oleander bushes look scrappy and undignified. Without real trees, our hazy skies look pale and overwhelmingly oppressive. Nothing grows well in our soil except nematodes. Hell, we don't even have rabbits. Do you know when I last saw a rabbit? It was when I went north for vacation and was a major event for me. People thought I had lost my mind I got so excited and I was like, no, no you don't understand. We don't have these.

What I mean when I say Florida is ugly is that I am disconnected from nature here. I have tried to visit the wild Everglades and to appreciate the beaches here with their clear water. I do like the beach, but this landscape or lack thereof, doesn't inspire me like the rolling fields and miles of dense woods I grew up with. I have no place to ramble here. There is no countryside for me to escape to when the endless grids of asphalt become too much for me to bear and I want to hear the comforting sussuration of millions of wide flat leaves on trees far older than I am. As a kid, I spent hours every day, in every season, in the forest at the edge of lakes. I splashed in rocky brooks. I need that in my life now and there's nowhere for me. I need the right kind of connection with nature to recharge and without it, I become terribly depressed.

I have never been able to see how my parents like it here. How do they not understand? I am unable to see Florida through their eyes. To them, this place is beautiful. They think I'm crazy. I think they're crazy. How can you not love this? Don't you see how lucky you are to live here? They've asked me these questions over and over for the past twenty-one years and we just can't relate to one another. What is the appeal to them? What do they find so thrilling about South Florida? Why do they feel as if they fit so well when I feel like I am so out of place and how can that ever be resolved? How can I forgive my parents for being the kinds of people who don't even care about cider doughnuts or the first snowfall and who never noticed the daffodils blooming in early March anyway? 

Any reasonable person reading this would ask me why, at 36 years old, if I hate where I live so very much, don't I just move to where I'd be happier. Believe me, I've asked myself this question repeatedly too. Sometimes I think the Universe is determined to stick me here forever as karmic punishment for something awful I did in a past incarnation. It's like my own personal purgatory of palms and outrageous news stories (like yesterday when my husband took 2 1/2 hours to get home because of a high speed chase on 95 caused by a 14 year old in a Pontiac). 

I am only to blame for this. My choices have super-glued me to the sub-tropics and it's hard for me to admit that. I'm here because I don't want to leave my family, because I feel guilty about leaving them, though at the same time I hold this bitter grudge against them for their wanting to be here. It would be so much more pleasant to not leave them if they lived somewhere I liked better. I'm here because of them. I chose that. I could leave if I truly wanted to. It makes me mad that I don't and that I've created a complicated life now with jobs and property that isn't so simple to extract myself from. This is the kind of crap that people can talk endlessly about, spending thousands upon in sniffling therapy sessions. I realize this. One of the greatest ironies of all is that I am so firmly rooted and that I rooted myself for my parents when they have always gone exactly where they wanted with no care for what anyone else thought or wanted. 

My childhood was defined by leaving and loss. Over and over I had to leave my mother: when she went to jail, when she moved away, when our court ordered visitations ended specifically at seven pm on Sunday nights. I never felt like I had her for long enough. I was always torn, because to see her meant having to leave another home and to get back to that home meant having to leave her. Most of the time I didn't know when I'd see her again. Then at eleven I could have her as much as I wanted but with a trade-off. I was abandoned by my father, and yes he was a horrible man, but I still felt the rejection and loss of a parent anyway. After that we moved a lot. I changed schools, lost friends and pets and homes and first loves. It was like I was always leaving someone behind and the losing and saying goodbye never ended. It has still never ended. I guess it's no surprise that I sought out a long distance relationship - it was what I was used to.

I moved to Atlanta. I did that. Not surprisingly, I did it after a huge fight with my parents, as if to punish them. A few years later they came up there too and got an apartment for a few years although they kept their house in Florida too. Soon, they tired of it and things didn't work out as planned, as usual and they were back in Florida permanently. I missed them and when I found myself helpless and ruined after my break-up I ran home rather than be alone. At the time I didn't think I'd stay, though looking back I don't know how I actually believed that. A decade, a full ten years later, here I am, still complaining, but I can't leave. It's like I waited so long to have my mother that I don't want to leave her and I feel like she needs me too in some sad way.

Why couldn't we have just stayed in New York? Why don't you love the seasons? Why are you blind to beauty? Why do I feel so trapped? Why can't I forgive you for choices that are just as much my own?
Monday, October 11, 2010

A South Florida Pick Up Line

This meme is depressing, so I figured you all deserved something a little lighter, a little more South Florida stupid.

As you may or may not remember, there is a gigantic mansion across the street from my parents' house which was built on an empty lot a few years ago and has never been inhabited. The house has never sold and sits vacant to this day as a monumental waste of money and space. I often wonder if anyone will ever live in this house and it seems so sad and without purpose.

The builder comes by periodically to check on it. For a while he was letting some kind of shady seeming multi-level marketing group use the house for seminars designed to lure new associates, but that seems to have ended, thank heavens. Husband and I chatted with the builder the other day and it turns out the house does have a purpose after all.

It helps skeezy guys get laid by hot women. The house serves as a sort of architectural pick-up line.

In South Florida, as long as a man appears to be wealthy, he can pretty much have his pick of hot, slutty women. Note I did not say IS wealthy. I just said appears wealthy. One way to easily appear wealthy is to rent a very expensive car for the weekend and drive it around pretending that it's yours. This is a very easy way to pick up women down here and there are several companies that rent out luxury cars to people who want to pretend they have a lot of money in order to attract women who are out of their league. My friend used to work for one of these companies.

Once you get the car you can easily find a woman who wants to go for a ride in it, but you still need to secure the deal. You do this by pretending that you are in the market for a waterfront mansion, so all you have to do is drive your rented fancy car to an open house and spend a very long time obsessing over light fixtures and amenities that can be added to the fancy house. This will make the girl you picked up think you're serious about buying the house and will cause her to begin to fantasize living in it with you, which will guarantee that she will have sex with you almost immediately after leaving the fancy house. In fact, since this is South Florida, it will pretty much guarantee that she will want to have sex with you IN the fancy house right in front of the realtor showing it. 

The house's builder said that he doesn't even want to show the house anymore because in this economy he knows no one's really serious and he's sick of having his time wasted by these idiots with no money who just want to impress girls. He said every weekend it's like a parade of them coming through and most of them are old guys (likely married even) and very young girls. I've seen them myself. Not a one has even tried to put in an offer once they leave, but all of them act like they're going to buy the house in cash right on the spot. 

It's hilariously pathetic and it's just another example of life in South Florida.
Sunday, October 10, 2010

30 Days of Truth -Day 3 Something You Need to Forgive Yourself For

We got home at ten Christmas night, which isn't late, but I was tired from spending all day with my boyfriend's family. It was the Christmas of 1997. I don't know where my parents were that year. I hadn't spent a holiday with them in Florida in a few years and I was actually glad because the previous year had been a disaster. My grandfather had driven down from Millpond, arrived at my aunt's squalid home that she shared with her four children and drug addicted husband, and promptly suffered a massive heart attack on Christmas Eve, relieving everyone from the burden of having to pretend to cobble together a semblance of normal holiday. From a thousand miles away in Atlanta, I felt secretly relieved that I hadn't been present.

I wasn't present this year either and was relieved again. My aunt was separated from her drug addicted husband who'd taken his two children with him. The father of the older two daughters had also taken custody of them and my aunt was partying again without any kids. My parents, well, who knew what they were doing. I can't remember, so maybe they just skipped Christmas that year. It hadn't been a great year for them and was loaded with legal trouble, marital problems and my grandfather's issues. He'd come to live at their house while he recovered from the Christmas Eve heart attack of '96. He'd been a pain in my mother's ass for most of that year, refusing to believe the extent of his heart disease, eating diner food and smoking and acting generally crabby and cantankerous because, understandably, he didn't want to live like an invalid and felt like less of a man with his catheter bag stuck to the side of his leg. Finally, against everyone's wishes, he'd packed up what little he had and stubbornly driven himself back home to Millpond where he moved back in to the same apartment he'd shared with his girlfriend for several years.

My family didn't fight outright at holidays, unless you counted the time my mother got into it with my aunt's husband, but he deserved it. My aunt always got drunk and caused a scene. Things were always extremely late and disorganized and never what I defined as "right." Sometimes we didn't exchange gifts and the years we did, it was all my mom, who'd rush around at the very last minute as the stores closed on Christmas Eve, desperately trying to get everyone presents, even when they didn't do the same for her. The gifts were always given unwrapped, in their shopping bags, tags still dangling. No one appreciated her efforts, including probably even me. I liked to criticize everyone else from afar, expecting perfection from my immediate and extended family. I always felt like I couldn't be satisfied unless Christmas resembled a twinkling, cinnamon scented spread straight out of a holiday film with a happy ending. So far, we hadn't had our happy ending, so the Spode-set dining room table and swags of pine and pomegranate on a marble mantle piece eluded me.

But like I said, no one fought out right. We don't do that in my family. We tend to laugh things off or collectively ignore tension. Then, once everyone has gone home, we'll all call one another and tear everyone else apart. We're vicious gossips. We excel at talking behind people's backs. Did you see what that bitch had on? Damn, how much food do you think he could eat? He got so fat he looks like he's about ready to give birth. She always was jealous of you. What does he see in her? I never could stand that bitch. Me neither.

Luckily, we didn't have to worry about this too much because we hardly ever got together on holidays anymore anyway. Maybe we'd all just given up. Maybe we all had other people to gossip about and didn't need each other for fodder. Maybe we were all just a sad sack pack of assholes who didn't know how to be a real family.

That's why I didn't bother going home to either Florida or Millpond the Christmas of '97. It wasn't worth an effort. My Christmas still disappointed with my boyfriend and his family, but at least I didn't have the hassle and expense of traveling and his mom was a decent cook.

We both had to work the next day. I stowed my leftovers in the refrigerator, gave the cats fresh water and checked my answering machine, which sat blinking on my bedside stand. This was before we had voice mail, cell phones and texts. It was also before pickled pine went out of style, because that's what my bedside stand was made from. I have a clear mental image of that bedside stand and the small white box of answering machine with its little red light.

"Honey, it's your Poppop. I just wanted to wish you a Merry Christmas. Beverly and I didn't do much today. Nobody's around this year, but it sure as hell was better than last year for me. Heh heh. I wanted you to know I was thinking about you today and that I love you. Your Poppop loves you. Give me a call back. It doesn't matter how late."

Then he proceeded to give me his phone number, which I had memorized. He'd had that number for at least fifteen years. I used parts of it as pins and access codes, I knew it so well, but he thought I didn't know his number. I thought that was funny. For a second I thought about giving him a call, but I erased his message, went in the bathroom, showered, changed, brushed my teeth and went to bed.

I never called him back. I kept thinking I would. Then I forgot and didn't care anymore. 

That phone call was the last thing on my mind by Groundhog Day, which was a winter day so warm it tricked the forsythia into opening a few yellow buds. I spent the whole day with my friend Rachel antiquing in a chic neighborhood. We'd been so pleased with ourselves in our floral dresses and straw hats. We loved ourselves so much we took pictures of one another like we were posing for Victoria magazine. It makes me sick to think of how we acted back then.

When we got back to my house, I got the news that my grandfather had had another heart attack. Congestive heart failure to be exact. He'd had the flu and died on his couch. I didn't call him on Christmas. I didn't call him after Christmas. I had memorized his phone number and never used it. I had erased his last message to me.
Tuesday, October 05, 2010

30 Days of Truth - Day 2 What I Love About Myself

Well I knew this was going to take me longer than 30 days. 

My weekend was punctuated with exclamation marks. Paint picking out! Oh look we found a back splash! Look, the tile for the bathroom is on clearance! Oh my, I have a floor! These are all good things. My house is coming along beautifully. I couldn't be more happy with it and suddenly I'm thinking of things I'd never considered before - like grout and beautiful bathroom mirrors and hmm, what shower curtain is going to look best? These aren't things I'd ever given strong consideration to before. Decorating houses isn't my strong point. I've always followed the rule of put the furniture against the wall and keep everything neutral, but this is so blehh. I wanted to take this opportunity to change and bring in some color. I'm feeling very creative. I will post pictures when it's done and a third of you will love it, another third will hate it and the last third will wonder why I'm posting house pictures.

I'm also in a mild panic because of the biggest exclamation of all. Baby will be here in a couple of weeks. I have entered into the stage of pregnancy where I fear that I could go into labor at any possible second, so I'm a little nervous to go out for fear of some movie-like scene of water breakage and baby being born in the storage solutions section of Target. Speaking of Target - I want my old shape back because I want to wear this dress during the holidays. Desperately. I think I'd buy that dress in every color it came in if I could. I miss my clothes. I've spent the past several days in the same pair of baggy assed maternity jeans and my husband's tee shirts. I look like I should be running a meth lab. I'm not kidding. The other day my mother looked at me and said that after the baby is born that for my birthday, she's taking the baby for an afternoon and sending me to a spa to get cleaned up again. I am all for that idea.

Anyway, I need to get back to the 30 Days of Truth Meme and get on it for Day 2.  I wholly admit that "What You Love About Yourself" was really hard. How sad is that? "What I Hate" was disturbingly easy, but it was nearly impossible to come up with what I love. There are stupid things I love. I love that I can bake cakes and that I'm creative. I love that I write and that I have chestnut colored hair naturally. I'm pretty big on being five feet and six inches tall and I'm proud of my lack of pregnancy weight gain. I respect my grandparents and am decent about remembering the birthdays of my family members. I am a responsible cat owner and I am so glad I got an education.  But do I love these things about myself? Aren't they generally pretty shallow surface things? I mean when I think of love and loving myself, there has to be more to it than that I'm glad some genetic fluke blessed me with natural red highlights the likes of which many women spend hundreds to get in a salon. I also got a face full of freckles to go with those red highlights, which pregnancy seems to have made worse. It's like I have a secret inner ginger that always poises on the verge of coming out, but never quite does.

So what do I love? About myself?

What I Love About Myself

In 2008, my grandfather's death rendered my grandmother nearly helpless.  She isn't yet 80, and is in decent health. It's not that she can't drive but that she won't and her refusal to drive makes her a shut-in unless someone comes to pick her up. She has gotten to the point where she won't even grocery shop. Because of this, my aunt and uncle shop for her twice a month. Since they only shop twice a month, she doesn't get much fresh foods and subsists on an unhealthy diet of frozen meals.  My grandmother won't drive because for her entire life she never had to drive to a single destination alone because she is afraid of the car breaking down. She is  also afraid to use up the gas because she doesn't know how to put gas in a car and her town no longer has full service stations. Learning how to fill the gas tank is not an option for her and I don't really know why. The very suggestion of it sends her into a literal panic attack.

My grandmother was with my grandfather since she was sixteen. They married when she was eighteen and had twins five months later. She didn't work. She didn't drive alone and if she did it was to places she could walk home from and never when my grandfather wasn't close-by to come get her if something were to happen, which it never did. He serviced the car and filled it up with gas every Saturday night whether or not it needed it.

Because her husband took care of everything, my grandmother was in many ways, an invalid. She could clean, raise kids and make sure they got fed. She was the embodiment of the 1950s housewife. She even cleaned the house wearing lipstick, but that's about all she did with little variation for almost sixty years, so when Pop died, Mommom couldn't even figure out how to write a check to pay the electric bill. She'd never had to. My aunt and uncle do that for her too.

My mother, a woman of the next generation, has been more places and seen more. She's danced to better music and has figured out, though barely, how to check her email on AOL. We won't even get into her facebook skills, but I give her credit for trying. Do not, however, ask my mother to fill her car with gas either because, while she can figure it out if she is in an absolute bind and has no other choice but to pull into a gas station or end up stuck on the side of the road, she will find a way to make a catastrophe out of it. She's also not great at finding her way around a town where she's lived on and off for thirty years. The reason why is because my father, like my grandfather, has always done everything for her. She's never had to drive the car much so she hasn't had to go places alone and learn where places are. 

My mother can use an ATM machine. She can get her own groceries, though she definitely prefers company at Publix. There are still a lot of things she has in common with my grandmother though.

My mother and my grandmother didn't have options and opportunities. No one ever told either of them that college was a possibility or that they might be fulfilled more by having a job they enjoyed than by marrying as teenagers and immediately becoming pregnant (both gave birth at barely eighteen). They learned to get a meal on the table at a certain time and how to wash the dishes by hand. Each of them has an uncanny knack for stain removal.

My mother branched out significantly further than my grandmother. She was more adventurous, more rebellious and had a stronger desire for a something else. It's just that her lack of opportunity and dearth of strong female role models left her not always quite clear on what the something else was exactly and so, after her second marriage at 23, she fell back into a lot of the same patterns she had seen growing up. She may have moved to Florida and broken away from some of the small town ignorance, but ultimately she still ended up dependent on a man to run her life, to fix things and to take care of it all. Not as much as my grandmother by any means, but still dependent.

Then there's me. I'm the third generation here and I've come even further. I lived on my own for a long time. I've worked, I've managed and I knew that you didn't have to possess exceptional intelligence or come from a certain social class, gender or age group to go to college. I don't recall a single instance in my entire life when anyone has ever told me that because I was a girl that something I wanted to try, learn or see was off limits to me. No one ever told me, like they did over and over, both overtly and subtly, to my grandmother and mother that I couldn't.

What I most love about myself is not my ideal height, my chocolate chip poundcake or even my passion for storytelling.

I love that I was born now. I love that I had enough sense to recognize my opportunities, which were not gifted to women in generations before me, and that I took these opportunities and ran.

Gassing up the car is second nature to me, and not only can I fill 'er up, I can take the car and drive it wherever I want. I've been on road trips alone. Not only that, I've traveled to other continents by myself. I really love that I have zero qualms about deciding I want to go somewhere and then going. I can navigate unfamiliar cities easily, go to restaurants by myself, site-see alone and enjoy myself thoroughly. My grandmother and mother would sooner go to the moon than they would even attempt something like that. Some of the most exciting experiences of my life have occurred because of my bravery about traveling by myself. (You may find a slight discrepancy here. In my Chiropractor story I mentioned wanting to go to Paris and not having anyone to go with. I had traveled alone at that point but not out of the country yet. The next summer I went to Hawaii alone, then I graduated to England alone and finally I made it to Paris with my cousin, which means I may as well have gone alone. I had to build up to the international thing, but I did it.)

I love that I realize how lucky I am to be a woman of now. I have choices that my grandmother and mother didn't. Because I had choices and options I was able to learn to make decisions for myself, which I fear they didn't, at least not to the extent that I have. When you don't learn how to make decisions (because there are none to make) you are more prone to make unwise choices because you just don't know any better.

I didn't have to marry out of high school. I could use whichever birth control methods I wanted, shame-free. My grandmother told me that some young women in her day douched with straight Lysol or Clorox, doing God knows what damage to their vaginas, because they thought it would prevent pregnancy. Look, I can even say the word vagina. You think my grandmother could have done that? No way. Women used to live in a world of embarrassed euphemisms whispered only to other women.

I am representative of how far women have come since my grandmother married in July of 1950, but have we come all the way? I would say probably not. Often we don't know exactly what lies beyond, just that there is more waiting.

I love that I am having a daughter who will one day, probably soon, surpass the things I've done. I can't wait to see her do that. I can't wait until she rolls her eyes and makes fun of me because I can't figure out how to use some new technology or because I seem so old fashioned. I want her to find out what more is waiting for her as a woman and I want her to love it too.

About Me

Blog Archive