X is for Chemical X

Chemical X
Sugar. Spice. And everything nice. These were the ingredients chosen to create the perfect little girl. But Professor Utonium accidentally added an EXTRA INGREDIENT to the concoction…. CHEMICAL X. Thus, the POWERPUFF GIRLS WERE BORN

In April 2008 my daughter was born. She was exactly 8lbs, had all of her fingers and toes, she was perfect. A c-section helped.Asha42508_zps40ff6b64

 

A small note about c-sections, I don’t understand why anyone would get one voluntarily. I’d choose the pain over and over again. My daughter was breach despite every effort to shift her. I was strapped down and I couldn’t hold this baby that I was getting to keep, it broke my heart. Thankfully it was a sad whisper among a joyful noise.

My room was filled with people and gifts and smiles. I couldn’t have asked for a better welcome for this new life.  Spring, sprung in during the time I was in the hospital and everything seemed to of flowered to welcome this child destined for sunshine and warmth. It was  a stark difference from how alone I was the first time, or how very sad I was then. Instead of loss and heartbreak, this was all about love and life.

5660_148663340751_3041154_nI named her Asha which means “Hope” in Sanskrit and “Life” in Swahili. It seemed apt. I think names are important, they are one of a mothers’ first gifts afetr life and I hope hers’ shapes her well.

When I spoke with The Boy after she was born, he asked how much she weighed (he was 8.6) and he was quick to point out he was bigger. I brought her up to see them when she was 4 months old. It was probably one of the easiest visits I had ever had, as the dynamic began to shift.

I was only a few years older than their oldest niece and nephew, yet I was not a peer for those kids or for the adults, it had always been an 1113_51130610751_8253_nunsettled place to find footing, along with all of the rest. Now, a decade later,  I was a mother in the true sense, and it was new unblemished ground.

4503_110684995751_3927311_nI still don’t know if it’s accurate to say that Gretch and Gwynn started speaking to me differently or if I just started listening better. The shift felt massive to me, but again, who knows? I spoke to them about baby stuff and they happily shared their experiences. I didn’t have this anywhere else, there was no mother, Auntie or grandmother to call with questions. I don’t want to give the impression that they were my go-to, because I was never that comfortable (which is on me) but they were a touchstone that I didn’t have anywhere else. I’m sure they would of answered had I been willing to reach out.

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I was the first of my friends to have a child, and they assumed I’d just figure it out, I had always been that type of person. I do not know what parents did before Google.  I was at a loss and in the ER, for diaper rash, more often than I would like to admit. My daughters first year, like the rest of my life was a lot of trial and error.

When I had left the hospital with her, I remember thinking “What is wrong with these people? Why are they letting me leave?? I have no idea how to take care of this tiny person!”.

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Most days, I still feel that way.

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W is for Wayward

W

way·ward
ˈwāwərd/
adjective
1. difficult to control or predict because of unusual or perverse behavior.

I told Gwynn and Gretch about being pregnant and the reaction was….cautious. Wondering if I had thought it through, if it was the best decision for me, if I was ready. I was upset and wanted to take deep offense to this caution but after a few minutes (hours, days….whatever) of attempted self-awareness, I realized that they had every right to the questions.

storm coming

From their point of view, I had been flitting about for years, getting into trouble and then seemed to stabilize and commit while I was with Nikki. I started working decent jobs and stayed at one address. Then I just broke-up with her for no discernible reason, got rid of everything I owned and decided to move to China. All of this was within about 4 months of time and then I call and say, “ I’m pregnant! Surprise!…hold-up..why aren’t you excited??”

 

Secretbox (1)They had almost no exposure to my friends, which had shifted and matured over the years; they had no idea that the relationship that seemed to stabilize me was one filled with suffocating abuse and leaving was the best thing I had done for myself in a long time. They didn’t know, because I never told them any of this stuff. Like everything else in my life, if I was keeping this kid, I had to change my modus operandi. So I told them and asked them to trust me and to believe in me, despite all evidence to the contrary.

Despite my own surety that I was having this baby, I was a mess, because really, who knows if they are strong enough before they are tested? I had lived a rather selfishly fearless, wayward life so far and being a parent seemed more terrifying to me than any of the other incredibly risky hitchhiking-in-australiastupid things I had done prior.I had watched loved ones die, been beaten and betrayed,  I had hitchhiked across states, dove into ocean depths, taken candy from strangers, ingested unknown substances,ran with scissors, committed crimes,  fallen wildly and stupidly in love, lost everything, left everything and had often wondered where I might sleep that night; yet this idea of motherhood and being responsible for another’s life caused more fear in me than any of those adventures combined. I didn’t regret any of it, but I wondered if it was a foundation that another life should be dependent on.

belly 197

 

V is for Value

V

val·ue
ˈvalyo͞o/
noun
1. the regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something.
2. a person’s principles or standards of behavior; one’s judgment of what is important in life.
verb
 1. estimate the monetary worth of (something).
2. consider (someone or something) to be important or beneficial; have a high opinion of.

How do you qualify value? I sat around a lot with that question rolling around and bumping against old wounds. Joseph felt I didn’t have any. My own family felt I had even less. All of that really felt like the faded strains of an old sad song that I really didn’t have time for. I was just sick of that sad, sad tale. What did I have to offer NOW?

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Joseph had been right about me not having much, but I had people. I have written about some of them, a few that were part of seminal moments or personal realizations; but over the years, those numbers had risen, friends that grew over time through trial, tribulation and celebration.

I was surprised by their reaction to the “Oh fuck! I’m pregnant” news. They seemed to of had caught Jori’s fever, they said “Yay! Baby!”. I had never been good at asking for help, I went hungry or homeless instead of asking for help, but that all had to change now. I asked, and it was like they had just been waiting for that allowance of pride from me.

Jori and her partner Diana headed up the posse. They sent out emails, made up ads on craigslist and called in favors. They took out a much larger storage space, than I had for my pile of books and they started filling it. Diapers, formula, crib, car seats, clothes to cover this new life for the first two years of its life…SO much stuff, we had to upgrade storage space.  Another friend let me have first crack at the estate sale of an interior designer, and my friends filled up another van full of the furniture, I was never in one place long enough, to collect.

My friends didn’t want me to leave and they wanted to be a part of this baby’s life. They talked me through panic and tears. They helped with plans and finding a place to live. I don’t know how to sound anything but trite with this, but these people who chose to be in my life, they made keeping this baby possible, they let me keep my promise to provide support and a net to hold us up when we fell. They thought I had value, that I could be a mother, they believed in me.

What was my value? If it could be measured by the company I kept, it was far greater than I had given any merit to.

Ultrasound 11.02.07 (1)

Of course, they could all be delusional..

F is for Farce

F

farce
färs/
noun
noun: farce; plural noun: farces
1. a comic dramatic work using buffoonery and horseplay and typically including crude characterization and ludicrously improbable situations.


I met Lucas while I worked at Whole Foods; I worked in the bakery and he was a regular at the store. I would later find out he was a fine amateur chef. Later still he would become a professional, but that was some time after us. When he showed interest in me I told him I was 2 months pregnant and in the process of an open adoption. He asked for my number.  Our first date was on Valentines Day in 1998 at a nice Italian place with great lighting.  He was older than me, by 29 years, which didn’t make me blink but caused it’s own kind of tension outside of us.

To say I was rough around the edges was an understatement and I still have no idea why we worked, but we did. Lucas lead his life in a very singular fashion. It didn’t matter if he was by himself, there would be a full dinner, seating, and candlelight. He seemed to live in a different era, well beyond the age difference. He taught me about wine, food and opera. I gave him tickets to NYC Metropolitan Opera’s Lohengrin for his birthday and he spent hours going over the translations with me, so I understood and could appreciate it when we actually went.  He went to every lamaze class and OBGYN appointment. We made each other laugh.  His friends thought he was insane and were varying degrees of hostile with one or two exceptions.  It would take me another decade to realize how totally bizarre and uncomfortable the whole pairing seemed from the outside.

I have never had a family to deal with and my friends had drifted away in the face of our lives disparities. They worried about curfew, grades and allowance, and I worried about my electric bill, work schedule and birth plan. It wasn’t malicious, we just didn’t have any common ground. He became a lot of my life and I enjoyed his passion and patience. Lucas always had a child like joy about the world and whatever thing he was focused on.

 

When I finally gave birth to the boy, Lucas was there. Afterwards he took me away and I think that simple distraction allowed me to stave off the initial insanity. We went to California and visited San Francisco, Carmel, Big Sur and Napa Valley.

sanfranhouses In San Francisco we stayed at a B&B on California Street. I remember laying in the giant tub, that was so big,  I had a hard time not sliding under.  I looked through the water at myself and my hands explored a landscape I didn’t recognize.  MY breasts were full, swollen and hurting; sustenance with no mouth to feed. My belly was a war zone. The boy had not dropped until the very end and my skin had no stretch marks prior to that event. All of the sudden, seemingly overnight, it looked as if some giant clawed creature had played with my skin, making dark purple rivulets from my just above my belly button to the top of my pubis.  The skin was flaccid, sore and felt dead to me.

 

Just 2 weeks ago it was filled with life, I was a bearer of life and now my body was as ruined as me.

In Big Sur, we had dinner at a restaurant that seemed to touch the clouds and I wondered fi I could walk out into the sky and disappear into the waves below. I felt like all the beauty was wasted on me.

Sierra MAr Big Sur

Lucas was personified patience and i managed to go out with him but often had to stay in or leave unexpectedly and retreat to our rooms. I just wasn’t capable of the farce for very long anymore.

I had spent most of my life, playing this part, tough, straight talking and above all else, someone who didn’t let emotions rule action.  I didn’t get bullied as a child despite my idiosyncrasies, but I beat the bullies up and collected my band of misfits. I held people’s hands, and made appointments for the clinic, I didn’t pull punches or hide from hard truths. I was a person that viewed sex and love very separately and was considered cold for it.  I could be found in libraries and bookstores, filling notebooks. I was many things, a survivor, a fighter, a hard worker, a smart cookie…I was not this sniveling mess cupping her belly and leaking from her breasts.

I wasn’t this misshapen creature with no idea how to get through a conversation or a simple day from beginning to end without a full on breakdown. I hadn’t cried when my mother died, when my  grandparents put me back in foster care or whenever I found myself alone and lacking resources, I WAS NOT this person.

I broke apart and didn’t know how to put myself back together again. I didn’t know much right then but I knew I couldn’t pretend I recognized myself or the relationship that had sustained me during this period. I was playing at being capable and strong and doing it badly.

We came back to NJ and I broke it off with Lucas. He deserved better and I needed to find less kindness, less patience and less love. I couldn’t stand it.

waiting int he wings

“When there’s nothing left to burn, you have to set yourself on fire.”

~ Set Yourself on Fire by Stars

E is for Emotion

E

e·mo·tion
iˈmōSHən/
noun
1. a natural instinctive state of mind deriving from one’s circumstances, mood, or relationships with others.

“She has sociopathic tendencies” is what my psychologist told my grandmother.

At the time, I was around 13 years old I already had 4 years of steady weekly to bi-weekly therapy sessions under my belt. I lived with my mother’s parents at this point, and their brand of parenting could be defined by how often they brought me to therapy rather than speak with me. My grandmother also suspected a certain amount of sadism, which had some merit.  On the other hand, I wasn’t the easiest kid to deal with. Sociopathic and all of that rubbish; or at least a “tendency” towards such things.

The issues at hand were my lack of remorse or feeling about various indiscretions and inclination to get in fights. My grandmother thought something was very very wrong with me. I think she was also afraid I may turn into some kind of monster, or perhaps that I was already.

boxing fists (1)

By 16, I was emancipated and in my own place with a full time job. I was also knocked up by the end of that year, so I’m still going back and forth on whether I came out ahead of expectations or not on that one. I realized a few things that gave me comfort, I was totally capable of taking better care of myself than any of my previous custodians (most of the time), I could finally have a pet, and I wasn’t without emotions I was just not very comfortable with them.

 

I gave birth to my first child at the age of 17. I never doubted giving him up or thought to try to take him back. I never regretted giving him a better chance than I could possibly offer.  He was perfect and whole and the first thing I ever thought I did right. I still thank my disconnect with my emotions for allowing me to make the best decision I could for him. Yet like any dam, there is always something that can come along and be bigger and stronger than it can hold up to.

The boy was what finally toppled everything I had holding me upright and separated from the proceedings of life in general.

I don’t remember much of that day;  strapping him into that car seat and watching them drive away; sending Lucas away; being home with my cracked wallfoster-brother TJ; breaking into a million tiny pieces.


I envisioned my internal self as something like hand-made glazed pottery with many hues swirling upon it’s imperfect surface. Cracks and chips decorate it. Each event, pain or triumph, changing the whole, building, breaking, filling, emptying. I came home and the shoddy patch job fell apart.

 

STP60260_zps2be3caa8I remember nothing but pain. Falling into myself and feeling as if I could never make myself whole again. My body felt battered and broken and my mind could not fathom what I had just done, the decision I couldn’t regret but also couldn’t forgive or even truly comprehend. I had not cried this whole time, not when he was born, never in front of Gwynn and Gretchen . I would not even allow it when I was alone.

Now I could not stop, my stomach felt as if the muscles might seize, or tear, my head held stabbing knives captive and I soaked my face, clothes and the floor I couldn’t get up from in my mourning tears. I didn’t know that I could even feel this much.

 

I had always felt that emotional people were weak, constantly at the whim of this or that fleeting feeling. How did they live like that? How could they stay focused? Why couldn’t they just see the given situation as it was instead of piled under all of their superfluous blubbering? I had learned to mimic sympathy and to pretend I didn’t just get annoyed when people cried or made illogical arguments. I had learned to give the expected reactions to other people’s trials and tribulations but I had never learned to feel and react “naturally”.

 Right after the boy was born it was if a lifetimes’ worth of repression and superfluous emotional insanity crashed upon me and drowned out any vestige of my much-loved logic.

I think that if it were not for Lucas. I would have let myself die, or helped it along at this point,  simply because I had no tools to swim through my own despair. He bundled me up, expected me to pull myself up by my bootstraps, and come on the vacation he had planned for us. Which seems absurd, even as I write this detail down, but I am pretty sure it saved my life.

 

 

Mothers Day

55′ – 89′

Mothers Day has always been a rough one. At this point I feel like mentioning this kinda just annoys my wife. I don’t mean that in a harsh way, I understand. She just wants to have a great day, she wants to be free to love me, our daughter and our family and her mom and her Nana etc etc. She doesn’t want me to be sad or weird or dodgy, when I am all of these things. I clutter the landscape with my issues like a bank of foreboding dark and threatening skies, waiting to pounce upon anyone that trusted the sunny forecast they read last night.

Mothers day was always the one day I allowed myself to mourn, and to feel sorry for myself. Most of the time I resent my weaknesses, I am angry at my own whining or my bad attitude. Crying won’t help, wishing it would be different won’t do a damn thing and sharing with everyone how sad and heartbroken you are over something they can only uncomfortably try to comfort, what is by its nature, inconsolable? Fucking weak. Plus it’s just putting your sad little issue on someone elses plate, mucking up their day with your pathetic misery. Always seemed like a selfish path to take and never helped me either.

So once a year, I let myself mourn this hole in my life, to voice the secret wish that she was still here. Later I realized, it wasn’t about HER per se, since she was a rather horrible mother after all, but that I wanted A mother. A good one,..maybe that baked and stuff. I wanted a mom to share my good and bad days with and to be proud or ashamed of me. It’s hard to set your own moral code….a baseline is helpful. I wanted a mom that had stories of me. I wanted someone for whom, I was special enough, to remember.  I wanted something other than all the scars to figure it out from.

Gail age 12 (?)

Then I gave up my son, when I was 17. If I had kept him, I would have been like her (a really bad mom) and that just wasn’t an option.  Mothers Day took a new turn downward into the abyss. It began to mark not only the failings of my own mother but my failings as a mother myself.

Let me just say it was a bad day and one of the few I truly allowed myself to grieve it all. I always stayed home except for my annual trip to clean up Gail’s grave. I refused communication with anyone.  I spent that time destroying myself from the inside out. It was my day!

Then when I was 27, I had my daughter.

Me, my daughter and son

Me, my daughter and son 2010

Again all the rules changed, but an about-face was required. Everyone in my life wanted to celebrate her existence, and I’m sure, break the encasement of sorrow I seemed so fond of. I mean, now I would be happy right??! I kept this one, we were doing all right, I had a family now.

Four years have passed and I’m better, better in general, healed in some places, still raw in others. I am better at being happy for the people in my life that love me no matter what, for my brilliant little girl and wonderful wife. I have an amazing mother-in-law and my sister-in-law is an angel. I have Tia’s, Aunties, Uncles and Grandmas that make my existence blessed.

My son is fucking brilliant, really, like a genius and he’s just a good person. . His family is also amazing. Although it took me 9 years to get over it, I finally made peace with that part. I’m not his mom, I mean,  I gave birth to him and that was something that changed me forever, but I’m not his mom. Mourning that lack and all the ways his moms are better that anything I could have been, that makes no sense. It stopped me from reaching out to him, from loving them all as I should and saying things that might be hard, like “I love you”, knowing he didn’t have to say it back. We kind of annoy each other and act more like siblings, or a relatively closely aged niece and nephew. It’s pretty awesome and I hope we become friends as he gets older. I still hurt about it, and I still can be crazy about it all, but thankfully for everyone that deals with me, it’s a lot better.

So..Mothers Day. I still want to hide in a tree with a book and a bagged lunch. I still want to visit my moms grave and I will still be weird, because let face it, I’m weird on normal days. I will still slightly exasperate my wife and dampen her joy. Yet, I can smile on this day now, I can leave the house and get through the whole thing without crying (sometimes). I slightly resent not being able to lick my wounds and lay on the floor in a pool of my own misery, but hey flowers and cake help.