Tuesday, December 29, 2009

To Mothers...

My dear friend lost her child this week. She was 17 weeks pregnant and already every bit as much of a mother that I aspire to be each day.

I'm not interested in getting into a discussion on when life begins. I will tell you though that for me motherhood began when I started making choices for myself based on my baby. It was when you'd find yourself turning down that glass of wine because you 'never know', when you'd opt for cheddar instead of Gorgonzola 'just because' and when you could actually summon a smile when requesting decaf. It's when old wives tales would have you taking warm showers instead of soaking in hot baths. It's when you are sick and tired of being sick and tired, yet you still catch yourself rubbing your bump on the subway. Motherhood is instinctual, it is primal, and no matter how long it lasts, be it 1 week, 17 weeks, 3 years or until the end of your time on earth, it is with you forever.

In the 9 months before the rest of the world meets your baby, you are likely already best friends. You walk together, talk together, you do a lot of peeing and perhaps puking together. And, if it walks like a duck, waddles like a duck...well, it's already a mother.

It almost feels as though the actual 'having a baby' is when the rest of the world is let in on the joy but the private pleasures of motherhood begin way before. Nobody else in the whole world felt my daughter kick the first time. No one. And nothing can ever take that away from me.
It is this realization that makes me feel so strongly in the acknowledgment of the pain that mothers feel when losing their babies early on. Today, my heart is broken for my friend and I can only imagine that her ache is just as real and painful as if I lost my Olive tomorrow. Grief is surely just as much about the loss of what memories you didn’t make, as well as as mourning the ones you remember.

In fact, I felt a bit like I was running an egg and spoon race when I was pregnant, or playing a giant game of Jenga...if that makes any sense. The longer you go, the giddier you get and yet just seeing the finish line didn't hold any guarantees. It was my constant focus. Utterly all consuming.

Today was a reminder of not only what a gift life is but just how cruel it can be. My heart and prayers are full of love and strength to mothers today, no matter where your children are.

Monday, December 14, 2009

You've got to laugh a little, cry a little...

Motherhood is a constant contradiction of emotion. You want a break, you don't want a break. You want daddy to hold her, you don't want her to go to daddy. It pains you when she reaches for you and you have to leave but knowing how much she needs you is a comfort. Being a mum is an emotional assault. Sometimes only a mum will do. Not always for the fun stuff either. Daddy, Daddy, watch me try and walk. Mummy, Mummy, I've fallen and nobody else in the whole world is going to get me to stop crying in two simple seconds.

Today I burst into tears in the middle of Nordstrom on my lunch break. A woman was pushing a stroller and out of nowhere the child began to cry. I was somewhere between picking up a Laboutin and realizing I could never afford a pair when I heard the child. If I was still breastfeeding I think my boobs would have spontaneously combusted and sprayed the store with milk. Instead I just sort of snorted and my throat became thick and tears rolled. No sooner had I started than I was flushed with embarrassment. I gave an overly loud cough and walked out inhaling a cloud of Chanel all the way. I think that's what they call a 'moment'. I was furious walking back to work. With myself. With the world. With the lady and her child. I had effectively thrown my own toys out of my pram and was having a class A pity party.

I don't mean to complain - I know I have it good. Even if I lived in a tent with Tom and Olive and had to watch Scrubs on repeat for the rest of my life - I would still be the luckiest (okay, so maybe not Scrubs, let's say Private Practice), girl in the world. However, sometimes, just sometimes, I want to feel sorry for myself in a very un-mum like way. The verdict is in - being a stay at home mum is far more exhausting than any day job but on an emotional level it's not even in the same realm in terms of difficulty.

And, it's not all bad - I can pee without a baby on my lap. After peeing, I leisurely wash my hands. I may even apply hand lotion before checking my appearance in the mirror. I can hold a hot cup of coffee. As in just hold. Not just pick up, sip and put down. I can actually cradle a cup of coffee. Silver linings, people. Silver linings.

You know what I was reminded of today? That scene in Beaches where Hillary sees CC playing with Victoria on the beach. Now, I'm not dying and my mother in law is not Bette Midler getting to play with my daughter all day. But, all I could hear was that conversation between Barbara Hershey and Bette Midler in the beach house. I needed a CC. I always thought that I was the CC Bloom friend. Turns out that I needed 'that' friend today.

By the time I had walked back to work I was smiling and humming The Glory of Love. I had three hours till I would be home with my girl. Christmas was coming and we would have 4 full days together in a row. Life is good! So, thank you Bette Midler - today (yep you guessed it) you were literally the Wind Beneath My Wings.

(The conversation kicks in at about 7 minutes.)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Just Do It...

I've decided that post-baby sex is a lot like pre-baby working out. You think you don't have enough energy but half way through you wonder why you don't do this more often and afterwards you feel absolutely incredible.

Monday, November 30, 2009

A Balancing Act

So, after two weeks away from safe, lovely, middle earth I'm firmly back in the suit-wearing, heel-clipping "other world". A world without Elmo, Chica, Star and Sophie...I am left with several burning questions...

How does your heart heal when you return home and find that your daughter has been crying all day since you left? That she stopped when you scooped her up and nuzzled into your shoulder offered little consolation. How am I meant to get up tomorrow and do it all over again?

As a stay at home mom for the past 8 months I thought I had it figured out. Balance. I was a mum during the day, a wife at night and somewhere in between my daughter's naps I found time to see myself.

Now, I play a different sort of working mother during the day. One that works for and not with her girl. Someone detached from whoever I was to whatever I have become. I did not return to my career but accepted a job to help finance this new family. I am not alone. The current economic climate is no doubt sending more and more parents back to work. This generation might be well schooled but they are now paying the piper.

And, guess what? Paying the piper is not easy. I stifle every maternal, emotional instinct and summon every ounce of mother lion courage to leave the house each day. And yes, I'm terrified. Absolutely terrified. That I'll miss something, that she'll hurt and I won't be the one to heal her, that something will happen and I'll never forgive myself for either missing or preventing it. I thought I was scared of her forgetting me during the day but now I want her to play with joy, without looking for me. I leave every day and as I press the call button for the elevator I know that I'll never get these days back.

I know, I know. I sound all a bit over the top and dramatic. The answer as far as I can tell is that you just do it. Simple. You just do it. How did I get up and go to work each day 18 months ago between throw ups and all day morning sickness? You think you can't but you do it. When your eyes were so tired they would sting in those first few weeks, you would still rather hold your baby for 3 hours and just stare instead of napping. You push through the exhaustion. You just do it. And, those nights when after rocking and singing and running the faucet, the baby would still be crying so hard that you yourself begin to weep - how will we get through? Will this ever end? It did. We just got through. Day by day.

And so, I'm striving for balance. I run home and get just under 2 hours of mummy time. Followed by another 2 hours of being a wife before passing out. It's all me. It's just that when I lie in bed at night and run through a checklist of my day and see how I did, I wonder where *I* went?

Ahh, balance! Or perhaps...Ha! Balance! In a quest for balance I find guilt. Yesterday when Olivia was asleep, I went and worked out for 30 minutes. Grunting my way up the stepper I felt bad that I wasn't spending that time with Tom. This week I have a work holiday party - if we attend I will miss my precious post-work time with Olive and not see her before bed. Does that make me a terrible mother? Yet, the thought of a glass of wine and the opportunity to get dressed up with my husband is appealing.

I don't know how to do it. How to find that balance. How to feel balanced enough to lie in bed at night and feel that in ticking the "(working) mother" box and the "wife" box, that the *me* box is still legible and not addled with guilt.

Motherhood seems to be like plate spinning. Is it possible to find balance? Or in paying the piper are we in danger of paying a higher price?

This song has been on a running loop in my head the past
two weeks - good luck getting it out of your head now...

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thank you!

Dear Tom,
Thank you, Tom, for giving me the gift of Olive this year. Thank you for the stretch marks, the hemorrhoids and the mild incontinence (during all those trampolining parties I attend) that came along with her. I wouldn't be who I am today without breasts that rest on my tummy.
Mostly, thank you for allowing me to fall in love with you every time I see you with our girl.
Thank you for Olive, the other love of my life.

Monday, November 16, 2009

A letter to my Olive

Today was mummy's first day back at work. You won't remember today but it will forever be etched in my heart. I left you without saying goodbye. We snuggled and then I traded off to daddy so I could slip out the door without you seeing me go. I cried in the car. I knew you would look for me the way you always do when I'm away too long. This time I wouldn't be there. You were in safe hands with grandma - I just wanted you in mine.

Of course, there were highs. I had forgotten that in the real world you actually take the time to dry your hands after washing them. I went to Starbucks alone which used to be one of my favorite things to do. Coffee. Newspaper. Peace. Except it is hard to sip that venti when your throat is thick with tears.

I'm not alone. I'm one of many. You can spot us a mile off. It seems that we mothers arrive at work tired and go home energized. I was so excited to get home that I skipped the elevator, ran the stairs, sprinted a la stiletto to the car and pulled a Penelope Pitstop just to get you in my arms and savor every second of our 93 minutes together before you fell asleep on my lap.

Tomorrow I'll do it again. I believe it will get easier but for now, please know how much I love you and how thankful I am for you, my beautiful little girl.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

I'm starting with the (wo)man in the mirror

I had a moment this week where I just wanted to be free. It's Friday night, nay evening, at 8pm and I am removing my makeup (just face grime). I was looking in the mirror and was appalled that my face looked like an Ordnance Survey map - where the heck did all these lines come from? I have a deep dent in my forehead which I attribute to my "listening face". I will frown to prove how hard I am listening. Now, only Botox or Stri-Vectin cream can save me. It's not endearing, you CAN see it...so let's move on. So, in my adult way of throwing my toys out of my crib...I decide I just wanted to be free. I didn't want to get into bed just after 10, read for 30 minutes, ask my husband if he was ready to finish reading so I could turn the light out, before checking I had a hairband and tissue under my pillow. It's Friday night, i should be tripping the light fantastic. Not stubbing my toe and sucking air like a dying beast for fear that I will scream bloody murder and wake the baby.
Breaking protocol, I turn off the bathroom light and flomp into bed without a glass of water by my side. Resisting panic, i decide to live on the wild side and risk thirst in the night.

I was reminded of my sister several years back. We had all gathered for a family holiday. Her husband had been unable to attend due to work, so she had brought my young nephew on her own. We were out for dinner in a Mexican restaurant and as the check arrived we saw a band setting up for the evening. My sister wanted to stay. We did not. Her son was tired and asleep on grandma. We thought we should all go home. I remember her asking me to stay out with her. I could have stayed. I should have stayed. But this was pre-baby for me. I lived in New York. A holiday for me meant sleep. I saw something in her face that night. A moment, a fleeting moment of frustration and acceptance.

This week I saw that face looking back at me in the mirror. I remembered my sister. My reaction that night had been the same as when I would read facebook status updates from friends of mine who were mothers. Updates such as "getting ready for a girl's night" or "off on a romantic weekend with my husband", or (Heaven forbid...) "recovering from too much fun the night before". What? I would think? Mothers do that? And, then before you know it, you pass judgment - what sort of a mother does that? Ahh, the pre-baby thinkings of a young woman. All those promises we make about what we will NOT do. We happily sit as judge, jury and executioner only to receive a rude awakening.

Acceptance is of course a mother's middle name. We accept that our dinner is usually cold, our coffee will have been zapped 6 times before it is drained. We accept our hemerrhoids, we name them. When we come in from grocery shopping and all we want to do is pee, we have a choice, we either take our baby on our lap to the toilet or cross our legs and go and change baby's diaper first. Bear in mind, a 30 second pee is sometimes the most glorious alone time so we may not want to rush it.

We accept these frustrations.

It's not about being free to go out, it's about being free of responsibility. And, of course as a mother we are never free of responsibility - we can be miles away, with a dinner fit for a king, a martini so dirty it moves, and you'll bet the cell phone is perched on the table and the conversation skates around the most important person/people in your life. Nevertheless, that change of scenery can do wonders for your sanity and that is freeing in itself. Just knowing that the world won't end without you there feels good (but funnily enough, not as good as you thought).

It doesn't matter how happy you are, that you wouldn't change what you have for all the world... sometimes, just sometimes, you need to take care of yourself so that the baby's face isn't the only one smiling back at you in the mirror.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Thought of the day

I'm bending over drying my hair and my tummy pouch hangs like a old lady's bingo wing. I therefore conclude that Spanx should be covered by insurance.
Plus 1 bottle of wine a week for medicinal purposes.
That's for starters...

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Look Who's Talking

I feel like I am dating other new mothers. Or at least picking them up. The supermarket, the streetcar, the park...they are everywhere and for some reason when we come within 10 feet of each other there is some sort of secret, internal, masonic handshake. We are drawn to the pungent smell of Purell that has long since replaced Chanel as my spritz of choice. Before long we feel the need to start talking to each other. I used to dread this. I still do...but I have clearly been new mum "glamored" or something. Now, I am an instigator. This scares me because I always vowed never to do a Christmas newsletter and I'm terrified that holiday sweaters and a portrait session at Sears is just around the corner.

So, the other day I was in the supermarket for shopping baby food. Pondering switching from Gerber to a cheaper brand, but I don't particularly know any other brand names because I am a new mum and I either skipped that chapter or haven't got there yet.
So, I was bobbing and craning to check all the brands (can you buy baby food on sale?) and along came a lady toting a baby. Smile. She began loading up with a different (non Gerber) brand and wasted no time at all piling her trolley high. She reminded me of myself in the wine aisle. So, I did it. Like one of those weirdos you dread, I opened my mouth. Thank goodness I was wearing my watch. That somehow made me feel responsible. I also found myself gesticulating wildly with my left hand (because everyone knows if you are married and punctual you are not crazy). Anyway, I've no idea what my pick up line was but before long we were chatting away about our babies, our husbands, our leaking bladders (just kidding - but I did spot Tena Lady in her stack). Within 5 minutes I was converted to a 10 for $6 Safeway organic brand. We had swapped emails. I was a new woman with a new friend. It was like speed dating. I even had that feeling of hoping we didn't bump into each other before we checked out because we had ended our little conversation so tidily. I went home on a high.

Of course I never emailed. I never do. I never call. I'll even avoid the same store at the same time in case we bump into each other. I'm like the 'one afternoon stand' of stay at home moms. It's not just me though. I've been mom dumped and there is an element of relief when after day three no email arrives.

Why though? I've been wondering. Do you think it is because we are scared that outside of our babies we will have absolutely nothing in common? That we cannot believe that we engaged in talk about pureed carrots for five minutes and actually enjoyed it? Because we have become who we vowed not to be and if this is a spontaneous happening it was in the name of baby, but if we plan it we are somehow accepting this new self? I have no idea. Clearly.

I'm hoping that other mums do this and i'm not a horribly rude individual with issues.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Job description, please?

Here's a thought...How many of us stay at home mums, housewives have ever heard or been given the advice that part of our role is to make ourselves presentable for our husband's return at the end of the work day? It's never an oppressive or forced suggestion but it's presented in perhaps the same way as the age old wisdom of never going to bed on a cross word.
I do like to look good for my husband - I love to get ready for a day together or a night out but I somehow object to this notion that ten minutes before he walks in the door I should rush and slap on some makeup, brush my hair. Now, it's not that I don't do that (for the most part) but I don't want a voice in my head telling me I should or making me feel inadequate in my role if I don't.
You see, there are days when I have worked hard, very hard. I always joke about my lack of housewifery but I'm down there on my knees with the best of them. I will get that fluff from around the toilet, I will clean those skirting boards and I will even move the furniture instead of vacuuming around it! Along with making dinner, playing with Olive, getting her outside for some fresh air in the often chilly weather, getting the groceries in, and so on and so forth! Sometimes, just sometimes i don't want to paint my face and this impression that it was all in a day's work and I'm still perky and gorgeous. I want to say yes, it's all in a day's work but I'm a bit stinky and ragged and I'm looking forward to a shower this evening.
I would never 'expect' my husband to check his hair, straighten his tie and be wearing his suit jacket when he returns for work. He usually looks tired and dishevelled. I take this as a sign that it has been another day of 'work'. Shouldn't our appearance suggest the same? That we too have worked hard? I'm not saying that we need to be in our pj's, people, but if my top has the odd stain on it, what's the problem? Is there a problem?
Aren't we by perpetuating this stereotype somehow undoing years of feminism? Or am i just taking a few wise words too much to heart? Should we also be waiting with a smoking jacket and a martini?
What I'm saying is that we stay at home mums/homemakers/whateveryouwanttocallus work hard and work even harder to somehow prove that we work that hard...still with me? That we don't just watch soap operas and nap all day. So, why at the end of the day should I somehow find an extra ten minutes from nowhere to get ready...for...for what?
When both my husband and I were working outside of the home we often didn't know who would make it home first. We would both come in, take off our coats, kick off our shoes and walk to the bedroom and the first thing we would do would be to pull on "more comfortable clothing." Sometimes, I would work out after work and come in a sweaty beast...
For those stay at home dads, do you gel your hair and brush your teeth before your wife comes through the door?
Where did this advice come from? Is it so that the working husband wants to return to his stay at home wife at the end of the day...and is impressed and comforted that she looks just as good as the women he sees at work? Didn't Paul Newman say "Why go out for a hamburger when you have steak at home?" In which case, what about the wives that work that return to the home shattered with panda eyes where their mascara has been rubbed after a day hard at work...?
Now, I'm not saying there is anything WRONG with this but I just question that this advice is being still passed down. Is it outdated? Or, is it just words that work from women who know? Is this actually how marriages survive?
I'm just wondering...any thoughts...?

Friday, October 23, 2009

If You Go Down To The Woods Today...

When I was 11 years old I saw my first penis. It was from a distance but it was very much alive. I was at the park with my best friend where we had planned to meet our boyfriends who were essentially friends that happened to be boys. You know, in between games of tag we would hold hands and talk about WWF. Knowing that it was a little risque we had decided to go into the wooded area, slightly off the beaten path, to build up the courage to exchange our first kiss. After about 20 minutes of giddiness my best friend and I agreed to let the boys kiss us after the count of 3. Just as we were about to pucker up we heard someone coming. Even though we were doing nothing wrong we knew we weren't supposed to be there. I mean, this wasn't something we would be sharing around the family table that evening. A man came into view with a dog. We shushed each other and hoped the brush around us would cover us enough to be out of his view. Thinking he would pass, I remember that holding my boyfriend's hand was making my heart beat faster than the sight of this man. He didn't pass. In fact, he decided to tie up his dog to a nearby tree. He then began to remove his clothing. We couldn't believe it! We were looking at each other, giggling that this man was oblivious to our presence. The man, a graying figure in his 40s had arrived wearing slacks and a shirt. He now stood 10 feet away from us stark naked. I then remember feeling embarrassed not for myself but for the man. We began whispering through our giggles that we should leave but I said that I didn't want him to see us and feel awkward. I thought we should wait it out. Perhaps he needed to pee...naked? The man then reached down and pulled out of his pants pocket some suntan lotion. OK, so it was summer...however, we were in England...and it was overcast. In fact, my mum had made me wear a thin, navy blue anorak because the sky had been threatening rain. Not to mention that we were in a darkened, wooded area. Not really an opportune tanning spot.
Of course, you can guess what was coming (!) and where that lotion was applied. We were no longer laughing. In fact, we were very much four 11 year old children. We looked at each other, again counted to 3 and then up and ran. We ran and ran and kept running, didn't look back, and went straight through the park back onto the road, in the sunlight. Ahh, the safe sunlight. We didn't talk until we had stopped running and calmed ourselves into a brisk walk. At first we wondered whether to go straight to the police, to immediately tell our parents, what should we do...? The further we walked, the funnier it became. We wondered if in fact he hadn't seen us. It became more dreamlike, more exciting. We decided that it should become our secret and we gave it a codeword of 007 - because it felt like something out of a Bond movie. That logic makes no sense now but we thought we were brilliant.
Of course, when we returned to school after the summer we told anyone that would listen. We were legends!
We didn't however tell our parents. Nor did we didn't tell the police. Why? Because that would have involved explaining why we were sitting in the woods and that was more scary to us than the threat of a predator. Ahh, how a child's mind works...

This morning I awoke to the story of Somer Thompson.
Her 10-year-old sister told police that Somer had gotten into a fight with another girl at school earlier in the day. The sister said she brought up the fight while she and her brother walked Somer home from school, and that Somer ran off from them, apparently upset. According to the police report the sister said she lost sight of Somer in a group of other kids leaving the school. Her body was found in a landfill yesterday.

Her incredibly strong mother was interviewed this morning and when asked what she would say to other parents she talked of two things.
1) To teach your child about 'stranger danger'.
2) To take an extra two seconds to tell your child you love them because you never know what the day will hold.

Now, my daughter is 8 months old and her whereabouts is still in my hands. I can talk to her about being cautious around new people and not to assume that any stranger is safe. I can teach her to stay on the beaten path. That there are wicked people everywhere and sadly, not always strangers.
However, remembering that experience reminded me that as a child I would feel everything first. Emotion would totally overrun thought. I was actually more concerned about that stranger feeling embarrassed rather than thinking about my own danger. I can tell you that I knew of "stranger danger" but it didn't occur to me that this (at first) 'normal' looking stranger, that could have passed for a teacher, that didn't pull up in a car asking for directions, that wasn't offering me sweets, was in fact a "dangerous stranger" Stupid? Perhaps. Naive? Maybe. Childlike. Yes.

Whatever the details, whatever took Somer off the beaten path we may never know.
Today, however, I'm going to heed the words of a mother that does know and take two extra seconds to love on my little and big ones. To honor those parents with empty arms tonight.

Rest in peace, little one.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Dog-Eared Handbook

We all know that having children changes you. You only have to look at the difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament to see that. Before you have children you have all these 'ideas' of what you will and won't do. How your child will behave. Good luck with that. Good. Luck. However, we do have a handbook. Contrary to the mutterings that all us new parents throw at one another, we do all have a handbook. Now, we can either rip out the pages or highlight and underline but rest assured the book we have is one of the first gifts our parents ever gave us. Whether we use it or not, every child rearing theory we spout or choose to rebuke comes from that book which was in turn given to our parents from their parents and so on and so forth. Yes, we amend it as we go along - or at least we hope to. I suppose the trick is to spot what didn't work and not keep that in the book that you pass down. Simple, right? Well it would be except your partner has a book too and that is where parenting becomes really fun. What you took as normal is suddenly questionable. "What? You mean your father wouldn't come in and kick off his clothes and expect his meal on the table?"
You see...my husband was spanked as a child. If he misbehaved it would be reported to his father who would later explain why such behaviour was wrong and a spanking would ensue. On the other hand, when I was told off I would likely be clipped round the ear or given a smack bottom as I scuttled out of the room. Hearing these differences, I was aghast that my husband was spanked in such a controlled fashion. He in turn didn't like that I was disciplined out of anger. Conflict? No. Why? Because we had this conversation pre-Olive when we also said that we would let our child cry herself to sleep, we wouldn't feed on demand, and we would 'happily' discipline our child. Our imaginary child. That pretend baby that you plan everything for before you actually meet, nay, conceive her. You know, before you realise that the sight and sight of your baby crying makes you want to pull your eyes out and use them as ear plugs, if only to take your mind off the pain of your heart breaking. I am nowhere near the parent I planned to be. Yesterday, i tried to be firm with Olivia when she kept undoing her diaper. I gave a firm "no" and her eyes welled up - I kissed her 17 times until i felt forgiven. I'm officially useless...
I know, i know, we are new parents. I'll get tougher in time. Soon, i'll graduate to the front seat of the car once more and stop dating the back of my husband's head. In the meantime, whilst figuring our way and condensing our parent's handbooks to form our own, my husband and I are united in our admiration of another family. We happily defer to a handbook advocating love, laughter and sweaters with leather patches.
Yes, we want to be Cliff and Claire Huxtable and if that means training Olivia to come down the stairs miming gospel we'll do it.
Here is a snippet from the Huxtable handbook- from a chapter perhaps entitled "Cliff's Tough Love".
Now, this is how you parent...

Friday, October 16, 2009

Where The Wild Things Were

Last week when undressing to take a shower I looked down at my body. The final ten lbs laughed at me. My gigantic breasts looked like a pair of Cocker Spaniel ears. I had random strands of leg hair that I had missed around my ankle and knees that must date back to the 80s. With only some scissors and nail clippers at my disposal a tummy tuck and breast reduction seemed extreme. I could however, tackle, and I use that word loosely, the proof of evolution that was also featuring heavily in my reflection. Armed with the scissors I set to "tidy" and "prune". I decided I had been 'between styles' for too long.
Ladies, within just a few moments I felt and looked beautiful. I stood on the scales afterwards just to feel the difference.
All good, right? Well...all would be good except here I am recovering from the plague that is bouncing around. All that remains is a cough...just an annoying, dry bark. A non-productive cough - i think that is how Robitussin would classify it. (Incidentally, few things can be worse than a head cold when you have a teething baby to look after... In my delirium and desperation I actually blew my nose with a diaper at one point to save dribbling on Olive's body when I was changing her).
I digress...so I have a cough. Okay. Fine. Except now I don't just cough...I cough and I dribble. Cough. Dribble. You see, ladies, I have discovered the purpose of pubic hair. For those of us who were slack at doing our kegel exercises ( I was reluctant to use the word slack anywhere in this blog but...) pubic hair is the last line of defense when us new mums laugh, sneeze or cough! Guard it wisely. From one woman to another - don't go for style over substance!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

But can she bake a cake?

My name is Paula and I am an alcoholic.
OK, so I'm not - I'm actually a housewife but i feel more qualified to be at the former meeting. Don't get me wrong, i don't have bottles of vodka stuffed inside my knicker drawer - I'm just wholly unqualified to be a housewife yet this is my job. I recently had to fill out a form that asked my occupation. Hm. I went back and forth. Do you write what you trained to be/want to be/ or how you actually spend your day? When in New York and asked I used to answer "actress" only if I had recently 'done' something or just booked a job. Why? It is so depressing to hear the disappointment in their voices when they ask you what have i seen you in/what are you in at the moment? Much easier to just lie and tell them that I'm a receptionist- not much scope for conversation there. Oh yes, i can work the shredder....
So...i ummed and i ahhed and then wrote, HOUSEWIFE. Then next to it I wrote, STAY AT HOME MUM. And then I did a little arrow and wrote above it , (slightly larger)- CURRENTLY.
First of all, stay at home mum is the most ridiculous term i have ever heard in my life. SAHM conjures up an image of some sort of shut in. It sounds like we have our curtains closed and we just wander from room to room rocking our child singing about babies falling in cradles. I realise that the term is used as an alternative to mothers that go out to work but can we come up with a less depressing term? Do I need to up my meds? Seriously, can we be known as going in and out of the house mum or sometimes i stay in but often i go out mum....just something. It's enough to make a girl put on her wedding dress and sit in cobwebs.
And then, housewife...well, that just terrifies me. If we were playing mallets mallet - it would go something like: Housewife. Cooking. Cleaning. Ironing, Laundry. Baking. Vomit. OK, so maybe not the last one, but that word would work in my word association game. It's just that I trained to be an actress, people. I'm not lazy but I'm not sure i fit in this club. I don't watch the Food channel and have never bought an ornament in my life. I'm frankly embarrassed at my skills. The other day, my sister in law gave me a knitted piece of material that had the shape of Oregon imprinted into it. Brilliant, i thought. That was enough for me. Turns out it had purpose. It is for cleaning dishes - she informed me...Thank you, Amy (is that a hint?) Sadly, I have put it on the credenza - it's too nice to wash up with. Then, last week my mother just came to stay and before i had finished my morning cup of coffee she asked what we were having for dinner tonight. Early dementia? Do you mean breakfast, i asked? No, she laughed. Dinner. What meat should we get out of the freezer? Good Lord~ that would never cross my mind. My mother, sisters, sisters in law, mother in law and friend Rachel (from my days as a go out to work person) are brilliant people! Imagine knowing what you are having for dinner before noon?

In an effort to earn my keep, I baked my first cake yesterday. Relax...it was for my husband's birthday as a gift from Olive, I'm not going to be buying Tori Spelling jewelry off the HSN anytime soon. Well...I almost broke a sweat looking for a cake mix. I felt lost in an aisle of vanilla extract, flour and Tupperware. BUT...turns out...piece of cake...wah, wah, wahhhh...
Alright, so it wasn't a chocolate, swiss, embroidered, butterfly, dark forest torte but it did the trick. It was chocolate and edible.
I decided to see my cake and raise myself some housework. I changed the sheets, cooked a marvelous birthday dinner, went grocery shopping and cleaned all the rooms in my 4 room apartment. I also managed to stimulate my daughter to the point of hysteria. I didn't get to take a shower or brush my teeth until noon and olive did cry when i hoovered around her but wowzers, what a day. Now, that felt like the good old days of going to work except...I felt strangely unfulfilled. I suppose I just want to know from other stay at home or go out occasionally wives...is this something you get pleasure from? Will it grow on me? Do some people enjoy doing this each day? This is not a slight on people that do more a sad realization that perhaps I don't.

One thing that I am discovering on this crazy ride is that similar to the breastfeeding issue there is a line in the sand drawn between mothers that work out of the house and those that work in the home. Before i continue, let me issue the following disclaimers...I realize that it is a tremendous privilege and gift to have the opportunity to be at home with my daughter. I have huge admiration for mothers wherever they work. Many women do not have a choice. However, with friends sat in both camps I have noticed that there is veiled defense when it comes to this topic. The women that go to work feel attacked for not being good mothers and the stay at home mothers feel the need to prove their role as valid in this day and age. Defensive comments such as, "I would get bored doing that all day" are met with "Why have children if you are not going to raise them?" I suppose the proof of the pudding (you see, one cake and I'm talking shop) is in the children becoming balanced, happy beings. I'm not curing cancer with this blog but I have been surprised at the dichotomy of views that i have encountered. Ultimately, the biggest realization in life as you become an adult is that ALL families are equally dysfunctional no matter who is at home. Right? Before you question that statement - just have a think about your family or the one you married into...there's always one, people...always...

I also wonder what do we 'shut in mums' think of Martha Stewart: the ultimate working housewife?

At the moment I have a foot in both camps and while finances will likely send me over the line and back to work - (i know how to work a shredder, right?) I have discovered that being a mother is my greatest, most cherished role but being a housewife is much like being a wetnurse for me. Messy and sadly i'm not very good at it.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Dog eat Dog...

The other day a woman with a dog passed Olive and I as we were out on a walk. The dog bounded over and began to lick her hand and mount her stroller. I looked over at the owner who only seemed to care for her dog's safety. "Good girl" she said...to her dog. She came closer to her unleashed pet, peered in at Olive but didn't offer anymore than a stroke to her dog's flea ridden mop. She and I were a foot away. I smiled and moved the stroller a little. She ignored me and looked at the mutt. The dog jumped up again and licked Olivia's hands some more. Now, who wants a stinky dog's mouth on your daughter's hands when her fingers live in her mouth and the dog's tongue lives in it's butt?
The sour faced woman commented "That baby needs a dog. "
I smiled. She didn't.
The women continued, "May i suggest the humane society?"

Now...can you imagine if I walked up to the dog and allowed Olivia to pinch it and pull at it's fur? Then perhaps suggested "That dog needs a child. May I suggest the orphanage?"
Now, i'm not a dog person (since our dog was run over by the vet...no lie) but that would be weird, right?

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Bring out the dead...

I'm back, I'm alive, I have had the plague.
Olivia has been babysat by the Sprout channel for the last 5 days.
I drank so much Nyquil I thought that I lived in a pineapple under the sea.

For the record I am the only person in the world that didn't lose any weight with stomach flu.

The fury.

More soon...

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Eau de Toilet

I had been looking for a new scent. Yet, last week when my daughter sprayed the contents of her bottom all over the front of me – it’s fair to say that wasn’t what I was going for. I had finally become a mother. It was not that I was wearing my daughter’s poop on my chin, chest, pants, as a brooch no less – no, it was because my first thought was to smile at her and tell her that she was alright – it was okay and mummy would get her cleaned up in no time. Gag. In fact, it wasn’t until I had bathed and changed her, pausing only to strip my own clothes off, that I caught myself in the mirror and noticed that those new freckles were not new freckles at all...

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Ay, there's the rub...

I want a break. There. I've said it. It's out there. Not a Sandals resort type of break. Not even close - in fact, if the break i wanted was a holiday it would constitute a trip to Six Flags courtesy of Coca Cola cans...Thrifty and done in a day. 
Okay, so let's get the obvious out of the way, I do not have octuplets, I am not a single parent, my daughter is a dream and loves to sleep...so, that leaves me feeling worse. I do not need a break. I want a break. I'm looking at her now and she is beaming at me, flashing those two front teeth that decided to debut together. I'm almost deleting this post - but I won't because i promised to be honest - and this is a confessional, right? So, i confess - I'm 6 months in to being a mother, I'm absolutely fried and i want a break. Not to get clean, not to go shopping, not to wander lonely as a cloud but to curl up and close my eyes and just lie and think and sleep and dream for possibly an entire morning.  
I'm a sleeper, always have been. Never been an up and at 'em, which by default is supposed to make me a night owl. Nope. I thrive at around 4pm. That's it. I love sleep. Anyone that knows me will agree. When I used to go out clubbing (just typing that sounds strange - i went clubbing...?) there would usually be a search party sent out at round 11pm. Where's Paula? One quick trip to the ladies and a bang on a few stalls would find me fast asleep on the loo.  As a child, always so quick to up the stairs and do my homework...absolutely...and get a quick nap in. At one of my best friend's 30th birthday meal so lovingly put on at her family home in Ireland I excused myself after dinner and was later found asleep in her bed. (To be fair there was jet lag involved in that one). 
I love sleep. The first thing I think every morning is not "wowzers, I cannot wait for this day to begin" but I will calculate how long it will be until I can sleep again. This gives my body a light at the end of the tunnel as i pull myself reluctantly from that beautiful, warm spot. Before you castigate me for such sloth like behaviour and long to tell me that i don't know the meaning of the word tired - I know. I've always known.  Look, some people like to salsa dance, i like to sleep.
Anyway, you can imagine the effect of having a baby on my favorite pastime. Those first few weeks were brutal. I did however, take to heart that advice about sleeping everytime the baby sleeps. Yep. You bet I did. Yes. Yes. Yes. No, i will not pick up the house, stack the dishwasher, make the bed (what's the point?) while the baby naps...at least until 5 weeks in. My little love has, I believe, also inherited her mother's love of sleep - Thank You God - I was terrified she would be like Tom -he is one of those bizarre folk who actually gets up when the alarm sounds. I, on the other hand would always set my alarm 30 minutes before i had to get up so my first thought could be - oh lovely, another 30 minutes.
So...with my birthday approaching, what would I like? Perfume? Jewellery? Make up? Underwear? Yes, yes, yes yes but No. I'll tell you what i want, what i really, really want, I want several hours of sleep where i don't have one ear cocked, where my heart isn't always beating slightly faster than usual, where i can wake up and instead of sprinting to a crying babe whilst pulling my hair back in a scraggy ponytail, I can just lie there and think. I can stretch in bed and turn to the nice cool spot of the pillow. I can drool like only a heavy midday nap will allow. I can sleep in nothing because I won't have to be prepared for anything.

Ahh, easy, no?  Except this teething babe is also experiencing separation anxiety so she is currently attached to my hip. That's why we have hips, ladies. I get it now. I don't remember teething but I remember toothache and it hurts. Hurts as much as earache and cystitis both of which were more painful that childbirth. So, right now I don't know if i can soothe her but i know that being with mummy (or daddy) certainly helps. Yes, I'm tired, so tired that yesterday I fell asleep on the playmat when we were doing tummy time. It was 2 minutes but it was glorious. I am well aware that I have nothing to complain about - i always think of single mums that have to clean toilets at night while their baby sleeps and then work buttering bread in a dirty sandwich shop during the day only getting to see their loved ones at rare intermissions. That helps. (Incidentally, here's a good one - If you are ever cold just think of the people on Titanic that were in the water at the end. That one always helps me...)
I know that this too shall pass - next week could be a completely different story but being back on the day and night shift a la teething Olive is making me a bit loopy. I packed an anti fungal cream in the diaper bag the other day instead of teething gel. You see, I'm a liability! Listen to me trying to justify this - do I sound terrible? I want someone to take my baby away for a morning so I can nap and NOT my husband because the time that the three of us spend together is my most cherished part of the week. However, and here's the kicker...if anyone but Tom took my Olive anywhere without me my heart probably wouldn't rest, I wouldn't relax. So, what to do? Suck it up. It's all part of the job. Just another realization that there is no motherhood chip to download after giving birth. I somehow thought that my love of sleep would pass and it did for awhile. I had adrenaline to get me through but adrenaline can only get a girl so far. Besides, at six months in, I'm sure other new mums want to take a break to go to a yoga class or to a cookery club or something...maybe i should start a sleep club? Have members pay dues and send group emails about naps and mattresses...stuff like that just to make it more legit. Because in a strange sort of way, new mums wear their tiredness like badges of honor.  Listen to them in coffee shops or at the park ..."I'm still functioning on 30 minutes of sleep over 3 days - Really? i haven't slept all week." Somehow this superhuman ability to still be a wonder mum on zero sleep escaped me. And, you are somehow made to feel lazy if you are caught catching up on sleep during the day. Yet knitting an ill sized hat or experimenting with a recipe while your child sleeps is yet another feather in your cap. I love being a wife and mother but that will never be me, not yet anyway...
I do wonder if when she's in her teens and wants to sleep in on the weekends if I'll become like every other parent and insist that she get up, that she's wasting a beautiful day outside and I'll pull the curtains and open the window? I doubt it. Right now, that's my light at the end of the tunnel. I wake up and i think 16 years, Paula, you can do it. Just 15 and a half more years and you are golden. I'll probably encourage a post breakfast nap till they go to college. 
For now, I'll tell myself that I'll sleep when I'm dead...which incidentally for other members of my sleep club is strangely a comfort should we contract a deadly disease. I'm just saying...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


I'm scared of death - I'm scared of it happening to those I love. When I was a little girl I used to write letters to God when my mum would have to go away on business trips. 
Dear God, 
Please let my mum live. You can break my arm but please bring her home safe. 
Love Paula
My mum still has these notes. There were a few.

My mum had a heart attack at the weekend. My mum. My fit, gorgeous, funny, smart, sexy mum. Just writing it makes my heart hurt. Now, on the mend and out of hospital - I am just left wondering, how did I get here?
I turn 30 next week. 30 - far from old but a milestone nonetheless. A time to take stock. 
Married - check
Baby - check
Career - semi check
Debt - check

Ten years ago I was a granddaughter and a daughter. Now, I am a daughter and a mother. I'm not sure I qualify as a granddaughter without grandparents that are alive? Do I? Anyway, I can't help but feel like I'm moving up the chain, which means that our parents are too. 

I know that things don't always go in that order and everyday with the ones you love is a gift BUT very often you forget this and we get on with the mundane. Yes, life is short but more than that it just moves faster as you get older. I remember mourning Christmas as a child - I'd have to wait a WHOLE year for another one. Now, it's almost upon us and i still haven't used gift cards that I received last year. 

Anyway, I'm 3000 miles away from my mum and all the skyping in the world won't let me snuggle in the crook of her arm. 
So, let me say this...
Thank you. For stopping my tears when i tried to take a short cut to school and got stuck in the mud in a field. I can still remember you changing my dirty socks and putting fresh warm ones on. You pulled them right up. For teaching me to play netball. For buying me felt tip pens that changed color with a magic pen when I did my first play at Kingsmoor. For picking me up from every dance class, rehearsal, sports practice  - some of my favorite memories are of driving with you in that red ford escort convertible listening to the Bad album. For putting my school uniform on the radiator every night so I would have warm clothes. For flipping the mattress and changing the sheets when i would wet the bed in the middle of the night. You used to get into the fresh, cold sheets afterwards and we'd pull the covers over our heads and puff our breath to make it warm again. For trusting me at 23 to move to New York alone. For encouraging me every step of the way. 
I can't thank you enough, so I'll stop. I just hope that all of you is passed through me to Olive so I can raise a remarkable woman that is just like her Nana. 

Nana, ahhh, I miss my nan. My nan lived with us and she would drive me mad but, oh, how I loved her. Still do. She's been gone 12 years next month and I could still cry at the thought of her. On the day she died (of a heart attack - out of the blue does not come close )- she had asked me for a chocolate bar that I had been given for my birthday. It lay unopened in our kitchen. I said no. Can you believe that? I said no. I 'm not even going to justify it or give you my reasoning because there is no excuse. Less than 10 hours later I was trying to get her wedding rings off before the rigor mortis set in. The next time I saw her I put that Fruit and Nut bar in her coffin.  Far too late, but i like to think she enjoyed it in heaven. 
OK, so, all I'm saying is since losing the award for granddaughter of the year in 1997 I just remember to love on my friends and family that bit more. That's it. I know i say I love you a lot but if i say it to you, I probably mean it. 

Anyway, I'm so tired I know I'm rambling but I refuse to edit myself. I used to write diaries growing up but i stopped when i realized that i was writing them as though they were going to be read. I wasn't being entirely honest in them. So now i have ten years worth of diaries that are full of lies...weird...

I'm going to bed now and after checking in on Olive to make sure she is still breathing, I'm going to hold my husband tight and make sure he knows how loved he is. 
By the way, my old friend turned up yesterday. I told her I loved her all day long!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Are you there God, It's me Paula?

Women spend half their lives hoping to see blood in their knickers and the other half praying that they don't. From being a late bloomer who (excitedly) began bleeding at 14 to becoming like every other woman not ready to give up their selfish lives, I would anxiously await the arrival of backache, tummy ache, insecurity, clots the size of quarters...I'd moan but secretly smile. Ahh, something I can count on. Old faithful. Then when the decorators failed to arrive last year and I managed to pull my jaw up off the bathroom floor I spent 41 weeks praying that I would not see any blood in those knickers (well, the thong that became the knickers, that became the granny pants). 
It happened once during the pregnancy. I was about 23 weeks and was peeing for the 18th time that night and saw a tinge of something pinkish. A quick trip to the doctors the following morning and a thousand newly made promises to God en route -everything was fine. No more bleeding but 18 more weeks of praying every time I pulled down those knickers. 
Then, 5 weeks after Olivia was born an old friend greeted me. I'd missed her. I wanted her to visit every month until this fickle being changed her mind again. Until such a time I was determined to enjoy our time together. We were old friends. We went back a long way. I've seen her 5 times since, each time staying for no more than 4 days. Low maintenance. Just a 2 tylenol on the first day kind of a girl. 
She's usually punctual. I wonder what's keeping her...

Monday, August 17, 2009

One Fell Into The Cuckoo's Nest

Another day, another crazy. Today in downtown Portland it was like visiting the Twilight Zone. I walk there nearly every day but today the loons were out in force. Before I regale you with tales from scrag heaven, it is important that I issue the following disclaimers:

1) I just moved here from NYC. I know the smell of rotting human flesh. I have sat next to more smelly people, vagrants and general weirdos on the subway than you would believe. I have no problem with that.

2) I love Portland

However, deep breath...I have never come across more bizarre folk desperate to befriend you in one place at any one time in my life. Now, there are a few things that can bother me in life - people eating in elevators, Ann Curry, snakes and over familiarity in strangers. I don't mind a nod and a smile when I pass someone on the street but then move on, keep going, that's it. However, since pushing a stroller, all of a sudden everybody wants to talk to you, touch your baby, stand a bit too close, strike up conversation. Don't. Please. Don't.

It's always nice when an elderly lady sits opposite, smiles at your baby and then smiles at you - she may ask your child's age - but we quickly end the conversation with another smile and then I look down at Olivia and say something like "yes" or "you need a nap" just something...anything. What I am not interested in is a freak at Costco coming up to me while i stand in the meat aisle, asking me if this was my daughter and then asking if he could touch her feet. Two words came to mind and they weren't "why not?".  I was flustered and could only manage "Uh, no, they go in her mouth". This 20 something freak then stomped off before turning and scowling at me. Yes, that happened.

Today began with a man asking me if I wanted to take his seat when we were on the streetcar. This would have been nice except we were the only two on the bus, I was already seated, and there were about 25 other free seats. 

Me: No, thanks - I'm fine here. (I turned back to Olive.) 
Him: Are you sure? I don't want to be taking over the place. 

He starts to look into my stroller and then i can feel him staring into me, willing me to look over. I start singing to Olive and move away.  The streetcar fills up quickly - two travelers that stink to high heaven get on laden with baggage, they have tattoos, multiple piercings and are dressed in army surplus gear - I smile at them and then Olivia smiles at them. They ignore her and push past her stroller using the top of it as a walking stick. I immediately hate them. A rage burned in me because they did not smile at my happy daughter - I'm officially insane! I didn't plan to feel that way but it burned up inside me and if i had Matilda's superpowers then their piercings would have become terribly infected on the spot. Is it normal to feel this way? 

Then two young girls wearing short shorts and Ugg boots push into me. I apologize to them because I feel bad for my earlier thoughts and I have a bulky stroller that may have been in their way. They turn and give me a filthy look before dissolving into giggles. It's funny I didn't have ill thoughts towards them - i just envied their long, cellulite free, tanned legs and thought about what I must look like to them. 

I get off the streetcar early, a smell of wet laundry was starting to drift my way.  As I exit I am nearly run over by a man who is marching full throttle down the sidewalk. He looks over at me and yells in my face "Oregon sucks". 

I stop and wait to cross the road - I am behind a woman wearing pyjamas and black, fluffy slippers. She turns to see me and peers into Olivia's stroller (if she reaches in there, I will ram her). She smiles up at me and has so much yellow plaque on her teeth that i just want to get a knife and scrape it off. I return her smile and hurtle past. 

At the next crossing I stand next to a woman in business attire - I could actually feel myself relax...It's a weekday in a city there should be more of these sort to safeguard me. The woman in the suit turned to look down at Olive - as she looked up at me I realized it was a man, dressed as woman in a business suit. 

And so the day continued...the Rite Aid was full of strange people who would walk pigeon footed and constantly look as though they had lost something. Maybe they had. One customer told me that they sold Ensure and asked if i wanted to buy any. 

When I went to the bank I had the following exchange with the teller:
Him: Hi, how are you? (lyrical, slightly effeminate voice)
Me: Fine thanks. How are you?
Him: Feeling better now, thank you. I wasn't feeling so good earlier. I think I was hungry. I'm not sure. I ate something and I feel a little better, but it was pretty bad for a while. It was coming out of both ends.

His colleague then looked into my stroller and saw a baby dressed in pink, sucking on a pink pacifier with a pink and white blanket covering her feet:
Him: How old is your son?

I felt like a snob. I was wheeling her quickly past smokers, refused to smile back at unsavory looking folk. Good lord, i just used the word unsavory. Today marked another example of a departure from who i was. I used to pride myself on not judging people, smiling at everyone. Seriously, I used to temp as a receptionist and I was like a puppy - everytime anyone walked past me I would raise my head and beam. I would have whiplash by the end of the day. Now, i was like one of those sourpuss people that look like they've been stung by a bee. It's just that when I'm out with Olivia in busy surroundings i feel a bit like I'm wearing a black dress and I'm being asked to sit on a couch where there is dog hair. I'm not quite comfortable. I still worry that someone might reach in and grab her or knock me out of the way and run off with her in the stroller. I have fantasies about this sort of thing and see me beating people down and being stabbed and shot countless times just so Olivia is safe. I have turned into a mother lion. I would rather have my limbs ripped off one by one than see my daughter hurt or in pain. Before you wonder...Yes, I am still taking my meds. 

However, here's me going on about other people, I am not one to talk. I am quite sure that there were women steering their strollers away from me. I caught sight of myself today and would like to offer the following advice...always bend your elbows slightly and straighten your back when pushing your stroller. A bent back and straight arms makes you look decidedly common - an American might even say white trash...I looked like a was one of those folks pushing a cart full of cans.  My hair was pulled back with a tuft popping up like Mr. Majeeka from where Olivia had grabbed it earlier. I had sweat patches and my pants had stains on them. I had no makeup on and knew that with the sun shining on my face - my fair hair on my upper lip was screaming to be waxed. No wonder these loonies were talking to me...

As I waited for the streetcar on my way home a very sweet looking, elderly, Asian lady came and sat on the bench next to me...a little too close but I smiled and budged up to the very end. She had grandchildren she told me and in her broken English she also informed me that she goes to the gym every afternoon when the stock markets close. Good for you, i said. She asked what building I lived in. I asked her where she lived. All was very pleasant, normal, civil. Then, as we saw the streetcar approach, she reached into the stroller and stroked my daughter's hand before touching her teething toy and her cheek. Before I could rip off her Titleist visor and throw it in dog poop, she told me, it's OK, i wash my hands. Oh fine, I wanted to say, why don't you just stick your finger in her mouth and feel her tooth coming through?

I'm missing New York today - at least the crazies there tend to have a protocol. It's like a code of ethics. If you walked quickly enough and avoided eye contact you were left alone. If you said that you didn't have money they wished you a good day. Today a guy came up to me and actually bothered to make up an excuse that he needed change for his car. He didn't have shoes but apparently was short a quarter for the pay and display. I obliged hoping that he had an imaginary car, at least. 

This is not some Cosby show episode with a heart warming moral about not judging a book by it's cover. I mean it could be...if you like.  I'm just sharing my day. That all really happened. Today. 

As a final treat I would like to share that I saw two penises today and neither belonged to my husband.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Nature is my Kryptonite

I went to the zoo this week which is remarkable considering I hate nature. It's not that I'm one of those women that wears inappropriate clothes which makes outdoorsy stuff difficult. It's just that I believe Michael Jackson had it right when he slept in an oxygen chamber. Clean, fresh air...ahhh. The truth is that i grew up on a farm. I've had my share of the stink of ammonia. The thought of treading in poop begs only one question "why?" However, in observance of my new role as mum - i realized that this is something that I will be expected to do. Mums go to the zoo - we enjoy these things, right? I'm going to get a warm, gooey feeling when i step through that door and feel straw and gravel under my feet. It's just one of those mum things. I already have the talking to a stroller down to a fine art and I am working on striking up conversation with complete strangers...which incidentally drives me mad. Why is it that as soon as you have a baby people start suggesting that you join groups to meet other moms, or they'll offer to put you in touch with their other friend who has children? As though we are suddenly loners that have been abandoned by every other friend we ever had. I am constantly asked whether I have met any other new mums recently?  All a bit weird to me. If I was on my lunch break in Manhattan and saw another woman eating her lunch, minding her own business, perhaps busy reading a book, I would never go up to her and randomly ask what was in her sandwich? Yet, somehow I am now encouraged to wander up to another lady with a stroller, smile, peer in at the baby and first comment that he/she is cute before asking, "how old?" Then we launch into a voracious conversation regarding sleeping habits, feeding habits, first child? second child? The pace is remarkable almost as if any break in the conversation would dawn the realization that we have nothing in common except having birthed these babies. Then one of our children gets fussy and we quickly excuse ourselves citing that said fussy child is either hungry or tired (because heaven forbid babies cry) we go home smiling, give ourselves a pat on the back and tick a box in the new mum questionnaire - YES, met other woman today. Something to tell husband at the end of the day. 
Well, if ever i was desperate to meet other mums I have discovered that a trip to the zoo will do the trick. Either that or swear you off children forever. Good lord - never in my life have i seen so many miserable women in one place at any one time. Literally toting children in any which way. In wagons, ergos, bjorns, strollers, prams, umbrella things, on shoulders, in stomachs. There was so much estrogen in the air my ovaries were aching. As we waded through these jaded faces i was thinking two things. Firstly, I shouldn't be so hard on these women. I have only one child and it is tough. Many of these parents are holding one, shooing another and pushing a third - It's August and the summer holidays can be a long time for parents to fill days with activities. Secondly, did i have any wine chilling in the fridge at home? 
Now, luckily I went with a mum of two, a pro and I was able to learn the tricks of the trade. I get it - it's all about "fastrack". You get a route, hit a few hot spots. Get in, get out. Stimulation. Stimulation. Chardonnay.
First up, the great northwest - a chance to see some bears. Lovely. What did i see? Nothing. I peered through barbed wire into some forestry and looked for something. Waited. Nothing. All around me are hopping children pressing interactive buttons and i just smell poop. Baby poop, human poop, bear poop, just poop. Finally, high up on Walton Mountain I am told a bear looms. I look up and see what can only be described as a man in a gorilla suit with his back to us. I don't buy it. 
Next up, polar bears - brilliant. I've always felt bad for polar bears - I've actually always just wanted to see them have a good wash. I hate that at the bottom of their legs and bottom area it is dirty brown. I'm sure that it can't be like that in the arctic. Don't bother to correct me if I am wrong - i am honestly not remotely interested. Nevertheless, there they are drugged up to the hilt...they are the saddest creatures. They are just on a loop. Front crawl, hit the wall, somersault, back crawl, somersault, repeat. I'm tempted to suggest that they weren't real either. Beginning to think the place is a racket.
Petting zoo? No, thanks. Reptile land? Negatori
Still waiting for that warm feeling... 
To be fair, Olivia slept through much of the jaunt.  I dutifully lifted her out in front of the elephant. I had picked out a onesie with an elephant on it so spent a good 3 minutes trying to get her to understand her stylista fashion statement. I tilted the stroller so she could see the ducks (why were they at the zoo?) and quacked like we do at Old McDonald whilst reminding her that she plays with ducks in the bath. I was desperate to show her a real life Sophie, but giraffes did not make the "fastrack" route. For the record, Sophie is back - on probation...but back. Anyway, I'm telling you all these wonderful stimulating things that I did for my dozing 5 month old. Please note, I was smiling too, constantly. Yet, all i really want to confess is throughout the whole walk I was just hankering for a fat glass of something alcoholic - something with umbrellas or flames. Something!  
As I perched on a picnic bench drinking a diet coke (of course having packed everything but lunch for myself )-I glanced around and watched children shuffling away from their parents-Parents grimly getting up for the umpteenth time to bring them back to where they should sit and finish their lunch.  Child then stands picking holes in apple whilst wetting the ground with juice. Sheer exasperation worn on parents' faces. I am overcome by the smell of baby wipes and apple juice. It was like an out of body experience. Finally...an explosion inside my head! Where the heck was I? Who on earth had i become? What was this land? I hate zoos and nature and wood chippings and petting zoos and chipper camp counsellors and smelly poop caves. Who am I and where was the person that had woken up in my bed this morning? I looked down and I was even dressed practically. I was wearing cargo pants, trainers, a cardigan.  I almost sobbed as I became painfully aware that I was wearing big knickers. Good lord, help me!
To avoid a mental breakdown, i kind of let out a guffaw and literally said a little bit too loudly, "Err, is this real?" Just as i braced myself to be kicked out of mummy middle earth, my friend looked at me and smiled. She knew what i felt. That smile said it all. She had once been immune to this ridiculous caging of children and animals. And then like the school bell at the end of the day she said, " I know, you'd think they'd have a bar". Handel's Messiah ripped through my soul - Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!
I am not alone. There are more like me. The truth is out there.
It wasn't the wine, or even the dirty martini (and when i say dirty I mean like the gutter) that i had begun to fantasise about - it was some version of a life where i still had full control- an extremity to combat what i was experiencing in the zoo. Now, if we had been in a water park - this would not have happened, give me a log flume any day...but you have to understand I'm just not a zoo girl. I would rather be a flower in the attic than live like Tarzan...and yes, i realize the sibling implication with that reference.  
I then realized that these parents were just like me - just further down the line. With three children this was probably the 10th time they had been there - perhaps the third time this summer break - I hope they get reward points or a parking spot near the entrance or something... Something...surely? So, am I so dreadful? A terrible mother? Are there more of us that simply do things to tick the mummy box but really dread them? A fraud? Perhaps. I wish it were otherwise. I wish the thought of seeing ducks and geese and smelling hay and straw filled me with joy...but it doesn't. I grew up skidding in hen poop. My weekends were spent cleaning the geese hut, gathering eggs, lighting bonfires, getting the wood for the fire in a spider, rat and snake infested shack. I've paid my dues, people!
So, I'll tell you when i won't be fraudulent, Olivia. When it comes to games - I'll sit in and play board games and cards all day long. I won't cheat either...at least not so the game ends early. I promise that I will read to you and with you for as long as you like. I'll do all the character voices. I probably won't be one of those mums that makes costumes for the school plays but I'll run your lines with you as often as you like. I doubt I'll bake cookies or donate homemade cakes but I'll practice sports with you. I will go on every fairground ride and every waterslide even though I won't go hiking where there might be snakes.  I may not know the call of a wood pigeon or but I will play a mean game of Boggle.
It makes me realize what an incredible mother I have because i cannot think of one of those things that she was incapable of or ever failed to do with me. Yet, i now know that she hated fairground rides, was also nervous of the rat wood shack and she was not a game girl...but she did it and with the same enthusiasm as those things that she did love.
So, i suppose that I can calm my neurosis this week knowing that becoming a mum isn't like installing an application on my iPhone. It's not that simple and we are not all programmed the same. I hadn't short circuited or wasn't a faulty model. Mums are superheroes of sorts and even though sometimes our alter ego would rather be tripping the light fantastic there is nothing like a pair of big knickers to remind us that we are mummies...superhero mummies that can do or at least fake anything. Peter Parker realized that "with great power comes great responsibility". Paula Burton has realized that "with great responsibility comes great worry and great worry deserves great wine".

Friday, July 31, 2009

Identity Crisis

Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, there was a woman named Paula Burton who used to shave her legs, dry her hair and was even known on occasion to brush her teeth. These days the only thing i brush is my leg hair. Seriously, I'm looking down at so much designer stubble I feel like I'm wearing George Michael on my legs. Showers used to mean pampering, lathering, shampoo and conditioning. Now I just get wet. And baths...well, i thought I'd sneak one in and have a bath with Olive. Nothing finer than a tepid bath where the water line reaches your hips. Nope, things have definitely changed. I love the way that people excuse the size of your bum and thighs with comments like, "you just had a baby". I LOVE IT! But, why doesn't this extend to all aspects of motherhood? Just as i don't have time to exercise, i don't have time to wash. When i blurt out " I stink" or " gosh, when did i last brush my teeth?" why don't people feign that same courtesy and remind me that i just had a baby. Not smile and inch away or tell me i must make time for myself! Pah!
If it was just me and Olive I would happily allow her spit up to ferment between my cleavage but in order to remain married I am told this gives me incentive to "make an effort". Just like the old days when the waxing fairy would come in the night. Sigh. When i found time to floss the other night (prompted by said husband who was flossing alongside me) I found food that i couldn't remember eating. I looked in the mirror and wistfully remembered days where i would have time to veet and whitestrip. I wondered if my boobs would ever fit in a bra from Victoria's Secret again? Would I ever be one of those wives that is all dressed up with makeup and straight hair that wears cardigans with little buttons that never really fit in the holes from J Crew? I never expected to be this person so can i expect to be that person? Shudder.
A couple of months after the baby arrived people started offering to babysit insisting that you and husband need some quality time - a date. I had done the same thing to friends in the past. Resisting the immediate urge to tell them that we don't need quality time, just me. Please give me an hour to wash, no, to sleep - both. I could do both in an hour. 60 minutes is a lifetime. I don't say this however, i just thank them and have every intention of taking them up on their offer...except I don't ...because I'm terrified that my daughter will become hysterical when she realizes that I am not there and i will have emotionally scarred her for life. I never thought i would be this mum...I thought I would be so relaxed and cool about everything but it turns out that I'm nuts. I thought the same about being pregnant - i thought I'd be all European and enjoy wine and cheese on street corners in floaty dresses not flomp around in sweats panicking about the damage that one sip of red wine could cause. You can have the best of intentions but I'm quickly learning that all bets are off. I only pray that I'm never that parent that thinks it is okay for their child to run around a restaurant, squawking and yapping at other diners. Dear God, please don't let me become some freak that thinks that your child expressing themselves in any manner is a wonderful thing. Amen
So...this week I received a call offering me an audition. My first post baby audition. Thud. When i confirmed the appointment the night before, i quickly realized the terrifying consequences of my actions. I will need to shower. I will need to find something in my wardrobe that will fit me and not make me look like I am 20lbs heavier than my resume states. And then a couple of biggies...what will i do with my daughter? And, how will i get there? I chastised myself for agreeing to do this. Why? Why? Why? I had enough to do without adding this into the mix. Okay...I am woman. I am problem solver. I can do this. If i can squeeze that little monkey out, I can do this. I thought back to 80's movies with strong women with big hair and with the music to Working Girl running through my head i knew I could come through this.
I have a friend in Portland...okay, i have a couple. Well, they are Tom's friends but they have been nice enough to befriend me. They are wonderful and so lovely that i think if we were Mormons I would like them to be my sister wives. Anyhow, said wonderful friend agrees to take me to my audition and watch Olivia in the car whilst I pop in and pretend to be someone that i used to be pretending to be something that I'm not. Still with me? Let me back up...The day began at a leisurely 7am. I feed Olivia, snuggle her, change her and put her in the Even Flo exersaucer (brilliant) This will buy me 10-12 minutes. I pour a coffee (programmed the night before - brilliant) and run to the shower. Throw myself in. Wash hair ( that is now dropping out at an alarming rate - nobody warned me about this post-partum hair loss treat), condition hair. Lather legs, shave armpits, shave legs...manage to blunt a razor, wash face. Rinse hair. Pull said hair out of butt crack - I'm telling you, I'm losing so much hair - it's like a small child's wig that i remove each day. Hop out. Run into other room to check on Olive making sure that she doesn't see me. Run back. Deodorant on. Moisturize legs and arms realizing how many hairs i missed on legs - faintly hear Careless Whisper...block it out with Carly Simon. Moisturize face. Rub hair with towel. Down coffee. Pull on undies, shorts and T shirt. Run back into other room, sing They're Changing Guard at Buckingham Palace whilst marching like a loon. Get a giggle. Run back to bathroom - apply makeup. Breathe. Get Olivia - bring her into the bedroom while i try and find something that will give the impression of a BBC news reporter. I am woman. I am strong. Find a dress that works from my Goldman days when i was first pregnant. It's black. Of course. Get some gripper knickers out. Put dress on then realize that chances of keeping it clean before we head out the door are slim to none. Back in shorts and T shirt. Dry hair whilst trying to sing above noise to amuse Olivia. Brush my balding locks. Spray perfume, run in and out of it. Grab lip gloss. Grab Olivia. Go. Rehearse lines in elevator. Meet said amazing friend. Load up baby. Follow mapquest directions to some random place and run in the door. Breathe. As i sit and wait to go in, i am aware of several things. I am clean. I smell good. I have left Olivia with someone i have met 4 times. I forgot to brush my teeth.
The rest of the day I was on a tremendous high. Some guy in a coffee shop asked me if i knew i looked like Debra Messing. I spent a delicious afternoon rolling with Olivia. Then we napped holding hands on the bed. I was just about to pour myself a congratulatory glass of white wine when i got a call asking me to go back for a 2nd audition. Thud. How the heck was i supposed to do this twice? I tried to picture Melanie Griffith on the Staten Island Ferry but just kept seeing Sinead O'Connor crying in the Nothing Compares To You video. Hmm, Okay... sister wives were out of commission - not even i was that rude. MIL was still out of town. Started to sweat. Heavily. Who do i know? Who can i call? Finally, our incredible niece came to the rescue offering to pick me up on her way back from work. However, on this day of firsts, it was also 107 degrees outside and i couldn't take Olivia in a car without air conditioning no matter how much mama needed a new pair of shoes. When said niece arrived, I grabbed her car keys, kissed her and told her I would back as soon as i could. Olivia had just eaten and was in her exersaucer. All i asked was that she kept Sophie the deadly giraffe out of commission. I didn't say goodbye to Olivia, didn't stop to think, knowing that if i thought this through I wouldn't go. I hopped in the car and tried to remember how to drive. The rest is history. I came home that evening on a tremendous high. I had managed to smell good and abandon my daughter in one day. No babysteps for me.  I felt like Shania Twain in leopard print.
The truth is that like many mums that go back to work it must be incredibly difficult. I had but a taste of it today and it was hard. I had to remind myself that I have no memory of that age so what I'm feeling is about me not her. I get tremendous joy from being with Olivia each day and i realize just how blessed I am to have this time in my life to be with her but what did today tell me? That I'm still Paula Burton underneath being mummy Bain. That becoming a mum didn't cancel out my other life and best of all i can be both at the same time or at least in the same day? I think so. The lines on these identities were smudged and before today i had been unsure that that could become a reality. I left Olivia smiling and returned to a still happy baby. So far I see no evidence of any emotional scarring...
So, what's the next step? Well, the sky's the limit...We have a happy baby and a clean and happy mummy. I also have a date with my husband this evening and while my breasts may not fit in Victoria's Secret bras any longer, my butt still happily hangs out of their knickers...with imagery such as that you can bet I'll have a happy husband...;)

And...would you believe, i ended up booking the job?!