This is a controversial position (!?), but I explore it on What’s Up Moms.
writer, editor, teacher
This is a controversial position (!?), but I explore it on What’s Up Moms.
The jealousy peaked when the second round of pregnancy announcements started to roll in. By then my daughter was 2 and I was 37, but neither my husband nor I had broached the subject of a second child. Instead, my tactics were cheap, comments lobbed at inopportune moments: I mentioned my (old) age and boy names I liked, and reminded him that we had to “get it done” before we left Europe, our temporary (family-friendly) home. When I got salmonella poisoning from eating bad chicken, I secretly hoped my symptoms meant I was pregnant. My husband prayed they didn’t.
Our avoidance of the discussion, followed by our inability to agree on trying for another, was heartbreaking. It seemed to symbolize some fundamental rift in our marriage: Almost everyone we knew had — or was trying for — more than one child. Why couldn’t we handle it, too?
I wrote this whopper for The Cut. Please read on here.
It’s October! Which means that two years ago (!), right around this time, I
thought I had the stomach flu found out that I was pregnant. It was a pretty miserable miraculous time; I felt very confused about the fact that I wasn’t supposed to share the news until I hit 12 or 13 weeks, when the pregnancy was deemed “viable.” So between watching serial episodes of The Good Wife trying to teach my students without puking, I wrote about it.
This week, the Archipelago on Medium published my essay, I’m Pregnant. So Why Can’t I Tell You? (How’s that for a direct title?) This is a subject that people have wildly differing views about (SHARE! DON’T SHARE!). The discussion about it out there in the cyber world is already mind-blowing.
(I e specially love the comments made by people who clearly don’t read very closely.) I’m always curious to hear what you think. xo An adorable photo of the baby’s butt My new essay about the (rather difficult) first year of motherhood made it into my beloved Brain, Child Magazine. I’ve loved this smart publication ever since I read Cheryl Strayed’s lovely piece about trying to finish her book, Torch, after her son’s birth. (Now that I have not finished my book, I am in even more awe that she managed to do it.)
I kind of hoped that they’d print the above photo along with the piece, but they couldn’t because look at
how greasy my hair looks that weird Austrian dude photobombing us. (The babe was about two weeks old in that shot; I’m not kissing a lump of fabric.) Click here to read the new piece and see the baby’s aforementioned strawberry backside. It is really the sweetest thing. (As of this writing, it has an astonishing 1,000+ likes on Facebook. Clearly my mother has liked it many, many times I am not the only one who found this year hard!)
PS: If you’d like to read my last essay about motherhood — on the myth of the instant family, on The Toast — click here!
It’s raining today in Vienna. What in the world does one do with a baby when it’s raining? I basically let her
eat bandaids tear the bathroom apart because we’ve been trapped inside since 7am.
In totally non-bandaid-related news, months and months ago, I made some notes on my iPhone while my daughter slept in her stroller
after I had walked the entire city of Vienna. I was sick of feeling like the only person who hadn’t had a picture-perfect transition to family life; that something was off kilter. When I had more than 45 minutes at a stretch to sit down at the computer, these notes eventually evolved into an essay about the myth of the instant family — or the difficulty of becoming three.
I am so, so pleased that the ladies at The Toast published it last week. You can read it by clicking here. The response has been overwhelming — so, so many people go through this, it turns out! — and I’d love to hear from even more of you.
This is how most mornings go around here these days: The baby wakes up between
let’s be honest, one never knows 6 a.m. and 7 a.m.. We play for a few hours and then we she goes back down for a nap.
The truth is that now that she’s sleeping better (every parent will tell you that now that I’ve written this down, she will
proceed to TORTURE US FOR THE FORESEEABLE FUTURE continue to do so), I have the energy to take a shower and watch American Idol write while she sleeps.
The other day, while she napped, I decided to send out some essays, and they were quickly picked up by two literary sites I like very, very much.
I’d be absolutely delighted if you
shared them with everyone you know read them:
Have a lovely weekend.
When I was 26, I taught prenatal yoga. I knew absolutely nothing about babies or pregnancy, but I was already teaching yoga, my older sister was pregnant, and I was eager to channel my interest and excitement about my sister’s impending arrival into my life. The thought of having my own was not even on my radar, so instead I took a weekend-long prenatal teacher training. In three days I was certified, so I waltzed into a room full of pregnant ladies and proceeded to tell them what to do.
They were very kind to me, these women who came week after week for close to six months, folding themselves into odd positions I thought—I had been told—were good for them. The truth was that I had absolutely zero understanding of how moving through a sun salutation felt for someone who could smell the fries from the deli six floors down and across the street, or for someone with a foot lodged under her rib. We balanced and OMed and practiced bizarre “labor-simulating” exercises, in which the women squatted against the wall and, in yoga speak, I encouraged them to breathe through the sensation for a full minute (the length of a contraction, I had read). No one ever reported back about whether these exercises were, in the heat of the moment, of any help at all.
I loved teaching these classes, not so much because I wanted to be one of them but because these women were on the precipice of something huge and scary and wonderful and unknown with an inevitable ending and beginning—and I wasn’t. I didn’t need to worry about my water breaking on the subway, or of a long, difficult birth, or of an emergency C-Section. I certainly didn’t struggle through downward dog, unable to see my own feet, pondering the sleep deprivation ahead. Sore nipples and colic and an altered relationship with my husband never crossed my mind (mostly because the idea of having a husband at all was unfathomable).
All of this meant that I could sit with my legs folded in lotus and my hands pressed together at my heart, and with total unfounded assuredness, tell these women who were inching closer to the edge of the diving board that they were strong and capable and could handle it all.
And then I could leap up in my little body—all mine and unchanging!—and go on with my day.
Of course there invariably came a morning when someone wouldn’t show up. And then wouldn’t show up again. And again. And we all knew why: She was having her baby. How or when or who had appeared we didn’t know, and given that this was before the age of social networking and mass emails, we rarely found out. The silence around the birth was the most remarkable part. After months spent together, watching each other’s bodies morph week by week, exchanging complaints and tips, cultivating a community that was built exclusively on this common, I’m-so-glad-to-not-be-going-through-this-alone, you-have-that-problem-too? experience, one at a time, they would step off the precipice—on their own—and never come back.
Obviously they didn’t come back because this was a prenatal class, so they no longer belonged, but something much more profound had happened: Most of them were first-time mothers, so they no longer belonged in their old lives either. They had crossed over into another reality in which their lives—as everyone says but is utterly incomprehensible before it happens—were no longer theirs alone.
Nine years later, I am on that precipice, and although I know more now than I did then about everything from the stages of labor to the dangers of Mastitis, the extent of this change makes no more cognitive sense to me now than it did then.
Yes, I have a wonderful husband and the pregnancy was planned. We have a car seat (but no car) and clean baby clothes folded in drawers and lots of friends with kids who are offering advice. My parents are here, cooking and freezing meals. I have spent months reading Ina May Gaskin and Naomi Wolf and Rachel Cusk and making choices—choices my mother maintains do, despite the fact that I claim to not know what I’m doing, add up to some kind of parenting philosophy already—but I do not think there is any possible way to wrap my head around the fact that a person (a person!) will come out of my body and the world I know will end and another one will immediately, indelibly begin. How completely the former will feel wiped out, we can’t yet know, but I see my friends waving at me from across the precipice, laughing and knowing and waiting for me to say, “Oh, now I see.”
Right now I see nothing. Or rather I see a whole lot of fleeting, made-up images that may or may not correspond to reality.
And more than that: the (perhaps arduous, perhaps joyous, perhaps terrifying) journey to the baby’s arrival—what my body is about to go through, and when—is a total, enormous blank. It is a story that will one day mean everything to me and my husband, but which no one yet knows. Never have I both wanted and not wanted to know a story more badly.
What does one do at
1,000 38+ weeks pregnant? This is an honest question. I am sure I am doing something wrong. My list includes:
Obviously I’m conflicted. Here in Austria, most women go on
you’re too huge and tired to work anyway so go home Mutterschutz at 32 weeks. This means they are legally obligated to stop working — so obligated, in fact, that a friend had her phone and email shut down by the company she works for on her last day. On a scale of Austria to America, this is a wonderful thing.
To be honest, however, I’m not exactly sure what the time is for
(who am I kidding? It’s for watching Homeland) but it is certainly a much-appreciated gesture that acknowledges you’d rather not go into labor at work how much your life has already changed, with a nod toward the fact that it’s about to change a hell of a lot more. In other words, you might want to spend the next two months sleeping preparing for it.
Have I mentioned that you get paid while on this little “break”?
This is so un-American it almost makes me
never want to go home uncomfortable. These days I don’t have a fulltime job, so I don’t get paid to buy a stroller this little Austrian benefit doesn’t really apply to me. But I’ve tried to go native, at least psychologically speaking.
But it is harder than I imagined to do nothing — or rather, to accept that there is this reprieve, this break, in which you are meant to prepare for the biggest change of your life. In which you are meant to prepare by doing less. By slowing down. By putting your pregnancy, your impending motherhood, before everything else. Any mother in the world would say to me — and many of my own friends have said — WATCH TV. SLEEP IN. REALLY. DO NOTHING. LET YOURSELF OFF THE HOOK. And yet, to misquote Colum McCann, the great world keeps on spinning, whether you’re pregnant or not. My husband goes to work every day, as he did last month and last year, and I have the nagging feeling that I should be doing the same (because back home I probably would be doing the same).
But his mind hasn’t left the building He keeps writing and reading and pushing himself to get as much done before the baby comes, while I take a guilt-filled nap every afternoon.
I know that soon a leisurely day in bed will no longer be possible — but what happens next is so utterly unimaginable that it’s almost comical. I’m not even sure what metaphor would apply here. When else are you so completely on the precipice of something so hugely unknown and life-altering in so many ways? When you have to live with the mystery and wonder and instability and joy of not knowing when this will happen, and how, and who will come out the other end, and what life will look like afterwards? I keep thinking of something Cheryl Strayed wrote as Sugar about the birth of her first child: “It was a penetrating, relentless, unalterable thing, to be his mother, my life ending and beginning at once.”
What does it feel like to have your life begin and end at once?
But I will let you know.
People, we have reached the stage where everyone here in Vienna is asking me,
“Haven’t you had the baby yet?” “Have you started drinking the tea?”
To which I reply, of course,
“40 weeks is ACTUALLY TEN MONTHS. IT’S A VERY, VERY LONG TIME.” “What tea?”
Apparently once you hit 34 weeks, it is customary to start drinking mysterious teas that you must go to a special Apotheke to get. These aren’t of the standard raspberry leaf variety that you can pick up at any health food store and have been put together by, say, Lipton. You also can’t get it at a BIPA, which is akin to a CVS. From what I can gather — which, let’s be honest, is usually not the whole story — these are special concoctions made on the spot for you by a pharmacist/magician in an off-limits back room. My midwives gave me a whole booklet of items to ask for.
I t took me three hours of translate the seven-page leaflet and includes a recipe for a power bar I am meant to eat while half-clothed and s creaming my head off in labor.
I first heard about these teas from the women in my lovely
Pregnant-and-Uncomfortable Ex-Pat-Ladies Weekly Bitch Fest Mom’s Group — a lifesaver, really, so far from home — since most of them are due a few weeks before me. Sitting around at a juice bar staring in jealousy at the ladies sucking on fresh Apple/Mango/Celery Drinks drinking water (because of my borderline Gestational Diabetes diet I can drink nothing else), I would hear them ask over and over again, “Are you drinking the tea?” and also, “Have you started acupuncture?”
In New York, I was addicted to acupuncture — in fact, I had the best acupuncturist ever — but I have yet to try it here,
mostly because I am terrified of letting someone I can barely say hello to stick a needle in my ass/forehead/armpit. Back home, if you were to tell your O.B. that you were doing acupuncture to induce labor, the doctor would probably laugh at you might humor you.
Here it is standard practice at the end of pregnancy. In fact, you actually do it at the hospital.
Let me tell you what else is standard practice:
This massage oil goes you know where.
According to my midwife — who got into a squat right in her office and demonstrated the technique for me — this makes labor easier because you’re all…oiled up. She also said that starting at 34 weeks, I could do it with Olive Oil.
There are so many reasons I am happy to be giving birth in Europe
even though the Austrians won’t give the baby citizenship and apparently the nurses in maternity wards give newborns fennel tea — FENNEL TEA!!!: A midwife-centered birthing culture, Kindergelt (a monthly allowance for each kid), free health insurance, a law that makes women stop working up to two months before the baby is born, and a standard one-year-long paid maternity (or paternity) leave. But mostly for these hilarious moments. How often does someone tell you, with a totally straight face, to get your husband to massage olive oil up there?
PS: I realize I’ve been woefully bad about updating you on the pregnancy. This is out of
sheer laziness wanting to keep some things off the interwebs. If you’re feeling like the last time you checked, I wasn’t pregnant at all, here are two posts to get you up to date: Number One and Number Two. I forgot this blog existed I’ve been so absent! I’m so sorry. Mea culpa. Je m’excuse. I’ve missed you.
I can explain. I swear. I’ve been
doing absolutely nothing very busy.
Also, I’ve been
unfaithful writing for another blog. You can read the whole explanation for my absence here.
Now that this news is out in the world, I’ll be
puking without shame writing more about it.
I’ve been so touched by the comments on the site and would love to hear from you, too.