So how on earth can I bring a child into the world, knowing that such sorrow lies ahead, that it is such a large part of what it means to be human?
I’m not sure. That’s my answer: I’m not sure.
— Anne LaMotte, Goddess of All Things True and Real
It’s the middle of November and the sky is grey and spitting chilly mists today and I’m feeling every creak in my bones. I wake up 6 times a night to pee and no matter that I’m not even that big yet, it’s a chore to twist my heavier body and flop my legs over the edge of the bed onto the hardwood floor, narrowly missing my dog who sleeps down next to us, slamming my right heel on the ground with a sharp pain. I wince a bit, get my other leg untangled from Jamey and the duvet, and a charley horse in that calf starts to murmur. I’m balancing on one foot that won’t bend while reaching back to emergency massage this cramp out of my calf, already sore from the one the other night. I don’t want to wake up my dog. I don’t want to wake up Jamey. I just want to pee. So I hobble like a 90 year old to the bathroom, cursing the day we decided to do this crazy thing called ‘Having A Baby’. He’s back in bed, sleeping soundly, no foot pain, no extra 20 pounds. His part in this whole thing was fairly simple (so far). Pretty much, he did what any man knows how to do (and practices regularly) from the age of 14. For me, the commitment is holistic. Physical. Very very physical. As it is for all mothers. But there’s a special place for those of us in our late 40’s with late 40’s bodies concocting hands and feet and brains and inside our bellies while our aging joints ache with arthritis.
I am not complaining. I swear. I’m enjoying this ride immensely. Except at 3am when I have to pee and my feet remind me that we will be wearing orthodics and flat shoes for a long time to come.
This was not on my bucket list. Having a baby. At all. Sure, I baby-sat for spare change when I was in high school because that was what girls like me – Girl Scouts, Catholic Girls, Good Girls – did on weekends. I hated it. I’ll be honest. I didn’t mind the money, for sure, nor the gig (refrigerators packed with all the food my health-food-loving Mom wouldn’t have in ours), but I wanted to be left alone in a borrowed home to read or watch TV. I didn’t want to play with some bratty 8 year old who would argue their bedtime. I wanted to scope out Showtime late shows on my neighbors’ cable offering because we were too cheap to have cable. I certainly didn’t like babies and they didn’t seem to like me. Too many liquids coming out from top to bottom. This didn’t change much as I grew up. One of my best friends in college couldn’t wait to get married and have kids. She was wicked smart, writing a thesis in French, but she was a nurturer and wanted a house full of snotty babies. I dreamt of lovers, not husbands, fancied myself a bohemian of the Edna St. Vincent Millay sort (less aristocratic and less rhyme-y). I wanted great academic acclaim, or to write a groundbreaking play or to work with Meredith Monk in the avant-garde edges of choral music. I wanted to live in Greenwich Village or a loft in SoHo and make love all night to a painter-poet-playwright and drink wine and talk about Big Ideas. In short, I had no idea what I wanted to do. But in my large, feminist, early 20 something dreams, I was alone and independent, I drank alone in bars and scribbled on napkins, and there were no diapers to change.
My sister got married and had a baby and, although I loved that baby so much that I could have spent hours rocking her in the bathtub smelling her baby smell, cooing at her until her voice matched mine and I could swear she and I were sharing a secret aunt-goddaughter language – I still didn’t want my own. First of all, I was an artist with three dayjobs, living rent to rent, without any savings, eating Ramen noodles. I was dabbling, I was restless, I was unravelling. I didn’t commit to anything; instead, I tried everything and could fool myself (and sometimes others) that I was pretty good until I got bored and moved onto the next Thing. Acting. Grad School applications for Comp Lit programs. Ethnomusicology. Playwrighting. Auditioning for Real MFA Acting programs, like Yale and Julliard, to save myself from the the more-affordable (and less rigorous) one I got into that didn’t provide a Masters degree at the end, but took your money and gave you a Conservatory Diploma that is worth about the cost of a subway token. I was no genius at anything. I studied the craft of playing the part. Of an artist. Of a girlfriend. Of a wife. Of a friend. I wasn’t truly any of those things in my 20’s. Or in my 30’s. I spent my 20’s sitting in West and East Village cafes like Writers & Anglers and Café 9, writing my angst into journals until the prose turned to poetry turned to song lyrics turned into an artistic calling that turned into an accidental career. I spent my 30’s careening between acting in no-pay non-equity Way-The-Hell-Off-Broadway plays and playing small folk clubs downtown NYC, closing down bars with my fellow bohemians, leaving my first husband home as I’d lie about where I was spending the night and stumble in the next day like a co-ed on a walk of shame. I hadn’t found my feet yet. Nor my voice, nor any semblance of truth or direction. When I finally did find something authentic, it was at the bottom of a long fall, in a spectacularly quiet landing, in the deep loneliness of my own rented home in a far southern town from where I began, with the same bottle of wine at 3am and the same tears over the same unavailable man who was just like every available and unavailable man I’d ever chased since I first kissed a boy at 13 who was kissing another girl at the same time. I was a train wreck in cool boots. Lipstick on a pig. I was a 40-something year old woman, single again, with a trail of broken relationships, missed chances, miscarriages and choices to not carry pregnancies that came out of the dark forgetfulness of drunk without any significant savings or stability. There was no shot at Motherhood for me. I’d thrown away all those fertile years. And so, as I was facing the wreckage of my past, newly sober, I adopted a traumatized runty hound dog named Flo, found shivering in the forests of Tennessee by a friend, and made peace with the fact that I would most likely never be a mother of a human but I’d be a really good dog mama.
One day in winter a few years ago, I said out loud to my friend Kim, also single and sober in her 40’s, “I actually think I finally love my life. I’m content. I have my music I have this house. I have my friends and community and I have Flo. I could grow old like this.” And, thus, into that proclamation of newfound sobriety and contended solitaire walked Jamey, younger by 7 years, a fan of John Prine and Shakespeare (be still my heart), with a Kentucky-Tennessee drawl and a charm that undid me. We were friends for many months before he kissed me on the front porch of my house at about noon one sunny August day after we’d spent the morning at a vinyl record store, backed off my porch and said, ‘ok. See you tomorrow’ without trying to rip my clothes off and bed me immediately. Within a few weeks, we were in love. By the following September, we were engaged. By May we were married. It was quick. It was certain. It was a beautiful story.
I’ve been writing around the bush here, because I set out this afternoon to write, not my love story, but about something different, something that’s been bugging me about this whole pregnancy thing.
I want to talk about my feet.
My beautiful, tiny, size 6 ½ high arched feet that have taken me so many places. They backpacked through the Pennsylvania woods with a Girl Scout camp when I was 12 and got my period the first time and my counselors, two incredibly cool 20 somethings who, looking back, may have been a couple, thus, my first introduction to lesbians, handed me an O.B. tampon, clapped and said, ‘Welcome to womanhood, now stick this up your bleeding vagina and pop your cherry!’ My feet, which walked me all over Spain on my own on a summer long journey where I was supposed to meet a college friend and go to France but instead I followed two blondes from Connecticut down to Africa and up to Barcelona and drank enough Sangria to anesthetize an entire country. My feet, which helped me run two NYC marathons, one I even trained for; the other, I stumbled through with a raging hangover from the party the night before, puking out red wine in Harlem and crossing the finish line with tears of complete and utterly wrecked exhaustion and then didn’t run another mile for many years.
My feet, which finally left the first marriage and gave freedom to someone I’d shackled myself to for years, terrified of being alone. My feet, which moved me to Nashville for all the wrong reasons, only to walk away from the wine bottles, drop to my knees and admit defeat, finding out that I had moved here for all the right reasons, just not the ones I’d originally thought were correct.
These damn feet I love so much have been swollen for weeks. Not cute swollen. Ugly swollen. None of my shoes or boots fit, and I have an impressive collection that has gotten me into some credit card trouble. Sadly, I have 3 pairs I can now wear and one of those is Uggs and I can’t possibly go out in public in those things. My ankles have gone into hibernation; my knees aren’t cute anymore, they’re just filled with liquid.
My feet hurt. A lot. One heel is in constant, stabbing pain which may or may not be Plantar Fasciitis or Achilles Bursitis or Tendonitis or just a symptom from pregnancy-induced sciatica. And basically, the only way to alleviate the symptoms, is to take a shit-ton of Advil. Or, get a steroid injection. Which, because I’m pregnant, I can’t do. So, I load up those 3 pairs of shoes with gel insoles and arch supports and thick socks and try to limit my time upright. Which is hard.
Also, I’m crazy. Tonight, I just took a long bath because I could feel myself getting to that place where my husband has done nothing at all to me, but I hate him. Everything he does annoys me. Just right now. And I realize it’s not at all about him. This is THE HORMONES talking. Lying to me. He’s not annoying; he’s trying to be helpful. But my Hormones take over my brain, and release this little bitch inside my head who storms around pissed off because she’s not getting her way. “Don’t you hear his whiny voice? Isn’t it too loud?” And then he pops his head into the bath while I’m soaking in warm water, too afraid of my favorite kind of hot baths because I don’t want to cook the little dude inside me, and he says, “Honey, are you ok? Do you need anything?” and I growl, “Why?” and he says, gently, and patiently, “well, you seem…a bit…I don’t know…off?” And thankfully, I fire the little hormonal bitch, or just set her aside for a minute and nod and say, “I just need some time. I feel, I don’t know, fucking pregnant ok?” and he kisses my forehead and gently closes the door.
I love him so much.
But my feet throb, even in the hot bath. Even when I wrap every ice pack around that heel. Even when I try Icy Hot and Tiger Balm and anything I can get my hands on.
And I’m sure this is normal to every pregnancy, but, did I mention I’m an addict, and one of my key traits of my ever-challenging personality is the ability to take a level 1 problem and raise it in five-seconds flat to a level 10 problem? Chaos is my drug. I am really good at chaos (or so I think). Comfortable in the uncomfortable. So, I like to imagine that my sore feet, and mood swings and bad back, and general unease are due to me being FORTY NINE AND PREGNANT. I can’t just be pregnant-pregnant. I have to be the oldest person ever to walk down this path (hobble). It’s a defect of character. I’m working on it, ok?
So, who knows if I ever get to wear my $600 Fiorentini & Baker boots I bought at Barneys with the money that should have gone to rent years ago. Or those $5 animal print spike heel booties that I’ve worn once, as a costume. Or those sky high heels I bought for stupid money because I decided I should start wearing heels on stage, to change my whole look into something more chic, a la Aimee Mann, clean lines, suits and vests and spike heels rather than short skirts and cowboy boots. For now, you can find me limping around in Uggs, as my belly grows hard with this little boy inside me, and he doesn’t really care at all what I’ve got on my feet.