And so, time does move quickly, as everyone warned. I look at the chubby face of my son with his white blonde hair and long lashes and compare it to the bald chubby face of him one year ago and I see the same boy. Longer arms. Longer legs. More hair. But it’s still him, still the same little human that IS now that only WAS emerging then. But I see the NOW in the THEN. Does that make any sense? I remember holding him in the first few months and wondering who he was becoming, what would he look like. Now, I look at those photos and see my 17 month old already emerging in the eyes, the cheeks, the upturned bow lip. The fireworks smile, a head-thrown-back laugh. He points at things now and everything is on the “boh/bah” spectrum of vowels. He can say “hot” and he lands hard on the “t” with a staccato punch like he’s trying out a new flavor. He watches intensely: me, the cars that speed by on our front street, Flo, our dog. He is all tornado energy, so sometimes I admit I sit him down in front of our tv and put on a Netflix series called “Little Baby Bum.” It’s crack for babies: a series of brightly colored cartoon videos set to nursery rhymes played on a casio keyboard sung by bubble-drawn animals and children of all colors. He sits and nods to the music and I am guaranteed at least 15 minutes of his attention so that I can go to to the bathroom, wash my face, maybe put on clothes or make myself breakfast without having to balance him on my hip. I can write this.
The changes are slow, but they seem so fast.
There are changes in me, too. My body. A body that birthed a human being cannot expect to stay the same after such a trauma. My hairline, always high exposing a broad forehead, now has even higher peaks. I am losing hair. The thick mane made thicker by the progesterone flowing through my body has now lost volume. I am crowned by soft short pieces, sticking out, not wanting to be contained in the almost ubiquitous top knot I pull it into to get my long hair away from my son’s pulling. I have retired most of my jewelry and all earrings. I have a friend that used to say my style was shorts, boots and dangling earrings. No longer. My legs are unexercised and wobbly. The boots hurt my feet. And Huck pulls any dangling things off. I embrace the uniform of the new mom, though. Leggings, long t shirts that hide things, slip on shoes and hair pulled tight like a ballerina.
Also, I pee a little when I laugh or cough or sneeze. Mothers out there will nod appreciatively that I admit this. But I personally had to check in with my sister last month about this because I was concerned it was an aging thing, not a post-pregnancy thing. “Oh, yes,” she said. “Welcome to being a mom.” News to me, though. Considering the fact that I’d had a C-section that left my lady parts intact, I didn’t think things would be, um, loose down there, but, as it turns out, yep. We all pee a little from time to time.
I find this information very comforting actually. That I can let go of any pretense of glamour or cool and be a human being who sometimes needs to change my underwear if I laugh too hard. Since, in my 20’s and 30’s, I was a woman who had no problem sticking my finger down my throat in restaurant bathrooms to puke up a too-rich desert, or late-night at bars (or, admittedly, against a sidewalk tree on the Upper West Side) puking up the tequila shots done on a dare. So what. I’m 50. I pee when I laugh. I also once shat myself while running and just kept running until I could throw the clothes away and my body in the shower. I simply thought, well, that marathon runner did that too, so what. We all poop. And if my son can roll around in a dirty diaper happily, then I can finish a 4 mile run as well. I’m only human.
Also, my belly. Let’s talk about that. Not just mine, but, collectively, ours. Can we all just stop holding our breaths? Aren’t there more important things to do than suck in our guts our entire lives? I always envied the flat plank abdomens of women in magazines and at the YMCA pool. The skinny girls with bodies like 14 year old boys, small A cup breasts that fit tidily inside tiny triangle bras of their bikinis, while my D cups spilled out of the sides and my pooch stomach never saw sun as I never thought I could wear a bikini. Well, hell. Last month I was at the beach with my entire family and my size D boobs and my belly that hadn’t seen a sit up for 2 years but had birthed a baby at 50 and I just handed the woman at the bathing suit shop my credit card while she told me to NOT get a tankini or a skort but to freaking buy a bikini and show off my body. And so, I bought two. And I love them. This week, I wore one to the YMCA pool and strutted right by the 20 something mommies with their flat stomachs and I didn’t hold anything in and I felt beautiful holding the hand of my little boy.
I am in the beginning stages of my record release, a record I made while pregnant with Huck, that really wraps around the notion of The Dream. How it’s kind of a lie. In the most beautiful way. That when you find out that it’s a mirage, you can actually just get to work telling your truth. It’s my mantra these days. Tell you the poop story. It’s true. Not dress it up in finery. I spent my life trying to fly above the crowd and then fell hard on my ass only to find that life is just way easier if you connect. That doesn’t mean giving up on making something Great. It just means stop faking it. So today, I’m writing an article for a mother’s magazine about Having A Baby At 50 and my Career and I realized that this is really what I’ve been writing about all along here. I’ve been reading and eating up all the usual self-help guru goddesses of the moment: Brene, Cheryl, Liz, Glennon. And they all inspire me. But I want to add something to the conversation of what makes us become enlightened. Because yes, vulnerability is important. So is badassery. So is creativity. So is truth.
But honestly, how about this. Wait until you’re 50. Seriously. Turning the corner of 50 takes away a lot of the fucks you used to give.
Bammo. There it is. My big advice. Just get to 50. Don’t drink and drive. Don’t fuck someone else’s lover. Wear a condom. Eat well. Don’t eat so much (or any) meat. Do yoga. Find a meditation practice. Find a spiritual practice even if you’re atheist. Be of service. And for fuck’s sake. Get to 50. I swear, it all gets better on the downhill side of the slope.