dear pepper/another birthday

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I call this new baby “Pepper” while she/he is in my belly because on the day I told my sister I was pregnant she harvested the first anaheim chile peppers from her garden. It was March, which is autumn in the southern hemisphere, where she lives.

We don’t know if Pepper is a boy or a girl. I like the not knowing. I refer to “her” as a “girl” because it’s simpler than he/she all the time, or “it.” And maybe there is a little intuition there, I honestly don’t know. I don’t know what is right, just that maybe the gender of an unborn baby doesn’t matter to the baby. Maybe they are just a human: existing and growing limbs and learning to use lungs and blink their eyes and feel the differences in light.

Lately I do not sleep. This happened last time, in my pregnancy with Giles. Third trimester insomnia. Mostly it is because I am uncomfortable. So I am tired all the time. I’m existing in a state of being barely here.

Today is my mom’s birthday. She would be 60.

I hate counting the years, because they just keep going and I’ll end up counting for a really long time.

 

 

 

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5 years

Wednesday April 18 marked the 5 year anniversary of my mom’s death.

I don’t know what to do with that.

Five years for anything feels like an important marker: relationships, jobs, the “cancer free” mark that means you’ll probably be okay.

Being pregnant again, another pregnancy without my mom, is carrying me further into the future. I want to ask her just as many questions as I did last time, different questions. How did she feel being pregnant while taking care of a toddler (me)? What was I like then, and how did I respond to news of the baby? When did they tell people? Did they tell anyone the name they were thinking of? How did they prepare their lives to add another child? How did she deal with the intense exhaustion that is being pregnant while caring for a toddler? Was she scared? What foods made her sick? (My dad tells me salad dressing was one, and that she just used lemon juice while pregnant.)

Other people talk about her less. Or, they only talk about her if I bring her up first.

How is it half a decade that she’s been gone? I am two babies deep in a life she will never see or be part of in an earthly way. In the back of my mind somewhere the possibility of her spending time with Giles exists, and it pops up, surprising me. A thought appears, an image of the two of them together: talking, walking, cooking, laughing. I feel a sharp twinge because this will not happen. The pain feels almost new.

I will give birth again, without her. I will touch that line between death and life, feeling for her.

There is still no map. Still no footprints to guide me, and yet I keep going.

Choose joy over fear. Live it, do it, on purpose. 

 

 

this body, this moment

Trying to love the body that made my baby and pushed him out. In some moments succeeding. In others feeling strange and not myself, so so far away from myself. Last summer I finally found a bathing suit I really liked and this summer it doesn’t fit. I also found the best jeans last year (a constant struggle for one with long, wide hips) and now they are useless to me. oh how i finally felt in those jeans. I am cutting up and trying to fix clothes so they will fit this body now. I am cutting in fits of hormones and making mistakes.

My body grew a human being and push him out and I love him more than anything on this whole planet.

My body is everything right now. It is food for the baby, comfort for the baby, a body to lie on, a body to be held by. My body is a kind of machine. A marvel of nature. Resilient. Healing. Consumed by hormones. did i mention hormones?

But where am I in this body? What is my relationship to it now that I cannot do things like crunches or leg lifts or anything involving lower abdominals? not that i was like huge into leg lifts but like, i could do them, you know? Now that I cannot fit into my clothes. Now that my once proud belly is a totally different belly that I don’t know how I feel about showing off to the world. I want to. I want to, I want to wear my crop tops and be a shining light for all the postpartum women’s bodies that are squishy and zebra-lined with stretch marks and breasts that are not the same breasts we once had breasts we can barely hold up the weight of in un-sexy nursing bras! seriously though can someone design better nursing bras, better nursing and postpartum clothes, better so many things.

My body does not feel like mine. Sometimes it feels more mine than ever after doing such a strong and crazy hard and scary and beautiful thing as giving birth. That was MY pain. MY story. MY blood and shit and pee and sweat and muscles and pushing. But also this body belongs to the new human being that I am responsible for keeping alive. My body is two bodies. The one that is me feels like a shadow.

 

haven’t had the baby yet

We’re getting really close. It could be any day now. My due date is May 7.

Every day I wonder, will it happen today? Is that a contraction? Do I have to poop or is it the baby? Every time I go to the bathroom I check for blood and mucus. (TMI? Sorry not sorry. Pregnancy is gross!)

In the mornings I wait patiently for Smokey’s first movements, thumps to remind me that he’s in there, he’s hungry, and he’s pressing on my very full bladder. We’re still tied together in this body, cocooned and connected, snug and warm. It’s me and Smokey, Greg and me, all three of us savoring our last bit of time in this particular way of being a family that is about to change.

On the street people say things like, “You haven’t popped yet?” and “When is the baby coming?”

I DON’T KNOW HE’LL BE BORN WHEN HE’S BORN. YES I KNOW I AM HUGE. I’d rather they said, “Can I buy you a coffee/cookie/ice cream?” Yes. Yes you can. Thank you for your support.

Mostly I don’t go out much because then I’d have to climb three flights of stairs to get back into my apartment.

My dreams get stranger. My back gets more sore. My “productive hours” each day get smaller. I stop making plans. I cross off days on the calendar.

Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. Eating. Peeing. Waiting.

Talking to Smokey. Moving the furniture around in the kitchen because I’m “nesting.” Napping with my sweet sweet cats who keep their eyes on me, pat my belly, stay close at my heels. They know. They are watching out for me. I start reading a 900 page novel I have no idea if I will be able to finish because do people even have time or energy for reading when they have a newborn?

These are the days right before. The last days. The days out of time. I’ve always loved in-betweens.

 

 

my man, who is almost 30 (welcome to my decade)

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My husband is a really good man. I feel so happy for our son that he gets to have such a good, loving, funny, creative, and thoughtful dad. For some years in my twenties I wasn’t sure I’d find the right partner to be a parent with. I considered mom-ing it solo.

And then I met Greg. Five months into our relationship we decided to move in together (the actual moving in together didn’t happen for  a few more months, but we made the decision 5 months in). Around that same time, my mom was dying, and Greg brought up the idea of getting married before she died. I didn’t want to– I wanted my mom’s death to just be about that, and for our eventual wedding to be about us, and not about rushing it so that my mom could be there. But it was so incredibly touching and beautiful to me that he offered.

We both knew that this was it early on. Maybe my mom dying made things get serious more quickly, but really I think it was because we were both ready. We recognized our partner in each other, and we were ready for it. With open hearts. A year and a month later Greg proposed in Paris. I said yes.

unnamed-7.jpg Here we are at a friend’s wedding in September 2015. Little Smokey was already a tiny cluster of life in my belly, about a month and a half along (the same age as our new marriage), but we hadn’t told anyone except our parents and siblings.

I love being pregnant. I love our growing family. I love my husband.

Here’s to seven and a half months of marriage. Seven and a half months of baby in belly. Three years and four months of being together.

Here’s to this almost 30-year-old dude who makes me smile, laugh, and love better.

April 7 is his actual birthday, and by that time I’ll be even more pregnant (exactly one month from our due date), making him bring me drinks and food and rub my feet. I’m just feeling very grateful that he was born, and wanted to say so now.

baby heart self portrait

baby heart self portrait

One day in December my OB called me. She had looked at the scans from our 18 week ultrasound and saw a calcification in the left ventricle of our baby’s heart. When she said those words I started tearing up and my heart thumped, I thought, This is it, another thing. My baby is sick– first Lee then my mom now my baby what am I gonna do fuck fuck fuck. She said everything was probably fine, but we needed to go see a specialist in Springfield and have another ultrasound. So we went to Springfield. We sat in the ultrasound room, which wasn’t really a separate room, just three walls and then the fourth wall was a curtain drawn across to block the hallway. The room was dim, the kind of dim like when you watch a movie in school and they turn off all the lights and it makes a kind of calm. It was quiet, the sounds of people walking by and talking beyond the curtain were muffled.

The ultrasound tech came in and we got to watch our sweet baby for a while as she took some pictures. “These heart structures are perfect,” she said, “and look at that beautiful spine!” This made me feel proud. I made that heart, I grew that spine, all of it inside my own body.

The specialist doctor came in and quickly told us how common these calcifications are. “It’s ten in the morning and I’ve seen two of these already,” he said. He told us the baby is fine. Most likely, the calcification means nothing. If we showed other markers, it could be a sign of Downs Syndrome, but there weren’t other markers. He said we could have further tests if we wanted, did it matter to us if the baby had Downs? Would it change anything? No. It wouldn’t change anything. We’d still go through with the pregnancy. So, no more tests. Our baby was fine. “Nothing you did caused this, or could have prevented this,” he said before leaving.

We felt relieved afterwards, and stopped in Northampton for burgers at Local Burger, where I had Greg take a photo of me which I drew this portrait from.  Our baby is okay, I thought. I was exhausted. I wanted to remember what I looked like on this day.

“I guess this is what it’s like to be parents. We’re going to be worried forever,” I said to Greg.