abundance · compassion · deprivation · family · love · motherhood · recovery

Maybe Baby 2

I have been looking at porn.
This porn comes in the form of a Facebook page for local moms who are selling or giving away baby stuff. 
I’m on this page because one of my best friends is pregnant, and I have hopped so far aboard her baby-train, I’m surprised I’m not morning-sick myself!
In the past few weeks, I’ve begun reading a book on pregnancy that she read and loved (The Girlfriend’s Guide to Pregnancy), crocheting baby bibs, buying scrap fabric for burp clothes, and practically stalking her to ask if she wants a breast pump I found online. 
As I spoke of in my 2014 blog post “Maybe Baby,” I am not sure whether I want children. 
As then, I am not in a serious relationship, and I still am not willing to go the motherhood route alone, so there’s no real reason to question if I do or do not. But, reasonable or not, that doesn’t stop me from thinking about it. 
With every article on our drought, the cost of living, the planet’s imminent demise, the expansion of the stupid class — I am convinced for a few moments never to bring children into this hateful world. 
And with every true breath of fresh air, every warm hug, every belly laugh — I am convinced for a few moments that I want another human to bear witness to this world’s incandescent beauty. 
I am the age my mom was when she carried me (33), and then my brother at 36. I have been emailing and asking her all kinds of questions about her pregnancies since I began reading the pregnancy book — what was your morning sickness like? what does pregnancy feel like? did you have food aversions? stretch marks? hemorrhoids? (god help us, she did not!)
I have had the liberty and the luxury of asking my mom these questions, and too, my friend who is pregnant, does not. And I am very aware of this fact, and I think it has spurred my devoted interest in her pregnancy — I want to be there as much as I can, because I want to make up for any absence she might be feeling (real or imagined, to me, since I haven’t spoken to her about it yet). 

I was on the phone with my mom this morning, telling her that I feel my heightened interest in my friend’s impending mommy-hood is also that she’s my first local BFF to be pregnant. One of my other best friends in Long Island had a baby last year, and I was able to be there for a few days when the baby was a month old, but that’s all. There wasn’t the same imminent babyhood. 
I told my mom that I’d been thinking about my very best friend from childhood, a woman I’ve known since we were 3 years old, and how I can’t imagine what it will be like if and when she gets pregnant across the country from me. And I began to cry. 
Of course, it’s about her, my New Jersey friend, and it’s also about me. About how I’ll feel, if and when I also choose to have a family — assuming I’m able — so far from her and my own family. 
This is big business. This mommy stuff. 
And I am wanting to prepare to make that decision in a realistic way — so I have doubled-down on my work around intimacy and relationships (or in my case, habitual lack thereof). This morning, I told the woman I’d been working on these issues with by phone for about 6 weeks (a stranger whose name was passed along to me from a woman I admire) that I have reached out to someone local to work the rest of this stuff with. 
And I have. I will continue this relationship work with this local woman who has known me for nearly 8 years, who has seen me at my best and worst, who can call me out, see patterns, and provide so much space for my feelings and vulnerability that I can practically swim in them and still feel safe. 
Yesterday morning, this same woman (as we were talking about what my issues were and what I wanted to work out) said that she’d always felt for me that my issue was around deprivation. 
… 

She’s very astute. 
And it’s also funny to me because it’s one of those things that doesn’t come into focus about yourself until someone else (who knows you well) reflects it back. 
I am very aware of this time in the generation of women around me. My friends who are certain they don’t want kids, ones who know they do, the ones who can’t, and ones who, like me, are unsure.
It’s a particular, cordoned off time in our lives. And I’m holding the space for that, leaning into the grief of potentially not seeing friends change their whole lives, them not seeing me do the same. I’m aware this is “future-tripping,” but it’s fair to acknowledge my feelings around it, anyway. 
I’m allowed to not know what will happen (for me or for my friends), and I’m allowed to have feelings either way. 
Today, what that looks like is picking up a bitchin’ breast pump for my best friend. Continuing to do the work toward an intimate relationship with a man. And letting myself be both sad and happy for and with my peers. 
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adulthood · family · femininity · love · motherhood

Dear Mom, I Hallmark You.

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It was always very clear what our family would do on
Mother’s Day: We would have bought hanging fuschia plants at Metropolitan Plants up on Route 17 in Paramus, one for our mom (Ben’s and mine) and one for
my Dad’s mom. We’d make the U-turn by Grand Union, near which, whenever driving
past it together, my best friend M. and I would parrot a mean jingle about our
babysitter: “Get everything you don’t want aaaat Grand Pam!” (name changed for
anonymity!)
Once home, we’d exchange the broken and feeble fuschia that hung by the
side of our house all winter for the new one, hook the other in the Camry, and
drive over to Queens.
After the lovely awkwardness of pizza with them, our family
would reward ourselves by stopping by The Pastrami King. Which has since
closed, and there’s now a Pastrami Queen somewhere, which, sorry feminism, is
not as good.
Pastrami King had the real barrels of pickles along the wall, all different
kinds, fat, warty, dark, light green, and my mom would dive into the barrel with the plastic tongs to fetch these prizes out of the water. My brother and I would gag at
her.
We’d get round potato knishes and pounds and pounds of,
really, the best pastrami I’ve ever had, and also some of their own spicy
mustard – because people, no mayo, no ketchup, nothing but MUSTARD, is supposed to go on a pastrami sandwich. Sorry.
It’s the Jew way. Well, at least,
our Jew way.
Mother’s Day did mean
something in our household, and despite all the “It’s a Hallmark holiday” scorn
it receives, and despite the mixed emotions it may bring up for people who’ve
lost moms, lost babies, can’t or didn’t have babies, for me, it’s nice. Yes,
even on this arbitrary date some CEO thought up some years ago, it’s nice to
acknowledge my Mom. And so, I do.
This year, by coincidence and fortune, I came across a
website with cuff bracelets with large metropolitan city subway maps engraved
into them. Paris, Berlin, Chicago, New York. My mother, the consummate New
Yorker. In fact, this very morning, she sent me a batch of photos from the
window display of her local dry-cleaner. The purveyors apparently rotate a series
of Barbie tableaus. Last time was the Oscars, complete with a miniature “Gone
with the Wind” poster, red carpet, and a Marylin Monroe Barbie. This month, a Barbie Seder,
with mini Afikomen and all!
She loves the city, and so, my brother and I split the cost
of one of these cuff bracelets for her. She may never wear it, it may be “not
quite right,” and sure, a nicely written
card could have done the same thing, and for many years it has. But, this year,
it was nice to say, “Hey, I know this is something very important to you, a
part of you, this city, and I want to give you something that represents that,
that says, Ben and I know you. You are not invisible, you are seen, you are
recognized, and you are appreciated in your interests and oddities.” (Not many
women her age would brave black and white saddle shoes with skinny jeans. But,
her photo to us to mark the start of Spring was of just that!)
I am not a mother. I don’t know if I will be, the fates
haven’t sent me that postcard yet. But it’s baby season around me. At work, I’ve gotten
to snuggle almost weekly with what started as newborn for the last 4
months, and now teeths and laughs and dances and flirts all shy and coy
sometimes, while his mom gets to compose emails with two hands. Like yesterday, I’ve gotten to snuggle another newborn at my friend’s house, letting
him sleep on me for swaths of time where my little heartbeat rests right
against his, and his flutters like a bird, and he’s so warm and soft and new.
It’s glorious.
I’m flying out at the end of the month to visit one of my
best girl friends on Long Island. She got married last year during 4th of July,
went on honeymoon in August, and got pregnant on a boat in the Mediterranean. 9
months later, baby. I asked a few of the new moms I know if it would be “worth” my
flying out to see her. How “important” it was. If money were no object, it
would be no question. It’s the only time at work that I can really go in the
foreseeable future. 
How important is it? The baby won’t remember. My aunt tells
me all the time how she was there when I
was born. I don’t remember. Doesn’t really mean anything at all to me. Or, at
least, it hasn’t. But, now I’m beginning to see that it is meaningful — to the adults. To have
the people you love around you at a time when everything is changing, exciting, exhausting, new – I’d want my best friend there, too.
I don’t have those “uteran tugs” that some women experience
around their 20s and 30s, that ache for a baby in my body. But being so close
to the motherhood around me makes it so much more real, significant,
miraculous.
I’ve written before about my own “Maybe Baby” question, so this
one is just to say, laying a baby – my baby or not – on my chest, having him
nuzzle into me and rest because I’m a safe place, is Life’s great privilege. 

authenticity · children · confidence · fear · motherhood

Maybe Baby

Here’s the subtitle of the book of the same name: 28
Writers Tell the Truth About Skepticism, Infertility, Baby Lust, Childlessness,
Ambivalence, and How They Made the Biggest Decision of Their Lives.
You can imagine there are a lot of thoughts about and sides
to the story. I haven’t yet read the book, but I plan to. Because I fit in
there, somewhere along the Skepticism, Ambivalence, and the unlisted Fear of
Regret.
Yesterday, I attended a baby shower for a friend of mine.
It’s the 2nd I’ve attended recently, but skewed very differently from the last
one.
The first one was held in a yawning mansion in Russian Hill
or Pacific Heights, some “you will never afford this” neighborhood. It was
hosted in a home that would not be out of place in Dwell, or Architectural
Digest, and peopled by beautifully draped women who would be staged in such a photo
shoot.
The conversation was all about babies. When you were due,
how many you had, getting into preschools, Diaper Genies, the best nappies,
where you take your toddler.
The striking thing, to me, is that all of these women were intelligent, obviously savvy, had or have a career. And they were all talking about poop.
I was (very obviously) one of two women in attendance who was childless, and
I felt so fish-out-of-water, I was relieved to leave and call a single,
childless friend to … not commiserate, per se, but to, I don’t know, vent,
maybe.
Yesterday’s event was entirely different. A baby shower,
yes. Held in a gorgeous home with a catered lunch, yes. Obviously savvy, intelligent,
careered women, yes.
But somehow, the conversations were completely different.
Sure, there was some “helicopter parent” talk, a few “we’re trying to get
pregnant” comments, and a story of a friend who bought a racecar, and by
default, because of the cost of the car, decided she wouldn’t freeze her eggs. But mostly,
these women were talking about themselves, their interests, and random wordly
gossip; about new restaurants opening, the surprisingly inviting nature of the L.A. community, and, in one instance, syphilis.
Why was this event different? The two guests of honor would
be at home talking with one another, smart, hilarious, worldly. I don’t know.
But, I know I left feeling a hundred times different than the last time. I felt
like a person who’d attended a party, not a single, childless oaf who didn’t
fit in.
I have two friends back east in very different stages of the
spectrum. One I spoke to in New Jersey last weekend told me she’d
looked up freezing her eggs recently, as she’s back in her on-again-off-again
relationship with a man in his 40s who’s already been divorced and has two
school-aged kids. He does not want more.
She just turned 33 and doesn’t know what she wants, but is scared that if she enters this
relationship again, she is making a decision by default to not have children.
And she definitely does want them. Just not now.
My other friend is 6 months pregnant, living in suburban
Long Island in a new house with her new husband, having gotten pregnant on her
honeymoon cruise through the Aegean. Really.
She is 35 and this is her first child, and because she’s one
of the most straight-shooting women I know, I get to have all kinds of “what is
it like” conversations with her—like, are you still having sex?
I called this friend yesterday while driving home from the
baby shower, having been acutely aware after leaving the party that I probably
won’t get to go to her shower. That I won’t really be there to be Auntie Molly
to this child. It was a very different phone call; it wasn’t really about me,
because I didn’t feel that my value as a human was called into question over
the “Do you have children?” line.
My friend and I spoke about how the 30s are just this
minefield of all this information, questioning, and decisions. I am imminently
grateful that the parents I respect most are friends of mine who didn’t have
their children until their late 30s and early 40s, and they are by far the most
fully-formed mothers I know—with lives and interests and hobbies and careers.
These are my role-models. And they help take the pressure off the ticking eggs
in my womb.
My friend in New Jersey is surrounded by women our age who
are in the depths of baby-land, and she gets the “you better do something soon”
message mirrored back to her daily. The suburban life will do that more than city life, I think.
But I didn’t feel yesterday, after the party, after speaking
with my pregnant friend, that I had to make any kind of decision. It felt like,
Wow, this is a lot of information all we women have to wade through in our 30s.
More observational than judgmental.
I don’t know if I want kids. I know I don’t want them now. I
feel like in 5 years I might be ready, and may try then. I know for sure I
don’t want to intentionally become a single-mother through mishap or I.V.F.
I know that I feel very
selfish with my time and my life right now. I feel like the 5-years-from-now
mark is one that caps the “trying to be an actress” portion of my life. In 5
years, I will hopefully have done something around all this, and I won’t feel
that by having children I’m “giving up” myself and my dreams.
Because, despite my role-model moms being super and
self-possessed and interesting, their lives still revolve around the upbringing
of their children. And I am still just rearing myself.
I feel extremely grateful to not feel the pressure my NJ
friend feels to make a decision now. I feel proud of my friends who’ve made the
decision to have children.
BUT. I know many women, too, in their mid-40s who regret
terribly not having children. And I know that option stands for me too. But,
I’m also not willing to have children, to bring a life into this world under
the shadow of longing, desperation, fear, or simply, “I want a legacy, and someone to visit me in the nursing home.” It’s the same selfish motivation.
So, back to Maybe Baby.
For now, Maybe Breakfast. Those eggs, I’m not ambivalent
about.