Melodrama, Meet Your Match

We just had a little thing called SonofaGun Sandy blow through these parts. Or is that DaughterofaGun? Sandy was a girl, right?  Either way, that storm was nothing short of terrifying, and we’re far from the coast. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with those–people we know, those we don’t, friends and family of our friends and family among them–still suffering as I write.

I’m 31 weeks pregnant. Thirty-one. THIRTY-ONE. I give birth in exactly two months. That’s crazy, I know. I can’t wrap my head around it either. The baby was measuring in at a solid four pounds, 12 ounces at my ultrasound last week (if that sounds big it’s only because I made this cranberry-and-apple cake the morning before the storm hit [have to have provisions, after all], and may have eaten most of it by the time the last gust of wind blew across our front porch. Don’t look at me like that. That cake was pretty good).  I’ve been so, so tired lately. It could be the fact that I’m anemic (darn the leftover vegetarianism) and keep forgetting to take my iron pills (yeah, yeah. Stop it with the lectures already, okay?), or it could be, just, you know, the sheer fact that I’m so, so PREGNANT.

Oh, and there’s the two small children who are home with me. Can’t forget those two energy-sapping cuties. This is a strange kind of tired, a body-sore kind. It’s like I had this crazy-intense workout yesterday, but you know I haven’t been to the gym in mumblemumblemumble.  It’s a fog-over-the-eyes feeling, the if-I-have-to-bend-over-one-more-time-to-pick-up-a-toy-my-back-will-give-out sort of exhaustion. I’ve become a big fan of sitting a lot, and eating Kit-Kats in search of some sort of energy kick. There’s nothing I can do about it, and having had another easy pregnancy, as pregnancy goes, I shouldn’t complain. But for someone who was always driven, and always enjoyed time to herself, who, in my early twenties, was happiest when I didn’t have a roommate and was living on my own, who was always chasing some goal or promotion or career, life right now is a little itchy, if that makes sense.  Saoirse dropped her afternoon nap a long time ago, and Quinn keeps appearing in the family room twenty minutes after I put her down for a nap, all sorts of bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and ready to go try on some dress-up clothes. My mornings, of course, are spent in the car, going to preschool, to MyGym, to Target, to the store. I’m like a crazy minivan-shaped pinball, knocking back and forth between the same five spots in a three-mile radius. There’s no time to sit and focus on a blog, or try to develop this writing thing I so love to do. If I get lost in my own thoughts for even a moment, there’s suddenly a person in my ear, repeating the same question over and over until dagnabit, I snap back to attention and answer her, already. My hair is worn in a ponytail so often it actually hurts when I wear it down. Don’t even ask me how the housekeeping’s going. That involves bending and energy, people. HA. I guess my bottom line is, my life is not mine anymore, at all. I’m not necessarily complaining. I’d feel guilty complaining, anyway. It’s just kind of weird.

I was washing the dishes the other day (of course), after cutting grapes (always) for the girls’ lunches (which have to happen every single day, if you can believe it). A friend of mine, who was(is) a physical therapist before she started pinballing her own three children around town, said to me this weekend that she feels like all she does all day is take food out, and put food away, over and over again. And I started thinking, which is what I’m wont to do when I wake at three in the morning and have to go to the bathroom because the baby has been doing headstands on  my belly but am too tired to go to the bathroom but should go to the bathroom because I can’t sleep. I was thinking about the upcoming year and the grapes and the pinball minivan.  And it suddenly became strange to me to think that one day:

  • there will be no sippy cups or their lids in the dishwasher.
  • I won’t be cutting those grapes in half anymore.
  • my daily schedule will not revolve around someone else’s meal times, snacks, and naps.
  • I will own no tiny little plastic snack cups with snap-on tops.
  • my furniture will be free of permanent ink drawings and letters (or not, depending on if we’ve gotten around to replacing the furniture by that point, but I have high hopes).
  • I will walk through a room without stepping on a toy, barefoot, even though I could have sworn I’d cleaned everything up.
  • the sinks will be free of gobs of watermelon-scented toothpaste.
  • I will not kick a small stool whenever I walk through the kitchen or into a bathroom.
  • I will live in a house where the residents will use the bathroom without asking me to stand sentinel.
  • I will one day occupy a bathroom myself to take a shower without a tiny-voiced play caller documenting my movements.
  • People will be able to sit wherever they want in my car without needing to move carseats, crayons, and books out of the way.
  • I will have to rely on a real alarm clock in the mornings, not the small human one that appears beside our bed to say “Mom! I want orange dooce!” every morning.
  • I will watch tv WHENEVER I WANT, no matter how mind-numbing the show, or the hour of day, or worrying that my children’s brains are melting into tiny puddles of wet goo inside their beautiful skulls.
  • I will stay out past 7 o’clock on a frequent basis.
  • I will drink wine whenever I want a glass of wine. There will be no nine-month rides on the wagon, or timing a glass around breastfeeding, or turning down that second glass because I don’t want to be tipsy around the kids.
  • I will see my name on a paycheck again, hopefully because I am doing work (writing! writing! writing!) I enjoy.
  • I will walk down a street without checking to see if I’m holding someone else’s small hand.
  • I won’t be quite this tired.

This will happen one day. And I can’t fib and tell you that I didn’t get a little sad thinking about half of those items I just listed. It’s kind of neat to wake up to the feeling of two children using my abdomen as a trampoline. I’ve come to think of the constant stream of high-pitched children chatter and playing and squabbling as my own personal Muzak station. I’ve learned to appreciate the sacrifice of sushi and tapas for buttered noodles and chocolate milk. It’s just life as we know it, after all.

But (because I’m wackadoo hormonal lately, there’s always a but. And because I keep digging into the Halloween candy, it’s a big but. Ha! Get it?!). I was out last night with that physical therapist friend and my good friend Susannah, who recently moved to North Jersey with her two kiddos for her husband’s job. It’d been a busy weekend, and I was so, so tired, sitting there wedged into the table ogling my friends’ beers and clothes that actually fit properly and missing the days when these ladies and I used to regularly get together for drinks and dinner, before we all started moving away or breeding small herds of children. In case you haven’t noticed by now in this post, I’ve spent the last two weeks in some sort of hormonal despair, feeling out of whack and out of control, that absolutely nothing I do will ever be done well again, and if my dining chairs get one more child-oriented stain on them it’ll make better sense to burn the rather than scrub the cushions.

Meanwhile, Susannah was telling us about life in Jersey post-Sandy, about the gas lines, and the two schools with power in her town that are acting solely as warming stations for people without power, about the 70-plus decimated houses, and the hotels that are stocked with what are essentially refugees, hotels that don’t have enough power or staff to keep the guests fed and rooms clean. My friend Megan told us about her best friend, one of those who helped evacuate the NYU Langone Medical Center, who went through hell and (seriously) high water afterward trying to get back to her own family during the storm. And I sat there and listened, one hand on my belly because this baby has taken to doing high-diving maneuvers under my ribs in the evenings, as my very good husband was back at our (small, mussed, crayon-covered) home tucking our two girls into bed. We had power. We had food and the girls’ schedules have been relatively uninterrupted. I was out with my friends and staying awake enough to imbibe a third glass of water without falling asleep in my fish tacos. What my friends described was out of my reality, solely because I live here and not there.

If you think this is going to be a post about how I listened to the horrors of Sandy and started realizing all the good in my life, please don’t count on it. I’m too far gone into the wackadoo for that, kids. I am firmly and solely floating in my little wobbly dinghy in this tired ocean of crazy, trying to recall if I remembered to pack a life jacket. In two months, I will have gotten through (I mean, enjoyed) the holidays with my growing family, birthed a child, and be on my way to recovery. In two months, I will be more sleep-deprived than I am now, breaking up more child-sized arguments than ever, trying but failing to split my attention between a husband, two children in need of assurance and love and a snack at 10 a.m., and a newborn who will want to eat my chest every couple of hours ’round the clock. I will be wading through dog hair and laundry and trying to figure out how to get one girl to school and to gymnastics and the other to MyGym in between nursing sessions, how to handle the meals and the nursing and the crying (not just mine) and maybe showering once in a while, all when I’m not supposed to drive or lift even laundry baskets because I thought it’d be fun to have my uterus cut into (whee!) again. In two months I will be the happiest and most frustrated that I’ve ever been.

Very real horrors have happened up and down the East Coast, very close to where I am, figuratively and otherwise. I cannot wrap my head around the difficulties my friends described, the images I’ve seen in the news, the stories being filtered through social media. It’s all so mind-boggling and sad. And yes, I could feel small and petty and unrealistic for feeling like I’m losing control of my own good, blessed, fortunate little life, but as I said: those hormones, they-a crazy. I feel like I’m not doing a good job of anything anymore: not the parenting, not the maintaining, not the dream-pursuing. And all the while there’s a baby bouncing around my insides like another pinball, reminding me that he or she is coming to meet us soon. The tide’s coming in, but I’ve forgotten how to swim. All I can do is secure the boards across my own windows, stock up on the flashlights, make sure the furniture’s tied down. Because the wind has picked up, and I’m waiting for the storm.

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