The Week When I Try To Stop Counting What Week I’m Up To

My last step in making stock is taking that big pot full of vegetables and meat and of course, the glorious broth itself, and pouring it through a strainer into a larger pot. I’m left with stock, and the spent vegetables and bones go to the garbage.

Yesterday I accepted that no amount of nesting is going to make me ready to parent this living, breathing being, but I was determined that at the very least I would get every last thing done in order to be ready to give birth. This determination had me walking to Duane Reade at 7:30 PM to buy bendy straws and giant maxi pads, and then popping over to my food co-op for lime froze fruit bars (which they didn’t have; which nobody seems to have; this neighborhood has officially gotten too fancy) and arnica pellets. Also, an onion, bay leaves, and chicken parts for the stock I planned to make and then freeze and then, of course, be ready. For giving birth. To a human being. It was on the walk home from this last round of errands that my eight hours of constant buzzing energy finally crested and washed away, leaving me yawning at every step.

Home, and thankfully, B. was all over dinner. I got the pot of stock going. We ate. Watched Broad City. And then he went to bed.

My brain, however, would not be still. It skipped over birth and landed on today, and how I would fit writing, swimming, seeing my mother, and heading to school for a student thing into a block of time that could reasonably hold two (maybe three) of these activities. As a visual for this brain activity which continued well into the middle of the night, I offer a child playing with a set of blocks for hours, obsessively ordering and re-ordering them. It must have been three in the morning, and I was sitting there peeing, going, “Well if I swim until 10:15, and am downtown by 12, then I can write at 1:30 and…”

This morning it began again, immediately, but I stretched and meditated and got some calm going. I went up to the kitchen, put a piece of bread in the toaster, put the strainer in the sink, and proceeded to pour 3/4 of my pot of stock straight down the drain.

There was a lot of screaming. I’m saying “motherfucker” more than I used to and this seems like an odd time to develop that habit.

I stood, kind of laughing, still muttering, “Fuck, motherfucker” while picking chicken off the bones.

Until, finally, came the sadness and the thing that I’ve been avoiding with all this whirlwinding about.

Today, three years ago, was the day my cousin died. My mother tells me that one way to say it is, “He died of suicide.” To try to find someway to show that he was a victim too, that it was a thing that took him, not simply an action he took. It was outside; he was found in the morning, and my uncle says the tree itself was beautiful as was the grass and the light and that he himself was beautiful. He always was. At some ages, startlingly so.

My cousin struggled for years. We all saw how the movements of a day did not work for him. Interacting with us required great effort; as if his skull were a prison from which his thoughts and feelings could not escape. It feels like we all failed him; that we were a clan in the most ancient sense and that we lost one of our own to the predators outside the hearth. Or that we were supposed to be his net, and we let him slip through.

In the days after he died, I felt like the air itself was pressing down onto my shoulders. All I wanted to do, my image of comfort in that week, was to be on my hands and knees under a table. I wanted the table to take the weight; I wanted to hide there. B. pointed out, “Like a child; that’s what children do.” I guess so, but I wanted to disagree, explain it again, say, No, it’s not a comfort-child thing, it’s that the air was heavy and if I was under a table then the table would help me carry it. For me, it was a literal, not a symbolic, need.

When I meet my mother today we’ll walk to the river and have a prayer and a remembrance there. Yes, that’s what that particular pocket of time was for; the thing I was shuffling around and penciling in. Really the only thing that matters. But I am writing now. And I think I’ll swim. And I’m crying as I type and I remember that there is no readiness; that these flurries of activity are what I do to distract myself from the wheeling of a universe that I cannot understand and whose forces can take me at any time; sweep me out of a day and bring me exposed and face to face with the giant infinite expanse of what it means to be alive.

Week 36

B. activated my boobs.

He’s working from home this week, which is the best thing ever. We each have a nook with our desks and computers and talismans and pen arrangements, and most mornings we settle into our respective projects and don’t speak for a few hours but I love hearing him stirring. Also, he plays music when he works and I don’t but the volume is the exact right amount of muted to hold the silence of the house at bay. Sometimes when I’m working from home the world becomes scarily silent and I feel very alone; as if I am a forgotten speck as everyone wheels around me doing their thing. My mother calls it “existential angst.” Other times, she calls it “the fundamental loneliness of being human.” There was this book that always seemed to be on a table somewhere in our apartments called, No Man is an Island, but somehow I always read it, and remembered it as, Man is an Island. But B. is home, and so I don’t have to question my existence or my place in the universe. i can just type and wander up to his desk to steal sips of his sweet and oh-so caffeinated coffee.

Him being home also means that my midday reward has been much more rewarding.

I finally got that rug for the babe’s room. It is smallish, ivory wool, soft, and we put a nice felt pad under it for cushioning. For the babe. It was a sunny afternoon but miraculously I was in no rush to get outside and when I closed my computer I went and stood over B.’s chair smiling.

“Lunch?” He asked.

“Sure,” I said. Smiling.

“Hold on a sec,” he said, and then met me on the rug.

After, we were laying about in the radiant room (literally-the ceiling is a deep yellow, and in the afternoons it glows) when he went into my boobs once more, only to come up with a surprised smile.

“What?” I asked.

He just looked at me; grinning, eyebrows raised. I was slow to get it.

“No! No way.”

“I tasted something sweet.”

“No you did not.”

“Ummm. I did.”

I stared at my nipple, and then, using both hands, gave it a slow squeeze and, sure enough, two drops appeared.

I screamed and he laughed.

“Holy shit.”

I got the drop on my finger and tried to taste it, but for me, nothing.

“I don’t taste anything.”

“It’s sweet.”

I gave the other nipple a squeeze, and yes, there they were, two drops produced by my body, sitting milky and distinct on the tan, nubbly surface of my very own breast. I screamed again; also laughed and shouted “Holy Shit” a few more times. Finally, I gave those drops a swipe too. But, “I still don’t taste anything.”

“Well,” B. said, “My tastebuds are more sensitive than yours.”

I punched him in the arm. Though this does happen to be true. Back in the day, he was better at wine than I was.

And so. My body has made four drops of milk. Which is the craziest thing ever that has ever happened.

I recounted this little episode to my doula and friend, and she laughed, and then also reminded me, “Careful. Nipple stimulation is a good way to bring on labor.”

I’m still quite chilling with the babe staying inside of me and so, although I’m sad about it, the nipples have been declared off limits for a few weeks. Also the spicy food that I pretty much want to eat every day. Things are cooking in there. The babe is nudging. But not yet. Not quite yet. I still want a little more time. And, of course, a few more afternoons on the sunny rug.

Week 27

Time to rant.

The ice is a pain in the ass, and yet somehow the concern is getting to me too. To be careful, to be careful, and B. is so lovely with his elbow on my arm and yet it is the weirdest fucking thing in the world to be helped across a patch of ice the way I used to help my grandmother. I understand now that waving off of help; that, leave me be, I can do it.

And people who don’t handle their patch of sidewalk suck, as do the people who should be helping said people if they can’t do it themselves.

And also world, please stop telling me “I am carrying well.” I’ve touched on this before, but it is just code for I haven’t gained “too much” weight and at some point my brain can’t keep up my feminist levee against the rising tide of body obsession and just the other day, a leak sprung, the thought, “My thighs are getting big.”

Have you heard this one? Girls steal your beauty. Apparently mine hasn’t been stolen. Yet. Also my belly is “pointy”. Sure signs. It’s a boy.

Ah, but a rant intermission here to say that I really love these women, the aunties and grandmothers, who rub my belly in the ladies room without asking and tell me not to eat salt.

I love them much more than the woman today who suggested I help her stock apples during my co-op shift and there were lots of other people around and I looked at that low shelf and the big box, and had to say, “I just can’t bend like that these days.” And do you know what she said? “Some days I don’t want to bend either.”

And while I’m on the subject of the co-op: I’m just home from the last half hour of the shift spent loading fruit onto those low shelves and there I am standing there and honestly, just send me home. I am not even remotely ambiguously pregnant these days; just send me home. There was a Latin man working with me, and he kept waving me away, “Go sit. Go rest. There’s nothing you have to do here.” Reminded me how a friend traveled to Columbia at five months pregnant and said that every woman should have the experience of going to a Latin country pregnant. My mother said the same thing of being a new mother in Mexico. That she felt like a queen. I always planned/hoped to make it to Puerto Rico once I got pregnant, and today has been a day in which I might murder for the feeling of sun and sand on this belly of mine. Today also a day when I understand why I don’t have a proper credit. B. tells me all the time that I’m actually super financially responsible, and I think I am, but I don’t trust myself with credit because of the fact that I can always find a reason to buy a plane ticket. (Just as I always used to find a reason to go out to dinner; drink the best drink.) Then again, if I did let myself have one, I’m 99.9% sure I’d be flying to San Juan this very Friday.

Ice storm coming tonight.

Okay, now I’m having trouble holding back the visions of heat and water and swimming and fruit and Spanish and sun and diving into the ocean in a tiny bikini and oh man, now I’m imagining skinny dipping in a calm ocean, and how good it would feel to just feel my skin. Only my skin in the air and the water and none of this armor of long underwear and wool and scarves.

Two nights now of better rest because I followed a pillow diagram and am sleeping with six pillows. I’m not kidding. Six. My head hovers a full foot or so above B.. When he kisses me before sleeping he has to fully lift himself up to reach me because once I’ve achieved the position of maximum comfort I’m too nervous to move for fear of jinxing it.

And the reward for all this is a baby. I watched babies today. None of them seemed cute, and most of them annoying.

It’s just that there’s not enough time left. This baby is going to be here too soon and then I’m going to have a baby and then I’m going to be a mother and I have plans for many of the weekends coming and they’re hurrying me towards my due date, rushing me along, and it’s too fast right now. I’m not ready and it doesn’t matter because the babe will come anyway.

But.

I love the bumps and wiggles and shimmies. I really do. Me and it in this private dance.

I’m having an experience without reference point or comparison.

It’s just hard some days, the not knowing my way.

Week 25

I’ve been telling people I’m “about” five months pregnant, but yesterday I got my weekly update and looked at this number, 25, and realized I’ve been doing wishful counting and holy shit I am six months pregnant which means I only have about three months left and I know how fast three months can go.

I did not panic.

My first thought: I need to make some lists. I designed the list in my head. It’s divided into four quadrants, and one corner is things I need, another things I really want, and then a third things I think would be fun to have and I couldn’t think of a category for the fourth. Diapers go on there for sure, and a thing to use to carry the baby around, but also, a rug. I keep on thinking that we need a rug. I’ve never bought a rug in my whole life. The only time I spotted one that I really liked, the guy nodded and said, “Ah yes, that is our best one. The wool was hand spun by women in the mountains of Afghanistan.” And then quoted me a price so far into the thousands that I just laughed.

I haven’t made the list yet.

And also, I thought we had the names all figured out, but now I’m doubting the boy’s name we picked out, and I can’t think of a single boy’s name I like. We chose the names in the midst of my last bout of unpreparedness.

And here is where I pause to remind myself of my own birth on a wooded commune in Tennessee. My mother labored from 9 to 5, and in the afternoon, moments before she pushed me out, she saw a large woodpecker with red, white and black feathers in the trees outside the window. The midwife caught me, and my father danced in celebration. We stayed for a month or so in that room in The Long House, as it was called, and then moved into a yellow van with a bed in the back. We first drove north, to visit my mother’s mother, and then south, to my father’s country. We spent a few months in that van before settling into our own place in Mexico.  And in Mexico too, there was no one house, no changing table, no one special rug.

I don’t really want to do anything. I don’t want to research or scan or peek or prod or shop. I feel like I am a complete ecosystem right now, and I don’t want to mess with it.

Maybe if I at least get the carrier, or sling, or whatever; the thing to carry the babe in, then we’ll be mobile and ready and able to go anywhere we want.

And also a rug. I can’t shake it. I really want a rug.