For a the month of May (mental health awareness month) if you subscribe to my mailing list you’ll receive a free copy of my e-book, Rumble Strip. Click here to subscribe.
I went through a year of horrendous online dating before I met the man who became my husband. I wasn’t exactly a poster girl for the most eligible bachelorette, but none of my hold-ups were much excuse for the sort of men I met. I was 24 years old and a full time student. I worked part time, lived with my parents, was divorced, and had two children under the age of five. I’m not an unattractive woman, but men weren’t exactly beating down my door to date me. More so, I knew that I needed a companion, not just a boyfriend.
I couldn’t seem to even meet a normal, down to earth man. Things became enough of a joke around the house that my mother would sit up at night and wait for me to get home, collapse on her bed and giggle while sharing all the terrible details of my odd nights out.
There was the man who was allergic to everything. I gave him an innocent kiss after our date, forgetting that I had eaten a piece of chicken, and almost killed him.
Then there was the guy who asked me to hold his belt while in the mall so I wouldn’t get lost.
The man who took the menu out of my hand and ordered food for me like I was three.
The guy who took me to a movie and proceeded to move down to the front row where there was only one open seat to “see better,” leaving me alone.
The man who figured out where I worked and spent an hour walking around the store trying out different women’s lotions before finally admitting he was one of the men I had denied a date request from on an online site.
The guy who took me shopping and then proceeded to tell me how I should dress.
The gentleman who stripped naked in his parent’s living room while I used their restroom.
By the time I got around to talking to Mak, I was pretty wary of dates. A whole year of these kinds of dates will do that to a woman. I had a whole safety set-up – complete with emergency friend phone calls lined up and pepper spray.
Mak invited me over for dinner. I had such a good time that I ended up coming home and looking him up on Google and the case search program to see if he had some shady criminal past hiding. There had to be something wrong, considering my past history with online dating. He had a speeding ticket. That was it. Needless to say, I was impressed.
The next morning we had a quick conversation.
“I’m not really interested in playing around,” he said. “I like you. Let’s make this serious.”
If any other man I’d gone on a date with had said that to me I’d have gone running for the hills.
“Okay,” I said.
I don’t know why. I’d hate to chalk it up to some sort of fate thing, but maybe part of me knew he wasn’t a psycho killer. Maybe there was some deeper connection. Maybe I was just really brave.
Within a few weeks he had met my children and included them in our outings.
“Go get the orange egg out of the fridge,” I told him.
He got up and I heard the fridge door open. After a moment it closed again and he came back to the couch.
“Well…” I started.
“Well what?” He asked.
“What did you think?” I asked. It was the first time I’d attempted to tell the man I loved him and he was being completely stubborn about the whole thing.
“It’s cute,” he said.
“And…” I lead him.
“I love you, too,” he said. “You know that.”
By the end of the year he had moved in. We were blessed in our relationship. There hadn’t been many of the big challenging moments. His father passed a few weeks before our wedding, but it was expected, and while we mourned it hadn’t surprised us. Their relationship had been so strained, for so long. It was the first time though that I ever saw him cry – a moment that I think is imprinted in my memory. There is something about seeing a strong man mourn, something heartbreaking and frightening and so real it hurts that one simply doesn’t forget it.
I remember standing by his father’s bed. He sat in a chair across the room from me. I went to him, but he didn’t reach for me. I stepped back – gave him space. I didn’t know how to handle his grief. He took a few moments to himself and I watched him. I watched the years, the pain, the neglect from that relationship wash away. For those few moments there was love.
There hadn’t been many of those bring-you-to-your-knees moments. We didn’t even really fight or argue. We were thankful to have found a companion in one another that shared a similar sense of humor. Laughter got us through any time things seemed to be getting dark.
He stepped into the role of father as if it were all he’d ever known. It was never a look-at-me exercise, but came naturally. There was a gaping hole in our little family and he saw it, stepped into it, and never looked back. It was in the quiet way he made that transition that still never fails to amaze me.
He has a silent strength in him. A code of ethics that can’t be argued or even discussed. They simply are.
Perhaps it’s because of his quiet nature that people find him intimidating. Combining that with the sleeves of tattoos and long dark hair, it’s quite understandable. However, anyone watching him drink tea from a tiny porcelain cup with my daughter would realize how wrong they are.
Four years after that first date and I was talking to my brother in California, planning his trip home to visit.
“When is he coming home?” Mak asked.
“The end of June,” I said.
“Good,” he said. “We’ll get married then.”
Proposal. Date set. End of discussion.
I had a month to get everything planned and ready.
I love you, too. You know that.
After our wedding we decided to have a baby. A few short months later and I was excitedly waving those little pink lines around in the air. We were so excited we told everyone.
We were at his mother’s for a belated Thanksgiving dinner when I started miscarrying. My husband had the kids in the car while I stood white knuckled on the phone with the emergency room and watched my father-in-law toss the kids’ toys into their book bags. Hours and many tests later the doctor gave us the news.
“There’s no heartbeat.”
I’d known when I saw her face. I’d been crying since she came into the room. I looked across the room at my husband. I expected him to get up, to come to me. The doctor left and he still sat there for a few moments. In that space between us I watched him break, hit his emotional knees, mourn, and grieve. I watched him as he cared for himself and then he came to me. He put himself behind and cared for me.
For the following days he held me while I cried and found whatever ways he could to make me smile. We found laughter in the darkest moments. We suffered. We healed.
We spent months talking back and forth about whether or not to try again. The entire process had frightened him so badly. I learned to appreciate what pregnancy can do to a man. It’s a terrifying situation, especially for one who tends to like to be in control of things. There is no control with pregnancy.
He couldn’t see what was happening inside my body.
He couldn’t control what was happening.
He couldn’t stop me from being in pain, from hurting.
All he could do was be there and hope that I would heal.
“I’m not sure we should try again,” Mak said.
We were lying in bed, the lights off and waiting for one or both of us to become too tired to keep talking.
“You don’t want one of your own?” I asked.
“They are my own,” he said.
A few nights later we were repeating this whole thing again. It was like a record skipping, playing backwards, flinging all over the place. I never knew where we’d end up.
“We could try again,” he said.
“We’re not doing anything to stop it from happening,” I answered.
“If it does, it does,” he’d agree.
Three months of this back and forth indecision plagued us.
Finally he said, “I don’t think we should try again.”
“I’m pregnant,” I said.
We collapsed against one another laughing. For weeks we were quiet. We were so careful not to tell people too early. We went to each appointment with our heart in our throats. Every test was a negative, dangerous thing. Every symptom I had was cause to worry. We struggled to find joy.
Mak kept warning me not to get my hopes up.
I kept countering that he needed to not think so negatively.
We flew past each other, both of us on separate ends of our own emotional roller-coasters.
“Are you happy about the baby?” I finally asked him.
“Of course,” he said. “You know that.”
I love you, too. You know that.
I am five months pregnant today. A few weeks ago we went to the doctor and we got to hear the heartbeat. The tiny whomp whomp whomp sound filled the room. I was laid back on the bed watching my husband. He didn’t stand up and come to me. For a few moments, he sat there and smiled. I watched him in this moment of joy and excitement and relief. I watched him take that moment for himself and then he came to me.
He kisses me every morning before he leaves for work. He tells me he loves me before we fall asleep. He doesn’t have to say that he loves me. I know he does. All I need are those few moments, where there is space between us and I have the chance to really see my husband. It is in those moments that I get to watch him love.
This is my very first time writing a guest post. Also, I am PMSing like a rage monster. (But I’m still cuter than Edward Norton, Eric Bana and Mark Ruffalo combined.)
*whewf* Now that THAT’S out of the way…
I feel the need to say that I love friendship.
I’m super cheesy that way. Finding — and then subsequently hanging out with — people that make you feel like you’re not the only weirdo on the planet is cash money. Men and Women in Community instead of Competition is powerful. As long as your common denominator isn’t bullying other people or loving the Biebs, then FRIENDSHIP HO!
However, I have a problem with the title “BFF,” Best Friends Forever. I see it all over the place, mostly amongst 13 year olds whose feelings about anything last approximately 2 weeks.
Now, maybe it’s just me, but being a good friend is a marathon. Not just a wedding, but a marriage. You have to be IN IT TO WIN IT, and you can’t be the only one in the relationship who feels that way, you darling little Golden Retriever of Loyalty, you!
If you ARE, then you have no cash money. You have slavery. And, chances are, they like it.
And if you’re under the title of BFF with that person from the time you’re pre-pubescent, it’s way easier to lie and rationalize yourself into adulthood about who they really are.
I’ve learned that sometimes people are assbutts, and sometimes I’m an assbutt, and sometimes you realize that what you wanted in a BFF at 13 is not what you want at 25.
People change, and I’ve found that women change a LOT in particular. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing. But ladies, let’s be honest, sometimes it is.
How can we make it better? How can we be a true BFF that stands the test of time? I mean, I get it, not everybody is meant to be BFFs. There are levels of friendship that start at acquaintance and work their way into depth.
But we can still be nice about it.
Here are some Valuable Lessons Life Has Taught Me Like The Heartless Bitch She (Sometimes) Is.
1. Don’t Hold Grudges
No matter the amount of time you have been friends, one of you is going to mess up eventually. Don’t be surprised or shocked, because, friend, I just gave you the heads up.
If they say they’re sorry, forgive them and move on.
If they DON’T say they’re sorry, you should probably still forgive them and move on because you deserve more than to be held captive by bitterness. **However, if they have a habit of not apologizing even when they know they’ve effed up, consider that this might not be the best quality in a BFF**
And if they’ve said they are sorry, and you’ve said that you forgive them but you haven’t really cause you never know when you might need to bring it up at some distant point in the future to make them feel bad, then guess who is the naughty BFF? YOU, sweetie. DON’T BE A GRAVE DIGGER.
2. Be There For the Big and Little Stuff
As much as you possibly can.
Some friends are only interested in drama. Unless you’ve got something BIG going down, talk to somebody else. Their shoes are like “What extra mile?”
Excuse me. Being there for someone means that even if their little story about the nightmare they had 3 days ago is boring you to tears, you’re gonna listen. You’re gonna put your arm around them and say, “That sucks. Good thing dreams aren’t real.”
THAT will get you much further than THIS.
Big stuff is important too. Engagements, weddings, babies, funerals, break-ups, the list goes on. I’ve done my best to be present at every single one of those events in my friend’s lives. It matters to me.
Dear friends traveled from all over North America to be a part of my wedding, but one of them who couldn’t be there is still mad and won’t talk to me because I got married anyway. Apparently, I forgot that that day was about her. Don’t be her.
3. Don’t Let Your Personality Burn Bridges
I’m weird. I’m an extrovert who thrives on people but still needs alone time every once in awhile. I have friends who are like that as well — I also have friends who just never. get. tired. of. partying.
and others who only want to see me in their computer.
At first, I thought introverts hated me, but now that I’ve matured *a little* I see that it’s not about ME, and it takes all kinds of kinds to make a world.
That being said, can I make a suggestion?
a.) If you are painfully shy or introverted but you love your friends, please try to tell them or show them in some way, at least once a week. It doesn’t have to be face to face. It doesn’t have to be a big long speech. Just let them know you care, because they can’t read your mind and you wouldn’t want that anyway. I know it can be really exhausting talking to people, but a little really will go a long way.
b.) Likewise, extroverts? Be cool, dayum. I know you’re a social butterfly and you gotta flap those wings and BE FREE GIRL, but ya know what is also cool? Making rooted, lasting connections with fewer people. Remembering them. Being intentional and meaningful rather than being perceived as flaky and superficial.
4. Chicks Before Dicks
New love. We know how spine-tingly, tummy-full-of-butterflies, and full-abandoney that makes us. It is so easy to jump with both feet into a new relationship, where you’re so consumed with each other that this other person is the only one that matters and how did you ever live without them before?
(I probably shouldn’t only say “chicks before dicks” when referring to relationships; I know that there’s more to the relationship spectrum that just guy/girl. It just sounded clever, aight?)
Either way, it’s not cool to abandon your group of friends for months at a time while you surrender to a haze of Eat, Significant Other, Sleep (?), Repeat. It’s healthy to maintain all of your relationships with balance. What happens if you break up? (OMG, I’m TOTALLY NOT SAYING you would EVER) You think you can just saunter back in on your friends’ lives as though you didn’t just ignore every phone call, text and email they sent you over the past 6 months? It’s shallow and selfish to assume that they will just pick up where you left off.
Or maybe your Love is Eternal and you’ll be together for 50 years until you die.
At some point, you’re still gonna need some friends.
5. Do The Elsa and Let It Go
If you find yourself in a relationship where you’re being forgotten, undermined, gossiped about, mistreated, given the run-around, and ignored — it’s time to cut ties and say goodbye.
It’s gonna feel like a break-up AKA suckage to the max. Tears, stress-eating and thinking of them every time you hear what was once your favorite song.
I know. I’m in the middle of a break-up right now. I lost a decade-long friend 2 years ago, and occasionally, I’m still tortured by memories of her in dreams AND waking. We had *some* good times, mostly when she was single. But even then, she always had to be better and prettier and more noticed than me. She was rarely honest with me about her true feelings, so I was always left guessing.
After the debacle of her not being able to come to, or be in, my wedding (Her exact words were, “Maybe one day I’ll be able to forgive you.”), the camel’s back was broken. I decided I deserved better, and I let her go. Just quietly; there was no big argument or fallout, only silence.
She’s basically my source for this entire post.
If you’ve had a shitty friend, I’m sorry. You deserve better, and Better Will Come.
If you’ve been a shitty friend, I’m sorry for that too, and it’s not too late to change.
I think the problem can be boiled down to two opposing sides of the attitude spectrum.
“I’m better than everyone”……………………………………………….”Everyone is better than me.”
If you join ranks with someone because their life is “sad” enough that they make you feel better about yourself, it’s not going to last.
If you join ranks with someone because you’re jealous of how amazing they are, and you can’t stop comparing yourself to them so you only get close just to be able to imitate them, it’s not going to last.
The root of both of those philosophies is that you really think it’s all about you.
And friendship can’t survive when you’re just looking out for Number One.
Why don’t we commit to: celebrating the successes of our friends, recognizing that comparison is the thief of joy, and to loving others the way that we love ourselves?
Other women may have put me down and held me back, but I will not continue the cycle because all they did was teach me what not to do.
If enough of us do this, then maybe the BFF can be redeemed.
Told ya I was cheesy.
Hola! I’m Carly Butler Hutton, or rather, Button. I’m a birth doula, cupcake maker, ex-illegal immigrant, and I’m the newest cool person you know. Gimme a shout, eh? 🙂 Carly Hutton blogs over at Growing Butterfly, tweets @carlymbutton, Instagrams @carlymbutton and Facebooks as “Carly Button Loves.”
Maybe you’re wondering why the title of this post has absolutely nothing to do with Crockpots. Maybe you’re thinking, “Hey! Where’s the next part of that story?!” Maybe you haven’t even been reading along and in that case, you have no expectations for today.
I never thought I’d be happy to not have someone following.
I talked to a friend last night who gave me these unbelievably kind words:
You don’t owe anyone anything.
And so, while I love you all dearly, she was right. I can’t write the next segment today. I’ve been dreading it all week. I’ve been up all night thinking about it. It has put me into such a dark frame of mind, that I think giving myself a week to breathe is the best possible thing I can do. Will I finish it? Sure. Just not today.
And that’s okay.
Normally, I’d be worried by now. I’d be pacing around thinking, alright, now you have to come up with a new game plan. You’ve got to write something else. What the hell are you going to say?
But I have more awesome friends who commandeered some of my posts last evening and asked for the tale of the tattoos. I always find it interesting, this idea that there is a story behind the ink on my skin. I suppose I’m rather jaded about it all, and without trying to sound like the bully of the tattoo world, I’ve seen too many things like this:
Girl walks into tattoo parlor. She says, “What’s the cheapest tattoo I can get?”
Guy comes in with $50 and says, “Just put on something for that much.”
People staring at the pictures on the wall and saying, “How much is that? Yeah, I’ll get that.”
Girls lined up to get the same tattoo as all their other friends, because their friends have it, so they want it.
So maybe that tribal armband really does have some significant value for you. Or maybe you got it because you thought it looked cool. I’m wondering if I gave my opinion on these things if I’d get my first hater comment. -Shrugs-
Been there, guys. The day I turned eighteen I set out on a mission: Do All the Newly Legal Activities. I bought a lotto ticket and cigarettes. I mumbled and complained that there wasn’t a presidential election going on so I could go vote. I got a bit tipsy (not legal) with some friends and headed to some seedy tattoo joint where I basically pointed at a picture of an alien on one of those big plastic, swinging art boards and said, “I want that, but with wings. I want it to fly.”
That tattoo means nothing. It had no significant story behind it. Some guy who proceeded to tell me about the seven children he had with seven different women tattooed it on my hip while I bit the back of my hand in pain hard enough to leave a bruise for days. People who have tattoos will tell you, there is something addictive about that pain. I mean, either you get a tattoo and hate the entire experience so much you never want to do it again or you get tattooed and all you can think about is saving enough money to do it again. I fell into the latter category.
Only a few months later, Triple A took me to a parlor for my next one. Finally, I was going to have a tattoo with meaning. I was going to join the crowd of people who walk around with stories inked into their skin. Except my story sucked, and I didn’t want a tattoo.
Triple A and I had a “thing”, a saying. It wasn’t an “I love you” or some collection of pet names. He would say, “You belong to me.” And I would reply, “Always.” It sounds pretty, when you say it like that. It sounds like a sweet endearment. It doesn’t sound like the underlying threat it was. Those words, repeated again and again in my head, were a frightening combination. He had them tattoo the word “Always” on my arm. I was labeled. It was the equivalent of a branding. I had become livestock. Property. Owned.
I wasted no time at all getting that mark covered up after we separated. As soon as I had the money saved, I went in to my local tattoo parlor and said, “Cover it up. Please.” It’s a small town. They knew my story and I told them what it had meant, why I needed it gone. Erased. Eradicated.
Let me just say, my tattoo guy was awesome. He said one word, “Phoenix.” Rising from the ashes. Change. Growth. Rebirth. It was perfect. I sat back with something close to nirvana as that gun moved across my skin and wiped away the proof of who I had been, what I had done.
I had a bible verse slamming through my head, a verse I turn to often, regardless of my lack of belief. I grew up in a Christian household. These verses were ingrained into my very being.
I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me. – Phil. 4:13
It became my mantra. The words pressing through my clenched lips again and again. It gave me the backbone to scrape away the sludge that was left behind from the last few years. I was wiping the slate clean in the permanent dark stains of red and black. The sting of the needle, the buzz of the gun, the pinpricks of blood that welled, the numbness in my fingers: it was a cleansing of epic proportions. I was new. Changed. A Phoenix.
So then I went back and got flowers tattooed around it, because they were pretty and I didn’t like the empty white span of my skin around the Phoenix. See what I mean? This whole dance of deep meaning to aesthetic beauty is a constant in tattooing. Sure, some pieces have intense meaning. Others? Hell, they just look good.
But there are repercussions to getting tattoos, especially ones this large. I had to cover them for work. I lost opportunities for work, because of them. People look at you different. We’re in a generation where tattoos are not only accepted (for the most), but are insanely popular. However, that’s mostly in the tiny, hidden variety. When you turn every inch of skin possible into a canvas, you start to attract attention.
I tutored for a long time and I will never forget the woman who came into the college sobbing, because she couldn’t find work. I sat there, watching her fall apart across the desk from me. She had passed her classes, but no one would hire her as an accountant.
I’m going to assume it had less to do with her abilities or qualifications and more to do with the gigantic spiderweb that was inked across her neck. It was impossible to miss. Impossible to hide. And unfortunately, it doesn’t fit in the set parameters people have in mind when they think of certain professionals like bankers, real estate agents, lawyers…accountants. That’s just the nature of the world. If someone asked you to write a description of a stock broker, would you describe them in a business suit with a smoking skull tattooed on their hand? Probably not.
But I wasn’t going to be an accountant. I was going to write. So, I started a literary collection that is no where near complete. I fell in love with the Dothraki language and culture in George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series. The first time I watched the show and saw the scene where Khal Drogo does his speech, my heart began to race, my palms were sweaty. I was leaning forward in my seat, gripped and completely lost in the moment. I didn’t even read the subtitles. The speech was so powerful in its delivery that I UNDERSTOOD it. The final line, “Asavvasoon” was the promise. “As the stars bear witness” (translation). Powerful words. Intense. I loved the way it rolled off my tongue. I went out and laid back on a table topless while the tattoo guy kept saying the word over and over again and shaking his head.
I finished my second book, got labeled as a feminist, and rushed to the parlor to get a femfist tattooed on my arm. I circled it with the line “Out of the ash I rise” from my favorite poem, Lady Lazarus, by Sylvia Plath.
I wanted more. I started compiling ideas like an image hoarder. I scratched lines in books under phrases and quotes that struck me. I started talking to my tattoo artist about my writing, about what it meant to me, about the process. He helped me develop these pieces.
That first moment when a story comes into your head. The way it takes over and it’s all you can think about and you stay up all night running through the possibilities, excitement permeating through your pores. The utter Possession of it.
The structure sets in. You start building the world, the characters. They take shape around you and suddenly it’s like you have vomited out the very core of yourself and the pieces are up and walking around, living, breathing beings from the deepest recesses of your psyche. You are the Architect of everything.
He got all that for me. He gathered what I was, what I felt, and put it on my skin where everyone else could see it.
And be confused by it, because the idea that I’m going to take what’s in my head, make it pretty, and expect people to understand it is ludicrous.
And it hurt like hell. Just saying. The thigh is a pretty painful place to get tattooed. I sighed in pleasure and at one point promised to kiss my tattoo artist when he wiped a cool cloth across my skin. The husband laughed as I moaned like a slut with every pause of the gun.
So do my tattoos speak? Sure. They have stories, some important and meaningful, some silly. Does anyone else get the story just by seeing them? Not normally. I either get compliments or complete avoidance. Small town thinking, I certainly don’t fit in here. It’s been made painfully clear entirely too many times.
I left the last college I was at, because regardless of my talents, my intelligence, my overall friendliness (I really am a pretty nice person, dammit), I was ignored. Ostracized. I was the only person there with bright dyed hair. I never saw anyone with tattoos. I was one of only fifteen “nontraditional” students. I was one of about five who didn’t live on campus. I was older than some of my professors. I had children. No one wanted anything to do with me.
I remember the first day on campus. It was a family day, where everyone was there with their parents checking out the campus and the dorms. I was in a sea of khaki pants and polo shirts. And there’s me. Purple hair, tattoos. A husband with dark, tanned skin and long black hair that was partially shaved. A daughter with purple streaks in her hair. A son with a Mohawk.
People stepped off the sidewalks to avoid our path. The day I left that school, heartbroken and angry, the husband showed up and helped me do that walk. He yanked his shirt off, let all of his tattoos shine bright and drew everyone’s attention away from me.
He’s pretty awesome like that.
I mean, when you see a collection of skulls and flames, of demons and quotes from Revelations, and words like “evil” tattooed on someone, it makes an impression.
People see the husband and say he’s intimating. Frightening. They think he has a bad guy attitude.
I laugh at that. While the husband isn’t anyone to take shit off of anybody, he’s not all that they think. He’s got a vicious tongue and the wit to knock someone flat on their back and send them running away in torrents of tears, but they always deserve it. He doesn’t do it for just the hell of it. He’s actually a pretty big teddy bear at heart.
People see his tattoos and they tell a story. It doesn’t seem like a pleasant one, and honestly, the husband’s story isn’t pretty. But he’s not what they see. He’s this:
Herstory Lesson: Tattoos are a permanent tale on your skin, but don’t expect the rest of the world to be able to understand the story they tell.
Featured Here: My Tattoo Artist, the one and only Irish Buddha
Trigger Warning: This post makes reference to miscarriage, loss, pregnancy.
I want to sit back and write something witty. I want to grab you on the first line and take you along some story’s path, so we can come out together at the end, holding hands and feeling quite proud of ourselves. I want to have words to give you, sprinkle around your mind like beautiful confetti.
But I don’t have it today.
I’ve got nothing to give.
I think all in all I’ve been handling this well. I mean, by the definition of “well” that everyone around me uses.
“Oh, she’s good.”
“You look well.”
She’s not good. She’s staring at her Facebook and seeing post after post of baby bumps and nurseries and baby showers and count downs and newborn photos. She’s not good, because she’s angry and she’s jealous. It’s not that she isn’t happy for them. It’s not that she doesn’t wish them the best. She just wishes she had what they do. She wants in on that little world again.
She’s not fine. She’s standing in the checkout and people keep opening their mouths.
“How far along are you now?”
“You’re barely even showing.”
“How’s baby doing?”
“When are you do?”
And so she has to say that the baby is gone, again and again and again. The words stick in her throat and she’s choking on them, bending over to let them fall out of her mouth with a delicate thud. She’s not fine and she’s sick with speaking of it.
She looks well. She lost what weight she’d gained and she has more energy. The pregnancy had made her so sick. She looks healthy again. There is color in her cheeks and her hair has regained its bounce. She gets dressed a little more often. She paints her face. She crawls into bed with her husband, aching and needy and everything is back to the way it was and her world has settled into a muted thing, because she is well and so she is waiting. Waiting for her body and his to have that tiny moment of collision that will breathe new life into her womb and it terrifies her.
But she’s raging.
She wakes up and groggy eyed checks her email. Entirely too many messages, but it’s the morning routine. And she sees the words:
You haven’t purchased anything off your baby registry. Sign in now to get everything baby needs!
So the company attached a coupon to ease the burn behind the idea that she is such a bad mother-to-be, she hasn’t even bought anything off her list. She has no crib, no carseat, no newborn diapers. She has no bouncing chairs, no teething rings, no footed pajamas. She has no formula, no Tylenol, no soft and fleecy blankets.
But she has rage at seeing it.
She has pain that sparks behind her eyes and they’d call them tears, but they burn hot streaks down her face and she thinks she could set the entire world on fire with her emotions overflowing.
She is raging.
And her husband comes home and kisses her on the head. He asks, “What’s wrong?” And she tells him, “Nothing.”
And she pushes the rage back long enough to kiss him. To make him his breakfast. To prepare herself for getting the children up. It’s a matter of survival now and she can’t be the woman she’s supposed to be with everything snapping apart. She shoves it down, like a pill stuck in her throat. She buries it deep.
Congrats on the new baby! He’s beautiful.
The nursery looks wonderful. You all got a lot of work done.
Good luck at the hospital. You and baby are in my thoughts.
Look at that bump! Any day now. . .
Click this button to unsubscribe from future BabiesRUs promotions.
Herstory Lesson: “You are so brave and quiet I forget you are suffering.” – Ernest Hemingway
I had to do this one.
Because Rarasaur did the prompt and she is awesome.
Because the prompt itself was awesome.
And because I wanted to take a moment and step outside of myself.
So I tossed myself into some fictional woman. Then I threw that woman into a very real place going through very real things that have never really happened in that place.
Did I lose you yet?
This entire piece is about being lost. It’s dark and dangerous and it came from that part of my mind that even Norman is afraid of.
Enjoy, while I go coax that hairy barbarian out from behind Ellie’s dressing table.
Operation: To the Teeth
The sun is setting on the century and we are armed to the teeth. The lyrics of Ani DiFranco’s gritty music filled my head, setting the theme song for the backdrop that I was coming to know so well. There’s an order to things. A specific set of gradual occurrences that succeed tragedy, grief, destruction, invasion. Yes, it had been an invasion, as difficult as that may be to believe. That was the first occurrence: the doubt.
We didn’t feel the ground shaking, hear the pat-pat-pat of machine gun fire, or see the rolling tracks of tanks rip the ground to shreds beneath their tread. I was washing dishes at the sink, staring out the small window that overlooked my backyard, a swing-set, the cornfield. My children were playing in the sandbox outside, performing acts of God and moving mountains with little effort or thought to the consequences. My husband was watching TV.
That’s how we knew it. The electric flashed and the TV shut off. That in itself wasn’t much to be concerned about. Two birds could sit on a wire and knock our electric out. The flash only lasted long enough to knock the dish out briefly and then the TV was back and blaring. A long steady beep screamed from the speakers and I waited for the words, “This is a test of the Emergency Broadcast System.” Instead, I heard a mechanical voice telling us, the people, to hold for the President of the United States.
The video feed was not from the Oval Office. There was no comfy leather chair, no stars and stripes to fill the background. There was our President, worry and anger battling for the right to carve lines in his face, to spread from his thin pressed lips and to spiral out from his wide-set eyes.
Doubt always comes first. No one believes it. The ego kicks in and the first thought is always, “Who would dare?” “Who would do this?” “Why would they want to?” All those questions are followed by the immediate reaction of, “We’ll be fine.” “They’ll call in the military.” “No one can beat us in a fight.”
This is by far the longest part of the entire affair. The season of doubt washes across the country like a second-coming of the black plague. It eats everyone alive, but takes forever to go away. In its wake, we were left with anger, hatred, and fuel for a fight. The men disappeared. One by one they went off, recruited by their country or simply egging for a fight. Who knew? Who cared? We needed them and they went.
And now we’re here, and those gradual occurrences are coming at a faster rate. See, once the doubt is gone, once the men have run off to defend their egos, their families, their possessions, their homes, their freedom…everything else falls into place very quickly.
We’re tossed back into a medieval society, with no electric, no running water, no heat. Our money becomes far more useful as kindling for a fire, or toilet paper. It’s a barter and trade society again and it’s like we’ve been thrown back, back, back. I’ve got the best commodity around. Everyone can take it, but it can’t be stolen. It’s like my own personal Sphinx riddle and it is a tragedy that my daughter carries the same currency.
Every right women ever fought for is gone. There is no one there to protect them, and so they are victims and protectors all at once. They become prey even as they provide. So we learn our purpose again:
The men come in broken and we heal them.
The men come in broken and we feed them.
The men come in broken and we lie down, spread our legs, and let them break us.
Yes, women have found their place again, but at least we found a system of money that works. So we lose a piece of our soul, but our children are fed. They need to be strong for this world we’re making, breaking.
I should have done as the others. I should have skirted the cities on my way North. The North has become a beacon of safety, a haven for the lost. I wonder if they’ll have closed the gates by the time we get there. I’ve never seen Niagara. I’ve never seen much of anything. My tiny life in my tiny, rural town was all I had ever known. Finally, after years of staring at the pages of travel magazines, I had the opportunity to see the world around me.
Regardless, I was foolish, but I wanted to see it. I had a postcard shoved in my pocket. I’d grown up surrounded by fields of corn and soybean, by deep rooted forests and gravel drives. I wanted to see buildings that touched the sky, that reached their sturdy fingers up to stroke the underside of the clouds.
I remember pulling the postcard out and staring at it as we approached. I must have been around the same distance as the person who shot the original photograph. None of it was there. Rockefeller, Chrysler, Trump, Empire. They were all gone. I looked at the crease that was a white bolt of lightning through the middle of my postcard. It touched the top of the World Trade Center and drove right through the middle of the towers. Those had been gone long before today, another tragedy from another time. It seemed a million years ago.
The purple mountains majesty was blocked by billowing columns of smoke and ash. There were no amber waves of grain, only the charred remains left behind by a foreign army. We never saw it coming and from sea to shining sea lay the remains of capitalism, democracy, America the beautiful.
I feel a weight shift and briefly, for a moment, I can breathe again. Then there is another weight, and the hair is prickly and sharp as it rubs against my chest. He’s wider and my thighs are crushed down against the cold concrete of a dilapidated Macy’s store. Sweat is beading on his chin and dripping down onto my forehead like some sort of Chinese water torture and I’m floating away again. I’m lying here while men I don’t know are pumping away inside me, pouring their anger, disgust, and hate into me, using me for a moment to feel like maybe they’re in control again. They’re not, and perhaps because I know it, and they know I know it, they push harder and harder every time.
I have no idea where my husband is. The only men I see are my own countrymen, running and fleeing to the North as quickly as we are. I don’t even know where my President is, or if he even is anymore. I know that I have three more to go before I get a loaf of bread. I know yesterday I earned a scoop of peanut butter that someone had shoved into little baggies. It’s the new drug deal of our century and I keep it shoved inside my bra for safety. I know that tonight my children will eat well and I only have three more to go, or two now. I think this one is done.
Ani’s words drift through my head and I hear another girl crying nearby. Her tears form the melody to the tune and when a hand smashes my face to the side, holding me to the floor, I sing, “We’re all working together now…to make our lives mercifully brief…”
Today sucked. I mean, in most aspects…it completely sucked.
After a trip to the doctor’s, we found out that the natural route we opted for has not finished and we are not yet over the physical part with the miscarriage.
So…when I believed at least the pain was behind me, I realize it hasn’t even truly begun. It’s like walking around with a time bomb ticking away inside me and having to wait and see.
Will it happen today?
Will the husband be home or will I be alone?
I can’t go to the store. What if it happens while I am there?
Here, let me move that couch. Maybe heavy lifting will get it started tonight?
I should sit down. I don’t want it to start now.
So, it is ups and downs as I feel like Mother Nature is winging me around on her own personal yo-yo. It’s a pathetic Miley Cyrus on the wrecking ball imitation and I needed something to shift this pendulum in a new direction.
The dress came in. It looks this good in person. Better even, because it didn’t fit.
I ordered the same size, from the same company that I got my wedding dress back in June.
And this dress was a full size too big. I admit. Part of me was extremely happy to push it back into the plastic bag and prepare to ship it off for an exchange from Amazon. Oh pendulum push.
And then these came. It was like package heaven here.
And they fit.
And I smiled as I handed them to the husband and told him he could wrap them and stick them under the tree.
Because tomorrow there will be no party for me to go to. I will stay home for the hours, the days, the weeks this may take.
I will bake cookies.
I will wrap presents.
I will cook dinner for my children.
I will pack lunch for my husband.
I will fold laundry and do dishes.
And in a few weeks I will open a package with a kick ass pair of shoes in it and I will wear them for my husband.
And I will love him.
And everything will go up and down, because that’s how it goes.
So, I’ll lift my chin, square my shoulders and give the pendulum a little push with my gold toned stilettos.
My son has a fascination with numbers. He hasn’t quite figured out how they work yet, but I’m hoping that this inclination towards math continues for him. It’s never been my strong suit, and I dread the years coming when he asks for help with his homework and I realize it is a math I couldn’t pass in college.
Numbers like six thousand four seven eighty nine nine and five two hundred ninety seven five three are the normal way of describing things around my house.
The alligator was ninety eleven thousand pounds old.
I weigh seventy nine two and three years.
It’s two thousand million six ways that way.
So tonight we had this…
Dude: Can you get a new baby tomorrow?
Me: No. Not tomorrow. Daddy and I are going to wait for a little bit before we try to make another baby.
Dude: Like eleven seventy-five bits.
Me: Like sixty to ninety bits.
Dude: That’s like next this week.
And since we live in a home where everything always happened “yesterday” and everything is happening “tomorrow”, I realized for him, next week is forever. So I didn’t argue the point, or try to explain days and weeks and months. I didn’t mess with his little realm of reality and the small ‘bits’ of it he gets right now. I’m glad he asks me questions. I’m glad he knows he can.
Maybe he got it from the husband. I have to say, as bad as things got yesterday for me, the husband was his normal, dependable self…though inquisitive, to say the least.
I started having contractions yesterday, so we knew what the doctor referred to as the “big event” (terrible choice of words, doc) was on its way, and we hoped to soon be finished with the physical aspects of this loss so we could go back to dealing with the emotional parts of it.
Before I continue, the husband and I share an amazing quality: we laugh.
We laugh about everything.
We laugh about nothing.
We laugh about inappropriate things.
We laugh to deal with the crap around us.
We laugh to deal with each other.
We laugh when we are angry, or sad, or frustrated.
We laugh when we are in pain.
We laugh, because that’s how we deal and that’s who we are.
So yesterday, while I was curled up in the bed in the middle of increasingly intense contractions, I looked over and saw…basically this:
Once I was done yelling curses into my fluffy pillow, I began to laugh. I had forgotten that this would have been the husband’s first baby…It was the first pregnancy he’d been through.
He’d never seen a woman in labor.
So seeing me, having contractions and crying out in pain was not a good moment for him. He was literally pulling the blanket over his head every time a wave rolled around and would only peek over the edge when I got quiet again.
Which meant every time a contraction passed, I would fall onto the bed laughing helplessly at the big, strong man hiding and looking about as helpless as a kitten.
Eventually, the laughter stopped though. The contractions got worse, I was told to go to the E.R., I began hemorrhaging…The husband became less the frightened man and more the man growling in the waiting room every time someone’s name was called besides mine. He became the frightening man in the triage department when he found out there were no beds available for me, and they were going to have to give me morphine in some back room in a chair.
And twenty minutes later I’m in an actual bed, high as a kite, and fighting with the finger/pulse monitor thing they had on me, while he continued to get frustrated with me and say multiple times:
Put your hand down. Leave it alone. Stop it before you break it! Leave it alone!
And I laughed at him.
Because that’s what we do.
And as the night progressed and the doctor gave us a clean bill of health, and I was feeling better, safer, saner…I realized just one more reason to add to that long list of reasons I love the husband.
REASON NUMBER SIX THOUSAND FOUR SEVEN EIGHTY NINE NINE
The husband isn’t afraid to ask me questions. And so when he asked me to explain exactly what had been happening to my body and to the baby, I did. I walked him through the entire process, of what we thought could have happened to the baby, about how the body takes care of these things.
And there’s something almost comforting in that…in the breaking it down. I knew what had happened to my body, and while we’ll never know exactly what happened to our baby, talking it through was like lifting a weight. It let me step back for a second. It let me take the fear out of the situation (and made me wish I’d talked to him before the process had begun). It made me feel closer to him in those moments, when he wasn’t afraid to ask me questions.
And maybe he won’t want to talk about it any more, and that’s okay. I don’t much want to talk about it either. And maybe we’ll both laugh and poke fun at me high on morphine, or his hiding under the blanket technique. Hell, that’s not even a maybe. We will.
Because that’s what we do.
And that’s who we are.
And it’s just reason number six thousand four seven eighty nine nine why I love him.
We expect so much from our bodies. I mean, if I get sick, I expect my body to do its part in fighting off the germ that’s invaded it. I expect my lungs to suck in and breathe without me consciously thinking about it. I expect my skin to stay in place as long as I’m careful not to peel it off by running into sharp objects or tripping down stairs. I expect my heart to beat.
I expect a heartbeat.
As a woman I expect even more. I expected, as a teenager, that at some point I might actually grow a pair of boobs. I expect that once a month I’ll turn into the poster child for every man’s idea of PMS. I expect these things because of my sex. Because I’m a woman. Because that’s how women are made.
I expect to be a partner in the creation of life. I expect to provide a safe, nurturing environment for that baby to grow. I expect to be capable of carrying a child. Because I’m a woman, and women get pregnant and have babies.
Logic has nothing to do with expectations. Not one damn thing. The fact that there are women who physically will never be able to become pregnant is irrelevant…because at some point they had these same exact expectations. The fact that there are women who have lost every child they carried does not matter here…because they carried the same beliefs and confidence in their body at some point.
We expect from our bodies.
I expect a heartbeat.
And so when our body fails us, and when something deviants from the “plan” we had in mind, it becomes difficult not to blame the machine. Logic takes another back seat. Common sense goes out the window, and you’re left in a hospital gown, in a tiny room that every one keeps using as a storage closet, with your underwear around your ankles and hands all over you as you are poked and prodded and stuck and photographed in the most invasive of ways just so five hours later the doctor can come in and tell you
There’s no heartbeat.
And so they give you shots and lists of things to do and everyone keeps giving you the mantra:
It happened early…there was probably something wrong with the development.
It’s nothing you did.
It’s not your fault.
You can try again.
And I listen to their chorus of logic and common sense as I watch the man, the protector in my life, the one who is always there to fix everything, and I watch as he realizes he can’t fix it and he can’t make it better and he can’t protect me because it’s in my body
And there’s no heartbeat.
I have to watch everything else break around me and everyone keeps asking:
How is she?
How are they doing?
What’d the doctor say?
I can answer that. She’s in pain, physical pain. She’s in the middle of a process that can last for weeks and it hurts. As if the mind needs to be challenged further, the body must prove its endurance to pain. They? They, as in my husband and I? We’re hurt. We’re dodging people and making each other laugh, because that’s what we do. We laugh to cover it up and we mourn when its dark and no one is around to hear us. What’d the doctor say?
There’s no heartbeat.
We expect so much from our bodies, and when it fails us it becomes the traitor. It becomes this thing we are fighting against.We let in a little hope to strengthen our resolve and then battle against something we can’t even begin to understand because logic is gone and hope can be false. It can be cruel. It can show up when the woman refuses to turn to the screen and show you the picture. When she ignores your questions even though you’re lying there naked save for a thin little blanket while she pushes a machine inside you. Hope is there telling you its okay. It’s there when the doctor comes in and she was so friendly before and she thought she saw it. She thought she saw the flutter but she wasn’t sure and she asked for more tests and she sent you to that bitch who wouldn’t answer you questions…and hope was there right up until she said it and you knew it was over.
And you knew the world shifted because he couldn’t even stand up.
And there was no heartbeat.