Hormonal Rage

Just to recap: I’m from Los Angeles, but I’m currently in the UK, two years into a very fish-out-of-water experience. Being an expat is no joke. I’m not exaggerating when I say that almost everything is different in England than it is in California, where in my homesick memory, even in the traffic is more tolerable.

I’m in England because I’m working on a PhD about childbirth intervention. Somehow, I managed to convince an academic department to fund my project, and now I actually have to DO this massive thing.

Finally, I’ve just had my first baby.

So: 5,000 miles from family + PhD student + new mom. I have no local family support, I’m working on a doctorate, I haven’t slept more than 4 consecutive hours in 7.5 months, I carry/cradle/pick up/put down/walk/dance/bounce my son all day long, I am still exclusively breastfeeding, I am ten pounds lighter than I was when I got divorced and stopped eating for three months, and until two days ago, when I passed my UK driving test, I couldn’t drive here and was walking/taking the train/catching buses with a child strapped to my body whenever I had to go anywhere. So, I’m fucking exhausted and sometimes I can’t think straight or make decisions or get through a driving lesson without coming home and losing my shit because everything is just DEMANDS CONSTANTLY.

Thus, I find it really offensive and dismissive when people tell new moms that it’s okay to feel upset because our “hormones are still settling.” As if not loving every second of our insane new lives could only be because us ladies are forever at the mercy of our hormones. We accept that a person who hasn’t slept well overnight or has a cold might be negatively impacted, but we feel the need to excuse mothers who feel bad. Don’t worry, Mom. You’re just hormonal. I understand that some women really do suffer from hormonal imbalances post-pregnancy, and I don’t at all mean to disparage them. However, patting a new mom on the the head and telling her that all her fears and anxieties and complete exhaustion are just by-products of her hormones does two things:

  1. Ignores that having a baby explodes a woman’s life
  2. Dismisses the very real and very visceral physical and emotional trauma of that explosion

I feel crazy sometimes because I’m sleep deprived and physically drained and walking around with eighteen pounds of squirming, grabbing baby attached to my skeletal frame all day long. I snap at my husband because as much as he loves us, he doesn’t understand what this is like for me. I am uncomfortable with the way I look because I look really different. I get angry or weepy or temporarily mean because I am tasked with something damn near impossible and I am just one human being and I am tired.

Being overwhelmed by a new baby is normal, because a new baby is overwhelming, not because women just can’t hang. I pushed a person out of my body and am now responsible for taking care of him. I think I’m entitled to have some real feelings about it.

The Baby!

IMG_3351_2The eagle has landed! On Friday, July 17th, our tiny little bub was born. We are absolutely in love with the little creep. I haven’t stopped staring at him since he was born, and am only now starting to put him down for naps (as in, not hold him 100% of the time) only because I need to get him used to sleeping in his Moses basket at the side of the bed at night. (I am too high strung to bed share, so every night has been a not-so-delicate balance between being terrified of falling asleep with him in bed with us and being terrified of not having him close to me.)

The following is a ridiculously over-long birth story, which I’ve recorded here mostly for myself, and then also for any moms (or dads) -to-be who might be interested:

Thursday, the day before The Baby was born, was The Boyfriend’s birthday. Randomly, and for the first time since taking his current job, The Boyfriend had Thursday and Friday off work, so we settled in to celebrate his birthday like the old people we are: by staying home for two days, eating a ton of candy and baking a ton of cookies. By late afternoon on Thursday, I had to abandon the remaining cookie dough because I was getting mild contractions every 2-3 minutes. Having gone through the pregnancy with no Braxton Hicks “practice” contractions and having never had a baby before, at first I thought I was having some totally unfortunate bowel trouble. The contractions felt like diarrhea pains, only they were on a regular cycle and they were close together. However, they were also mild and only slightly annoying, and at 39 weeks pregnant exactly, I had gotten used to just ignoring feeling like I had to poop all the time. I called the hospital for advice, and when the midwife heard that it was my first baby and that I could laugh off the contractions, she told me to go to sleep because it could still be days.

It was that response, coupled with my desire to labor at home for as long as possible in an effort to avoid hospital interventions, that contributed to my spending the hours of 2am to 8am in a kind of crazy dream state, having increasingly painful contractions, closer and closer together, in the shower, on the toilet, in the bath, pacing the living room, crawling up the stairs. This was just five days ago, and I couldn’t tell you why I didn’t call the hospital back or wake The Boyfriend up, other than I’d never done it before and didn’t know when to say enough and I was also probably in denial. I’d abandoned timing the contractions because when they got painful enough for me have to lean over the back of the couch and moan my way through them, the last thing I wanted was to focus on exactly how long they were lasting. (This is why it would have been wise to wake The Boyfriend and force him to do it. Again: denial is a powerful force.)

I finally decided it was time to go to the hospital when I started feeling like a wild animal. I couldn’t think straight and knew I needed to be where the baby would be born. In addition, I started bleeding, which was scary. I woke up The Boyfriend, and then I called the hospital to tell them I was coming in. She warned me that they were very busy (incidentally, it was the full moon, which is a time when labor wards are notoriously full), and asked if I wanted to wait another hour at home, but I wasn’t about to spend another second in my house.

After I writhed around in the car in early morning traffic for a little while, we got to the hospital and all I wanted was privacy and someone to help me. It wasn’t even pain medication I wanted – I just needed to be where I was going to give birth and have someone close by who could tell me what was happening. As it turned out, they were so busy that there were no free rooms. Instead, I was led to a partner waiting area, where the midwife who dropped me off assured me that “no one would forget I was there.” Totally reassuring.

About fifteen hour-long minutes later, I was moved over to the maternity day unit…to a waiting room full of couples and children waiting to have ultrasounds. The idea, I guess, was that I could be examined in an out-patient room there while they sorted out a room for me on the labor ward, but for me, given no explanation and being guided to a chair in a crowded waiting room while sweating through my clothes and rocking back and forth, I was so upset. I wasn’t getting the help I thought I would at the hospital, and now I had none of the privacy I’d had at home. I went immediately to one of the bathrooms and cried while leaning over the sink. The Boyfriend had to come find me when they called my name, because I refused to leave the toilet until someone came to help.

To make a long story short(er), the midwife tasked with examining me in the out-patient room only got as far as checking the baby’s heart rate (which was perfect) before the blood and my absolutely heathen behavior freaked her out. She sent me back to the labour ward, where I was matched with the head of midwifery.

This woman was like an angel, and I mean that in the most sincere way possible. I remember laying on the exam bed coming to pieces and seeing her name and title on her badge and thinking, Oh, thank God. The Head of Midwifery. She took some rapid-fire notes about what had been going on with me, ran and got a pan just before I vomited all over myself, and then gave me my first-ever (and only) internal exam. To her surprise and my complete and utter relief, I was nine centimeters dilated.

NINE. CENTIMETERS. For those who don’t know, you start pushing a baby out when you are at ten centimeters. At this point, I cried tears of legitimate joy. I was close to having the baby, and I wasn’t being an insane person for being so angry about getting shuffled around. (Yes, even in labor, I was afraid of what people would think of me for being a dickhead to them.) I was in transition, the hardest part of labor which takes a woman from cervical opening to pushing, and had been sent to a public waiting room. In the hospital’s defense, there was no way for them to know how far along I was, as they just did not have the space to examine me when I arrived. Because the active part of my labor had, at that point, only been about six hours and because it was my first baby, I don’t think anyone expected me to be so far along.

Once my angel midwife knew this, however, she transferred me to a bigger, better, more “active” labor room, with mats and yoga balls and a giant bean bag chair to use to keep me off the bed. I was on beds on my back for a grand total of five minutes while in labor and it was horrible. I can’t imagine being strapped to a bed on monitors and having to labor without medication. The only thing that made me feel better was moving around, mostly because it was a distraction. Being on my back on a bed forced me to focus on how much I hurt.

I didn’t have the chance to use any of the active labor goodies, though, because as soon as I hit that room, I needed to push. The midwife threw the bean bag chair onto the bed, I got on all fours leaning over it, and using “gas and air” (laughing gas, effectively), pushed a tiny human out of my body in 45 minutes. The pushing was the most physically exhausting thing I’ve ever done, but it felt productive and didn’t ever hurt, which is strange, considering you’d think that would be the most punishing part of having a baby. I made lots of primal, crazy-person sounds, and tore off my dress and bra like a mad woman. For anyone concerned with how they might look/feel during childbirth: you will not give a shit. At all. I have never been so exposed or looked so insane, but when faced with trying to be modest or trying to be more comfortable, comfort won 100% of the time.

People told me that, but I didn’t think I would ever get to a point where I didn’t care. I brought make up to the hospital and had an outfit planned for delivery. However, I quickly learned that lots of the cliches about childbirth are true. In fact, at one point, I whimpered, “I just want him out already,” which felt like a cliche even as I was saying it.

But, then he was out, and it was surreal. He was beautiful and perfect and ours. We were in the delivery room for a few hours, so I could rest and shower and so that the baby could be examined, and then were transferred to a post-natal ward, where we stayed for just a little while longer before being discharged and coming home. The Baby was born before noon and we were home around 7pm.

Aside from getting a slight runaround at the beginning of the hospital experience, the labor and birth were as straightforward and wonderful as they could have been. My intentions were to avoid intervention and pain medication other than gas and air, and I managed to do it, by some insane stroke of luck.

Having had a baby without an epidural, I can say now that I understand completely why women chose to have them. Labor is scary and it is painful and if you found yourself with an IV or an electronic fetal monitor keeping you on your back in a bed, I can’t even imagine how much more painful and scary contractions can be. On the other hand, I think not having an epidural spared me a lot of complications. I was active and mobile right until the very end, which may have contributed to shortening my labor. I also had a lot of control over the pushing stage, which might have helped spare me any injuries. Ultimately, I think my experience was due partly to believing I could do it, and mostly to being really, really fortunate.

Now, I get to spend all day, every day with The Boyfriend and The Baby, who is basically the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. Love, love, love.

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Third Trimester!

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In the last weeks, the bump got…pointier?

I’m 32 weeks and 3 days pregnant, meaning I’m a month into the third trimester, and about two months from having a baby. Eeeeep!

I’ve been relatively comfortable throughout the pregnancy so far – short of wearing terrible shoes and straining the top of my left foot (a feat I didn’t know was possible) several weeks ago and limping around in running shoes like a dummy for a month, I’ve managed to avoid things like sciatica, pelvic pain, swelling, back pain, and a bunch of other horrible pregnancy symptoms I don’t even want to type out for fear that the universe will curse me with them. Basically, besides being increasingly winded by stairs and needing to pee 100% of the time, I’ve made it to 32 weeks relatively unscathed. (Unscathed by the pregnancy. I have gotten more prone to being an idiot klutz, however, as evidenced by my burning a patch of skin off the top of my thigh with a curling iron yesterday. I don’t even know anymore.)

That being said, being 32 weeks pregnant is really uncomfortable. God bless the women who suffer terribly and go on to have more children. I’m pretty much only dealing with the physical ramifications of having half a watermelon in my abdomen, which makes eating, sitting, laying, putting on shoes, and walking really cumbersome, and it’s still enough to make me want to stop speaking to anyone who hasn’t been pregnant.

Things I’ve Learned in the Third Trimester:

1) I have freckles inside my belly button.

2) Toilet paper companies aren’t scamming me. They aren’t skimping on the TP. I am legitimately just in the bathroom all the damn time.

3) Lounging at a 45-degree angle is a thing of the past. I can either lay on my side with my head propped up or sit straight up like I’m Miss Manners. Super cozy.

4) It is possible to high-five a human being who isn’t born yet. I’ve done it several times.

5) Everyone has an opinion on the size of my belly. Intellectually, I know it’s because people want to be involved or show support, and that’s actually kinda cute. Emotionally, it weirds me out to have that be the only thing people want to talk to me about. I used to be interesting in a whole bunch of other ways, people! Hopefully, I still am!

6) I have very little body hair now – except for on my belly, which is ideal because that’s what everyone wants to see.

7) Despite having to roll out of bed because my core muscles don’t work anymore and getting sickly full on tiny meals, it is entirely possible for me to forget I’m pregnant, which occasionally leads me to totally panicking about some weird physical thing I just did that might have compromised the baby. (Read: in particular, the time I tried to stabilize our new washing machine when it was jumping all over the place by holding it down with my arms during the spin cycle, before remembering that there’s a person inside me who shouldn’t be vibrated super violently.)

8) I am very into smoothies. And avocados. And hummus. (And, let’s be real, also ice cream, chocolate, and cereal.)

9) People are really insanely generous. We have very nearly everything we need for the baby’s first few months, and haven’t actually purchased anything ourselves.

10) Having focused on being pregnant for the last eight months, it is both exciting and terrifying to start thinking about how there will be an actual baby here in a matter of weeks. As a former terrible baby who kept my parents up for several years in a row, I hope the baby is nothing like me and is kind to us.

Head down, butt up on his favorite side, like a good little boy.

Head down, butt up on his favorite side, like a good little boy.

California Knows How To Party.

I just got back to England after a glorious two and a half weeks back home in California. The fact that the trip has come and gone already is unbelievable to me. It feels like I looked forward to it FOREVER. The adjustment back to the UK has been hard, because putting 6,000 miles between me and Target my family and friends who are so excited for the baby was pretty traumatic. However, England has been kind to me – the last two days have been the warmest, most gorgeous days of spring, which makes leaving the endless summer of Southern California a little less upsetting.

I flew into LAX on a Wednesday night, saw my grandparents and great aunts, and then decided it was time for bed when I got dizzy after being up for 27,000 hours. Thursday morning, I was 22 weeks exactly, so I rolled out of bed in the room that was once The Middle Child’s and took this photo:

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Everyone was aghast at how small I was. They were all kind enough not to say anything about how I still don’t have an ass.

The first week I was home, I saw tons of people near and dear to me, and ate all the food. I also:

1) Found Hershey’s Eggs my parents’ refrigerator, which was a comforting sign that nothing ever really changes:

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I mentioned to my dad that I wanted to take some of these back to England, and he came home from the market with six bags of them. I am proud to say I took them all.

2) Hung out with Fertile Myrtle and Fiece #1 and 2:

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3) Spent a lot of time reveling in the fact that I could be outside and comfortable, without battling wind, rain, humidity, mist, or bone-chilling damp:

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4) Experienced many pregnancy-related skin fun times, including this random cheek bone hive:

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5) And took a long walk in the hills with my mom, on a pleasant morning that quickly turned into a blazing hot day:

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LOOK WHERE I’M FROM. SO PRETTY.

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California poppies!

IMG_1782  Then, it was all about Mexican Fiesta Baby Shower Preparation. My mom had conscripted all the members of my family into Baby Shower Prep for weeks before I got home, so I missed out on most of the work. However, I am now super proficient at creating tissue paper flowers, having toiled for hours with my grandma and great aunt pulling apart thousands of sheets of colored paper until our fingers bled all over them.

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The baby shower itself was one of the most magnificent things I’ve ever seen. My mom, along with her crew of unsuspecting family members, worked so hard to make everything so colorful and detailed and thoughtful and thematic. There were tons of games, onesies for people to decorate, trays of tacos and mini burritos catered by my favorite Mexican restaurant, and most importantly: churros. In addition, my mom decorates one hell of a cake, which shouldn’t surprise me anymore, as she’s done it my whole life. However, I’m still always amazed.

The amount of time, energy, and Pinterest-trolling that went into the shower was incredible. Thank you, Mom! It was fabulous!

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The diaper (and washcloth and bib) cake.

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My mom’s amazing cake.

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Let’s play a game called Find The Churros.

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Fertile Myrtle and I…and chips.

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We used the cake to do a gender reveal for the family members who hadn’t had the surprise blown for them by either my mom or me throughout the week leading up to the shower (as it turns out, starting conversations about circumcision and asking for advice on dyeing a cake blue are both really good ways of indirectly telling people what the sex of a baby is):

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IT’S A BOY!

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Sensory overload, in the best possible way.

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A beautiful photo of me and my dad.

We were so, so fortunate – people gave us so many fabulous things. I don’t think we’ll have to worry about buying the baby any clothing until he’s 20.

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And, because we set up an Amazon.co.uk registry, tons of things were sent directly to our house in England, meaning that we’re currently swimming in delivery boxes that are just waiting to be moved to our new place next month. I can’t wait to build the nursery glider and the stroller, but The Boyfriend (The Grinch) insists it will be easier to move them while they’re still boxed up. THANKS, OBAMA.

While I was home, it was also Fiece #1’s fourth birthday, which I can’t even believe. Fertile Myrtle and I brought mini cupcakes to her preschool classroom, where her evil teacher sat all the kids down to watch the Fiece eat a cupcake while they had to wait to eat theirs for two hours until after lunch.

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Then we went home to open presents. The Fiece told me she was really into the new Lego Friends line of Lego, which is all painted-on eyelashes and ice cream shops and purple and pink and while I loved that she is into building with Legos now, I just could not with the totally gendered Lego Friends line. So, I did what any self-respecting adult does when giving gifts to a child: I got her something I would have wanted. Namely, I threw her a bone and got one set of Lego Friends (the vet ambulance, which seemed to be the least offensive) and then bought a bunch of pirate Legos, which came with a cannon that actually shoots pieces, a skeleton, a treasure box, and a shark with a mouth that opens and closes.

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Shooting cannonballs. “NOT IN THE EYES.”

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Ripping the heads off the Lego pirates, while our skeleton friend gets eaten by a shark.

Basically, I think I did a really good job.

Then, on my last night at home, the family celebrated Passover. To celebrate the occasion, my father, who has been married to my Jewish mother for 30 years, brought (French) macaroons from a cool new bakery in downtown Los Angeles. It was an adorable, delicious mistake.

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I left California two weeks and one pair of maternity pants after arriving.

Everyone was aghast at how huge I got.

I already can’t wait to go home again.

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Creature Feature: The Kick Came From INSIDE My Body.

I am now 19 and a half weeks pregnant! I am officially too enormous for my favorite jeans, which I have now shelved indefinitely. Before I was growing a human being, I used to despise that all denim is now 2% Lycra, because it meant that for the most part, I could wear a pair of jeans one time before they were all stretched out and falling off my ass. (And I’m disgusting and cannot be asked to wash my clothes often enough to keep up with that kind of demand.) However, now, those previously maligned, instantly-too-baggy, only-skinny-for-four-hours jeans are my saviors. They hang below my belly and are just stretchy enough. Plus, they still fall off my ass, which at this point in my life, I really appreciate. Thanks, 2% Lycra, for making 5 Month Pregnant Sarah still feel thin enough to have her pants falling off her. 2% Lycra is also allowing me to get through the weeks before my trip to California without paying tons of money for maternity jeans. Basically, a win-win at the moment.

In other news, we are days away from finding out what this little creep is, and I am very excited to pin one of the two names we’ve chosen on this little unsuspecting person. In addition to allowing us to define the rest of our child’s life by giving it a name, finding out what the sex is also means I will know what proscribed gender stereotypes I will be battling for all of Creep’s childhood. (No one is more humorless than me!) Yay!

In the cutest, most adorable development thus far (barring, of course, all the baby clothes I’m starting to collect): my mother has discovered the gender reveal party and is going to fold that into a baby shower she’s throwing for me when I go home in a few weeks. She’s also running full steam ahead with the “Mexican fiesta” theme I suggested initially as a joke, which is fabulous. I wanted to avoid the seemingly inevitable lean toward pink or blue, so I chose something that would force the use of every color in the rainbow. Inspiration:

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Who could care about pink for girls and blue for boys when there’s glitter in a Modelo bottle?

Also, I currently have a fiesta flag banner hanging in my bedroom in England as part of the normal, every day decor, so this is pretty much perfect.

Finally, while I’d felt tiny flutters and occasional “bubbling” before, just this week, I’ve started feeling actual baby movement. Last night, I drank a glass of cranberry juice from a hotel bar (as you do) and then laid down in my hotel bed at 9pm (again, as you do) and absent-mindedly put my hand on my belly, because I’d been catching little movements here and there and it’s reassuring to know that all is well in there. Seconds after I placed my hand on my skin, the baby kicked the hardest it has thus far and I felt it from both the inside and the outside and was immediately creeped out by my own body. It’s one thing to feel something that could be misconstrued as an upset, rumbling tummy and another thing entirely to feel something almost deliberate knocking around in your insides. Again, it’s comforting to know that the babes is okay and doing well and I’m actually loving the growing reminder that yes, there is a baby in there, because for weeks, I just felt fat and bloated and moody, but unable to drown my sorrows in wine. Now, I am pregnant. For reals. However, imagine for a moment that you are holding onto a small plastic bag full of water and someone drops a big fish in your bag and this big fish bops around in the too-small plastic bag, hitting its face and tail on the plastic lining and you can feel this fish if you put your hand on the outside of the bag. Imagine all of this, except now the bag is your guts and the fish is a baby person. That is what fetal movement is like.

Fish Baby: debuting July 2015.

Things I Learned In Newcastle.

Yesterday morning at 7 am, I flew up to Newcastle for a workshop. Last night at 8 pm, I flew back to Southampton. (Initially, I wrote “at 8 pm, I flew home,” and then I immediately panicked. Is England home now? Eeeps.)

When Newcastle University offered to fund my flights up there for one day, I was super impressed with myself. I’d sent out a query about attending a workshop exactly six days before the event was set to take place, and instead of the form rejection email I deserved, I received a supremely enthusiastic reply, complete with details on a flight that could get me there and back in one day. Mind = blown. As much as I loved teaching children, it was always a terrible struggle to wring $20 for new colored pencils out of the administration of the private school where I worked. So, the thought of someone I didn’t know throwing £200 at me so that I could share my infinite wisdom with a group of people who were hugely more educated and accomplished than me was nothing short of unreal.

I was so excited for my business trip.

Sadly, now, sitting on the other end of a 17-hour work day that included two planes, two taxis, two trains, and one bus, I can say that flying to a meeting in another city without also booking a hotel room is really pretty dumb.

However, the workshop was fantastic and Newcastle is gorgeous and I’m very happy I was able to go.

It was also a learning experience:

1) Newcastle Airport is staffed entirely by teenage girls. This is no exaggeration. Check-in desk: girls. Security staff: girls. Gate police: girls. I could not believe it. My air travel safety was in the hands of 18-year-olds with box-dyed pony tails and loud stories about boys. I don’t doubt the intelligence or abilities of young women, as I was one of those once, but there was something mildly unsettling about having the people scanning our carry-ons be people who were having a heated discussion about the best music festivals in England.

2) I am a demon when hungry/tired/traveling. I saw a baby struggling to get its face out of some bright sunshine at the airport and my first thought was, “God, just close your eyes, dummy.” I thought that. About a baby.

3) This is not specific to Newcastle, but it synthesized for me when I tripped over the cord of a running vacuum cleaner at the Newcastle Airport at 5:30 in the afternoon: retail England does not hide its maintenance from the public. In the United States, supermarket shelves are restocked late at night and in the early mornings. In fact, the only time I have ever seen someone wheeling a cart full of boxes around a Ralph’s was when I’d pop into one at 6:30 am for the cheap coffee and bagel I’d sometimes eat in shame in my car before I started work. Here, in the UK, supermarkets are restocked approximately 100% of the time I am inside them. I would say that one in four supermarket aisles have massive carts blocking them at any given moment in England. Also, there is always, always some sort of cleaning happening throughout the day, like in the airport W H Smith bookstore I was in yesterday, where there was a teenage girl (surprise!) wheeling a vacuum around the store in the middle of the day. WHAT.

4) Los Angeles has ruined me for public transportation – in that, there is no public transportation to speak of in LA, and I have now aged to a point at which there is no teaching this old dog new Metro tricks. (Not in a prostitute way, pervs.) I rode the Metro thirty minutes in the wrong direction yesterday and ended up in Sunderland, which is, according to the taxi driver who drove me back into Newcastle, the patchy, sad stepbrother of Newcastle Upon Tyne. (I didn’t say that, guys. It was all the cab driver. Sunderland looked great.)

5) The power of good Mexican food knows no borders. Strangely, of the twelve people at the workshop yesterday, six of us were American ex-pats. Three (including me) were from California. Two were from Los Angeles. I ended up talking to a dude from La Habra about the glory of El Cholo, my favorite Mexican restaurant of all time, for about ten minutes. All about the sauces and the chips and the burritos and oh my God I have to stop thinking about this because it is physically painful.

All in all, despite my near-death experience in the bookstore and my very real (and also very fleeting) baby judgment, yesterday was a pretty good day.

I just never want to do something like that again.

One Year.

Sometimes, I am in awe of how I’ve managed to change my life in less than one year. Two days ago, it was Baby Fiece’s first birthday. One year and two days ago, I visited Fertile Myrtle in the hospital and held that hours-old precious little craze for the first time. On that day one year ago, I’d also just gotten access to records vital for my MA thesis research, and could finally start my project.

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(Photos used simply for illustrative purposes and not because I miss them desperately and am sad all the time. OKAY? I AM NOT SAD ALL THE TIME.)

Now, one year and two days later, Baby Fiece is growing up, walking and talking and getting painfully more adorable every day. (Again, why I am not there?) I’ve only been gone for three months, and she is already a different kid. I can’t wait to see her and Fiece and Fertile Myrtle again, hopefully before the babies start to drive.

One year and two days later, I’ve grown up too. I ended my marriage, completed my MA, landed a job in England, moved halfway across the world, and was accepted into a PhD program (with funding!). I have pushed myself in approximately ten billion different ways since I held that tiny new life one year ago, and none of it was easy. If I’m honest, it’s still not. I miss home and my people so much sometimes it physically hurts. I’m convinced I miss them more now than I would have if I wasn’t so indebted to all of them for keeping me bolstered and afloat during the epic chaos that was my life last fall. They’ve seen the worst of me and it brought out the very best in them and having experienced such total support from those around me, I am gutted by being so far away from them. To all of you, thank you, thank you, thank you.

One year ago, I was just beginning the soul searching that would lead me to now. Relationships are supposed to make you better, improve you and make you stronger, more capable, happy. I’d known for a long time that my marriage wasn’t doing any of that for either of us, but the thought of ending something that was so meaningful (because regardless of how right we were together, I loved my husband) was so foreign and awful and unthinkable that we kept trying to make it work. We’d have arguments for hours in which we’d both lay out the enormous ways in which we weren’t fulfilled, all the ways we were compromising our lives and our futures, each and every thing we’d come to resent and simply put up with about our life together. Every single time, there were pockets of dead air, total silence, when I thought, this is the time to say it. Just call it like it is. Just spare yourselves, you guys. It’s okay.

And yet, I never did. I didn’t have the strength or the courage to be the one to say it. And maybe I never would have. It wasn’t until I went far away from home and got some tremendous perspective on what my life could be, what kind of person I could be, and how happy I could be, that the crushing weight of not saying it became more powerful than the fear of what being honest meant.

In the end, being honest with the people I loved most, despite at times being brutal and horrible and devastating, freed me from myself. I was no longer in my own way. I have done a hard, terrible, awful thing and I have survived it. In my opinion, there is nothing in the world like choosing to divorce. It’s death, but you keep living. It’s grief, for everything that happened before and everything that could have happened later. It’s shame and anger and frustration and disgust and literally every other miserable feeling there is.

But ultimately, it’s a commitment to choosing happiness. I went to hell and back in the pursuit of happiness, and it freed me. There is nothing in world now that can stand in the way of my accomplishing my dreams and getting what I need.

Everything else is easy.

Happy birthday, little beast. The first year of your life was the first year of mine, too.

Thoughtless Thursday: Procrastination Station.

In less than one week, I leave for Ireland. I’ll be gone for six weeks. SIX WEEKS. I’ll be alone in Dublin for the first two days, then living with about thirty other people at an archaeological site for the entire month of July. (I will eventually write about where I’m going. I think I may schedule a post to publish when I’m on the plane. I just like the suspense.)

My husband, my parents, and my brother The Middle Child are flying over when my field school ends and we’re spending the sixth week all together, traveling around the perimeter of the country. I can’t wait. My husband and I have gone on exactly one other major vacation together – our honeymoon to Scotland to meet all his family – and it was, for all intents and purposes, a bit of a total disaster. So, I’m hoping this trip goes well and inspires my husband to love traveling (at least enough that he’ll come with me to Pompeii – in about ten years, when we’ve saved up enough money to go on another European vacation.)

Before I leave, I have to go buy everything I’ll need to wear to excavate/live out of the country for a month, finish my thesis research (Monday’s the last day!) and take care of a seemingly endless list of small things one has to handle before jetting off to a foreign land (alerting my banks, buying train tickets in advance, getting new contacts [for my eyes], figuring out if taking my phone is worth it, studying maps, etc). I’ve been crazy with the end of school/graduations and also a little bit in denial that this trip is actually happening, so this weekend is going to be whirlwind of prep.

Here’s what I’ve been up to while refusing to believe I’m leaving in just a few days…

Taking a child to the La Brea Tar Pits:

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We let her wander around by herself all morning. Obviously.

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I have an amazing friend who works as an excavator there, so we got to check out one of the deposits up close and personal. I got to exercise my wealth of useless knowledge by pointing out all the different bones.

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I found a new diamond solitaire in the gift shop. You think this is a joke, but I’ve seen some engagement rings here that could totally rival this.

Finding out, on social media of course, that The Middle Child got hit by a car while riding his bike:

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His face! His poor beautiful face! (He’s totally fine. Except for the face thing.)

Reading a bunch of weird crazy-person books stress-purchased from Amazon:

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Scientology, Fundamentalist Latter-Day Saints, space travel, the Potato Famine, and Amanda Knox’s memoir. I threw in an Ireland guidebook and some Cheryl Strayed to prove that my brain isn’t all nuts. Just like 70%.

And, of course, taking care of Baby Bird, who we’re now calling Jack – as in Jack Sparrow. I voted for Tweets, but my husband isn’t cool enough to appreciate the social commentary:

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FEED ME.

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Still just as creepy as yesterday.

 

Baby Fiece!

First things first: yesterday, at 1:12 pm, exactly twenty minutes after Fertile Myrtle sent me an update text letting me know that she “might start pushing soon,” Baby Fiece was born, weighing 6 pounds 12 ounces.  So, all of you pregnant women and new moms following her here (or here!) can now totally hate her for the rest of time.  Five hours of labor and ten minutes of pushing, apparently.  As a childless old crone, that means very little to me, but I know enough to realize Myrtle’s giving me a very skewed perspective on what childbirth is like.  My mom’s 36-hour labor with me ended in an emergency c-section, so there’s that.

I went up to the hospital immediately after work and met Baby Fiece, who, at three hours old and less than 7 pounds, was the smallest baby I’ve ever held.  Therefore, I was really nervous and careful with her and absolutely did not hold her in one arm while using the other arm to take a photo of myself:

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Nope.  Not what happened.

She is extremely adorable, and is essentially a carbon copy of her older sister, the Fiece:

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Family resemblance always boggles my mind because while my brothers and I all look like white people with faces, we don’t have very much else in common:

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For example, they are both super tall (this photo was taken in December 2009, and since then The Baby, on the right, has gotten much, much taller), and I am a pathetic, normal 5’6″.  In this picture, I believe I’m even wearing heels.

I really wanted to thank Fertile Myrtle very much and then take the baby home with me, but unfortunately, there are enough crazy people in the world who have actually attempted such a thing that Baby Fiece had to wear an ankle monitor like she was Lindsay Lohan on house arrest:

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The closest I could get the Fiece to her new little sister was this:

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She was really interested in soothing the baby when she was crying, but 100% of the rest of the time, Fiece used a stethoscope to make diagnoses and entertained herself by climbing onto hospital beds, only to then pretend to throw herself off of them, giving all the adults in the room panic attacks.

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Nutcase.

So much love.  I am so very happy for you, Myrtle.  So very, very happy.  Rum and cokes and root beer floats ASAP.  (In high school, FM and I used to write a lot of poetry and share our work, which is how I got to be so good at slant rhymes.  Cokes//floats!)

In addition, I found out today that LOS ANGELES APPROVED MY RECORDS REQUEST AND I CAN START MY THESIS RESEARCH!  (I cannot NOT scream that in all caps.  I submitted the request paperwork at the end of January and have been waiting with baited breath for three months.  This resolution is HUGE.  IT MUST BE YELLED.  THIS BLOG IS MY MOUNTAINTOP.)

Grand.

Tomorrow morning, Fertile Myrtle is going to the hospital to be induced and if FM’s six-hour labor with the Fiece is any indication of the insane speed of her child birthing, Baby Fiece is expected to make her debut sometime around noon.  I’ll be at work, being terrible at my job, just waiting for the call/text/carrier pigeon announcement that another adorable little minion has been born into the world.

I cannot wait.  I am so excited.  I am also supremely emotional about it and am going to blame this post on the fact that I am a silly hormonal woman who can’t control myself.  I mean, there will be a new person on the planet tomorrow, people.  And I’ll get to teach her inappropriate catchphrases and feed her lots of sugary treats.  This is a huge deal.

Anyway, so I’m already “there” emotionally.  And then, in cleaning up some piles in our bedroom, I stumbled upon my favorite recent photo of my grandparents, taken by an Eastern European party photographer at a popular Italian chain restaurant famous for its “family style” gluttony portions.

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If I wasn’t already convinced that my grandparents are the most joyful, hilarious, adorable people in the universe, this photo totally seals the deal.  LOOK AT THEM.  My grandpa will be 80 this year, guys, and he has salt and pepper hair.  Unfortunately for me, I don’t have his glorious olive skin and will therefore not look like I’m in my 50s two decades after I’ve aged out of them.  Thanks, Grandpa, for hogging all the good genes.

When I found this photo, tucked between a speeding ticket I got in 2010 and a gift certificate for one free pound of See’s Candy, I burst into tears.

Because I am a totally normal and perfectly stable human being.

These people live twenty minutes from me and I see them on the regular and still, looking at this picture of them, I miss them desperately.  This may have something to do with the fact that when I found this print, I had just gone through all the (costume) jewelry I inherited when my great-grandmother died, and was feeling like a sadsack.  You can’t have people forever, even if they are the best people you know and you love them the most, and that is terrifying.

This is why I never clean our room.

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The grandparents, 1956.  This wedding dress is currently wrapped around a rubber skeleton in a particle-board coffin in the “Halloween decorations”portion of my parents’ garage. We’re really big on preserving and respecting family history.

(When I led with Baby Fiece, I bet you didn’t think this is where we’d end up.  I know you won’t believe this, but it’s true: I’m not usually a maudlin weirdo – I just play one on this blog.)