Thursday, September 27, 2007

Not So Sunny

I'm in a bad place this (these) week (weeks). Everything I write is so melancholy and bitter. Everything I feel is so melancholy and bitter.

I am trying to focus on the good stuff: my loving husband, my beautiful baby, the fact that my little family is safe and warm and healthy. But in and around and behind those things creeps the fact that I am tired of living here. The arrangement has lost its lustre. I have never done well when I have had to live with my mother, and three continuous months of it have pushed the limits of my endurance. I am irritable and snappish these days. I grit my teeth and tap my feet. I snarl and grunt. Everything my mother does or says annoys me, it's like someone is running a cheese grater over my soul. I have to remind myself daily of all the reasons we left California. I use them like mantras. It was dirty, I chant to myself as I clench my teeth and try not to explode while my mother says for the 1,000th time that Piper is fussing because she wants her grandma. It was crowded, it was concrete ugliness and expensive trash and we hated it as I trip over a box of our clothes that's sitting in the middle of the bedroom floor because there's nowhere else to put it. Max hated his job, he was so miserable I tell myself as the box of clothes trips me a second time and I crash into a dresser, sending a cascade of our junk to the floor. I missed the rain. A stack of CD's falls behind the dresser with a clatter. We wanted our daughter to know her family.

It's not working so well these days. I am homesick for our old apartment, a place that was all ours. I am tired of sharing my baby. I am tired of nothing ever staying where I put it down, of all our posessions constantly being scooped into piles and dumped into baskets and shoved into boxes and nothing is ever where I need it to be and nothing is ever where I left it. I am homesick for the dry heat and even more so for our apartment's air conditioning, which we could turn on and set to nipple-hardening temperatures whenever we felt like it. I miss the places we used to go, even though by the time we moved I was so sick of seeing all those ugly malls and chain stores I wanted to scream. I miss the familiarity of it all, the rhythm of days that were ours for the taking.

I miss having a life of our own, seperate and far away from all this. I miss being able to try new things (like joining the Unitarian church or watching Justin Timberlake videos) without someone screeching "WHAT?!" because they don't know or understand the version of me that longs for a sense of community and would like to bring sexy back. We moved back here to be closer to our family, all of whom were so ready to love and love and love and love our little baby, but these days I wake up thinking why the fuck am I here? I want to be a continent away from these people again. I am starting to resent my husband for bringing us here, and to resent myself for not speaking out against this plan when I had the chance. I resent myself for not having fantastic job that would have allowed us to stay there. I resent California for being expensive and dirty and unsustainable; I resent Michigan for being humid and crowded with family and devoid of economic promise. I am growing morose and moody this week, I am twisting inward like a shriveled, dry tree trunk.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Holding On

Today I said to Max, “It’s so strange to think about…do you realize a few months ago we didn’t even know her? We didn’t know anything about her, other than that she liked food. We only knew that because when I got hungry she would kick me every time my stomach growled. And now she’s a whole little person, with all her preferences and personality. She likes Cuban music, hates riding in the car, her favorite toy makes crinkly noises. A few months ago we didn’t even know her name was Piper.”

A few short months ago, we did not even know this strange and delightful creature. We did not know her name, we did not know the tone and pitch of her cries, we did not know the curves of her smile. She was still hidden deep in my belly, floating in the darkness and muffled noise. There are times I miss those days. I don’t miss the discomforts of being pregnant, but growing a child was the greatest mystery I have ever known. What would she be like? Who would she look like? What would her voice sound like? What color eyes? I also find myself missing the feeling of her there, swimming around in her own safe cocoon. I did not have to share her in those days. I happily shared everything my husband wanted to know, but when the house fell quiet late at night and I trudged off to the comforts of our guest bedroom with its sinkhole mattress just for me, we were alone. Nobody could take her from my arms, or insist that she missed them, or tell me they knew what she needed. I could put my hand to the place where my abdomen used to be, and feel her limbs thumping against the swell of my belly.

In the late months of my pregnancy, a friend told me to enjoy those final weeks, because it was the last time the baby would be all mine. It was the last time I would not have to share her or wonder where she was, and any decisions about the baby were still mine to make. I tried to do this as best I could, but I didn’t fully appreciate her words until after my daughter was born. When people ask me what the hardest thing is about being a new mother, my answer is always easy and always the same. Sharing. Sharing my baby is the hardest thing. So many arms reaching out, so many mouths talking, so many people laying claim to the child that was all mine until so recently. I can’t fault these people for what they do; Piper is their niece, granddaughter, grand-niece or pseudo-cousin just as much as she is my baby. But it can be exhausting, all these reaching arms and talking mouths. It is tiring to manage them, to try and make sure that everyone gets a turn and everyone feels special and everyone gets to dispense their own particular advice and know-it-all about my own child.

I am trying to be gracious. I am trying not to hold her too tight, because I know these people are the first of so many I will have to share her with. Teachers, roommates, friends, lovers, maybe even her own children one day. They will all know her and love her in ways that are different from the way I love her. They will all be parts of her life, each building on the last. I look ahead and I see this, the endless line of people waiting to love my special little girl.

But for now, I yearn to have her all to ourselves, away from everyone, just the three of us together safe and warm and loving.