Sunday, January 30, 2005

deconstructing identity

I was just reading an article about a woman who has lived as a man for many years and is now thinking about having a baby. He was commenting about the rather high chances that he might not fit in at some of the usual groups when it came to sharing concerns and such. We all need personal trainers for this journey, I swear. Me, I need a class that caters to married, middle class women in their thirties, who never planned to have children, who reject pink satin onesies off hand, lead unconventional work lives, hate mushrooms and acrylic nails, have never watched "the Apprentice," and enjoy a good syrah on an evening out that also includes a healthy dose of sarcasm and marimba music.

It all makes me think back to a sign I saw at the peace rally in February of 2003 (the big one, where the whole world told Bush to go fuck himself, except that the San Francisco march happened a day later than everyone else's because they moved it to Sunday so as not to interfere with the Chinese New Year parade. I believe in cultural sensitivity, but… biggest demonstration in history and we couldn't have switched with the folks in the dragon suits? ) The sign I saw said: "Just another transexual vegan epidemiologist for peace."

Maybe instead of one-size-fits-all pregnancies we could match ourselves up with like-minded people under a model akin to dating services or personal ads: "Are you 28-34 weeks, love virgin piña coladas, getting caught in the rain, and fear tearing? Mailbox 45."

Despite the fact that almost everyone I know who's walking around these days claims to have been an "accident," everyone I know who's pregnant these days claims to have carefully planned their babies. Hey, I'm as big a control freak as the next person, how did I miss this boat?? It came up in my exercise class earlier this week that my pregnancy was unplanned. My instructor asked me a question I didn't quite catch and when she repeated it, it was "Are you married?" On hearing the question, I realized what she most likely had said initially that my ear didn't hear (or maybe that my brain couldn't take in). If I'm not mistaken, she had asked, "Are you getting married?" When I told her I was indeed married, she moved on with "Does your husband want children?" "Yes," I told her without offering any further explanation. After that it was shoulder rolls and discussions of the group's various aches and pains.

What was that about?? Has "unplanned" taken on such a stigmatized connotation as to replace things like "unwed mother"? It says a lot about just how planned we think we live our lives today. Not to mention, you'd think we'd come to terms with being different from one another by now. But the guide books still flaunt white, middle class, happy mother values and each time we encounter a different approach to life our horse rears up in fright and we flee wildly from the forest, scarves trailing in mud.

Frankly, as much as I complain about not fitting in while the rest of the pregnant central coast chatters on about what their husbands have bought for their "little linebacker," I have a tendency to shy from groups larger than four if they are likely to agree with me. Large gatherings of kindred souls make me nervous. Maybe I'm just more comfortable defending a position, stating a case. Take writers for example. Leave me in a room with those people for a day and I'll be planning my career as a trapeze artist. I own no berets.

This whole pregnancy has been about deconstructing identity. I think about walking around town with a baby some day soon and feeling like a complete poser. After hard-won labels I've slapped on myself, I now need to soak many of them off. The replacements aren't really lined up yet, and there is still that gooey residue of glue that hasn't completely gone away – it's mucking up my brain. I need to be exposed to all kinds of people and models for living. I want it all – someone to complain about and someone to commiserate with. So, if you have that same gooey feeling of absent identity, and never really decided to have kids, or, maybe if you can't relate in the slightest, give me a ring, we'll chat.

Friday, January 28, 2005

the kindness of strangers

A friend of a friend, someone I have never met, wants to buy us Parenting Magazine as a gift. My friend assures me she's just a nice person, that she wants to help. This is a very kind gesture. I have never looked at a Parenting Magazine. I have no idea what it is like, though I suspect it is somewhat faithfully mainstream.

I think about the magazines that I subscribe to now, things like Poets and Writers and The Sun, and I can't see any reason why I wouldn't be able to gather as much information about parenting through those. Today, we are so literal, so specialized, so compartmentalized. We cut out gym classes, cut music programs – extraneous subjects where one ostensibly learns about physical fitness and playing the oboe. Doctors know about birth, women do not. If you want to learn about parenting, read a parenting magazine. The relational aspect of life (that IS life) opened to me only in college. I still remember the elation I felt when I realized that what I was studying in art appreciation and philosophy was influenced by what was going on at those times in political history and vice versa, that even my ability to study from a certain pool of languages spoke to a context, what communities surrounded me historically and geographically. Everything was related! I'd found the web, and it was no small secret.

The finer the web, the better. I learn from the details. I've always been more interested in learning history, for example, from personal accounts and from literature – even though it's "fiction" than from textbooks and newspapers. Writing from the personal, the particular offers something other accounts can't. The poet Anna Akhmatova was waiting outside the prison in Leningrad day after day during the years of Stalin's Russia for word of her husband and son. She was there in the bitter cold with hundreds of others when someone recognized her. "Can you describe this?" the woman asked her. "I can," she answered and went home and wrote her poem "Requiem." The bigger picture is fine, but it's big and written by men and talks about dropping bombs at coordinates on a map, as if not blasting into hundreds or thousands of individual lives. Don't talk to me of battlefields, tell me about kitchen tables. I had a boyfriend once who was all about the big picture. "You know what today is the anniversary of, don't you?" he asked me once. I thought carefully. It was December 7th. "Is this the day John Lennon was shot?" I tried. He was completely incredulous. How could I have mistaken December 7th – the day of the attack on Pearl Harbor, for the day (December 8th) one person died!?

How many gunshots or bomb blasts count as memorable? How many lives need to end before it makes "history?"

If music class is for oboe lessons, libraries are for books, and really isn't our attitude that there is the internet for that, isn't there? Salinas, a city about 20 miles east of us is, like every other city these days, in financial crisis. Because of a proposition on the ballot last November that failed to pass a half-cent tax hike, they've decided to close their three libraries. I find this horrifying. I'm not alone. I'm working on a radio story about it, and my idea was to talk to kids and hear what they had to say about libraries and books. I spent a very educational day with second graders nodding into my microphone and supplying me with tamale recipes, in addition to excitedly showing me the books they liked best. When I asked one little boy if he ever went to the library with his mom and dad he told me "They won't let me." "Won't let you?" I probed. "How come?" "They are so busy. They're just busy every day." In that moment, I felt a physical pain in my chest. A tiny window to this child's world opened just a crack, and through it a flood of light escaped.

Could this feeling I had be attached to an instinct for what is right and true? Could I know something already about parenting? I want to believe that I learn all the time and that I will know what is right for my child without reading every word from the "experts". I am so very analytical already. It makes me leery of targeted magazines. Teaching, for example, has never been the same after studying it in graduate school. Too much information. Can't just enjoy it anymore. And so in the simple offer of a magazine, I am caught between the genuine and unsolicited kindness of a stranger and what else I hope is true.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

clearing space

To say my husband and I have different passions in life is an understatement. The other night, I got into bed beside him to find him perusing a thick hardcover entitled Random Data. Pleasure reading?? I read the title aloud like someone reading out road signs along a highway – part auto-response, part curiosity. Voicing the words brought the absurdity of it into focus even for Mike, and he chuckled over the top of the black tome before turning the page and leaving me again for a world I dare not enter.

I suppose you could say we "balance" each other – I suppose this because people do say it all the time. Apparently, however, balance does not include transference. Mike hasn't suddenly started writing poems and living with an engineer hasn't brought me any closer to mastering things like spatial relations. Space. Clearing space. I'm trying very hard to do this figuratively and literally before Baby spirals into our lives (did you know babies are born in a spiral? – the way they turn coming out). My biggest downfall when looking for space, the biggest space hog in my life is: paper, and the thoughts written on them, the histories associated with them.

As if it weren't enough that I am a recovering packrat, as well as a writer and a teacher, part-time everywhere, permanent office nowhere – making my share of binders and paper-based clutter disproportionately large compared to the average citizen – I seem to have also taken up saving my husband's little scraps of paper. He is an engineer. He has plans, solutions. He marks them down in tiny little numbers written in the corners among finely drawn lines made without a ruler. I keep all the scraps of engineer-drawings he makes on the back of receipts or scribbled on telephone messages I never got. These are the sketches of things he will make or has made for us. Shelves and bookcases. Bed frames and plant stands. These drawings fascinate me. They are completely and utterly apart from anything I could ever do or would want to, i.e., they involve math. Plans come to me organically, or not at all. Someday I hope to make a composite of Mike's little planning papers, or a mobile, or, I don’t know. This is the closest I come to a plan.

I love my husband's little sketches despite the fact that sometimes, they fail to produce perfect products. He made me a chair once. Built a frame and set to it a swath of denim fabric, that I might sit on our little square of patio and stare at my daffodils. When he was finished, he called me out to his creation and gestured for me to sit down and try it out. I did and fell immediately to the hard ground, his chair splayed like a cartoon cat beneath me. What? Do you think he raced to me and helped me to my feet then? No, no. He stood, scratching his chin, studying the scene. "I think I know what I did wrong," he said. "Do they just give out those degrees at MIT??" I shot up at him, his little paper plan beside me on the ground.

I'm just guessing at this point, but babies would seem to bring on their own collections of stuff, paper included. Where will we find the space? Will I get to attach my library of engineer scribblings to colored paper and dangle them from wire hangers before the fast approaching date of Baby? Or will they mingle with birth certificates, preschool drawings, yellowing and fraying, taking up space in cabinets and drawers? Should I prioritize this project among so many and design shadow box displays for Baby to take to show and tell someday? What does your dad do for a living? the other kids will ask. This, he'll say, thrusting a collage of equations at them, bringing on "ooohs" from the little geeks in training, frightened gasps from the future starving artists.

In looking for his or her own space in that classroom and this world, I pray that my Little One will not persecute him/herself for things s/he cannot do, but will understand on which of many sides his/her talents fall more heavily and be at peace with that. And I hope Baby will also know that somewhere in the world there is another little gestating soul that balances his/hers.

Now when I climb into bed (the bed he made us), where my husband has already planted himself, and discover him reading the encyclopedia-sized Random Data, I don't startle or groan. Nor do I peer over his shoulder at the equations riddling page after page. I just curl my rounded bulk to him and close my eyes, so that there is no clear space between us.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005


At night gravity is 10 fold what it is while the sun's up, sees me roll and grunt on the bed, graceful as a disabled tank. I want to sleep suspended in liquid, like my baby gets to. I want to slip into clear water and float to sleep - so my shoulders don't pile drive into the mattress and wake me throbbing in the wee hours, so my belly doesn't shift painfully from side to side slightly behind the rest of my body, so I can close my eyes and feel beautiful, so I can dream. I want to slip into the skin of a selkie and drift from rock to wave, abandon human form, swim.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

blog graveyard

If you only knew how many blog entries I have started lately but just can't seem to finish or find a point to or end to or beginning for or motivation to shore up the middle of. There's my rave about men/women/choices/ and "planning", there's the one about the curiously interesting fact that I've married an engineer, there's the one about breaking things, about the libraries closing, about getting new glasses. There are tons. I think I'm in a third trimester funk. I can't seem to remember how I find solace in these writings. I can't seem to find enough time to ponder them in my journal and tease out what I really want to say.

I just want there to be more than 6 weeks left of this crazy ride. I just want to stop doing (which doesn't mean stop writing). The world will snatch out of your hand whatever you tentatively offer. It doesn't care about things like "pregnant". It doesn't want to be a part of your decision-making process. You *think* you can do X or Y? Great! I'll look forward to that project completed by Monday. You have to be your own best line of defense. How have I gotten this far and not learned that yet? If I can get the noise to stop, and make time expand, maybe my blogging abilities will come back. If I can learn (if not through this, than how?) to slow the hell down...

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

mailing lists & telemarketers

It's happening right now. The people who make their sorry living by barraging the world with junk mail are figuring it out. They're already on to me. Somehow, they know. I'm going to be a mother. Soon it'll arrive, the motherhood junk mail. Add it to the yoga, social justice, teaching, and writing junk mail.

Have you ever used a weird version of your name or filled out a "required field" on a form with your middle initial as "Z" or "Q" for example so that you'll be able to see if they sell your address to some other company? Then finally when the day comes and you get that envelope addressed to Doug X. Feldstein it's been too long and you have too much else in your brain and you've forgotten who would've sold your name. It's all part of their plan.

In the realm of junk mail, and let me throw in telemarketing as well, we are dealing with people who have dedicated themselves to presenting as real wildly unimportant and artificial issues – 12 magazines for a penny, free carpet cleaning, surveys on our shopping habits. I think the people who run these operations could have great success in Homeland Security. They're secretive, relentless, concerned with imaginary worlds. Someday before the 112th or the 139th Congress there'll be a pasty guy, with an overly friendly voice who's good at reading scripts being grilled about his past intentions and indiscretions before being voted in as head of HS. There will of course be a sound delay before he answers any questions, and he will return questions unanswered until the Senator gives him his daytime phone number.

Once as a college student, I had a job telemarketing for the school. Maybe people were more patient then, almost 2 decades ago. Maybe I have just never been patient. But people would talk to me. They wouldn't give me money, mind you, they'd just talk. Some would tell me in great detail why they positively couldn't or wouldn't give money to their alma mater. I got stories of car accidents, cancer treatments, foreclosures. I got raucous laughter from people who felt their educational experience was, shall we say, less than stellar. I got people who needed to tell me about their day. As long as I had a phone to my ear, my part of the deal was done. I'd get my paycheck (minus the bonuses for actually bringing in revenue). And so I let them talk. I asked them questions. They asked me some too.

They better hurry up, these junk mail fiends and wicked tyrants of phone solicitation. It's bad enough now climbing up from my spot on the floor sorting what's to be recycled in that day's mail and waddling to the phone only to be greeted with a horribly bastardized version of my name and asked how I am. Once motherhood hits my patience with them will undoubtedly be even shorter, and if they aren't careful, I'll take the time to tell them aaaaaallll about my day.

Saturday, January 15, 2005


The tiny child growing inside me
drinks my tears of uncertainty,
almost before memory.

He will bloom cheerful at first,
will tumble and race
talking freely with the spirits
that brought him here,
clinging to my pant leg.

As she grows,
she'll begin to feel twinges
of our first connection,
though I'll have long buried it,
choose to revel instead in her twirling skirt
brushing against me, the faintest touch.

But he will cry out my old tears
when both of us least expect it.

She will travel the world
bringing me back crystal suncatchers
that shine like familiar droplets of water,

always trying to win my love.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Through This

Love me through this.
Kiss my forehead once.
Help me into my ill-fitting skins -
adulthood, motherhood.
If you have to labor 12 hours, 36 hours, forever, love me.
As my belly rounds and juts, love me for it.
Hold in your hand my swollen fingers,
pretend they are not fat as root vegetables.
Love me through this
when I cry that I hate you
when I float off to where you cannot follow
when the third jar this week
slips and shatters on the kitchen floor,
wringing out the mop, love me.
Love my acts of incompetence, unconsciousness,
lack of confidence.
Block the emergency exits and love me.
Love me like it's just the two of us,
like we have the answers in our morning tea.
Love the me who runs from this,
wild into the ivy and, hopelessly tangled,
falls again.
Love me like we planned this,
carefully, making dignified strokes of the pen -
a list of solace, an idea.
Love me as if the weight on your chest
were a postage stamp
easily floating about on the waves of your breath.
Whisper to me like I'm a one-night stand, a dying soldier,
cut out lies for me that hang around the doorframe, fragile paper dolls.
Love me through this for which the rewards
are meager – or great,
for which I have no map, hold no plan,
grab me by the shoulders and look at me,
as if you understand.

Thursday, January 13, 2005


I stare up from the table at the acupuncturist's office.
The sprinkler in the ceiling glows red
with the reflection of the heat lamp.
It focuses a wary eye on me.
I'm afraid it can read me: ungrateful
for my blessed fate.

I don't know much about ch'i or meridians,
and I hate needles.
I know that after this
I'll go get pizza.

The morning sickness hasn't gone away,
but it doesn't matter. I come here
in hopes of feeling something. A pin prick will do.
A spark, a flicker of redemption,
a cry of release.

Just out of college, I worked in a tiny office
for a crazy boss. That was back in the day
when the fax machine shrieked and wailed
at its duty. How I envied that machine.

According to the acupuncturist,
my liver is still attacking my system,
i.e., I'm depressed.

Pizza is apparently not on any of the lists
of healthy nutrition.
I take solace in my doctor's story
of her sister-in-law
who ate Cheetos
for nine months
and had a perfectly normal child.

But right now, I don't have the ch'i to argue,
and while my liver talks things over
with the acupuncturist,
I think about getting white sauce
on my pizza.

This is about hunger.
This is about being swallowed.
This is about balancing
on the point of a needle

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

take this test

Your auto mechanic gives you a present for the baby – a blanket knit by his aunt. From this experience you should assume:

a) your mechanic is way too nice
b) you live in a town way too small
c) you visit your mechanic way too much because your cars suck ass
d) all of the above

Friday, January 07, 2005

faking it

"Have you been doing your Kegels?" Those of you who know what this odd phrase refers to are dismissed for the day. You may run along and play; tune in tomorrow for another regular edition of FP. For the rest of you, let me explain. Kegel exercises are where you work out the muscles of your pelvic floor. Still lost? Then let’s just get to the point – They are the muscles you use, for example, to start or stop going wee-wee. Any of you Tantric types may be familiar with other uses for commanding control over such muscle groups. Ladies, you have three levels of these pelvic muscles.

Kegel exercises (so the great discoverer Mr. or Ms. Kegel really wanted their name on this one, huh?) are meant to strengthen those muscles for giving birth. After birth, the exercises are used to again strengthen whatever the hell is left of them.

Current literature on the topic suggests to expectant mothers that they do several sets of Kegels per day while performing other common chores or parts of their daily routine. Do X number of Kegels while driving to work, they tell you, while watching TV, while showering. Am I the only one out of touch with my pelvic floor? Should I worry that doing vaginal crunches virtually never occurs to me while taking in an episode of "Arrested Development?"

Then there are formal group Kegels. This is when prenatal exercise classes incorporate the Kegel regimen into the workout. Big-bellied women sitting cross-legged on the floor, to the naked eye, doing nothing, while an instructor directs her invisible chorus "…And lift, lift, lift, release. Lift, lift, lift, release. Again…"

Frankly, I just don't have this down. It's not that I can't find my little muscles or that I don't want more than anything to have strong muscles where I need them, or to rebuild them after Baby in order to continue to enjoy things like sex or bladder control. But the problem is these prenatal classes are filled with false beginners. In the world of language teaching, a "false beginner" is a learner who is taking the zero-level course, and clearly has many holes in his or her basic knowledge, but has had some exposure to the language before. They know bits and pieces and generally intimidate the ones who really do need to be taught from "hello, my name is."

In the prenatal classes someone brings up Kegels and everyone begins to nod. They've heard about this and other things, like when to buy nursing bras and how to avoid swollen fingers from friends and family who clearly talk about these things in more detail than my friends and family do. It was further than I was willing to step out when I first started this grueling process of seeing myself as a pregnant woman, to go "Huh?!?" I was left to find out about these pelvic do-hickies on the street, with incomplete information from questionable sources, and that's just not right.

It's mostly the three level thing, the speed at which we should perform these little pelvic tricks, and something about a "figure eight" that always comes up that throw me the most these days. And sometimes, I admit, in class, I'm not really doing them. Maybe I'm trying, or maybe I'm doing single lifts for everyone else's three-tiered approach. For better or worse you can fake a Kegel. Cuz, well, who's gonna know?

I still need to read up on my Kegels. Someday soon maybe I'll get it. Maybe I'll start to do them regularly while shampooing my hair, like a good mommy-to-be. Perhaps, while meditating on my nether region, a fairy in a bubble might appear in the shower to tell me I've always had the power within myself to get home, uh, I mean, to Kegel. Click, click, click. Lift, lift, lift.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

turn, turn, turn

My non-west coast friends all ask me if I miss the seasons living here. However, I don't think they really want to know my answer, since before I get to it, they're off on the explanation of how much they'd miss them. The snow, they croon. I'd miss the snow. And the leaves in the fall… ltheir eyes grow dreamier.

Okay, quit it. It is pure myth that we on California's central coast do not have seasons. If you want snow and leaves, they are only a couple hours' drive away. But more to the point, is that we've been trained to believe seasons can only consist of Summer, Fall, Winter, and Spring. Here, we have things like avocado season, pomegranate season, the season when all the crazy giant tree aloes bloom in big orange cones of flowers, the one where the ice plant turns into a purple carpet, the foggy morning/clearing by afternoon season, and the rainy season, just to name a few.

Rainy season runs roughly from November through February. I remember the first time I saw it rain after we'd moved here. We'd arrived in August. It had been four months since I'd seen a drop. Then one day I called Mike to the window gasping and gawking. It was pouring. We stood there mesmerized watching the show. Just like that. The rain made itself at home, howling and causing a scene, like it owned the place.

It doesn't rain every day during the season, mind you. And usually there are glorious sunny days in between, since, after all, it isn't foggy season. There are some really cool advantages to having your rain contained within certain months of the year. For example, I knew it wasn't going to rain on my wedding day. Never crossed my mind that it might. True to the history of the last couple centuries, it didn't. And you appreciate your rain more when it is there – after this spell, you don't know when you'll see it again. It's like a long distance relationship, except it works.

My due date is a tad outside the hard and fast parameters of rainy season, but I'm hoping maybe a late storm might bleed over a bit. I want it to pour rain when I give birth. Pour and pour and pour. Since it only gets to state its case for a third of the year, the rain here generally does not arrive as a gentle sprinkle. It screams down in torrents for hours on gusty winds, pelting the ground with acorns that sound like so many bee-bee guns. I love the rain. There is some rumors of a mini El Niño year approaching. Plus, I'm having a Pisces. Wouldn’t the waters be fitting then?

The Pisces deal didn't always lead me to such sentimental and serene thoughts. Until recently, I was confidently holding to the thought of how, naturally, I would let my child be exactly what he or she was meant to be, when one day I remembered an early freak out I had had. Very early. Like a week into knowing. The doctor declared my due date of March 7th and having yet to do the math myself, I immediately denied the possibility of a Pisces. No, no, I insisted, the end of March, it'll be an Aries. You'd think I hold hard and fast to zodiac signs, which I don't. But, what I mean to say is, um, I mean, well, it's just that, surely I wasn't having a Pisces. Good one, Kitty. Mangle his essential being right from the get go. Chuck it onto the list of my neurotic tendencies and add it to my constant blubbering, releasing sad hormones for my baby to feed on, and approximately every other day I am quite convinced that I've already ruined my baby's life, shorn the confidence and essence of this new creature. That belief is quickly followed by understanding the absolute absurdity that I have the power to alter another being's purpose and personality in such a way. Parental influence is way overrated.

Pisces it is then. Since I have no bathtub or birthing tub in which to welcome my little fish, my hope is for one more good storm while I'm in labor. The sound of release. And maybe Baby will be more eager to join us on this side with less distress to mom if we create a watery welcome, something familiar.

In the ven diagram of my personal version of the central coast seasons, as rainy season continues, we are also moving into the circle of "yellow season." That's when the acacia trees bloom in heavy branches of lemony fluff, the oxalis bursts out of its clover leaves to overrun yards, and the wild mustard fills wide sunshiny stripes between the green of the artichoke fields. This wouldn't be a bad season to be born in either. These days, I can see, there are so many good ones to choose from.

Despite what any ultrasound has to say about the length of my baby's femur bone and, consequently, his or her calculated growth and presumed date of arrival, he or she will come out when it's time, in just the right season.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

and the winner is…

Well folks, entries have flooded us here at headquarters, but I'm proud to announce we have chosen a winner. The grand prize winner for the Most Bizarre Reaction to My Pregnancy is…

my sister-in-law who, upon hearing the news, told us to let her know when the baby has a social security number because she'll put him on her life insurance policy.

Thanks to everyone who entered. Play Again. Drink More Coke.

Monday, January 03, 2005


five days in a rough salt sea;
they are beautiful dolls
smooth as beach glass and cool to the touch
hands and feet rubbed into seamless cloth
washed clean of all features
all orifices vanished
no mouth to speak or gnash its teeth
peaceful without ears to hear the screaming gulls
there's been a terrible disaster,
but they haven't heard the news

on the open water
the bodies sometimes meet each other
bumping together one asks another
for this dance
but she bobs away shyly and he
cannot take her hand

there is no violence left to the water
just a child sleeping after a tantrum run its course
4,000 missing, 5,000,
they play a kind of hide and seek
they've forgotten to stop the count

no violence, the ocean is not angry
just hungry, blameless,
like the little fish nibbling
a serene picnic
they give of their flesh willingly

Shh. they are sleeping
rocking gently in quiet blue-green swells
they are resting for a long journey
who will be the first to go all the way around?

imagine, bodies floating for days
a short reverie, not more
the truth: they cannot escape the noise
from shore the smooth silence is broken
by news reports, habit, it never existed
they absorb our chatter
and sink like lead
and sink with the weight of the world.

desperate hires

I hear from folks all the time that I'll "be a great mom." Not uncommonly, these aren't people that necessarily know me very well. Consequently, I wonder how they can be so sure I'm qualified for the job. I've had similar doubts as part of numerous interviews I've gone through in the past, like the time I interviewed for a community college teaching position right out of grad school. While I was still pontificating over my philosophies of teaching, the dean stood up and rounded his desk, dropped a textbook in my lap, and pointed out the office where I could pick up my parking pass. How had he decided I could do the job?

In his case, he hadn't – hadn't decided I could do it, had simply decided I would do. And with that, his job was finished. No more would he need to spend his busy days listening to eager M.A.s tell him about collaborative learning environments. He could safely return to day dreaming about his glory days as a college football star – the ancient news clippings from the Sacramento Bee hung around the office, a young man wearing #54 circled in each one.

The vocation of parenthood has surely seen gaps in qualified candidates over the years, just look at the explosion of memoir as a genre. You don't think all those books are talking about happy childhoods, do you? I'm not sure "You'll make a great mom" is as much a vote of confidence as it may be a sigh of relief. – "Whew. You're doing it, not me. Yes, yes, children are our most precious resource. Glad the position's filled, now I'll go off back into my own life of spontaneous travel and disposable income."

The old Soviet Union used to give women who had ten children or more medals for contributing so many citizens to the State. "Hero mothers" they were called. No one asked how successful they were at it. No one asked if Maxim and Sasha played well with others, or if their mom really always wanted to be a dancer and snarled through a cloud of cigarette smoke about "at least setting the dinner table." The position was filled. If you want to talk about what might go on behind closed doors or in the recesses of the mind, nah nah la la la, we can't hear you!

If these people – mere acquaintances thinking me a fit maternal model and lazy old men posing as educators – read anything into me, it was this - that I will do my best to fulfill responsibilities handed to me… Sounds so noble, doesn't it? (Medal worthy?) Now here's the rest of the sentence: …even when it is to my own detriment. I dream of doing the right things and showing Baby joy and comfort. But my vision of these early years for me is gnarled and dark, includes putting up a face of sanity for a world that will believe it, swallow it whole, because it needs to so badly, while inside I am feeling inadequate, inarticulate, in the mood to hand off Baby to the cooing passerby who stands opposite us like some fun house mirror and will be in our life all of 30 seconds but is so certain she's witnessed the blissful beauty of mother and child. I'm trying to envision a future with Little One in which we both rise to our potential, together. I can only wait and see.

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