Exploiting My Baby* *Because It's Exploiting Me

Boys

Me Trying to Avoid Lame Book/Baby Metaphors. Failing.

General StuffTeresa Strasser30 Comments

Books, like babies, are hard to deliver. They can tear you apart on the way out. I finished the first draft of my book this week. The baby, well, that rough draft will be on my hard-drive for years to come. I hope Buster will be compelling, rich and hard to put down, but if he ends up in the remainder bin, I guess that will also be on me.

Like having a baby, writing a book is something I thought I could never do, even though I’ve been a writer since I was 19, even though I’ve been turning out copy for years, I didn’t see how I could be an actual “author” a title that, like “mother” seemed too saintly and profound to ever belong to me. There are other parallels, although while babies and books are both challenging and life-changing, the baby at least smiles at me, whereas the book deadline mostly just glowered.

When I was writing the early chapters, sneaking off to the library in four-hour increments and pumping breast milk in the car of the library parking lot, I often wondered what I had gotten myself into, a sentiment that I assume other new moms feel from time to time about motherhood itself.

This morning, without the book crying to be picked up and rocked and fed, I took the baby to the park, where I realized that what mostly happens at the park in the early hours involves vagrants collecting cans and old people doing what appear to be very specific and very strange workout routines. As Buster looked up at the trees chewing on his lip, an elderly woman strapped her elastic exercise band around the slide in the playground for some squats. She eyeballed us like, “What the hell are you doing at my gym?” and we looked back like, “Listen lady, we got a lot of hours to kill so deal with it.” Meanwhile, an even older dude stretched his hamstrings out on the swing set.

Buster is decent company. He doesn’t just smile with his gummy mouth, but seems to express joy with his entire body. At just under six months old, I take this as a good sign that he’s turning out all right so far. On the other hand, he is easily bored, and taking care of him is often a matter of switching his position every five minutes, moving him from station to station at home (the ExerSaucer, the play mat, the pack and play, the bouncy seat, and back to one) or engaging him with various toys, songs and positions while out and about. Either he isn’t the kind of kid, or isn’t at the stage, to amuse himself for long periods of time.

It dawns on me that you can be a good mom, attached and in love, while also finding this time in your child’s life mind numbingly dull at moments.

I’ll shut up about comparing the book and the baby, because that can only lead to cloying metaphors about chapters ending and the future being unwritten, and I don’t want to sound like that Natasha Bedingfield song I’m embarrassed to like. I hope the book is good. While it’s a memoir about being pregnant, it turns out that the process for me wasn’t just about dealing with acid reflux and the like, but about exposing the other stuff that comes up and burns, the issues about my own mother, whether I would turn out like her, how motherhood like my old clothes, might not ever fit right.

Writing this blog helped, the posts were like notes I kept along the way. Still, the term “mommy blogger” makes me gag more than morning sickness, and I’m not sure why.

When I was a columnist, and wrote about being single, I hated being called “singles columnist” because it seemed so reductive and belittling, and I was just writing about my life, which at the time, involved dating. Now, I’m still writing about my experience, and I guess that makes me a “mommy blogger,” and I guess it’s snooty to think to myself, “I’m not some lady who had a kid and now thinks she’s Irma Freaking Bombeck; I was a writer before.” And let’s face it, the good mommy bloggers have figured out how to make money from their online enterprise, and I certainly haven’t done that yet, which makes me an amateur baby exploiter and only two-bit mommy blogger at best.

Only now, I’m dangerously close to also being an author. Because books kind of raised me, when my mother shut her bedroom door and left with me with a stack of them, I only hope the book I birthed can do the same for someone else, just keep her company for awhile. Or him. Whatever. I gotta sell books.

As for Buster, he didn’t kill my dream or turn me into a bore, as I sometimes feared. For one thing, I was already a bore, and for another, having a baby not only gave me new material to exploit (why else have one?) it also gave me the discipline to just hack away, a page at a time, knowing there wasn’t some brilliant, perfect, literary masterpiece out in the ether that I could never capture, but just the simple things I have to say, pedestrian as they may be, the best I can do and still make it home in time to nurse the baby and relieve the sitter.

When I had a child, I lost the right to show up only when I feel inspired. While that’s not something I would have thought to put on my baby registry, it’s a gift I love almost as much as I love my ExerSaucer. And I love my fucking ExerSaucer.

Why I’m Finally Psyched to be Having a Boy

General StuffTeresa Strasser43 Comments

Whose vagina exploded?

When I first found out I was having a boy, there were the stages of grief. You know, shock, denial, numbness, staring paralyzed, mouth slightly agape, at all the racks of cute girlie shit in the baby store until the clerk probably thought I was having a mild stroke.

Now, that has all gone away.

Maybe I have Stockholm Syndrome. I have fallen in love with my little captor because I have no choice: this fetus has a penis. Either way, it may have taken me a full two months or so, but I am so good with this boy thing right now.

It started with something simple, just the notion of one single phrase, the vision of me walking through my front door after work and asking, “Where’s the boy?”

I just like the sound of it. This vision extended to me showing up at daycare to pick him up and asking the teacher, “Where’s my boy?” It branched into imagining us gearing up for a road trip and me saying to my husband, “Have you packed up the boy?” The boy. My boy. Both sound good to me. What’s really been singing to me is this idea, and it may be repulsive in its cheesiness, but the thought that I would be referring to my child and my husband as “my boys.” I see myself phoning from the freeway on my way home, asking if “my boys” need me to pick anything up for dinner. “I need a hug from my boys,” I’ll announce on a Sunday morning, over coffee and the paper.

Sure, it may end up being more like “now I have to wipe the poop from between my boy’s balls and thighs,” but cut me some slack for over-romanticizing the boy thing right now. I so desperately wanted a girl, and now, whereas I used to see little girls on the street in their princess outfits and hate their parents out of sheer girl envy, they are starting to look prissy to me sometimes, and bossy.

And they won’t grow up to carry their mother’s luggage, or get all gangly and give those gangly boy mom hugs.

When I was having my moment in the baby boutique, it was too much. I was overwhelmed, surrounded, swallowed up by girlie treats I knew I would have coveted, stuck as if by a taffeta pin to my spot in the center of the crammed room. It looked like a vagina had exploded in there. There was a small purse made to look like a chocolate chip cookie, a set of red plastic lips containing mint gloss, a bubble gum pink voile skirt hanging with a dainty black cardigan, a tiara festooned with powder blue fluff, racks of small orange and yellow boas, a row of fuchsia headbands with white dots, a giant purple flower attached to a silver hair clip and a trio of white unicorns with gold horns and eyes.

You baby store people are totally fucking with me, I thought. And thanks for that one pair of denim overalls on the boy wall with the lame stack of “I’m so Silverlake” Jimi Hendrix onesies. Thanks.

At this point, my boy has quietly but profoundly liberated me from the illusion that having a girl would fix everything that went wrong with my own mother, to whom I haven’t spoken in a year or more. As facile and two-bit talk therapy as it seems, I think somewhere in my mind was this Barbie toy chest full of healing that would magically burst open when I did everything so much better than my mom did with me, when I taught the girl how to shave her legs and showed up to her ballet recitals, when I bought her gauzy skirts and said things like “I know you must be sad right now,” instead of “don’t you dare manipulate me with your tears.” What a bunch of unconscious crap I was swaddling in a pink blanket, that life with a daughter would be one long therapeutic mani/pedi, that I could make her feel okay about being female despite how much my own mother seemed to despise it.

I don’t know much about boys yet. I just know that this one, my boy, is crowding my diaphragm, lungs and stomach, while simultaneously making room in my heart.

You can’t suture years of ripped up mother/daughter flesh with satin ribbon and feather barrettes. Maybe the very idea that I would have a storybook relationship with my own daughter is as mythological as a herd of stuffed unicorns.

Brain Tumors: Not So Funny

General StuffTeresa Strasser23 Comments

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Yesterday, I did Adam Carolla's podcast with Bryan Bishop, who fans know as Bald Bryan.

It's not as bad as it sounds, but few things sound worse than "inoperable brain tumor," which is what Bryan has. He just found out a couple of weeks ago, and is now getting radiation and chemotherapy. 

I've known about this for a while, but that did not stop me from coming completely unglued on the drive home. I am confident Bryan will be okay, I just wish he and his family didn't have to go through something so terrifying. 

Sitting there on Adam's podcast couch hearing Bryan's story, I kept thinking, I hope my baby boy has some of BB's characteristics. I'm going to have to ask his mother how the heck she raised that kid. It's not just that he's exceptionally intelligent and decent, both of which he is, but more that he is plain old happy. I can't say that for most people I know, or for myself, and seeing a real live happy person and working closely with him for three years was edifying. Bryan says he is made for fighting cancer, because he is physically strong and emotionally balanced. I agree. He is also unbelievably, relentlessly sunny, which should make him unbearable but never does. 

Stay tuned, because he and his fiancee will be blogging.