Exploiting My Baby* *Because It's Exploiting Me


Sitting Stretch Mark Shiva

General StuffTeresa Strasser60 Comments

Living Like Sanford, You Big Dummy. I have a stretch mark.

This is not a big deal. Or rather, I wish I were a person for whom this was not a big deal, but after spending two hours online last night in the wee hours looking at pictures of stretch marks and doing research, I realize I do not subscribe to the Warrior Woman thing about "my trophy" and "all worth it" and "this was my baby's home for nine months." Fuck that.

Did I mention I just have the one? Still, it's red and loud like a blinking, broken arrow, an arrow pointing right to the place where my vanity lives, a tenant I expected to be evicted and replaced by nurturing, maternal “don’t care how I look because I’m so in love with motherhood” lady. Whether depth and vanity can share a pad without finishing off each other’s peanut butter and taking poor phone messages, I have no idea.

I just know I took a long look at the mark in the mirror in the middle of the night and I had a choking, irrational cry.

Moreover, most women get a rush of stretch marks right about now, just before birth, and I can see several more appearing on the left side of my stomach, crouching, laying in wait to ambush my collagen and confidence.

Life just feels like what happens while I wait for more stretch marks. My goddamn dermis is like a ticking time bomb.

If you search long enough, you can find anything online, like sites that encourage moms to post pictures of their bellies, with or without stretch marks, and tell their stories. It was all very disturbing, the women who looked like they had been clawed across the abdomen by a giant, angry bear and their own genetics. I want to find them valiant, but just see my own mother, practically disfigured by groups of chunky, textured, silvery marks. It never seemed to bother her much, which made it bother me more, and maybe the entire process of looking in the mirror and seeing my mother triggers a deep Freudian crisis.

imagesThere were the photos, too, of the women who escaped unscathed, not a mark on their bellies. Well, goooooood for you, said my mind in the quiet calm of the Koreatown night, goooood for you. Like Christian Bale yelling at his DP, gooooood for youuuuuuuuuuuu snidely said my mind.

I worry about big things, too.

I worry all the time about the baby being born deaf or blind or not making it at all. I worry that I have tempted fate with my Diaper Champ and hand-me-down crib and drawers full of onesies, as if to say to the universe that I take it for granted I will get a healthy baby. A few times a day, I flash on an image of myself sitting alone in the nursery I was scared to furnish, hugging the orange dinosaur my mom knitted, crying in the corner because of some unspeakable tragedy rendering all of this baby stuff useless. The whole thing is extra poignant, rows of baby socks with no tiny feet to put in them. I know, it’s twisted, but don’t accuse me of only worrying about the stupid shit.

Don’t worry. As a Jew, I have enough room in my heart for all levels of anxiety. The shelves are stocked with sizes from XS to XXL.

When the doctor first told me the baby was “frank breech,” meaning head up and rump down, I was bummed about needing a scheduled C-section, disappointed about the controlled calm of appointment birthing. No water breaking at Starbucks, manic drive to the hospital, no ice chips and sweating and gruesome rite of passage labor story.

Now I think, why the fuck did labor seem like such a mystical adventure?

I just want this kid out so I can sleep on my back without suffocating, roll over in bed without sounding like Fred Sanford, not be congested anymore, smoke a couple cigarettes on a Friday night or when I’m writing and need to feel like Norman Mailer. I want to drink a freezing cold martini, take a Xanax, fit into my shoes, schedule toxic beauty treatments. Most of all, I want to be done wondering if the kid is alright, if he’ll survive his journey out of my body, if I did a good enough job carrying him for these past nine months, if he got all his Omega fatty acids and protein and Folic and fat and brain stimulation. Like probably everyone who is 39 weeks pregnant for the first time, I’m ready for this to be over. I just want to hold my baby.

Maybe for now, for right now, as I await either a C-section in a few days  - or a vaginal birth if Buster suddenly decides to right himself - it’s easier to focus on one single stretch mark. There’s only so far it can rip you apart.

This facile psychological interpretation not only buys me a one-way ticket to obvious-ville, it makes me look so much better than a woman who hyperventilates over a stretch mark or two.

Or maybe a stretch mark freak out is simply that. The fact is these suckers are truly irreversible, and I just need a second to process.

They can send a man to the moon, transplant a human face, smash an atom with a linear accelerator, air-condition a condo in Phoenix, make sure you always know exactly where you are in space with a $200 GPS the size of a wallet. Yet they can’t really do much about the scars of motherhood.

Every transition involves a loss, even if you are blessed enough to find yourself pregnant and on the eve of motherhood and the luckiest darn 39 year-old alive, there is still something left behind, and even if that something is just a silly old image of yourself in a bikini looking like Phoebe Cates in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” (which you never, ever did) one thing gives way to another and it can’t hurt to stop and waive goodbye.

In my own way, I have to sit shiva, grieve a bit for what was and allow myself to be fully and fairly terrified and inspired by what’s coming. That or just get some self-tanner. Both are miracles.

My Chemical Romance: I Miss You, Toxins

Favorite Posts, General StuffTeresa Strasser37 Comments




Even someone like me who isn’t particularly good with babies, who looks at them and says things like “Hey, buddy. Look at your little face,” before resorting to peek-a-boo and than running of out material, even I try to err on the side of caution when it comes to most chemicals. After years of wondering if I was cut out to be a mother, I’m relieved that the instinct to protect this baby is so strong, or at least the image of me smoking a Camel while sipping a Jameson’s as hair dye sets in and self-tanner absorbs is so shameful, that I figure all of my favorite chemicals can wait.

And I really love chemicals. I had no idea how much I took them for granted until now. I miss you, toxins.

Being pregnant has made me feel toward booze and Xanax and Retin-A the way Emily from “Our Town” felt about food, new ironed dresses, hot baths and milk delivered to your door. She didn’t appreciate the simple things in life until she returned as a ghost to Grover’s Corners, lived one day as her 12 year old self, and asked the question all pre-teen girls agonize over while performing Emily’s big monologue at theatre camp: “Does anyone ever realize life while they live it?”

What I mean is that I never appreciated safe and guilt-free drug use until it was gone. Did I just compare not using Klonopin to dying? Is that overblown? Someone get me to Samuel French because I’m feeling dramatic.

I knew nicotine was bad. I quit smoking my two after-dinner puffy treats at 10 weeks or so. Though I was never John Wayne with the smokes, we went way back together, and I always thought letting go of one or two cigarettes would be easy.


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Right now, I don’t want to smoke just a couple.

I want to sit in bed and chain-smoke high on half a Vicodin and watch a couple of documentaries from Netflix like I used to do on a Friday night when the mood struck. If smoking calms nerves, I’ve never been more nervous than I am about this baby, how he’s doing in there, how he is going to get out, when I’m going to ascertain the meaning of the word “layette” or make myself care about the best brand of disposable nipple pads. However, it’s comforting to know my first maternal instincts outweigh nicotine addiction and habit and several bassinets full of anxiety.

Chemicals, I can’t wait to return to you. Until then, here is a list of the top ten chemicals I miss:



Vicodin - Narcotics are bad. Except for the fact they produce a little something called euphoria. Listen, this drug is a highly addictive opioid that should be used only to manage severe pain. However, my definition of "pain" is a loose one. 

Nicotine – C’mon. Smoking sucks. I get it. But how else are you supposed to know when dinner is over?

Booze – Nursing is going to mean something totally different, I know, but it used to be what I did to my glass of whiskey or single malt Scotch. What rounds out the edges now? Anyone who suggests a hot bath or meditating or chamomile tea is going to get punched in the face.

Retin-A – Who knows if this crap works, but they say it staves off breakouts and wrinkles and I have both right now as my prescription tube sits in the drawer, expiring.

Hair Color – I know, some say it’s okay to use, others say just get highlights, but let’s face it, who wants to sit in the salon all pregnant while women judge you for caring more about your roots than your spawn?

Klonopin – Relaxes muscles, reduces anxiety, helps you sleep, features a nice long half-life so you wake up fresh as a daisy and worry free. My favorite drug seemed so harmless until I read that when taken during pregnancy it may cause “floppy infant syndrome.” I don’t know what that is, and I don’t want to know.

Mystic Tan – Again, lots of pregnant girls do it and it’s probably fine. If you search long enough, you’ll find some Dr. Buzzkill to dissuade you from most delicious chemicals, as does OB/GYN Suzanne Gilberg-Lenz who says, “I tell my patients to avoid chemical tanning at the very least in the first trimester, when the majority of fetal organ formation occurs.” Ha, lady! I’m second trimester. Not so fast, she also adds that brain development continues throughout pregnancy and the skin is the largest organ in the body. Fine.

If there is a better way to gloss over the physical unpleasantries of being both pregnant and just generally over 30, I haven’t found it. DHA, IOU. And I miss you.

Advil – I never used this much, but now that I can’t I realize it was nice to have the option.

Artificial sweeteners – Equal, Splenda, Nutrasweet, saccharine, I don’t know what’s in you or which of you is better, but you all taste so chemical-y now. Half a Splenda in my decaf is my sweetener threshold before the guilt sets in, and that’s not like the three packs I used to enjoy in my cereal just for the fuck of it.

Caffeine – I have a decaf now and again, but some scary article I read when I was trying to get pregnant linked excessive coffee drinking with an increased rate of miscarriage. As losing the baby is the most non-stop, obsessive worry I’ve ever had, it seems like every caffeinated beverage is just a Miscarriage-a-ccino.