Exploiting My Baby* *Because It's Exploiting Me

Mommy books

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.

21 Weeks: Call Malcolm Gladwell, I’m a Weight Gain Outlier

General StuffTeresa Strasser57 Comments

Sorry, Heidi

I gained 16 pounds my first trimester.

To put that in perspective, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” the so-called “pregnancy bible” read by 90% of pregnant women in America, suggests gaining between two and four pounds in the first trimester. Oops. I see your two pounds and raise you 14.

Author Heidi Murkoff delivers this nugget, “Slow and steady doesn’t only win the race – it’s a winner when it comes to pregnancy weight gain, too.”

Heidi and I have broken up a couple of times, but that’s because our relationship is kind of intense. I need Heidi when I have scary bleeding ­­– or jammy discharge after a CVS test – and require Heidi-style hand-holding to be sure everything is normal and not, in fact, a sign of imminent miscarriage. Many a night I’ve clung to Heidi’s comprehensive index (now dog-eared and smeared with Dorito seasoning), looking up spotting, breathing difficulty, hot baths, mood swings, mosquito bites, everything from abscess to zygote. But two to four pounds for the entire first trimester? Is she high? Or just high and mighty?

This is an important, classic and time-tested book, and I acknowledge it is a bible. However like the Bible, it occasionally says some really fucked up shit.

“Gradual weight gain also allows for gradual skin stretching (think fewer stretch marks),” adds Heidi, chirpily. And I know a subtle threat when I hear one. Translation in my mind: “Hey fatty, you keep up the eating if you want an ass full of stretch marks, and don’t say I didn’t warn you.” Still, Heidi is just trying to help and I can’t stay mad at her in case I need her stupid index again. In any case, it’s not her fault.

I guess I’m just a weight gain outlier. You could probably extrapolate from the above data that now, at 21 weeks pregnant and just over halfway through, I’m pretty hefty. As of yesterday at the gym, I’ve gained 29.5 pounds total so far. According to Heidi, that should pretty much be it for the whole pregnancy. Too bad I have four more months to go of important baby growth development time. How did this happen?

Dreakfast

First of all, I invented a new meal, like Taco Bell did. Mine is “dreakfast,” which comes between dinner and breakfast. Every night during my first trimester, I would wake up nauseas and feeling motion sick. I would pull up a small table next to the bathtub at 3:00 a.m. and soak while mauling a giant bowl of cereal and listening to podcasts of Radio Lab and This American Life. Sometimes that cereal would leave me with a taste for something sweet, which I would address with a mini tofu ice cream sandwich and perhaps an OJ chaser.

I was ravenously, ridiculously, painfully hungry.

It was like a sitcom, in that it was both boring and predictable. I’d stand in front of the refrigerator eating pickles and cheese. I wanted wheels of cheddar, craved anything involving vinegar or citrus, loved yogurt, licorice, and strangely, Guinness beer, which I didn’t drink, but fantasized about chugging from a frosty stein.

Does this fetus make me look fat?

Like a Hangover

I got my first hemorrhoid ever from pregnancy constipation, typical in the first trimester but still hideous, and fought it off with high fiber cereal and kiwis. The solution to hemorrhoids, like to all things in the first trimester, was edible.

It wasn’t and isn’t the kind of “emotional” hunger that makes you feel like you want to dig a spatula into a bottomless vat of rocky road so you can feel less lonely or bored or empty. It’s the large intestines rubbing together, physical desperation for fried potatoes and eggs kind of hunger you feel when you wake up hung over on a Sunday, when you didn’t eat dinner the night before, but instead sipped several doubles of Jameson’s, neat. It’s the type of hunger that makes you order a coffee and orange juice at the diner the morning after and look balefully at your waitress as if to plead, “Seriously, look at me. Get me that juice.”

I had the unswerving certainty that only the constant infusion of food would settle my stomach. I kept crackers by the bed so I wouldn’t have to make it all the way to the kitchen in our 900 square foot place. I fell asleep with a container of chopped pineapple in my hand. One morning, I gobbled down a giant protein bar for breakfast, and 20 minutes later thought to myself, “Man, I’m starving, I should eat breakfast,” which is when I noticed the protein bar wrapper sitting on the nightstand, and only then remembered I had consumed it.

Drugs Have No Calories

Along with the feeling of being car sick, of cramps and heartburn resistant to prescription Zantac, there was withdrawal from all the good, soothing drugs like Ambian and Xanax and Klonipin that I once used responsibly and “as needed,” need being a fluid concept.

There was the quitting smoking, too. I only smoked two cigarettes or so a night, but quitting means my body has no idea when dinner is over, so it isn’t.

What happens when you combine pregnancy hormones, fear about motherhood and the future, a queasiness calmed only by the constant eating of toast and crackers, a new and unexplained revulsion for vegetables, quitting smoking, doing lots of sitting around worrying and waiting for various test results? What do you get? Pretty fat, actually.

My Bladder Got Fat

My bladder didn’t actually get fat, just infected, twice, which is also common during pregnancy, but the prescribed antibiotics are not your colon’s friend. The only solution to this was a combination of taking probiotics from Whole Foods and listening repeatedly to the Alanis Morrisette song “Thank You,” which opens with the possibly overly specific but nonetheless satisfying lyric, “How ‘bout getting off of these antibiotics?”

I outgrew my underpants.

Drove down to the mall in Sherman Oaks for my first foray into maternity shopping at A Pea in the Pod. You feel special there because they have bathrooms and water, and creeped out because they are overly conciliatory and they say your pre-maternity size should fit in maternity wear but that is a dirty, dirty, dirty lie.

I still can’t bring myself to buy large panties, so I squeeze into medium Victoria’s Secret Angel undies just to see how deep and festering a red gash I can acquire from elastic digging into my hip flesh.

My Ears Got Fat

How do I know? Because I work in deep cable, co-hosting a show on the top half of the screen while the bottom half scrolls through better shows you could be watching on other networks. I use an earpiece (IFB) so the producer can talk to me during the show. About a month ago, it started popping out of my ear. I’ve used it for years doing live news. As is customary, an audiologist molded the IFB to fit my ear perfectly and no one could figure out why it suddenly kept sliding out as I tried to interview Jane Seymour or those twins from “Desperate Housewives.” It took a new sound guy to point out tactfully that, “Sometimes when people change sizes, their ears change, too.” I couldn’t believe my ears. Were fat.

Pollyanna Alert:

I swear this is true. I wouldn’t trade my worst, sickest, fattest, most bloated pregnant day for not being pregnant at all. Even 21 weeks into it, I still feel flabbergasted that the whole birds and the bees thing really works, even for me, someone past her prime breeding years with a few STD’s on the boards (I wasn’t slutty or anything, but my 20s were a little tough on the reproductive system thanks to one particular comedian – or as my friends put it, “The stand up gave you the lie down.”) It continues to feel surreal that this thing took, that I feel the baby kicking now throughout the day, which feels like I swallowed a cell phone and I’m taking calls on vibrate. Or sometimes if feels like about a third of the stitch you get in your side when you run too fast, or maybe popcorn popping.

I hope parenting is like that – even days it sucks you would still rather you had done it.

The fact that it still feels sort of unreal, that is totally, totally normal. At least that’s what Heidi says.

Bad Move: Calling Nancy O’Dell a “C-Word”

Favorite Posts, General StuffTeresa Strasser144 Comments

Almost every idiotic thing I do can be traced back to one basic flaw: trying too hard. This explains how I ended up calling Nancy O’Dell a “stupid c-word.”

That’s right. I called America’s sweetheart a “c-word” on the Adam Carolla Podcast and I may have done it more than once, although it’s all a bit of a blur now, except oniTunes, where it screeches out at you with perfect clarity.