September 3rd: Officially 32 weeks and one day pregnant. Baby “Probably Dakota if that’s what she looks like when she’s born” is the size of a large jicama, (a Mexican turnip). She’s about 4 pounds and will put on another half pound per week.
I wish we had a support group for long-term restless moms-to-be. We’re all foaming at the mouth to stop being “patient” and start being moms. Then again, waiting has its moments: quiet moments. We just need more interaction. Maybe a weekly bookclub.
When I was little my mom always took me to workshops and support groups- OA, AA, Al-Anon, nursing workshops, Air Force conferences. AA people would hang around the lobbies of hotels and conference centers, chain-smoking and commiserating over their problems. I’d go with mom or dad (never both at once) and enhance my daydreaming skills by finding mental ways to entertain myself while stuck in a seat unable to move for two hours at a time.
Dad was President of the National and Texas Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counseling Associations and for years he’d drag me to committee events- Austin, Chicago, Orlando, D.C. There were the perks: gift bags, suites with continental breakfasts, trips to museums and pools and parks. And the side effects: isolation, awkwardness.
The conferences included banquet dinners and extensive periods of time sitting silently in ballrooms listening to people give speeches on alcohol abuse and recovery. My parents instilled in me-through these experiences- a distaste for most things organized, social, and therapeutic. I hate writing workshops. I hate seminars. I hate holding hands and vigorously declaring “keep on keeping on!”
Claudia, age 33, is pregnant and married to an alcoholic. People stress the importance of- “Being patient.” “Focus on you. Focus on the baby.” “Take care of yourself.” “Just nurture him. Don’t nag.”
When I met Charley I interviewed him for “Hole Romance,” a feature article in The Planet on Peter Pan syndrome in ski towns, specifically Jackson Hole. A month later, after living with him and helping him through two withdrawals, I wrote “Sober Lines,” an article on alcoholism in ski towns, specifically Jackson Hole. This time, unlike the first article, he chose to have a pseudonym:
” ‘I’m just going downhill. I think I might be dying,’ Elliot said as he paused from playing Grand Theft Auto. Elliott is in his mid-20s. He is snowboarder with a job at one of the resort’s bars with a weakness for Four Lokos and vodka. What does he have to say about his experience as an alcoholic? ‘Probably wouldn’t want to publish it. It’s all death and gloom.’
“Elliott says he figured out he was an alcoholic when he was 21, even though he had been in and out of juvenile centers and rehab since the age of 14. ‘It really didn’t click that I couldn’t drink normally until I was 21,’ he said.
“How does Elliott know he’s an alcoholic? ‘I just keep drinking and my mind is consumed with the thought of the next drink and the effects that that produces for me. Simple tasks seem impossible without that feeling,’ he said.
“He calls it a euphoric rush that goes away as soon as he feels he has it in his grasp, like ‘scraping heaven and never really getting there.’ Instead he wakes up in a ditch or at a stranger’s house with no idea of how he got there, how he passed out or what he said or did.
“How has addiction to drugs and alcohol changed Elliott’s life? ‘You name it, it happened: incarceration, fights, numerous destroyed friendships and relationships, crime, theft — sometimes from friends and good people who didn’t deserve it in order to get more,’ Elliot said. ‘Somehow I have the ability to black all of this out when I’m walking to the liquor store because my addicted brain only allows me to remember the euphoric rush of that first drink or hit.’
“Elliot entered Alcoholics Anonymous at one point, but he didn’t make it very far. He could never get past the 20 minutes of 12-step reading and the rigidity of the program. ‘It’s like they think that by reading this book it’s going to change my outlook. It was written in the ’30s, and it seems to me to be a large connection of sob stories,’ he said. “Programs are BS. They have you pay money, which is why I quit Curran-Seeley, because I couldn’t afford it. I’m sure they mean well, but this has to come from inside of me and I have to really want it. I just don’t feel inspired enough to quit.’ …”
The article was published and he read his part and laughed. A month later he proposed and a couple months later we got married. I was already pregnant after a trip to Vegas and Charley was still trying to be Dr.Jekyll, sometimes promising he would get a sponsor and go to AA. Sometimes it was the best thing on earth.
Fast forward to September. Charley got a screw in the tire. Charley is broke. Charley bought beer.
He is also kind, compassionate, loving. He loves animals and nature. He knows he’s a mess and he wants to be better. He loves to explore and learn and when he’s clear headed he’s one of the kindest, smartest, most intuitive humans on the planet. He’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
“I don’t want you driving my car after drinking or fucking my house up with your drinking and inviting people over to get wasted THANKS,” I text Charley.
“Cool that you can afford beer but not flowers to send your wife in the hospital,” I text.
“Fuck flowers u kno im not a flower guy wtf buy urself some if u love fucking flowers so much im not bending to a self righteous negative pessimist,” Charley texts.
“Just stop fucking talking about drinking and well get along and i wont give ur dogs to the pound,” he texts.
“…I’m sorry,” he texts. He’s sorry. I’m sorry.
Sammi the RN, young with earplugs and bleached hair, comes in to check my vitals and takes a vase of flowers from Charley’s dad. Petals are all over the floor so I get on my knees and clean them and groan like an old lady trying to get back up. I feel like someone at an OA meeting trying to get out of my seat.
On a walk today I see another woman from my floor waddling in the opposite direction down the Medicaid hall except she’s using the assistance of a wheelchair to support her arms. She looks about my age, with short brown hair and a backwards baseball cap. I pass her twice and look at her and then shift my gaze very intensely to the views outside. I’m an introvert and I prefer googling over striking up a conversation but some interaction with other moms-to-be would do us all good. Maybe if we met once a week to look at breast pumps and talk about preeclampsia and New York Times bestsellers.
On the phone with my mom, asking about Nana’s health, I notice a new vase of flowers on the counter.
“Holy shit! Someone sent flowers!” The room lit up. They were from Molly. A mix of red and pink roses, orange gerbera daisies and something purple. “I asked you to send me flowers. My friend sent me flowers and my own parents won’t send me flowers!”
Mom was unamused. “I’ll send you flowers when you have the baby.”
“They won’t matter then. It’s all this waiting, week after week. I need flowers now.”
“Well if we didn’t have to fork out all this money…” She’d helped pay for the move to New Mexico and the deposit and first month’s rent. I was now and forever a burden and did not deserve flowers. I was being an entitled millennial and my aunts and uncles were going to hear about it.
I’ve been blue. In the morning, eating an English muffin and drinking a smoothie, I compile a list of things I’d rather be doing than “staying pregnant” in a hospital:
- Touring a mansion
- Having sex
- Visiting the Grand Canyon
- Visiting Roswell
- Eating at an Ethiopian restaurant
- Going to an art museum
- Unpacking my boxes at the new house
- Buying baby stuff and “nesting”
- Going to the new Bridget Jones movie even though it looks bad.
This was the simple list. The extensive, unreasonable list would include a trip to the lavender fields of southern France, where Charley’s godmother Fiona owns a chateau. In fields of lavender. I love lavender because it’s regal and fresh. It reminds people of love and magic and queens. I love roses because they are enchanting. Wasn’t it the rose Consuelo that stole the Little Prince’s heart? Roses are smell like heaven and they come in a million colors, varieties and names like “Madame Hardy” (a vintage white) and “Queen Elizabeth” (a grandiflora, medium pink.)
I love peonies, daisies, ranunculus, jasmine and dahlias. I love delphimiums, orchids, Queen Anne’s lace, lilies and gardenias. I love flowers so much my whole wedding- hair and cake and bouquet- was just a parade of flowers and my blood pressure probably goes up just talking about them. But I also am madly in love with sage. People don’t understand sage. “It smells like a barn.” “It’s pungent like marijuana!” Okay, so maybe you need more sage in your life. Sage helps digestive problems and aging, and wards off pests and insects like mosquitoes and fleas. The more I learn about sage the more I admire it.
The high desert of New Mexico is covered in sage and it smells better than anything on earth- woody and lemony and sweet. It comes in white, green or purple. Where roses are known to embody love, healing and psychic powers, sage embodies immortality, cleansing and wisdom.
“The desire of sage is to render man immortal,” instructs a late medieval treatise. I don’t want to be immortal, I just want to be healthy, and back on the Mesa with Charley. Instead, I got a hemorrhoid on my butt.