Monday, June 14, 2010

If You Lived Here, You'd Be Dead Now

The babies lay sprawled on the ottoman as I go back and forth between them, kissing their bellies, trying to elicit laughter. Bronwyn's buying what I'm selling but Brody is having none of it. Big, liquid eyes full of confusion gaze up at me. "What the fuck are you doing, ma?" I can almost hear the words coming out of his mouth. I have no idea.

Todd comes in from his cigarette with a goofy smile. "Haaaappyyyy Birthday" he sing-songs and I'm a little thrown. Holy shit, it's my birthday and I didn't remember. I mean, I knew it was coming for days because people saw fit to remind me of it by way of Starbucks gift cards, wine, and sweet, sweet cold hard cash. But it's like I don't care at all about it. I'm 35. I am a year older than my big sister. I've got diapers to change, mouths to feed, wash to fold, and a dress rehearsal to attend where I will witness my daughter perform a rousing tap dance to the tune of "Hounddog". I'm going through the motions of my life, the way I have for the past 35 years. Trust me when I tell you that merely participating in my life is not the same thing as joyfully living it.

Lately, I've been doing strange things to my fingernails and toenails. I'm not biting or grooming my nails, I'm like attacking them systematically. It started out as nervous picking at the base and has now graduated to active and purposeful infliction of injury. This is my fucking spare time project. I even have tools for this activity. My thumbs in particular are raw and bleeding. And my toes are so bad that it's painful to walk.

I have a familiar feeling bubbling up again: revulsion. The desire to crawl out of my own skin. I am a snake shedding an old, scaly coat. A skinned rabbit hanging from a tree.

Am I unhappy? Decidedly not. I've said on this blog quite sincerely that my mind is amazingly empty of negative, depressive or suicidal thoughts. But that's just it - my mind is amazingly empty. There is a vapid numbness to my thought processes. I'm devoid of humor - even that dark and vicious humor that sustained me all those years in that virtual hell of my own making. The absence of sadness is not the same thing as being happy. It's like the way you're so grateful for the numbness that novacaine brings to avoid unspeakable agony, but when that numbness lingers and lingers and lingers - well that...that's just a different kind of pain.

Last year at this time, I was sinking into quicksands of madness and despair. When insanity knocked, I answered the door. I invited him in for coffee. And then I hit him over the head with a vase and stole his identity. It's easier to say, "I'm crazy" than to take responsibility for my failures as a human being, to admit that my 35 years have been a series of mistakes and wrong turns and, mostly, of standing still. When you look in the mirror and still don't know who you are looking at and you haven't the foggiest idea of what you believe in, throwing on a cloak of crazy can be pretty appealing. The problem is that once you do that, once you try that thing on and like how it fits you have to really commit. It's a cause you have to be willing to die for.

I'm not saying it's always a choice. But to a certain extent, for people like me, it is. Once I have the tools to combat irrational thoughts and ridiculous feelings, I can choose to use those tools or I can put them away and pretend that they don't exist. I can wallow in the perpetual grief I experience for the loss of my sister. I can feel sorry for myself that I had to sacrifice my breasts for a life I'm not even sure that I want to live. I can be angry for losing my childhood and young adulthood to a cult, a belief system that tortured and controlled me. Or I can try to feel...something else. Maybe it's merely a delusion that there are other options for someone like me, a person so very paralyzed by fear and possibility that I build a wall all around me and then despair that I am lonely.

I think back to last year and I realize that my desire to die was very real. I reached a crossroads and pretended to make a choice. I said, "Gwen, either you will go into that wall at full speed or you will embrace life." What better way to embrace life then to have a baby? But put in that perspective those choices became one and the same. For me, I think that having a baby was just a very clever way to die. What is more life murdering than this - this thing that I am doing here? All day long, a zombie performing rote tasks in the service of others. Two babies and a toddler- a perfect excuse for getting out of doing anything real at all. I am a ghost of a person, a skinned corpse hanging on a meat hook in an industrial freezer. It's sad, really, because I know that something living once hummed inside of me, this huddled wraith who doesn't even bother to crouch in dark corners. But that little heartbeat is gone now, a distant thud. There is only the shell, a person all hollowed out and sleep deprived. I love my children with all my heart - blue eyed, smile faced cherubs - but they have killed me., I did that. That's the thing with suicide. You have to do it yourself.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Mi Hijo en el Sombrero

So Liv made this at school today:

And I couldn't resist doing this:

Happy Cinco de Mayo to all those who celebrate it and to all those who just use it as an excuse to overindulge in tacos and get shit-faced drinking Tequila!

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Death of a Blog

My blog didn't just die. I think it was murdered. I was there, in the moment, composing in my head, scribbling ideas on restaurant napkins, looking at the world through a twisty lens, crossing my fingers for strange events and other blog fodder. I was a blogger, not big time, but I had readers - really awesome readers who thought about what I wrote and cared about what happened to me, what upset me, what woke me up in the night.

But something stabbed the heart of me. I found myself abandoning this thing, this glorious thing that had become so precious to me. Something broke inside of me and I could not go on.

Wait. That's kind of a lie. Presently, I'm more fixed than I've ever been. My emotions and thought processes are all spackled and glued and scotch taped up. It not a neat result but a functional one. If my life were a movie and I rewound it a year, I would be standing on the balcony of a tall building looking longingly at the pavement below. I would be holding a bottle of painkillers in my hand and wondering how they would feel going into my belly all at once. I would be driving my car, staring down at my hands and waiting expectantly for the hard turn into oncoming traffic. I wanted to die something awful. It was all my little brain could think about. The end of Gwen. The end of me.

There is a vicious pattern to my mind. It takes me to really gross places at intervals. Like this bubbling up of self-hatred. It makes me want to hurt myself in the sickest ways. I've given up on trying to figure out why it comes. I only know that it does.

But not lately. Not today.

This is the problem. It seems I only have the ability to write beautifully when my soul is in a hideous condition. There exists in me a strange mating of creativity and misery.

I wonder if I have anything worthwhile to say while I am well. If anyone would care to know that part of me.

I know the sickness will return. It is a very reliable visitor and arrives in many forms. But for now I am all OK and boring as hell.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Float like a Butterly, Sting like a Bee

This is what happens when you misbehave in the Jackson house:

Ok, not really. But what you see over my daughter's eye is not purple eyeshadow applied in a game of "Let's pretend I'm an Atlantic City hooker." It's a genuine, bona fide shiner. Some child didn't bother to look before coming down the slide and slamming her fucking foot into my daughter's beautiful eye. A playground is a dangerous place and apparently rife with miniature assholes. If anyone tries to mess with my girl again, they'll have this to contend with:

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Devil in a Blue Onesie

This life is a whirl of soiled diapers, milk stained bottles in the sink, Desitin smeared on tiny asses that are too cute for words. But mostly this life is swollen with desperation born of post partum misery and exhaustion.

Behold the face of a torturer -

This photo was taken at 3 am. Gaze into his magnetic eyes - but not for too long. He is a wolf in cute baby's clothing, a charlatan selling torment and crippling lethargy in the guise of coos and helplessness. Here is his accomplice:

Cute bow? Check. Precious baby pout? Yep. Beady, piercing eyes? You betcha. Bronwyn is the biggest bitch to ever don footed pajamas. She plots and schemes from her lair, otherwise known as the comfy swing. My babies chain-suck binkies instead of Parliaments and wail like banshees when they don't get their way. I am a prisoner of war. Their plaintive wails at 1:02 am, 2 am, 2:15 am, 2:45 am, 3:07 am, 3:55 am, 4:00 am, 4:10 am, 4:32 am, 4:40 am, and 5:15 am surely violate the Geneva Convention.

I think Brody actually wrote "I will break you" on the nursery wall with his urine the other night. He will.

Yesterday, I held Bronwyn up, pulled the waist of her red stretchy pants up to the chest of her blue onesie and made her dance like a marionette to the tune of "I can go, go, go in my Hover-round, this way, that way, all over town". This made me laugh maniacally, hysterically like a person driven mad by a peculiar brand of torment. The only way I can exact revenge is to make them look ridiculous.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

God Help Me

The first time I heard the word "mommy-blogger" I instantly recognized it as derisive. I thought, "Who are these women who can't stop writing about their progeny? Who are these women who immerse themselves in the lives of toddlers and have subsequently lost their identity? These mommy-bloggers with only their children as blog fodder?" I pictured them as cookie cutter mothers, having nothing better to do but make lego castles and playdough pizzas. I felt instantly superior. Well, maybe not superior but..."otherly". It didn't occur to me that I actually was one, that I was a mommy-blogger - by virtue of being a mother and a blogger. Which is understandable considering that my first year of blogging I barely wrote about my child or the trials of motherhood. Liv was a ghost. I didn't write about being a mother or parenting issues or anything of that nature because my writing was a way to escape that - to escape a reality that was foreign and overwhelming. Including that reality in my writing felt invasive.

But I feel differently now. I stumbled upon some wonderful moms who are bloggers, (like her and her and her), and some awesome dads who are bloggers, (like him and him and him) who have taught me that writing about the challenges and joys of parenting can be interesting and funny and kind of amazing*. Is there any undertaking more daunting than raising up a baby to adulthood? Kids are strange little creatures that will make you laugh hearty laughs and cry salty tears and sometimes blow your fucking mind. There are a million different ways to be a parent and you don't have to sacrifice your soul in the process. I have three children now. And the truth is that right now I am immersed in motherhood; the kind of immersion that, 3 years ago, would have made my skin crawl. These three little people are the ocean in which I swim. Whether I drown or tread water remains to be seen.

*This is just a handful of the bloggers who have inspired me over the past year or so. There are so many more that I wish I could include!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Burning Bagel

I don't want to drone on indulgently about my brand new, fucking adorable babies. Well, actually I kind of do. It's not all kittens and rainbows here at the Jackson house, though, what with the sleepless nights and the grotesque, after-pregnancy body and my mother-in-law visiting from Florida. She is simultaneously saving my life and destroying it at the same time. We actually argued the other day about Nancy Kerrigan. Nancy fucking Kerrigan. She was insisting that that washed up hag was currently competing in the Olympic Games. And I kept insisting that unless I inadvertently entered a time warp and was somehow unknowingly existing in 1992, I was pretty certain Nancy Kerrigan was not taking the ice in Vancouver in 2010. I had to actually go on the internet to convince her of my absolute rightness. How many times do I have to prove to this woman that I'm right before she understands that I am always and forever right? Apparently, I must do this to infinity.

I am exhausted in this new reality in which 1 straight hour of sleep is an elusive luxury. But I am not too tired to champion the important causes, i.e. generic ketchup can't hold a candle to Heinz. Don't even try to bring that Walmart "great value" watery "catsup" shit home and tell me it's the same fucking thing as yummy, red, thick Heinz. Because post-partum depression means never having to say you're sorry for stabbing someone in the face for buying the wrong condiment. It also gives me automatic immunity from prosecution for burning a bagel, which is apparently now a capital offense. I watched incredulously as my mother-in-law leaned over the trashcan, sadly but with determination scraping the burnt black shit off the everything bagel I had just burned in the toaster oven. There was much sighing and mumbling under the breath about the "cost of things" until I finally asked why she wouldn't just let me throw the fucking thing away and make a new one. "Oh no", said the martyr, "I'll eat it. It won't taste that bad."

And then today, she is the one who commits this heinous criminal act. But since my mother-in-law is not post-partum and thus does not have immunity, she actually says, "Well I'm just going to have to punish myself by eating it." And I have to ask her to repeat herself because my ears cannot believe the nonsense she is spewing forth from her fucking mouth. "What on earth are you talking about, Tatty? Why would you have to punish yourself for burning a damn bagel? It's just bread?" And she says, "Weeeeell, if I punish myself and make myself eat the burnt bagel then maybe I won't burn one the next time I make lunch." And this is the part where I kind of lose my shit. "Ummm, it's just bread. It's BREAD. We do not live in a third world country ravaged by natural disaster where foodstuffs are scarce." She doesn't say anything but starts to put cream cheese on what is pretty much a lump of black ash. And she eats it, too, just to make a point.

Isn't it amazing that I haven't replaced her Centrum Silver vitamins with cyanide capsules? Aren't you proud of me? She could be easily tricked, too. All I would have to say is that I bought these great vitamins at Walmart, that I got a deal. She would be all over that shit.

But I kid. I love my mother-in-law. She is very awesome when she is not being tight and judgmental and touting the economic value of low-watt light bulbs and reusing dryer sheets "2 and 3 times" or asking me to get my crockpot from storage every 5 seconds or telling Liv to calm down when all she is doing is dancing and laughing like, I don't know, a normal 4 year old. In any case, she's changed a lot of shitty diapers for me. And do you want to know how she knows when the babies need to be changed? Not by sniffing around their asses for foul odors like normal people, but by actually sticking her finger into the diaper. Yet this same woman who has no problem putting her fingers in potentially shitty drawers says that aspirating boogers out the babies noses is "nasty" and would make her "dry heave".

Does anybody know how long it takes to kill someone with undetectable levels of arsenic?

Saturday, February 20, 2010


With two screaming, pooping, milk-gobbling preemies at home keeping me awake 23 out of 24 hours a day, it is next to impossible to find time to write a meaningful, worthwhile blog. I'm still "upset about a lot of things" and mighty pissed off at the world. I still have a whole lot of shit I want to bitch and moan about on here to all you fine people. But until I'm no longer a zombie with formula stains on my stretched out comfie clothes and baby shit under my fingernails, cute pictures will have to suffice. Unless you all want to hear about how being a mother to twins is amazing and fucking awful at the same time or about how my 4 year old is still a total bitch or about how I still have a pregnant belly only now it's just not cute because there aren't any babies inside anymore. Because that's the extent of my inner monologue.

You'll be happy to know that I'm staving off post-partum depression quite successfully with the aid of looking into the faces of my adorable babies. Here's a little sample of what makes it all worthwhile.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Where for art thou, babies?

I don't know why this has been so hard to write about. I've stopped and started so many times and yet no words I put down can fully capture the aching emptiness I feel at giving birth to babies and coming home from the hospital without them. What we endure to bring our babies into the world is easily forgotten when we cuddle the thing so hard won. When we smell its soft head, trace our fingers down a chubby, pink body, whisper silliness and love into its ears. But I don't have that now. I sit alone in rooms and wonder about the new lives I just ushered too early into the world. I carry guilt heavy in my chest. Why wasn't I strong enough to carry them to term? What defect brought on labor at 33 weeks?

Also, I carry envy. As I endured an extremely painful recovery from a C-section, I was exposed to the sounds of happy moms and healthy babies in their rooms. Sweet, hungry cries for the bottle. High-pitched mommy voices soothing and playing. My room was eerily quiet at times, nothing but a frigid wind against my window. A phone ringing followed by congratulations that felt hollow and meaningless. The nurses told me to walk. So I did. Walking the long hallways of the maternity suite, I bore witness to a new horror. Affixed to the walls were picture after picture of babies. Pink-cheeked, happy, healthy babies. A baby in a flower pot wearing a crooked hat. Two babies dressed up like purple cabbages. Anne Geddes knock-offs that were even creepier than the originals. Everybody's perfect baby. Everybody's but mine. Thanks so much for hanging these prints on the walls, morons. It's just torture to see a robust newborn baby hatching out of an eggshell, when my babies have tubes coming out of their faces.

I know I shouldn't compare. If we were to really play that game, there are preemies much worse off in the NICU than my little guys. Teeny-tiny preemies that will fit in the palm of your hand. That isn't cute. It's a fucking tragedy. My babies have been given a great prognosis. They will come home in several weeks and most likely be completely healthy. But right now, they are not. Right now, they struggle to do the normal things. Sucking a bottle is a difficult undertaking. Even breathing was hard for them at first. They been here a week and I've held them in my arms maybe 3 times. I've given one bottle to their sweet, hungry mouths. I've changed one diaper.

I know once they're home it will feel like they've always been. But right now I'm in purgatory. I sit at home with all these nurturing chemicals searing through me and strangers are caring for my babies. It just plain hurts a whole hell of a lot. That's about as eloquent as it gets these days, folks. My heart is just broken.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Yellow Babies, Blue Mama

Dorian Brody
5 lbs, 4 oz


Lilah Margaret
5 lbs, 8 oz.

born at 33 weeks gestation