Today is a Hated Day, one of two in the year. Today would have been my father’s birthday. Today my father would have been 56. Today I have no phone call to make, no gift to ask about, no one to watch blow out candles. Today is the 5th birthday in a row that we haven’t shared together, even in long distance, because he is gone.
Today he would have pretended he didn’t know why I was calling, even though he would have called me on Monday to ask if I knew what week it was. He would have screamed that, actually. Screamed into the phone like I do, with no volume control, because volume control would mean you can contain your excitement about anything. Today he would have acted like it was no big deal, his birthday, but if I hadn’t called, I would have been banned for life, because he loved this day. Not as much as Christmas, but any day that centered around him was alright. Can’t imagine where I get it from.
Today, I want to be happy and think of him fondly and think of all the fun times we have shared, but I can’t and I don’t know why. Actually, I do know why. I just don’t want to deal with why. I don’t want to deal with mywhy. I can’t think of him fondly today because I miss him too much. It’s much easier through most parts of the year, but this year, especially now, everything is changing. It’s been a great and weird 6 months. Everyone in my family is having kids, getting new jobs, moving, starting new businesses or traveling. He is missing all of those things. I don’t know what I have in store for me this fall with work or where I’ll be living. I’d like a little advice from my father once in a while. We have a lot of family plans, a lot of memorable things I want to be able to talk to him about. I want to ask his advice about adult things. I want to tell him my frustrating stories, because he’s the only person who has never told me to be less angry. I want to tell him the funny and the stupid stories about people and work and my random encounters, the stories that make him laugh loudly. Even more than all of this, I just want to hug him. I just want to hug him and have him for a day. I want to hear him and I want to smell him and I want him for just one more day for the rest of my life.
It’s funny, because I spend so much of my time pretending I am the world’s strongest person. I like to be a fixer. I like to tell people that my father killed himself, he didn’t kill me. I like to believe that living a fabulous life after he died was a choice, a hard one, but a choice that I made to survive myself. I like to convince myself of a lot of things that sometimes I don’t really believe when I let in Doubt.
I am an expert in Loss. I am like a Grand Wizard in dealing with Grief, unless Grand Wizard is only a KKK status, which I think it might be. In which case, I am not that. I am just super good at Grief . I am a proud card carrying member of the Sadness and Regret Club, a club that has more members than you’d think. I guess I took the approach that if I was going to have to deal with all of this, you better believe I’d be good at it, and believe me, some people are just not black belts in things of emotion.
I have spent hours talking to people about loss, because I want them to feel better than I feel some days. I can talk in circles about the 7 steps of grief, having done them at least oh, 8 million times already. I can talk to you about how losing someone, especially to suicide, is not your fault. I can talk to you about how much you affected someone’s life and how they affected yours and the valuable life lessons to take away from loss, how to grow from it, how it can change your life. I can talk to you about being a survivor, about rising above, about turning the bad into good. I can talk to you about self-destruction, about finding your face under a bottle and how it won’t help you but then again, if you don’t die of it yourself, it’s probably ok. I can talk to you about how I don’t think God will fix your pain, but maybe faith will. I can talk to you about loss of faith and lack of trust and how sometimes only fresh air can help you from not suffocating on your grief. I can talk to you about how blame and depression will only kill a part of you slowly, not help, and a good fucking cry here and there is magical. I can talk to you about the destruction of Indifference and the power of believing in yourself. I can talk about all of those things like I have a PhD in Shitty Life Experiences. I talk about them because I hope I can turn all of this awful into hope for someone.
I miss my father in an empty, aching, bottom of your gut, bitter, angry, regretful, helpless way that I’m positive now will never really go away, just continue to dull with the years. I can deal with that. I can deal with that because the days I did have him in my life were filled with laugher and tears and cheering and walking and talking and hugs and wisdom and love and memories that will also never, ever go away.
If anyone ever takes seriously the words that I write, which I normally wouldn’t recommend, do this for me. Love your people with everything you have. Love them not in gifts, but in words and in memory creation and in spending time together that one day you will not have. Sit in kitchens and bake muffins and have coffee. Go to games and eat hot dogs and scream at players. Walk together and talk or be together in silence, because those silent moments will mean more to you than you will ever know. Look at them when you’re together, and think about what you love about them. Listen to them, hear them, and never make them feel stupid or little or unimportant. Touch them, hold them as close as you can, as much as you can, whether you’re big or small or in a bad mood or too busy. Smell them and smell them longer and know that you will never be able to buy that so remember what it smells like. Never be too busy. Just love them and make sure they know. Tell them a million times in a million ways and when you’ve done that, do it one more time.
Loving your people too much is one thing I promise you will never regret.
This post is for my father, who I love and miss with all of my heart, with every second of every day.
First, yes, I am alive. I am alive but I’m back in bed, AGAIN, until I kick this post-labor, my child and dirty placenta tried to kill me and I’m still not better, style. I think I’m on bed rest until baby Jesus arrives at least or else my mother is going to have a nervous breakdown or move in until further notice.
So. While in-between feeding my little monster and waiting for my uterus to clean up its goddamned act, I thought I’d do everyone a favor and go over my personal labor experience so we all have a better idea of what child birth is like. I wouldn’t want anyone confused about what shooting a seven pound child out of your one lady taco is like, because somewhere along the way, even I, the child hater and professional skeptic of life got all dreamy about what birthing my child was going to be like, right up to the part where I’d lie in bed and think to myself, I bet you can just lay at home and wait out the bad parts in the tub until it’s “accidentally” too late and you have to stay at home and give birth in a nice, familiar relaxing environment but you can blame it on labor coming so fast and effortless and pain free that you’re not a hippie, really, it just happened that way. With the puppies around staring adoringly and the Mr. handing me a celebratory glass of wine, with candles and someone in my hall playing a violin as the German fireworks light up the sky.
Yeah. Labor is nothing like that. If I had stayed in my tub for this event it would have looked like a goddamned shark attack. I would have clawed the walls apart, scarred the dogs for life, smashed the wine glass and tossed the wine and just jumped out my window hoping for the best.
For those of you who haven’t given birth yet, feel free to stop reading or schedule your drugged out c section now. For those of you that have given birth and forgotten what it’s like, feel free to be reminded and also if you have more than one child, I don’t know how you got any of this out of your head for long enough to be tricked into it again. Before I had Sawyer, Mr. H was all, If labor goes as well as your pregnancy did, we could just go back to back and have Irish twins right away. And because I was in love with being pregnant and somehow extra charmed by the love of my husband I was delusionally like, Of course we can. It’d be great to raise two kids right away, consider it done, I said enthusiastically daydreaming about doing this all over again in ’14, easy peasy, like a STUPID, NAIVE, DESERVING OF PUNISHMENT, IDIOT.
For the world’s information, there will be no Irish twins. There will be no way humanly possible for this uterus to grow anything and I MEAN ANYTHING BUT EMPTINESS AND SHATTERED DREAMS for a good, long, very long, probably unbearably long for my husband, time.
Labor was like surviving 16 hours of being hunted and taunted by something that you put inside you. It has to be like war, but with more fluids everywhere and probably equal amounts of swearing and less strategy. It’s like running 4 marathons with legs that don’t work and then playing a football game without pads, then an episode of being dragged down a street behind a mack track by a rope by your big toe, only to be dropped off a bridge into the ocean where you smack against the water so hard that you’re positive you broke your back instantly.
I think that’s a better description of what labor is like than say, hmm, what these unoriginal and mild mannered women had to say. Also, in the second half of the article, where women describe labor as NOT SO BAD, they are fucking liars. They are also evil and heartless people with no souls and probably have been trained to survive situations involving torture or they are all of German descent or they the type of people who consider dipping your foot in a tank of fish to get a pedicure as a suitable weekend pastime. Basically the worst people on Earth.
So let’s go over my day. Some women like to write about their birth story in a dreamy and magical way. I feel like they are leaving all of the torture parts out. I will do you no such favors. Enjoy what I like to call, The Day My Child Was Born/Tried to Kill Me
The day before I went into labor, I was back in the hospital for high blood pressure. The Germans wanted to induce, but since I was in the Filderklinik, a holistic, homeopathic, wellness promoting hospital, they were going to try it naturally. I chose this hospital because I wanted to have a calmer, quieter, more natural and less hospital-y type experience. Somehow my girl crush on my South African midwife, reading the book Your Best Birth and thinking I’m superwoman had convinced me I could do this with as little help and machines as possible. Idiot, I know.
To induce my labor, they hospital made me a castor oil cocktail, not realizing I have held the Queen of IBS title since I was 12. Therefore, my body laughed in the face of the castor oil and carried on. There was no way castor oil was going to launch me into contractions. A plate of cheese or a bowl of ice cream, maybe. Castor oil? Everything remained unmoved and I think I even heard my intestines laugh a bit. And so I waited overnight, watching Dead Poets Society, eating cookies and listening to Mr. H sleep loudly with his mouth open.
The next day, I went home for lunch, breaking out and angry that I had to stay in the hospital when nothing was happening. I ate a chicken salad sandwich, drank a ginger ale and played frisbee in the yard with the dogs. I only had 2 hours before they’d notice I was missing and so at 1230, off we went, back to the wellness jail with my mother, leaving Hr. H at home to nap, as we were one snide comment away from killing each other. The third trimester had made me an angry, fluid filled troll. A troll that wanted to fight her husband by kicking him in the crotch with her hobbit feet. He was best at home relaxing without me, as I figured I was going to be in the hospital doing nothing for days.
I was wrong. My contractions started at 1pm, just fifteen minutes after arriving back at the hospital. They came out of nowhere and I’ll have you know, there is no mistaking contractions. Just days before a friend had asked, so are you having contractions? To which I replied, Not sure yet. Maybe a few. No. I was not having a few. I was having sugar plum fairy dreams of pretty contractions that I assumed I was handling like a champ. 1pm and the first round of lightning hit me and didn’t stop shooting out of my ass and vagina for the next 16 hours. By 2pm I had demanded Chris get back to the hospital, and fast, as I was sure this was going to be quick and painful. I am a moron. I was only 2 cm dilated, at most.
By 4pm, I was positive I was going to die and could be found kneeling on my bed, face down in the propped up pillows in my bed. I looked like I was either trying to do yoga or getting ready to take it and either way, I was sweating and realizing that I was nowhere close to where I needed to be to have this baby, though he was on his way. There was no time to be terrified. I had no energy to be terrified. I could barely speak and I was probably only 2.5 cm dilated.
By 5pm I was agitated and could be found with my face pressed firmly against the concrete walls. We had run out of the ice supply we had brought to the hospital and now all of my juice, water and ginger ale were warm and that was pissing me off more than the actual labor was for two seconds. I thought I was going to pass out from overheating and the wall was the only cool place. I couldn’t jam my whole body up against it, as my stomach was in the way, but pressing my face up did the trick for about 12 seconds. The midwife was kindly rubbing a few pressure points and talking to me about the contractions but I had no energy to respond. Back on the bed I went, where I spent the next 45 minutes rocking back and forth like an emotionally damaged twit, shaking my head around, moaning no no no no no and wishing someone would knock me out and wake me up when it was all over. The pain was coming not so much in waves like everyone says, but more like a fucking tsunami. A tsunami with lightning bolts ripping through my taint and a tornado trying to escape my uterus. Sawing off everything below my hips with a butter knife might be much less painful, I reasoned, and I tried to think of other things less painful. Paper cuts had dropped below labor but stubbing my toe and jamming my finger in the car door remained slightly above this. I had to be realistic about my pain and my perspective about all this.
Just as I thought I couldn’t handle any more of this torture I signed myself up for, I felt a huge rushing sensation and, swoooooooooooooooosh. My water broke. I’ll have you know it’s not as theatrical as people make it out to be in stories or on tv. How they act all, Ooops, how inconvenient and embarrassing, look at me in Target out shopping and I’ve wet myself. I better get myself into the car and get to the hospital sometime in the next 5 hours, is beyond me. My water breaking was the greatest and most welcomed release of pressure on earth.
I am positive I let out a wail that rivaled that of a dying cow and the vision was that of when a plastic pool pops and water, people and toys flood the damned yard in a second. The water seemed to keep coming and coming yet it must have been quicker than I had realized because before I could even take the time to try to smell if the water covering my velour pants smelled like vagina and death, the event was over.
Put me in the tub, I demanded, thinking it’d give me the same relaxed feeling it did in my last months of pregnancy when I was swollen, angry and ready to cut someone. It didn’t. What it did do is start the naked show I was about to give the entire labor floor and my mother. After 30 more minutes, I wanted out of the tub and positioned myself back against the wall, face first, feeling my legs shake uncontrollably, like those of an athlete doing two a days in the middle of August sun, yet not as athletic and I was only wearing a shirt.
The noises I was making were beginning to sound animalistic. I couldn’t keep up with the contractions and I could only say I don’t think I can do this, I don’t think I can do this, over and over again. Encouraging or touching me was a no no and punishable by death at this point and so everyone in the room tried being as agreeable and hands off as possible for this stretch.
Do you want something for pain? Just something little to help?asked the midwife, while she vigorously rubbed the pressure points in the bottom of my back.
Yes. Now. Please. I felt relieved, knowing something, anything, was coming to help me.
After a few minutes she returned with two pills the size of tylenol, which actually turned out to be ibuprofen, and encouraged me to insert them up my behind. I shook my head violently. Not only would I not be doing that, I didn’t know how to insert pills up my ass and I was not in the mood for a tutorial, either. My legs were barely holding up, though, and I was starting to half squat/half curtsey in the most awkward, half naked manner and so I gave the midwife the go ahead to do it for me. So there I was, now standing over the toilet, hands firmly placed on the wall like a drunk in a urinal, shaking like a damned leaf from legs down, pantless, as I felt the midwife drop off two pills in my ass. It was all a bit overwhelming and so just as the midwife said, keep in, keep in, I clenched my cheeks, turned my head, spit bile on the floor and jammed my face against the bathroom wall, cursing the Germans for their lack of ice and their preferred method of pill taking.
It was only 7 o’clock. I was only on hour 6 of 16. It was going to be a very long night.
Lately, I limit myself to one errand a day. It’s all I can really handle in this new motherhood stage of my life. Any more than that and something surely goes wrong, leading me to want to cry, hide from my child, fight a German or light this country on fire. Yesterday I attempted 4 errands in one 6 hour block. Yesterday was a flat-out disaster.
First, I had to go to the hospital to get a note for my short-term disability saying my placenta almost killed me so that I can have it extended. I was promised 4 days ago that it would be there at 1100. I was there at 1045, which is like 1100 to Germans because if you show up at 1100, you are already late. The secretary, who has seen me in there 8 million times by now, told me she had no idea what I’m talking about and to come back at 1200, which makes no sense because I knew she was not going to bother to go find the doctor or look for the letter but I didn’t know how to say any of that so I just gave her a thumbs up and said fine but had no intention of coming back in one hour because what the hell was I going to do with only 45 minutes to kill, though I considered going to McDonalds for a milkshake, but instead went home and fed the tiny monster, ate and played with the dogs, then returned at 2pm to get my note, just as the secretary was leaving. Of course she was leaving, because no one ever works in this damned country, certainly not after 2pm on a Friday.
“No note but I told you to come back at 1200.” Strike one, Germany. What in the christ did it matter a. WHAT YOU TOLD ME TO DO and b. IF THERE IS NO FUCKING NOTE WAITING FOR ME THEN YOU SHOULD BE APOLOGIZING FOR WASTING MY TIME NOT ME APOLOGIZING FOR NOT RUSHING BACK TO SEE YOUR STUPID FACE 59 MINUTES AFTER I SAW YOU THE FIRST TIME.
“I know you told me to come back at 1200 but I couldn’t.” I pointed at Sawyer and blamed him, though he was not the reason I stayed home for a few hours. “Do you know where the letter is?”
“No and I am leaving.” She put her coat on and started walking away, telling me to get the doctor paged. How in the hell this woman needs another day off is beyond me. These people were just off from 20 December to 5 January hiding in their houses with their lights off and metal jail shades down, most likely wandering around with their house shoes on, eating 4 hour breakfasts of hard rolls, tubed meats and cold chunky oatmeal, most recently celebrating Epiphany, which is merely an excuse to eat all day and celebrate THE END OF CHRISTMAS, so I highly doubt she was so stressed out she needed another day off.
Twenty more minutes later the doctor appears and tells me she has forgotten my note and can I come back Monday to get it? First of all, this makes me realize she’s a half blood. No German would forget my note. Also, she was smiling. Half blood. Either that, or she’s a shitty German. I left pretending not to be angry, saying it’s no problem to come back Monday, when I really wanted to remind her that it takes me a goddamned hour to get my shit together to leave the house and I’d rather not drag my child out on Monday but I refrained. I needed that note.
*Side note about shitty Germans. Did you know that one of the reasons Germans claim not to smile at strangers is because smiles are special and should only be reserved for people who deserve them? I’m dead serious. Look it up.
Next stop was Telekom, where I needed to go get a password and username for the new, upgraded router we got that is supposed to make our internet go from 3 seashells to 50 seashells. I hear this is going to do wonders for our household, so says Mr. H, and the reason I’m off to do this annoying errand is because he is stuck at work and suggested I “swing by” and get it, “if I had the time”. He says “if I had the time” in a way that questions what I’m doing all day and I remind him that the phrase “swing by” somewhere should be reserved for places that are on your way to or from home. This is 15 minutes out of my way in a direction I have no interest in heading but I go because if I don’t, I have no internet or TV for the weekend alone I signed up for with Sawyer. 48 hours of baby time in silence was not high on my list of things to do to torture myself, which is why I went to Telekom. Also, yes, I measure internet speed in seashells. I have no idea what the megabits or whatever they are mean and I have no interest in learning.
Anyway. The entire visit took 2 hours, primarily because the young Turkish salesman with the Grease inspired hair style and Jersey Shore inspired outfit took one hour and twenty minutes selling a 65-year-old Marooner (the most hated and ugly of German women) her very first cell phone and proceeded to discuss every plan, phone and case with her while I stood behind her holding Sawyer in his car seat wishing she’d die. She didn’t.
As soon as the old hag had her Samsung and left, Mr. Jersey Shore informs me in his German German German that he has to let the lovely couple behind me go now because they were there first an hour ago and they are just finishing up an order. I am proud I know what he’s talking about but now I hate everyone in the building. 20 minutes after that, Sawyer wakes up from napping on the floor of a cell phone company for 2 hours and starts shrieking like a teradactyl, refuses his pacifier and wants to be held. Lovely. So there I am holding an angry child in a bear suit while the man behind me that just came in is taken because he only has to buy a battery and that should take oh, 3 minutes more of my life that I can’t get back. I reach in my pocket to get my phone so I can translate ARE YOU FUCKING SERIOUS I WAS HERE FIRST YOU GODDAMNED TWITS but realize I’ve left it in the car charging which infuriates me and so I grind my teeth and hope I don’t break my jaw.
And then, because of course it would be this way, he asks what he can help me with and then proceeds to say no, no HE DOES NOT SPEAK ANY ENGLISH. Fantastic, two hours wasted to hear that because I am obviously equipped to discuss routers and passwords and the postal system and contracts in German. So I’m trying not to cry or flip a bunch of ugly Samsung phones attached to wires on the floor while I hold Sawyer with one hand and use the other to keep his pacifier jammed in his mouth without choking him while I begin a splendidly awful game of pictionary that just resulted in this young gentleman ACTUALLY SPEAKING ENGLISH. Well obviously he can. He’s 38ish and everyone 38 speaks English in this damned country. Why he waited me out that long is beyond me. I’ll assume he likes to watch unstable women break down in public spaces. Seriously, this shit happens to me every day.
After leaving in the amount of time most people spend at the cinema with my new password, I make sure the next thing I do is take the time to text Mr. H in the car, telling him Telekom can now be added to the same list IKEA is on and that I have his stupid pw and that I am going home. What I meant to tell him was that I blamed him for this entire mess and that I would never be leaving the house again and that all of this was his goddamned fault not so much for staying at work but for shooting sperm in the back of my uterus last spring.
Sitting on my couch an hour later, I am relieved. I have my water, my coke with ice, my cheese and crackers and I am topless, feeding Sawyer and getting ready to watch a movie before we go to a friend’s house for dinner. The tiny one, however, will have no part in the feeding. He’s angry and hungry and going through a growth spurt and so in an attempt to get him to eat a lot and then sleep, I strip all his clothes off, stick some cheese in my mouth, a nip in his and firmly hold his head against my boob so that his face is smushed. I don’t think forcing my child to eat is bad parenting considering he WANTS to eat, he just does a shitty job of it sometimes. So there he is, just in a diaper, sucking away and looking sleepy when no lie, I hear a rumble, I hear him grunt and then sure enough, I feel one pound of something unload in the bottom of his diaper and I hear him sigh.
“Good for yoooooooou, dirty pants,” I say encouragingly and so proud, proud that is until I feel it. All one pound of whatever did not stay in the diaper. No. Half of it had actually blasted up his back, out one of the legs, shooting like fireworks onto my lap, in between my thighs, on my hands, couch, floor and some landed in my hair somehow. It was mustard color, neonish, though, and it was hot and wet and sticky and just goddamned everywhere.
Just then I started to gag and realized I had a small window to get him clean before I potentially puked on him, which I figured was a worse offense and so I tucked him under one armpit like a football and with my free hand, I tried to clean my pants with a hand towel so that I could stand up. This, obviously, seemed like the perfect opportunity for Bull to start a game of tug of war, which I lost, and so off he went, parading around with a towel full of shit in his mouth. Now I’ve got a screaming baby tucked like a football and I’m chasing and threatening Bull who has not one fuck to give about my dramatics which is clear by how delighted he is to have a new towel to chew on, which he does, poo and all.
Fifteen minutes later, Sawyer has had a baby wipe bath and is in new clothes, Bull is banished to his bed where he sits smugly glaring at me, and I am standing in the dining room in front of 3 large windows that face the neighbor’s house naked, frantic because my nipples have started to shoot milk onto the new dining room table and I have no shirt to put on, no free hands and not one ounce of sanity left.
So yeah, I had a rough day yesterday. We won’t be leaving the house today.