One night last week, I said something about how I’d been having trouble getting into a new book, and Nick agreed, saying he’d just been reading The New Yorker. Well, I’d just been reading babycenter.com. I kept thinking “I’m tired. School just started. We’re having a baby soon and I don’t know anything about having a baby.” But, I don’t really want to be the woman who reads anonymous internet message boards about how to spell Kaleigh while her husband reads The New Yorker.
So, I decided to start Anne Lamott’s Operating Instructions, which I bought right after I found out I was pregnant, when I’d just finished reading (and loving) Bird by Bird. I feel like I have a long-lost, equally-insane but much more eloquent friend. I started wondering why there isn’t more written about parenting, or even pregnancy, that’s actually thoughtful, or at least something other than the moronic condescension of What to Expect When You’re Expecting (from this week’s update: “Has your innie been outed? Is it poking straight through your clothes these days, like a timer on a well-cooked turkey? Don’t worry: There’s nothing novel about navels that pop during pregnancy”) or the “Hot Topics in December 2014 Birth Club” (including, but not limited to “what difference between leaking fluid and peeing on yourself???!” “SAHM help” and “Let’s see your bumps!!!”).
And, it turns out, that wonderful something is my new best friend, Ann Lamott.
“Sam sleeps for four hours at a stretch now, which is one of the reasons I’ve decided to keep him. Also, he lies by himself on the bed staring and kicking and cooing for fifteen to twenty minutes at a time. I had these fears late at night when I was pregnant that I wouldn’t be able to really love him, that there’s something missing in me, that half the time I’d feel about him like he was a Pet Rock and half the time I’d be wishing I never had him. So there must have been some kind of a miracle. I never wish I hadn’t had him.”
“…one of the worst things about being a parent, for me, is the self-discovery, the being face to face with one’s secret insanity and brokenness and rage.”
“I nursed him for a long time tonight. He’s so beautiful it can make me teary. I told him I was sorry for thinking such sexist stuff about his people. He listened quietly and nursed and stared up into my face. I wanted to justify it, tell him about all the brilliant but truly crummy men out there, and let’s not even get started on the government, but then I began humming some songs for him until he fell asleep. Then it was perfectly quiet.”
“People have been inviting me and Sam to their parties lately, for God knows what reason. Everyone knows I don’t do parties or dinners…. I would honestly rather spend an hour getting my teeth cleaned than an hour mingling. I am absolutely serious about this. I get so nervous that I actually skulk, and then I get into this weird shuffling-lurk mode. It’s very unattractive. I look like a horse who can count, pawing the ground with one hoof… But in the old days I used to get sucked in and say yes to everybody and be there for them, showing up at their parties, helping them move, or staying on the phone with them too long. Now I do the counting-horse shuffle and shake my head and say I Just can’t do it, can’t come to the party, can’t do the favor, can’t stay on the phone. I want Sam to understand when he grows up that “No” is a complete sentence.”
I’m hoping if I keep reading something decent, funny, smart, self-depricating, honest, I might have better luck writing. Speaking strictly in terms of quantity, it does seem to be working so far.