Archive for the 'motherhood' Category

the Jews in Williamsburg

Rode the backway through Williamsburg to meet R for lunch, and it was bleak and raining and there were no non-Jews for about 15 blocks. No trees, either, except for a few helpless scraggles. It felt like entering a different time, an older world.

The boys, preparing for Shabbat, were all carrying the same tallis bag. They can’t carry umbrellas, though, on the Sabbath, so their hats were wrapped in plastic bags. The girls went with their heads bare. A pregnant woman in the long, traditional black stood at the door of yet another rusty, tired apartment building, staring out into the grim street scene. It must be so safe, though, because I saw a girl who must’ve been only nine or something, pushing a baby in a carriage, alone. Probably not going far. No one seems to be going far—it is a universe in ten blocks, a cosmos in fifteen.

TB 110-B Black

(source)

A building had a plaque by a door that read “ladies’ entrance.” Some signs were in Hebrew. It struck me that I am living right next door to this community. I am within walking distance, though I never walk that way. I am Jewish. I am a married mother, too. My life looks nothing like this.

I sat in the car and stared and wondered what it is like to be a girl here, so close to my home. What is it like to be a woman? To be anyone?

“There are a lot of cities in this city,” Bear said, later, when I mentioned this. He said that NYC is a compilation of all of these little, insular communities. Ours is one, too. It’s strange to think about.

The parents in my neighborhood are always talking about preschools—which are prestigious, which are better, have I signed Eden up yet, for the wait list for the more exclusive wait list for this one down the street? It’s important because of the matriculation rate to Harvard. It’s important to have put her on the path to Harvard, now, at six months. It sounds like a joke, but it actually isn’t. I think I am supposed to have planned for her whole life, already. Or at least through twenty-two or so.

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mom dating

I am getting dressed for a date.

I have exactly one minute, because Eden is already crying. I put on my favorite silver hoop earrings, my most flattering jeans. I give my hair a last, desperate fluff with both hands, glaring at my reflection. I am nervous. I tell myself I shouldn’t be nervous. This isn’t a big deal. Let’s just see if we hit it off. If we don’t hit it off, there are plenty of others. There will be other chances.

We’re meeting at a coffee shop. I push the stroller like I’m on a mission, only sweating a little. I’m there exactly on time. I glance around, trying to look nonchalant. “Don’t cry, baby, don’t cry,” I beg in a frantic whisper as Eden opens her mouth to complain. “You’re okay! You’re okay!” I check my phone for a text. Nothing.

sith lord baby

And then there she is! My new mom date.

She’s wearing a cute vest over her tailored shirt. She’s wearing jeans and boots, like me. That’s a good sign. Maybe. I’m not sure what’s a good sign. Her baby is in a sling. My stroller feels suddenly too bulky. She looks so streamlined. We do an awkward hug around the stroller handle and her politely sleeping baby. Eden begins to wail.

“I’m going to grab a coffee,” she says.

“Yeah,” I say, smiling, wondering why I can’t think of anything more clever to say. My heart is pounding.

Before I had a baby, it never occurred to me that being a new mom can sometimes feel like learning how to date all over again.

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Kate on January 8th 2014 in motherhood, new york

losing my hair

My hair is falling out. A fine, sad network twines across the pillow in the morning. I am forever plucking strands from the corner of the baby’s mouth.

I pull at it, run my fingers through it, checking them compulsively afterward for the telltale evidence. It’s always there, sometimes eight strands at a time, weaving together, blowing away.

I stand in front of the bathroom mirror in the evening, tugging my hair to this side and then the other side, exposing the horror of my widening part. My hair can part anywhere now, given even half a chance. It falls open obscenely.

Losing my hair feels like losing my confidence. I hide under a hat. I try to surreptitiously check my reflection in case it’s ended up even more embarrassing than when I left the house earlier. I am thinking about it while having coffee with a friend. Is she looking at my hair? Is she feeling a little sorry for me?

Bear says I’m being ridiculous, I look exactly the same. My hair is beautiful.

patch

Beautiful is a gross exaggeration, I say. Gross is a better word.

He gets frustrated. Come on, stop it, you’re being vain. It doesn’t matter.

Wait, I say. This is not vanity. I swear.

Actually, I’ve been trending towards fine. I mean, I just wrote this piece, about feeling sexy. And before that I wrote this piece, about not caring about the way I look anymore. So yes, that just happened. I realize I’m sort of contradicting myself now. I tried not to write this piece for that reason, but I’m writing it anyway, because life is contradictory. Also, my hair wasn’t falling out then.

My thinning hair yanks me back into a tightening awareness of my reflection, and I resent it for that, too.

It reminds me of losing my hair other times. This isn’t the first time.

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Kate on December 18th 2013 in beauty, body, hair, motherhood

the one thing you think gives your life meaning

I sang at a bar mitzvah recently. The boy was very nervous, but he did well, and it was all the more victorious after because he’d been so nervous. Everyone was cheering for him. When he finished his Torah reading the whole congregation let out a collective sigh, half laugh, of relief and support. He was pleased, but he wasn’t thrilled. Towards the end of the service, he leaned over and whispered to me, “I was really hoping my friend would come, but I don’t see her.”

There was a certain girl.

He’d mentioned her at the beginning too, assuring me that she’d be there to witness his passage into Jewish adulthood. But hours later, after the bulk of the Hebrew had been chanted, she was still missing. “I’m a little disheartened,” he told me, during the mourners kaddish. “I don’t see her here.” I didn’t know what to say. “I’m sorry,” I said. “But you’re doing an amazing job.”

29_IH04523s

(it’s really hard to read Torah. source)

Sometimes you are doing fine but the one thing you most want to happen doesn’t happen so it doesn’t feel like enough. It doesn’t feel finished.

There have been a bunch of pieces recently, and since I became an adult, about my generation and whether or not we are spoiled and entitled and obnoxious or just totally screwed. Or maybe we’re delightfully free-spirited? I remember when Yahoo started publishing those lists of college majors that would result in homelessness and starvation. My major tended to be on those lists, or wasn’t even important enough to make them.

Next came the articles about how it didn’t matter what our majors were—we were never going to catch up.

Then there were the articles about how we were never going to catch up but instead we were going to sit around complaining about how we deserved to be famous and stuff. Because we had inflated egos and we’d all been given a trophy and now we all thought we all should win.

Now they’re saying we’re all looking for meaning.

I don’t know. I think it’s really hard to describe a whole generation, because of all the individuals in it. Because of all the legitimately different situations.

But here’s me:

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Kate on December 11th 2013 in being sad, fear, motherhood, work, writing

I am sexier as a mom

Thanks to a reader named Vicky (from this comment section) for inspiring this post:

I figured that after I had a baby my body would be like a soldier after war, with the proud, annoying battle scars that have a good story but don’t dress up well. A few things went differently than expected:

1)   I had a real baby, which is sort of impossible to imagine beforehand and sort of trumps everything else

2)   I didn’t stop caring about the way I looked (this isn’t a story with a moral or something), but I was really busy caring a lot about other things

3)   I looked surprisingly great

nonplus

(me, looking great, of course)

No one ever talks about how you might feel sexy and beautiful after you have a baby. They talk a lot about how you might feel shitty and floppy and bad and you might have to work really hard to look good again and your belly might never ever be the same and the goal should be for everything to be the same as it was because that was so much better. It’s stressful, being pregnant and being yelled at by all of the headlines about your future “YOU NEED TO START THINKING NOW ABOUT HOW BAD YOU WILL LOOK THEN!”

I was prepared. I went in chin up, determined not to care. I was going to focus on my baby, damnit. I was going to have my priorities stacked correctly, color coded, baby blinking red on the top. “Attention! Attention! You have created a human life! Instead of checking out your ass in the mirror, you should make sure your child stays alive!”

You’ll have to read my book for the (whole) birth story (I promise, it’s dramatic), but afterward, there I was, somehow still myself, somehow epically changed, clutching the counter and staring into my own eyes in the bathroom mirror. I was a horrible mess. Puffy and ghost white and trembling, with limp, sweaty hair and a ferociousness rising off me like fire. The details of my appearance seemed irrelevant—it was the brute power and triumph shining through me that counted. I didn’t look beautiful, I looked awesome.

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Kate on November 22nd 2013 in beauty, body, motherhood

birth story (also my book is officially out today)

My little book is officially out today! Please buy it! Please read it! Please like it! Please don’t tell me if you don’t like it, because I will feel like crying and have to walk around pretending I don’t care when I do care and then I’ll get mad at myself for being so damn sensitive and then I’ll be like, to myself, “Well, come on, you know it’s not even that good…”

I’m nervous because my little book feels a lot like a little journal, and it’s sort of discombobulated and not particularly professional or neat. So I feel like I’m admitting to the reader that I’m not particularly professional and my mind is messy and I am not an expert at all. I hope that’s an OK thing to admit.

Information:

Here is the home page for the book with links to where you can buy it.

You can buy it on Amazon or iBooks, or Kobo  or Barnes & Noble. Oh, or Amazon UK,  and iBooks Australia too.

This is what the cover looks like:

Growing Eden

Growing Eden is an ebook right now. It might be a print book sometime soon, and I will let you know if that happens. For now, you can read it on your phone or computer or kindle or wherever you can read text on a screen. You can download a free kindle app for your phone or computer if you don’t have one.

Here is an excerpt. It’s from the epilogue, which is the birth story (full disclosure: I ended up choosing to have my baby at home. There’s actually a chapter in the book about how I arrived at that decision), but since you guys are special readers, I want to share a bit of the end first, like eating cake in the middle of the day, or right before vegetables.

best_chocolate_cake_recipe_from_scratch(source

My doula said the day before that there was some astrological thing happening and that if I willed something to happen, it would happen. She said it half seriously, with a smile I could hear over the phone. She is really pretty down to earth. I said I was willing to believe, just this once, because I was so tired of being pregnant. Anyway, I was like, “OK. I will myself to go into labor tomorrow.” And then I changed my mind and wished for a billion dollars and a cure for diabetes. But then I changed my mind again and wished to go into labor. It was two weeks before the due date.

But it worked. I mean, I woke up the next morning, and I was in labor.

I was very cool about the whole thing. I met a friend from birth class for coffee. We were both hugely pregnant.

“How are you?” she asked.

“I think I’m in labor,” I said. It was 10:00 a.m. and already ninety-five degrees out.

“Oh my god!” she said. “Are you okay?” Then she said, “Oh my god, I am not ready to go into labor!”

“Maybe you should get ready today,” I said. “Just in case.”

“I probably should,” she said.

I got a peanut butter breakfast bar and an iced coffee. I figured the contractions would go away soon, the way early labor often does, especially for a first timer. I had read so many books.

Walking out of the coffee shop, my friend stopped me and, looking intensely into my eyes, said, “Hey, I know we’re both cynical New York women, but really, you should just be a goddess.”

“I’ll try,” I said.

Then I went home and ordered a pizza.

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Kate on November 5th 2013 in fear, life, motherhood, pregnancy, writing

i wrote a book and it’s coming out (for preorder) today!

So I wrote a little book.

This is the story about it:

One night when I was four months pregnant I was lying in bed and feeling like a failure, as is my tendency. This time, I felt like a failure because I hadn’t yet published a book and I was going to have a baby and it was now too late to publish a book before having a baby. For a lot of my life, I told myself that I had to publish a book before having a baby because I was pretty sure that the rest of life ends when you have a baby. A baby is a lot like a cliff in the mist, I thought. One day you drive your car right over it, and you have to really believe that it’s just a short drop and then there’s an even better road right there to catch you. But, let’s be real, probably not.

I’m not sure why I’ve always thought that publishing a book was the most important, meaningful thing anyone could ever do. I think it has something to do with me being essentially uncreative. And reading a lot of books as a kid. And being self-centered. And sort of introverted. And snobby about literacy. But I’ve always been like this. All paths in my fantasy of my life lead to published books. For example, if I start a fantasy with “Let’s say I just won 100 million dollars,” the next thing is, “I could start my own publishing company and publish a book!” And then the thing after that is, “And I could hire really fancy publicists to advertise it. I could get a billboard!” And then the thing after that is, “And I could combat world hunger!” Shit. I’m a selfish prick.

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