My son was startled awake from his morning nap once several months ago when I opened the front door to retrieve a package that had just been delivered. He shrieked and ran to the living room gate, shaking it violently and screaming his name for me. I ran back up the stairs to see what was wrong and as soon as he saw me, he collapsed in a fit of the most heart-wrenching sobs I’ve ever heard. He thought I left him. He was scared and I wasn’t there to tell him it was OK. I’ve never had my heart broken like that and I’m not ashamed to say that I joined him on the floor and cried with him until we both caught our breath and calmed down. He wouldn’t let me out of his sight for the rest of the day.
As I mentioned on Twitter, I saw Steel Magnolias for the first time over the weekend. My son took a long nap Saturday morning followed by some very focused self-entertaining play time involving play food and Ninja Turtles. While I can appreciate a lot about the film, I had a lot of trouble relating to the characters: conservative Southern ladies with a penchant for gossip who, although they were strong-willed and resourceful, didn’t seem to take any responsibility for the things that happened to them. Dolly Parton’s character wasn’t a savvy business-owner but a woman with an out-of-work husband who had to make due. Homegirl had a thriving salon. Take credit for that, woman; you did that yourself! Annelle maybe married a criminal but it wasn’t her fault, settled that nonsense and went off on a wild sinfest which wasn’t her fault, and then found Jesus again after a gambling trip that wasn’t her fault. Take some responsibility for your mistakes, yo. I have very little respect for people who just let things happened to them and shrug it off as not their fault.
Eventually, I saw through the facade of 80s cinema trying to make a non-confrontational women’s movie with female characters who could kick some a, but would never brag about it and focused on Ms. Julia. Yes, there are times you need to pshaw your doctors and make miracles happen (Walk On, Bruce Lee) but having a child isn’t the kind of situation where you just throw caution to the wind and hope things work out. You don’t say, “Well, this might kill me but as long as I get what I want for a little while, I don’t mind the risk.” To hell with that, I say. That is selfish talk. THAT is irresponsible and the reason I’m gonna go ‘head and hate this movie is because it showed me my very worst fear: my baby screaming for me as I lie unconscious on the floor, unable to comfort him.
Now, I had some postpartum complications that laid me up a little while and a surgery that made lifting my little love nugget almost impossible for a couple weeks but it was all unforeseen health issues I had no way of knowing would affect us the way it did. And honestly, it wasn’t all that bad. But the guilt and the ache I felt at not being able to even lift my baby sent me into hysterical crying fits (also, the hormones made me less than rational). I had food poisoning once and had to stop in the middle of a diaper change to go vomit and felt like the worst mother in the world. So to know full well that pregnancy would irrevocably damage my body such that I didn’t know how long I’d be around to raise my child? No. No, Shelby, you selfish piece of garbage, it is not worth it to have loved and lost in that way because it’s not about you, bitch.
And speaking of bitches who selfishly abandon their children, dying of a broken heart? I’m looking at you, Padme Amidala. Physically healthy but with no will to live? You think you’re the first woman whose husband turned out to be a piece of crap? You can’t deal, so you’re just gonna die? Leave your babies, who you’re alive enough to name, but not enough to think of a reason to live? Selfish. Although, to be fair, I consider that whole business to have been created by the warped and inhuman brain of George Lucas who is himself a cyborg that doesn’t fully understand human emotion. Still. Selfish.
So here I am, Monday morning, with that image from Steel Magnolias playing over and over in my head of the little boy screaming while Shelby lays unconscious by the telephone. I’m here making sure my son can see me when he wakes up. I’m running to the bathroom to pee quick as I can. I’m making a mental checklist of my biggest fears and pushing “Surviving the apocalypse alone” and “Spiders” down to numbers 2 and 3. Oh, and I’m also trying not to be a total neurotic nut about this whole business which, frankly, is taking up most of my mental space today.
Will I get any writing today that isn’t about mom guilt and George Lucas conspiracies? Probably not. Might be a better day for laundry and bill paying and meeting the needs of house and family rather than personal fulfillment. Tomorrow, I’ll go back to storytelling.