What to Do With a Full Vessel

Either my son’s pediatrician is just as awful as I think she is or this is a brand new thing baby doctors do but I just barely passed my postpartum quiz at my daughter’s check-up yesterday. Regardless, my son’s pediatrician is awful. I’m negotiating a switch to the new guy. But that’s besides the point.

The point is that I would not at all have passed the quiz after my son was born. I think I’m surviving a little better this time around because my daughter’s birth was very well medicated and not in the least bit difficult. My son’s birth? I think they call it Acute Stress Disorder. It can happen when a child rocket ships out of your undercarriage before you’re full aware you’re in labor. Apparently.

I’m also less afraid of breaking my daughter since I know now how resilient babies are. I’m less afraid of taking her out in public or putting her in a car seat or, you know, her not getting enough food or not breathing unless I’m watching her. It really is easier the second time around.

And yet…

My mental health is still touch and go. I told my daughter’s pedi that it was probably just a fun mix of not enough sleep and desperately needing to go back to work–entirely true, by the way–but there’s definitely more to it than that. I’m just not willing to launch into it with my kid’s doc while he’s shining a flash light in her eyeballs with my husband barely containing my son’s hissy fit right behind us. Not exactly a good time to talk about me.

But when is it? This is what I’m discovering about being a mom of two: there isn’t really any time for me. Sometimes it feels very much like there is no more me. To quote my own book, because I’m conceited like that,

“Does it matter what I want or am I just a vessel for the wants of others?”

Toddlers have limited compassion. Not none but very… very limited. I was told last night that I couldn’t be sad because he was sad because only one person can be sad at a time? And if it’s a toddler, everyone else can suck it. At least until the next episode of Vampirina starts.

I have my own postpartum checkup in a few weeks and that, perhaps, will be Me Time. I will chat with my own doc and see if I pass her quiz. Could be I go back to work before then and find meaning in my life. Could be that I get caught up in whatever WIP I’ve got for NaNoWriMo and don’t have time for non-essential thoughts. Could be I hide under a chair until someone lures me out with coffee and a muffin. Who can tell?

Until then, let me give myself some insight, again from my own book:

“Maybe we are all a vessel for the wants of others, regardless of whether we provide for those wants. Conflict arises when we deny the wants of others. Conflict WITH others anyway. Conflict with ourselves arises when all we do is provide for the wants of others. There needs to be a balance.”

Yeah, the me who wrote that only had the one child. Stupid past me. You’ll learn.


Oh The Places They’ll Stick

When my son was younger, he would substitute any word he didn’t know with “hmm.” He’d say things like, “Cat have nose and mouth and hmm and eyes.” He would point to the thing he called, “hmm,” and I would give him the word. It was a pretty good system.

Now that he’s a bit older and FAR more verbose, he prefers to make up his own words. Just now, for example, when I suggested he put the LEGO Star Wars sticker on himself rather than me–we’re working on boundaries and consent–he told me he couldn’t.

“Why not?” I asked.

“Because,” he whined, “it too wingy wongy woooompy!”

Oh. Right. That CAN be a problem sometimes.

I’m glad he feels confident enough in his language skills to try his hand at neology. It’s a favorite past time of mine as well. But dude, I don’t know what the hell he’s talking about half the time. All I can say for sure is that I don’t want any more freaking stickers on me.


I find them on me in the shower sometimes.

Hot and Hopeless Strangers

Reading fan fiction is dangerous. It gets me in a certain mindset that’s not great for my own writing. As much as I love it, it tends to be lazy: it relies on its audience’s existing understanding of characters and settings and therefore puts little effort into descriptions; it tends to be repetitive, exploring the same themes as the source material and/or of other fics; it tends to be focused on minutiae (which is part of its appeal, really) instead of narrative purpose; and it’s rarely well edited or… really, proofread at all. There are exceptions, of course, but when you’ve been ravenously consuming, you encounter a lot of crap.

But in newborn hell, I NEED TO CONSUME TO STAY ALIVE because what the hell else is there for me to do? I can’t go to work, I can’t go to places with lots of people, I can’t spend ALL day doing household chores nor playing freaking Paw Patrol with my toddler. There are only so many shows on OnDemand and fewer on TV. And my desk chair isn’t comfortable enough for endless Netflix binges.

Reading fanfic on my phone while I nurse my newborn on the couch? OK! It’s free, it’s never ending, it’s portable, and it lets me stay in a world that interests me. I win.


Except… when I try to write my own thoughts and start seeing some of the bad fanfic habits popping up on the page. With NaNoWriMo now just about a week away, I need to get out of the habit.

In a lame attempt to change this habit, I proposed (to myself) that I would only read fanfic at night and try to read real books by day.

So yesterday, I read The Stranger.

Through the story of an ordinary man unwittingly drawn into a senseless murder on an Algerian beach, Camus explored what he termed “the nakedness of man faced with the absurd.”

Then last night, I started a new fanfic. Then this morning, I … kept reading the same fanfic. Because, let’s be honest, I’d rather spend my mind time in a land of poor grammar while beautiful people I sometimes see on my TV make out with each other than in a land of hot hopeless existentialism.

Clearly, I chose the wrong real book.


Not the feel good book of the year I probably could have used yesterday.

My Prep is in List Form

With 11 days left until NaNoWriMo begins, I have narrowed my project possibilities down to TWO! It was SEVEN as of this morning, so trust me when I say this is major big time progress.

The easiest way I could think to do it was to make a list because lists are the sometimes the glue that holds sanity together. Once the list o’ seven was made, it was as simple as reading through the one-line descriptions and deciding whether or not it would take more effort than I was willing to give. Most of them required either too much research or too much thinking or too much acknowledgement of world suck to pursue.

What I was left with was a fictionalized version of that time I went to Memphis and discovered what Southern racism looked like (and this was one of the lesser world suck topics) or an absurdist time-travel story based on a dream I had once about Walter O’Brien (the handsome TV version) running through a cave.

As far as plot goes, the Memphis one would be the easiest.


But if I wanna get weird, I should go time-travel.


For now, I’ll let it go and let future me decide what I’m feeling. Eleven days is  forever when you mark the passage of time by baby feeding schedule. It’s also one big long day that never seems to end. Who knows what sleep-deprived hallucinations could spark an amazing idea by then.

Give Me Something to Watch

Trapped in a haze of newborn house arrest, I often forget what day it is. Or what month or what the outside world looks like. But I convinced the husband to take the whole fam out for a drive-through adventure to Starbucks this afternoon while I marveled at the changing leaves and new For Sale signs on houses in my neighborhood.

My only real connection to the outside world right now is Twitter, to tell you the truth, and the odd occasion when someone comes to visit. Otherwise, my days are occupied with diaper changing, Disney Jr, and Netflix… which is how I came across Wynonna Earp and yaaaaaaaa’ll, I am HOOKED.


So hooked am I that I am in a rage about not being able to find season 2, episodes 1 through 7 anywhere I don’t have to pay extra for it. OnDemand starts at ep 8 as does the Syfy channel. Amazon purports to have the missing eps but for extra $ which, as a super part-time work-from-homer on unpaid maternity leave, I do not have.

My only option is to read the recaps on Syfy’s page. Which…. I might do. Because Riverdale is only once a week and I haven’t found a good replacement show for Wynonna.

And that’s how we get to what I actually wanted to write about: replacement shows for your main squeeze when you need a little action on the side. But I think I wandered too far away from posting with a point–12 and counting interruptions from the wee one to change/feed/burp her will mess with one’s intentions that way–so instead, I’ll put this out into the void and hope for a satisfying response:

I need a replacement show for Wynonna Earp until or unless I can get the first half of season 2 for free. What have you got for me, internet?


How ’bout We Just Get LOUDER

Why do people still think that women disappearing from public spaces will make anyone give a crap about anything? Why don’t they realize that shutting the hell up and disappearing is EXACTLY what the haters want?

So no, I will not be boycotting Twitter today to support people speaking out against rape culture and systemic sexual abuse.

You do not SUPPORT people who are speaking out by being quiet.

How is this not obvious?

Woman Shouting with Bullhorn --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

The Cutest Little Psychoses

I’ve been doing some reading this morning on postpartum depression vs. “Baby Blues” and it seems to me that no one does a good enough job of finding the middle ground.

Do I want to throw my children out the window?

Not literally, no.

Do I blame myself for things going wrong?

No, I blame the child who puked on me or the husband who didn’t respond to the question I asked 6 times. I blame the toddler who jumped on my freaking head while I was sleeping or the visitor who didn’t understand that an invitation from my mother-in-law to visit MY house doesn’t necessarily lead to a warm welcome.

Am I so unhappy that I have difficulty sleeping?

Not as much as the screaming hungry angry gassy baby makes it difficult to sleep.

Am I having difficulty keeping up with chores and responsibilities? Am I overwhelmed by the pileup?

Yes! I have TWO needy children. I can’t open the freaking dishwasher without SOMEONE screaming at me.

Am I able to look forward to enjoying things?

I mean, sort of. I was super psyched to watch the premiere of Riverdale last night but the baby cried every time I put her down, the toddler and the husband came home 20 minutes in and neither would shut the hell up for 5 seconds, then the toddler threw an epic fit when I asked him NOT to put stickers on my face and it took half an hour to calm him down. So… CAN I look forward to things? Yes. Do I GET TO enjoy them? NO! NO, clearly not!

Am I able to laugh and find the funny side of things?

Sure. Maniacally. I can laugh maniacally at how awful things seem to be right now.

Have I thought about harming myself?

Bitch, I’m fabulous. Hurt belongs on other people, not on me. Unwanted visitors, for example.


So, what? I’m fine? I just have a touch of the baby blues because I’m not suicidal? Because I’ll tell you what: I’m not ok. I’m irritable and short-tempered and impatient. I’m totally overwhelmed and weepy. I find myself getting WAY too invested in fictional entertainment as an escape and forget to do things like… brush my teeth or make lunch because I’d rather being reading this 101,000 word fanfic than living my own life.

But I’m fine. It’s fine. I’m not experiencing any anxiety, so there’s nothing really wrong. I’m so glad they make you wait 6 weeks for an insurance-covered postpartum checkup instead of freaking checking on you a couple of times in the first few weeks to make sure you haven’t burned your house down in a fit of cabin fever.

Honestly, I don’t think I have PPD. I have enough experience with non-baby related depression that I think I’d be able to recognize it if I did. But I’ll tell you what: there is nothing normal or mild about these “baby blues” and it’s about time those damn medical professionals who like to dismiss women’s suffering–baby-related or not–got their heads out of their asses and started helping.

Just because I’m not tearing out my own hair doesn’t mean everything’s fine. Maybe I just have really good self-control. Maybe I really respect my healthy follicles. I don’t know, maybe it’s Maybelline.


So Much More Than Pockets

SONY DSCThey tell you to open up like you’re a vintage purse with a sweet little clasp and all it would take is a flick of the fingers to unfasten you, a little tug to open you wide and see all the way to the bottom, lined in pale pink silk, precious and commonplace all at once. They don’t know how many pockets and compartments you really have. They don’t want to see the spare bits of paper, the dried up candy covered in dust and ink, the broken paperclip that jabs at any fingers that stray too deep.

I traded that delicate purse string for a backpack, thick straps of reinforced nylon that promised to carry my baggage without bowing my shoulders. It didn’t work. It all drags you down eventually. And when they tell you to open up and let it out? They have no idea how much you’ve managed to horde over the years. They can’t possibly expect that volume of context spilling out. And what they never realize is that that’s not all of it. There are suitcases full in your darkest closets that even you are afraid to unpack. The skeletons of your dead dreams and expectations for a normal life zipped up inside like thirty years of Halloween spent nursing that one pack of off-brand Twizzlers by the light of a single orange light bulb when, the whole time, you had a haunted house at your disposal.

They don’t really want you to “open up”. They want you to be normal. They want easily identified anxieties that they can discover and cure so they can feel better about themselves. Because it’s not about you. It never was. Maybe if it had been, you’d be carrying a clutch. Just a little beaded bag of mild self-doubt you could take with you for convenience, unpack it for attention, and close it back up whenever the weather was fair. Maybe if it was ever about you, you wouldn’t need anything more than pockets. You’d only ever have to carry your keys. You’d only ever need to step into and out of your own life with the power to let anyone in or lock anyone out.

And you’d only ever let those in who didn’t demand that you… open up.

Of Sweatpants and Staying Home

Admittedly, I’ve spent too much time this morning scrolling through the Instagram of a gorgeous young actress, admiring her clothes and her friends and her work and her life, thinking, “My GAWD, young lady, but you have so much to look forward to! I envy you!”

But do I?

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Blackbird. By @colesprouse

A post shared by Lili Reinhart (@lilireinhart) on

(Maybe. A little. Who doesn’t want to be a goddess just a little bit?)

One of the blunt realities that hit me like a cartoon mallet when I was going through the She Should Run Incubator–that popped up again and again as I read through several autobiographies of female politicians–was that I am not cut out for public life. I am introverted, impatient, unforgiving of people who waste my time with bullshit or double-talk, occasionally aloof, and hardly diplomatic. Yes, I have a customer service voice and I use it when I need to but politics isn’t exactly a 9 to 5 and there are times I have failed so spectacularly at being agreeable that I’ve had to apologize for my lack of professionalism.*


*Although through many years of practice and significantly raised stakes, I’ve gotten better. Not wanting to lose your house is a good enough reason to take an insult from a customer now and then.

When it comes right down to it, I would rather fly right under the radar than constantly have to apologize for my many mistakes. I could never be a politician. Or an actor. Or anything that drew any attention. I can’t handle the responsibility of it.

This is all to say that, by the way, I write under a pseudonym.

And that celebrity is nonsense. I mean, good for you if that’s what you want but to live in a culture where we’re all supposed to want it? Lies and nonsense. I’ll maintain my lifelong membership in the Stay Home Club, thanks.


How DOES she do it?

I Too Am Non Blond

I’ve got two warring circumstances happening in my life right now that are combining to form an awesome fighting force of malcontentment bordering on mild depression: I can’t freaking sleep (because babies) and I can’t freaking write (because lack of sleep and babies).

To combat that, I take teeny tiny curled up on the couch cat naps until my toddler jumps on my face or my newborn screams bloody murder and I do some musical free writing. When I get 2 minutes, I put on a song and let whatever pent up emotional nonsense I’ve got out onto paper. I wrote a couple of nice pieces to Neil Young this week, actually.

So when I came across the Buzzfeed article 7 Songs That Helped Me With My Anxiety, I thought I scored a handy soundtrack to some creative writing therapy.

Not so. Not yet. Because I got stuck on the very first song, What’s Going On by 4 Non Blonds.


Instead of my own words pouring out, all I got was theirs. But I’ll tell you what: I am not complaining.

I loosened up that mom ponytail, blasted the volume and sang “at the top of my lungs”, sleeping babies be damned (only one was sleeping. The other is watching Halloween videos on my phone and couldn’t be more invested in Spookley the Square Pumpkin right now).

It worked though. Color me stress free… for the next few minutes at least. My GOD but that song is restorative. They should sell the single as a self-help system.

Of course NOW the baby is crying and the phone battery is running low and I’ve got to put my hair back up into a convenient mom bun to prevent child strangulation, but for those 5 minutes back there, I was starting to feel pretty good.