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Aug. 28th, 2012

I haven't said anything in a while. 

I pause there and consider what that means. I can't decide if it's because I have been quiet with a purpose, or because I feel like I need to say something monumental that covers the gap of time...or if it is because I was silenced. I don't know what the answer is. I only know that every time I sit down and prepare to write something, I feel like its not enough. But there are so many amazing things to say! So many incredible things happening! And I don't record anything because I don't know where to pick up from where I left off...

Let me start by saying...I'm okay.(Deep Breath.) I'm healing.(Smile of gratitude.) I'm getting stronger every day. The pain and the words that I used to hear are becoming a distant memory. Most days I forget them entirely. Even the concept of how I spent those few years of my life seems foreign. It's something that will never happen again. But I have found gratitude in the ways that it made me grow and gain understanding. I don't have anything else to say about it tonight, except that it's over...almost. 

My daughter is amazing. I will close this with her words:
'do you know where'd thoughts come from mom? Well, I will tell you. Dey start in your heart, then move up your throat to your brain where you think them. Then they go out of your head until anoder one comes from your heart.'

I am looking forward to the new thoughts coming up from my heart. 

Day Dreaming

Sitting on the floor, barefoot, legs crossed, facing my counterpart like a two-way mirror. Rolling a babbling babe to and fro that is equal parts significant of each other. His eyes and nose...my mouth and chin...curious dimples that don't quite match. But she is her own being that completes this little circle of intimacy. The sun is streaming in through the bedroom windows and onto the hard-wood floor casting a glare onto my husband's thick-framed glasses. He is leaning over to kiss our daughter's plump feet and tickle her belly as he plays games that only they seem to understand. An acoustic guitar leans against the wall behind him that is filled with remnants of Bob Dylan songs played to an audience of two.

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Loud waling escapes from tiny lungs as little fists clench the air. I peer down into the face of my three week-old daughter trying to decipher what she needs at 3am. I have changed her diaper, fed her, burped her, held her close....to no avail. She is wide awake as her ocean blue eyes look up to me to rescue her from her present discomfort. I grasp her in my arms and look over my shoulder to ask my husband what I should do. There is nothing there but an empty bed and cold air that feels like a vacuum of lonliness. My eyes well up with tears, and I try desperately to conceal them from the sweet babe that needs me to be strong for her. I walk past the mirror on the dresser and see the ghastly white shadow of my face after several weeks without real sleep. My black hair is matted to my head from a pony-tail that has been against a pillow for a few days, and there are traces of baby spit across my shoulders. Perhaps this is what is scaring him off. Or my neediness to have support, to have someone there to take care of me. Instead I get solitude and dismissal while he consumes a good night's sleep away somewhere. I wonder desperately to myself how I will be able to hold it all together alone through choruses of 'The Itsy Bitsy Spider'.

An open letter to 'Trader Joes'


Dear 'Trader Joes',

I wanted to take a moment and thank you for the over-all durability and leak-proof quality of your freezer shopping bags...

Last night, my husband and I went to dinner at Jake's Steakhouse. I ate a bbq cheddar burger with extra cheese, battered fries, and mushrooms. I am about 7 months pregnant, and at the end of my meal the baby decided to protest. I looked down to see my stomach lurch into different shapes as the baby did somersaults back and forth. The room felt like it was spinning and my neck began to sweat. It was a lot of food to have in my stomach with a baby rolling around!

I finally felt like I could get up, and made my way out to the car. Thankfully we were parked in the second parking space from the entrance of the restaurant, so I did not have far to go. As soon as I sat down in the passenger seat, I knew that I needed to throw up. I opened the car door and leaned my head out over the pavement, repeating 'I DON'T WANT TO THROW UP' several times in a high pitched whine.

My husband jumped out of the car and ran around to the passenger side. He rummaged around in the back seat, and found one of your freezer shopping bags that we had purchased at the Beachwood Trader Joes location several months ago. He frantically struggled with the Velcro and got the bag open just in time. I leaned down and put my head in the bag and threw up over and over. In fact, I vomited so much that the bag expanded to full capacity.

When I finally stopped vomiting, my husband closed the Velcro and held the bag by the handles. He looked around the parking lot and saw a 4 year-old girl sipping her soda that had been watching the whole time, but no sign of a dumpster. I continued to hold my head out of the car door as streams of snot and vomit residue fell down to the pavement, but could not find any Kleenex or napkins to clean up with. I peered up through the car door window and watched as my husband gallantly carried the 2 pound bag of vomit the entire way around the building, in front of the windows where people were eating. When he returned, he brought Kleenex so I was finally able to wipe my face and settle back into the car seat.

As he started the car, he informed me that while he was carrying the vomit back to the dumpster, he could feel it sloshing around in the bag but the bag held strong and didn't spill a drop! He also told me that he accidentally hurled the bag into the cardboard recycling dumpster by mistake instead of the regular dumpster. I assume that since 'Trader Joes' promotes environmentally conscious behavior that the bag was most likely made out of recyclable materials anyhow?

Again, I just wanted to thank you! I recommend that everyone should have one of your freezer shopping bags handy just in case. Please feel free to use my story in any advertising campaigns for 'Trader Joes' to help spread the word.

Sincerely,

Jennifer Fitz Bennett

The voice mail from the nurse said that you could bring a snack and a drink, so we found ourselves at the gas station five minutes before the birthing class was due to start grabbing distractionary nourishment. I chose M&M's and a Sprite. Paul chose an Almond Joy and a bottle of milk. Milk? I was already laughing imagining precarious times during a birthing class to be drinking milk.

All of the seats in the back row were taken, so we got stuck in the middle row next to a large married couple that  brought a bag of Arby's with them. The husband had on a maroon shirt and sported a head of thick black hair that jutted up in places. His heavy eye-brows hung over the rest of his facial hair and large features. The wife had her long brown hair pulled up in a lobster clip and rested her thick  muled feet on the back of the chair in front of her. Looking around the room, there was a diverse mix of couples. Mostly young people, a mennonite couple, and a mother and daughter. Nurse Ratched took her place at the front of the room and the class began. I started the M&M game about a half-hour into the information to stay alert. (I put a single M&M under my tongue and pretend that the candy shell is poison and the antidote is the chocolate inside, but you have to live long enough for it to melt.....Repeat until bag of M&M's is gone). Paul sang the music to Mission Impossible when I opened the bag.

We were informed that the sound system and dvd player weren't working, so we would be watching the 'Old' birthing video on a tv at the front of the room. The 'Old' birthing video was filmed in Boston in the 1980's and NONE of the women opted to wear hospital gowns. During the first birth a woman sucked on ice chips that fell out of her mouth in chunks as she pushed through a contraction. The next birth showed a head crowing and the woman saying, "It's...it's....it doesn't look like a baby!" while something resembling a powdered dough-nut emerged from her birth canal. I squirmed uncomfortably in my seat. The next part of the video discussed Stage 3 of birth....the placenta. We watched in horror as a woman pushed out the placenta and the doctor put it into a large bowl and examined it. He stretched it out and moved it around and explained how it had been attached to the mother and baby. I felt like I needed to puke, or be hooked up to a Clockwork Orange chair so that I could keep watching. I turned my face away, and noticed that the large man sitting next to us was staring at the screen and shoving his mouth full of  greasy Arby's chicken kickers. The video ended with a proud 1980's father beaming over his wife and baby. Paul leaned over and asked if I thought the video father had a Queen cover band? The next shot showed his turquoise blue short-shorts, and I immediately agreed. The large man with the chicken kickers said, "I hope he doesn't get any of that in his mustache."

We began to cover breathing techniques, and I was completely lost. I couldn't figure out when I was supposed to breathe in, and I looked around the room somewhat frantically thinking that will be the one person in the room to pass out during labor. Luckily Paul noticed that I was confused and showed me what I was supposed to be doing. Nurse Ratched passed around the tool used for circumcision, the fetal head monitor, and the suction device that they use to 'guide the baby out'. I attached the suction cup to my arm and pumped the handle until it pulled my skin up and left a suction mark. I promptly decided that I didn't want that to be attached to the baby's head ever.

Dr. T was supposed to be the guest speaker and we waited excitedly for him to arrive. Once, I asked Dr. T why I wasn't supposed to lay on my back to sleep and he gave me a long explanation about cavemen and never answered my question. As we waited, the nurse explained pushing and counting during contractions. Again I was lost. Apparently things involving breathing and counting are too hard for me. Paul held up his fingers and counted so I would understand. Then the nurse talked about the thing that no-one ever talks about that happens during labor. Pooping. Now I was alert and listening intently. She explained that it was no big deal, and they clean it up before you even know it happened. I immediately raised my hand and asked if there was anything that could be done to avoid pooping during delivery. They used to give enemas at the onset of labor, but the hospital doesn't do it anymore. Awesome.

The class was almost over, and Dr. T was still delivering a baby at the hospital. We covered the 'support person's' role as we read from an orange script of suggested things to say. Nurse Ratched had us all stand and demonstrate how to rub the pregnant woman's back, and Paul was singled out for doing a good job. She suggested that someone other than the support person run the video camera during the birth, so the support person could just focus on the delivery. I decided that I wanted David Lynch to run camera. The video would be all close-up shots of my face writhing in pain and a final shot of the placenta being thrown against the wall (according to Paul). Then the nurse brought up birth control for after delivery. Most people in the room laughed because they never planned on having sex again. Nurse Ratched explained that it's possible to go to your follow-up appointment six weeks after delivery and find out that you are pregnant again. Oh no no no. Is there any problem if I start birth control now just to be sure I'm covered?

I left the class feeling squeamish. Babies turning down birth canals and fitting through hips, episiotomy, suction cups, pooping, placenta, complicated breathing techniques, Freddy Mercury, chicken kickers....there was a lot more involved in childbirth than I was prepared for. My new birthing plan is to try to not think about it until it's time.



Break

The windows are covered in ice. It is the last thing on my mind, as I head out the door at three o'clock to finally grab something to eat. I make my way across the snow-covered parking lot, trying not to slip and telling the little baby in my stomach that I am being careful. I promised work that I would be back in a minute, but now I am sitting in my car with heat blasting unwilling to move. It is the first time I have sat down all day, and I press my back against the worn seat trying to find relief. Blankly shoving overcooked french fries in my mouth, the only thing I think about is how brown and shriveled they are. I wonder if the fast-food drive thru person realized that I am pregnant and this is all I can afford to eat . The radio station switches songs, and suddenly Sweet Caroline is flooding out of the speakers. My heart stops for a second to consider the cosmic coincidence. I watch as continents of ice drift down over the windshield and break into countries. There are customers mindlessly wandering through the store groping through bins of old shower gels like there might be a prize at the bottom. There is an employee waiting to talk my ear off in a plastic high-pitched voice while she starts ten projects and never finishes one. There is a voicemail on my phone from my mother wanting to discuss my little brother's jail sentence and how the prozac is working for her. There is a heated argument with my husband at home as we sort through boxes half-heartedly. The ice country looks a bit like France and Italy put together. My back is almost not hurting. Eleven more minutes of cosmic music and stale french fries before I have to go back.

Newness


In the last year of my life, I have had to be really brave. It feels like I have lived an entire lifetime in the course of twelve months.....

I packed all of my things and moved away from home. Away from my comfort zone of things that I was used to.  It really felt like I was eighteen and leaving for college for the first time to go out into the world. It's because it should've happened that way when I was younger, but it didn't.  Instead I headed out into the world of possibilities at the age of 27 with an entire lifetime behind me. I moved into a tiny college dorm apartment with a few belongings and tried to figure out how to make it on my own. And the view from my kitchen window as I hung over the roof top with a glass of wine and a cigarette was full of promise and at times loneliness.

But I learned a lot. I found out what it meant to make real decisions, and go without dinner, and sleep in my bed from childhood without heat in my apartment. I got to find out what it was like to put up a silver Christmas tree on Black Friday and be full of happiness, and be sung to sleep by Frank Sinatra songs. I experienced Thanksgiving at the Salvation Army as the person serving the food, and then went to a warm Thanksgiving dinner with a big family for the first time in my life. I got to open a Christmas present that was given from the heart. I was able to spend every Monday night at a coffee shop with friends listening to music. I got to know jesus and reconnect with my spirit.

Then I changed jobs, and was able to work five minutes from home. After six years of commuting an hour each way, I got to sleep in and be back home before dark. Which meant more time for taking walks in the summertime. And I moved into a bigger apartment, in a mansion that I had admired since I was a little girl. I got to move in the dead heat down six flights of stairs, and then do all of the work of renovating and painting the new place. I saved up money and bought furniture, and I hung pictures and just about got settled....

Until I found out that I was going to be a mommy. My whole reality shifted, and I couldn't just think about myself and getting my life right anymore. I had to face telling people and figuring out what was going to happen next. My body began to change, and I didn't know what to do or how to feel. Then I was suddenly a wife and a stepmom. My parents left me hanging, but I got a new family that welcomed me with open arms. Work became difficult to keep up with and my emotions seemed to take on a life of their own. I went in for foot surgery, and the next day was stepping over blood stains on my little brother's carpet after he was arrested. And then it was time to start packing to move again...right before the busiest time of year at work.

As I sit here thinking, there is a little baby moving around and squirming in my belly. I feel so much love for someone I haven't met yet, and I'm so excited about seeing their face for the first time. I look around me and notice some of the mistakes I've made....the bed and furniture that are waayy too hard and uncomfortable (because that is where my heart was at the time), the time I haven't spent being creative, the things that I have said that have hurt....But even yesterday seems far away as fast as everything is happening. And even when I sound negative and feel overwhelmed and stressed, I know that I have seen the number 333 everywhere and that jesus is watching over every minute no matter how fast it goes. I just need to take the time to adjust and recognize the joy that is here...now.


stumbling blocks

How quickly things change, but we don't forget
No matter what today looks like
even if its a million miles away from yesterday
or last year, or when we took those first baby steps
It is still just as close
Still the thing that holds us back from now
and makes us afraid of tomorrow
It's a rock that we choose to carry around
All the while complaining that it's heavy
Wondering when someone else
is just going to come along and want to carry it
Or at least notice this big stupid fucking rock
and take heed of the sacrifice you are making
the extra time and energy you are devoting
to carrying around this ridiculous thing
that happened a hundred years ago
Assuming it will get lighter one day
Because you will be so much bigger and stronger
by that point
one day

Amnesia

I don't know you
Even though we've met
on several misplaced occasions
and ate breakfast together
at someone's house in pittsburgh
a lot of years ago.
It doesn't matter
because you never remembered
Whereas I
was painfully aware
of the general forgettfulness...
Now here we are
suddenly talking
about random subjects
like pancake syrup
and gas-station bath towels
a lot less akward
after a certain level of closeness
where you wanted to touch my feet
that night when they were nearby
it was something
you didn't overlook, but could have
And I wonder why you notice now?
After all of the other times
Suddenly you haven't misplaced my name
And you've defied me with such
sweet fumbling persistence
that I begin to wonder
about how preoccupied I've been

Independence Day

Two hours
in the blazing sun
Driving through desperate towns
with strange abrupt names
and St. Anyone churches
I focus on the yellow lines
winding around dusty curves
farmers markets closed til fall
diners with hand-painted signs
yellow lines and broken mile markers
Thinking about yesterday
in the front yard
of someone I barely know
While kids with sparklers
ran around unaware
of tomorrow
And I sat clutching another glass
of cranberry juice and vodka
Terrified.
While nine babies cried inside
that may as well have been 500
Their parents talking about
baseball and fireworks
While I wondered
how I'm going to pay the rent
or finish painting my apartment by myself.
During these lean years
Scraping together enough change from the jar
to get a cup of coffee
or a gallon of gas
But I never expected in this time of cutting back
to go without
love, friendship, proximity or understanding
Things that got sold off
when the ink dried on the papers
and I traded away my right of membership
to this clique of crying babies
For peanut butter sandwiches
cold empty apartments
and holding this glass of liquor
on a lawn chair
in the middle of the suburban scrawl
that is the 4th of July
As an accidental tourist.
Then waking the next morning
fireworks pounding in my head
mascara smeared pillow
where I passed out
against dreams of Beethovan's love letters
and mathematical equations that I seem to repeat
over and over
Crawling out to my hot car
Driving two hours back
through nothing
to nothing
away from everything I never wanted
and almost was.

The 12th time

I stand back, holding my breath
running the calendar through my head
Of when the last time was exactly
that you meant it.
As I retreat,
a space becomes apparent
that is the approximate size and shape
of my trust
just small enough
to be filled in with your drifting mentality
while you obsess over ex-girlfriends
making plans for better things to do
giving me awkward 'good-night' pats on the back
to stay up all night searching
and never talking about it
just wearing that far-off look on your face
Tuesday, Wednesday......last month sometime
But I just stand here
not sure what I am waiting for.