A photograph often tells a thousand words, or so it’s been said.When you add poetic verse to animated images and the inquisitive eye of both Erica Lewis and illustrator Mark Stephen Finein you find yourself victim to the backward realities and ideas that lurk inside the book titled, Camera Obscura.Memories are ingrained in our minds but are subject to change upon our re-telling or remembering them, but a photograph cannot morph or change into an altered version of reality. While a photograph can age and the shape and images can fade, that moment in time stands still. In examining how a memory can be kept alive or reinvented is discussed in the pages of illustrations here, all while remaining safe in the creator’s mind. Images actually reside in the receptacle of saved images the mind keeps tucked away.  This hybrid work of art and poetry asks us, the memory-makers to look closely at what we hold so dear.  What is real and what is imagined? Do recollections through art (written and photographed) stand the test of time? Do they outweigh the memories in our mind? How and why we recount stories the way that we do? How accurate are our re-telling of stories or viewing of old photos can be when we lose the organic nature of each simply in the re-telling.

Here, where it is always noon,
Where noon and midnight are the same,
You wake, who will be leaving soon.
You will put on your strange new name
And learn to call the roundness moon
That shimmers in the window frame.
Here, where it is always noon,
You wake, who will be leaving soon.

Your language has no consonants.
No babble but a siren’s cry,
Imperious as an ambulance,
Yanks me upright, drains me dry,
Returns me to the languid trance
Of timelessness in which we lie.
Your language has no consonants,
Imperious as an ambulance.

Stranded on this shoal of time,
Abandoned by the ferryman,
You feel the way your fingers rhyme
Or swim in sleep, amphibian.
The nodding bells forget to chime,
The minutes halt their caravan.
Stranded on this shoal of time,
You feel the way your fingers rhyme.

Your gaze wanders the room and finds—
Alighting momentarily—
A mobile that the wind unwinds,
The shifting summer filigree
Of maple leaves behind the blinds,
My earrings gleaming. Dreamily,
Your gaze wanders the room and finds
A mobile that the wind unwinds.

You snatch at something bright and miss,
Watching it float beyond your reach.
You will remember none of this
Brief idyll on a desert beach
That curves, like a parenthesis,
Between the worlds of sea and speech.
You snatch at something bright, and miss.
You will remember none of this.

Mothers of older children say
I’ll drink the milk of Lethe too—
That soon I will have lost the way
Your scalp and belly smelled brand new,
The heft and texture of each day,
Your eyes’ opaque Atlantic blue.
Mothers of older children say
That soon I will have lost the way.

One day I’ll wake and you’ll be gone.
A sturdy stranger in your place
Will shake the bars and call at dawn,
Or stagger, laughing, while I give chase
Under these trees. But not the one
Who lay for hours, the windblown lace
Of sky and clouds, branches and sun
Reflected in her changing face.

Mother’s bleeding her dead children
single-celled, invertebrate
born in the water of her womb
after the Word, below the light
amniotic deaths, sand and silt shrouds
mass graves of viscous black rot

Mother’s bleeding, her dead children
finned, feathered, furred
still in the water where life began
anointed by the exhumed hemorrhage
innocent sacrifice of awakening
your sleeping terrestrial siblings

Mother’s bleeding her, dead, children
thin-skinned, thick-headed
water and oil have never mixed
excuses confuse a simple choice
eat, drink, breathe where if her wounds drain dry?
return to her—or return to her
She will welcome you, either way

Most of your poems are metrical and rhymed. Why? Do you see 21st-century metrical verse as a rejection of Modernism?

No, I don’t see using meter and rhyme as a rejection of anything. The opposite, in fact. It’s an affirmation of what drew me to poetry as a reader when I was young—the love of poems that lend themselves to being memorized, for example. I started writing verses for pleasure when I was 12 or 13, and it seemed natural to use the verse techniques of the poets I loved to read—Dickinson, Frost, Yeats and Millay were poets I fell for early and hard. Hopkins and Auden a few years later. I wrote bad imitations of all of them, too. But that’s part of learning to write poems and finding what you have to say.

One of the biggest advantages of rhyme for a poet is the way it brings randomness (via the arbitrary similarity of sounds) into the writing process. I often surprise myself, looking for rhymes, by coming up with an image or metaphor I wouldn’t have thought of otherwise or having a poem take a turn I couldn’t have predicted. Creative constraints can be freeing. But the short answer is that I write in rhyme and meter because doing so gives me pleasure. It’s not part of any program of opposition—to modernism or postmodernism or feminism or any other ism.

But why would a woman poet in 2010 want to use old-fashioned, patriarchal forms like the sonnet? Why not make up your own?

Forms don’t belong to anybody. Why cede a long-lived, flexible form like the sonnet to men? Or to Caucasians, or Christians, or Europeans? Take them and make them your own, I say. And sometimes I do invent my own forms. “Experimental” verse isn’t necessarily free verse.

Do you ever write free verse?

A poet I know who uses meter and rhyme exclusively says that he tried to write free verse once, and it nearly gave him a nervous breakdown. (Maybe he should be featured here.) I’m not quite as extreme as that, but to write free verse I seem to need a model or template of some kind. I’m paralyzed by total freedom, where every line can be broken anywhere. A few years ago I wrote a free verse poem that borrowed the basic structure and some of the rhetorical devices of “My Cat Geoffrey” by Christopher Smart. That poem, which is about Guinea Worm Disease of all things, originally was in an elaborate stanza form. It lay dead on the page until rereading Smart showed me what I needed to do—two or three years after I put the draft in a drawer.

Who are some of your poetic loves and influences?

Loves and influences aren’t necessarily the same thing. I love Whitman, but I don’t think his poems have influenced mine much. I love the Metaphysical poets, especially Herbert and Donne. I used to think that Dickinson wasn’t much of an influence, but as I’ve gotten more and more interested in verse riddles and in shorter meters than iambic pentameter, I think she’s there. Frost, Wilbur, and Larkin, definitely. Christina Rossetti, Elinor Wylie, and Louise Bogan, too, though I discovered them later than the others.

Among contemporary poets, I’ve been lucky to have generous mentors who encouraged and challenged me to do my best work, both directly and by example—among them Dick Davis, Carl Dennis, Rhina Espaillat, Dana Gioia, Sam (R.S.) Gwynn, and Timothy Steele. Among poets of my own generation, I feel an especially deep affinity with Joshua Mehigan, A.E. Stallings, and Greg Williamson, all of whom I admire and have influenced me.

It can be misleading to talk about poets as influences, though. More often it’s individual poems influencing other poems. And poets influence themselves, too, if only in the effort to avoid repeating themselves.

The main thing is to read deeply and widely and not worry too much about influences. In graduate school, I once invited a poet in the MFA program for coffee. I was thinking then of switching from the Ph.D. to the MFA program, mainly because reading literary theory was making me miserable. She seemed like (and was) a nice person, and I was eager to talk poetry, so I asked her which poets she read for pleasure. She named one contemporary American poet, and then said, “But I don’t like to read much poetry. I don’t want to be over-influenced.” I was stunned into silence. I doubt her attitude was typical—at least I hope it wasn’t. But I decided to finish my Ph.D.

Say a little about “Aubade.” What inspired it?

It came out of the experience of new motherhood. Those first weeks and months are so all-consuming, and you sleepwalk through them in a haze of sleep deprivation, a sort of timeless time. You’re up crazy hours, and the days and nights blur together. We were living in Brooklyn then, and I’d run into other mothers at the park with their toddlers or older kids, and often they’d say, “Oh, it seems like you’ll never forget the time when they’re tiny babies, but you do.” I remember vaguely thinking there might be a poem in that (everything I thought was vague at the time!). And of course my daughter wouldn’t remember any of what we did together in those early days—that struck me too. I scribbled one line from what became the poem in a notebook when she was a few months old—“You will remember none of this.” That’s where it stayed for… well, I didn’t get the poem on paper until the form finally revealed itself, about six years later.

Revealed itself?

That’s the way it feels—that the poem discovers its form. You have to be very patient sometimes, or you force it into being before it’s ready and ruin it. On the other hand, you can’t give up on the failed drafts and partial drafts if you think they have potential. You have to exhume the bodies now and then and check them for signs of life.

What’s the form of “Aubade”?

It’s in 8-line stanzas of iambic tetrameter, each stanza having two rhyme-endings, with the seventh and eighth lines identical to the first and third.

Never heard of that.

I made it up—at least I think I did. But the form was inspired by a Louis MacNeice poem called “Meeting Point,” about two people having a love affair who share the illusion that their love can make time stop. That poem, also tetrameter, uses five-line stanzas in which the last line repeats the first. It’s a wonderful poem. I’d come across it a long time before, in college maybe, and then a few years ago I encountered it again and was fascinated with the music it made. I memorized it and carried it around for awhile. And that one little line of my own germinated.

Why the generic title? Isn’t it like calling a villanelle “Villanelle”?

Not quite, I think. A bigger strike against it is that Larkin used it for one of his greatest poems. But titling it “Aubade” let me frame the poem as a conversation with the many other poets who have written aubades, in various cultures and over centuries. I could participate in that tradition in my own way. That early, all-consuming bond between a mother and an infant is like the early stages of a love affair, and even as you suffer sleeplessness and mood swings and feel completely overwhelmed, like someone in love you want that time to last forever. And you know that it can’t. I could say a lot with the title without having to say it outright.

Is it typical for you to take years to finish a poem?

Unfortunately, yes. It seems to take me ten years, more or less, to collect enough poems for a book.

So we can expect the next one in 2014?

Maybe. If I’m as lucky with finding a publisher as I was the last time, which is a big if.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing or working (or taking your daughter to play rehearsals and softball practice)?

My husband and I just finished watching an excellent Brit TV series called Foyle’s War, about a police detective (played by Michael Kitchen) investigating murders in Hastings during World War II. We felt bereft when we’d watched the last one. Another of our recent enthusiasms is Breaking Bad. Right now our recommendations on Netflix are divided into two categories: “Understated British Dramas” and “Critically-acclaimed, Violent TV Shows.”

I started studying piano a year and a half ago. It’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid. Getting your hands to do different things simultaneously is not an easy skill for a middle-aged person to pick up, so I have to be patient with myself. My favorite genre is blues, which sounds good even when arranged for a beginner. I take lessons every other week, and my piano teacher and I exchange “words of the day” at the end of each one. My word of the day last week was “opsimath”—somebody who learns something new later in life.

Why have you been putting off doing this interview for months? Why have you stood me up and screened my calls?

I don’t know. Sorry! I couldn’t sit down and do it until the deadline was bearing down on me. I guess I have a horror of coming off as self-centered and self-indulgent.

But you’re a poet!

Right. It comes with the territory! Might as well embrace it.

Anything else you’d like to say?

That I’m really jazzed about being featured on TNB, especially now that I’m done with this interview. Please tell Uche thanks!

I just found my old maternity bras in our garage.  I’d been down there before scouring for them, but between furniture, Benjamin’s old clothes, toys and books and who knows what else, it seemed they were gone for good.  Until, like a parting of the sea, Jay headed down to make a little space so we could maneuver through the chaos.  And while bringing down my suitcase after our recent babymoon trip to Hawaii, there they were, resting in perfect view, as if they were asking, “Where ya been?”

This may not seem monumental, but when you are growing a human person in your body and that said body is growing in every sort of direction on a daily basis, the bosoms need a little extra care.  It’s not just the boobies that are growing, but they are one of the first indicators of when my body is getting uncomfortable.  Well actually it’s my back that’s trying to hold them up that is feeling the pain.

I know they have an important job to do.  They are growing so that they can eventually feed our child.  I know this rationally and intellectually.  In fact, I know this about the whole experience of being pregnant.  I know that my body is growing and changing and getting bigger (even though I am eating relatively well) because it is not only housing our future child but growing and nurturing it. 

It’s beautiful actually. 

But it is hard to feel beautiful when your back hurts or your breasts are falling out on all sides or your thighs rub together chafing or when someone says in passing after seeing your belly, “No more doughnuts for you.”

It’s especially hard because not to toot my horn or anything, but I used to be rather adorable.  It’s been awhile since I have been incredibly adorable.  But I have turned a few heads in my day.  In fact, these very same breasts that are causing me such agita used to provide me with ample attention.  When I was about 22 and they were young and perky, I went to theater school.  I had this one teacher who used to say, “Lead with your tits!!”  He didn’t mean just me.  He meant everyone.  Own what you’ve got.  Enjoy it.  Make them stare.

But it is hard when they are staring and you don’t want such a constant gaze.  I don’t know why pregnancy invites people to feel comfortable to comment on your body.  And negatively at that.  I am already having a hard time of it.  I don’t need the little old lady at the bagel store asking me when I am due, and after I tell her she cocks her head funny taking in the size of my belly, and now knowing I have more than two months to go, says, “Sometimes doctors are wrong.”

So I’m big.

My husband keeps telling me he doesn’t think that I am so big.  And I actually believe him.  I believe he believes that.  This is why I married this man.  But regardless of other people’s responses, good or bad, sometimes I just feel a little displaced in my own body.  I am no longer completely in control, which I guess is a perfect allegory for motherhood.  I admit I am ready for it to be done. 

Except for one part.

I love to feel the baby move.  I love the kicks.  I love laying on our couch and Jay leans into my belly and says, ”Hi, this is your Daddy” and then my belly dances.  I love playing with Benjamin with his Elmo and Big Bird finger puppets.  He places one of them on my belly to see if the baby moves enough to knock it down.  Benjamin usually makes me laugh and the toy goes falling to the ground way before our experiment is complete.

This most likely will be my last pregnancy, so moments like those, I treasure.  But chafing thighs, not so much.

It is not just vanity, though admittedly that plays a part.  (I have been pregnant before and I know it will not just all fall off with great ease as it does for some women.)  It is about being comfortable, about having to move differently in your own body than you have always been used to.  It is a shift in how you know how to be.  That is why finding those specialty bras (and not having to buy new ones) in my garage was such a coup.

I am trying to own it, to show off my belly, to lead with my tits, as they say.  So I will hold my chin (or at this point chins) up high.  For those who want to know how much weight I’ve gained or look at me with judgment, just remember, I am a walking science experiment.  I am growing an actual person inside of me and then these ever growing bosoms will be able to feed that person.  That’s pretty cool.  So even though I haven’t actually had one doughnut through this entire pregnancy, maybe I’ll go reward myself with one now. 

Just before my son’s second birthday I took off on what I called a Mommie Moon. For me, this was a break, a reprieve, from my husband and my child. Now, my husband and child are fabulous. It was not them, per se, that I needed a break from – it was from motherhood. It was from the stress of raising my son in a way I had not planned, with trips to doctors and therapists, with worry, with grief. But now we were all getting stronger, finding our way, settling into our routine with our child who needed extra care and I knew that if I didn’t take this time for myself now then I never would. The topic of conversation lately had been having another baby and I knew I needed to do this before I did that.

And so Jay dropped me at the airport on my way to my solo adventure – a writer’s retreat in Guatemala of all places. I kissed him goodbye and then whispered in his ear, “When I come back we’ll make a baby.” It was a perfect movie scene, our last words as I traipsed inside, off to find strength – to eventually return a better me, a better us. As I stood in the bathroom of my lakefront room and threw away my birth control pills, it all felt very predestined and neat. We’d had so much struggle for the last two years and now we were better. Now, we were ready.

Even though we had talked about having another baby for awhile, even though I went to therapy for those who have had a traumatic birth but want to have another baby, to prepare my mind, my body, my womb, even through all of that, to be honest, I wasn’t sure. See, Jay and I, though I did not know how much until I stood in that bathroom by the lake, had been muddling through ourselves. I knew I would miss my son while I was away, but it was Jay that I longed for. It was Jay that I heard crying through the phone. It was Jay that I needed. And it took me by surprise. I knew that we had been through so much and had floated slightly away from each other and now I knew that we had not drowned. And I knew when we came back together, that we would add to our family, we would grow.

And so, it was decided. I was ready. We were ready. It was all planned.

A few months later I sat with my son in my lap swinging on a swing in Douglas Park and I immediately felt nauseous. Now, we swing like that all the time, but this feeling was new, different. Could it be? And it was! Later that day, I wrapped the test in wrapping paper and Benjamin put stickers all over it and we presented it to Jay as his Chanukah gift when he got home. Yay for us, I remember thinking.

But at the eight-week ultrasound, it was apparent even before the doctor said anything definitive.

I looked at the monitor and there was just a space in a little black hole. I kept hoping as she moved the wand that she would stumble upon our child hiding, but no. No heartbeat I heard her say. I must have turned pale because she told me to lean back. I held my husband’s hand and then buried my head in his shoulder.

“It’s called a missed miscarriage,” she said.Your body still thinks it is pregnant.”

“Are you sure?” I asked her too many times.

And she was.

I had gotten ahead of myself. I was trying out names, pricing double strollers, measuring my son’s room to fit another crib. At night when I put him into his pajamas, I’d lean in and ask him if he wanted a baby brother or sister, as if he had a say.

“Baby sister!!!” he’d say every time. Then he’d squeal the name he had decided for her.

I’d squeal it back and we’d both laugh. And I believed in that moment he had brought ‘her’ to us. In short, I was dancing with happiness.

Though one day while taking him for a walk I was overwhelmed by a really strong sense of sadness. I did not know why. It came from nowhere. I kept walking, hoping it would pass.

So I think perhaps I knew. Perhaps, even though my body still thought I was pregnant, at that moment when I was walking down the street stirred by sadness, my soul knew I was not.

The four days until my D&C on Tuesday seemed like an eternity. I wanted it done with and out of me, but I didn’t want anyone to take ‘her’ away from me yet.She’ was still mine.

There is something about miscarriage that makes people awkward and uncomfortable. It is secretive and hidden, as if it is shameful. It is not discussed as easily as other life disappointments. As one friend told me that weekend, it is the only death where you don’t get flowers.

When it is discussed, often people stumble and search for something helpful to say, like it was meant to be or there must have been something wrong. It was god’s way. And perhaps all those things are true, but I am here to say, the only thing worth saying is a simple I am so sorry.

Sunday, we headed to Malibu. Our son played in the sand. We rested on a blanket underneath the California winter sun. I leaned back, listening to the ocean and the sounds of my family playing around me. Instinctively, I placed my hands on my belly. Right then, we were a family, all four of us.

My son chased a dog, which happened to be named the same name he would squeal for the baby sister he wanted. My husband and I looked at each other. I smiled, thinking, this is a nice way for us to say goodbye.

Tuesday arrived, and so it was done. And it was just as awful as it should be.

And so soon enough we tried again. And soon enough I was pregnant. Yay. I was excited, but cautious. After all, friends were miscarrying all around me, like it was catching or something. I tried to do what I could to be supportive, picking friends up after D&C’s, listening as they cried, offering up my own story as solidarity. I remember being terrified to tell my best friend I was pregnant because she had just miscarried the month before. So I kept it a secret. But she and I were away for a girl’s weekend together with our sons and I couldn’t keep it to myself anymore.

And like a good best friend, she was thrilled for me. And I was grateful when I woke up the next morning bleeding that she was with me and already knew. The only other relief was that this one happened naturally.

As did the third a few months later.

How silly that I thought We’ll have a baby when we are ready, how silly to think that I just had to get my mind settled. How silly that I thought just because I was invested enough to go to therapy that this would work. Just because I was ready, just because I loved my husband and wanted my child to have a sibling did not mean my body would cooperate or that the stars were aligned.

Before I miscarried that third time in less than the time it would take to have a pregnancy, the joy I had had when I found out I was pregnant 8 months earlier on that swing had been replaced by anxiety and dread. I knew it wouldn’t work. My belief had been diminished. And that was almost the worst part of all.

Eventually we headed to a fertility clinic. I felt bad every time I walked in there. I felt the failure of my body. I felt old, constantly reminded of my geriatric status, all of 38.

But still I gave myself shots until my stomach was black and blue, still I raced there almost daily, still I studied our bank statements looking to make this astronomically expensive option work.

But when my period arrived we decided to take a break.

I am sure we will return. I barely gave it a chance. Or perhaps we will adopt; that is a lovely option.

It’s hard not to blame yourself. It’s hard not to think, but this is the most natural thing in the world – people do it all the time. It’s hard not to take note of the months I would have been due as they pass. August. January. May.

It is not that I want a redo, though perhaps there is a little part of me that would like to have a pregnancy end with champagne and kisses and balloons and smiles, instead of NICU machines and terror. But there are no guarantees. It is not a given that all will go well if I have another baby, but what I know now is that I can handle it. What I know now is that motherhood is more than just the happy parts, more than just the moments you take pictures of and put out for all to see. In fact, I want another child because of what I have learned from my son. That little boy has shown me it is okay to believe and strive and to hope.

Perhaps it is selfish, but the joy Benjamin has given to me is like a drug. I want another fix.

This is not something I need.  I have what I need.  I have my husband.  I have my son.  This is something I want.  And I think it is okay to want things.  I think it is okay to try.  And I am not ready to cross into the other side of the things I dreamed about when I was a girl.

It may take a miracle for me to have another baby, but if I have learned anything from being a mother to my son, my son who entered this world with one foot towards the exit, my son who showed me how to not only survive but to thrive, it is that hope is necessary, to believe in the future is sustenance. He showed me through his own example that I believe in miracles. And maybe we as a family are only allowed one miracle, and if that is all we are given then we are the truly lucky ones.  And I will keep trying for another, because maybe, just maybe, miracles are catching too.


Writer’s note: Since writing this piece and performing it in the Los Angeles show Expressing Motherhood, I am happy to report I am expecting my second child in September 2010.

After putting the baby to bed the other night, feeling exhausted and oppressed by my household duties, I cleaned the entire apartment.  By this I mean I put away the baby’s toys, washed the dishes, wiped down all three inches of countertop, swept most visible sections of the floor, and palmed a tumbleweed of dog hair off the rug. The entire process took about fifteen minutes, and was by far the longest stretch of housework I’d done all day.  When my husband came home from whatever it is he does all day, I made him dinner.  By this I mean I boiled some pasta.  And THEN I had to WORK.  By this I mean, I put on my pajamas and sat on the couch with a glass of wine and some student stories.   I do everything around here, I thought, self-pityingly.  Sheesh!  And, as a non-New Yorker friend said recently in amazement, “I bet you don’t even have a dishwasher! How do you do it?” 


“Well,” I responded, “My life is horrible.”


But it has occurred to me of late that housekeeping used to be a much more odious thing, and to remind myself of this I read Susan Strasser’s excellent book Never Done, a history of American housework.  I cannot recommend this book highly enough to anyone who has ever had to do a modicum of housework.  There is nothing like a perusal of pre-industrial housekeeping practices to make sorting the recycling feel like a day at the spa.  Seriously, did you know that everything used to suck way worse than it does now? 


Exhibit A.  Cooking.


Sometimes I have the thought, Greasy old unevenly-cooking, partially disabled rental apartment stove, I hate you.  But you know what really sucked?  Cooking over an open freaking fire, all sparking with burning cinders and scorching gates, using cast-iron utensils that weighed 8,000 lbs each.  Labor-intensiveness aside, just imagine all the ways an underfoot toddler could injure herself in such a kitchen!  Wait, don’t actually.  It’s too gruesome. And then even coal or wood stoves, once they came along, still took at least an hour a day just to maintain, what with all the fire-tending and coal-carrying and stove-blacking.  I can totally relate to this because every few months or so I have to relight the pilot light on my stove, which takes an entire match and sometimes dozens of seconds.


Strasser’s book also reminded me how once upon a time food arrived in the kitchen unprepared.  No, really unprepared.  As in, each ingredient had to be processed by hand – chickens plucked, hams blanched, coffee roasted, spices ground, flour sifted, oatmeal soaked, and so on. By way of contrast, I was once reduced to tears by the thought of all the work involved with heating up a premade veggie corn dog in the toaster oven.  Granted, I was pregnant and very tired, but so, I imagine, were many of our great-grandmothers while they were nurturing yeast.


Exhibit B.  Laundry.


I live in an old brownstone without a washing machine, which has led many a person to gasp in protest, “But you need laundry with the baby, right?”  Well guess what I found out from this book? No one used to have a washing machine! And one wash used fifty gallons of water, which of course had to be moved and heated by hand.  And oh yeah, they hadn’t invented detergent yet. Remember that chapter in Little House in the Big Woods where they describe making soap from pig lard? Ewwwwww.


No surprise then that Strasser writes, “Of all the household chores that depended on hauling water and building fires to heat it, laundry earned the most complaints … it appears that women jettisoned laundry, their most hated task, whenever they had any discretionary money at all.”  And here’s a little tidbit for you: in the beginning of the 20th century commercial laundries became popular and the task seemed to be on its way out of the house right along with making your own clothes and shoes.  Then the invention of the electric washing machine plunked the act of laundry right back into the lap of the housewife, a development Strasser calls a “raw deal.” 


So guess what this means? This means I have ingeniously bucked the housewife-oppressing system!  Laundry doesn’t isolate me in my basement OR take up two days of my time a week OR actually any of my time, since I drop it off at the Laundromat and pick it up some hours later all neatly folded into a tiny space-puck of mathematically impossible dimensions.  Do you see what this means? I am living the dream of the pre-industrial housewife. Thank you, Crystal Clean Laundromat!


Exhibit C. Extra Credit.


Back when the only out-of-home “daycare” was the “orphanage,” cash-strapped nineteenth century mothers cared for their children while tending the home fires (literally) and often taking in work they could do at home – extra laundry or mending for example.  In other words, they did what I do – take care of baby, take care of household, work a little from home – but in long skirts and without running water, manufactured soap, or baby toys that light up.  Or lattes.  Or mom-tot yoga.


In conclusion: suck it up, me.  Things are pretty awesome!  Now if you’ll all excuse me.  I have a stressful night ahead: a bathtub full of un-lugged, un-boiled hot water, and then off to sleep in sheets washed, luxury of luxury, by somebody else.

 When Dan Zanes came to Los Angeles, my world almost fell apart.

I didn’t even know who Dan Zanes was until I had my son.  But I was soon schooled that he is the hippest kids musician around.  And he was coming to town for a concert. 

I spent the day with my son.  Now, granted I spend almost every day with my son.  But some days are different.  Some days, you take a step back and remind yourself to remember this. This moment right here.  This is why it is OK that I am always tired.  This is why I don’t work anymore.  This.

Benjamin and I had that kind of day recently.  It was nothing big and special, nothing monumental.  Nothing that was even Facebook status worthy.  But some days you can’t imagine how you are not incredibly grateful every day that you get to hang out and raise your child.

But not every day is like that.

Some days, you are vomited on in quick succession about five times (let’s call that Monday).  Some days your child wakes up at 4:45 in the morning declaring it is light out and time to get up (Tuesday and then also Thursday).  But some days, like Wednesday, you head down to The California Science Center and The Space Museum just next door and you shoot rockets and look at satellites and watch all of the older kids in their matching T-shirts in their camp groups and you can’t imagine how some day you won’t be the one to take him to do all the cool things he likes to do.  And you’re glad he is only three and clings to you and loves you in that exhausting 24-hour kind of way.  And you briefly get sad and protective thinking of him older in one of those T-shirts roaming through the world or at least this museum without you, but then you think of him giggling in the corner with his friends and sitting in The Space Museum’s helicopter with a girl he likes and you get excited for him.  Soon, in your mind, he is married with kids, a doctor, perhaps in a small practice, who does a lot of charity work.

But none of that is why the day was so special for me, though all of that was nice.  It was one simple little moment.  We got lunch at The McDonald’s at the museum (no lectures please, probably only his second visit to McDonald’s) and we got a Happy Meal and I watched him eat French fries.  And it was the greatest thing I had ever seen.


He ate them with pure joy.  We sat together in this big hall full of loud strangers, my child and I, and enjoyed the quiet connection between us.  The fries weren’t even that good actually.  I ate one and thought I remembered those being better, but for him, they were a delight, a treat.  And for me, sitting there with him, together, as he ate a meal I ate as a child as well, was lovely.

Eating those fries with him reminded me of my father.  My father died when I was four and my own memories of him are few, if any.  My mother tells a story about how he ate French fries.  He would take a very long thin one and bite in the middle and then stack the two pieces on top of each other and then bite in the middle again, repeating the whole process until there was no more fry.  When he did this it made my mother laugh.  When she told me this story, it made me laugh.  I don’t know why.  It’s not particularly funny or clever.  But the visual of it, for me as a child, was something I could physically do to try to imitate who he was, how he was.  And I ate fries like that for years.

I sat there with my child eating French fries, knowing I never really got to eat French fries with my dad and I was surprisingly not sad.  I was filled with love for my son and for me and for us and felt lucky that we had each other.

He will not remember that day.  He is just three.  Childhood memories before the age of four are limited.  I know.  But hopefully these moments of being together will provide him with a quiet confidence.  I know they have for me.

Sometimes it is just a flash, just a moment, like that one, that reminds me to take stock, to look around, to adjust what needs fixing and to accept and feel proud for what I may have done right.  I am not perfect.  I do not always enjoy the day to day of being a stay-at-home mom. I admit that even on that day at the science center I may have hurried him along from activity to activity because I was bored.  But he and I have created a bond and every now and then, like at a museum’s McDonald’s surrounded by a sea of campers, it announces itself grandly and quite simply knocks my socks off.

Everyone said I’d fall in love the minute they laid her in my arms. She was beautiful – a broad alabaster face with slightly-slanted deep brown eyes. She was a flirt: at 6 months she knew how to flash a dimpled smile, like a come-hither starlet. I was awed by her perfect features as the fleshy woman pressed her into my arms, swaddled in a blanket. A few minutes later she said, “Feed baby,” and handed me a bottle filled with a brown tea concoction. I took the bottle hesitantly and tipped it toward the baby’s pursed lips. How would I know when she was sated or whether she needed to burp? I felt as though someone had lent me an expensive camera I was afraid to fiddle with.

I always thought I’d be a great mother. The love I expressed for my animals reinforced the notion I had great capacity to nurture. At the airport waiting to leave Siberia I had our baby on my lap. Suddenly I heard a pop, then a mountainous ooze of putrid yellow diarrhea exploded from her diaper. I was horrified, unable to stand the smell of the stench. I thrust the baby into my husband’s hands. Calmly he changed her diaper and pulled out a clean snowsuit.

Terrified my first instinct was to push this baby away from me rather than come to her aid, I wondered how in the world I would be able to care for her. I was 40 when we went to Russia, in a second marriage, one I trusted would last. Becoming a parent was the next thing to do, like ticking a chore off an errand list. My husband and I had tried basic, non-invasive fertility treatment because we couldn’t conceive; when that failed we moved on to adoption without any real aching over the lost hope of having a genetic child. I was secretly relieved because I didn’t want to expose my body to more aggressive, hormone-altering fertility treatment like in vitro fertilization. Maybe I felt ambivalent about motherhood and didn’t know it.

Like a hiker guided by woodland blazes I moved forward, following what I thought was an obvious path. Never did I sit myself down and think, I mean really think, about how I felt about motherhood. Six months after the social worker from the adoption agency called and said, “We have a baby for you,” our daughter was in a makeshift nursery carved from a windowless alcove in our small apartment in New York City. There were no mobiles dangling above her crib or animal-themed borders running along the wall. We’d had just enough time to assemble a borrowed crib, an IKEA bureau of drawers and a changing table. The space was so teeny we couldn’t even fit a rocking chair.

No one had thrown me a baby shower. I had not read a single book on preparing for parenthood. In the months leading up to the adoption, my husband lost his job. At times I wondered whether we should go through with it, but he convinced me we should. “We’re both 40,” he had said. “There’s a baby who needs parents.” I remember the steel-grey November day I got the call from the agency. I heard “Siberia” and “passports” and “arrange flight,” but all I could think about were my writing deadlines.

Pregnant women get to arrange the spice rack. Nature slows them down. They come to their baby slowly, symbiotically. When we first brought the baby home she weighed 15 pounds. I had long-term neck and back injuries from sports so I could barely carry her. Putting her in a snuggly was out of the question.

During the first year I fed her and changed her diapers and sang to her before putting her in the crib, but I could just have easily been loading a dishwasher, paying bills. I was numb. Ironically I wasn’t suffering from sleep deprivation because life at the orphanage had taught the baby to sleep 11 hours a night in a bed by herself. But I had not had a chance to welcome the mother in me. I had not mentally prepared for time to slow down – to be so needed. I hired a part-time nanny but I was terrified to let her leave the apartment with the baby. So through the sounds of my baby squealing with delight at Elmo or crying because she was groggy and resisting a nap, I slogged away at my computer in the next room, teeth clenched, stomach churning.

I didn’t believe I had the right to use the term “postpartum” depression. I had not given birth; my hormones were not awry. But I was as blue as I’d ever been and I’m pretty sure I felt what despairing birth mothers feel – isolation, angst, regret. Was I unsuited for motherhood? I’d look down at my gorgeous child sitting on the floor with her little feet out in front of her, surrounded by blocks and other toys, and feel a surge of guilt.

At Mommy and Me groups other babies sat dutifully in mommy’s lap. Every time we got to one of these classes my baby’s first instinct was to bolt around the room, even when she was still crawling. I’d smile wanly at the neighboring mommy and say, “Oh, my little astronaut.” Inside, I was screaming with rejection from this child.

I had gone to the end of the world to get this baby, yet we were not bonded.

I began to think I was damaged goods. Or she was. Perhaps I was not bonding to her because she was not bonding to me. There is a syndrome suffered by many adopted children where they do not attach to their new mothers and fathers. Psychologists say the infant is so traumatized at birth she instantly develops an unconscious self-defense mechanism that leaves her unable to trust adults. She is convinced that the only one in the world whom she can rely upon is herself.

This clinical explanation made sense. Whenever I tried to hold her, she flexed in the opposite direction. Her instinct was always to flee, rather than cling. She would not look me directly in the eye. When she was 16 months, I hired a young, spirited Polish nanny who took every pain to care for the baby as if she were her own. She could not understand why the baby wouldn’t bond with her.

During her toddler years, my daughter adapted to nursery school and later to kindergarten. But her patterns with adult care-takers, particularly women, mimicked what went on at home. She was hyper-active, demanding, even charming, but somehow she couldn’t be satiated. She spent every ounce of mental energy figuring out how to control her universe.

It was exhausting. I was exhausted. I didn’t know what to do. My daughter was an open, pus-oozing emotional sore I couldn’t heal. We were both sinking. I had shut down. On the last day of nursery school during a year-end recital I was shaken from my stupor: when I watched my little girl disrupt the concert, and the nursery school teacher take her aside and restrain her, I cried hard for the first time. I was wild with anger and grief. Failing as a mother was unacceptable. That evening I went online and researched Reactive Attachment Disorder, the syndrome that prevents adoptees from attaching. I saw parallels with my child’s behavior and suggestions about how to bond and raise these children. Many of the parenting skills needed in these cases are counter-intuitive. That’s because a child afflicted by this often doesn’t mind punishment or isolation. Unconsciously, that’s often the result they’re courting.

For the next year, my husband and I focused on trying to interrupt our daughter’s hard-wired circuit. We’d say the kind of things you’d never imagine saying to a child such as, “I know you are afraid for mommy to love you. But I do love you.” Rather than allow her to isolate herself in her bedroom, which she did often, we kept her closer to us. I became more aggressive about organizing playdates, and reunited with my estranged sister, in part, to let my daughter meet her cousins. By now I’d realized that punishing her by taking something away had absolutely no impact: she was not truly bonded to anyone or anything. She never had a favorite teddy bear or blanket. The best form of punishment was not to punish her at all.

Children afflicted with Reactive Attachment Disorder thrive on chaos and upheaval. It gives them a feeling of control, yet they stay at an emotional distance, which is what they want. Feeling warm and fuzzy actually causes discomfort. Realizing this, my husband and I undermined our daughter’s efforts to cause disruption by responding with calm indifference to fits and taunts. Sometimes we’d even laugh a loud hearty guffaw in the middle of a tantrum and she’d stop and break into a giggle. We took away her power to play us against one another. Our strong united front threw her off. Research on the syndrome says it’s important to keep these children off-balance. It disrupts their circuitry, which is a good thing.

My husband and I banded together and made it our life’s work to read everything we could on the syndrome and dialogue constantly to gauge how things were working. There are tragic stories of women resorting to violence against adopted children because they feel isolated and unable to bond. In the absence of knowledge, they blame themselves.

Last year when my daughter started first grade, we began to find each other. She still had a hard-wired defense system but now she was exercising an intellect that allowed her to ponder behavior and its effects rather than just act reflexively. She could reach for my hand without feeling deep inner ghosts.

Over time, we knit into a unit. We replaced distance and indifference with fierce love and hate. I don’t worry when she tells me she hates me because it shows we’re tied up, finally, in the tumult of a mother-daughter relationship.

One recent day I was walking alone around the lake near my house. Through the brush I spotted a deer milking her fawn. I wasn’t more than six feet from them. They saw me too, but the doe kept feeding her young, who couldn’t have been more than a few weeks old. I froze in my tracks. Tears streamed down my hot cheeks. I felt a mixture of joy and pain. Here in these woods I beheld the most gorgeous tableaux of primal love. A pure absolute moment. Nothing other than how nature meant for it to be. Something I missed out on. Julia and I were not united by amniotic fluid or mother’s milk. We came to each other along an unnatural path, and we stumbled. Slowly we learned to love each other. Because in the end that was the only way it could have happened in our circumstances.

I come from a long line of unenthusiastic housekeepers. My maternal grandmother was known for blowing up kitchens (a particularly awkward situation as my grandfather was a clergyman and they were therefore always residents in church-owned homes). My paternal grandmother’s culinary ambitions began and ended with Jell-o mold, albeit the dressed-up variety with fruit cocktail bits suspended within like edible gems. Growing up, my house was a preferred place to play among my friends because you could make a mess, which made it ideal for craft projects of all sorts.


So perhaps it’s unsurprising that I have turned out to be the kind of stay-at-home mom (I mean, I work but let’s face it, I’m at home with the baby all day) whose attitude towards housework could be best described as “fatalistic.” I’ll be on knees flaking shingles of dried squash and baby oatmeal off the kitchen floor and think, Meh, this is just going to get dirty again later, leaving an opaque ghost of the original mess. Because, I mean, it is. Whether I do a stellar job cleaning it or a crappy one, tomorrow the baby is just going to joyfully fling more food onto that same floor. Lying on the floor playing with Harper I’ll go into a kind of a trance looking at the inch of dust underneath the couch. Man. Gross. Someone should really sweep that. But the kind of cleaning that involves actually moving furniture is just completely beyond my capabilities. I will passionately vacuum the living room rug, because I hate linty rugs (aesthetically speaking – our colorful Iranian rug that does a better job of camouflaging dog hair goes basically untouched), but every time I look at the couch and think, Nah. Because, I mean, I just moved the couch and mopped beneath it in, um September. Last September. How I wish I were exaggerating here for comic effect.

The sad part is, I actually like things to be clean and tidy. Maybe this is true of everyone, although I am pretty sure I count among my friends some slobs who truly don’t mind their own slobby piles and clutter. I hate open cabinets. I hate crumpled pieces of paper and stacks of mail, to the point that, much to my husband’s dismay, I would rather stow mail in a closed drawer or send it straight to the recycling rather than actually go through it. I hate an unmade bed, but I do not much enjoy making beds either. I love a sparkling clean countertop, but I also tend to scatter water glasses and mugs around the apartment to the point that when my husband comes home it looks like I’ve had a rollicking tea party.

To me, one of the mysteries of life has therefore always been, does anyone actually like cleaning? And if so, would any of these people like to come over and wash my city-dust-dimmed curtains? (Just kidding! I washed them. Last spring. No, the last last spring.) I always suspected that no, no body likes cleaning, and that some are just more disciplined than I. Then I met my mother-in-law, who seems to actually enjoy it. This woman’s house is spotless, and she knows tricks like how to get out weird stains using only baking soda and positive energy. I know she reads this blog, so maybe this is as good a time as any to find out once and for all: Ellen, do you actually like cleaning? If so, do you think it is possible to learn to like it? If not, how do you get yourself to do it?

Luckily for me, most people seem to expect very little of a household containing a small baby. I rarely have many people , anyway – the weird exception being a writing workshop I teach out of the apartment one night a week. Fortunately this class is at night, and the room is not terribly well-lit, and I’m hoping most of the people are too preoccupied with their life’s work being dissected in front of them in that inevitable, wonderful, dreadful manner of workshops to examine very closely the tops of my bookshelves, which I have never personally seen but which I expect might be quite dusty.

In the end, I feel that is a kind of curse to both like tidiness and feel overcome by a lethargic sense of hopeless when performing the Sisiphysean task of cleaning the toilet (which, I’m sorry, but is just going to get crapped in again anyway, probably sooner rather than later). My only hope is to strike it rich and get a cleaning lady, or maybe to hypnotize my husband, or possibly to wait until Harper is old enough to bribe with allowance. Then I’ll be sitting pretty, reading a novel with my feet up while she wipes down the refrigerator handle blackened with fingerprints. I’m pretty sure this is how it works once babies become children, and I’ll thank any parents of older kids not to disabuse me of this delicious notion.

1. There is this photograph of my maternal grandmother holding baby-me.  I’m maybe 8 or 9 months old, decked out in a pink jumper and a stunned expression, as someone off-camera were dangling a particularly baffling toy, or warning me about junior high.  I’m sitting on my grandmother’s lap and she has one hand around my waist and the other delicately supporting my right hand.  We look poised for a dance.  Her eyes are closed, the look on her face one of pure, dreamy contentment.  Someone told me recently that there is no less-complicated love than that between a grandparent and grandchild.  My grandmother’s face certainly suggests this.  She looks like an angel.

2. When my brother and I were small, my grandmother would make us picture books.  She wrote the stories (I remember placing orders over the phone, Illinois to Texas – “The main character should be named Samantha, and I’d like it to involve an elephant” – and then the moment of unbearable excitement after it had arrived in the mail but before I’d read it), drew the illustrations, and stitched together the pages made from wallpaper samples.  I suspect this is what inspired me to want to write in the first place, what made me think of books as things that people I knew made, that anyone could make.

3. In the photograph, she wears on her left hand, which circles my fat baby waist, a green jade ring I always admired.  When she was dying they cut her rings off her swollen hands.  Her hands had always been so delicate.  My strongest sensory memory of her, next to her powdery scent of Chanel No. 5, is the feel of the silken skin on her soft hands, her tidy nails always filed into little tips.  After my grandmother died, my mother had the stone from the jade ring reset and gave it to me.  I’m wearing it now.

4. My grandmother always wanted to be a writer, or perhaps I should say was always a writer.  When she died, my uncle (a writer) sorted through her things and excavated some of her work – breezy gossip columns she wrote for a Kansas paper under the name Betty LaBette, a humorous radio play, a dramatic short story about young families living in New Deal housing in 1940s St Louis, type-written letters and journals.  She corresponded with the journalist (and ex-wife of Ernest Hemingway) Martha Gellhorn, who encouraged her to continue with her writing.  Her stuff is good, too – lucid, smart, funny in a self-deprecating, vaguely Erma Bombeckian way.  (From a letter: “I always feel the less you know about the man you marry, the more interesting it will be to get acquainted with him afterwards, which has amply proven so.” Ha!)

5. Shortly after my grandparents eloped in 1936, my grandfather (who had been a journalism student when they met) found God and decided to join the clergy.  His first gig was as rector at an Episcopal church in Alma, Michigan.  My grandmother, who had loved the bustle of St Louis, where she was involved in local politics and the Women League of Voters, was now, as my Uncle Jim writes, “sort of the local mad woman of Chaillot, locked away in a tower in the tottering castle next to the church banging away at an ancient portable typewriter and emitting blood-curdling whoops and hollers whenever she thought she had written something especially funny or blood-curdling.  She was very bright, truly eccentric and certainly had never bargained for the life of a middle western small town preacher’s wife loaded up with brats, scoured by the shrewdly appraising eyes of parishioners whenever she left the house.”  He adds, “when we were small, the penalty for interrupting her at her writing was often a wildly unsettling outburst, even if one were bleeding, especially if one were bleeding.”  I love this.

6. I think of the photograph when I see my mother hold my daughter, her first grandchild.  I am awash with nostalgia for something I didn’t quite experience, for a moment impossible to remember.  It’s part hormones, part exhaustion, part overwhelming, crushing love.  My grandmother has been gone for a while.  She never got to see me publish my first book, never got to meet this baby, who, I think, has her forehead and nose.

7.  I am writing this in a coffee shop in Park Slope, Brooklyn, surrounded by other people tapping into their laptops, their faces moonily lit by half-written screenplays and novels.  I picture my grandmother riding her bike around some small town, books stuffed in the basket; toiling away at a story after the kids are in bed.  There are all these connections between us — the writing thing, but also weird things like proclivities towards reading in the bathtub, or swimming, or eating avocados plain.  I often think, If only she were alive today!  We have so much in common!  But do we, really?  I think she may have been braver, better at ignoring what people thought of her.  She was an eccentric in times and places where eccentricism was not nearly so accepted or expected as in current-day New York City, where I have landed.  She read a lot and wrote a lot for her own pleasure, just for the sheer joy of it, because she couldn’t not.  She raised four children and when she finally had a moment to breathe, instead of devoting herself to writing she took up teaching poor kids how to read. In the end, her greatest work was her family, her long love affair with my grandfather, her life. When the days with the baby seem long, or I am feeling sorry for myself because I haven’t had a moment to write, or haven’t achieved some level of success, or something, I think it serves me well to think of her – to look at this picture and try to access that contentment, that happy, dreamy moment of almost dancing.

I am pleased to find that the whole newborn baby system seems, at least so far (nearly 3 weeks in), to be a bit more functional than the late-pregnancy situation.

First of all, there is the sleep deprivation. I know what you are thinking: but surely this is a flaw, is it not? Well listen: there is a reason why cults use sleep deprivation to break down a recruit’s defenses and win her over to their side. On three hours of sleep, I’m of use to my baby and only to my baby. Conversation is difficult; following an article in the newspaper near impossible. But dozy breastfeeding, diaper-changing, and cuddling? That’s suddenly just my speed.

Of course, this works because of the relative simplicity of the newborn. In addition to being abnormally adorable, my baby’s interests include eating, sleeping, pooping, and the occasional being-rocked-and-sung-to. When she cries, chances are it’s because of one of these four desires. My husband likened it to the beginning levels of a video game (he is in the industry, and so he should know) — those tutorial levels that teach you how to use the controllers and such. Things start off relatively simple. Once we have mastered the “I’m hungry” cry (it sounds like she’s hollering at us) and the “putting the sleeping baby in her crib without waking her” skill set, I imagine we will find ourselves at the next level, with a new set of challenges. (Also: I realize that things are not so simple if your baby is colicky and please please I am not trying to tempt fate or jinx myself please baby do not get colicky please thank you.)

Also, not to get all TMI or anything, but let me say: for a few weeks after giving birth, mama’s bottom is SORE. Luckily, this coincides with an infant’s first weeks of X-treme Sleeping. See, now that just makes sense. Everyone can rest up for a while. For short bursts of time, but frequently.

Even breastfeeding makes sense. Sure, it glues you to your baby’s side. But after sharing my body for so many months, what if I were just suddenly cut free, truly able to eat or drink whatever I wanted, entirely my old self again? I’d probably go insane, like an Amish kid on Rumspringa. I’d likely disappear only to be discovered days later, slumped in an alley somewhere half-buried in a pile of empty wine bottles and the carcasses of high-mercury fish.

In conclusion, I would go back over this and polish it up, and/or make some more salient points, but the baby has commenced to squeaking, and my mammalian brain has taken back control of my body. Must. Go. To. Baby.



Having been pregnant for some 38 weeks now (this leaves 0-4 weeks to go, for the non-mathematically inclined among you), I have gathered many a suggestion for the suggestion box I imagine one encounters at the end of this little exercise. I assume the labor nurses bring it by in the hospital as they’re foot printing one’s squishy new babe. And I want to be ready, so I’m compiling some notes here.

1) First things first: there really ought to be an indicator light of some sort. As all the books will tell you, those first few days and weeks of a pinhead-sized-fetus’s life are very important, development-wise. This is when you need to be taking folic acid and not slamming tequila shots and other important things. So why should a woman not have any idea when it’s go time? I saw on tv that unfixed female wolves act pregnant for a few days everytime they’re in heat, whether or not they are actually pregnant. Not a bad idea, but not so practical for the human lady. And thus, why not an indicator light? You wake up in the morning, check the light — maybe stowed discreetly beneath an armpit or on the inside of a thigh — and voila, it’s glowing blue and you know to lay off the sushi.

2) Evolutionarily speaking, doesn’t morning sickness seem like sort of a bad idea? Now I’m no scientist, but again, those beginning weeks and months are important to baby’s development, so why are so many mothers-to-be curled up nibbling saltines for so long? Shouldn’t we be robustly craving spinach and liver? I’m just saying.

3) Whoever is in charge of such things really ought to do a better job of matching up babies and mothers. It’s just sort of silly to place a 10-lb baby in a tiny-hipped lady and then tell her to push it out. Similarly, those tall women with room to spare and miniature little babies? Waste of real estate. There has got to be a more efficient way to deal with this.

4) While I don’t love the sleeplessness of the third trimester, I can at least accept that it sort of prepares you for the interrupted sleep of life with a newborn. I get it. I don’t condone it per se, but at least it sort of makes sense. What doesn’t make sense, however, is how one has no idea when the baby plans on being born. Did you know that only 5% of babies are born on their due dates? Being born at anywhere from 38-42 weeks gestation is considered normal, which gives you a ONE MONTH WINDOW, people. One month. And let’s not forget that many of the so-called signs of early labor are things that you just feel normally at this point: back ache, cramping, spaciness, restlessness.  Pah. Meanwhile, the mother-to-be tosses and turns, wakes up thinking “Did I pack enough socks in my hospital bag?,” pees every eight minutes or so, wonders how many plans to make or projects to start or how far to be from home at any given moment… you get the idea.


On the up side, there is plenty of time, during these waiting stages, to work on suggestions for next time.