Things I never thought I’d need to explain to my children

Don't put your feet in your diaper.

Don't eat electrical wires.

You can't push through solid wood; you aren't a x-man.

Paper napkins aren't for eating.

Gummy worms aren't really made from worms.

You can't say the word pussy, even if the President said it.

Nazis are bad.

They hate us because we are Jewish.

A kike is a bad word for Jews; I don't know why that man yelled it at me.

It's just not safe for me to wear my Star necklace around here anymore.

Punishment for Living, Pt 1

I.

Walking outside.
“Hey,
Fuck you fat bitch.”

II.

7th grade
Wearing my brand new
Minnie Mouse sweatshirt,
I desperately pretend
Not to hear them say things
And then
“just so you know
D—– just hawked a loogie
All over your back.”
How do you tell the secretary
You need to go home
Not because of illness
But
Because of humiliation?

III.

Waking up
To hands around my neck
“I just watched an episode
Of Bones
And it said I could kill you
But it would be impossible
To prove it was murder like this.”

IV.

Walking outside
With my daughter
“Hey,
Who was desperate enough
To fuck you?
Fuck you, fat bitch”

Body Control

Being pregnant and schizophrenic is one of the strangest things that I have ever experienced in my life. On the best of days, I have a horrific relationship with my body. I find flaws everywhere – I’m fat, my hair is frizzy, my face is oily, my nose is too big, I have a unibrow and hairy toes, my hands are too masculine, my feet are huge – the list goes on and on. For the most part, during untreated phases of my illness, my body has taken the brunt of punishment in trying to maintain my sanity. I’ve starved it, overfed it, burnt it, picked at it, cut it – anything that I could in order to shock me out of psychosis. It’s not a healthy coping mechanism, and I don’t recommend starting if you’ve never self-injured.

Since my last psychotic break, I’ve had to relearn how to love my body again – even in an imperfect state. I started taking better care of myself and lost over 150 pounds during that time. I met the man that would eventually become my husband, and still have a difficult time trusting that he thinks I’m beautiful. I think most women (and men) go through this self-doubt when it comes to believing their attractiveness, but not with a soundtrack of voices telling you that it’s all lies and your partner is just waiting until they can upgrade. Or maybe normal people do. I’m not sure.

The closest I ever got to accepting my body and self-worth is letting my husband see me change clothes. He still wasn’t allowed to touch me in certain areas, nor was I ever 100% confident that he wasn’t biding his time to leave me. I was maintaining my weight loss, which made me happy, but I still punished myself in lieu of not getting treatment.

The thing is, though – no matter how unpredictable things got with my body, there was always the fact that I controlled it. No one could take that from me. I controlled my weight, I controlled my hair, my shape – all of it. It was mine in a world of too many years of my body and self not being mine.

And then I got pregnant.

One thing that I have found that most pregnant women have in common is this emotional response to losing control of your body. I’ve found reading through countless forums and sites that most expectant mothers tend to share the same concerns – stretch marks, loss of physical attractiveness, bad hair, partners losing interest – and that’s been comforting to me. I’m sorry that I take comfort in your discomfort. But it’s helpful.

For me, this has been just the worst.

Don’t get it twisted: I’ve secretly always wanted to be a mother, and I know that body changes are part of it. However, I’ve spent so many years detached from my body and how it interacts with things that the idea of becoming so in tune and connected with myself has been inconceivable. The time I’ve spent this pregnancy losing control over my body – vomiting, changing my eating habits, even bathroom timetables – has been terrifying for me.

And now, my body isn’t my own. I’m subject to doctors’ appointments and strangers touching me and my stepkids touching me and my husband touching me whenever they want. Talk about immersion therapy. And yet, I find myself crying each day about my body and how I’m not perfect, and how it’s not my own. I cry because I won’t have those beautiful maternity photos that so many other mothers have – regardless of dress size – because I have voices telling me I’m too ugly and why would I subject my baby to that? I cry because I can’t see my feet – something that’s never happened to me before. I cry for the clothes that I can’t wear that used to be loose and flowy, and I cry because I’m an unrelenting snot machine that I can’t take any medicine to cure.

I have always suspected that I am not in the driver’s seat when it comes to my body, and now the pregnancy confirms that. The good thing is that I’m finally starting to be okay with that, because hearing a baby’s heartbeat on the ultrasound drowns out even the loudest voice.

XXXXXXX XXXXXX XXX

it’s been a month.
i’ve never gone this long without talking to you.
i had to remove your name from the family group updates for lily
because your phone is no longer in service.
i have to resave your last voicemail to me
because fucking tmobile thinks that i want it gone.
i had to stop getting updates from your name
because everyone has a story about you and needs to tell it.
i can’t bring myself to call granma
because your voice is still on the answering machine

how stupid was i to think that
when i broke up with my
on-again, off-again
high school boyfriend
that I knew what loss and heartbreak felt like.

nothing compares to this.
i miss you so much.
i just hope that
XXX XXXX XX XXX

what you taught me that dad didn’t

how to change speeds on a ten speed bike
how to pick myself up again when i fall and scrape my knees
how to be happy with the little things
how to identify the birds of North America
how to tell how much rain fell overnight
how to enjoy western movies
how to handle mom when she was in a bad mood
how to eat cherry garcia ice cream
how to trace my genealogy
how to tell a boy to fuck off
how to pick up the pieces when he did
how to move past high school rivalries
how to dribble a basketball, throw a softball, catch a football
how to love unconditionally
how to be infinitely patient
how to really forgive
how to really forget
how to deal with disappointment
how to view mistakes as lessons and
how to move on

but you never taught me
how to say goodbye to you –
so I won’t.
I’ll just say what we always say:
see ya soon.

Preemie Mom

On August 28th I write a note
in my phone
Reminding me that I need a new depo shot
In November.
then I collect my things
And leave the hospital.

There is no bow on my door
Announcing my daughters arrival
There is no cooing baby in the cruelly empty bassinet
My breasts ache from pumping that
Comes so easily to other mothers
But simply leaves my nipples bruised and and me in tears.

While I get to leave in a wheelchair
it isn’t the ecstatic cliche shown in movies.
The nurses and doctors are busy when
I go by –
Suddenly finding urgent paperwork
Or entering charts into the system.
No one says good luck to me.
No one tells me congratulations.

my id bracelets and my prescriptions are the only evidence
that proves that I belong on the maternity ward.
My body is sore from the trauma of birth
I am wearing a diaper to collect the ochre
bruises decorate my arms and hands like watercolor tattoos,
angry and yellow and purple.

26 hours of endless nurses parading in and out,
Chiding me for crying,
Taunting me into pumping my breasts for an infant
that isn’t able to breathe on her own,
Doctors explaining all the different ways
She might die this hour –
All refusing to use her name,
All refusing to make a connection with her.

This moment that I have dreamed of,
That would have been so different 14 weeks later,
that would have gone as planned
is shattered.

I remember the nurse teaching me how to deliver
while i was delivering
teaching me how to breathe.
it reminds me to cancel my prenatal classes
those all-important first-time parent classes
that would teach me the secret vocabulary
of motherhood, so i could finally get the jokes
i was told for so many years.
I wish she could teach me how to breathe now.

I try to block out the look of pity
the OB gave me when he told me
there wasn’t any way of stopping this
the baby was coming, right now, sorry,
lets hope the shots worked.

Even though the epidural has worn off I am still numb.
My husband tries to help me in the car,
He grazes his fingers across the wedding rings he gave me
He smiles at me
“She’s a fighter, she’ll be home before we know it”
But he still can’t invoke her name
The tongue twists like the wires snaking into her belly button
Mechanically keeping her alive.

Only hospital issued flannel blankets adorn her incubator –
No pink crocheted afghans nor frilly coming home outfits.
Just a diaper that goes to her knees
And the smallest earmuffs to keep her brain from bleeding
The only proof she is there is me,
Weeping next to her,
Willing her to ignore this hour’s death sentences,
making a lifetime’s worth of apologies as the time passes,
wondering when i’ll be allowed to hold her hand.