I had been writing to write every day. Even with the app on my phone, this has proven to be difficult. Every day I have a thought I want to share and yet I cannot find the time to sit down and write. I have found myself just too tired to be able to write.
Today I find myself feeling extremely guilty. I was very conscientious during my pregnancy about how everything I did would affect my unborn baby. There were moments when I would be a little selfish and have that extra chocolate or pass on the veggies. Mostly, though, I was good.
Now that I have my little girl in my arms, I am still watching what I eat but I haven’t been following any diet. In all my readings, I have not come across anything that says I should not eat certain things. Today, I learnt that my baby’s fussiness and discomfort is due to my selfish eating.
Who knew I shouldn’t be consuming dairy products? I had no idea the peanut butter I have been having with crackers can cause colic in my baby. So today I find myself feeling guilty about all I am eating that could be harming her without my even being aware. I feel I should’ve known. After all, I do my research daily.
It’s time for dinner and I don’t have that much time so my usual go to–raisin bran cereal–is a big no no. Can’t have a piece of buttered toast. Can’t have a quesadilla. Can’t have a glass of milk with my sweet bread. Dairy is such a part of my life that I am finding it difficult to have dinner. No cream cheese with my bagel!
For two months my little girl has suffered and I have been clueless. Today, I can’t help but feel guilty for being the cause of so much discomfort in one so little and defenseless.
My baby girl is now eight weeks old. She’ll be turning two months old on Sunday. Today, for the first time, I put a picture of my husband, my daughter, and myself as my profile picture. It’s only been three hours and already there are over 50 likes and over 15 comments.
When I got pregnant, I didn’t announce it on Facebook. Those closest to me found out because I told them. Anyone else was superfluous and, if they found out, was not by me. Some found out towards the end because some graduating students tagged me in the pictures we took together at graduation only one week before my baby was born.
If I didn’t announce my pregnancy, I obviously did not announce the birth. So why now?
I had been hesitant for several reasons, mostly ones I find hard to explain. The entire process was a private one and so why would I want to share with all those Facebook acquaintances with whom I can’t remember my last virtual interaction with?
Yes. The irony of having Facebook itself and its public nature is not lost on me. Nor is the fact that I am writing very personal stuff on Tumblr where any stranger could read, comment, or judge my thoughts. On Facebook, I am not the type to post every single detail of my life. On Tumblr, there’s certain anonymity since my account is not easily linked to me.
Now that I’ve virtually announced to the world that I have a daughter, the most random people are liking and/or commenting. I’m still unsure how I feel about people who I have friended on Facebook out of some sense of duty congratulating me on my family.
Sharing my daughter on Facebook is something I feel conflicted about.
I know I am not perfect. I know that I can be difficult, even odious at times. However, I am trying my best at being a good mother and a good wife.
We got a nurse to come help us out, at first in the evening and most recently during the day. On weekends my husband and I are on our own.
So on weekends there’s no one to pass the crying baby to except each other and as I already said, he doesn’t know how to deal with her so inevitably he passes her to me. There’s no one to wash the bottles or sterilize them except for us. Even this is a strain on our marriage. There’s no one else to change a diaper and that falls solely to me. No one to help with the bath. Again, just me.
This morning I get up, change her diaper, feed her, dedicate some tummy time to her development while I pump. After a late night, I got back into bed and slept for about an hour before my husband asked me if I was going to get up so we coils go to the mall. Finally, I got up and it was feeding time & pumping time again. So while he fed her, I pumped and finished getting ready. He falls asleep on the couch with her.
After that, I don’t know what went wrong.
In the end we didn’t go anywhere.
But now we aren’t speaking to each other except to bitch or snap at each other. The tension in the apartment could be cut with a knife. I’m crying all day long and it doesn’t seem to let up. Of course my baby is fussy. She’s feeling it all. Except I don’t know how to fix it.
I don’t know how to enter a zen space where none of this will matter. Where I don’t care that my husband hears her crying and doesn’t come to see what’s happening. Or since we can’t stand to be in the same room, where I can be and not exude frustration and resentment.
My marriage is disintegrating quickly. Only 7 weeks. It’s bad when I can’t wait for the weekend to be over so I don’t have to see him. It’s bad and it’s getting worse.
The saddest part is that my baby is being caught in the middle and I don’t know how to make sure our issues aren’t affecting her. Because evidently he doesn’t care since he’ll yell at me while holding her.
I feel at such a loss. I’m drowning. And I don’t know where it all went wrong.
This morning I got together with a friend for brunch. Her baby boy is two months older than my baby girl and so she was my pregnancy guide and now my newborn and new mom guide.
We hadn’t seen each other since a few days before I gave birth but we had been sending each other messages back and forth, giving each other encouragement but mostly it’s been me asking for advice.
I got to the agreed-upon restaurant a few minutes before her. Though this was not my first outing with my baby, it was the first time I found myself having to go up stairs with no other option. Both my friend and I had forgotten this detail. Once we overcame this hurdle, I found myself trying to pick between two tables that could accommodate two newborns in their baby carriers.
Once I settled down and looked around, I silently laughed, realizing that my friend and I were having brunch on a Friday together with all the non-working women of high society. I certainly felt some censure from the crowd as I was the only one with a baby. Once my friend arrived with her little guy, the censure grew. I think they were afraid our babies would cry up a storm and disturb their gossip session. I’m sure they were all surprised to discover that both babies are angels.
After all the fussing around to get the babies settled and we had said our hellos, my friend and I began to catch up. Soon I realized that she and I will never share adult conversation again. The two hours we spent conversing over breakfast centered on baby talk and all the things that implies–husbands, grandmothers, the self, going back to work, bowl movements… .
It was strange to realize that this is what my relationship with her will be like from now on. One part of my self lost to what has become the sole focus of my existence in the last seven weeks. How am I not supposed to struggle with my self if I cannot engage in adult conversation?
The easiest thing to lose when becoming a mother is yourself. I stopped wearing makeup about 2 months before my baby girl was born. I stopped wearing my rings about halfway through the pregnancy. Obviously, I stopped wearing my own clothes when I began wearing pregnancy clothes at the 3 month mark.
Slowly, but surely, I have begun to reclaim the things I used to do before getting pregnant.
About two weeks after my baby girl was born, I was able to wear my pre-pregnancy t-shirts and sweatshirts. Being able to wear my favorite hoodie was an epic moment for me
Two weeks ago I was able to get a mani & pedi together with my usual waxing. I felt feminine for the first time in a long time.
Today, seven weeks after my baby was born, I wore makeup for the very first time. Somehow my morning was efficient in that I was able to shower, get dressed (change outfits 3 times), pump milk, and put on makeup; all before she woke up for her mid-morning feeding.
I had such a good morning that I was optimistic and pulled out my rings, polished them and tried them on. I almost cried when I was able to slip them on so easily.
I felt as human today as is possible only a month and a half after my girl was born. I am still wearing my pregnant jeans and slacks, but I am only about 4kg over my pre-pregnancy weight. One day soon I hope to be able to pull out my pre-pregnancy slacks and fit into them.
There are good days and there are hard days. Today was a good day. I am one step closer to feeling completely human again.
My marriage is not a perfect one, not by a long shot. My husband and I often do not see eye to eye but before becoming parents, this was negotiated more easily.
Now that our baby has arrived, I find myself feeling alone in the whole parenting thing. Yes. She is only seven weeks old, how much parenting are we really doing? But this whole stimulation and development pressure I feel, I feel on my own.
Our baby has been fussy most of the afternoon-as she has for the last week- and it’s because of colic, her immature intestine and inability to poop. So what does my husband do? He passes her to me the moment she begins to whine ever so slightly. It’s not even a full blown cry and he is already passing her off to me. Today he had the gall to say that he will be a good parent when she is a toddler. Does that mean I will be alone for the next few years? Apparently so.
It’s frustrating that he comes home from work, continues working on his laptop or falls asleep on the couch watching tv. You may be wondering when he connects with our daughter. Well so am I. Yet he has a very strong opinion about our daughter being left alone even for five minutes at any moment. If he comes home and I am not in the same room, he has a fit. And we haven’t even gotten to the thorny subjects like tv and electronic devices. God help us when we do.
How is my marriage meant to survive parenthood in the long run if our current parenthood is not a partnership? I am trying to be understanding of his work and yet I am becoming extremely resentful of it and his attitude. I don’t even want to think about how things will be when I go back to work in a few weeks.
There is no manual for how to be a parent but there also isn’t any guide as to how to navigate the marriage when parenthood is the source of conflict.
Tonight, I am feeling emotionally exhausted, with no outlet except for the vast void of the Internet.
Time management is something I am able to do somewhat effectively. Don’t get me wrong. I do procrastinate like everyone else, but when needed, I rally and can organize my time efficiently.
However, now that I have a seven-week old baby, I find that no matter what I can’t seem to get my act together.
Take today, for example. She woke up a full hour and a half before it was time to eat and so she fussed until I was able to feed her. After her mid morning feeding, I was able to calm her down enough to put her down for what I thought would be enough time for me to shower and get ready. I thought wrong. I did take a shower but by the time I stepped out she was already crying. I don’t think it’s ever taken me close to an hour to get dressed in jeans and a tank top. Yet there’s always a first. Afterwards, we had some tummy time but even this was fraught with fussiness and so was not really enjoyable for either one.
At this point, it’s noon and I have yet to eat a single bite of anything. Of course I’m starving but how am I supposed to prepare anything if my little angel won’t settle down enough for me to whip up some scrambled eggs or get some fruit? Since my housekeeper was in today I was able to ask her and by 12:30 I was practicing eating one-handed. She and I lay down for a quick nap at 1:00 and at 2:00 when the alarm went off, it was, again, time to heat up a bottle and pump some more milk. By 3:30, with all this finished, she was still crying and I was in desperate need of a cup of coffee. How was I supposed to get to Starbucks if she wouldn’t calm down long enough for me to put her in the stroller?
In the end, I decided to take her down to the car even though she was crying to test the theory that a car ride will calm a baby down (not too effective today) and go grab a coffee.
Today I needed to scan a document I need to send work regarding my maternity leave. Today I wanted to call the store where we bought the crib to ask about sheets (yeah. It’s not a standard size). Today I wanted to finish reading the chapter on two-month old babies in the baby bible.
What did I accomplish today? Absolutely nothing except to eat poorly again and become even more frustrated feeling like an incompetent parent.
Yet, I look at my baby girl and I would do it all over again.
Being a parent is hard. Being a parent for the first time is even harder.
I have a seven-week old beautiful girl at home and though she’s an angel, everything else is hard.
I am constantly questioning myself as to whether I am doing enough for her or not. Of course I am reading What to Expect the First Year; and of course I have scoured the App Store for all those applications that could possibly guide me in the development of my baby; and of course I am a subscriber to Parents Magazine and of all parenting blogs I have come across.
The plus side of all this? They all pretty much say the same thing which means that I am not getting conflicting information which would surely push me over the edge. They all agree on one thing: stimulation is important. And that’s where I am feel grossly inadequate.
Read to the baby. Talk to the baby. Tummy time. Give the baby sunbaths. Play with the baby.
The list goes on and on and on. I find myself staring off into space and no longer talking to her so I start a monologue which will hopefully give her the skills she needs to develop her language. She falls asleep and I realize we haven’t had tummy time. Do I wake her up? But I should also let her sleep. Have you tried juggling a book and a squirming baby? How can I read to her? I use rattles and mirrors but do I use them enough? Am I stimulating my baby girl enough?
And at the same time, don’t let yourself go. As a mother, you must also take care of yourself. Yet when do I find time to eat, sleep, poop, relax when I am caught in the cycle my baby has developed in between feedings? How do I read, you ask? Well, on my cellphone. And yet that is another conundrum. I am spending time on my cellphone rather than looking at my baby as she sleeps. I read to her from my cellphone rather than from one of the many books she has been gifted.
Parenting is hard and I have only had this gig for 6 weeks and 5 days. How will I ever survive the rest of my life?
I’ve been on maternity leave for two weeks already and I have found myself living the life of the non working woman.
It’s amazing how full the supermarket is on any weekday morning, even if you’re going at 7:30! I’ve found myself going almost everyday and there is no ebb to the flow of women I encounter, regardless of the supermarket.
Yet what’s surprising to me is arriving to Starbucks at 9:30 and finding it full not of chattering mothers but of chattering working class men and women. I’m usually at Starbucks at 6:45 before heading into work and it’s only a few of us in line every morning. However, at 9:30, the line is endless and the tables are packed. I find myself wondering: don’t these people have jobs to get to? Even if their day starts at 9:00 and they already “checked in” at the office, isn’t spending 30 minutes at Starbucks sipping your coffee and chitchatting actually decreasing productivity? Shouldn’t they at least wait until mid morning to do so? I can only imagine how empty the cubicles are. Phones ringing off the hook with no one to answer them.
I question the working culture that allows this. It’s puzzling to me since the common complaint is that the working hours are too long. Or the fact that as a culture we are criticized for being unproductive. Well yes we are! How can one question that statement when the evidence can be found at the Starbucks? It’s baffling
She drove up to the Starbucks on Prado Norte and waited for the valet to approach so she could get out of the car. As she handed over her keys and told the young man she would be staying a while, she took a moment to look at the façade of the building. This Starbucks was located in an old Mexican colonial home. There was a blue mosaic fountain that was the center focus of the patio and was recessed within a small cove created by the two sets of stairs that curved up to the first floor. The steps and floor were tiled terracotta; the walls were white stucco. On a warm summer afternoon, like this one, the tables scattered in the front patio were always full of those trying to soak up the sun’s warm rays before the usual evening summer showers.
Taking a deep, fortifying breath, Anne walked up to the coffee shop’s entrance on the first floor, thinking about the last time she’d been there. It had been five years since Anne and Andy had parted ways. She remembered their meeting as if it had been only yesterday.
Andy’d asked her to meet him at their usual Starbucks. It had been his last attempt to convince Anne to go to his wedding that fall. He’d said it was imperative that she be there. Anne had known that Andy getting married would change everything, even more than the fact that he’d already moved to Spain. They’d been best friends since the 7th grade and this hadn’t meant a thing once the distance had been put between them. His fiancée, Mary, hadn’t understood their friendship and Anne knew that Mary put up with her for Andy’s sake, just like she did her. Still, Andy hadn’t been able to see that he’d changed since he’d moved. He’d stopped emailing and calling. Even with WhatsApp, his communication had dwindled; weeks would go by and he would only send a message when replying to hers. It was her hurt feelings that had prevented her from making an honest effort to make the travel arrangements to go to Spain for a week to his wedding. She’d felt then that it would be as if she were witnessing the last nail being nailed into the coffin of their fifteen years of friendship. So in the end Anne had hugged him tight to her, knowing it would be a long time before she’d be able to do it again. Knowing she wouldn’t go, she’d been selfish and had told him she’d try to work out her finances and vacation time.
She hadn’t realized then that by not going she had effectively nailed the coffin shut and that Andy would cut her out of his life except for the seemingly mandatory happy birthday message on Facebook, which she knew was only because Facebook reminded him that it was her birthday. Otherwise, there was no communication. She had relented a few months after his wedding and had sent him an email to apologize and explain her feelings. The email had been met with silence. So had all of her other messages over the year that followed. Slowly, Anne had begun to accept that what once had been was now in fact dead.
Shaking her head to clear herself from the painful memories, Anne reminded herself of the reason she was standing in line at the Starbucks she had avoided like the plague for the last five years. Anne was meeting a potential publisher today and Mr. Anderson had insisted on meeting here for the casual introduction. She looked at the people sitting at the various tables trying to locate Mr. Anderson but came up empty. Focusing on the line ahead of her she noticed the man standing in line three people ahead and felt time stop. Could it be Andy? The man had sandy brown hair, cut short at the back but slightly longer at the top. The left profile she could see was peppered in freckles along his cheekbones and snub-shaped nose. Still, she couldn’t be sure it was Andy. What if it was? What would she say to him after all these years? As the possible things she could say to Andy scrolled through her mind, he turned to face her, as if he’d been able to hear her thoughts.
Everything but Andy and Anne went into shadows, a spotlight on each of them. The world was reduced to this moment, at this time.
He smiled. “Hi,” Andy said with some uncertainty.
“Hello,” Anne croaked in response. Her mouth had gone dry. She swallowed, trying to clear the lump that had formed in her throat. “How are you?”
Andy didn’t say anything else. He just looked at Anne, seemingly waiting for her to say something more. When she didn’t, he raised an eyebrow quizzically, encouraging her to continue. She said the first thing that came to mind. “It’s been a while, huh?”
At that, Andy laughed, a deep laugh that warmed her soul. “It has, hasn’t it?”
“What are you doing back here? Where is Mary?” At that, a dark shadow crossed his smiling features but quickly disappeared leaving Anne wondering if she had imagined it after all.
“I’m here for a few days,” he responded, conveniently ignoring Anne’s second question. She decided to go along and not bring up a sore point for both of them.
Wanting to decipher his non-responses she asked, “Are you here for business or pleasure?”
He smiled before answering, “A little of both.”
The silence that followed rippled with unspoken tension. The reality of what had kept them apart for five years seemed to rise to the surface.
“Look,” he began.
“Andy,” Anne said at the same time.
Andy smiled. “You go first.”
Anne nodded and began once more, “Andy, it’s really good to see you. I’ve missed you,” she confessed. He smiled at her sadly but nodded in understanding.
“I know,” he began. “I’ve missed you too. I actually came by today hoping to run into you. I wanted to tell you in person that…”
“Ma’am! Miss!” The voice of the barista brought Anne back to the present. She finally looked at him and he smiled. “What will you have today?”
Anne blinked furiously and looked for the man who had been standing in line ahead of her. He was gone. It hadn’t been Andy. It’d been her imagination playing tricks on her. It had to be the place that was making her see things that weren’t there. Anne turned back to the barista. “I’ll have a venti non-fat chai latte, thank you.” She smiled sadly, thinking that even if she hadn’t seen Andy in five years, she still drank the same drink. Some addictions just couldn’t be surpassed.
Paying, she took her drink and went in search of Mr. Anderson. Thinking perhaps she’d missed seeing him at one of the tables outside, she stepped out into the summer heat and scanned the tables below. She stopped when her gaze came upon the same brown-haired man from inside. This time, when he turned to face her, he smiled and waved her over. It was Andy.
An oxymoron to be sure.
It’s a secret meant for you.
It’s a secret everyone knows.
A secret you haven’t confirmed.
A secret you want to scream at the top of your lungs.
I walked into the Starbucks a block away from our apartment. It was unusually crowded for a Tuesday afternoon. As I stood third in line, I scoped out the sitting area, hoping to find seating for two available; hoping it’d be available by the time I was ready to sit down.
The sitting area seemed to be populated by college students. A pretty blonde in a pink BU sweatshirt and Dixie shorts sat cross-legged next to a scantly-clad brunette, both of them pouring over whatever as on the screen of the MacBook Pro between them.
I looked away from them, feeling old at 35, dressed in a black suit and sensible black heels. When had I gone from being a jean-clad college student to a business suit-wearing adult? I hadn’t noticed when that had happened. I couldn’t remember the last time I had sat cross-legged with friends or otherwise. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d entered a Starbucks to simply gossip with friends.
I focused on the line and noticed with some degree of annoyance that the woman ahead of me seemed to be ordering coffee for a legion. I glanced at my watch. 5:30. I sighed, loudly enough to make the woman in front of me look back somewhat apologetically as she handed her card to the barista.
I gave her a fake smile and looked back to the sitting area. I noticed a couple with a baby stroller to their side. The mother, a young twenty-something, dressed in jeans and a gray cardigan over a white t-shirt, gently pushed the stroller to and fro as she listened to whatever the man was animatedly telling her. He was wearing a dark suit—I couldn’t tell from where I stood if it was black or charcoal gray—paired with a white shirt and a red tie. He’d clearly gotten out of work already as the top buttons were undone and the tie was loosened around his neck. He looked very much in love.
As I looked at them, the anxiety I’d been feeling since the day before and had somehow managed to suppress returned full force. I gasped for air and was about the experience my first panic attack.
“Hi. Welcome to Starbucks. What can I get for you today?” The barista’s voice pulled me back from the downward spiral of my thoughts. I looked over at David, the college student I chitchatted with every morning on my Starbucks coffee run, and genuinely smiled.
“David! It’s strange seeing you in the afternoon,” I replied in greeting.
“I didn’t recognize you, Sofia. Your usual?”
I nodded as the doctor’s words reverberated through my head. No more caffeine, Sofia. I called David in a panicked voice. “No! I’ll have a Tall Passion tea, David. Thanks.” I smiled to make up for my somewhat abrupt tone. David looked perplexed but returned the Venti cup and grabbed a Tall cup instead without commenting on my strange behavior. Had I ever ordered tea since I’d begun drinking my Venti Soy Misto a year ago? I honestly couldn’t remember. I gave David my Starbucks card without another word and, as he returned the card, David awkwardly told me he’d see me tomorrow, turning to greet the customer behind me.
A I returned the card to it’s pocket in my wallet, my iPhone’s ringtone for Alex, Etta James’ “At Last” began. I slid my finger across the screen to answer. “Hi!”
“Hi, babe. Boss called me into a last-minute meeting to discuss the Chicago trip since we hadn’t been able to meet all day.” I could hear he was somewhat out of breath. “But I’m about to get on the T and should be there soon,” he reassured me and I smiled at his thoughtfulness.
“Don’t worry,” I said. “Dinner with Mark and Ana is at 6:30. We have plenty of time,” I reassured him in return.
“Ok. Love you,” he said.
“I love you, too,” I replied and we disconnected the call.
“Tall Passion tea,” the barista called out. I took my cup and stepped over to the milk and sugar station. I set down my cup, grabbed a napkin and placed the cover over it. I reached for a packet of Splenda and stopped short. Could I still use artificial sweeteners? I doubted it and took a pack of regular sugar instead, pouring the pack into the tea and stirred with a wooden mixer. I threw out the empty packet of sugar and the mixer, covered the tea, wiped the counter with the old napkin and grabbed a new one before turning towards the sitting area.
There was a table with two chairs next to the couple I’d spied earlier. I sighed. Was there nothing else? I scanned the area and noticed with a sinking heart there wasn’t. Reluctantly, I walked towards them. As I was about to set down my purse, the young mother, with bright blue eyes, smiled at me and just like that, I felt a sense of calm envelop me. I suddenly felt at ease with the world.
I gave her an uncertain smile and sat down with my tea. I took a tentative sip and realized, sadly that it was now too sweet. I looked around; I tried hard not to focus on any one thing as I thought back to the conversation I’d had with Alex the night before he’d boarded his flight home. We’d known he would get in late, long after I’d fallen asleep. I always left before him in the mornings so the only time we’d had to coordinate this evening had been then.
“What did the doctor say?” he’d asked in reference to my Ob Gyn appointment earlier that day. “Was it bad news, Sara?” he’d asked after I’d hesitated too long for his liking.
“He hadn’t gotten the results yet,” I’d replied. I hadn’t been able tell him over the phone that I already knew. Alex hadn’t wanted me to go alone to hear the results but I’d been stubborn. I had told him angrily that if he couldn’t return earlier from Chicago, I’d go alone. And I had. Except that when he’d asked me, I hadn’t been able to confess.
We’d been trying for two years. It had taken us eight years of marriage to decide we were ready to be parents only to learn that we’d likely be unable to conceive naturally. I had found myself sinking lower into depression until Alex had finally convinced me we should seek out a fertility expert and yesterday I’d gotten the results.
“I’m glad he didn’t,” Alex had said happily. “We can go tomorrow,” he’d continued.
“We’re going to Mark’s tomorrow for dinner and they invited us over two weeks ago,” I had reminded him.
He’d sighed in response and I had heard when his flight had been announced, ready to begin boarding. Anticipating our hectic day ahead, we’d quickly agreed to meet at Starbucks rather than at the apartment since it was a block closer to Mark and Ana’s apartment building. I’d also known that if Alex went up to the apartment, he wouldn’t want to go out again.
I thought of the small box hidden in my purse and suddenly felt uncertain as to my decision. I looked over at the young couple and wondered if they’d gone through the same gamut of feelings I’d been experiencing when they found out.
“Is this seat taken, ma’am?”
I looked up and smiled. I hadn’t seen Alex come in. His hair was wind-blown and his face flushed from his two-block walk from the T. I took in his gray suit and the baby blue tie I’d given him for his birthday this year.
“I’m waiting for my good-looking husband to join me,” I joked in return, smiling broadly at him.
“Hello, gorgeous,” he said and bent down to gently kiss my lips in greeting. “How was your day, Academic Director?” he asked as he sat across from me, referring to my new position at the university.
“It was good. Saving the world one student at a time,” I replied and took another sip from my too-sweet tea. I grimaced and Alex finally noticed what I was drinking.
“Tea?” he asked and I nodded, wondering how and when to tell him. Should I tell him now? After dinner? In bed?
“Are you feeling, ok?” he prodded.
I nodded again and, as I looked past him into the now mostly empty Starbucks, inspiration struck. “I got Mark and Ana a small gift and I thought it might be too much,” I lied. I reached into my purse and pulled out the small, brown box with a delicate white bow and handed it to Alex. “I want your opinion. Open it,” I encouraged him.
Alex looked at me uncertainly but pulled off the top cover without commenting on my strange request. Nestled inside, over a bed of white tissue paper, was the silver key chain I’d bought on a whim two years ago. The silver disk was delicately engraved: #1 DAD.
Alex stared silently. I sat as still as possible, not wanting to interrupt the thoughts running through his mind.
“Yesterday you said,” he began, still staring at the key chain.
“I lied,” I confessed. I wanted to reach out; hug him. But I knew the shock he was experiencing was the same I’d felt when I’d heard the words I’d been longing to hear for two years. You’re pregnant, Mrs. Williams. I had sat there, staring at Dr. Charles, unable to believe the news.
Alex finally looked at me. In the depths of his brown eyes, behind the sheen of tears, I could see joy, love and fear.
“We’re pregnant,” he finally asked, never looking away. I nodded.
“You’re going to be a father, Alexander Williams,” I stated in as steady a voice as I could manage.
Suddenly, and without preamble, Alex stood up, his chair toppling over as he pulled me up and into his embrace, repeating “I love you, Mrs. Williams” over and over as he peppered my face with kisses.
The shrill tone of his iPhone brought us back to reality. Ignoring the call, he looked at my abdomen and placed his palms against me. “You’ve made me a very happy man, Sofia,” he told me.
I smiled up at him and asked him, “Are you ready?”
“No, but let’s do this,” he answered. He took my hand in his and, placing the box carefully back in my purse, he shouldered it. Wordlessly, he smiled and led the way, never letting go.
It wasn’t his first meatloaf. It wasn’t his first potluck Thanksgiving dinner. It was the first time he hosted. It was the first time he cooked alone with Sara. It was the first time he felt everything was riding on a single evening.
Max was in the kitchen pulling out the ground beef, onions, green bell peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes, olives and coriander he had bought at Shaw’s earlier that day from the fridge and placed them on the bar separating the kitchen from the rest of the apartment. He glanced at the large clock hanging above the sink and saw it was 4:00 already. Sara would be arriving soon. Picking up the remote to the Bose he pressed play and the lyrics to Maroon 5’s new album began to fill the air.
He unlocked the front door, went back into the kitchen to begin dinner. As he pulled out the chopping boards, mixing bowl, and Pyrex from the pantry, Max thought back to when they had met. Sara, Mark, Brian, Stephanie and he had been pushed together by the fates of college orientation. Walking down Massachusetts Avenue behind their orientation leader they had bonded over the Red Sox. The fates had worked once more, housing them all at South Campus. The Iron Lung had become their usual hangout after classes and two years later they had paired off to share apartments off campus: Mark and Brian, Stephanie and Sara. More of a loner, Max had opted for a small loft apartment near the Fens.
Max gathered the rest of the ingredients: the salt, pepper, garlic and Italian herb mix Sara loved. Pulling out the oatmeal, Max thought of how this, their third Thanksgiving, was the most adult-like. Every Thanksgiving, since that first semester, they had gathered and bought whatever they could scrounge up for dinner. Since they’d moved out of the dorms, they’d come up with various excuses to share potluck dinners at any of the three apartments. For Valentine’s Day, since they were all single, they had a friendship potluck dinner. For the season premier of Friends, they’d gotten together and made it an event. Friends had become their excuse every Thursday. Now they argued about which apartment they should go to. Maybe they should all just move in together. That would certainly cut down the arguing, Max thought.
Max was in the kitchen turning on the oven to preheat it when he heard the door to the apartment open. Sara had arrived.
“Hi, Max.” Sara walked over and placed a kiss on his cheek as he washed his hands at the sink. She turned towards the bar top and looked over everything he had laid out. “Looks like you got everything. Are you ready to get started?” Max nodded and went to stand at the counter while she took his place at the sink to wash her hands.
“How was your date last night?” Max asked Sara as she dried her hands. Her hands stilled for the briefest of moments, a pause someone less observant would never have noticed. Max wondered at it.
“Oh, you know. It was ok.” She pulled the Chef’s knife from the wooden block and reached for the bell peppers. “We met at the Iron Lung, had coffee and talked. Nothing extraordinary.” She turned to look at Max as she held up a bell pepper and asked, “Have you washed these yet?”
“No.” Max said as he reached for a utility knife, the chopping board and the pack of mushrooms. “What was his name? Brandon? Branson?” He tried to sound as nonchalant as possible. He’d managed to do so for three years. Why would tonight be any different?
Sara laughed and shook her head. “Brennan. He’s a senior at BC.” She stood next to him and began chopping the bell peppers. Max noticed that she had brought a bowl with near-boiling water and had put the onions to soak.
“I should’ve put the onions in water before you arrived. I forgot.” Sara had told him a while back that a trick to reducing “onion tears” was to place them in boiling water a few minutes before chopping them up. “Remind me how you came to go on a date with Bryson?” Max dumped the mushrooms in the mixing bowl and reached for the coriander to mince.
“Brennan,” she corrected irritably. “He’s Stephanie’s cousin, remember? Brennan’s studying Business and interning at Merrill Lynch this semester.” She reached across him for the mixing bowl and using the knife, transferred the chopped bell peppers from the board to the bowl.
At her tone, Max turned towards her trying to gauge if he had only imagined the hesitation when he’d asked about her date. Had she really had a good time?
Sara could feel his stare but didn’t look up from her chopping. She began working on the olives, meticulously cutting them in fourths as if her friends would realize the olives were not in perfect symmetry.
“So what did you talk about with the big time corporate guy? Did you tell him about your exhibit?” Max could not figure out how Sara could be attracted to someone so different to her. Here he was, a philosophy and literature major, sharing her interests but she inevitably went for the moneymakers. Was she really that superficial? He mentally shook his head. She couldn’t be. He’d known her since day one and knew her dreams—they were not dreams of money and luxury.
Sara sighed audibly, pushing the chopped olives into the mixing bowl. She leaned her hands on the edge of the counter and stared out towards the living room. Sara looked to Max as if she was choosing her words very carefully. He took an onion from the bowl and started to chop.
“We didn’t really talk,” she started. “I was barely able to get two words in all night.” She looked over at Max and held his eyes. “He complained about the coffee, argued in favor of the smoking ban being voted on, and spent pretty much the whole of the two longest hours of my life lecturing me on the wonders of the corporate world.”
Max had to put down the knife he was using and laughed out loud. “Sorry,” he managed to say as he tried to calm down. “Sounds like an awful date,” he continued. “How in the world did you last two hours?”
“Well,” she said chagrined. “I bet Stephanie I could.” With that confession, Max began laughing once more. Sara blushed prettily, nudged Max aside and resumed the chopping of the onions.
As his laughter subsided, Max felt an overwhelming sense of relief. Once more, her attempts at dating someone so different from her had failed. Sara’s earlier pause made sense. It hadn’t really been a date but rather Sara’s attempt at getting Stephanie out of her hair. He looked at her profile and saw how, despite soaking the onions, her eyes were beginning to water. As a tear escaped and rolled down her cheek, Max lifted a finger and wiped the single tear away, letting his hand linger on her cheek a little more than necessary. Sara stilled but kept her eyes on the board. Slowly, Max drew his hand back and turned towards the sink to wash his hands.
“I guess Stephanie thought you’d hit it off with Benson. That way you’d both be family, right? Otherwise, I don’t understand why she’d set you up with a guy like him.” Max could feel the tension rolling off Sara’s body and he wondered, not for the first time, what he’d done wrong. Deciding that the best course of action was to busy himself and try to ride out the tension, he began peeling a garlic head, separating the individual cloves they’d need.
They continued in silence. Sara cut the tomatoes. Max measured out the oatmeal just as Sara had taught him and poured it over the mixture of vegetables in the mixing bowl. Sara pulled out two eggs from the fridge, cracked them open on the edge of the bowl and added them to the bowl. With each new ingredient added, Max could feel the tension between them thicken and he wondered once more what he could’ve done differently. Max opened the 2-lb package of ground beef and dumped them into the bowl.
It was at that moment that Max realized he had forgotten to pull out the Worcestershire sauce and turned left towards the pantry just as Sara turned right towards him. Their bodies collided and they both said “Sorry” at the same moment. They stood facing each other, her 5-2 looking up to his 5-8, without moving.
Max would argue later that, in a moment of pure insanity, he bent down to kiss her, without thinking. Sara would say that she is the one who stood on her tiptoes and placed her lips on his.
It was with their lips locked that Mark, Brian and Stephanie would find them as they opened the door to Max’ apartment. Upon hearing Mark clear his throat, Max and Sara stepped back guiltily while Adam Levine’s voice sang through the speakers, “It was always you // Can’t believe I could not see it all this time, all this time // It was always you.”
She would sit at her computer working until her red-rimmed, hazel eyes would remain open no longer every night. Daylight would slowly turn to darkness and the only light that remained was the glow of the her MacBook. When her eyelids felt like sandpaper sheets, she would close her laptop and the room would be plunged into darkness. Every night she would walk to her bedroom, navigating the obstacles in the dark, not wanting the harshness of the overhead light to intrude in the cloak she’d wrapped herself in.
Every night she collapsed exhausted on the plush mattress of the king-sized bed. It was in the moments before sleep claimed her body, that her exhausted mind would inevitably drift to the empty space next to her. It was only in the darkness that she was forced to think of his abandon. In the harsh reality of day, she was able to forget his parting words. In the shadows of the room they once shared, it was impossible to escape the emptiness he had carved in her soul.
Patrick arrived at the party alone. Mary was working late again. As he greeted his friends and nursed his Corona, he couldn’t get rid of the niggling sensation he’d had for a while that something was off with Mary. Pulling out his iPhone, he saw it was 9:30 and Mary still hadn’t arrived. He pulled up her number and pressed call. As he waited for the call to connect, John appeared.
“Missing the missus?” he asked in a teasing tone. “Put away the phone, Patrick. We haven’t seen you.”
Patrick sighed and ended the unanswered call. “I know. With Mary’s new position, she’s hardly had the energy to go out.” Or do much of anything else, he thought.
“Don’t worry. It’ll pass.” John placed his hand on Patrick’s shoulder and squeezed reassuringly. “Why don’t you come join us in the kitchen? Brian, David and I have converged around the food and beer.”
Patrick glanced at his phone’s screen again. There was still no message or phone call. Pushing his feeling of unease to the back of his mind, he smiled and followed John into the kitchen where Brian and David were arguing over Thursday’s football match.
At midnight, when he walked to the door of their house, he realized that Mary’s car wasn’t parked outside. Throughout the evening, he had consoled himself thinking that she’d gotten out of work, felt too exhausted to join him and had gone straight home. Now, as he walked up the stairs to their bedroom, concern seeped in. Patrick opened the bedroom door, turned on the light and was greeted by emptiness. Using his iPhone he pulled up the Find iPhone application and used Mary’s login information. As the compass moved, locating her iPhone, his imagination let loose. She’d gotten mugged, had had her car and phone stolen and was walking down the streets trying to get home. Her car had broken down, there was no service where she was and couldn’t call. Finally, the phone flashed the location of her phone. He didn’t immediately recognize the location but decided to drive to it and make sure Mary was okay.
As he drove, he kept insisting on the phone, hoping she would finally answer and ease his mind. Google Maps guided him and soon indicated his imminent arrival: “Your destination is coming up on the right.” Patrick slowed and looked up at the building looming. The W stood proud and majestic amongst the other hotels on the road. He rolled the car to a stop and engaged the parking brake. A myriad of thoughts competed with each other through his mind trying to gain his attention. Yet none did as he felt the weight of realization weigh on his heart.
He stared ahead, seeing nothing and was pulled from his reverie when the valet knocked on his window. Patrick rolled down his window in response to the summons. The valet asked if he was staying and once he shook his head no, asked that he drive on. Patrick nodded apologetically, released the brake and began to move forward.
Patrick opened his eyes to the sun streaming into the bedroom. He turned his head and realized Mary hadn’t come home. For a moment, concern entered his thoughts before he remembered. Sighing, he sat up in bed and rubbed his face. Did she cheat on me? Was she at the W last night? What am I going to say to her when I see her? Why hasn’t she called? All these questions and more bombarded his waking thoughts. He reached for his phone on his nightstand and saw there was a missed call from Mary. It was only 7:00. The phone alerted him to an incoming message:
Ran out of battery. Fell asleep at my desk.
I’ll be home after I pick up breakfast. Love you.
Patrick laughed out loud. Her message left no doubt in his mind that his imaginings were not imaginings after all. His hurt disbelief turned to anger. Was their marriage not worth anything to her? Why hadn’t she talked to him? Who had she been with last night? Suddenly, he knew who she had been with last night.
Patrick heard Mary as she opened the door and called out a greeting. “I’m in the kitchen,” he called back.
He sat on a stool at the center island facing the entrance to the kitchen. As she walked in, she placed the grocery bags on the island in front of him, smiled, and went around to place her lips on his in greeting. He didn’t quite know what to say so he just sat following her movements with his eyes. She busied herself unpacking the purchases.
Mary was still wearing the white blouse she had donned the previous morning but was as wrinkled as a balled up sheet of paper instead of the crisp smoothness she insisted her clothes have. He had only to close his eyes to see the blouse in a heap on the carpeted floor, forgotten in her haste to undress. Her hair was pulled back into a messy bun rather than the smooth coiffed look Mary insisted was professional and preferred. Patrick narrowed his eyes as he noticed that even her makeup was more defined. The lines surrounding her eyes starker than the softer ones Mary said made her look younger.
“How does a ham and cheese omelet sound for breakfast?” she asked. He could only nod.
Patrick observed these small changes in her demeanor and wondered how long they’d been there. How had he not noticed? Since she had begun her position as Sales Rep Manager, Mary had come home speaking his praises. At first he’d been Mr. Salazar but had somehow become Adam in the ensuing days.
“I can’t believe you fell asleep at your desk last night,” he began. “They’re working you to the ground, Mary,” he continued. “The guys asked about you last night. They’ve missed us.”
“I know,” she answered. “There was a late meeting and we stayed late working on the new marketing campaign. Adam and I stayed to go over the strategies I need to present next week to the sales representatives. The big bosses are really placing a lot of pressure on Adam and his team to increase the sale numbers.” She pulled out the “omelet pan” they had bought when they had first moved in together four years ago. As she began preparing the omelet, Patrick couldn’t hold it in anymore.
“How could you?” he yelled accusingly. Mary turned to look at him clearly shocked out at his outburst. “I know you were with Adam at the W last night.” Her shock turned to disbelief and her demeanor grew pale. That was all the answer he needed. He got up and walked around the island to stand next to her. “I don’t care if last night was the first time. I want you out of the house,” he said calmly into her ear. He stepped back from her and saw the tears streaming down her face. “You broke my heart, Mary.” Patrick walked out of the kitchen without a backward glance and walked up the stairs to their bedroom.
It was a typical Saturday September afternoon on the Fens. The Red Sox were playing and the streets surrounding Fenway Park were crowded. Young and old, people walked the sidewalks and spilled onto Boylston on their way to the Yawkey Way entrance. Chaos ruled the streets prior to the seven o’clock game.
Oblivious to the hordes walking past her, Andrea stood across the street looking at the pharmacy’s entrance. She stood there, trying to muster up the courage to cross Boylston. She’d put this off long enough. Taking a deep breath, she waited for the walk sign, shoving her hands deep into her jeans’ pockets while she hunched over deeper into her Emmanuel sweatshirt. As she crossed, the evening winds picked up chilling her and forcing her to walk a little faster towards the other side.
The automatic doors opened and Andrea crossed the threshold before losing her nerve and grabbed a basket. She walked down the aisles, not really paying attention to what she was dropping into it.
After three turns through the aisles, Andrea steeled herself and stood in the Family Health aisle staring at the shelves. Why were there so many options? How was she supposed to know if she wanted the, “Early Result” or the brand that boasted to be, “the most accurate”? She stood there for a few minutes before grabbing the pink box with two tests and hurrying towards the cashier.
Placing the items from the basket on the counter, Andrea saw what she had grabbed and snorted in ironic disbelief: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, September’s Cosmo, and Kleenex. A sign? She looked up and faced the cashier who gave Andrea a knowing look. The screen lit up with a total of $37.99. Andrea quickly pulled out a $50 dollar bill from her pocket and tapped her foot impatiently while the cashier slowly counted out the change, unaware of the long line forming behind Andrea. Murmuring a quick, “Thank you,” Andrea shoved the change into her sweatshirt’s pocket and walked briskly towards the exit.
As the doors slid open, Andrea stopped, not walking out into the Boston night. Anxiety overcame her. Would anyone who happened to glance at the bag see the pink box and recognize it? What would that stranger think of her? Andrea knew she didn’t look 35, especially not dressed in jeans, a worn sweatshirt and Converse. She thought of the look the cashier had given her and cringed at the obvious conclusion she had drawn. Without another thought, she pulled out the box and quickly hid it with her change as she stepped into the cool evening.
With the bag hooked over her arm, and her hands in the pockets of her sweatshirt, Andrea walked the two blocks to the apartment she lived in with Frank. They’d been living together for six years. Marriage seemed to be the next likely step but they were happy. Why rock the boat? Until her period hadn’t come on time. Two weeks of waiting, Andrea had finally decided it was time to find out. She’d waited until Frank had gone to watch the game with some friends at a bar to walk to the pharmacy. Frank and she enjoyed their singles’ life: travelling, going out to dinner and bars with their friends. Was that all about to change?
Andrea found herself outside their building on 11 Peterborough Street. If they were pregnant, would they continue to live there? Their apartment was a one-bedroom with a view of the Green Monster. It was enough for two, but it wouldn’t be for three. That thought seemed to sober her up and she walked to the elevator without even bothering to check for mail. The short ride up to the 4th floor was done in silence with no other company than her own swirling thoughts. As she walked towards her apartment, Andrea could feel panic begin to grip her once more and she began taking deep, calming breaths before reaching the door. She pulled out the key from her pocket and opened the door. Silence greeted her and she let out the breath she hadn’t realized she was holding in. Frank hadn’t returned to the apartment unexpectedly.
Without bothering with the lamps, Andrea dropped her keys on the San Francisco tray on the dining room table and walked down the hall to the bathroom. She emptied her pockets before pulling off her sweatshirt and throwing it in the laundry basket. Andrea couldn’t see the pink box clearly in the shadows of the bathroom but stared at it as if it were a snake about to strike. If her friends saw her now, they wouldn’t recognize her. Andrea was always cool and collected. She didn’t panic and took every situation in stride. She flipped on the light and looked at herself clearly in the mirror. Andrea didn’t recognize herself. Wisps of hair had come undone from her usual, neat ponytail. The white t-shirt she wore was in direct contrast to the blouses she habitually wore. What frightened her most was the unnerved look in her brown eyes. If the eyes were the windows to a person’s soul, her eyes were definitely reflecting the turmoil of her thoughts.
Andrea took a deep breath and with determination ripped open the box, pulled out the instructions and began reading. As she read, she was plagued by doubts once more. Was she ready? Would Frank be happy? Did she want to give up her life, as she knew it?
Before losing her nerve, Andrea stepped over to the toilet, the test in her hand. Ok, she thought, only five seconds. Andrea peed and counted. One, one thousand. Two, one thousand. Whoever said peeing on a stick was easy had clearly never done so. Three, one thousand. Was she doing this right? Four, one thousand. Jeez, this is messy. Five, one thousand. She cut a few squares of toilet paper and placed them on the ledge of the bathtub before placing the test on it. All she had to do now was wait three minutes.
Andrea flushed and washed her hands. As she dried her hands she stared at the stick and realized that she had place it with the results window face down. Subconsciously she didn’t want to know. She put down the toilet seat cover and sat to wait. She felt terrified. She was excited. Too many conflicting emotions.
“Hello?” Frank called out from the entrance. Andrea didn’t answer but looked at her watch. Less than a minute left.
“Hi.” Andrea looked up to see Frank standing at the entrance to the bathroom. His eyes took in the test and then looked back to Andrea. His eyes were full of questions
“The three minutes are almost up,” Andrea said in way of explanation. He still didn’t say anything.
“May I?” he asked. Andrea nodded as he took the test. He pulled her up and put an arm around her as he turned the test so they could both see the results window at the same time. Two solid pink lines appeared. Andrea gasped.
“Is that a yes?” Frank asked. Andrea nodded. He hugged her more closely and kissed her.
A good reminder
There are two types of smart students. There are smart students and then there are book smart students- those who live, breathe and regurgitate textbook facts and have little analytical skills. These are not the smart ones; they just act as if they are.
Yet there are smart students who can take textbook information and take it apart, question it, and ultimately provide new insight beyond the clichéd ideas of the day.
These students fall into two categories: the vocal ones and the quiet ones.
The vocal ones are competing for participation time with the textbook smart students. Their contributions are those that further class discussions, that lead down a seemingly unthinkable path but that ultimately provide greater insight. However, since they’re constantly competing, seeking approval, just like the booksmart students, they can get on your nerves and become annoying.
Then there are the quiet ones. Those that sit in a middle row, quietly, day after day, rarely contributing to class discussions. Yet their unique take on the various subjects discussed in class comes through clearly in the essays written over the course of the semester.
You never know the impact you can have on these students. Are you getting through? Are they listening? Are you challenging them?
It’s not until you get stopped in the hallway and are thanked for the letter of recommendation letter you wrote which they assure you played a role In their college acceptance. It’s not until they come back from visiting colleges and give you a green thermos because it’s your favorite color even if they’re no longer going to that college. It’s not until graduation day when the parents purposefully seek you out because they have to meet the teacher who so influenced their child. It’s all the little clues that, as you’re conversing with the parents, come together and make you realize you made a difference in the most unexpected and unlikely student.