The past two and half years of motherhood have been hard, like boot camp without boots or driving a Porsche without hands. It could also be viewed as a close second to climbing Everest in high heels with only one Pashmina and generic bottled water. You can do it, but depending on the tools and the temperament you possess, it could very well be, one huge, shit sandwich, a collection of days that look and smell like the bargain bin at St. Vincent DePaul’s annual sidewalk sale.
Do not misunderstand me. There have been wondrous moments of joy I never knew I could experience. Otto’s first night sleeping more than three hours comes to mind. As does the day he gave my knockers the Heisman and weaned himself after taking half my nipple with him in his newly cut teeth. When he uttered his first word, “Duck” at nine months and decided to wait another year until saying anything again. That was hilarious and fun, especially when our douche doctor insinuated that his lack of verbal skills could be something terrible, without even examining him or remembering his name. O-T-T-O, a palindrome you idiot! Same forwards as backwards, dick stick! Not hard.
But these sparkling gems were always sandwiched between two stale pieces of sprouted wheat bread, the kind that have the texture and taste of a discarded, recyclable shoebox. I always thought it was sleep deprivation, lack of short-term memory and overall frumpiness that caused this time to be so trying for me. But after a long, holiday weekend, peppered with a mild anxiety attack, a lethal margarita and a perfect score in Olympic vomiting, I realized what the problem was.
I have spent Otto’s entire life sweating the small stuff, the tiniest of troubles that have spun me into a sailor’s knot of psychosis. Does he like me? Do I like him? Did he just shit? Did his hand touch his shit? Did his hand touch the floor or did the floor molest his hand? What’s that fart noise? Oh shit, was that a shit or a shart? Shit, was that me? Am I incontinent? What if he shits on my new Target t-shirt or sharts on the ugly green/brown sofa we bought at Crate and Barrel in a fit of panic, stupidity and mediocrity? Can shit kill? Is there a three-second rule with shit? What’s that in his mouth? Shit, that’s his tongue! What if he chokes on his tongue or his gums or his thumbs? What if he chokes on a Cheerio? What if a Cheerio lodges in throat and causes him to sound like Mike Tyson for the remainder of his life? What if Mike Tyson is his real father and I have no recollection of that fateful encounter with that face tattoo at the Burger King on West Adams and Pico? What’s that noise? Is that someone at the door? What if Otto wakes up? Who’s breathing so loud? What if I murder the neighbor for breathing? Will I be charged with manslaughter or be found innocent due to the psycho mother insanity clause? Will the prison guards make me wake up in the middle of the night to feed Otto? Wait, will he even be in prison with me or will he be at school lying to the kids that his mommy is in heaven, not in the Big House? If so, will I quickly acclimate to prison life and get that much needed vacation, reading long passages of the New Testament while being forcible broom raped by a women whose first name is Doug?
And that’s just before leaving the house. When I felt brave and bold, I would step outside with Otto and hear neighbors whisper, “Look, there’s that noise Nazi, Dotty and cute, little Otto and… four mismatched tote bags of used, macho baby clothes, seven toy cars, four trains, a case of bottled water, a satchel of snacks worthy of the Costco cereal aisle and enough diaper cream to cover every asshole from here to Missoula. And that outfit! Oh right. I forgot. She played Junior Varsity softball in 1985 and hates primping.
For two and half years I have fought an enemy I thought I recognized. I always seemed to think it was Otto’s crap-filled pants or his nap schedule or his feeding time or his play dating. If I left the house with dishes in the sink, I was a failure, laundry in the hamper, a loser and no hand sanitizer, an abomination of a mother. I complained I had no help while those who did have it, complained to me. I craved a dramatic, CNN.com, murder-suicide, killing the complainers and then shooting myself with the same loaded rifle. I wanted what I did not have and wanted no part of what they did have. I ran from one appointment to another, a crazy ball of tension, worried that the world of feigned importance I had so carefully created would implode into a pile of soggy, soiled diaper wipes if I were five minutes off schedule.
The enemy, it turns out, was simply time. Time I spent running and racing and seething instead of stopping and sitting and breathing. I want to not worry about being late while I walk slowly down the street and watch Otto dig his little mitts into a pile of worm-infested dirt and not hose him down like a Selma, Alabama fire marshal. I want to sit in my awesome, old apartment, the one so many people told me that I could not possibly have a child in, and read a sticky, yogurt-covered book to Otto while a car alarm farts a song that I do not hear. I want to remember how wonderful it was when Otto took his first steps, smashed his first Agassi forehand into my forehead, told his first knock-knock joke and first cooked pancakes with his ever-present, Wonderdad. I want the memories to be invigorating, not exhausting. I want to remember the laughing, not the crying. I want less anger and more patience. I want less judgment and more juvenile behavior. I want to put my left foot in and put my left foot out and put my left foot in and shake it all about. And do the Hokey Pokey and turn myself around. Isn’t that what it’s all about?