Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Just Because

because it's

Spring
thingS

dare to do people
(& not
the other way

round)because it
's A
pril

Lives lead their own
persons(in
stead

of everybodyelse's)but
what's wholly
marvellous my

Darling
is that you &
i are more than you
& i(be

ca
us

e It's we)
~ e. e. cummings
.....................................

Monday, March 29, 2010

Spring Gleaning

On Saturday, with much help from my dad and a little from Westley, I did my first real yard work. When we first moved, back in December, I tried a little raking. But the "leavings" (buh-dum-chh!) from the four big poplars behind the house had clearly gone untouched for several seasons. It was more than I and my flimsy rake could manage on our own.

Now, several falls' worth of leaves, along with all manner of weeds and dead branches are stuffed into a bin labeled "yard waste." And what doesn't fit in the bin is oh-so-neatly piled in the back yard. I'm kicking myself for not taking "before" and "after" photos, because the effect of our outdoor spring cleaning is incredible. (I suppose I could still take "after" photos, but it's currently gray and wet outside, which doesn't seem particularly spring-like.)

As I raked and hoed and forked (dandelions), I kept finding things hiding in the weeds. And not just fat earthworms, either. There was holly! Tulips! A rosebush! And...is that?

"It looks like you have rhubarb here," my dad said, pointing to a patch of dirt.

Wow. All of these beautiful things, masked by old, dead leaves. It was incredibly satisfying to see the change, and also strangely inspiring.

"I need to spring-clean my life," I told Rob that evening.

I need to break some bad habits, and re-establish good ones. I need to stop sleeping in my make-up. I need a bedtime. I need to take my vitamins instead of leaving them sitting on the counter like nutritional good-luck charms. But mostly, I need to get rid of the clutter. There's the clutter that seems to grow like mold throughout the house. And because I'm home so much of the time, I have lots of time to be driven crazy by it. Unfortunately, the most pernicious, crazy-making clutter is all in my head.

I wish I had gardening tools for my mind. Something that could pull out negative thought-patterns by the roots and clear them away. Or maybe I have the tools already, but it's going to take more than me, alone with my rake to get the job done.

.....................................

Friday, March 26, 2010

Gurney Humor

I am short-waisted with a long torso, something I re-discover about my body every time I try to buy a dress (or - help me, Mary - a bathing suit). When I was pregnant this meant that I didn't look all that pregnant until about the 8-month mark. It also meant that Westley had room to stretch out.

"You've got a lot of space in there," one student midwife said, examining me. "You could carry twins, no problem!"

Well, not exactly no problem.

Finding out that I have a bicornuate uterus (my official diagnosis as of yesterday evening, though who knows how accurate that is) right when Rob and I were not-so-tentatively planning to ditch our birth control later this year shakes things up. My pregnancy-planning apple cart has totally been upset. In fact, now that the thing has capsized, I'm not even sure it was an apple cart in the first place! More like a rickshaw. Full of artichokes.

Which is to say I'll have a lot of questions for the specialist my doctor has referred me to - if I can ever get an appointment to see her.

While I'm waiting in appointment-scheduling Limbo, I can't help but think of my ladypart insides like a duplex. "I should have twins," I think (as though I had any real control over that): "One in each uterine cavity!"

Of course, then they'd come out and want their own rooms right off the bat.

.....................................

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

IUD, WTF, OMG

I thought I was so brilliant for choosing an IUD. Unfortunately, most of the medical professionals I spoke to in my quest for long-term, hassle-free, non-hormonal, effective birth control were not easily convinced of my brilliance.

I repeatedly explained that I was in a long-distance relationship, but that my dude-person and I were getting married in six five four months. I explained that I did not want to use barrier methods, and that I didn't feel comfortable with the idea of artificial hormones. That my future husband and I were both healthy and infection-free and that we wanted children someday just not right away and I've done my research and know that insertion is going to hurt and I can deal with it so will you please, please put a copper-wrapped plastic T in my uterus so I can have consequence-free sex with my husband?

Because I was 22 and had never had the kind of sex that can get you pregnant a child, most of the health care providers I spoke with refused my request. One woman, after examining me and ostensibly listening to my history and list of birth control "wants" and "do not wants" suggested, "Have you thought about using condoms?" As though I'd never heard of them. (Never mind that condoms fall into the already-rejected "barrier method" category.)

It took some serious doctor-shopping and several very uncomfortable women's-clinic visits, but I was finally able to find a doctor who was willing to trick out my uterus with a shiny new ParaGard IUD. My new OB-Gyn BFF was also willing to really listen, and he somehow managed not to talk down to me despite my being a college student and his being a doctor. Amazing! (If I could have taken him to Seattle with me when I moved so he could be my doctor forever and ever, I totally would have.) Thank you, Dr. Patton. You rock.

The IUD made my periods heavier. I knew that this could happen, especially with the ParaGard, but I'd been suspicious. Why? My periods have always been very heavy, and I guess I thought there had to be some sort of limit. No one makes a "super plus plus" tampon. But it turns out that IUD-plus-me results in periods of WTF-proportions.

So I had semi-hassle-free birth control. Whatever. And, as promised, the IUD was super-effective at preventing pregnancy.

It's no secret what happened when I had the IUD removed just to "see what would happen." I had one (alarmingly late) IUD-less period before Westley was conceived.

"What are you planning to do about birth control after the baby is born?" my midwife asked during one of my final clinic visits.

When I mentioned thinking about having a new ParaGard put in at the earliest opportunity, she was very enthusiastic: "Do it!" Hippie-dippy, crunchy-granola Seattle midwives are passionate about IUDs, it would seem.

With my midwife's blessing upon me, I went in for IUD-insertion numero dos when Westley was two months old. It was a breeze. I left Planned Parenthood feeling very pleased with myself for being so responsible.

A year later, I was sitting in the doctor's office, filling out paperwork, trying to cram my symptoms onto the three lines available under "Please describe below." Persistent, debilitating low back pain. Fatigue. Pelvic pain. Periods lasting 9 or 10 days.

The fatigue was more or less resolved with diet and exercise. The low back pain didn't respond to physical therapy, and the effect of acupuncture was minimal. And my periods were getting worse: 14 days of bleeding and pain so bad that walking was a challenge.

Finally, this past Monday, I had a pelvic ultrasound. I was expecting them to find something growing on the back of my uterus, pressing into my back. Possibly a fibroid, since they seem to be an issue for the women in my family. Of course, it could be something else. A tumor. Rob and my mother both suspect endometriosis, but that's hard to check for. And then it's possible that it's "nothing."

I lay on my back, staring at the wall-mounted TV screen, wishing the ultrasound technician would tell me what was going on but feeling too nervous to say anything. Instead, I told her a little about Westley and the cute things he says. I mentally flip-flopped between hoping the technician would find something and hoping she would find nothing.

When I scheduled the appointment, I forgot to ask if the ultrasound would be transabdominal or transvaginal. It turned out to be first one, and then the other. The abdominal ultrasound was easy, though I felt lost at sea, watching the black and gray swirls on the screen. When the technician got to the transvaginal part of the exam, she was very quiet.

I'm daydreaming, trying to relax and ignore the probing of the camera-wand, when she asks, "Have you ever had this done before? What I'm doing now?"

"No." My First Vaginal Ultrasound, by Mattel.

More silence. Black and gray blobs on the screen. Something looks vaguely circular, but as soon as I decide it's there, it disappears. I stop looking for shapes.

"Has anyone ever commented on the shape of your uterus?"

What a strange thing to ask. "No. Just that it's over to the right side."

After another minute or two, she leaves to get the doctor. After a minute, the ultrasound technician comes back into the room alone to take a few more pictures. I try not to feel the magic-camera-wand. "Where is the doctor?" she wonders out loud to herself. She doesn't sound relaxed. I make the scared part of myself to calm down.

Finally, the doctor arrives. She's very pleasant. Kind of jolly and maternal. She takes over with the magic-camera-dildo-wand and tells me to rest my knee on her side. It's nice to have some human contact; everything is momentarily less scary and clinical. As I move my leg slightly, I'm suddenly aware of how tense and cold my feet are.

The doctor looks at the screen, and then at me. She's still very pleasant. Cheerful, even. "It looks like you have a duplicated uterus."

The words echo in my head.

"Okay," I say, like this makes sense to me. I can feel my mind trying to process. Duplicated uterus. That must mean--

"What that means is you have one uterus...with two separate cavities."

"Okay." Oh, God.

"Your IUD is in the right cavity."

"Uh-huh." I don't like where this is going. I really don't like where this is going.

"Your left cavity is...unprotected."

Just like that, my 99.9% effective birth control is more like 50-50. But I can't focus on my coin-flip fertility for long. My head is spinning. I'm not pregnant now, am I? Is that what they're going to tell me next?

No, no. Not pregnant. The doctor is saying something about my possibly having two cervices also. Though she says "cervixes." "I think you do." But I'd need an exam to confirm that. The doctor finishes up with, "So we'll fax this report over to your doctor, and be sure to use an alternate method of birth control. An IUD might not be the best choice for you."

"Right." I try to laugh.

Duplicated uterus. My mind is repeating it, so I don't forget. "A duplicated uterus? Is that what it's called?" That sounded like my voice, asking for clarification.

"Yes," the doctor says, and quickly offers a slightly more in-depth explanation, throwing in the words bicollis and didelphys (which I will be surprised to realize I remember a few hours later).

The doctor leaves, the technician leaves. I get dressed in the dark, feeling disoriented, and hollow.

Usually when I have two of something that I'm only supposed to have one of, it's desserts. Or glasses of wine. Or Aleve tablets for my excruciating back pain (which, come to think of it, having a duplicated uterus doesn't really explain). Rob and Westley are waiting for me in the lobby, and I can't decide what I'll say when I see them. I wish I had a picture of it. All I can think about is circus sideshows.

At least it's not bad news. But it's not exactly good news, either.

Waiting for the elevator, listening to Rob narrate the saga of Westley-and-Rob-wait-for-Mommy. I still haven't told Rob anything other than, "I have something to tell you. It's nothing bad." I'm not even sure if it's nothing bad. The doctor sure made it sound all normal-variation-y and not freaky-scary-dangerous.

I notice that the woman waiting next to us is holding a little ultrasound photo. She's smiling quietly at the shiny black and gray blobs. Her midsection looks soft and round.

I suddenly feel incredibly freakish and alone.

.....................................

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Rad Bromance

The older Westley gets, the more I notice his relationship with Rob growing into something really special. It's obvious that these guys are crazy about each other. They already have special games they play together, and there are songs that only Daddy sings. They call each other "buddy" and give high-fives. They may or may not be working on a secret handshake.

While there may not be a "No Girls [backwards R] Allowed" sign on the playroom door, I'm feeling kind of left out. And more than a little jealous. In fact, despite what I recently told Westley about boys and girls, I've decided that the next time around, I want to be the dad.

I tend to think of my time with Westley in terms of work. It's not entirely unpleasant work, but most often, I experience caring for my son as "doing my job." However, when I watch Rob with Westley, I immediately think, "That looks like fun."

A few nights ago, I was putting away dinner dishes and looked out the sliding glass door to see Rob and Westley chasing each other around the yard, laughing hysterically. It looked like a game of hide-and-seek that had been modified to involve more happy shrieking and less actual hiding. Something that (apparently) they had just invented. I felt mildly envious, and a touch sad: I never think of anything cool like that.

Being a dad looks like it's awesome. Rob seems to have so much energy to devote to Westley. Even when Rob's been sick, or has had a bad night, or has put in lots of overtime, he always has ideas for games. And when he's even moderately rested, he's truly up for anything. Throw Westley up in the air over and over again? Awesome. Play outside in the freezing cold? You bet! Read the entire 368-page "George and Martha" collection in one sitting? Of course!

So it's no surprise that Westley adores his dad, really. Whenever Rob has something to do around the house, whether it's a gluten-free baking project or a trip to the bathroom, Westley is all, "Ah munna help you, Da-dee!" Last night at bedtime, I tried to read Westley My Mommy, a book I discovered we owned while cleaning out the playroom. Just a few lines in, Westley said, "Read My Daddy!" I knew it was silly to be offended, but it still stung (though admittedly, Westley's choice is the better of the two books, by far).

Westley still cries for Mommy. Always. If he falls down, or gets his heart broken, it's me alone that he wants to snuggle, me that he needs to kiss the hurt away. But for just about everything else? Daddy is it!

While I do not-so-secretly wish that my relationship with Westley were more like Rob's, ultimately my envy is overshadowed by gratitude. I am so thankful that Westley has a father he can feel so close to (because I know too well that not everyone does). Furthermore, I feel ridiculously fortunate to have a partner who takes so seriously his parenting role.

One thing I truly admire about Rob is that, when Westley was born, he made a commitment to be a Good Father. I don't think he had a clear image of what a Good Father might look like (apart from "don't break the baby, dude!"), but he went for it anyway. He worked at it. Every day, Rob chooses to enjoy the time he has with his little boy. Why wouldn't Westley have crazy-huge affection for a Daddy like that?

(Still, I'm totally going to see if Westley and I can come up with a secret handshake before Rob gets to it.)

.....................................

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Single Parent Time

Tomorrow evening, Rob leaves for his third business trip in three and a half weeks. And I had to look at the calendar just now to confirm that it's only been about three weeks, because it seems like he's been coming and going in taxis, on planes, forever.

My sense of time is all out of whack when Rob is gone. On the phone with my dad, I'll start a cute-kid anecdote - "The other day, Westley--" - and realize that "the other day" was really only yesterday. Though it seems like a week ago. Two weeks, even.

When I'm on my own with Westley, time slows down, or stretches out. Somehow, there's more of it; an hour is longer than 60 minutes. But of course there's not enough time to get everything done. I tuck Westley in, say goodnight, and then look around the house. So many things need attention, the same as always. But now more than ever, my head fills with adages and cliches: "If you want something done, do it yourself." "A woman's work is never done." "I'll rest when I'm dead." (Because if I rest now, I'll just have to make breakfast in a dirty kitchen tomorrow morning.)

I fill the days with as many things as I can, both to amuse Westley and also to keep my mind off the slow, stretched-out passage of time. We go to the grocery store in our old neighborhood, because they have a little rooster tchotchke on the deli counter that Westley likes to look at. I drive home the long way, so we get to hear more music in the car. We sit together and read stacks and stacks of books. Books for days.

As I'm caring for Westley solo, I'm intensely aware that I am lucky. My partner will come home. I have a partner who is alive and involved and awesome, with whom I share a home and a bed and a bank account and a life. This alone-ness - this on-my-own-ness - is completely temporary.

I am in awe of people who do this alone, all day every day. Or even all day most days. It's such a relief to me, during my most difficult days at home, to remember that I'm not really in this alone. Under normal circumstances, regardless of what it feels like, my husband is at work (20 minutes away), and will be home for dinner. Not having that parenting partner, that second adult within "hey-can-you-come-home-for-lunch"-calling distance, slows down my internal sense of time more than anything else.

And it's not just my clock that takes a beating. Rob's first comment, after arriving home late Saturday night and spending all of Sunday morning playing with Westley, was, "He's bigger and has so many more words than the last time I saw him!" And today I noticed my husband's hair looking grayer than (I think) it did a week ago.

Temporary or not, single parent time just takes longer.

.....................................

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Alikes II

A few days ago, Westley kind of hobbled down the hall, sort of clutching at his torso, looking semi-miserable.

"What's up, punky?" I asked him.

His response was completely forlorn: "Oh, I no fee' good today."

Before "What did he just say?" had finished forming in my mind, "Oh, shit" took its place.

That's me, I realized, somewhat horrified. I say that. He's doing a perfect impression of me!

I've begun more days than I would like by shuffling painfully into the kitchen and answering Rob's, "Good morning. How are you?" with a weary, "Ugh. I don't feel good today." I knew it was getting to be something of a regular occurrence. But it never crossed my mind that Westley would notice.

I write pretty frequently about Westley's language. My mother is (professionally) fascinated by language-acquisition, and some of her interest has definitely rubbed off on me. It's hard not to get enthusiastic about the whole process, really. I mean, how is it possible that these brand-new people make any kind of sense of the language we use around them, let alone learn to use it themselves? It feels very magical, very science-fictiony, except that I'm watching (listening to) it happen around me on a daily basis.

Since the "no fee' good" declaration, I've been on a mission to identify the source of Westley's words and phrases. Some (all right, many) of the things he says come from the books we read to him and the handful of videos he watches. But more and more of what comes out of Westley's mouth came out of Rob's or my mouth first. In fact, I'm quickly discovering that if Westley says something that drives me absolutely crazy, it was probably Rob he heard it from.

Westley often uses "do you wanna" to make a request. "Do you wanna pway wif me inna pwaywoom?" [Do you want to play with me in the playroom?] actually means, "Would you play with me in the playroom?" It drives me crazy, because, nine times out of ten, I don't "wanna" do whatever it is Westley is asking me to do right when he's asking me to do it. I'm usually in the middle of something I "hafta" do...or else there will be no clean diapers or hot dinner (never mind what I actually want to be doing).

I was at the eye-gouging stage of the phrase, where I was sure that if I heard, "Mommy, do you wanna..." one more time I was going to injure myself seriously enough that the pain would be louder my son's voice, when heard Rob: "Westley, do you wanna play in the backyard for a while?"

"Ah ha!" I practically pounced on my husband. "It's you! You say 'do you wanna'!"

Rob was appropriately puzzled at my outburst, and pulled his best it's-not-my-fault-that-you're-crazy,-woman face.

I managed to calmly, coolly, explain that Westley was making me insane by repeating "do you wanna" forty-thousand times a day, and would you please not phrase things that way, because then it creates too many negotiations, especially over things that shouldn't really be negotiations because he's two and you're however old you are now, and anyway, you're the dad and I know you want to be diplomatic about things but being the dad means being in charge so if it's not up for discussion would you just say, "Hey, Westley, it's time to play in the backyard, buddy!"?

Ahem.

Naturally, the whole "watch how you phrase things" came back to bite me good and hard when, just a few hours later, Westley repeated the following:

"Oh, shit!"
"Damn, girl!"
"Will you stop scratching your balls?"

Oh, yes. All mine.
.....................................

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Alikes

I love spotting family resemblance. It always surprises and delights me when children look like their biological parents. Even though I know basically how genetics works--and by "basically" I mean that makes logical sense to my non-scientific mind that if you take building blocks from one person and put them together with building blocks from someone else, the end result looks kind of like both people. I'm so pleased when I can spot "his mother's eyes" or "her father's smile."
Before Westley was born, I was insanely curious about who he would look like. I tried to mash up Rob's and my features in my head, tried to mentally merge our kindergarten photos. I was pretty sure any children of ours would have pale skin; Rob glows in the dark, and my foundation shade should be called "Pasty Cline."

Pale parents-to-be, August 2007

Apart from a complexion requiring SPF 35-zillion, no other features stood out immediately. And so much for the better, really. Because when Westley was born, of course he looked exactly like...himself!
January 2008, 1 month old

February 2010, 26 months old

While I certainly wasn't expecting to give birth to a little clone of myself, I really thought I would see more of "me" (and my husband) in Westley. Of course, newborns don't really look like anything but newborn babies. But looking at Westley now, I still don't really see much of me. I know his blonde hair and blue eyes must have been my contribution, and he's got my big ol' sticky-outy ears for sure (sorry about that, dude). Also, Westley is tall, which I figure I'm responsible for. Occasionally, Westley will pull a face that looks just like Rob, but it's really hard to see the father-son resemblance behind Rob's facial hair and grown-up-man features.

At play gym recently, I was talking to another mother about Westley. "Is he yours?" she asked, sounding surprised.

"Yes," I said. And then, gesturing to the sleeping baby strapped to my chest in the Ergo, "She's not. But he is."
The woman was briefly confused, and then (when I explained that I was one child's mother and the other's nanny) embarrassed. I was embarrassed, too, both at having unintentionally embarrassed someone else, and also realizing my strong desire to have my child look like me. As much as I want him to be his own person, I really want people to know he's mine, just looking at him: "Well, that must be his mother."

Because I totally am. I mean, it's rainy and overcast and we're both wearing sunscreen!

.....................................

Friday, March 5, 2010

Bobo À Go-go

As I was looking through recent photos of Westley*, I noticed that one little thing kept "ruining" the shots. In a solid third of the pictures, Westley's mouth is partially or completely obscured by a pacifier, or "bobo" as it's known in our house.

Bobo here...
...bobo there...
...bobo, bobo everywhere!

I don't really object to Westley using a pacifier. Except that I kind of do. Honestly, I'm still kind of torn on the whole "to pacifier or not to pacifier" thing. On the one hand, Westley really wanted to suck all the time when he was a baby, and I think the pacifier helped him sleep better and for more hours at a time. Awesome, right? On the other hand, both Westley's pediatrician and my midwife gave me "why would you want to do that?" answers when I asked about introducing a pacifier. If I'd been wearing my ovaries on the outside at the time, I might have said, "So my tits can get a fucking break!" but I wasn't, and didn't. I do think the bobo saved a little of my sanity; it meant that, once in a while, Westley would nap somewhere other than on my body. But that's awfully selfish, isn't it? And I do kind of worry about setting him up for a future of chain smoking and nail-biting and binge-eating.

So I'm a pacifier fence-sitter. I'm paci-curious.

If I'm truly honest with myself, however, I have to admit that my biggest issue with the bobo is aesthetic. Of course, I completely dread bobo-weaning. It seems worse that weaning-weaning, somehow. But we'll cross that rickety-ass-bridge-over-a-lake-of-cyborg-shark-infested-lava when we come to it. Right now, I'm just sick to death of looking at (not to mention looking for) the cursed thing!

I mean, it's not cute. Especially not the one Westley uses. I made the mistake once of staring into the hallow bottom of the bobo while Westley was sucking on it. At first watching the action of his mouth compressing the paci nipple got me thinking about squids and jellies and pleasant underwater things. But the view quickly turned into a Lovecraftian glass-bottom boat tour as I imagined the same action taking place with my nipple. Definitely not cute.

The bobo really cramps the whole "big boy" vibe that Westley is starting to give off. As much as I'm glad that he has something other than my breast that helps him when he's overly tired or sick or hurt, I feel like he's too old to be using a pacifier. It's especially weird to me that Westley and the five-month-old baby girl I nanny for use the exact same type of pacifier. I mean, shouldn't he have graduated from the "newborn" model, at least?

Of course, I know that despite what I think when I look at him (or lift him), Westley's not a big boy. I'm reminded of this every time I take him to the park or to play gym and watch the four-year-olds charge around. Westley still has a lot of baby in him, and that's great! As challenging as two-year-old Westley can be, I'm in no kind of hurry for him to grow up. The pacifier won't be around forever. I know he'll give up the bobo when he's good and ready to give it up.

I just wish he'd take it out of his adorable mouth a little more often. That sweet little-boy smile won't be around forever, either.

*I promise that I have every intention of uploading all of these photos to Flickr. I am completely aware (and more than a slightly embarrassed) that my most recent photos are from Halloween last year.

.....................................

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Disbelief, Still

It happens every night, when Rob and I go into Westley's room to tuck him in. If it's been a good night, a few hours have passed between my saying, "Night-night, Westley. See you in the morning. Mommy loves you," and now. Just enough time, in fact, for me to all but forget that I have a child.

I marvel for a moment at his sleeping sweetness, then pull any non-stuffed toys out of his crib and snug the blankets in around him. Sometimes he shifts and heaves a big sigh. Sometimes not.

It's not until after I leave Westley's bedroom and close the door behind me that it hits. There is a small, sleeping person in my house. Because he lives here, with me. And I made him.

I used to have the same thought process happen with the kitties (except for the "making" part). I'd watch them sashay down the hall or hunt an invisible bug, and it would occur to me that there were animals living in my house. And that I brought them here on purpose. They don't really do much, except make messes, and yet, I continue to feed, clean up after, and otherwise care for them.

Five years later, I'm more or less used to the idea that I have animals living with me. (And I say "more or less" because writing that just now, I thought, "Yeah, it's totally weird that I can see a cat from where I'm sitting.") But two-and-a-quarter years later, having a child--a new-to-this-planet person--in the house still seems as bizarre and unbelievable as it did months ago.


"When am I going to get used to the idea that he's here now?" I ask Rob (who does not suffer from nightly bouts of incredulity with regard to our son).

Rob shrugs. "Probably right around the time he moves out."

I try very hard to imagine college-age Westley and fail, which is probably for the best. If I were to succeed in wrapping my mind around the idea that my still-unreal-seeming toddler son will one day be a grown man, I might graduate from disbelief to full-blown existential crisis.

.....................................

Monday, March 1, 2010

Where Have All the Young Moms Gone?

Most of the time, I don't feel like a young mom. There are plenty of women for whom the label "young mother" seems much more appropriate than it does for me. (It recently occurred to me that when my mother-in-law was my age, had a ten-year-old. If I had a ten-year-old right now? I'd probably be dead.) Statistically speaking, I'm close to average. More importantly, my internal clock says that my early late-twenties are well-spent wrangling a toddler.

And then I leave the house.

I always notice the other women with children. It's immediate. I couldn't keep from doing it if I tried. It's a reflex rather than a conscious decision. And I can't get over the wacky conclusion I always seem to come to: these women are older than I am.

It's not that the mothers I notice look older, necessarily. It's true that in certain neighborhoods, one does tend to encounter the "designer grandma," with her designer jogging suit, designer stroller, and, of course, designer grand-baby--so occasionally I do find myself wondering about the mother-vs.-grandmother status of some of the broads-with-babies out there. I suspect that, despite the trend in cities to wait longer to have children, more than a few of these women are around my age. But there's something "older" about them. Something that feels more grown-up, at least to a stranger's (my) sideways glance in the supermarket.

These "older" moms seem so much more put- and pulled-together than I am. It's superficial (and stupid) but seeing women with tiny babies looking better than I do now makes me feel like a late bloomer. When I overhear them talking at the park, they seem to have their shit figured out. Or, at least, they're better at pretending they do.

I am nowhere near having my shit figured out. I'm not even close to being able to pretend that I do (or maybe I'm just unwilling to pretend). But I feel like I have more in common with the rowdy highschoolers who get off the bus across the street from my house every afternoon at three than I do with the other parents. Of course, when I was a (not-so-rowdy) highschooler, I thought I had more in common with my teachers than I did with my peers.

So maybe it's not that I'm a clueless young mom who's still not super-comfortable in her role. Maybe instead of a late bloomer, I'm more of a backwards bloomer, rebelling against the seasons.

.....................................