by the time I discovered I was pregnant, it was too late for a legal
abortion and even as self-absorbed as I was, it occurred to me that
there was no good reason for a married couple, even Greg and me,
to give up their kid for adoption. To my credit, I did give up drinking
and drugs and signed up for Lamaze classes as soon as I got the
news, but I spent most of the pregnancy smearing my belly with cocoa
butter and examining my hips for stretch marks. All I cared about
was when I could start drinking again, and how I was going to get
my figure back. Greg responded to my badgering about how we were
going to afford to raise a child by picking up roofing jobs in Southern
Illinois, where it was warmer, making additional runs for the Hell's
Angels, and smoking a lot of weed.
since he was now gone approximately all the time, and I was stone-cold
sober and getting fatter by the minute, we did nothing but fight.
By the time I was seven months pregnant, I was sick of waddling
around with a forty-two-inch belly and he was sick of hearing me
complain about how the baby bruised the inside of my ribs and smashed
my internal organs flat with her kicking. But still, that was no
reason for him to out me to the Lamaze instructor, Martha, a fidgety
redheaded nurse in her mid-thirties with plastic glasses and three
chins, who was a rabid fan of breastfeeding.
anyone have questions?" she'd asked the eight couples assembled
around the long, Formica-topped table with the "Breast is Best"
signs hovering over us. I almost stabbed Greg in the neck when he
raised his hand.
wife drinks a six-pack of Coke a day and I can tell the baby has
hiccups," he said to everyone, ignoring my kick on his shin.
"And I think that all that caffeine is probably making it nervous
and all that carbonation is probably giving it gas."
was this exact attitude in Lamaze class that led to our eventual
divorce, but he had a point. I wasn't about to admit this in front
of Martha, though, or the other couples, all of whom were at least
ten years older than I was and who had already, I could tell, begun
to judge me because they saw me lighting up a cigarette every week
as we pulled out of the parking lot. I was a little ashamed that
they'd pegged me as trailer trash, but I quietly judged them, too,
and their eagerness to join the club of dull moms whose conversation
revolved around the feeding, sleeping, and pooping habits of their
kids. I was only twenty-two by then, and I'd decided that I wasn't
going to change anything about myself just because I was about to
be a mother, and that I would never, EVER, use the phrase "going
down" to refer to my kid's nap rather than my husband's activity
around my vagina.
JERK!" I snarled in a whisper that he pretended not to hear.
How dare he complain about me when he's out snorting coke with the
of Martha's chins began to wobble as she nodded at me. "You
should give up cola now," she said. "You certainly won't
want that in your system when you're breastfeeding."
debating whether or not to ask Martha if that would be better or
worse than the kid getting a contact buzz from her dad's rampant
weed-smoking when Greg popped in with, "Well, she's not breastfeeding.
She wants to wear a bikini this summer and she's afraid it will
ruin her tits."
began zipping and unzipping her sweater as the other couples collectively
swiveled their necks to stare at me and my rampant selfishness.
"I can't believe you don't realize how much more nutritious
mother's milk is for the baby than" -- Martha paused for emphasis
-- "CANNED formula."
eats Doritos for breakfast," Greg continued, glaring at me,
his dark eyes narrowing. "I don't think that's so healthy for
she smokes," chimed in one of the nebbishy dads-to-be from
the end of the table.
made eye contact with everyone in the group except for me. "Well,
maybe," she said, "in THIS case, formula might be a better
choice." It was, I am sure, the first and last time she ever
made that statement.
I was going to get to keep my tits, but as Martha moved on to the
next question, I could see the other parents sneaking sidelong glances
at me and I knew they already felt sorry for my kid.
a week after Bebop was born, what Martha and those other couples
would say if they'd seen me almost drop her on her head at three
in the morning when I fell asleep on the couch while feeding her
a bottle of, yes, formula. And I thought about them again and how
they'd judge me the night that my husband and I split up.
had just returned home from Mexico, where he'd brought back something
like ten kilograms of heroin, most of which was shoved into our
freezer. He had smoked a joint while I unpacked his suitcase and
we'd gone to bed at ten, but I'd had to get up at midnight with
Bebop, who was nine months old by then and teething. I was crabby
because it was my mother's birthday and even though I missed her,
my feelings were still too hurt to call her or send her a card.
I was also exhausted because while Greg enjoyed playing with Bebop
and never lost his temper with her, he was the kind of dad who passed
her right back to me as soon as she got fussy. I gave her a teething
biscuit to gnaw on, but she just kept whining, so I finally rubbed
some Jack Daniels onto her gums, poured a few shots for myself and
brought her into bed with us. I passed out and didn't feel her climbing
up onto my back like a little possum, where she fell asleep, too.
Everything was fine until I rolled over and Bebop flew off my back,
screaming through the air till she hit the wood floor.
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