My therapist said I should write stories about my feelings/experiences as part of a cognitive behavioral therapy. So here goes. I’ll try anything.
One of my favorite activities when I was young was dragging my old things out to the curb for someone to haul away as one of their new possessions. I’d find a piece of cardboard in the garage and use black spray paint to carefully spell the word “FREE,” and prop it against each item. Then I’d sit on the front steps, eating a Popsicle, waiting for my one time treasures to be picked up and reassigned to a new home. I’d make up stories in my mind about what kind of new life they would have. My Radio Flyer bike, my old tent, my box of my Babysitter Club books, etc… Everything that was once important to me made it to that curb sooner or later. Losing my old things meant more room for new things. It meant a new chapter was about to begin.
I’m all grown now but I still enjoy watching my things waiting on the curb to be repurposed by another. To be made new again. Today it is my old rocking chair. I pull my robe tight around my waist with one hand and open the curtain with the other. An older man in a pick up truck has stopped. He gets out of the truck, hunched forward with a bad back, probably from years of manual labor, his sun stained skin nearly purple. I already know he won’t take it. He sits and glides back and forth, wrapping his hands around the armrests, his crooked fingers practically asking for arthritis. And then he drives away, the chair still there. It’s a good chair though. It’s only 2 years old and barely used. We bought it the day we learned I was pregnant.
I still remember the day we bought it 2 years ago. We stopped at one of those surplus baby goods stores on the way home from my doctor’s appointment. They had just confirmed I was 13 weeks pregnant. We sat in one chair after another moving down the line, I felt like Goldilocks. We were overwhelmed by all the baby stuff. But I said the most important thing we’ll buy is the rocker. It’s where the baby and I will spend the most time. Rocking him to sleep, rocking him while I read to him, rocking him to take his bottle etc. We were so excited. Especially since we had given up hope on getting pregnant. We had been trying for over year with no luck. We made a deal with each other that after one year of trying we would go about our lives as normal and if it happened, it happened. And then it happened. We were blessed.
I had a “complicated” pregnancy. “Complicated” was the doctors word, not mine. I had been on bed rest the last several months because of my elevated blood pressure. I had a clean bill of health before getting pregnant. I was very active with pilates, yoga, and running up until then. I had to stop working much earlier than planned also. I had worked, by choice, since I was 14 years old. “You’ll wish you had all this free time once the baby comes,” people would say with a smile. “I wish I could just lay in bed all day,” my sister with three kids snorted. “Let your body rest,” the doctor said “enjoy this time.”
I had a “complicated” labor as well. After 36 hours in labor the baby got stuck and I needed an emergency c-section. (Cesareans have been carried out since ancient times, but they usually only occurred after the mothers were dead.) I still remember the long nights at the hospital trying to get out of bed, splinting my incision, to care for my crying newborn. They had a nursery on the floor where you could send your new baby so you could get a few hours of uninterrupted sleep. The nurses encouraged me to use it. “You won’t have this chance at home,“ they’d say as they closed the door behind them, “enjoy this time.”
Three days later we were sent home from the hospital. Sitting at a traffic light on the way home I saw a rundown building that was once a favorite boutique owned by our neighbor. She had gone out of business a few months earlier. It now looked like a dumping site for construction material, piles of wood and scrap materials scattered in the front lawn, windows boarded up with plywood. Someone had sprayed in black graffiti across one of the boards “It only gets worse.” I wondered about the person who wrote it. It reminded me of the old spray-painted cardboard signs I had made when I was young, the wet paint dripping down each of the letters.
I stick my hand in my robe and rub my belly. The scar is still rough and tight across my abdomen, slightly curled up on the edges like a barbed wire smile. I never regained feeling below my belly button.
After the baby came people came to visit and first two weeks or so. It was great to have the help. Our families flew up, my husband and I are both from New York, but then they left a week later. And it was just the three of us again. I never really had many friends, I’m more of a loner. I have my husband’s friends’ wives now. My therapist told me that villages that had the closest network of people always had the best overall health, as if to say good health is sort of a team effort. I think it was his way of telling me I need to make some friends.
The baby was awake most of the night, like most babies I suppose. My husband did his best to help but he runs his own company so he works a lot. I can’t complain though because that’s the reason I have the chance to stay home with my baby. I know many women don’t have that luxury.
I called my sisters often. They said the same thing. “Aww, I know it is hard when they are this little. But it’s only for a short time and they grow up so quick,” they explained. “Enjoy this time.”
I take a sip of coffee and look out the curtains again. A pregnant woman and her husband have stopped to inspect my chair. Bingo. She sits down and puts her feet up on the ottoman, smiling, so hopeful and excited. They pull the ’Free’ sign off and throw it onto the grass. He loads the chair into the bed of his truck. She watches him smiling, patting her belly. “Enjoy this time,” I say to them from behind the curtain as they drive away.