It was the first day of school in seventh grade – French class. I am enjoying the simple pleasures of bare thighs on cool seats and the sight of my now-tan crush from the sixth grade. I consider whether to pronounce my “r’s” correctly, when I see a finger launched in my direction. There is violent laughing, a spasmodic hyena attached to said finger. She is Danielle O’Connor, a girl who let her black bra strap show. Born a non-virgin, she was going no where in life, making her a menacing force in the seventh grade. “Look how HAIRY,” she gasped as she let her head fall to her desk, laughing and shaking with enough condescension to make a super model self-conscious. Each student in my row, and the row next to me, and the row next to them, arched over the sides of their desks to point at the object of Kim’s ridicule, the bulls’ eye of adolescent recrimination – my legs. After a long summer of swimming, hanging out at the beach, and clearly hair growth, Danielle was kind enough to point out that I had shown up without my pubescent homework – cleanly shaven legs. I didn’t know how to use a razor so my mother shaved my legs that night in the bathtub. I sat their naked as she mothered me, not out of the croup or chicken pox, but through a changed landscape of junior high femininity. I needed a new uniform: cleanly shaven legs – and I was willing to go back to early childhood to get them. Now, as a mother myself, I realize how funny and sweet this must have been – enough self-conscious anxiety met with motherly duty to slay whatever junior high demons may come.
Today, I’m not all that vigilant about shaving my legs – my husband has said for the record he doesn’t care and I’ve taken that to the bank. But perhaps the hairy legs event has had its effect on my psyche. I am weirdly aware, even obsessively curious about how I perceived. Naturally I had to pick this emotional scab and go into a creative and wholly subjective career in design, as well as a naked career, on television. I am less sensitive about feedback on my looks –probably a gift of my third decade and filming in my third trimester last year. But what I am doing – how my choices are forming my days and years – and what people think -- this is razor-burn sensitive. Perhaps the voices were born on that day in French class. These are the voices that feud over my life’s options and decisions creating an annoying din in an already noisy life.
As the second baby siren song goes into full swing in my head, background muzak for the committee of voices to talk over, I start to hear all the compelling, triggering, manipulative, emotive and just plain annoying voices on all sides of the debate. In full disclosure, my heart wants to have another baby just about as soon as I can – motherhood has been the coolest, most incredible thrill ride on earth and I want more. That I can write unequivocally. And yet the damn voices that get in the way – those cerebral ankle biters if you will, make unprotected sex less than peaceful. Let’s just say it’s very loud up there.
There is one group, I call them the Sex in the City faction. These voices do Pilates as they say, “Not now hon’, you’ve just gotten into your jeans. You’re just getting to sleep like a normal person. And your sex life… do you really want to put yourself, down there, out of commission again? Remember how long it took us to take the corvette out of the garage after Xavier was born?” Then there is a voice wielding a blackberry and an earpiece that says, “Don’t you realize you’ve just gotten everyone in your professional milieu to forgive, I mean, forget all that pregnancy and baby business not to mention the breast pumping every 9 minutes? Do you really want them to see you in a mammary way again so soon?” Then there is the voice of blasé alarm, “You really shouldn’t wait. It could take years. It could take many years. You’re not really that old I, but as you get older it gets harder and harder.” And then, there is the voice of a woman from another era – some pre-industrial/sexual revolution voice that has never had an orgasm that says “So, you’re putting work, sex, sleep, jean size and your TV career ahead of family? Where are your values? What could be more important than having as many children as possible? What, that’s not enough for you?”
So as you can tell I have a busy head –there is a veritable village of opinions living up there – I would love to say that I meditate to eradicate those voices. I don’t. But what I have done to survive without a triple shot of Xanax with a martini chaser is to invite other voices in. Voices with bodies, ideally. Friends. Nice, evolved, loving friends. One of them always reminds me that I don’t really know anything. That I can plan and think all I want, but in the end, it’s just better to live in the day. I don’t know that it will be the same. I don’t know what reactions will be. I don’t know how I will be, even. Another friend reminds me that I can’t lose – that the reality of life of an American woman in our time, a first worlder, a woman with tremendous opportunities – is a gift any way it’s lived. Another reminds me that she knows me well and knows I won’t regret having a child, period whenever he or she arrives. Another reminds me to trust my heart – that I’m not a flip teenager anymore.
The other force that keeps the pharmaceuticals at bay is motherhood – the daily not-optional care-taking rituals have grounded me in a way I couldn’t have imagined before my son arrived. I find myself feeling unusually centered when I am putting my son to sleep. We are nestled like a pretzel on our old rocking chair. Right after I tell myself I should have ponied up for a glider, I sink my face into his head and enjoy the rarity of his stillness. Then, I take a slow deep breath. I breathe in his softness as his little body relaxes and prepares to sleep. I reflect on the fact that I am lucky enough to be experiencing one absolutely perfect moment. And then another. And then another. Spellbindingly perfect. To be an agent of sleep – to guide another human being into vital, restful, rejuvenating comfort makes me feel like a Greek God sometimes. Like a scene out of Clash of the Titans. And its these times, these quiet simple moments before nap time or bed time, when the voices are generous enough to be on hiatus, that I realize how much I love being a mother and that not only is being a mother again and again whenever and however a gift, but the desire for this experience is also a gift. To have a clear desire for something so simple and life affirming must be a mix of spiritual truth and our DNA – propelling us to joyfully keep going as a species.
My other desires haven’t gone away – to create and achieve and do – to make things other than babies. I truly enjoy my work – even my time away from my son. The only reconciliation comes from my heart – as cliché and banal as it sounds. In a quiet dark room, mine tells me that if I want to have another baby now, that’s ok. How can more of this, not be ok? My heart reminds me that I am ironically intoxicated with the moment when I am with my son. What else can do that? My heart asks me knowing the answer is nothing, and it’s not like I haven’t tried many things – searching for this very moment. Some how in this spiritual foreplay, a fullness of faith is born, right there in the dark. The faith comes not out of effort, but out of comfort. It’s as real and tangible as any faith I’ve ever experienced. A spiritual, centered eureka moment happens as I realized that maybe, just maybe, as I take care of another human being, so am I being taken care of. The voices are quiet and I am tucked into a trust which is illogical and silly to my fast-paced, New York-fueled life. If they were talking again they would remind me just how silly and just how illogical and just how many things I have to do. And yet I don’t let them. My now-Herculean inner peace does not let anything trump that faith born in the dark – the faith born of nuzzling and quiet and deep breaths with my son on my lap. The faith that tells me it will be ok – that this moment is as much a destiny as any other. The faith that affirms creative action in any direction. The faith that quiets those voices, finally.
As I walk out of my son’s room, I often have a tear in my eye as step back into a life filled to the brim with unanswered emails, half-completed projects, voicemails to return and dinner to be made. By the time I get downstairs thoughts of what to eat for dinner – “Go for the salad, remember what the scale said the other day??” ripple across the quiet in my head. I chuckle, at my Skinny Bitch voice. I realize that this as precious as those moments were in the dark – a stark contrast to the rest of my day – my tour of duty as a mother will bring many more. Many more chances to nurture my son and that faith that will surely guide me on this journey of a modern mother’s life.