I used to call the moments of brain dysfunction writer’s block. But after the birth of my third (then fourth kid) mom brain has become the more appropriate term. It was about my second pregnancy when I realized how downright dumb I felt. As if my intelligence and actions were somehow blocked, like a kink in a hose blocking water flow. I’m smarter than this, when I walked into the kitchen for the tenth time forgetting I simply needed a glass of water. There was an incident, somewhere near the end of my second pregnancy, that involved a parked car and me fleeing to another grocery store to make it go away. Hit and run sounds so dirty, so we will call it a panicked pregnancy glitch followed by a knock at the door. It didn’t take long. It was the image of a pregnant woman, wet from sweat and tears on hot June day, and an equally confused husband who just couldn’t answer the question of why, that most likely got me in much less trouble than I deserved. To this day, I can’t answer the question of why beyond the loss of reason, intelligence and impulse control that goes along with a body swelling with hormones and water retention.
This story is about that life that was inside me at the time, the one that demanded I eat an entire tub of cherry tomatoes in one sitting. Maybe due to mom brain, or aging brain or long term effects of the wine diet, I am losing bits and pieces of the timeline between laying in my bed wondering if that little trickle actually meant my water broke since I was days beyond the due date and today. (it was, she was blocking the actual gushing I felt in the other three deliveries) I was over the novelty of pregnancy much faster than the first one. (First pregnancy excitement: nine months. Second pregnancy excitement: five months (tops). Third pregnancy excitement: Oh shit. Fourth pregnancy excitement: my life is over.) But then it happened, a few weeks after I saw Napoleon Dynamite in the theater or while I cried every time 100 Years was played on the radio, she was born – July 13, 2004 while the rest of the town was eating their dinners and talking about their days at work, I had my second baby girl.
Like releasing the kink, and letting the water burst out of the hose, the years blasted by me
So I sat there, reading old stores and looking at old pictures. Her baby years, her toothy grin graduating from preschool, her elementary school years, and now she is a young woman. And all I did was blink. This is why I keep a journal. My memories can fill in the gaps left by age, and pregnancy, and chaos and wine. If I saved money the way I save memories, I could retire now. But, as always, she grounds me and holds me accountable for all my motherly duties. It’s my birthday soon. She reminds me every day after her birthday has passed. Today, July 14, 2017, she is planning for the next one. What she wants, if she wants a party, expectations are beginning to form. But that is how she is wired.
Then I remembered that the best way to explain Liv is to take in a few minutes of her life.
The day began with loud claps of thunder and two scared toddlers cuddled in bed with us. Our plan to get donuts turned into me running out in a monsoon to grab a quick dozen. It was followed by breakfast and figuring out exactly what to do. Ice skating? Mall? Finally we decided on the usual standby, dropping them off at a movie. I wasn’t sad. She is a teenager now and escaping our house is going to be her livelihood. It was a five dollar movie. I handed her a twenty. Ten dollars for her and her sister to get in and the rest for snacks. She looked at me. What? I asked. Not enough? I guess, she responded disagreeing with her eyes. Those giant blue eyes that can turn to the same desperate sadness she had as a baby. Under raised eyebrows, I handed her another five. Happy birthday. I joked. She looked at me. I could see the thought – this isn’t part of my birthday gift, right. Have fun. I reassured her, always impressed with her ability to raise money. “Can you help deposit this in my Paypal account? She had asked my mom when handed a birthday check. When Layla graduated from 8th grade and got money, she instinctively asked, what about me? I graduated from 7th grade. I knew there was no way I would see the change from the money I handed her.
One of the hardest parts about having toddlers and teenagers is that teens always need picked up and toddlers always fall asleep in the car. The movie was set to end around six thirty, which is napping danger zone in our world. But it was her birthday. About an hour after she was dropped at the theater I looked down to see “my daughter Queen Liv” (her programming) calling me.
Me: Is everything ok?
Liv: kind of. Hold on. Let me have Layla explain
Layla: So what happened was, we bought tickets for the 2D movie. And we sat and waited, and waited and waited. Then the commercials came on. Then it was like “go ahead and put your glasses on” And we realized we were in the 3D one. With no glasses. Here’s Liv
Liv: can you just come and get us.
I looked at the two toddlers and fresh bubble bath.
Me: uh. So you bought tickets and want to leave?
Liv: yeah. Is that ok? Sorry
Me: why don’t you just go ask for 3D glasses. Explain what happened, I am sure they will be nice, even if they have to charge you more.
Liv: good idea. I will do that.
Me: ok. Let me know if you have problems.
Liv: Ok. Love you. Bye
A few minutes later, I am camped out in the bathroom taking advantage of the forced entertainment containment that bath time offers. I am checking emails, scrolling through social media and online shopping for the perfect pair of overalls to satisfy my new craving for all things 90s, and I get a text. “We went back to the 2D movie. It still has 50 minutes left. I will call you when it is over. Love you”
As I am sitting there, reading old stories and looking at old pictures I realized we are still on the timeline. There are so many themes, persistence, emotional sensitivity and the ability to do really dumb things that have always seemed to make up her personality, and mine. Also we are both always hungry. I see toddler Olivia, with her chubby arms stuck in the spindles of the kitchen chair for the hundredth time, crying for help. “Why do you keep doing that” I would soothingly cuddle her and say. I see her cutting her hair and telling me “it just fell out that way”. I remember holding her hand as she got a tooth pulled and her saying she better get extra tooth fairy money for this. The move I concentrate, the more the moments fill in the gaps and I feel a sense of love and admiration for her. For the longest time, she was the baby. I can’t carry you after you turn 4 (then 5, then 6) I would tell her. But things have changed since then. She isn’t the baby, and she isn’t’ really a kid anymore. Holy shit, thirteen.