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Monthly Archives: September 2011

Working Girl

Recently, I’ve had this heavy feeling of doom inside like I’m approaching my own gallows.

On the plus side, I’m not actually awaiting execution.

On the down side, this feeling exists because, come Monday, I’m going back to work.

GAME OVER.

My blissful maternity leave from teaching is drawing to its close, and I have that wistful feeling that I assume normal children get when camp is over. (As for me, I was generally rejoicing at the thought of leaving camp since I spent much of the summer penning tear-strewn, histrionic letters to my parents that said things like, “Only 28 more meals to survive till I get to come home!”)

As I changed a shit-filled diaper this morning (the first of six in a row; note to breastfeeding mothers: eating FiberOne is a VERY bad idea), I found myself growing homesick for my maternity leave. Every small gesture was tinged with a certain heart-hurting sadness. “This is the last time Eliana and I will drop off Lila at nursery school.” Because Husband will get to take over that job as I have to be at my own school by 8. “This is one of the last times I’ll be able to nurse Eliana in the morning.” Because come Monday, I’ll have to pump like a homeless degenerate in a school bathroom, praying that none of my sixth graders walk in and wonder what I’m doing. “This is the last time Eliana and I will have our morning talks—without anyone else around, no Lila, no Husband.” Because from now on, the only private time Eliana and I will have is on the way to pick up Lila at her school after my school day is done.

With each smile on Eliana’s face today—the smiles I worked so hard to get in my intensive Smile Training Sessions—I couldn’t help but feel sad. Because come Monday, someone else will get these smiles, not me. Someone else will get to hear her first squeals—the ones that I’ve started to hear at the tip of her tongue when Lila plays with her. Come Monday, Eliana’s fingers will instinctively curl tightly around someone else’s finger, not mine. There will be smiles that I’ll miss and weird, goat-like cries that I know how to interpret as Eliana’s mother: cries that someone else will have to learn. Who will sing “Itsy-Bitsy Spider” to her in a snooty French accent? Can anyone else’s performance of “Open Shut Them” rival my own Tony-worthy display? Her early morning shitstorm—her babysitter at my school’s daycare will have to discover that Eliana poops endlessly at 10:45 AM, often necessitating three consecutive outfit changes. (In fairness, I’m not actually lamenting missing this particular motherhood experience.)

With my own return to school, it’s like the sun is setting on Eliana’s newborn-ness, and my return to work makes it feel like a door is closing—like this is the end of Eliana’s sweet, small, baby phase. Like I didn’t take advantage of it enough. Like I should have spent more time staring at her, drinking in her newborn-ness while I had the chance. Like I should have marveled more and been aggravated less. Like I should have relished holding her when she wouldn’t nap in her crib instead of resenting her for not napping in her crib. Now, the patience that had been solely reserved for my own children will have to be distributed among them and my one hundred students.

There may not be enough to go around.

But now, here I am, and it’s too late for should’ves and could’ves. Because on Monday morning, I will be standing in front of a room of sixth graders who only know me as “the teacher”—not a mother who misses her baby. I will spend the day teaching other people’s children, not my own. I will think of Eliana at those moments when my breasts feel like they’re filled with pins-and-needles—a biological side dish to my own heaping portion of maternal guilt. Eliana will be upstairs with a babysitter, starting the first day of her own independent life: one that I will often know very little about.

At ten weeks, she’ll already be flying solo.

At thirty-one-years-old, I’m still not good at doing it.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know I’ll get over it. When Lila went to daycare at 12 weeks old, I cried when I dropped her off that first day in November. Husband and I held hands as he walked me to the school I was teaching at then, his hand squeezing mine as I quickly tried to brush away tears as my students passed me on the street. Then, day by day, slowly but surely, it got easier. My time with Lila outside of school hours became more special because we weren’t together all day; our daily reunions were hilariously dramatic and euphoric. Even now, each day when I pick Lila up from daycare, she runs towards me with a huge smile on her face, often throwing her arms around my shoulders, burying her face in my neck before pulling away and confirming, “You have a snack for me?”

So I know that Eliana will be happy, just as Lila’s happy. Neither child will lie awake at night wondering, “Why don’t I get to stay home with Mommy every day?” because neither one will have ever even known that in some far-off world from ours, that’s a reality for some kids.

Instead, it will be me lying awake at night wondering, “What did they do today?” Because there’s never really a way to know for sure. The best intel I’ll get from Eliana is some spit bubbles and a shart. And Lila, in her three-year-old world, will continue to tell stories that border on lunacy. (“Once, yesterday, this boy hit me and we went bonk but then I rode a giraffe at the zoo. I know ballet!”) With two unreliable witnesses, I will only be left to imagine what their lives are like.

What if I miss everything?

            It’s that question that makes the thought of going back to work nearly impossible.

***

             It’s 3:45 PM, and I’m picking Lila up from school with Eliana. It is one of our last days together on my maternity leave. Eliana is screeching in the back seat because, horrid parent that I am, I decided to have a Diet Coke at lunch, which apparently is the equivalent to lacing my breastmilk with LSD, given Eliana’s horrified, banshee-like, bad-trip screams. The music in my car is blasting—partially to calm Eliana, but mostly to blare out her screaming, which is not-so-slowly starting to drive me insane.

We pull up into our parking spot as Eliana continues to wail. I pop open the trunk of my SUV to pull out the Graco Snap-n-Go stroller, which was obviously designed by some masochistic asshole who wanted to make otherwise-intelligent people struggle with its deceptively simply “PUSH” red button. I squeeze the button at least five times before the damn thing unfolds, and with the stroller base set up on the ground, I’m ready to open the back door to get out my Bucket o’ Banshee. I take a deep breath, steeling myself against Eliana’s screaming.

That’s when I hear it: SMASH! Followed by white bubbly foam dripping all over the pavement.

Nothing says “Degenerate Mommy” like two beer bottles rolling out of the trunk of an SUV, breaking in the nursery school parking lot.

I might as well call Child Services on myself.

Foamy beer runs down the asphalt, and the entire parking space stinks like a college kegger. There are shards of bright green glass everywhere. Eliana continues to wail in the car.

Frantically, I look around—thankfully, no one is in the parking lot but me. Desperately, I search in the trunk for something—anything—to wipe up the spill and save my car tires from getting sliced by the glass. I don’t like what I see, but a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.

With a diaper, I gingerly pick up about a thousand pieces of broken beer bottle glass. With another diaper, I try to mop up the spill.

With things cleaned up enough, the parking space still stinking of beer, I get Eliana out of the car and put her car seat in the stroller base. She’s stopped crying—she looks at me thoughtfully, her baffled face suggesting her thoughts: “Wow, Mommy’s really lost her shit this time.”

Instead of being defeated, I toss back my hair, hold my head up high, and walk into the school to get Lila.

And it’s moments like these—these are the ones that make me think that maybe going back to work won’t be so bad after all.

Paranoia Express

Every time I read part of What to Expect The First Year, I kind of want to vomit.

It’s not just because the book prompts me to think about things that I never ever cared about (anyone else interested in penile adhesions? Inverted baby nipples? ME NEITHER.). It’s that the book FORCES me to think about things I never would have cared about…and then to panic about them.

Some parents are warriors.

I, however, am a worrier.

In terms of things that upset me about this book (the paragraph about some babies being born with teeth being high on the list), let’s start with the milestone thing: aka, Crock of Shit Numero Uno. With each month, this parenting “bible” basically dictates at the start of each chapter what your child “should” be doing at whatever age he or she is. For instance: “By the end of two months, your child SHOULD be able to:

  • Smile in response to your smile
  • Respond to a bell in some way, such as startling, crying, quieting”

That’s when the book starts to become insidious and bitchy. Because what comes next are categories like “your baby will probably be able to,” “may even be able to,” and “may possibly be able to.” The writing may seem unassuming—pleasant even. After all, the gradation categories of skill development are so wishy-washy, nearly imperceptible to non-adverb lovers. You personally could be fooled into believing that the authors are well-meaning individuals who simply want you to be aware of how your baby is progressing developmentally.

That would be the normal assumption. Because that’s exactly what they WANT you to think.

In reality, these “milestone” lists are created for one simple purpose: to drive you insane. (Because if your newborn isn’t doing that already, well, it’s just not fair for the rest of us.)

Because, let’s face it, the list itself is fucking awesome if your kid is doing all the things at the “may possibly be able to” level (aka Baby Ninja Level). As you read the checklist and realize your child is doing all of those things (and more!), you relish your superiority, drinking it in with the same gusto that your brainiac baby inhales your (genius-creating) breastmilk. And, well, when your diamond-dusted-DNA is combined with your stellar parenting? There’s just no stopping YOUR brilliant baby! Your ten pound bundle of baby perfection could pulverize any other baby intellectually, physically, and emotionally. And you? You’re on top of the world because, just as you and your partner always secretly suspected in the three free minutes you have before you collapse into bed at night, your baby basically is a confirmed prodigy, and every other kid in the world is a sad sack of stupidity by comparison. As you spot other babies at the supermarket, lying in their Graco carseats like limp, deranged, cross-eyed, drooling vegetables, you and your own baby exchange knowing, smug—and yes, pitying— glances. As your eyes lock with your baby’s, you both share the same thought as you pass other mommy-baby duos: “Why, those poor, poor simpletons.” Your baby thinks it about the other baby, and you think it about the other mom. The two of you share a patronizing chuckle…but you both know there’s no time for that. After all, if you’re going to take advantage of the beacon of brilliance that is your baby, why, it’s time to get out those Mandarin flashcards and schedule in a Suzuki violin lesson! And God knows it’s only weeks before Juilliard starts banging on your door, aching to see that little kinesthetic wunderkid who can lift her head 90 degrees while on her stomach at a mere two months!

However.

If your baby is NOT doing all the things at the most advanced level—or, let’s be honest, even at the Baby Brown Group remedial level— well, you’re up mustard-seed-shit’s creek without a wipe or a spare diaper. And that, my friends, means it is time to enjoy the gut-wrenching, nausea-inducing ride on the Paranoia Roller Coaster.

I hopped on this horrible ride when Eliana turned five weeks old. It all started simply because I knew other babies (okay, just one) who were five weeks old—and they (she) were (was) smiling frequently.

All it took was one baby doing something my baby could not, and it was enough to nearly make me lose my mind.

Eliana wasn’t smiling—at least not unless it was gas-related. Don’t get me wrong—I superimposed emotion on those smiles like I was a three-year-old slapping stickers on my shirt. But in my heart, I knew. I knew it was the farts and sharts making her smile…not me.

That was when the paranoia set in. And worse, I didn’t want anyone else to know it had set in, so I had to act covertly.

Each morning, I waited until Husband left for work. I waited until Lila was in nursery school. I waited until it was just me and Eliana, home alone. Showered, dressed, and ready, with Eliana fed and content, I became, for twenty minutes each day, the Tiger Mom of the Newborns.

I would get this baby to smile if it killed me.

“Eliana?”

Blank stare.

“Are you in there?”

Blank stare. Drool.

“Today, you are going to smile. Because by the end of this month, the book says you should be able to smile in response to my smile. Got it?”

Very blank stare. Refusal to make eye contact. Staring at wall above my head as if purposefully trying to avoid my gaze.

Sickening even myself, I began to speak in the high-pitched “Motherese” voice that makes me want to punch someone every time I hear it. (Please read this next sentence in your squeakiest, Minnie Mouse voice while simultaneously plastering a huge, fake smile on your face the size of Texas.) “Are you ready to rock and roll, Eliana? Are you ready to rock and roll, my wittle baby?”

I vomited a little in my mouth even as I did the voice, but if this is what it was going to take to make Eliana smile, well damn it, I was willing to repulse myself.

Truly, the things we do for our children.

Eliana looked at me wide-eyed. Then cross-eyed. I covered her eyes and then removed my hands with the hope that she would no longer be cross-eyed, which sometimes works.

No luck: Cross-Eyed Chick was here to stay.

That was when the Ariel Extravaganza began. I sang “Itsy Bitsy Spider” ad nauseaum. I did it in a British accent. I did it in a Mexican accent. I did it as if I were a snobby French waiter. Then I did “Open Shut Them Open Shut Them” until my hands cramped. I sang “B-I-N-G-O” over and over and over again until I forgot how to spell it. We did the hokey-pokey together with such vigor that I swear to God I nearly dislocated that poor kid’s shoulder.

Still, Eliana stared at me. Or rather, she seemed to stare through me. At one point, she nearly nodded off even though I was seriously giving her some of my best material. I nearly cried one time when I saw the hint of a smile curving her lips upwards…and then I really started to cry when I realized it was just gas.

The sad reality was this: a shart was funnier than I was. It is a dark, dark day when you realize this.

I tried to be cool about her not smiling, I really did. Casually, I mentioned once (read: four hundred times) to Husband, “So…do you think she’s….okay?”

“Why?” (Notice: Husband did not provide the CORRECT answer, which is, “Of course she’s okay. Why, she’s better than okay! She’s the smartest, prettiest, nicest, kindest, most well-adjusted newborn on the planet. She is the fruit of our love, and there is nothing in the world more perfect than that. Now stop worrying your gorgeous head about it, and let me give you a foot massage while I simultaneously pay all the bills, make you a gourmet dinner, and clean up the entire house just because I feel like it. Did I mention how much I love you both for your extraordinary beauty and brilliant mind, my most precious jewel of a wife?”)

I tried to remain cool.

“Because she’s not smiling. The book says—“

“The book says at the end of the second month! She’s only six weeks old! She’ll get it! Give her a break!”

I nodded and tried to let it go, by which I mean I let it simmer and fester in my brain like a bloodied blister that’s rubbed raw. Why couldn’t Husband understand—I didn’t want Eliana to simply “get it” by the end of the second month. For the love of God, she’s OUR CHILD. And isn’t our child supposed to be a genius? She should have gotten it three weeks before she was born, and that wouldn’t have been soon enough either.

Each day, I tried to make Eliana smile. And each day, I grew more and more paranoid that something maybe was wrong with her. My heart sunk to my feet each time the thought crept into my mind. No matter how hard I shoved it away, there it was, lurking in the corners, waiting for me. It’s the thought that makes every mother sick any time it enters her head.

Furiously, I began reading the “mastery” list of “by two months.” Could Eliana “smile spontaneously”? “Squeal in delight”? “Laugh out loud”? My heart started to race; here we were at week seven…and where were these skills!? How could she possibly fend for herself in the Real World one day if she couldn’t even pull it together to do the advanced skills in the second month?!

And then…that’s when it happened. Lila, Husband, and I were in the kitchen. I was sitting at the table, speaking to Eliana in that cloying, sickening voice that makes me want to vomit.

I shook my head, disgusted by myself again. What had I become? A monster. A zealot. A smile terrorist.

Dropping the Motherese-voice, I looked Eliana in the eye.

“Eliana? Can I just please get one smile? That’s all I want. One smile.”

And, just then, as if all she had been waiting for was for me to simply ask, it came. Her eyes started to arch upwards. There was twinkling. The lips curved. The mouth opened. The eyes wrinkled, and there it was: the smile I had been aching for, the smile I was terrified would never come, the smile I had craved each day during our daily Smile Training Sessions.

I waited…surely a shart was to follow.

Pause.

No shart.

Pause.

No fart.

Eliana locked eyes with me. And then, she really let me have it: the biggest Muppet-smile I’ve ever seen in my life.

As it turned out, all I had to do was ask.

That was when I put on the brakes and got off the Paranoia Railroad. I had reached my destination.

 

Baby Got Back

This much I know: six weeks post-partum, and while no one puts Baby in a corner, Mama’s gonna put herself in a corner soon…if she can still fit in one. Because when Mama sits around the house? Mama sits AROUND the house, if you know what I’m saying.

You know it’s bad when you hear a “your mama” joke, and you immediately think of yourself.

Cheerfully, I will announce to the world right now that according to Weight Watchers (aka “Land of the Mayonnaise Eaters”), I am a mere seven pounds above my pre-baby weight. (Insert sad little rah-rah cheering sound here.)

Unfortunately, I will simultaneously announce that those seven pounds hang around my stomach in an unsightly bulge where my integrity used to lie. Now, in place of the semi-normal looking stomach I possessed once upon a time (possibly in fifth grade; realistically, third), there is a doughy, fleshy mass of sad-looking mush: an unsightly albatross clinging to my guts like maternal guilt.

“You had a baby!” is what supportive do-gooders say. To your face, that is. Behind your back, it’s more like, “Whoa—she had a baby…but why does she still look like she HAS the baby??”

And look, I get it. I had a baby. In fact, I’ve had two of them. Maybe I should cut myself a break. And really, the way I see it, I can ride that whole “I had a baby” excuse out for as long as I’d like. If I play the “I am mother” card, no one can really talk shit because, well, I’m peopling the Earth: what the fuck are you doing with your time? And really, as long as we’re milking things around here—which yes, still happens seven to eight times a day here at the Dairy Queen— I’m gonna milk that excuse as often as I’d like.

And as long as it’s confession time, I’ll come right out and say it: while I hate my new stomach (a word I use loosely here that simply stands for—medically speaking— the Fleshy, Unrecognizable Mass of Horror that serves the function of linking my esophagus to my small intestine), I firmly believe that the person who invented maternity pants deserves the Nobel Peace Prize. I understand that it’s probably not socially acceptable to wear cheap, hideous pants with elastic waistbands and enjoy it as much as I do, but if this is a fashion sin? Well, damn it, make me a sinner! How could something that looks so wrong feel so right?

Quite frankly, I want to wear them the rest of my life. And look, if eight-year-olds can wear pants that shout “JUICY” from their asses, surely I should be allowed to wear a harmless pair of sad, pathetic maternity cargos, right?

The very fact that I wrote that last sentence may very well make today the darkest day of my personal history.

My second confession is more disturbing than my timelessly unfashionable preference for maternity pants, though. It is this: I am owning the move that I like to call “the Granny Hike”. And I’m doing it all the time.

It’s official, folks: I’ve finally reached the dismally low point of an adult woman’s life when I instinctively and eagerly pull my pants up over my belly button the second I sit down in a chair, as shame-faced mothers of every generation before me have done. I like the illusion I can create for myself that I’m just tucking my fat away some place safe for a rainy day, and that if I shove that unsightly muffin top (let’s be honest—it’s more of a baguette in its entirety now, isn’t it?) far enough down, I can forget that it exists and go on surreptitiously eating handfuls of Reduced Fat Wheat Thins at 9 PM, hoping that if the kitchen lights are off, the calories won’t count, and I will miraculously wake up looking like Beyonce, shaking my hot ass in a brilliantly choreographed dance video that instantaneously unfolds in my kitchen. Black leotard optional.

Realistically, it’s more like “Baby Got Back” in my kitchen. Possibly “My Milkshake Brings All the Boys to the Yard.” Just replace “milkshake” with “breastmilk” and “boys” to “babies” and “yard” to “Graco Pack n’ Play”.

I know what you’re thinking: “now THAT is hot!”

In spite of my love of maternity pants and my Granny Hike solution, in my heart, I know it is time to fix up the remnants of my stomach “muscles,” which is, again, a term I use loosely as it seems to suggest that muscles, in fact, ever existed in the middle section of my torso. How do I know it’s time to get to the gym? Yes, the belly perpetually jiggles. And yes, that’s upsetting. But more recently, I swear that in the past week I have heard my gargantuan, gaping mouth of a belly button inexplicably whisper “Liverpool” with each step I take. (Incidentally, the breast pump also mutters “Liverpool-Liverpool-Liverpool” as I pump, which may indicate that some day, something truly terrible is going to happen to me there.)

The belly is talking, and it’s time to take action.

Six weeks post-partum, and it’s time to go the gym.

***

            I’m just going to say it: perhaps going to a class called, “Feel the Beat, Feel Your Body” was not the best choice for my first foray into physical exercise.

Thankfully, I went to the class with my sister, who gave birth to her daughter a mere forty-eight hours before Eliana was born. This means that both of us exist in the same hormonally psychotic state that makes us able not only to tolerate but also appreciate one another’s neuroses. Together, we were ready. Solidarity, Sister.

Initially, we approached the enormous task of making our stomachs look semi-normal with both gusto and enthusiasm. Why? Truth be told, we were going to work out at the JCC. As anyone who has ever been to a JCC gym can tell you, many of the group exercise classes are largely comprised of retired old women who are taking an hour break from berating their daughters on the phone in order to stave off heart disease or osteoporosis while simultaneously trying to score it with a sun-spotted old guy on the rowing machine named Stan who is lapping it up because the rest of his competition is dead. Admittedly, in my past experiences at the JCC gym [including but not limited to 1) Zumba with the grannies and 2) watching Dr. Oz while exerting minimal energy on the elliptical], I enjoyed shimmying with these octogenarians like we were drunks in Havana in 1951. With our shared lunch-lady arms undulating in the wind to the tunes of Marc Antony, I—Gym Hater Extraordinaire—felt sexy. Some people like “sweating to the oldies.” Personally, I prefer sweating with them.

I was ready—eager, even—for that experience once more. But where were my granny comrades this time around? I assure you they were not at “Feel the Beat, Feel Your Body.” They may have been at “Eat a Bagel, Pick Up the Dry Cleaning.” Surrounding Sister and me were many—gasp!—normal-looking women who were in their thirties, like us. Normal-looking women who seemed to know what they were doing. They were picking up strange objects that I think are called “weights”. As they reached for their fancy five-pounders, my sister and I exchanged somewhat apprehensive glances. Silently, we communicated, as we have done our whole lives.

One pound weights for us, please. Sister was feeling like a hero, so she got two-pounders.

Then the women started getting these bouncy half-ball thingies that I subsequently learned are called “BOSU” balls. Sadly, when I heard this term, I began thinking about mozzarella balls—I had recently seen some exquisitely delicious-looking ones at Shoprite— and how much I would rather be eating them than standing in a gym class surrounded by people who 1) have stomach muscles and 2) give a very convincing impression that they know exactly what they’re doing with something called a “BOSU” ball.

I am much more comfortable with a cheese ball.

Before the class started, Sister and I laid all the cards out on the table for our teacher/torturer, Sharon. With an unassuming, please-go-easy-on-me smile on my face, I said to Sharon, “We both just had babies and this is our first time back at the gym…just so you know. Oh, and we both have to leave early because we have our post-partum check-ups right after this, so…yeah.” Which was true, but the second I said it, I recognized that it sounded like a huge lie, and I hated myself for sounding like I was making up an excuse even though it happened to be the truth. What sicko would lie about having her vagina probed postpartum rather than choosing to stick it out in some lame-o JCC gym class? The answer was obvious: people like me.

I’m that sicko.

Sharon smiled at us—a sick, Cheshire cat smile that made me very, very afraid. “Don’t worry.”

That was when I started to worry.

She turned the music on, and that was when I should have known we were in trouble. Loud and clear, her music selection was a smack in the face—a punch in the non-existent abdominal muscles. That bitch had chosen Shakira.

What kind of manipulative monster chooses the soundtrack of the world’s most famous belly dancer after two women have just told her they had babies?

A deranged lunatic, that’s who.

Things went from bad to worse. As I glanced around the room at all the normal-looking women, it was clear that they all knew what they were doing. She told them to kick their legs, and these women did it. Where were the sad grannies I was used to working out with—the ones who had once upon a time transformed me into Angelina Jolie among their sea of Betty Whites?

Sharon, however, was unimpressed. “What, you all got a case of the Mondays or something?!” she shouted at all of us. Some women—women clearly with little joy in their lives—laughed.

Sister and I exchanged glances. It was clear we both wanted to hurt Sharon. Badly. The only thing worse than going to an exercise class is going to an exercise class in which the teacher somehow manages to weasel in a Garfield reference.

Surprisingly, the Garfield reference got the crowd going, and soon, their legs were kicking higher in the air. That was when Sharon demanded that people pick up their weights and start jumping with them, which is something I’m pretty sure they made the detainees do once upon a time at Guantanamo Bay. (Obviously, forcing the detainees to do a “Feel the Beat, Feel Your Body” workout was never really publicized because it clearly flies in the face of government sanctions against torture.)

That was when Sharon glanced at me and Sister and shouted sweetly, “If you can’t use the weights because it’s too hard, just do the motions!”

My sister was not willing to accept the insult, but I was. Cheerfully, I dropped my weights to the ground and began doing strength-training exercises…without weights. Hey, this wasn’t so bad, after all! Minus the feeling that I was a total loser combined with the sensation of my belly fat jiggling lock-step with each rep, I was “working out”. Eat your heart out, Richard Simmons. Eat your fucking heart out.

Then it was time to get on the BOSU balls.

“Lay down—and for those of you who are new, just put your butt way down, close to the floor.” Sharon glanced at me and Sister. “Some of you may not even be able to feel your muscles. Remember, we’re trying to work your core. Remember what a core is?”

At that moment, I hated Sharon with the very core of my being.

As I lay down on the Ball of Stomach Upheaval, I started to curse the world in my head. With each attempt to raise my body to create the semblance of a “sit-up,” I grew angrier. Angry that I couldn’t feel stomach muscles. Angry that I could feel rolls of fat mushing up against each other with each angled move. Angry that my stomach and belly button closely resemble a bagel now in terms of physical appearance. Angry that a Rubenesque figure is no longer ideal. Angry at Kate Moss and the entire 90s for ruining what “normal” should look like. Angry that I was basically working out only so that my stomach looks semi-normal for the off chance that should I happen to bump into someone from high school or college they won’t think I look like I am the “Before” picture in a SkyMall ad for some weight-loss drink. Angry that I feel this weird societal pressure to make my stomach look like Rihanna’s, when, realistically speaking, the only celebrity stomach my own stomach has ever resembled is the Pillsbury Doughboy’s. And he’s never even been in the “Stars, They’re Just Like US!” section of US Magazine.

In the middle of my mental tirade, that was when Sharon screeched, “MUFFIN TOP!!!!!!”

And she was looking straight at ME.

At that very moment, I looked at Sister, and she knew what I was thinking. We walked out on the class and any hope for my abdominal muscles faster than you can say I-would-get-a-tummy-tuck-if-I-had-the-money-and-wasn’t-afraid-of-dying-from-the-work-of-some-shitty-doctor-who-doesn’t-know-what-he’s-doing-and-what-if-I-decide-to-have-a-third-baby-then-the-tummy-tuck-would-have-been-a-total-waste-and-really-I’d-rather-go-on-a-really-awesome-vacation-instead-but-Europe-is-so-expensive-anyway-but-I’d-rather-sit-on-a-beach-and-read-shitty-magazines-anyway-who-am-I-kidding-we-need-that-imaginary-money-to-pay-for-daycare.

Sister swears up and down that Sharon actually said, “From the top!” but I swear to you, I heard it loud and clear: Sharon, screeching at me like an exercise bulimia banshee, “MUFFIN TOP!” It was like that last scene in “Streetcar Named Desire” when Marlon Brando screams “Stella!” Just as there would be no mistaking “Stella” for “Blanche,” there was no mistaking “MUFFIN TOP!!!!!!” for “FROM THE TOP!!!!”

Please—I’ve lost my abdominal muscles. Not my mind.

Sharon may have won that battle, but that bitch didn’t win the war.

This week, I’m going back to the gym. I will not “feel the beat,” but yes, I will shake it with my grandma friends. I may even go into the pool and do “Aqua Cardio” to the sounds of Josh Groban with my fellow old ladies. We will swing our lunch lady arms with pride, and maybe, just maybe, old Stan will hit on me, and I will be reborn.

Stomach be damned, I am only six weeks post-partum. The show’s not over till the fat lady sings, and I’m just clearing my throat.