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Nothing sacred

Suburban Turmoil

My name isn’t really Lucinda.

It’s a pseudonym that allows me to blog about groundbreaking subjects like post-partum peeing, bitchy soccer moms, angst-ridden stepdaughters and a toddler who says the f-word -- all without being tarred and feathered and drummed out of the suburbs.  On my blog, nothing is sacred.

I started a blog last spring because at the end of a school year spent carpooling, cooking, cleaning and changing diapers, I desperately needed a place where I could be known not for whether I volunteered at PTA meetings or led a play group, but for my thoughts and emotions and my ability to convey them in writing.

Almost immediately, I found a community of intelligent, empathetic women who understood what I was experiencing and embraced me, warts and all.  They have laughed with me and cried with me.  They have shown me that I’m far from alone. 

They have reminded me that I am more than someone’s wife and mother. 

I’ve chosen three posts from my blog that I think offer a fairly decent glimpse into my life.  I hope you enjoy them. And I hereby invite you to come hang out at my blog any time you like.

What They Don't Tell You About Birthin' Babies

There are way too many sappy childbirth stories on the Internet.

Women dreamily recount their water births (...and then my mer-cherub swam to the surface and gave me a dazzling smile), their caesarean sections (...as I held my little crumpet in my arms, I knew it was all worthwhile) and even their epidurals (...I felt only elation as dear impkins pushed his way through the birth canal), all the while ignoring the other side of childbirth: the indignity.

I had a great birth experience- wonderful doctors and nurses, a comfortable room, a supportive family and only about 12 total minutes of pushing before my baby was born. Yet I also had more embarrassing moments in a 24-hour period than I'll probably have again in my lifetime.

For starters, I had labor contractions for three days... Contractions that sent my parents rushng to our house from out of town and convinced us to pull the girls out of school in preparation for the big event. For the next two days, we all sat at home staring at one another, waiting for something to actually happen.

Now before I continue, you should know that for nine straight months, I had promised myself I wasn't going to be one of those moaners that I had seen in the childbirth class videos. For one thing, I was raised in the South, where moaning for any reason is believed to be in very bad taste. Beyond that, it seemed extravagant. I imagined all that moaning was a thinly-veiled metaphor for "Look at me, everyone! I'm about to have a baby! Pay attention to me!"

But after about 40 hours of intensifying contractions, my moaning philosophy went out the window. I was in pain, people. Yet I still had my wits about me enough to be deeply embarrassed by the gutteral sounds coming from my mouth as my entire family sat in the den, silently staring at moaning me on the sofa.

"Don't look at me!!" I hissed. "Don't just sit there looking at me!" I am ashamed to admit I actually glared at my 80-year-old grandma, owl-eyed and frowning on the Barcolounger.

After that, elaborate efforts were made at conversation each time a contraction hit.

"So, the Braves are doing pretty good this year," my Dad said shakily as yet another groan came from the couch.

"OOOOOOOH! Owwwwww!"

"Did I tell anyone about the sale on beans at Piggly Wiggly?" my grandmother hesitantly asked.

"EEEEEEEEE Yahhhhhh!"

"I made an A on my history quiz," 12 squeaked before running in fright to the playroom.

Once the moaning was judged loud enough for a trip to the hospital, Hubs and I left, only to be subjected to indignity number two. I was checked in, examined, and told I wasn't dilated enough for admittance. The nurse suggested that I walk around the maternity ward for an hour in hopes that my labor would progress.

"Okay, let me just put my clothes back on," I sighed, sitting up from the table clad only in a standard-issue hospital gown.

"Oh no, we can't let you do that," the nurse said.

"What?!" I gasped.

"You can put another gown on to cover your back, but you can't put your clothes back on once you're checked in."

"But there are people out there!" I said.

"Oh, you'll see other women out there in labor, too. It's really common to walk the halls like that," she assured me.

So out I went, into the halls packed with the family members and friends of every other laboring mom in the city. And of course, I was the only one wearing a fucking hospital gown. And of course, we ran into about 100,000 people who recognized Hubs.

"I know you! I'm the pastor of Christ Presbyterian downtown!"

"Oh, hi!" Hubs said brightly as I hugged the wall and tried to edge by him.

"And this is..." the dastardly pastor said, stopping me in my tracks.

"This is my wife," my husband replied. "This half-naked, hot air balloon-sized, tear-streaked, bed-headed woman is. My. Wife."

Well, the last part was unspoken, but I knew it was what everyone was thinking.

Good Lord. Would every last shred of my dignity be taken before the day was over? After a few forced conversations with strangers and acquaintances, my mother kindly loaned me a pair of oversized Chanel sunglasses for the remainder of my hour-long March of Shame. I'm sure the glasses only increased the staring, but at least my identity was now somewhat in question.

Of course, the March did no good whatsoever. It took three separate trips to the hospital before the labor gods finally decided I was ready to go. A nurse wheeled me to my room and set me up in a bed, where the indignities continued.

I am a very private person when it comes to my... privates. I mean, how many people actually needed to investigate what was going on down there, anyway? I felt like I was a carnival sideshow as doctors and nurses endlessly filed in to check my progress.

"Take a picture, it'll last longer," I snapped to the fifth doctor to enter the room. Wordless, he turned and scurried out the door.

The indignities of actually giving birth are well-documented and frankly disgusting to the uninitated, so I'll leave those to your collective imagination. I will say, though, that my entire family was somehow allowed back into the delivery room like one millisecond after the baby was born, while I still lay spread-eagled on the hospital bed.

"For God's sakes!" I shouted weakly, prompting one of the doctors to rush over and close a curtain around the bed.

How much more could one woman bear?

"You need to go to the bathroom now," a nurse snapped at me about an hour later.

"I'll go when I'm ready," I replied defiantly. I had just given birth, for crying out loud.

"I can't leave until you go," she said.

Loudly exhaling, I crawled from the bed and made my way to the bathroom. As I tried to close the door, she stopped it with her toe.

"I have to watch," she said.

"The hell you do!"

"Hospital regulations," she insisted. "I have to make sure you can go."

"Of all the ridiculous, razzafrackin garbage..." I muttered as I reluctantly sat down.

I was treated to perhaps the worst pain of my life. Worse than childbirth. Oh. My. Lord.

Fighting back shrieks of pain, I looked up gasping into the nurse's smirking face.

"That's satisfactory," she said before shutting the door on me.

Utterly defeated, I sat on the toilet, head in my hands. Oh........ The indignity.

Road Rage

Here's a dirty little secret from the suburbs. The next time you get cut off in traffic, honked at when the light turns green, or tailgated in a school crossing zone, look closely at the offending driver... I'll bet you three cans of Enfamil you'll see a mom behind the wheel.

Don't be fooled by their nice-girl minivans and their prissy Land Rovers. Suburban mamas are generally the rudest drivers on the roads. The fact is, I can count on just about any man, working girl, or senior citizen to let me into traffic-- Surely they pity me when they see the sweetly clueless expression I've assumed for their benefit, the squabbling teen beside me, the toy-throwing toddler in the backseat. A suburban mama, on the other hand, will look me square in the eye, purse her lips in disgust, and keep right on going.

Case in point: Last night, I was maneuvering my Expedition through the crowded parking lot of the local Wild Oats, minding my own business, when I was treated to the mind-jarring effects of a Silent Scream. Apparently, I was taking up too much room in the aisle because as I drove past a mama in a Volvo station wagon, her face contorted with rage. "MOVE OVER!" she screamed as her children covered their ears and begged for mercy. Although I couldn't actually hear her, I swear my ears rang for a full five minutes.

My theory is that these carpool-enslaved road ragers are unloading the many frustrations of mommyhood on other drivers. They feel no sympathy for the turtle-esque elderly of the roadways, the lost tourists on the interstates, even the other chauffer-moms in their subdivisions-- because who felt sorry for them at three in the morning when they were scrubbing the effects of a three-year-old's dual-exit stomach virus from the bathroom tiles?

Tired of being a victim, I decided to imitate their anger-release techniques, hoping it would relieve some of the pressures I've felt on the mommy job. *

"Wear a fucking helmet!" I screamed out the window at a man riding his bicycle to work, prompting him to crash into a tree. Yeah, that felt good. Real good.

Once I was on the highway, a young hotrod got a little too close to my rear bumper, so I slowed down to a comfortable 50 mph. As he swerved into the right lane to pass me, I sped up. Soon, we were both pushing 85, side by side on I-24. Looking over at him and noting the curse words spewing from his mouth, I knew what I had to do and groped at the floorboards until I found a Barbie. Holding her aloft, I yanked her head off by the hair and looked over at him with murder in my eyes.

He quickly veered off the road into the emergency lane.

"Another one bites the dust!" I said gaily to Baby in the backseat. She chortled in response.

No longer a servant, I was the ruler of the roads, the princess of the parkways, the captain of the cul-de-sacs. I headed for home on top of the world and came to the final four-way stop before reaching my neighborhood.

At the exact moment that I stopped, another SUV stopped at the sign to my left. I chuckled to myself and gassed it.

The SUV gassed it, too.

Surprised, I braked for a moment and looked at the opposing driver. Oh no. Not here. Not now.

I was face to face with another. Mother.

Steely-eyed, she stared me down and proceeded to inch forward a foot. I gulped and drove forward, too, causing her to jolt to a stop. A look of confusion crossed her face. This broad wasn't used to being crossed. Scowling, she lifted her hand in a one-finger salute and tapped the gas again.

Returning her salute with one of my own, my SUV lurched forward another few feet. It was a 1 mph showdown and I wasn't backing off.

But then, something happened I wasn't expecting. The tinted back window of her Pathfinder slid down and two towheaded cherub faces peeped out. Awwww, shoot. I couldn't be rude in front of them.

As I watched them go by, one of the cherubs leaned out. "Screw you, BEEE-OTCH!" he yelled.

Damn mommies. You just can't beat 'em.

*For the more gullible of you, from this point onward, my post is sheer fantasy. No cyclists were harmed in the making of this blog and no children's lives or psyches were endangered. Indulge me.

Stall Talk

I don't like making stall talk.

Let me explain. You and a friend go to a public restroom together. You're in the middle of a conversation and you enter adjoining stalls. That's when it gets kind of iffy.

Do you take a conversation break out of respect for the business at hand?

Or do you continue your conversation like nothing is happening?

I've tried both. I prefer silence, but generally keep talking in order to distract from any potentially embarrassing sound effects.

And I appreciate it when others do the same. One of the nice things about stall talk is that the raised voices allow for some interesting eavesdropping if you're a third party. Last night at Maggiano's, for example, I overheard the following stall talk between a mother and her teenaged daughter.

"I was really glad Dylan didn't come over today, Mom," the daughter bubbled. "My hair is really greasy because I don't think I got all the conditioner out."

Oh really?"

"Yeah." She laughed. "The light in my shower is out and I couldn't see crap."

"We don't need to say that word," the mother said primly.

"What word?"


The daughter paused a moment before saying in a quietly obedient voice, "Oh. Sorry."

End of stall talk.

A few stalls down, I decided to take matters into my own hands.

"Well, I don't know why she can't say it, because I can smell yours all the way down here!"

Only kidding. I'm not always quite as adventurous in real life as I am on my blog. But I really did want to say something to that mom. It's hard enough to coax a coherent conversation from a teenager without chiding her for saying 'crap.'

Anyway, the whole thing reminded of me of my own mother, who is, I'm pretty sure, the world's only stall troll.

She uses the anonymity of the stall to comment unseen on others' bathroom behavior. Growing up, I was her unwilling foil and it caused me no end of embarrassment.

"Gahhhh!" she said from a stall one day when we stopped off at the Neiman's ladies' restroom. Beside her, a lady had been peeing for about a minute without stopping. "Take a break, why don't you!"

Standing at the sinks, I turned bright red. Not again!

"Mom!" I whispered when she came out. "That was so rude."

"No, using the bathroom that loudly is rude," she said forcefully, leaving no doubt that the now deathly silent woman inside the stall could hear her.

"You can't help having to go to the bathroom!" I responded.

"But you can help peeing like a racehorse!" she shot back. It was no use arguing with her.

On one memorable occasion, though, her strategy backfired.

We entered stalls together at a Cracker Barrel. I quickly finished up and exited, stepping aside to let a heavyset older woman take my place. As I washed my hands, I heard a short "toot salute" from my former stall.

"Oh my!" my mother said from the stall next door. "Did you order beans or something?"

Silence. Then another, louder toot.

"Gracious!" my mom laughed. "Sounds like someone majored in Fart History!"

The woman, probably mortified, said nothing, but instead emitted a veritable symphony of tooting that lasted a good 10 seconds.

"Now that's just gross!" my mother declared. "What is your problem?!"

With that, she flushed and opened her stall door, only to find me doubled over in a spasm of soundless laughter by the sinks. Her mouth dropped open. She looked back to the closed door of the stall beside her, then turned and ran for the door. Even the World's Only Stall Troll didn't want to have to answer for that review.

Unlike my mom, I do believe good manners are essential when it comes to making stall talk. But there's no need to be truthful. In fact, white lies are encouraged. Because when it's all said and done, stall talk is the only time when no one can tell you you're full of shit.

mmo : february 2006

Aslo in the Mamas in Blogland edition:

The secret life of mothers:
Maternal narrative, momoirs, and the rise of the blog

The proliferation of shared experience as seen in blogs is a powerful way to unite women who might not otherwise feel as though they had anything in common.
By Andrea Buchanan

The Blogging Mom Clique:
Anyone can join

Mother-written weblogs are as diverse as the women who write them.
By Asha Dornfest

A weblog of one’s own:
How to start blogging

Are you ready to start your own blog? It’s easy, no matter what your level of geek savvy. All you need is a computer, an Internet connection and something to say.
By Asha Dornfest

Suburban Playground:
My intermittent attempt at blogging

I often debate about how much personal information to put out there, especially about the kids. Instead, I put personal things out there about myself.
By Jessica Gullion

Finding my voice… and broadcasting it to the world
Extended discussions about motherhood, culture, feminism and politics -- topics that are unlikely to make it onto a commercial morning drive-time radio show -- can now have reach a wide audience thanks to internet radio.
By Amy Tiemann

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