I thought another piece of State of Flux would be good to get a sense of the flow from beginning to transition.
My baby Aimee, who had been born in the car, was two days old when I went to the local La Leche League meeting in Wiesbaden, Germany. I was very involved in LLL, an international breastfeeding support organization, and was excited to show off my new baby and tell her hilarious birth story.
It was moments before I saw Sarah across the room, an extremely butch woman who was quite pregnant. My first thought was, “How the hell did this dyke get pregnant?” It didn’t take forever before I learned that she purposefully had sex with her husband so she could have a baby. Later, Zack told me that he hated his female body so much he thought about killing himself, but, wanting children, decided to use the biological body he had to bring a baby into his life… hoping it would save him from madness. (It did.)
I knew Sarah was lesbian the second I saw her. Lesbians, especially butch lesbians have a “look” about them. A strong jaw, is it? Sarah and kd lang are both my aesthetic ideal woman. Later, Zack would tell me he thought many butches, especially Stone Butches, were transmen who did not have the opportunity to come out or, as is happening in the climate now, are coming out finally after years of feeling the were men their entire lives.
But Sarah at the LLL meeting… she’d learnt about me from her childbirth class, hearing that I’d had Aimee then left the hospital three hours later without causing too much of a ruckus. She wanted that kind of birth. Actually, she wanted a home birth but was told if she did, she would not get her six weeks of maternity leave, having to go right back to work the next day. Therefore, birthing, then leaving soon afterwards was the next best thing. Later we learned, because she was in the Army, she had to stay in the hospital the required three days instead of leaving early. But, at the LLL meeting, all of that was still to come. After the meeting, Sarah hightailed it to my side, introduced herself, saying she was six months pregnant. I chuckled inside seeing this butch woman in a maternity sailboat shirt with a Peter Pan collar. God, maternity clothes were awful in 1986!
But our energy together sizzled. As I said, I was only two days postpartum and my husband had two weeks off, so I wanted to just rest and nurse my baby while he was home. Before leaving the LLL meeting, I gave Sarah four books to read and said when he was back at work, we would talk about them. Well, it wasn’t a week before she called to tell me she’d read them and would I like to talk about them now? I thought, “Sheesh, this girl sure is pushy!” and told her no, that I wanted to wait until my husband was back at work in a week. During the rest of our relationship, I never saw Sarah read another book. That she read those four in a week, I now know, was amazing. What motivation can do, right?
The day the kids’ dad went back to work, Sarah called and asked if she could bring over some pizza and Diet Coke that night for dinner, then we could talk. I laughed and now think: she sure knew how to get to the fat girl! Pizza! How could she lose?
I like to say that the night Sarah and her husband came over was the night they never left. The four of us adults became quite the team. We began playing cards almost every night. Ate dinner together and Sarah and I talked a lot during the day. There were no cell phones back then, so it was always on the landline. It didn’t take but a week or so before she asked me to be her birth assistant… her doula. The word “doula” was brand new; no one knew what it was. I called myself a Labor Assistant or a Birth Assistant for years until the word doula came into birth vernacular. I changed from Labor Assistant to Birth Assistant when a teacher said he thought I was a Union Organizer. Nope. Not that.
We also played games. Life was a favorite of mine (I really hate playing strategy games). When playing Life, Sarah would marry a woman, plopping a pink peg into her car every time. At first, I balked. “You can’t do that!” She would take the box top with the instructions written inside, point to the rules and say, “Show me where it says that in the directions.” Of course there was nothing about who you had to marry, but I still bristled, not grasping her very un-subtle references. One night she even laughed about “Lactating Lesbians” porn magazine. Obtusely, I ignored the reference. I just could not see the crush she had on me. God knows I had one on her, too, but how was I supposed to say that to a pregnant woman while I was fat and leaking milk and married to a man?
The kids’ dad and I moved to Tacoma with an Army transfer. We were at the bottom rung of the pay scale. Poor. Poorer than poor. Tristan was 16 months old and I was several months pregnant with Meghann. It was a wrangle to get a lease on a house, but we did it.
(I swear the house did not look like this when we rented it. This is the new & improved exterior.)
Our Household goods were super-slow getting to us, so we were given a few things to tide us over… one of which was a crib mattress for me to lay on. Tristan slept in the playpen and the kids’ dad slept in a sleeping bag (if I recall correctly).
One middle of the night, I heard something skittering above me, in the attic. Humorously, my former husband put his boots on (and nothing else) and grabbed a trenching tool and stomped around looking for the noisemakers. He didn’t find anything, but I laid there listening to the scratching far after he fell back to sleep.
When our household goods still hadn’t arrived a month later, the Army bought us a bed. A waterbed. How time-warp is that?!? We had those rainbow sheets on it.
We also had satin hearts in a swirly mobile hanging over the bed.
Meghann & Me
I had Meghann at home, in an Unassisted Birth (called a UC or “freebirth”)… the stupidest thing I have ever done in my entire life. You can read her story here if you are interested: Meghann’s UC Birth Story.
Relevant to this story, however, is my never-ending time breastfeeding.
I’d nursed Tristan for a mere 4 months and had big expectations to nurse until Meghann weaned herself (which she sort of did at 2.5 years old). So I was a nursing zombie. I was so tired, but then we got our tv and (we had to have gotten) cable because voila! there was MTV.
Meghann was born May 27, 1984. MTV had been around since 1981, but it was really in its heyday during the time I was watching it in the middle of the night, baby at my breast. In fact, the first Top 20 Video Countdown began in March 1984 (and it SUCKED! Watch it on YouTube!), so right before Meggie was born.
The songs that stood out most for me, the ones I waited for with baited breath:
Cyndi Lauper – Girls Just Want to Have Fun– (WOW! The people in it are incredibly diverse for that time period. I never noticed before.) Tristan loved this video, especially the part where the girls are floating in the bubbles/circles and going around. I can see him as if it was yesterday, in his footie pajamas, dancing and pointing at the TV.
While Holiday was Madonna’s first hit, her first video hit was Lucky Star. From the first moment I saw her, I was enamored. She came out with a string of hits in 1984, but when Meghann was a newborn, Borderline was the video I salivated for. (Clearly, I know wayyyy too much about Madonna’s early career!)
We’d inherited a sofa bed from the kids’ dad’s parents, a little larger than a loveseat, with two big square pillows to sit on. I’ve scoured my thousands of pictures and the Net looking for the sofa. This is the best I could find.
Here is how the sofa opened into a bed.
I sat on the couch on the right side. Every time. Before Meghann was born. And after she was born. That was my spot. I plopped a feather pillow with the rainbow pillowcase under my right arm, holding up my elbow, and I would nurse for hours. Sitting on that right side of the couch.
At night, we just sat nursing by the light of MTV. We kept the volume low for her dad who had to work the next morning, but we still bee-bopped to whomever MTV put on in the wee hours.
One dark early morning, I was nursing on the right side of the couch and out from behind the huge square furnace we had in the living room, came a rat. Then another rat. Then 3 baby rats.
I screamed bloody murder and the kids’ dad ran out, scaring them so they skittered back from whence they came.
How to Kill a Rat
When the Landlord finally came over, he gave us some mouse traps and rat food. He walked around showing us where they were getting in. One place was behind the toilet which freaked me out every time I had to use the bathroom. Picture fat pregnant me with my legs raised while I did my business. Ugh.
The landlord gave us the perfect solution to keeping the rats out.
Crush some glass and sprinkle it where the holes are.
I stood there blinking.
“Uh, I have a toddler! I cannot have crushed glass around the house.”
“Well, that’s the best idea I have.”
We checked the traps and poison a few days later and the bait had all been taken, the poison eaten… and the rats twice their size and twice as active.
We had to move.
By the time a solution appeared, Meghann was 4 months old.
Some friends of the kids’ dad were managers at an apartment complex and said they had a place we could move into. The challenge was we did not have the deposit, so they said they had not cleaned it yet and if we were willing to clean it ourselves, it was ours.
We headed over right away to go clean, taking some more friends from the military. When we opened the door, ghastly smells wrapped around us; cigarette stench was the main foulness, but there were others we could not parse out.
The walls in the living room were vile. Drips of nicotine painted them.
Where the previous tenants removed photos, we could see what the once pristine white walls had looked like.
Looking at the white areas, we saw we really had our work cut out for us.
We set to cleaning.
Being fat and not able to climb, I chose the kitchen. Kitchen HELL I should say. Not only were there nicotine streaks, the people before us cooked with grease. A lot of grease. A lot of spattering grease. Within 5 feet of the stove, the grease and yellow cigarette goop challenged each other for dripping space.
The only way I could think of cleaning this disgusting mess was with SOS Pads. Steel wool with soap on them if you aren’t familiar. I set to wetting the SOS pad, then scrubbing the wall, that blessedly, had glossy paint. Small favors.
I was cleaning madly (literally, not very happily doing this hard work) and got right there around the plastic plate where the plugs go in the wall when suddenly there was a huge -POP- and a giant blue flash that zipped up my arm and threw me against the refrigerator across the kitchen. People ran in to see what happened and I innocently told them what I was doing and their eyes all bugged out.
“THAT’S METAL AND WATER YOU PUT IN A LIVE SOCKET!”
I didn’t know!
What I did know was my right arm felt like it had been smashed with a baseball bat from fingers to shoulder.
I was banished to the couch that had just been brought in. I quietly smiled, grabbing Meghann and sitting on my side, nursing not only my baby, but my really hurting right arm.
We cleaned as best we could, the place looked normal again, but there were lingering smells we just couldn’t seem to get rid of.
One night, while I was sitting on the right side of the couch nursing Meghann, Tristan playing on the floor, their dad had had enough of the growing stink. I told him it smelled like rotting potatoes and maybe we accidentally left some in a box somewhere in the closet.
He set out to find the horrid stench and pulled the boxes out, throwing stuff wildly around the room. I yelled asking if he couldn’t please be neater? He did not answer. I just heard him as he went from room to room, under the bathroom sink, into the kitchen, under the cabinets… digging digging… and throwing things, many of which ended up on the hall floor.
He came up empty. Then looked at me menacingly.
“What?” I was still nursing Meghann.
“GET UP NOW!!!!”
I jumped up, Meghann still attached and he pulled off the cushion I always sat on and there, on top of the mattress mechanism, was a rat. A dead rat.
A SQUISHED FLAT AS A PANCAKE DEAD RAT.
It had been under my ass! FOR MONTHS!
My former husband began laughing his head off. Reliving the rat’s last moments.
“I can see him! ‘Oh, some peanut butter and jelly leftovers!’ Then SQUISH, you flattened ALIVING RAT!”
He jumped around the room, doing the killing-the-rat routine half a dozen times.
Yeah. Me and my fat ass had killed a rat that had been 3 inches from my lap and my baby. I started crying which made him laugh even harder, telling me how funny it was.
Then he said he was going to get something to get the gross flat thing off our sofa. I begged him to throw the couch away. He refused, loudly reminding me we had no money for furniture and it was the only place I could nurse. He came out of the kitchen with Playtex yellow gloves on and a spatula. I could not watch.
He laughed and laughed as he scraped the disgusting animal off our couch’s pull out bed top, then danced outside to the dumpster and threw it all in.
The room still reeked and he looked in the kitchen, finding the Carpet Fresh. He came back and sprinkled the carpet fresh where the rat had been squished to death by my flopping-on-the-couch butt.
To this day, the smell of Carpet Fresh reminds me of that horrid stench. The smell that lingered until we were able to throw the couch away a year later.
As you can imagine, I hate rats. I can barely write it without shuddering with revulsion. Because of my rat-phobia, everyone in my life has agreed to call them “Potatoes.”
And damned if that flat rat didn’t smell like rotten potatoes.
For some odd reason, I decided to put on Whitney Houston’s Greatest Hits this morning and suddenly found myself back with Zack and the little kids in Frankfurt, Germany, circa 1987-1988.
Good lord, we were in love. Crazy, all-consuming, mesmerizing love. Emotional, yes, but also physical. We could not keep our hands off each other, having sex several times a day. Zack, being in the Army and nursing two young babies, barely slept. In the morning, home to nurse for lunch, when he came home and then all night long. How he ever functioned is beyond me.
Zack made me feel beautiful for the first time ever. Until him, I had never had sex without a shirt on, covering my ugly body, but especially my belly that bore the effects of three huge babies. I remember the first time in bed with him, me in a shirt. He looked at me flabbergasted and said, “Fuck that shit!” and took my shirt off himself. Then he made love to all of me in a way that had never happened before despite having had several lovers and lots of casual sex.
The way he touched me, sliding his hands over my body, nearly worshiping every soft and gooshy part of me, kissing me (and my entire body) with complete abandon, learning quickly how to pleasure me… and doing so over and over again.
(Words seem so inadequate, so trite, so overused in trying to describe these experiences. Forgive their mundane-ness.)
The babies were in our bed so we had pillows, blankets and sheets kept under the TV in the living room and as soon as all four kids were asleep (and I do mean as soon as!), we were laying on our make-shift bed on the floor, touching, kissing, licking, fucking… and orgasming over and over and over again. I never came so much in my life as I did when first with Zack. Insatiable doesn’t begin to describe that ravenous time together.
Sometimes we tried to have sex in the bed, the babies settled on either side of us. We had a fiber-optic flowery thingie up in the top of the closet and when we were going to have sex in the bed, we opened the tiny upper door, giving us faint light that shifted and rolled as much as we did with each other.
(Writing, Whitney continues singing, not stopping to allow me to catch my breath from crying so hard, memories nearly drowning me. How can she be so unaware of my need to stop for a moment? That I need to feel, relive, remember these sensations lest they vanish into the ether once again. I keep having to stop writing to wipe tears and blow my nose.)
The babies were really young… right at about a year, year and a half… so were nursing often. It was not unusual to have to stop our lovemaking session to walk to the bedroom, climb onto the waterbed and nurse one or both of the babies back to sleep. I used to be s0 frustrated with that process; Zack was matter-of-fact about it. (A much better attitude, for sure.)
Resting here, “seeing” that time flowing inside my mind. I could write for years and never cover the expanse that was our love back then. I write, yes, but he and I share secrets with each other we will never tell another soul… the Take-It-to-the-Grave sort of hidden thoughts and experiences.
See me sitting in the middle of the living room, waiting for Zack to come back after nursing the babies? Me, listening to Whitney Houston singing songs I would listen to in 30 years, my quilt of memories covering me from the cold of old age and loneliness.
Oh how I love that man. I’ll call and tell him so today.