Pee Me a River

As many of you know, I lost my house a couple of years ago in what later became known in Baton Rouge as ‘The Great Flood of 2016’. ‘Great’, as in ‘Totally Not Great; More Big-Budget-Hollywood-Will-Smith-Apocalypse-Movie’, and ‘Flood’, as in, ‘Yeah, Seriously, Hope Ya Can Swim Because You Could Literally Die Today’. We didn’t die, but I will say there were moments when, as we drove/floated out of my subdivision through 4 feet of floodwater with only handful of belongings, our two doofy pitbulls, and my daughter in the back seat pray-whispering, “Um…Mom…the water is…coming up through the… floor…that can’t be good…Mom?” I wasn’t completely sure.

The flood was the scariest experience of my life (well, of the I-Could-Actually-Die variety), second only to being in lower Manhattan on 9/11. I had spent most of that particular morning curled up in a bathroom stall, smoking cigarettes (Fuck you, Office Smoke Detector! It’s all going to hell!) and taking shots of Jagermeister (I know; it’s got to be a real crisis if you’re drinking Jager) from a clandestine bottle my boss had hidden in his desk for ’emergencies’. I stayed like that for hours, unable to uncoil my body from the tightly wound fearball I had become. I couldn’t go up to the roof with my coworkers and watch the towers burn and crumple in real time;  I was simply too scared. I think that actually bearing witness to the tragedy would have made it too real, and I had to hang on to the small amount of self-preservation I could scrabble together on that bathroom floor. When I tell people I was in New York for 9/11, I usually leave that whole part out. I’m kind of ashamed that, at a time when the fight-or-flight instinct really should have been kicking in for me, I opted for hiding-and-fetal instead.

Still. It’s easier be self-protective when you’re in your mid-twenties and responsible only for yourself. Going to pieces is a luxury you don’t have when you need to figure out how to get your family out of a life-threatening situation, and stat. When you’re a mom, it’s a whole different kind of horror movie.

On the morning of the flood, the first thing I noticed was the quiet. A heavy storm system had been sitting over the city for at least two weeks, bringing with it steady peals of rain, wind and thunder. A relentless gray dampness had moved in, threatening to stay longer than is requisite for your average Louisiana August.

That morning though, it seemed the rain had finally stopped, and the silence surrounding the house was almost eerie. Bright morning light was streaming in through the windows and I opened the door to let some of the sunshine in.

I couldn’t believe what was before me.

My happy little street, where Lil and I had enjoyed endless dog walks, bike rides, and neighborhood playdates, had been completely swallowed up by water. Overnight, a dark, thick, fast-moving river had streamed into the neighborhood, curling around the garden homes across the street, sucking up front lawns, and reaching for the tops of windows. And it was creeping up my driveway. Fast.

Like any brave, fully adulted mother, I opened my mouth to let out a silent scream of horror, then promptly peed my pants.

When staring down a truly unimaginable and overwhelming situation, sometimes my bladder just says ‘Here, let me handle it’. There was absolutely nothing I could do. My entire body went into ice cold shock. My heart blasted up into my throat and clobbered my ear drums. And a warm, humiliating liquid fear cascaded down my legs.

As I remember it, adrenaline finally did it’s fucking job and I went into auto mode for the next twenty minutes. I calmly stepped out of my yoga pants, kicked them out of the way and set about the business of informing my family of our situation.

First I woke up Jeremy, who was peacefully comatose, folded around two 60 lb dogs.

I hoarsely whispered, “Um. Babe? So. Yeah. Looks like the street is flooded. I’m…I’m not sure what to do. Please, please get up.”

He stirred, half-cocked an eye.  Drew back, confused.

“Where the hell are your pants?”

 

To Be Continued…

 

 

 

The apple apparently falls rather far from the tree.

I’m not a religious person. Like, at all. I may joke about the current state of things in our country, but I’ll be the first person AMERICA, FUCK YEAH-ing because I’m grateful for the freedoms we have in the good ole U.S. Of A. We’re damn lucky that we can subscribe to any dogma we wish without the fear of being stoned or buried alive or thrown in a river to see if we float. I have always tried to respect the belief systems of others, and will consistently defend their right to practice their chosen religions. As long as they don’t pester me to join in.

I was reared in the Catholic church. We went to church every Sunday (“Giving hour a week to Jesus isn’t that much to ask, for Christsakes” – My Mom), attended Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, and celebrated the miraculous rising of dead Jesus (and the end of the long New York winter) every Easter Sunday.  I was a ruddy-cheeked child bride in winter white when I made my first holy communion, which was followed by a party where I was gifted with religious jewelry and a Virgin Mary nightlight, and posed with my family in front of a sheet cake emblazoned with a giant buttercream crucifix.

I did Catholic, like many of my middle class Long Island girlfriends, and never stopped to question any of it. In high school I wore a plaid skirt and sat in a classroom of like-minded young ladies, learning theology from a ‘hip’ nun who told us to think of Jesus as a ‘cool, older friend’. I went to confession and the priest told me that I would be forgiven for sassing my mom and stealing my sister’s clothes, as long as I said some Hail Marys and ‘took some time for myself; maybe take a bath or paint my nails’. And so I did.

Then I went to college. My friends were atheists and Women’s Studies majors and hippies. My viewpoints were suddenly being pulled out of shape like silly putty, my worldview widening all the time by new experiences and many different kinds of people.

I started learning things about the Catholicism that absolutely appalled me. By the time I graduated and got my first job, I was stridently Anti-Church. (Mind you, I still hadn’t given up on God. Even at this point, I’m still not sure how I feel about all of that. But that’s another blog post entirely.)

As a newly minted Gen-X working girl, I was totally fine with the absence of a religious ballast in my young, know-it-all life. My parents, on the other hand, well…that was a different story.

It first came up in a phone call home when I was about 23. I was living in upstate New York, and casually mentioned to my mother that I was not planning to attend mass with my family that Christmas Eve.

“But why?” Mom asked, bewildered.

“I…um…well, I just don’t think I’m Catholic anymore.”

Silence. Then,

“What do you MEAN you’re not Catholic anymore?”

Alarmed at my mother’s raised voice (an occurrence that rarely happened), my father grabbed the upstairs extension. My parents then proceeded to try and deprogram me, probably assuming that I’d joined a cult or started practicing black magic or smoking crack.

“Of course you’re Catholic,” my father said. “You were BORN Catholic.”

I considered this. I knew I was born Italian and Irish, those were undeniable qualities given my swarthy complexion, abundance of body hair and penchant for Pabst Blue Ribbon. But born ‘Catholic’? I didn’t think that was actually possible.

So began a series of pushes and pulls that lasted the better part of the following decade. My parents, having grown up in an era where dutiful children carry the traditions and values they were raised with into adulthood (instead of becoming therapy-going,  doubting assholes like me), had always embraced Catholicism and I think felt as if my rejecting of religion was, in a way, a rejection of them, of my childhood, and everything they’d taught me. This wasn’t the case at all. In truth, the respect and gratitude I have for my parents and the things I was given in childhood – tangible and not – is enormous. I had just come to a point in my life where I couldn’t find a place to where religion fit.

When I was 30, I became pregnant with my daughter. Although I tried not to be a dick about it, I was pretty clear with my family that I had no intention of taking my kid to church. When Lily was born and was put on ventilator after accidentally inhaling some of her own poop in my uterus (story for another time), my mother snuck some holy water into the NICU sprinkled it on her sweet newborn head  ‘just in case’.

A year later, in lieu of a baptism, and after I’d spent a shitload of time perusing boho parenting books and websites, we held a ‘naming ceremony’ in a park with family, friends, and potluck vegetarian food.  I’d like to think that Lily’s life has been full of experiences like these: celebrations of life, family, and an abundance of love, despite the presence of that ‘cool, older friend’ in sandals reminding us that he died for our sins.

That’s why I almost had a heart attack when, at the age of 14, my daughter told me that she wanted to get baptized into the Catholic church.

Now, we live in the deep south. The DEEEEP south. You can’t turn a corner without almost hitting a church. Many of Lily’s friends are religious. And she’s utterly, right smack in the middle of pubescence, a time that I remember so desperately wanting to be normal and belong. So, sure. It’s understandable that she wants to feel connected to a community. A system of values of her own making, to try it out. I get that. Even though it’s something I NEVER expected.

So I called my parents. My mother, now retired, still stays very active in her church, giving out communion every week at the local hospital to people in ICU, and teaching religious instruction to a bunch of rowdy teenage infidels.  Needless to say, when I broke the news, she was PSYCHED. “Oh, this is wonderful! I’m so glad she wants to be part of the church! I’m going to call Father Peter in the morning and set everything up!”

Then I heard the sound of the upstairs extension picking up.

HA ha!” came my father (just like that kid on “The Simpsons”).

“What?” I asked. “What’s so funny?”

“I just think it’s SOOOO interesting that, despite all your efforts to avoid raising  your daughter Catholic, she’s come back to it on her own anyway.”

And he’s right. It is very interesting. And weird, for me. But as a mother, I have to support it, even applaud her wanting to do something so different. After all, that’s how I raised her to be, right? Independent. Resolute, Self-possessed. So she’s trying out religion now. It’s my hope that she finds a solace in it. Despite my disillusion with Catholicism, it was certainly a large part of my young life. Maybe it even helped define who I was, who I became. Maybe this is the thing that will define her.

And hey, it’s definitely better than crack.

Bye Bye Babies

HEY GUYS

What’s happening today is that I’m 3 days post-op from a bilateral salpingectomy, which is the removal of my pesky fallopian tubes. I also underwent an endometrial ablation, which is the burning of the inside lining of my uterus (gross) in the hopes that my hideously painful periods will cease trying to murder me, as they have every month for the last 32 years.

32 YEARS, DUDES!! I’ve been bleeding out of my vag for longer than most millennials have been alive.

I decided to have these procedures after my OB/Gyn, who looks and talks exactly like Lorelai Gilmore, suggested it (in truth, her Lorelai-ness may have had more weight in the decision than I realize. But I’m ok with that). Here’s the thing: I love kids. I really do. I just don’t want to birth any more of them. And since I  made this decision several years ago, there doesn’t seem much point in continuing to endure the monthly battle that is my menstrual cycle. I’m tired of all of it. The mood swings, the mindbending cramps, the blood, blood, blood. So after all the research I did (while trying hard not to fall into terrifying, worst-case-scenario Reddit and WebMD rabbit holes), I decided the Novasure Ablation was for me. Done laparoscopically, the simple procedure would slough off my stubborn uterine lining, resulting in lighter, and in many cases, nonexistent periods for several years. To boot, my doctor would also remove my fallopian tubes (“They serve no purpose besides transporting an egg to a uterus”, Lorelai told me), making future me-babies impossible.

SIGN ME THE HELL UP.

I got to the hospital at 5 am on Tuesday, actually kind of looking forward to a few hours of uninterrupted sleep via general anesthesia. However, I woke up several hours later feeling like I’d been socked in the groin. I had two small incisions on either side of my lower stomach, probably the size of a bitten-off fingernail, and another inside my bellybutton. All three were stitched up and covered with medical tape. I was extremely dehydrated and nauseous, despite the anti-nausea patch that sat behind my ear. The nurse gave me some diet coke and something that looked like a plastic sock for me to take in the car, in case I needed to throw up. Jeremy, my perennial rock of ages, who has supported every decision I’ve made, no matter how questionable, fettered me home and into bed, where I popped a Motrin 800 mg and sacked out. Oh, wait. First I tried to pee. Which is really challenging when your lower extremities are basically asleep from heavy narcotics. But I think I managed a little.

Lily came home from school in the late afternoon, bounding in to check on me. She kicked off her Chuck Taylors and climbed into my bed. “I’m really glad you didn’t die,” she whispered. At 13, she is so much better at hiding her anxiety about everything that’s scary about the world than I was. I’d had no idea she was even nervous about the procedure until right then. Sometimes I really have my head up my ass.

I was able to get up for a bit and eat dinner with my family, despite the aching in my abdomen. Mostly I was just really, really tired. And my mouth was dry as dust. No amount of water seemed to alleviate that. The bed was calling me back. So I hit the pillow again at about 7 pm and slept the night through.

Day two was similar, with a little less sleepiness. I drank two giant bottles of coconut water, hoping the electrolytes would help with the dehydrated feeling. I think it did, but also, I guess it just takes a while to work anesthesia out of your system. I was able to work (never been so grateful for a home office), to drive a little bit, grab some groceries, and then I passed out early that evening again.

SO, here I am on day three. I’m definitely getting better. My incisions look pretty good. Been slathering them in Vitamin E. I still feel like there are two small weights hanging off my ovaries every time I get up from sitting. And there is a numb spot in the bottom right portion of my abdomen. I am tempted to pinch it or stick myself with a little sewing needle, just because I can. But I haven’t. So far, so good. Peace out for now.