Wednesday, February 27, 2013

This Nest, A Cage I Built Myself


When I wake up in the morning, my day is foggy. My day feels so short, but so tedious. I wake up when my baby girl crows, having stayed up until God knows when the night before. I change her, feed her, plop her on the floor and turn on Netflix and open up my laptop. I smile and talk to her a little, scold her and smack her hand if she grabs at the computer, which she’s always fascinated by. On a good day, I sometimes get down on the floor a couple times.

At one, I wake Erik. He’ll play with her a little bit, catch up on emails or classwork. Usually she’ll need a nap now, but it’s possible that she already went down before I woke him. If not, I ask him to make the bottle and he does. He’ll take her up for her nap. Depending on the time, we may have a little time to spend together.

Between two-thirty and three, he leaves for his internship. I will stay on the computer, telling myself I’ll get [insert task-of-the-day here] started in a minute… after so-and-so signs off and we’re done talking… after this episode… at blank ‘o’clock… I have a million reasons and rationalizations. I say that the baby’s down now, so now’s my time for a minute to relax, as if I haven’t already been screwing around. Maybe I’m working on something job-search related or at least minutely more productive than refreshing Facebook for the umpteenth time. But that’s not work. Hell, I usually get my three job-search-related activities done on Friday or Saturday before I certify for my unemployment. Of course, I want a job so that we’ll be more financially stable, but really I want things to magically fall into place for Erik so I don’t have to.

Shit. It’s four. It’s five. It’s six and Erik will be done soon. Seven, he’s walking in the door. I never got dinner on. I never remembered to put the chicken in the fridge to defrost yesterday. “Baby, you wanna just pick something up this time? I’ll cook tomorrow. For real.” Twice a day. Every day.

Erik comes home from his internship. The baby woke up a while ago and is playing on the floor again. I don’t think she’s happy here, but I ignore it, mostly because I don’t know what to do for her. There’s no room to crawl around. She loves my mom’s new house. It’s big and open and there are doggies to chase and a hard floor with enough room for a walker.

She gets so excited for him. He walks through that door and she makes this little gasping excited noise and hops up. She rushes to where the ottoman is blocking her into the area, pulling herself up and bouncing, shouting at him. “Hi, baby girl!” he exclaims! Usually he has to empty his hands. Too often he needs to use the bathroom and she cries a moment after he disappears, protesting. I calm her down or wait it out, depending on my mood. It shames me to admit that I get annoyed at her when she’s like that, but it’s not her fault. She’s a baby. I think I’m jealous. I know I’m jealous. She does not get excited like that for me. When we pick her up after a weekend at Grammie’s, she smiles for me and sometimes reaches for me, but she usually lights up for her daddy and wants him almost right after. She almost never wants me, her mommy.

They cuddle. They may play a little. He asks what’s for dinner and ends up running for something on the days I don’t have a frozen pizza to pop in. I may have already texted him to get something. We may already be eating at this point. He’ll probably feed her her dinner, or else bring it to me to feed her.

Between eight and nine, the baby needs to go to bed. Erik usually makes her bottle, but sometimes I do. He takes her up and puts her down with it. If there’s time and we’re both amenable, we may have sex. During and after sex are two of the only times where I feel alive and good again. I feel like I might actually still have some beauty left in me. I can believe him a little when he tells me he wants me, that he loves me.

No, that’s not fair. I always know he loves me. But I rarely believe he should. I rarely understand why he does. Other than the baby. But every once in a while, while he gets ready for work and I cuddle up with a pillow watching him, still naked and half under the covers, I might wonder if we would be together like this without the baby. More often I’m just wondering if we’ll always make this work. We’re still three months from our second anniversary. If it weren’t for her, could we really think about forever? Maybe we could start now. We wouldn’t be so crazy to start thinking about it now.

He always kisses me goodbye and tells me he loves me. Every time. Even if he’s just running for food. Even when one of us is having a grumpy mood. Sometimes I’ll be difficult and make him work for it, just to postpone it those extra seconds. A few rare times we’ve been in a fight and I haven’t gotten that kiss. It breaks my heart.

I’m usually exhausted. All day, in fact. I fight my sleepiness. Occasionally I have a nap. Even when I don’t, I can’t sleep. I yawn and yawn, but I usually toss and turn if I go to bed. I might bring my computer, but it doesn’t change much when I don’t. I consider it getting to bed early when I sleep at midnight, yet I’m so tired when he walks out that door at nine-forty. Do you want to know what time it is right now? As I type these words? 3:15:22 a.m. I’m finally getting sleepy enough to sleep, but these words have to come out.

I go back downstairs now, or I’m already down there, and I play whatever show I feel like watching. I’ve been allowing myself to explore girlier shows, or dramas he wouldn’t like as much so that I won’t watch something we both like and get ahead of him. I grab the computer again and I’m on and off it all night. Too many nights, I curl up on the couch, exhausted, and fall asleep there. When he gets home from work, Erik’s noise tends to wake me and we go up to bed together…

Until the baby crows.

I feel like my day is full. I feel so overwhelmed when I try to do something. I stumble over whatever is cluttering up my floor. I trip into the kitchen, past my towering laundry pile. My dishes are ridiculous because Erik hasn’t been able to get to them yet. I know, though, that it should be my job. But I swear that if he does it once, all the way pristine, I will let him out of our ridiculously unfair deal and take over them. I’m at home now. I lost my job and now I’m at home and I should take care of my house and my family. I should clean and cook and still have a ton of time really to do nothing as my recipes are fairly straightforward and tend to involve a number of hours in the crockpot, and I always have to wait between the loads of laundry.

I just look at piles and piles all over and I feel overwhelmed. I crawl up onto the couch and push just enough stuff over to make my little nest, carving out a niche in the debris on my side table for a glass of water or whatever fast food cup Erik’s brought me now. I have to vacuum and carpet clean from a couple of spills, but I don’t know how to get my carpet clear.

And the baby. I don’t know how to play with her. She’s not like babies were supposed to be. She thinks peekaboo is stupid and doesn’t care when I make funny voices and talk through her toys. She’s not ticklish. She doesn’t like it every single time I swing her upside down or toss her in the air, but at least it works some of the time. I try reading to her, but it seems so weird. Even then, she just tries to eat the book, which I know is normal, but I can’t help but be disappointed by.

I was pregnant and I took my meds like a good girl. I don’t remember how often I forgot, but it was better than my usual track record. I swore to myself and my baby that she would never see me like this. She would never know mommy’s dark days, or whatever term she coins for it. Or really, I can coin it whatever I want, because she wouldn’t get to see them to coin them herself. That’s the point. I swore she would not know the days of me doing nothing on end on the couch and she would not know anything about me lying in bed. She wouldn’t know about my needless crying or moods or meanness or darkness. I would take my meds and I would be better for her. So she could never become me. Then I lost my Medicaid and I haven’t gotten it back.

Now I get bigger and sicker and it gets harder and harder to pull myself out of this. I spend whole days where I never move from that couch. I pee two or three times. I make a bottle or two for the baby, putting her down and getting her back up, if Erik isn’t home. The thought of leaving the house frightens me now. I rarely shower.

And no one understands how serious this has gotten…