(Note: This post was written while still pregnant, lest you think I just shot a kid out of my baby-cannon and now have any ability to construct a coherent sentence, much less a mini-memoir.)
Yes, a mouse.
But stay with me. We have a rational reason for doing so. Well, maybe not a rational reason (not sure how anyone can expect me to be rational right now, as I am currently in month 9 of having two vaginas), but a reason that will at least provide some context for my desire to name our child after an animal that most people try to kill with strategically placed snap-traps.
Ten years ago, I suffered a deep, terrifying, paralyzing depression. I’ve written about it and referenced it many times on this blog so I won’t re-hash the details in this post, but needles to say, it was my darkest hour. What I haven’t mentioned before is a somewhat interesting (and now extremely relevant) aspect of this terrible time in my life– my obsession with mouse-kid Noisy Nora.
Yes, I’ll explain (because who? And huh?).
In the months I spent depressed living in my parents’ home at age 26, I was unable to do virtually anything. One day, while robotically eating breakfast and staring blankly at the Honey Nut Cheerios box, my mother put a pencil in my hand and suggested I draw something. Not only did I think this was pointless, as EVERYTHING was pointless, but I thought it was extra ridiculous given that, a mild talent for photography aside, I had never at any point in my life shown any kind of visual-arts ability or interest.
But I had nothing to lose (and nothing to do), so I grabbed the pencil and started drawing what I saw on the cereal box in front of me.
Looking at it now, I think “Not a bad little Cheerios bee!” At the time, however, all I could manage was, “Well this drawing sucks.” Because, you know. Everything sucked. But what I did notice was that for the brief time I was immersed in the sketching process, I wasn’t, for once, writhing in despair and wondering how the minutes of life could possibly be ticking by so slowly. I was able to escape my agony for a short, precious time, and that alone was enough reason to keep drawing.
So I did. Basically, I stuck to sketching images that were on the boxes of the food I was eating:
As you can see, I was really into carbs.
Then one day, in a further desperate attempt to pass the interminable minutes, I began sorting through mountains of crap in my parents’ storage room. To my delight (delight is a strong word– I hated everything) I stumbled upon a box of my most beloved childhood books. They were all there: The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Where the Wild Things Are, Doctor De Soto, The Snowy Day and, finally, at the very bottom of the box– Noisy Nora.
GOD how I loved that book as a kid. It’s about a very endearing yet insufferable little mouse-kid who is jealous of the time her parents spend with her siblings, and therefore seeks attention by being a destructive little pain in the ass. I adored her, because I was her. No one could yell, stomp, and slam a door (then open it and re-slam it) for NO GOOD REASON like kid-me (and, ok, teenager-me. Adult-me…).
And for reasons I could not articulate, I suddenly became OBSESSED with drawing Nora. So obsessed, in fact, that I purchased a separate sketch pad solely for Nora drawings, where I could practice sketching her over and over again until I had her every tiny little detail perfected. (Side note: This genius separate-notebook idea backfired, as somewhere in the five times I’ve moved residencies since then, it got misplaced, while my notebook full of meaningless cereal box characters has somehow stood the test of time ).
I sketched these Nora drawings in the privacy of my own bedroom, and kept the special Nora notepad under the bed where no one would find it. Unlike my Cheerios bee and Keebler elves, I was very protective of my Nora sketches and did not want to show them to anyone, even my mother, who was always so delighted and impressed by my cartoon drawings– so impressed, in fact, that she suggested I pursue a career in comic-strip writing (she was pretty desperate to give me purpose. She was also, understandably, drinking a LOT of wine during that time).
Nora was my little secret. I was never really able to articulate or explain to myself why I was so obsessed with her. Sure, I loved the book as a kid, but I loved lots of books and characters and wasn’t obsessing over any of THEM. At the time, the infatuation made no sense. But then again, nothing made sense, so I didn’t spend too much time or energy trying to figure it out.
Eventually, with copious medical interventions and the unwavering support of family and friends, I began to heal in early 2009, and life restarted again. I moved back to NYC, got a teaching job, found my marbles, and was functioning like the human I had forgotten I was capable of being.
And in the process, I let Nora go. Not completely and not forever– after all, she was there with me for those lonely, agonizing months and got me through a truly hopeless time– but now that I was able to participate in life again, the inexplicable obsession subsided and found a cozy spot in the back recesses of my mind, rather than in the fixated forefront.
Fast forward 9 years and I’m pregnant. As soon as we learned we were having a girl, out of (seemingly) nowhere, the name Nora came to my mind. I casually mentioned it to Eric as a name I liked, and he agreed it was nice, but suggested we keep thinking. He liked it but didn’t necessarily LOVE it, and maybe there was something out there we’d both LOVE. That was fine with me– I wasn’t even sure in that moment why I liked it so much, or why it came to me so suddenly, so I agreed to keep thinking. We looked through list after list and flirted with other names, many of which I did really like. But at the end of each day when I put my head to my pillow, I kept coming back to Nora.
And slowly, I began to realize why. Now, bear with me here– I’m not typically a hokey, whimsical or overly-spiritual person. But I am a big believer in things happening for a reason, and I do think “the universe,” however one might define that, plays a role in the direction our lives take. And in that time when I felt I truly had nothing to live for, I feel that maybe, just maybe, the Nora obsession was the universe’s way of saying “Do not give up, Emily. This darkness is temporary, and light awaits. There’s something big coming, and you’re going to want to be around to see it.”
Now I don’t want anyone to interpret this as me thinking that having a child is the only, or the ultimate, thing to live for. It has been 10 years since that depressive episode and my life has been beyond full of reasons to live– from big reasons (family, friends, major accomplishments both personal and professional, fabulous travel, discovery of new talents and interests) to all those little moments that make up a full, meaningful life (a burst of uncontrolled laughter, hearing Journey’s “Faithfully” and remembering every single lyric to your camp alma mater, a post-run nap in a shaded hammock, the satisfaction of finally killing the pesky fly that’s been occupying your apartment for a week– sorry, that last one just happened like 5 minutes ago and DAMN it felt good! Anyway, we all have our things.)
There are trillions of reasons to live, big and small, but when you’re severely depressed, you can’t access any of them. So I think this Nora obsession, for which I had no explanation at the time, only an intense and seemingly primal NEED to draw her, was the universe desperately trying to shove hope in my face– to tell me that if I could just hold on and get through this time, I would rediscover all the reasons to be here, and come to see that I still have so much important work left to do in this life, including (but certainly not limited to) becoming a mom.
So I kept coming back to the name Nora, and although Eric liked it, he still wasn’t totally sold. I wanted to disclose the reason I was so attached to it, but I also worried he might think I was nuts (not sure why I still occasionally fear this. The guy has witnessed some pretty emotionally ape-shit moments and he’s still here, inexplicably, with bells on). For months, I kept pressing the name on him, with no explanation other than, “I just really like it,” only to get a non-committal, “I like it too, but let’s keep thinking,” in response.
So eventually, on a particularly hormonal day, I explained my reasoning. With tears in my eyes, I cautiously relayed the story of my Noisy Nora fixation, and how in hindsight I think it might have been the universe giving me a reason to hold on.
“Oh,” Eric said. “Well then that’s it. That’s her name. Why didn’t you just tell me that? Of course that’s her name. And now I love it.”
And that is why I married him.
And why we named our daughter after a rodent.
Zack included me and Eric on the google doc detailing all the dinners he’s preparing in the Outer Banks without us, so we slipped in random penis references and are waiting for him to notice.
Because that’s how two people who are about to become parents handle themselves when they’re feeling left out.
Now that the day has arrived where my entire family heads down to the annual vacation in the Outer Banks without us, I think it’s important to revisit this conversation, first posted here but recounted for your convenience below:
Me (right after taking pregnancy test): “So…we’re pregnant! The only issue here is that the due date is August 26, literally smack in the middle of the Outer Banks vacation…”
Mom: “Well, we don’t KNOW that’s the due date.”
Me: “Ok. We do, though.”
Mom: “Let’s see what the doctor says.”
Me: “The doctor is going to say that’s the due date, because I used the exact same calculation method a doctor uses.”
Mom: “Em, let’s just see what he says, ok?”
(after going to doctor)
Me: “The doctor says the due date is August 26.”
Mom: “Ok, well let’s just see what happens.”
That conversation took place on December 18th, arguably with plenty of time to make some new vacation arrangements in terms of dates, but Mom preferred the “let’s just see what happens” approach, which I assume was wishful thinking that the baby would come a month early (not exactly a healthy thing to wish for) or a month late (not a thing, period), we’d still be able to go, and no one would have to put forth any kind of effort to rearrange plans.
Well, the vacation starts today, August 19th, and goes through September 2nd. I am exactly 39 weeks pregnant. My due date is still August 26th, despite my family hoping that the baby would decide, in utero, “You know what? I’m just going to go ahead and be a month older now.” Due to my gestational diabetes, the doctors will not let me go past 40.5 weeks, so if I don’t go naturally this week, I will be induced before the 29th.
All of this meaning that this baby has an indisputable, 100% chance of being born during this vacation. I, of course, can file this under “Things I Knew 8 Months Ago” but I guess sometimes it’s fun to take the “let’s see what happens” approach in the face of knowing pretty much EXACTLY WHAT WILL FUCKING HAPPEN.
Now, in my family’s defense, there was a major caveat involved in moving the vacation dates. We have been in the same rental house for about 8 years now, and the house is freakin awesome. We all love it. And the problem is that if we were to give up our two end-of-August weeks THIS year, we would then lose the house during this August block for future years. Since end of August is (typically) the best time for all of us to take off work and be there, we want to secure the house on those dates for the future, and giving it up this year would jeopardize that. So I kind of get it.
But the other way to look at it is that my family had a choice– us, or the house.
The house won.
(I originally wrote that as an extremely dramatic Sophie’s Choice metaphor, in which my family clung to the house for dear life and sent me and Eric to the gas chamber, but I decided to dial it back a bit. But still mention it here. In whispered parentheses. Where it doesn’t count as actually having wrote it, so no one can be offended.)
I also can’t help but be slightly resentful that despite over 25 years of our harassment on the topic, my parents have not just sucked it up and bought an awesome house down there already, instead of renting each year. Because now, thanks to my dad’s stubborn unwillingness to shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars (over a million? I don’t know what things cost) on a home he’ll realistically use 1% of the year, I CAN’T GO THIS ONE TIME.
That’s some fucking selfish, twisted logic, DAD.
But ok, again in fairness, I suppose Eric and I should take some responsibility here. As my brother-in-law Andrew pointed out right before hitting the road:
But honestly, in the Seychellois-rum-infused moment, we legitimately did not realize the due date would be smack in the middle of family vacay, because, guys, pregnancy math is actually pretty complicated. Math in general is pretty complicated!
I’m a math tutor.
Whatever, the damage is done, and there are lots of things to blame: Dad’s blatant frugality and selfishness; Mom’s nonsensical wait-and-see strategy; math; Seychellois rum; Eric’s sniper-like, one-shot accuracy; my desperate, aging, catcher’s-mitt-wearing uterus; God; Lerman’s Law (like Murphy’s Law, but only applying to Lermans); and, last but not least, the baby.
No, I’m kidding. We would never blame the baby.
She just better be a good one.
(Disclaimer: if you think any of this post is serious, I really can’t help you. I like to assume my base is more Hillary-esque than Trumpian– aka, smart enough to know this. But there’s always that one, and for some reason (anxiety) I’m still afraid of you. On that note, One, stop reading my blog. Try this one instead. )
After sending some ultrasound pics to the family….
Eric decided to add a little friendly fun to this pregnancy experience (as his role has mainly consisted of fetching me things and being the human crane that lifts me from couch/bed/uber/toilet) by starting a family Baby Pool. The instructions were as follows:
Here’s what has happened so far:
1. Dad became instantly confused by the Venmo situation. He doesn’t know how to use it and asked that somebody show him. My uncle, trying to be helpful, suggested “download it. It’s pretty self explanatory from there.” I am certain he lost Dad at “download.”
2. Mom remained silent on the Venmo topic but I already know she’s confused, because the last time I was home the following conversation took place:
Mom: “I need you to show me how to buy Venmo.”
Me: “You mean download Venmo?”
Mom: “No, I know how to download things, thank you very much. But I need you to show me how to buy it.”
Me: “But you don’t buy it, you download it.”
Mom: “I know that.”
And then nothing happened.
3. My mother-in-law texted separately with her own Venmo questions, but I’m still not quite sure where we stand on me being allowed to make fun of her on my blog, so I’m just going to let that one marinate.
4. Zack sent in his due date guess for August 28th, despite Eric and I sending these follow-up emails beforehand:
So either Zack doesn’t read our emails, or he is banking on me being induced the 26th and laboring for 48+ hours. Either way– fuck you, man.
5. Jeremy hasn’t given even the slightest indication that he has read the emails or plans to participate (or is alive). This might be because Eric called him poor (in highlighted font), or it’s simply Jeremy being Jeremy. I’m banking on the latter. He’s pretty fucking aware that he’s poor.
6. In a shocking turn of events, nothing from Steph. We know she read the email and text conversations because Andrew has been actively responding while in her presence, but we imagine that she is this exact level of interested .
7. My 3-year-old nephew The Boog, however, was the first to submit his entry. He thinks the baby will be born on August 10, at 10pm, weighing 10 pounds and measuring 10 inches. He also insisted on paying $10. We tried to explain to him that the entry fee is $5 (and that numbers other than 10 exist), but he told us to keep the 10 and cover Uncle Jeremy’s entry, who he heard is poor.
8. As for our niece, we have been informed that she has some follow-up questions for me and Eric, as she would like to collect a bit more information before entering her submission. She is 3.
So bottom line we only have 2 submissions so far, as this whole fun baby pool idea has derailed into a bit of a shitshow and likely won’t actually come to fruition. To be clear, this post, which I will link to Facebook and tag every single family member in, is not at all a passive-aggressive attempt to spur everyone into action. Because I’m above that.
Our kid will be born knowing exactly how to get her home cleaned (call 1-800-Steamer), book a car to the airport (666-6666) and who to call should she find herself needing to file a lawsuit (Cellino and Barnes, injury attorneys), as these are Eric’s go-to jingles when I tell him to sing to the baby.
And I gotta say, at first I rolled my eyes (particularly when he followed one of these “lullabies” with a lecture-warning about the gender pay gap), but then I was like you know what? That information is WAY more practical than knowing the detailed comings and goings of Mary’s lamb (and if I can avoid having to eventually break the news that nobody ACTUALLY has a lamb, and that if they do, they’re probably going to eat it with some mint jelly at some point– yes, even Mary– then great).
And why does baby need intricate knowledge of Miss Muffet’s breakfast ingredients? Particularly since they consist of curds and whey, two words our kid will use approximately zero times in her life. If Miss Muff wants to go ahead and slip some bacon and tots into that bowl and pair it with a bloody, then I’ll consider getting on board with a lesson on how to brunch like a boss. But until then, her sad little Amish meal is a waste of everyone’s time.
And don’t get me started on the old woman who lives in a shoe. It’s called homelessness and I’m not about to suggest to baby that there’s anything whimsical about not having her own apartment.
So this led me to rethink my daily singing of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” to my belly. Like, does she really need a song to inform her that stars twinkle? No. She’ll look up one night and get the point (and if not, at some point while in the Outer Banks, Uncle Zack will explain it to her in a weed-induced, hours-long oral disseration that she will understand approximately 2% of). So I’m keeping the melody but replacing the lyrics with directions on how to avoid subway rats, and a reminder to clean her toothpaste spit from the sink before leaving the bathroom, because no one wants to see that shit. I also threw in a stanza about how to get money from her maternal grandparents without actually asking for it, but making it seem like it was their idea to offer. The song ends with specific instructions for Facebook and Venmo privacy settings, because that shit gets confusing and BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING, BABY GIRL.
Bottom line, songs are great but let’s not waste baby’s time. If I had spent less hours getting intimately acquainted with every single fucking animal on Old McDonald’s farm (zebras, mom? No. Now you’re just tired and everyone is getting dumber) and more time learning how to embellish a résumé when the only “job expereince” you’ve had is camp counselor and SDT Pledge Master, I probably would have had less of a nervous breakdown at age 26.
From here on out, no more impractical ditties. If baby wants a soothing song, she’s going to learn a useful life skill in the process.
So twinkle, twinkle, baby girl. Tie your hair back before you hurl.
So I actually have two stories that fall into the “Things Should Be Called What They Are” category but I will post the second one at a later date because I’ve learned that when one post gets too long, you people don’t read it, even if I’ve done my damnedest to keep it entertaining throughout.
But fine, you guys are lazy and busy. I get it. I don’t read stuff either. Because Instagram! And texting! And staring at walls blankly whilst in the grips of crippling anxiety!
Anyway a few months ago I was working on my baby registry with my sister, when I noticed something was missing from her list of newborn essentials.
“I’m no expert, but doesn’t the baby need, like, clothes?” I asked.
“Yeah,” she answered, “But Mom will get you all those things when she takes you for the layette.”
“Oh, ok, cool,” I said. And then, the second she left the room, I googled, “What the fuck is a layette?” because seriously WHAT THE FUCK IS A LAYETTE.
I’ll tell you what the fuck a layette is– it’s buying stuff.
There is absolutely no reason for it to have a name other than “we’re going to go to a store and buy some shit the baby can wear for a few months so she’s not always naked and so your neighbors don’t call the police.” I guess referring to it as a “layette” makes it sound fancy and whimsical, but I personally found it unnecessarily confusing and, for lack of a better word, dumb. And to be honest, it caused me a bit of anxiety, like there must be something wrong with me and it must say something about what kind of mother I’m going to be if I don’t even know what a layette is. Which I know is crazy and totally over-analyzing but hi have we met?
But ok. Layette. Free stuff! (for me. Stupidly expensive for my parents.)
So I gave my belly a gentle pat and whispered, “Don’t worry baby girl, I’ll have this shit all figured out by the time you get here,” which was obviously a lie but luckily she knows zero things.
My mom and I went to Lesters on the Upper East Side, where you make an appointment to have a person walk you through what you’ll “need” (in quotes because we all know the only thing newborns NEED are diapers and a boob). Having already done this with my sister, my mom warned me that the saleslady was going to be pushy and try to get us to buy a bunch of unnecessary crapola, so let’s just be as practical as possible. This is easy enough for me– I am generally the queen of practical. What amused me is that my mom was giving me this warning, as when it comes to buying stuff she is about as practical as she is speedy (that’s funnier if you know her and have ever tried to walk alongside her. It’s literally impossible to stay at her snail’s pace if you have more than one working leg.)
So we’re halfway through the layette, and I’m being a total Practical Patty and turning down the more ridiculous items being presented (“Oh, that’s something I throw over my shoulder that she’s going to repeatedly barf on? It’s literal purpose is barf collection? Yeah I’ll take the plain, cheap rags then and forgo the patterened organza and no I don’t need it embroidered because WHAT IS HAPPENING”).
Mom was also totally behaving herself, aside from a few absurd comments such as suggesting that this onesie I picked out was “really more for a boy”:
Me: “Why do you say that, dare I ask?”
Mom: “Well, the animals at the bottom. They’re boy animals.”
To be clear– these. She meant these:
I nodded and tried not to be disturbed by the fact that my mom lives in a world where a girl can’t possibly sport a monkey in a bee t-shirt riding a polka-dotted crocodile, and quietly placed it in the “definitely buying this with your money” pile.
Mom was also confused by my excitement over this get-up, also found in the boys section (because as we all know, fruit is gender-specific), but honestly what is NOT exciting about YAWNING BANANAS HAVING A HEARTY MORNING STRETCH?!!
If you can’t appreciate a sleepy banana waking up to greet the day then your soul is dead and I’m sorry.
But my favorite part, in terms of Mom reminding ME to be practical, was when the saleslady presented us with baby’s “going home from the hospital” outfit choices. That’s fine, I can get on board with purachsing something cute and special for this moment, but I drew the line when she tried to pair it with a $75 matching blanket.
Me: “Oh, I really don’t need the blanket. I already have some blankets.”
Lady: “Yes, but this one MATCHES the outfit.”
Mom: “Yeah, it’s cute, I like how it matches. Look how cute that is.”
Mom: “Why don’t you just get it?”
Me (confused, thinking the plan was to be practical seeing as though SHE TOLD ME THE PLAN WAS TO BE PRACTICAL): “Because, again, I have blankets. Plenty of blankets. And it will be August.”
Saleslady: “But what about for a picture? It’s nice to have a matching blanket and take a nice picture.”
Mom: “Yeah, for a picture, it’ll be cute if it matches. You can put her on the blanket in the matching outfit.”
I did not get the blanket.
And personally, I feel my mom owes me $75.
But all that minor nonsense aside, the layette was a surprisingly pleasant expereince. I say “surprisingly” because generally I hate shopping and making decisions and being overwhelmed and doing stuff that isn’t on my couch.
But I totally recommend it for all you first time moms out there. Let me be clear, though– I’m not recommending “doing a layette,” I’m recommending what it truly is: “getting some shit for your newborn and letting someone else pay for it.”
I guess “layette” looks better on the Lester’s signage.
P.S. Thanks again Mom I lovvvvvveeeee youuuuuuuu!!!!!!!
“I mean, she’s looking prettttttty fat. She’s huge! Her belly button’s got a belly button!”
— my brother Zack, while we’re FaceTime-ing with my mom, reassuring her that I’ll probably give birth early and still be able to go on the Outer Banks family vacation.
Eric found this proudly displayed in my parents’ house last time we were in Potomac.