Meaty pasta sauce and don’t mind me, I’m just pregnant

Meat sauce

Next week will mark one year together for me and SJ, my donor (by mutual agreement, he is no longer my “provider of intercourse,” as he is not providing very much these days). Generally, things are good. We don’t fight (anyone I’ve ever dated is now checking the “About” page, thinking, I thought this was Jenny ______________, but now I’m not sure). We laugh constantly. We agree that I’m the superior partner. And we get along because of my philosophy about “strengths and weaknesses,” which is borne of me being really fucking tired of dating and not having the energy to get angry about everything I could possibly get angry about. I’m 40; SJ is 49. Nobody’s making any big changes this late in the game. So we divvy up duties and responsibilities based on what we bring to the table.

For example, these are my strengths:

  1. Making appointments.
  2. Keeping appointments.
  3. Showing up on time.
  4. Making a plan.
  5. Sticking to a plan.
  6. Keeping track of our finances.
  7. Registering my car.
  8. Washing dishes after I use them.
  9. Putting things away after I use them.
  10. Not forgetting to move the laundry from the washer to the dryer.
  11. Opening my mail.
  12. Dealing with my mail.

These are SJ’s strengths:

  1. Putting together IKEA furniture.
  2. Getting poison oak.
  3. Making smiley faces with the whipped cream on his Sunday morning crepes.

So things are pretty much even.

Still, a couple months ago, a friend at work gave me a book called How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids, by Jancee Dunn. My first thought was, Here’s a kindred spiritGreat title! But also, the No. 1 thing I fear — more than the pain of childbirth, more than being responsible for the life of a human being who weighs six pounds — is sleep deprivation. Like most people, sleep deprivation turns me into an unreasonable, selfish, angry person — basically me already, just with no gate between brain and mouth rather than a broadcast delay that occasionally works.

But I opened the book one afternoon and immediately began underlining. Among quotes from researchers about the typically uneven division of households duties, Dunn wrote, “Research shows that after sleep deprivation, the emotional part of the brain, the amygdala, is much more reactive.”

“You’re going to hate me after the baby comes,” SJ has said cheerfully a number of times.

Why wait two months? Why not start now?

A few days ago, it came up that SJ wants to go to a festival in Ashland, Oregon, over the Fourth of July holidays. Another of my strengths is scheduling/planning/knowing how time works. I did the math in my head.

“I’ll be 37 weeks pregnant,” I said. “I’m so sorry, honey. If you go, you might miss the birth.”

SJ nodded sympathetically and stroked my arm. He looked deep into my eyes.

“Do you want to come?” he asked kindly.

The time delay worked this time, not because of any kind of self-control on my part but because of total shock. DID I WANT TO COME. AT 37 WEEKS PREGNANT DID I WANT TO GO ON A ROAD TRIP FROM SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA, TO ASHLAND, OREGON, IN AN UNREGISTERED MINIVAN WITH TWO BROKEN DOOR HANDLES RATHER THAN STAYING WITHIN A HALF-HOUR DRIVE OF THE HOSPITAL IN CASE, LIKE IN 12 PERCENT OF BIRTHS, I GO INTO PREMATURE LABOR.

This struck me as the same faulty approach as that of the passive-aggressive neighbor who knows they’re going to have a rager right on the other side of the wall and doesn’t want to be responsible for your comfort. Instead, they knock on your door a day, or even days, earlier — how thoughtful! — and say, “Hi! I’m so-and-so, and I just wanted to let you know that we’re having a party Saturday night, and instead of you going apeshit and calling the police because of house music pounding past 2 a.m. and white people in Afro wigs yelling ‘WOOOOOO-HOOOOOO’ out the windows and people fucking or bawling their eyes out in the stairwell, DO YOU WANT TO COME.” Smile/blink/smile/blink.

I looked at SJ. My blood went cold.

“Honey,” I said, “I think you don’t understand what’s happening. I’m having a baby.”

SJ nodded again, smiled patiently — so lucky to have learned how to deal with women! — and turned onto his back to check his phone.

I climbed out of bed and gathered my things to go to my second job. Then I spent the entire day imagining going into labor alone, calling the hospital and the doula alone, packing the car alone, having the doula drive me to the hospital, laboring and delivering alone, and realizing that I wouldn’t be desperately angry if SJ missed the birth, I would be desperately sad, and I might never get over it. I also realized I needed to be more clear.

The next day, I waited until a quiet moment. This might be a difficult conversation, and I didn’t want to find myself saying anything along the lines of You can’t go. I wanted to use reason and calm, one of which I am good at and the other of which I am not.

“I wanted to talk to you about Ashland,” I said. I took a deep breath. The breeze lifted the leaves of the loquat tree in the backyard. “It’s too late in my pregnancy for you to go out of town.”

“OK,” he said.

“OK?”

“Mmhmm.”

“Um. All right. OK.”

Then SJ said, “I have something for you.”

“Is it going to make me happy or angry?”

SJ thought for a moment. “It should make you happy,” he said.

Then he went out to the unregistered van with two broken door handles and came back with a box of truffles for my first Mother’s Day. This proved, once again, that in the overall point-tallying of our first year together (a competition that only I am having, which means only I am winning, or I am losing), SJ makes me more happy than anything, or anyone, else.

This pasta sauce is a variation on the Sunday night pasta sauce that launched this blog, with a few additions: a 1/4-lb. to a 1/2-lb. of ground beef and a small can of organic mushrooms, because that’s what I had. I’m not a huge fan of thick, meaty sauces because I like the bright taste of the tomatoes, so if you feel the same, reduce the cooking time so all the tomato liquid doesn’t cook off and leave you with sludge.

  • Heat 3 heaping TB of olive oil in a Dutch oven.
  • Add 3 garlic cloves (chopped) and heat over medium-low.
  • Add the meat and break up in the pan.
  • Once the garlic is fragrant and the meat has turned from gray to brown, pour in a 24-oz. can of San Marzano tomatoes. Poke them apart with a spatula.
  • Lower to a simmer.
  • Add a couple glugs of red wine, 1 TB of oregano, 1 tsp. red chili flakes, salt, freshly ground pepper, and, if you have some, 1-2 parmesan cheese rinds. Also possibly a bay leaf.
  • Cook anywhere from 30-45 minutes, depending on how high you have the heat and how much you cook the sauce down.
  • Make pasta.
  • Add the pasta to the sauce. Stir. Put in a bowl, grate parmesan on top, open a bottle of red wine, and binge-watch The Office on Netflix.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. I wish I read this before our Starbucks date this afternoon. So many brilliant parts to comment on! You are brilliant mama.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I wish I could have gone to the Cane with you! Only a few months, momma … then I can hit the bars all the time, right?

    Like

  3. Kelly Voet says:

    I so relate to how you describe your relationship! I’m 42 and my husband of 3 years is 49. In the first 6 months of our relationship, I basically provided him a bullet point list of who I am, and what I need, because I didn’t have the energy to “let the mystery unfold”. Thank goodness there are amazing men out there who appreciate a complicated and fiery woman in their lives.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Agreed! And I LOVE the idea of handing someone a bullet-pointed list of who you are. I should try that with new friends. 🙂

    Like

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