Being 34 weeks pregnant is like having a 30-pound goiter that kicks you. Also, I don’t know if you know this, but being very pregnant, being newly married, working two jobs six days a week, and living in a new place is, at times, somewhat stressful. Plus this baby has started to turn, which means not only are his kicks and hiccups getting more intense but his head feels like it’s pressing on my butthole. That’s right! None of the baby books mentioned that one!
But last week was especially hard on both me and SJ, my donor. In addition to me not being able to breathe because of the goiter, a pregnancy-related rash that has now spread to both legs, total physical exhaustion and distraction, and a Saturday-morning scare that had me wandering the house lightheaded and out of breath, feeling around for a baby who suddenly decided to make himself scare, calling the Kaiser advice nurse, and finally canceling my class at the last minute so I could lie on my side in complete darkness and count his kicks for two hours (EVERYTHING WAS FINE. THE LITTLE FUCKER WAS JUST HIDING OUT NEAR MY COLON), we were also:
- Putting shelves up in the kitchen.
- Lining the shelves with cork.
- Moving all food items from the freestanding shelf unit to the new shelves.
- Dragging the freestanding shelf unit into the crawl space.
- Hanging most of the rest of my paintings, prints, and photographs.
- Attending a breastfeeding class.
- Writing out some, but not even close to all, of my thank-you cards.
- Going to Natural Resources to buy baby-friendly nipple cream, diaper cream, and baby shampoo.
- Going to Whole Foods to buy baby-friendly laundry detergent.
- Washing all the newborn clothes, swaddles, blankets, and cloth diapers in baby-friendly laundry detergent.
- Touring the Redwood City Kaiser labor and delivery wing.
- Putting together the co-sleeper.
- Getting our TDAP immunizations.
- Going to another prenatal appointment.
- Trying on all my donated maternity bras and tank tops to see if they fit/how they work.
- Talking to both our insurance companies to figure out who will give us a better deal if we combine our car and home insurance plans.
- Doing laundry, cleaning the bathroom, cleaning the kitchen, sweeping the kitchen, taking out the garbage and recycling, loading the dishwasher, unloading the dishwasher, cooking, cleaning.
- Reading a scary story on the internet about preeclampsia and mass-emailing my OB, my doula, and my doula’s backup to be on the lookout for my blood pressure spiking after the baby comes.
Then we discovered we have LEAD IN OUR DRINKING WATER.
That’s right. Since we live in a neighborhood known for environmental toxins, I sent a water sample from our kitchen to the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission Water Quality department. They tested it and sent a brief email back that basically said the following:
The EPA’s action level for lead is 15 parts per billion. You have 12.6 parts per billion, which, yep, seems pretty close to 15! No amount of lead is safe, and your fetus is extremely vulnerable. But just run your tap before you drink any water. If you have any questions, let us know!
YES I HAD FUCKING QUESTIONS.
For those who’ve been paying close attention, this means I have now ingested both arsenic and lead from drinking water since January. I fully expect this baby to come out sheathed in a thin coating of metal, shaking his fist at me because I started fucking up before he was even born.
I called and emailed the SFPUC. I did that most maddening of things: searched the internet. I went on Facebook and to a local mom’s group to get more information. So far, it looks like we have a lot of bottled water in our future, as well as a possible visit from a plumber and/or a water-filtration system. Hey, just add it to my to-do list!
Then, last night, SJ and I had to deal with one more thing: My car, which has our car seat installed in it (THANK YOU SO MUCH JOYCE YOU HELPED ME MORE THAN YOU KNOW), was part of a recall to have a faulty side-door latch replaced, since the one it came with could suddenly stop working and throw the door open. Meaning my little baby, in his little car seat, could suddenly be riding 1980s beach Jeep-style on the freeway. ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME WHEN DO I GET A DAY OFF.
So we had to caravan down to the Serramonte Ford dealership after hours, drop off my car, and then drive back to SF in SJ’s unregistered yet smogged minivan with two broken door handles.
That’s when he told me he was upset about something.
This is what our fight looked like.
SJ: I have to tell you I’m really upset about something.
Jenny: What are you upset about?
SJ: You did this thing that really upset me, and we’ve talked about it before, so I don’t know why you did it again.
Jenny: (STARES OUT WINDOW SILENTLY FOR FIVE MINUTES, IMAGINING WITHDRAWING ALL THE MONEY THAT I BROUGHT INTO OUR MARRIAGE AND THAT’S STILL CONSIDERED LEGALLY MINE AND THEN I DON’T KNOW ESCAPING SOMEWHERE SO I DON’T HAVE TO DEAL WITH OTHER HUMAN BEINGS, LEAD IN DRINKING WATER, AND A NEVER-ENDING TO-DO LIST.)
SJ: What’s going on over there?
Jenny: THIS IS MY VERSION OF WHAT HAPPENED AND YES MAYBE I SHOULDN’T HAVE DONE THAT BUT WHAT ELSE WAS I SUPPOSED TO DO.
SJ: You could have done this thing we talked about before.
Jenny: HERE’S A BETTER IDEA WHY DON’T YOU SHOVE IT. AND NOT TO CHANGE THE SUBJECT AND MAKE THIS ABOUT EVERYTHING BUT YOUR RESPONSE TO THIS PLAYS ON MY VULNERABILITIES ABOUT NEEDING TO TRUST AND RELY ON ANOTHER PERSON WHEN THAT MUTUALITY HASN’T EXACTLY WORKED OUT FOR ME IN THE PAST.
SJ: THAT MIGHT BE WHAT YOU’RE THINKING BUT THAT’S NOT WHAT YOU’RE SAYING OUT LOUD SO NOW I’M RESPONDING TO WHAT YOU’RE SAYING OUT LOUD WHICH IS DIFFERENT FROM WHAT YOU’RE THINKING, WHICH AFFECTS MY RESPONSE.
Jenny: SAYS SOMETHING WITH THE WORD “FUCKING” IN IT.
SJ: SAYS SOMETHING WITH THE WORD “FUCKING” IN IT.
Jenny: STARTS MAKING A LIST OF EVERYTHING I’VE SACRIFICED TO MAKE THIS WORK AND THEN DEMANDS TO KNOW WHAT SJ HAS SACRIFICED.
SJ: ATTEMPTS TO TELL ME WHAT HE’S SACRIFICED.
Jenny: DISAGREES THAT THESE THINGS CONSTITUTE SACRIFICES IN ANY WAY COMPARABLE TO WHAT I HAVE SACRIFICED.
The drive is only fifteen minutes long. Soon we’re parked back in front of the house.
Jenny: This is hard.
SJ (reaching across the front seats to rub my shoulder because he is not only kind but brave): Yeah.
We sat in the van, talking. Then we sat on the bed in the guest room, talking. Somehow, we used every tool in the argument book, and I mean the good tools: Nobody took any low blows. Nobody called anybody any names. Everybody expressed their feelings in a way that did not blame the other person for those feelings.
We even held hands.
“I think I just wanted to yell,” I said. “I’ve been wanting to yell all week.”
“Me, too,” said SJ.
“But I didn’t feel like I was yelling at you. And I didn’t feel like you were yelling at me.”
“I think I feel safe enough with you that I can yell.”
Don’t worry — I hate us, too.
It was close to eleven o’clock. “I want a chocolate chip cookie,” I blurted out.
“I’ll make you cookies,” SJ said. “I’ll make you any kind of cookies you want.”
I looked at my new husband, thinking, Is it possible that my debt to the universe for the years 2000–2012 (see: drunk bitch, commandeering public bathrooms to snort cocaine off dirty disgusting house keys, infidelity, hypocrisy, self-righteousness, naked handstands when nobody wants to see that) is coming to a close?
“What kind of cookies do you want?” he said.
“You’re going to make me cookies right now?”
“I was just joking,” I said. “I didn’t expect you to make me cookies.”
“I’ll do it.”
“What recipe do you make?” I said.
“The recipe on the back of the bag of chocolate chips.” He smiled and rubbed my arm fondly.
“Well,” I said, “I have a recipe I really like to use.”
SJ’s hand stopped moving for a second, and his eyes showed the briefest flicker of … something.
“But we have all the ingredients,” I said quickly. “I’ll help.”
“You don’t have to,” he said. “You can just keep me company.”
And that’s what we did. In the middle of the night, we made a half-batch of chocolate-chip cookies and then sat on the bed in the guest room, me with a glass of milk and him with a cup of tea, and ate cookies hot out of the oven and watched The Office until past midnight.
Add walnuts to this recipe from one of my most popular blog posts, “Salted chocolate chunk cookies and you’re no Channing Tatum!“:
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 TB granulated sugar
- 2 TB turbinado sugar
- 3/4 cup plus 2 TB packed light or dark brown sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 3/4 tsp. baking soda
- Heaped 1/4 tsp. (or, technically, 1/4 + 1/8 tsp.) fine sea or table salt
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 pound semi- or bittersweet chocolate, cut into roughly 1/2-inch chunks with a serrated knife
- Flaky sea salt, to finish
You need to:
- Heat oven to 360°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon baking mat.
- In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugars together with an electric mixer until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
- Add egg and vanilla, beating until incorporated, and scraping down the bowl as needed.
- Beat in fine sea salt or table salt and baking soda until combined, then the flour on a low speed until just mixed. The dough will look crumbly at this point.
- With a spatula, fold/stir in the chocolate chunks.
- Scoop cookies into 1 1/2 TB mounds, spacing them apart on the prepared baking sheet.
- Sprinkle each with a few flakes of sea salt.
- Bake for 11 to 12 minutes, until golden on the outside but still very gooey and soft inside.
- Out of the oven, let rest on baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.