Candid and largely unapologetic, Los Angeles writer and mother of two Schickel indulges herself first, her kids next, and arbiters of proper motherhood never in this frequently funny, entirely irreverent and occasionally inappropriate essay collection. Though she starts with an amusing pregnancy chronology ("Week 36-Your Baby Is Now the Size of a Barcalounger"), Schickel makes her real subject apparent in the very next essay: trying to fit into a cool dress for a Patti Smith concert. More often than not, Schickel uses her rarified concerns to make cutting cultural observations; guilt over her inability to keep up with hip, feminist "Alterna-Moms" segues into a takedown of "Life-Stylers" in general: "Whether the theme is Urban Cowboy, Church Lady, [or] Sex-Positive Swinger... [they] seem to come with wardrobe, ideology, and upholstery swatches so you don't have to make any difficult choices." Occasionally Schickel missteps with some you-had-to-be-there stories, like her night out with a girlfriend at a West L.A. strip club, but even there she manages some incisive last-minute commentary on the nature of desire-her own and her daughter's. But amid crass language and off-color topics-including her pre- and postnatal marijuana habit (now ceased)-Schickel turns the parenting experience into a childlike search for sense among the rules we follow, make and break. Though both author and subject are prone to selfishness and immaturity, this bold, addictive collection deals honestly with the messy, confusing, scary human condition and comes out laughing. (Jan.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
You're Not the Boss of Me: Adventures of a Modern Momby Erika Schickel
Sometimes described as "Erma Bombeck in leather," Los Angeles writer Erika Schickel is sexier and hipper than the divine Erma, but just as side-splittingly funny as she shares her misadventures in marriage, pregnancy, and motherhood. It all begins with her discovery that unsafe sex with her hubby is hot--and impregnating. From Week 1 when Schickel's embryo is as small as a pinhead to Week 39 when baby morphs to the size of Marlon Brando, she finds out that motherhood doesn't change her mind or her irrepressible spirit (her body is another story).
Erika still detests the SUV she calls her 4,299 pound mistake, she now accepts the life-altering power of a girdle when it helps her squeeze into a tight dress to rock out at a Patti Smith concert. Here she shares a decade of marriage and motherhood in a smart, outrageous, and laugh-out-loud book. . .perfect for anyone who's done time in a modern American family.
"Witty, observant, and apparently fearless, Erika Schickel has just moved the modern mommy marker another notch forward."--Merrill Markoe, author and humorist
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You're not the boss of meAdventures of a Modern Mom
By ERIKA SCHICKEL
Kensington Publishing Corp.Copyright © 2007 Erika Schickel
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Obstetrical Dilemma
"I am fearfully and wonderfully made."-Psalms 139:14
Unsafe sex is so hot. After years of pills and latex, foams and jellies, Doug and I took it all off. Skin on skin, every cell firing in perfect, natural unencumbrance. Unprotected sex is a whole reason for getting knocked up. We made our firstborn child doggie style. As I hump my beloved, in the back of my head I think, this can't possibly work-it's just too much fun.
After four glorious years of celebrating our love and our marriage, the perfect union of our souls, my husband, Doug, and I begin feeling like the whole thing is getting old. Not the relationship, necessarily, but just our endless absorption in ourselves and each other. We want to widen our focus and we think a baby might be just the ticket.
Two days later I buy a home pregnancy test and pee on the stick. A blue line appears. Holy crap, it worked!
I immediately call my friend Tamara, who has birthed two children in a bathtub, which, in my book, qualifies her for midwifery. The phone is answered and I can hear a toddler's heavy breathing on the other end, but no greeting of any kind.
"Hello? Olivia? Is your mommy there? Let me talk to her." The phone drops with a clatter. A long silence ensues in which I go mad thinking the girlhas forgotten to tell her mom. Then Tamara's exhausted voice comes on: "Hello?"
"Hey, Tamara, it's me."
"Oh-hey, Erika, hold on a second ... Emory, take Olivia's Beanie Baby out of the toilet and give it back to her this minute. Sorry, Erika-what's up?"
"Oh, nothing, really, except I took a home pregnancy test this morning and it came out positive."
Tamara, who is solidly pro-procreation, who had children before any of her friends and was longing for some company in the trenches, whoops into the phone, "All right!"
"You don't actually think that means I'm pregnant, do you?"
"Um ... yeah."
A zygote of fear forms in the pit of my stomach. Oh dear Lord, what have I done? Everything was fine the way it was. Life was good with just me and Doug. We don't need some kid horning in and tying us down. And what about my career? I mean, I had just gotten two lines on Murphy Brown, I was finally making it as an actress, and now I am sabotaging myself with a fucking baby? Why would I want to go and mess with things when I am already so totally perfect?
An image haunted me. It could best be described as a Hallmark Moment: A soft-focus, pregnant woman in a gauzy nightie stands in front of a sunlit window. Her huge, swollen abdomen is seen in silhouette through the sheer scrim of fabric. She lovingly caresses her belly with a secret smile on her lips.
It seems to me that pregnancy belongs to a kind of woman beyond my ken. Kind, soft, contented Breck girls. Considerate, responsible gentlewomen who own and wear matching bra-and-panty sets and can discuss douching with straight faces. Not women like me-cussing, nail-biting, ego-driven women who at the age of thirty-two still think Lucky Charms are magically delicious.
I look down at the Clearblue Easy stick in my lap. Just a scrap of litmus paper stuck to a plastic Popsicle stick. I think-hold on a minute ... I am allowing my life to be completely turned around by what some piece-of-shit, ten-dollar home pregnancy test says? So I do what any reasonable woman in my situation would do: I go out and buy a twelve-dollar home pregnancy test. This time there is no blue line. There is a pink plus sign.
Not being one for midwives and hot tubs myself, I find an obstetrician named Beazy. Beyond her spotless medical qualifications, I like her for her lighthearted, can-do approach toward obstetrics. I also like the fact that in addition to the hundreds of children she has brought into the world-three were through her very own vagina.
"So, Erika, what day did your last period start on?" Normally, this is a trick question for me. I am not one of those women who circles dates in red pen or looks to the moon to keep track of her cycle. But it happened that my last period arrived on New Year's Day, making it memorable, even to me.
"Okay, let's take a look here ..." Beazy pulled a little laminated wheel out of her white coat pocket, and in an odd moment of destiny roulette, spins the dial. Round and round she goes, where she stops, nobody knows. My due date comes up October 8. We schedule an appointment for a full examination, and I grab my purse and my husband, thinking it's time to go. Beazy says ... "Wait, don't you want to hear the baby's heartbeat?"
"Can we?" It hardly seems possible.
We go into an exam room and she has me pull up my shirt and undo my pants button. She places a little mic attached to a tiny speaker on my still-flat abdomen, and there it is ... the little muffled tom-tom that is my baby's heart. Fast and strong and liquid, it beats with such ferocity! It is doing double-time to my own, slow thud a mere eight inches to the north. Two hearts, both mine. The timpani of my life.
The first trimester is mostly a state of mind. The secret I carry is way bigger than the embryo itself. It's a secret I can't keep. I tell everybody. Friends, family, Ken the water delivery guy. Everybody is overjoyed and treats me as though I were as precious as a Fabergé egg.
Soon I hunger for more information about the baby. Needing a visual aid, I go to the bookstore for something that will show me the baby's development in pictures. Amid the rows and rows of baby books, I find one volume that seemed to fit the bill: Your Pregnancy Week-by-Week. I draw out the book and look at its cover and gasp, for there she is: the hugely pregnant Stepford Mommy-gauzy nightie and all, feeling all the beautiful wonderment of her womanhood. It is my Hallmark nightmare fully realized. No, I can't do it. It's too horrible. I can't bear the thought of having this book on my bedside table. I search desperately for another book that would suit, but no, everything else is just parenting advice. I bring Mrs. Stepford Mommy home with me to be my tour guide through pregnancy.
Week 1-The embryo is the size of the head of a pin.
A pinhead. A polka dot of a person. A mere smidge of something which is really, to me, only theoretical. These are my thoughts as I grab a shopping cart and push it through the automatic doors of the grocery store. Beazy had given me a copy of What to Expect When You're Expecting and the Best Odds Diet looms like a dare. Could I do it, I wondered? Could I give up my evil ways and start eating healthy foods at every meal? It would be a mighty sacrifice, and all in the interests of this theoretical being housed next door to my stomach. I steer my cart past an I.M.Pei-sized pyramid of Coca-Cola, over to the produce aisle. I load up my cart with healthy fruits and vegetables, vowing to turn over a new lettuce leaf. Feeling resolve, I reach for the kale, a vegetable that has always scared me. Suddenly, I am assaulted by the most nauseating smell I have ever known. I look behind me to the source of the stench: a 4'x4' crate of onions. The pungent odor smells like overripe tube socks lightly sautéed in Crisco. It rolls up through my stomach and bile rises in my throat. I drop the kale and head for the nearest exit. Dry-heaving out in the parking lot, I decide this baby is just going to have to make do with what it gets. I may never eat again.
Week 4-The embryo is half the size of a typewritten "O."
I grow boobs! Big, beautiful B-cups! My first-ever, bona-fide rack. I spend hours in front of the mirror playing with them, admiring them, trying different outfits on them. I go bra shopping and buy them underwires and demi-cups and extra hooks. All the styles I could never find in an A-cup. I lift and separate them. I push them together and stare into my plunging cleavage. I work those puppies like a Vegas showgirl. Big boobs are the ultimate accessory. Who knew?
Week 12-The fetus is now the size of a fist.
By the end of the first trimester I am still not showing, but my pants are kind of tight. I rush out and purchase my first maternity item: a large pair of overalls. I excitedly climb into them, not realizing that I am going to spend the next two years of my life in them.
Week 15-The fetus is the size of a softball.
Late one night, during Letterman, I feel a flutter. Like a tiny moth is inside of me, beating its wings. That's when I start to believe.
Week 18-The baby is now the size of an open hand.
I dream that I have given birth to triplets. I check out of the hospital and pile the swaddled babies into the back of a Checker cab and take them home without looking at them. When I get home I put them in their playpen and fall into bed, exhausted from childbirth. I sleep for hours and hours. Finally I am awakened by the pitiful wails of my hungry babies. I get up and go to the playpen to look at my children for the first time and ...! What I find are three jaundiced, wiry little boys-no, not boys, tiny, little man-babies. They appear to be Armenian and all have miniature five o'clock shadows. There must have been some mix-up at the hospital! They simply can't be mine. But it's too late-I am stuck with them and must figure out a way to love them. The boys are hungry and growling for milk. I put their scratchy, toothy little faces to my breasts and nurse them.
Week 20-Your baby is now the size of a small clutch purse.
One morning, as I am changing out of my gauzy nightie and into my overalls, Doug looks at me and says, "Honey, you've popped!"
Sure enough, I had become visibly pregnant overnight. I feel profound relief. Now the whole world could see that I am not a fat cow, I am a pregnant cow.
The first outsider to notice my delicate condition is Jeff, the sofa salesman at Plummer's. He suggests getting our new sofa Soil Shielded. "Since you're having a baby," he explains. "They can be really messy, you know."
"You mean you can tell I'm pregnant?"
"Oh, sure. What are you, five months gone?"
Suddenly, I feel a rush of affection for this perky little sofa salesman and I happily plunk down the extra seventy-five bucks. After all, I will be a mother, and Soil Shielding is the kind of protective, responsible thing mothers do.
Week 25-Your baby is now the size of a crock pot.
I am undeniably pregnant. Everybody sees it and everybody wants to talk about it.
"It's a boy-you're carrying high."
"It's a girl-you're carrying it behind you."
The armchair obstetricians are everywhere. The Starbucks clerk looks up from foaming my latte and says, "Hey man, should you be drinking coffee?"
The Lenscrafters optician asks me how much weight I have gained so far. The Blockbuster clerk wants to know if I plan to deliver vaginally.
Week 30-Your baby is now the size of a Butterball turkey.
As a pregnant woman, I have become public property. Strangers come up to me on the street and lay their hands on my belly. Without asking. Like I'm a Buddha or the Blarney Stone, or I'm wood to knock on and I will bring them luck. All I give them in return is the hairy eyeball. I want to tell them to fuck off and mind their own goddamn business, but that kind of surly attitude would make me a spoilsport and clearly unfit to bear children.
Week 33-Your baby is now the size of a bus wheel.
I have moved out of the quaintly pregnant stage, and into the realm of the startling. I am gaining weight exponentially. The baby has pushed my stomach up under my ribs and I suffer from chronic heartburn. Every night I chew a couple of Tums and bed down with a complex scaffolding of pillows to support various parts of my now grotesque anatomy.
I suffer from a chronic skin rash known quaintly as PUPPP, or pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy. It breaks out up and down my legs and packs a bitch of an itch. But the greatest indignity of all ... my feet and ankles have become so swollen I have resorted to wearing ... Birkenstocks.
It is August and in the 90s every day. When I sit down, the undersides of my breasts become glued to the top of my belly.
Week 36-Your baby is now the size of a Barcalounger.
I am body-snatched. This person has become a bad tenant. It feels like someone has moved into me and rearranged all the furniture. I am bumping into myself-and yet it is not myself anymore. It is this person I am supposed to love unconditionally. Well, pardon my skepticism, but this person isn't exactly endearing his- or herself to me. I lie in bed at night, acid roiling up from my cramped stomach like a red-hot comet, and think, I won't be able to love the baby. What if it's a dud? What if I'm a dud? What if it's too big to come out?
Until now, I wasn't nervous about the actual birth. You see, I've lived a lucky life and I've never really known physical pain. But looking at my now-humungous belly, I'm thinking I'm gonna find out. I'm wishing Doug and I hadn't goofed off so much in Lamaze class. How do I possibly prepare for this event? My articulate, straightforward girlfriends who have birthed are all aggravatingly vague. They can't remember it well enough to describe it. They all say, "It's worth it." Worth what? Hideous suffering? Astonishing pain?
Week 39-Your baby is now the size of Marlon Brando.
I want it out! I go see Beazy on the sixth of October, the day the O.J. verdict is to be announced. I have made a secret bet with myself: if O.J. is found guilty it would mean I'm having the baby on my due date. If he's found not guilty, then I will indeed be pregnant for the rest of my life. Sitting on the exam table, my belly straining the seams on my paper dress, I hear some hubbub out in the waiting room. Beazy comes in and informs me the verdict has been rendered: The Juice is a free man. We are both silent for a stunned moment. She cannot believe the injustice of such evil going unpunished, while I cannot believe the injustice of O.J. being free to golf and go about his nefarious business while I have been sentenced to life in this flesh prison.
October 7 comes and goes, and childbirth now seems like a mythical event I will never get to experience. It's clear that pregnancy is just a giant pro-life conspiracy to get women on their backs and keep them there. I become enraged.
October 8, my due date, and this kid is still on the wrong side of my belly button. I take long walks, I scarf tons of balsamic vinaigrette, I screw Doug morning, noon, and night in a vain attempt to induce labor. Still pregnant. I try jumping up and down. I have more sex. I sob into my pillow. Doug guiltily pats me on the head. Of course, he realizes this is all his fault and he must suffer, too.
The morning of October 9, I haul my Jabba-the-Hut-like body out of bed and feel a warm, wet trickle down my leg. It's clear and sweet-smelling. Amniotic fluid. My water broke! That's it? I had always imagined a dramatic splash, a puddle, mopping up.
We go to the hospital and a sonogram confirms what over the last few months I have come to fear: I am having a big-ass baby. Beazy pulls up a chair and gives me my options: "Now Erika, this baby is well over ten pounds. By law I have to offer you a C-section. But I think if anyone can deliver this baby vaginally ... you can."
I don't know whether to be heartened or offended by this comment. I wonder, Can anyone deliver this baby? Anyone other than me? Because, vaginally speaking, I don't think I'm up to the task.
By three o'clock in the afternoon, labor hasn't begun. The baby doesn't want to come down to the front desk and check out of Hotel Moi. So it's time to evict. Beazy gives the order to start the Pitocin and induce labor.
Excerpted from You're not the boss of me by ERIKA SCHICKEL Copyright © 2007 by Erika Schickel. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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