What I'm Reading

March 6, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — ajdoesdc @ 10:47 pm

March 5, 2009, 10:00 pm

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Moderation and the Modern Mom

I always claimed that I could hold my liquor. I was lying.

But to admit that I was dizzy and inappropriate after a few drinks would belie my German/Irish/English heritage, my Guy’s Girl persona, and my profession as a writer. Despite a few debacles (a sullied car or two, the suggestion that we have sex when, in fact, we already had) I persisted in behavior like downing shots with the 23-year-old at work, or worse, drinking with actors. Such hardy drinking resulted in my husband wisely escorting me out the side exit of many establishments, but I refused to be ashamed. I enjoyed the brief escape of a vodka gimlet.

After months of willingly sacrificing my body and everything that went into it for the well-being of my child, I started to revel in taking a little of myself back. 

And then I got pregnant. It was not unexpected. We had planned for it and tried for a few months. As soon as we started trying, I became unexpectedly responsible. I decided to behave as if I were pregnant, just in case I was. Which meant I didn’t lounge in hot tubs, eat sushi or even indulge in a glass of wine. It was surprisingly easy. I was so freaked out by the concept of carrying a human in my womb that I even refused to take a sip during Shabbat dinners, something that mystified my friends and, possibly, God.

I felt maternal, wise and frankly relieved. I had worried for years that the alcoholism that ran in my New England stock had snuck into my veins and it was good to know that I could painlessly, easily, give up alcohol when necessary. And so, for 13 months, I didn’t touch a drop. And then I had a baby.

Babies are magical and beautiful and amazing. They are also exhausting and frustrating and anxiety-inducing. In the beginning, my daughter nursed non-stop and I didn’t even think of having a drink. Not only did I not want to risk alcohol being in my bloodstream when she nursed, I was also just too tired. Wine would only put me to sleep, and sleep was an impossibility. The first time my husband and I went out, I had a glass of wine and I felt like I was shooting up heroin in my parents’ bedroom. It seemed so wrong. When I went home, I pumped my milk and immediately poured it down the sink, an act that seemed almost as wasteful as blithely burning hundred dollar bills.

Eventually, my daughter began sleeping through the night. I cannot speak for all babies, but at the end of a long day with mine … sometimes I want a drink. Not a large one, not a hard one. Just enough of one to ease the tension of the knotted back that comes with carrying a 20 pound baby around. Enough to quiet the voices that question, “Is she eating enough? Am I promoting her self-confidence? Should we listen to more Mozart and less Death Cab For Cutie? Should I be teaching her sign language? Or Italian?” After months of willingly sacrificing my body and everything that went into it for the well-being of my child, I started to revel in taking a little of myself back. At night, after she was soundly asleep, I would cook my husband and myself dinner and pour a luxurious glass of wine. I sautéed, I sipped. It was just like the good old days.

Except that it wasn’t. Because in the good old days, I would have had at least half a bottle by myself and would have started slurring non-sequiturs to my husband in the middle of “Damages.” And as much as I wanted to celebrate my newfound nighttime independence by getting pleasingly sloshed, I discovered that this was an impossibility. Two things led me to this conclusion. One: The one night that I went out and met a few friends, I daringly had two and a half glasses of wine. I made it safely home, but I left my car running in the garage. The next morning I was perplexed as to why it wouldn’t start. Apparently I can hold my liquor even less than before. Two: teething. When my daughter started teething, she also started waking up at all hours of the night and sometimes nursing was the only thing that would soothe her back to sleep. It wasn’t safe to be tipsy. They say that if you’re too drunk to drive, you’re too drunk to nurse. Seems like a pretty good rule to me. And so I limit my intake to a small glass of wine immediately after nursing her and that’s pretty much it.

Is that it? I’m 33. It baffles me to think that I won’t be good and drunk again until I’m 50. Surely the days of embarrassing myself and my loved ones aren’t over. I could have done so much more. Didn’t our parents get drunk? Does our generation read too much, think too much and worry too much? Probably yes. But if I’m really honest with myself, I don’t miss getting drunk. The night I killed my car battery, I woke up with a raging headache and experienced a fairly hellacious morning with my daughter. I would actually prefer to be sober and awake refreshed and happy to see my daughter’s face.

So it’s not the alcohol I miss. It’s the immaturity. The selfishness. The wasted days frittered away recuperating from the wasted nights. It all turned around so quickly. I wasn’t prepared to be this person. A person who can clearly recall all the events of the night before. Who can be the designated driver. Who can go to a work party without apologizing the next day. This must be parenthood. I would toast this milestone, but I have pears to puree.

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