The Fall Back

I once told my mom that I was waiting to hit rock bottom.

And in some ways, I think I meant it.

I meant that I had no inclination to change my behavior until something prompted me to do so. I figured that thing would be catastrophic, some jarring event that would cause me to spring into action because I’d have no choice.

I know that motivation is something self created, but more often than not, it takes an external push for me to do things.

While I’m eternally grateful to my parents, I’ve learned that they will be there to bail me out. Luckily, I haven’t needed to be sprung from jail or needed money for them to pay back a drug dealer. Still, they have paid off credit cards, taken care of my college education and have let me move back into their house more often than I’d care to admit.

In fact, it might happen again.

I don’t know if I could have gone through with this pregnancy with my life as it is if I didn’t have them in my life. I don’t know if I’d have the reassurance I need to feel like everything is going to be OK one way or another.

I wonder what that would have been like if my whole life had been the same way.

I think there is a part of me that feels guilty for accepting their help, for depending on it and in some ways, taking it for granted at times.

It’s a safety net that allows me to fuck up without a whole lot of consequences. Lose a job. Lose an apartment. Get broken up with. Get into credit card trouble. Need help moving.

Have a baby.

I’ve relied a little too much on them always being there to the point that I’ve turned into a not so self sufficient adult.

As my therapist likes to remind me, there is no right or wrong way of going about things. But I could be doing a lot better for myself and just haven’t yet found a reason to make the changes I need to.

-Carly

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Dressing Room Woes

I’m sorry that all I do is talk about pregnancy. I suppose it was ridiculous of me to think my life would just go on like normal and I’d talk about the things I did before. Still, I feel bad for talking about something that doesn’t even register for some of you (or that you could understandably care less about.) 

I went dress shopping while I was out in the burbs with my mom. We went to Target and Kohl’s and finally found something in the Junior’s section of the latter. A polka dot number you’ll see me in if you come to the show on Wednesday (7 pm at The Gallery Cabaret…ahem).

You’ll also see me looking like a house. Perhaps a small house, but still. I have never been this big. Ever.

And while I know there is a certain about of forgiveness when it comes to gaining weight during pregnancy, I came into it about fifteen pounds heavier than I would have liked.

As excited as I am to see this small baby bump forming, I am horrified by the image staring back at me in the mirror. An enormous shapeless blob that no longer has a waist. Forget my bulging belly, what about my huge boobs and thighs and ass and not in like, a delectable, juicy, thick kind of way.

I feel gross.

It doesn’t help that a few weeks ago I attended the baby shower of a long time family friend. She is five or six years my junior and looks lovely. Her small, thin frame still totally intact with the cutest pregnant belly there ever was. I felt twice her size when we hugged.

This is probably the last thing I should care about in terms of everything else pregnancy involves. Though honestly, I can’t say I’m a huge fan of frequent urination and gas.

The thing is, it doesn’t matter WHY I’m bigger now. At least, not in my head, not when I’m struggling to button a pair of shorts that are already six sizes larger than I was wearing last summer. It is not fun to see the elastic band of a stretchy dress pulled around my waist, making my body look like one giant globe.

I can barely comprehend the number on the scale. It’s a completely bizarre world in which the instinct to eat and diet are pushing against one another. To absolutely no one’s surprise, eating is winning out.

My growing stomach is also bringing attention to all of my other body parts, the ones that have also “benefited” from my increased calorie intake and my new walking speed of .01 miles an hour.

It’s just a shame that my body image is bumming me out so much, that I can’t simply associate all of these changes with a human life being formed inside of me. A human that needs a little room to breathe and move around.

-Carly

Meet Our Readers

We’re excited to talk about our periods. Plus, special open mic edition. Bring your menstruation story, bring your friends, and get ready to hear about lady times from the following:

Photo on 7-5-14 at 5.05 PM #2

Wendy McClure

Wendy McClure has never lived anywhere besides the Chicago area and Iowa. She is the pop culture columnist for BUST Magazine, a children’s book editor, and the person who put those gross 1970s Weight Watcher recipe cards on the internet. Her books include The Wilder Life: My Life in the Adventures of Little House on the Prairie, The Amazing Mackerel Pudding Plan, and most recently a kids’ series called Wanderville. She has an MFA from the University of Iowa. She lives with her husband by the Chicago River. Find her online at wendymcclure.net or on Twitter, where she pretends to be Laura Ingalls Wilder.

 

Ali KellMissSpokenBioey

Ali Kelley grew up in Connecticut but traveled to Chicago after Googling “Tina Fey” and learning about the Second City Theatre. She covers comedy and live lit for Chicagoist and gets into 90s pop culture, teen angst, and absurdist humor on her blog, Sleepoverz. When not writing, she’s busy being a “maxinista,” a maxi pad wearer and bargain hunter. Ali would like to give a special thanks to the Harold Washington Library, the Chicago Cultural Center, and various city park benches for providing an inspired place to write on the cheap.

 

tongue

Katie Prout

Katie Prout is a writer, runner, and storyteller who works for A Large Internet Coupon Company in the city of Chicago. She writes about family, feelings, and all things vagina at http://inmyspiralringnotebook.blogspot.com/.

 

 

 

 

Aunt Flo

Charlotte Hamilton

Charlotte Hamilton is a writer by night, hospice social worker by day.
Though originally from New Jersey, she is nothing like the stars of
Jersey Shore – she never goes to the gym, is afraid of the sun, and
thinks doing laundry is for suckers. She does, however, like to
reference TV shows that nobody talks about anymore. She also loves,
loves, loves talking about her period, which is why she dressed up
like Aunt Flow last Halloween (see photo).

 

-Rose

Ponytail Panic

Anxiety has been my friend as far back as I can remember. Even as a kid, my default state was nervous at best, full-blown dread at worst. In some ways, not much has changed in 20 years: it’s not hard to make my blood pressure spike and brainwaves stutter incoherently, though now I’m more terrified of things like job security and creative accomplishments and less scared of German Shepherds and ponytail bumps.

Ponytail bumps were serious business. At age eight or nine, I was obsessed with having a perfectly smooth scalp. I’d stand in front of the bathroom mirror for up to an hour, brushing straight back, watery eyes locked on my own reflection. Slowly, hesitantly, I’d pull the rubber band around my fine, dirty blonde hair, tentatively looping the tight elastic once, twice. I held my breath, praying for perfection and the salvation from my racing heart I was sure doing it right would bring. If my hair was perfect, my new classmates would like me, my parents would stop yelling at each other, my life would be a pleasant Lisa Frank-Sanrio dream. There would be teal unicorns, and a cute frog with preternaturally large, round eyes, and maybe a real friend. Turning my head, I’d inspect each side carefully. Inevitably there was a bump, a lump, some ridge throwing everything out of place. I had cowlicks and wasn’t great at doing my own hair, but all that registered was failure. I was ugly and I’d screwed up, and ugly screw-ups got made fun of more than I already did. Frustrated rage and despair quickly followed, usually in the form of tears but sometimes more. Once I broke a hairbrush. Another time, a mirror.

I’m really glad to be a grown-up. Even though I’m still not great at doing my own hair.

Anxiety remains a constant, permeating everything from daily interactions to long-term plans and goals. Or put more simply, I freak the fuck out about a lot of relatively minor daily things. Mostly in my head, sometimes in epic meltdowns around people I trust, and every once in awhile in public, which is pretty much the greatest. Maybe it’s family dysfunction, maybe it’s how I’m naturally wired, maybe some super villain with mind control wastes their powers on making me cry when I don’t bring enough cash for guacamole. I don’t care at this point. I just want it to be better.

And after years of trial and error and more error, it is better. Even manageable. There is still a part of me that believes beyond the shadow of a doubt that I’m going to screw everything up, or that everything is going to go wrong — that things will inevitably be terrible and there’s nothing I can to do stop it, and that doubting everything good makes me safe. But that part is smaller and less convincing (if not gone entirely). I’m better at gently telling myself I’m being ridiculous, or that I need to shut the hell up. And in case this doesn’t sound self-helpy enough, there are things I’ve changed in my daily routine that make a big difference. Stretching every morning. Regular bedtimes. Talking myself through it when my thoughts start spinning. Not drinking to the point of blackout. Revolutionary stuff.

Believing life is going to go to hell with no notice feels natural, a preset that I can’t switch. But I’m trying. It doesn’t always go well. I’ve come a long way from breaking mirrors when I can’t get my hair right, which is good because I regularly get owned by 16-year-olds from La Jolla on YouTube. I go to bed on time, most of the time. I do my homegrown yoga. I have a good man, I have good friends, I have a huge terror that they’re going to disappear and it’ll be all my fault. But it’s less powerful, and I’m getting better at dealing with it. Someday, it might shrink even more.

I keep telling myself that everything is going to be okay. Some days, I believe it.

Baby (Girl) Talk

I need to stop hoping/thinking I’m having a girl.

The truth is, in some ways, I think it would be easier to have a boy.

I also know I’m supposed to be all “I just want a healthy baby!” and while that’s true, I do have a rather strong preference.

Look, baby clothes are inherently cute because they are tiny and colorful and stay stupid things like “Mama’s favorite rock star” under an embroidered electric guitar.

But I guess there’s something about sticking a girl in pigtails and tutu’s and itty bitty bathing suits with polka dots that is just TOO DAMN MUCH FOR ME TO HANDLE AHHHHHHHHH THE CUTENESS IS KILLING ME.

More than one person has said they thought I was having a boy based on everything from the fact that I have a sweet tooth to my first trimester morning sickness not being terrible.

Then again, my boyfriend and I are convinced (for no ACTUAL reason) that we’re having a girl and my mom is sure of it because she dreamt that I was, so obviously that is the hands down proof we were all looking for.

I really don’t want to care one way or the other. Honestly. It feels wrong.

But I mean…just walk around a Target in the baby section and see what you’re more drawn too. For me it’s not the blues and greens, trucks and monsters. And yes, superheroes and tiny bowties are adorable.

I suppose it’s just my inner girly girl that wants to dress my baby up like a little doll.

And yes, I know how that sounds.

-Carly

How To Love When You’re Sober

Forced sobriety hasn’t been terrible.

Really!

I’ve realized the thing I miss most about it is the social aspect of it and the fact that it’s an “activity”. Gone are Sunday Fundays, after work happy hours, patio sitting, wine sipping, finding any excuse to sit in a bar.

OK fine, I’m a little bummed about it.

But the real adjustment came when I took alcohol out of my relationship. Not only did sitting at a dive bar provide us something to do, it also numbed some of the anxiety and self consciousness of being with someone one on one. That’s not to say that I was actively looking for a way to ease the awkwardness. It was just there.

I’m guessing for many couples, the act of drinking together takes up some portion of their relationship (whether you’re consuming the same amount is another issue). Because getting buzzed or drunk with your friend and partner is fun. It’s a mutual letting go, self medicating together.

But without alcohol, there’s nothing to hide behind. It was a little surprising to realize how much I relied on drinking to get me through certain moments. I was forced to reevaluate things in the harsh light of sobriety. Gone is the false self-confidence and assurance that things are Going Great!

It’s strange to think about it this way, but my boyfriend knows the real me more than he did when I could get drunk. Drunk you is only a part, a side and yeah, something they should probably get a taste of, but it’s not about really getting to know who you are as a person. So far, we have a lot less dumb fights. I don’t wake up with a pounding headache wondering if I said something stupid or knowing I did and having to apologize. I also don’t wake up wondering if he meant the things he said or if it was just drunk talk. Our discussions are no longer clouded in the haze of loose lips and thoughtless words.

We have to entertain ourselves without the help of a morning Bloody Mary or red wine nightcap. We have to do things like sit next to one another and just talk or be comfortable with the silence, unable to reach for the glass to fill in the gaps. We’ve had to find other ways to release. Obviously this is what a relationship should be, but for many of us, it’s not.

This might sound sad, but these sober months confirm my true feelings. I know that what I feel for him is coming from a genuine place and whatever fears I have can’t be drowned out by a few gin and sodas. This love has never been so real.

In the end, we’re both preparing for life with a little less booze once this kid comes. Learning how to function without a crutch that as parents, would debilitate us a bit. Though I’m sure there will be 19,000 times we’ll want to down a bottle a wine after a long, trying day. And 9,500 of those times we actually will.

Trust me, when this whole thing is over (i.e. AFTER breastfeeding), I’m going to drink a cocktail the size of my head.

Maybe two.

-Carly

OPEN MIC for the July 30th Show

Hey All!

We’ve had some scheduling difficulties for this month’s show, so we’ve decided to try something new.

We’re going to have ONE open mic slot.

Come prepared with a five to eight minute story about periods and we’ll draw a name at random. You’ll read your non-fiction story/essay in the middle of our line-up, right before intermission.

ALL are encouraged to bring a story (including Dudes)!

Either way, hope to see you on Wednesday, July 30th at the Gallery Cabaret. The show will start shortly after 7 pm!

-Carly

That Time of the Month

July’s theme is Periods. Aunt Flo. Lady times. Falling to the Communists. I could go on. And we’ve got just the group to tell tales tales of monthly flows, mopping up the moon (thank you college friend, for that one), SHEDDING YOUR UTERINE LINING:

Charlotte Hamilton

Wendy McClure

Katie Prout

Ali Kelley

And of course, your lovely hosts. Plus, a surprise announcement! Don’t you love surprises? It’s good, trust me. But you have to show up to find out.

-Rose

 

Podcast #2

Hi!

Here’s a recording of our second show! Check it out if you weren’t able to make it!

-Carly

Fear Factor

I’m scared of the dentist.

No. Terrified.

I would rather do just about anything than sit in that chair with that weird lamp hovering over me, a hand poking and prodding around in my mouth.

This is the reason I hadn’t been in nine years.

Sure, lack of insurance helped keep this streak alive, but I was offered a free cleaning from my parents’ dentist and that still didn’t prompt me to go.

Where did this deep seeded fear come from? A handful of horrible experiences as a child. One incident that will forever stick with me was the time they tried to put sealants on and I gagged and cried and the hygienist got mad, threw up her hands and said it couldn’t be done. That day I was filled with shame for my inability to conquer my fear and could not shake the experience of feeling so out of control during the whole thing.

I suffer from two things: sensitive gag reflex and stress induced TMJ, which causes my jaw to LOCK.

So I let the years pass. I tried to take care of my teeth, rinsing with PLAX, flossing everyday and using fancy toothpaste.

Lately, though,  I’ve noticed a crack in one of my fillings. I experience pain on the right side of my mouth and on the same side on the top, it’s sensitive to hot food.

But the real kicker was reading that poor dental health was not only bad for my overall health, it could lead to complications with my pregnancy and my baby.

With the help of therapy and the fact that my insurance provides free dental work for pregnant women, I decided it was finally time to face the music.

80% of my anxiety was relieved when I told the dentist my issues and she said I could raise my left hand to indicate I wanted them to stop whatever they were doing. I also went in knowing I could walk out anytime, for any reason.

I’ve only sat through an exam and have an upcoming cleaning, X-rays and six cavities to fill (so far, unless the x-rays show more damage), but I finally feel like I can get through this.

I’m grateful to my boyfriend for coming with me to that first appointment and for telling me how proud he is of all the things I’m doing for the sake of our unborn child.

In my heart of hearts, I’ve always felt that getting pregnant would motivate me to do all kinds of things. I just didn’t realize it would help me overcome my biggest phobia.

-Carly