My (Imaginary) Episode of Crybabies

Have you guys ever listened to the podcast Crybabies? It’s hosted by Susan Orlean and Sarah Thyre, and it is amazing. It’s just…famous people talking about what makes them cry! And if you’re an emotion junkie like me, you’ll love it. I haven’t listened to it in a looong time, because now that I have a baby I’ve become an EVEN MORE EMOTIONAL person and I don’t need any help crying. Typically people talk about songs, movies, music, or other media that makes them cry…but also once Moby talked about how he saw someone eating an egg sandwich on the train. It’s a nice mix of stuff, is what I’m saying.

Anyway, I’ve given a good amount of thought to what I would talk about on my own imaginary episode of Crybabies. A lot of things make me cry, so it was hard to narrow it down, but here goes:

-The episode of Playing House where Maggie gives birth (“Let’s Have a Baby”)
I always love a birth episode, just like I always love a wedding episode. But wedding episodes don’t usually make me cry, while baby episodes have me sobbing like…well, a baby. I already love the dynamic of Playing House, and the birth episode does such a great job of bringing everyone together. Emma is there being confused for Maggie’s wife, Maggie’s ex is there being extremely unhelpful, her sweetly strange brother is there to assist as her doula, and that alone is already making me emotional. But then Maggie starts to feel like she can’t do it, and Emma gives her a VERY touching pep talk about Maggie’s wedding and Maggie’s deceased mother and that’s all I’m gonna say about it. You need to watch it. I’m tearing up typing this.

-The movie The Spectacular Now
Not the book, which is extremely well-written but extremely depressing and kinda hopeless. There’s this scene between Sutter and his mom near the end that just made me LOSE IT. After we left the theatre, Hollis and I went to Target and I wandered up and down the aisles crying to the point that he was worried about me. Sorry, it was an emotional movie!

-“The Best Day” by Taylor Swift
I actually can’t listen to this song without crying, and I’ve listened to it A LOT. It’s all about her mom and her childhood and the part that really gets to me is when she sings “I grew up in a pretty house/and I had space to run” and oh noooo help I’m getting emotional right now! It’s just…I don’t know, it’s nice to see her acknowledge that she had such a great life and parents and brother and ugh I can’t even talk about it.

-The last story in Tenth of December by George Saunders
I mean, hello, have you read it?

-The entirety of You’ve Got Mail
Last time I watched it, I burst into tears as soon as The Cardigans started playing. KATHLEEN WAS JUST WALKING WITH SUCH PURPOSE. Other parts that make me cry: when she’s decorating her shop at Christmas and talking about her mom, and when Tom Hanks says “Don’t cry, shopgirl,” and he should probably just say “Don’t cry, Kerry,” because I AM SOBBING. EVERY. TIME.

There are for sure more that I’m not thinking of right now, but those are my most visceral crybaby moments. What are yours? I’d love to hear them! Also, yes, I haven’t blogged in awhile but I’m deep in Book 2 revisions right now and for some reason whenever I have a ton to do, I always want to update my blog. Shrug emoticon, you know?

5.5 Months

The newborn days already seem like a hazy dream. I’m reminded of that same Anne Lamott quote I share over and over again: It turns out that you’ve already gone ahead and done it before you realize that you couldn’t possibly do it, not in a million years.

He’s five and a half months old now, and this seems like the best age, but then again I say that every day. When we were in those frenzied first few weeks of parenthood, I frantically Googled “when does having a newborn get easier???” and came across a blog post that posited that it did not, in fact, ever get easier. Because, you know, kids grow and change and each phase comes with some new challenge. This person maintained that the newborn phase was actually the easiest, because tiny babies just need to be fed and held and they can’t, like, walk anyway.

I would very much like to respectfully tell that writer to go eff themselves (Hollis and I are trying, unsuccessfully, to use less profanity). I’m sure that parenting will always be hard, but the endless-seeming sleep deprivation and cluelessness of those first few weeks was its own special feeling. And now that I know it’s temporary…well, it makes everything else seem a little bit easier to handle.

Now that he can smile and laugh and react to us, things are easier. He has ways of communicating that don’t just involve screaming (but, oh, there’s plenty of screaming). It’s hard but good.

I’d read so many times that the adjustment to motherhood can be difficult, especially for women who’ve been working for years. And while I get that (I mean, the baby isn’t giving me feedback on my performance OR a raise for doing a great job), it didn’t feel like an adjustment to me so much as a culmination of a lot of work. Maybe it’s because so many, many things changed for us before we had the baby that it really felt like we were starting over with a scorched earth type of situation. I went from working full time while writing at night to caring for a baby full-time while writing whenever I can. Friends and family members moved away. Some of our relationships were strengthened while others, for all intents and purposes, ended. And, of course, I’ve mentioned the losses that we dealt with many, many times. I was idly thinking about 2016 the other day and wondered what the best and worst parts of the year were before I was like, oh yeah, fucking duh (whoops). It was an intense year.

Also I somehow wrote a book from the time the baby was 2 months-5 months old, which I still don’t totally understand. It’s a funny (I hope), anxious romance like my first book, but it’s also EXTREMELY personal. I’m so excited about it because it’s about something I went through that I’ve never seen in YA before. While LAOAE was about anxiety and loss and the X-Files and brothers/sisters, this one is about beauty standards and feminism and podcasts and sisters and babies (all of that subject to change based on my editor’s revision, obvs). It still has a ways to go but I like it.

This is all just to say that life is good and hard but extremely satisfying. I feel like I’m exactly where I’m meant to be, even as I’m so, so unsure and scared about the future. I’m currently rocking a rock n play with my foot while hooked up to a breast pump and running on 1.5 hours of sleep and I’m on the verge of tears multiple times a week, but it’s all so, so good.

Our Birth Story

I went back and forth on whether I wanted to share our birth story. On one hand, it’s very personal. On the other hand, I’m a writer and sharing things is what I do. On the other hand (I have three hands in this scenario), I LOVE reading birth stories. What made up my mind for me was that several of my friends have wanted to know the details of our experience, so I figured why not share it here? If you want the true nitty-gritty and the embarrassing details, you’re going to have to talk to me in person, but here’s most of the story! Warning: there’s A LOT of cervix talk, so if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the blog post (you know, that old saying).

I had a doctor’s appointment scheduled on my due date, and part of me thought, “Maybe she’ll check me and I’ll be so dilated that I’ll have to go straight to the hospital!” But I didn’t feel different, and I definitely wasn’t feeling contractions. Then on the way to my appointment, I turned on the radio and the Usher/Alicia Keys song “My Boo” was playing, and I thought perhaps that was a sign. You so rarely hear that jam on the radio in the year 2016. It had to mean good things.

I typed and erased a bunch of boring medical details here, but the short version is that my doctor said we should probably induce labor. That night. Although I thought I was mentally prepared for this, I definitely wasn’t. I mean, H. and I had dinner plans with a friend that night! I left the doctor’s office and cried on the phone to H. because I was so scared; I’d heard so many horror stories about induction (spoiler alert: this isn’t a horror story!! So keep reading!) and although my doctor assured me that she would do everything in her power to avoid a c-section, she was honest that the chances of a c-section are higher when you induce.

I went home and grabbed my bag and sat around for a few hours, panicking. I gave Merlin a lot of attention because I knew it wouldn’t be the same after the baby was here. I ate a chicken sandwich and a lot of watermelon (it was in the fridge and I didn’t want to waste it, but in retrospect this was not the most filling pre-labor food). And that evening, we checked into the hospital.

One of the suckiest parts was getting my IV put in. I know that sounds weird, because isn’t labor much more painful? Sure, but you don’t get an epidural for an IV, and it took THREE NURSES and SIX TRIES to get the needle in. After a lifetime of nurses telling me how good my veins were, all of a sudden I was feeling very vein-insecure. At one point, one of the nurses said, “That’s gonna leave a bad bruise, sorry,” and she was right. I ended up with multiple nearly-black bruises on my arm (which is still not that bad, all things considered).

The labor induction was a two-part process. First, they put in a “cervix ripening” device (I warned you) that was just supposed to….well, ripen my cervix (ew). But what it REALLY did was jumpstart labor and freak out the baby, so they had to take it back out. Which was…not fun! The on-call doctor was a man and when he initially put the thing in, he said, “Has anyone ever told you that you have a hard to find cervix?”

“Um…what?” I asked.

“Your cervix is very difficult to locate,” he said.

No. No one’s ever told me that before, because my doctor isn’t a psychotic weirdo who wants to give me a complex about my cervix. And also, HOW MANY PLACES COULD IT BE? Sorry my cervix is making it difficult for you, bro!

Anyway, a nurse took that thing back out of me, and she was much nicer but still talked about my (apparently) elusive cervix.

At this point I was feeling my contractions, which meant that the night of sleep I was supposed to get…didn’t happen. The contractions weren’t terrible by any means, but they were noticeable. We were able to watch some terrible television, including a Hallmark Christmas movie (it was Christmas in July, y’all!) about a woman who came back to her small town and ended up directing an elementary school musical. The nurse was definitely skeptical about our viewing choices, but I didn’t care.

Eventually, my contractions got worse. Much worse. They went from “manageable cramps” to “not-that-manageable cramps” to “me telling H. I couldn’t do this anymore.” Here’s where I should point out that I always knew I wanted an epidural. Obviously it’s a personal choice and every woman should do whatever she feels is right for her baby and her body, but I’ve always known that a medicated hospital birth was what I wanted. Many people say that they want to be fully present for the birth and that’s why they don’t use medication, but for me the epidural allowed me to be fully present by greatly reducing my anxiety about pain. I know A LOT of people who had medication-free births (I don’t like to use the word “natural,” because my birth wasn’t “unnatural”), and they all loved their birth experiences so I knew I didn’t NEED an epidural. Then again, I don’t need a second donut and I’m still eating it. The point is, I wanted an epidural but I wasn’t dilated enough yet for it.

Then yet ANOTHER doctor came in to break my water and hopefully get this show on the road. But, big surprise, something about my body was weird there too. This was, by far, the most uncomfortable part of the entire process. I don’t know if it was the doctor’s fault or if it would’ve been painful no matter what, but I could hardly stand it and when he said, “Well, I wasn’t really able to break it but I did snag it, so hopefully the water will trickle out,” I wanted to puke. Like, please dude, get the job done while you’re in there.

But it was fine. Then, blessing of all blessings, I was dilated enough for the epidural. Hallelujah. The anesthesiologist was an extremely nice, soft spoken tall man who reminded me of Zach Woods, who I find to be a very comforting on-screen presence. I did not feel the epidural at all, and the anesthesiologist was so understanding and kind and I liked him much more than any other man I met that day. Maybe part of that was because he didn’t touch or comment on my cervix, but I guess we’ll never know. 20 minutes later I was feeling the sweet, sweet relief of modern medicine and I even got to sleep a little bit.

Then the contractions came back with a vengeance. Well, they were always there, but I started feeling them again. I made my nice anesthesiologist come back. I kept pressing the “more drugs” button. Nothing worked. I felt like I had intense heartburn that made it impossible to think about anything else. H. tried to get me to watch Sherlock but I couldn’t make myself care about Benedict Cumberbatch at a time like this.

At one point my dad wandered in (my wonderful parents showed up at the hospital at like 9 am and hung around ALL DAY) and H was trying to explain to him the monitor that showed my contractions. They marveled over it and my dad said things like, “Huh, looks like there’s a big one happening right now!” I was like, “YES. I’M AWARE.” Then I was gripped by a wave of nausea and I yelled “GET OUT OF HERE I’M GOING TO PUKE.” (I did not puke).

FINALLY the nurse said it was time to push. Thank God. I was nervous about it because I didn’t know HOW to push. Maybe that sounds silly, but I’d never had a baby before so I didn’t really know what to do. But it turns out that it was pretty instinctual.

The nurse asked me if I wanted a mirror to see what was happening and I was like, “Oh, I’m good, no thank you.” But when I glanced up at the turned-off television, I realized that I could see a perfectly clear reflection of everything that was happening, in all its bloody glory. “Whatever you do, don’t look at the TV,” I whispered to H. Of course he immediately turned and looked at it.

The nurse closed the TV cabinet.

I kept hearing the strains of “My Boo” in my head as I chewed on ice chips and kept pushing. I was seriously afraid I was going to burst a blood vessel in my eye or grind my teeth into powder, but Baby H. was staying in there, refusing to get past my pubic bone.

This was what I was worried about, because I’d heard a lot of stories of babies that got “stuck,” went into distress, and then a c-section was necessary. I really didn’t want to have to recover from major surgery in addition to taking care of a baby, so I asked the nurse what I could do to get him out of there.

“Do you want to try tug of war?” she asked.

“…okay?”

Tug of war was exactly what it sounds like. The nurse had a sheet, and she pulled on one side of it while I pulled on the other and tried to push the baby out. It felt ridiculous and I was afraid I would let go and send the tiny nurse flying across the room, but after only two contractions’ worth of pushing, Baby H. got past my pubic bone.

This was when things really got crazy. There were three nurses, my doctor, the doctor who only had unkind things to say about my cervix, and a medical student in there, all of them staring directly at me. I’m an extremely modest person normally, but I DID NOT CARE. I wouldn’t have noticed if Barack Obama walked into the room, made a rude remark about my cervix, and walked out again. Literally all I cared about was getting this baby out. The epidural was blessedly effective, but I could still DEFINITELY feel my contractions and they DEFINITELY felt terrible (more like being sick than actual pain).

This part of labor was maybe the most exciting time of my entire life. Imagine a room full of people literally cheering you on as you attempt to bring a brand-new member of your family into the world. It was amazing. With every push, Baby H got a little bit closer to being out. Then his head was out, then his shoulders, then they were ripping off the top of my hospital gown, then he was on my chest, pink and purple and gooey and beautiful.

I thought I would cry when he was born, but I didn’t. I was just overwhelmed; that he was here, that he’d been in there the whole time, that I’d done it. If you’re considering a medicated birth and wondering if you won’t feel that sense of “empowerment” that people talk about with unmedicated birth, let me tell you: I felt INCREDIBLY empowered with my epidural-assisted, full-of-interventions, regular old hospital birth. I’ve done a lot of things I’m proud of in my life, but I don’t know if I’ve ever felt like this before. It seemed unreal (and still seems unreal) that I DID IT.

The nurse told us that he was tall and that he looked like his dad, both of which were true. We told everyone his name and he held onto my finger, his grip already so strong. I just couldn’t believe he was here…sometimes I still can’t believe it. The little person I’d dreamed and wondered about for nine months as I worked and walked and sewed and wrote. My pregnancy was very easy physically, but very difficult emotionally, and there were so many times that I worried he’d be absorbing my sadness or anxiety. But here he was, the little guy who’d been with me the whole time. Absolutely perfect.

baby-h

Hello, hello!

I can’t really start this without mentioning that it’s been awhile since I’ve posted. I mean, it’s been MONTHS. And, oh man, have things ever been happening. In November alone, I found out I was pregnant, Love and Other Alien Experiences was released, and my beloved grandfather died. Then, Love and Other Alien Experiences was picked up by Feiwel & Friends as part of a two book deal (!), which means it will be released IN PRINT in spring of 2017. Then my beloved mother in law passed away after a long illness.

To say it’s been an emotional seven months would be an understatement. I keep coming back to this quote from Anne Lamott’s Operating Instructions, which I read before I even knew I was pregnant, before any of this stuff happened:
anne lamott quote

You’ve already gone ahead and done it before you realize you couldn’t possibly do it. That’s how I’ve felt about everything. I would never have thought I could even handle so much grief, so much worry, so much crying. Thanksgiving was the day after my grandpa’s funeral, and no one knew I was pregnant. I felt too sick to eat much of anything, and then I went upstairs and fell asleep while my entire extended family was at my parents’ house (~*~just grief and pregnancy things~*~). Part of the reason I was so eager to get pregnant when we did (besides the fact that I, you know, wanted a baby) was that I wanted our relatives to be around to meet our child. Did I think that I would attend two funerals while I was pregnant? Did I think that my grandpa would die before he even knew I was pregnant? Did I think that my mother in law would die before our baby was born? No, I did not. And it’s been hard, and I didn’t write much of anything for months. I love to work and I measure my self-worth by my productivity, but there were so many days I didn’t want to get out of bed or so many nights when I just put a marathon of Murder, She Wrote on Netflix because I couldn’t even deal with picking out what to watch (turns out Jessica Fletcher is pretty cool to watch in any situation).

And I definitely wasn’t in a frame of mind to really appreciate the launch of my first book. On the day of my grandpa’s funeral, one of my favorite book bloggers wrote the nicest post about LAOAE. Somewhere in the deep part of my brain, I appreciated it, but it’s hard to really feel excited when you’re so sad. And I found out my mother in law would be receiving hospice care the same week my new book deal was announced. When things like that happen, it’s hard to care about work, even though my writing philosophy has always been that I want to write books for people in the waiting rooms. It’s easy to say that, but harder to live it.

When I was in college, a professor I liked quite a bit told me, “If you’re a real writer, you write every day. You write no matter what, even if your boyfriend dumps you or your grandma dies. You write because you’re a writer and that’s what you do.”

What all of this has shown me is that I don’t want to be that kind of writer. I can’t, and don’t want to, write when I’m miserable and spending time in a hospital and saying goodbye to someone for the last time. And if that makes me any less of a writer…well, I don’t think it does, but even if that’s true, who cares? Life happens, and like Stephen King says, “Life isn’t a support system for art. It’s the other way around.”

Anyway. I’m back now, mostly. I’m in a much better mental space, I’m working on Book 2 and other projects, and I’m feeling much more creative than I have in awhile.

Also, my son is due in five weeks, and his arrival will absolutely shake up my entire life and any sort of creative routine I have.

And you know what? That’s okay. Because I’ve spent a lot of time in hospitals for sad reasons over the past half a year, and I’m excited to be in one for a happy reason. I’ve cried a lot of sad tears, and I’m ready to cry some joyful ones. I’ve dealt with a lot of shitty stuff, and I’m not going to spend a single second of my time worrying about how my baby will change my writing. I’m ready for disruptions, emotions, sleepless nights, and trying to figure out how to take care of a child and write a book. I have a hard time talking to my friends about being pregnant, because there’s nothing snarky or funny in my feelings. I’m just happy. I don’t want to complain about pregnancy symptoms because I’m just happy to be carrying this baby in my body. He’s been our lifeline throughout a really hard time, and I’m so excited to meet him in five weeks (but please not much earlier…we still have to set up the nursery).

I will probably still not be very active here on Welcome to Ladyville, but know that I’m working hard on book 2 and living a life that’s much more than a support system for art. And in case you’re interested, here’s the announcement:
kerry PW announcement

Love and Other Alien Experiences: the book trailer

Guys! My book is coming out very soon (November 10th, to be exact). And I now have a book trailer.

I don’t usually like book trailers, to be honest. They almost never capture the vibe of the book. What’s more, they never make me want to read a book, and if a trailer doesn’t do that, then what’s the point?

But when I saw the trailer for Robyn Schneider’s Extraordinary Means, I thought Oh. That’s what a book trailer can do. It was beautiful and it looked like a real movie. It used a real song. It actually made me feel what the book would be like, and most importantly…it made me want to read the book.

Luckily, I know a filmmaker. His name is Alex Winfrey, and if you’re wondering why our names look similar, it’s because he’s MY BROTHER. That’s right, I totally took advantage of my family connection to get a sweet book trailer. Alex is one of the most talented people I know (here is one of his latest short films, Why I Run. It also stars my other brother, Chase, and it always makes me laugh.), but just as importantly, he’s really easy to work with and he always understands the kind of stuff I want to create, which I know because I’ve also forced him to design my wedding invitations, take my engagement photos, and take my author photo. I knew that if I described what I wanted, he’d be able to make something even better than anything I could imagine.

And what I wanted was just something that captured the vibe of the book. Something that felt exciting and hopeful and ready to explode. I wanted something that explained a little bit about the book, but that mostly made you feel what the book was about. I wanted running and music and magic.

And Alex did that, and then some. He worked so hard on creating my perfect book trailer. Our friend Emily played the main character, Mallory, and some of Alex’s hunky college friends played the hunky brothers. Those are pictures of my parents (and video footage of my dad!). Alex MADE THE MUSIC HIMSELF, a fact that blows my mind.

It’s a surreal feeling to see scenes you’ve written come to life. I’m just so, so happy with this book trailer and I hope you guys like it too.

If you want to know more about Love and Other Alien Experiences, you can check out the website. There are preorder links at the bottom if you’re so inclined!