Woman About the Internet

By Drew Zandonella-Stannard

Issue 40: It's Not a Spaceship, It's a Time Machine



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Woman About the Internet

April 26 · Issue #40 · View online

I am a writer, mother, and decent human being living in Seattle, Washington. My monthly newsletter pairs perfectly with the everyday and the End of Days. I think you're swell.

The baby was born with a full head of hair looking like neither of us. On our first night in the hospital, a nurse offered to bathe her and I agreed since Frida still had so much birth gunk stuck in her hair, even though as I did the voice of every natural birth blog came back to me, yelling not to wash her for weeks and weeks in order to preserve her precious biome. The nurse described two potential setups: either she could bathe the baby in our room, or she could bring her to the nursery where she’d have a nice dip and then be put under a warming tray afterward, like a cozy nine and a half pound burrito. “Skin to skin for the first 24 hours, never let the baby leave your side!” the Greek chorus of guilt sang. But at that point, I would’ve given the sum total of my short term disability checks to be placed under a warming tray so Jacob followed the nurse down the hall and Frida mewed and grunted through her first shampoo. She returned to me swaddled with a side part.

I spent the early weeks at home watching the baby monitor like a favorite television show while stuffing food into my mouth or starting and abandoning loads of laundry. Frida slept and slept and slept during the day but refused to rest at night unless she was in my arms. I do not blame her. The expensive bassinet we purchased long before she arrived, the one that boasted gentle womb-like vibrations, a nursing timer, lights, and several white noise settings, remained empty until I sold it to a scared expectant dad on Facebook Marketplace six months later.
Eventually, a doula friend visited. Liz is someone who I would let operate on me if, say, I developed appendicitis while we were both stranded at an Arctic research lab. It is important to have at least one friend like this. I mentioned our sleep set up, with the baby tucked into my arm as I sat upright in bed, staring at her. Every pamphlet we were given and every class that Jacob and I nervously sat through told us that this was the most dangerous position to possibly fall asleep in. “But who’s really sleeping, anyway?” I laughed with the manic flailing hands of a woman whose relationship with REM cycles had become a distant memory. Liz suggested the swing, something we had bought on a whim to have a spot to dock the baby while showering or cleaning or performing any of the tasks I found myself doing less and less of. “A tight swaddle, the swing on the highest setting, white noise. Have you tried that? That will work.” I looked at her wise, rested face, hands calm, eyes sincere. She gently but firmly took me by the shoulders: “Drew, it will work because we believe it will work.”
At that moment, Liz handed me my parenting philosophy: it will work because we believe it will work. 
On Mother’s Day, it began to feel like summer. Frida was two weeks old and my parents proclaimed it time for Jacob and me to have a “date.” This consisted of him driving us very slowly to the donut shop in the middle of the day and sitting quietly in the parking lot eating apple fritters the size of my fist. “Are you okay to drive?” I asked. In our former life, this question would’ve come after few beers on a Friday evening, not after realizing how sleep deprivation can make you feel like waking up on the cusp of a hangover, still drunk from the night before. “Now what do we do?” he asked after we finished our treats. I was stumped. What did we do before? My memory was shot and I felt as if I’d left the house without my keys, wallet, or phone. We finally decided to drive down to the water and just as Jacob unrolled the windows for a cool blast of salty air, milk began to leak through my carefully placed nipple pads and down the front of my sundress. 
Milk had become my house arrest ankle bracelet.
Being a person is exhausting, but when you have a baby you can’t just go rogue like Hunter S. Thompson and snort horse tranquilizers through your eyeballs for breakfast, no matter how delicious the promise of escape might be. Escape takes different forms now. How would I have survived motherhood before the iPhone? A month after Frida was born, my phone, my best friend, my co-parent, started sending me a summary of how much I’d been staring at its screen each week. I felt betrayed. 
During yet another late-night nursing session, I gazed into its soft glow and purchased blue light blocking glasses for myself, which felt like switching from straight to filtered cigarettes. But of course, that’s not what it is. A cigarette is a cigarette. And I can never have a cigarette again. So I wake when the baby wakes. I push her uphill in her stroller while she waves at the trees. I attempt YouTube dance videos in an effort to exercise while she laughs at me from her activity chair. I try to eat eggs and vegetables and fruit and feed the baby eggs and vegetables and fruit. And then every evening after she’s finally, miraculously asleep in her crib I pour myself a vodka and seltzer and try to cram the entirety of my adult existence into the three hours before I force myself into bed. 
Patti Smith referred to the birth of her daughter as a “joyous interruption.” The arrival of her children prompted her to move to rural Michigan and away from the public eye. I tell myself that sometimes we need to retreat in order to grow and I almost believe it. She wrote from 5-8am before her babies woke for the day. But when Frida stirs in her crib at 5:30 I stare at the baby monitor, willing the both of us to please, please go back to sleep. I will never be Patti Smith, up before dawn to hone my craft. There are no morning pages in my future. Instead, I leave my daughter with my mothers on Tuesdays and Thursdays and try not to simply scroll, scroll, scroll through Instagram during my three hours of allotted writing time. 
I first felt the baby kick on a tiny plane to Idaho. As we took off she somersaulted somewhere deep in my belly and suddenly I had a traveling companion. On our last business trip together, I caught one of the worst colds of my life and found myself waddling through meetings in rural Ohio, blowing my nose and apologizing the entire time. Back at my hotel, unable to drown my sorrows in NyQuil, I ran the shower full blast in an attempt to steam gunk out of my lungs. As I sat on the closed toilet lid answering emails and eating a Jimmy John’s sandwich I promised the both of us that it would get better. And it has.  It really has.
One evening as I sorted through a batch of clothing Frida had outgrown, I paused before filling up yet another donation bin. I asked Jacob if he thought we might ever have another baby, even though I already knew the answer. “Not unless we get really bored or really rich!” he boomed from the next room. And it’s true.
I can only devote so much of my life to lulling someone else to sleep.
Now, the baby is almost one and is in on the joke. Items that were once novel, that used to feel like dressing a dog up human clothes, are now commonplace. This is Frida’s cup and plate. These are Frida’s toys. Here are her favorite books. She eats fistfuls of strawberries while raising her water to toast us. She babbles to her stuffed animals and chuckles at the little mouse in Goodnight Moon. When I think about all of the things she has to learn and do in order to grow up it’s too overwhelming, like when I was pregnant and imagining the burden of growing someone else’s fragile spine or tiny liver. But here we are, hurling ourselves forward.
It will work because we believe it will work. 
I love you and you are deserving of great things.
xo Drew
Need to catch up on an issue? Explore the archives right here. Some of my other writing lives here. If you’d like to follow me on Instagram, you can do so right here. I also hang out on Twitter.
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