At age 37, I knew exactly what I wanted. I had been working as a theatre producer in New York City for 15 years. Creative, aggressive, ambitious, strong, loud, I had cut my career-teeth on becoming a smart woman in a male-dominated business. At age 37, I decided that if my husband, Peter, didn’t agree to donate his sperm to my receptive egg, I was going to leave him and find a way to do it myself.
I’m a powerful negotiator. I’ve argued with heads of unions, temperamental actors, cocky directors and reluctant writers. I’ve stood in the spotlight at 3 a.m. so that a talented but slow lighting designer could focus his lights before the first preview. I’ve fired, hired, been bad cop, good girl and evil boss. I’ve made, cooled and then poured a coffee down my former boss’s Tommy Hilfiger shirt.
At age 37, I got pregnant on the beach in Spain. I decided it was time to tend my garden and give up 16-hour work days, caffeine-laced mornings and scotch-filled post-rehearsal nights.
Instead I became a professional pregnant lady.
I embraced pregnancy and motherhood as just another step in a long and successful career. I went to pre-natal yoga twice a week. My personal trainer worked through the entire “Maternal Fitness” program until my pelvic muscles could practically bench press on their own. I read and acquired too many pregnancy and parenting books, attended a confessional pregnancy circle, and dragged my husband to LaMaz, Birthing From Within, and Bradley. (Okay, we only went to one Bradley class, but that was because the teacher was too pushy and I needed to be the only Type A woman in the room.)
On September 13th, 2001. when we were finally able to turn off the television and go to sleep, Peter held me in bed and wept. I remained stone-cold sober because I had a new life to protect and I refused to let the world intrude on my growing baby. I read the papers and stood in the candlelight vigils, gathered boots and gauze and food for the workers at Ground Zero, comforted friends and neighbors and peered out over the Brooklyn Promenade at the now-naked skyline. But I never cried. Others could cry, get scared, voice their paranoid fears, but my job came first. I formed a steel wall between the world and my belly and protected it at all times. That was my job.
As a pregnant couple, we were so cool, calm and collected that our midwives asked us if we wanted to give birth live on CBS This Morning. Our birth doula used to hang out for hours at our house just talking about life. My Birthing-From-Within teacher framed my “birth art.” I went into labor on my due date, went to the hospital at 10 centimeters dilated, had our daughter Kate exactly 3 hours later after pushing for only 20 minutes and was home the next day at 3 p.m.
Then the poopie hit the “hurt-hands” (aka fan in our house). The professional pregnant lady became the shrieking, crying, leaking, regretful, angry new mother. Nothing was right, not breast-feeding, not my unpredictable child, not the loving Peter, not my friends and family, and certainly not me. An evil little game I played during this time was to jab at pictures of myself smiling at our wedding or sweetly touching my pregnant belly and mutter, “What did she know…”
When I finally got back in touch with the last shred of Carla I hadn’t cried, sweated, leaked or yelled away, I realized (to my horror) that she was mostly upset because she didn’t get her way. Sure sleep-deprivation, loss of identity, loss of hair, leaky boobs and post-partum acne pissed me off, but none of that was really making me miserable. No, the core of my deep unhappiness came from the fact that I had sacrificed everything to become the perfect mommy and I wasn’t even remotely happy or fulfilled with this new job. I had not planned on this being a bad career move. And, to add insult to injury, I sucked at it! I was still the same controlling, ambitious bitch I’d always been, but when I used the powerful skills I had painstakingly honed in years of business, the baby would usually throw up all over me and then cry all night.
I’m still competitive and bossy, I just can’t lose those aspects of my personality no matter how useless they’ve become. Every time Kate does something that other kids her age haven’t done I’m excited. And when she acts her age (18-months) I feel somehow like she’s letting me down. On good days. I’m able to acknowledge that I have no control over her and never will. She’s a mysterious package and I never know what crazy thing she’s going to do.
I, on the other hand, am enormously predictable. Peter can actually tell me what I’m about to say before I even open my mouth. He’s so used to me micro-managing his fathering that he just puts his hand up when I start to speak. It pains me to see Kate heading out the door in a hideous un-matched outfit chosen by her Dada, but I usually mutely accept these fashion nightmares because I’m so grateful to Dada for giving me a break. If I was my own manager, I’d call that “an excellent reorganization of priorities.”