I Used To Be Me (part 4)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

There’s something about Michelle Jackson Mannix—the “Honey” of Cobble Hill house made haven and go-to cafe Ted & Honey—that makes you want to be her buddy. The easy humor, the infectious laugh, the friendly voice, her whole comportment is warm and welcoming. She  invites me to her home which is, it turns out, literally around the corner from mine, and instantly I feel like a neighbor. She even hands me a deliciously toasty cookie from T&H.

Photo by Nicole Blades

Life before baby …
I didn’t get married until I was 33. So before that I was like single on steroids! I had moved to New York from Virgina 15 years ago, and I had this great group of gay friends, we went out every night. I thought I was living in Sex and the City. I didn’t really date much, didn’t have a boyfriend. I was just doing my thing, living my single, city life.

I always wanted to be a mother, but never felt I was a baby-mommy type …
I envisioned having kids and when they were older, being a family. But I was never  like, “Awww, look at that cute little baby! I gotta cuddle a baby. I gotta have a baby!”

About a year or two into our marriage, we decided to start trying. I had a few miscarriages. It’s one of those topics that no one really talks about. It’s so taboo. It’s different to not be able to get pregnant then when you can, but miscarry—more than once—and no one can tell you why it’s happening.

When you have one miscarriage, you’re like, “This totally sucks!” It is terrible, but it does happen. When you get to the point when you’re having a second one, you know you’re in a different class. After a third one, you stop investing. It didn’t take over my life. I felt like [successful pregnancy] was going to happen, and if it didn’t, I was open to adoption.

Then came Jackson …
[The doctors] never figured out why the miscarriages happened, and I had every test in the book. When this pregnancy worked it wasn’t because of any treatment or anything we did differently.

I was only able to really relax when Jackson came out. (Laughs) Seriously. You know how you watch the contractions on the monitor during labor? Well, I didn’t care about the pain, I was just watching his heartbeat.

I had the baby shower later than most people. Even then, the people at my shower … there was the vibe of [makes tense face]. They knew I had been through a lot. And I guess I never fully exhaled on all of that.

With all the mothers that come to Ted & Honey …
I think I was kind of ready for how tough motherhood can be, especially in the beginning. Those women kind of gave me a heads-up on the lack of sleep and the stress. Still, the most surprising part of motherhood is that you just don’t have a life. I tried to go for a manicure once, in the earlier stages of breastfeeding, and my husband was calling me midway through. I wasn’t even gone 45 minutes.

It’s really hit me more now, though.  You have friends that are single or maybe with older children and you can’t just do the, “Hey, wanna come out and grab a…” You can’t. Not without checking with your husband or the nanny and thinking about it all in advance. Your life is completely different.

But I make a conscious effort to not to put myself completely last. Maybe it’s because I’m older or watch Oprah (laughs) or all the self-help books I’ve read. You know that whole airplane scenario where they say you have to put your own oxygen mask on first before you can help anyone else.

Also, I think that it’s good for kids to see their moms doing as much as they can stay in the game, whether it’s taking a shower every day and looking good or being truly happy. It’s good for them to see you as a whole person. I take guitar lessons on Thursday nights, I’m actually not even that into it, but it would be so easy to say, “Well I can’t do that because I don’t want to be away from Jackson.” So I make sure I go to my guitar lessons. Now, I haven’t opened my mail in four days, but …

Most challenging part about motherhood …
I wouldn’t say this is challenging, but it’s the most interesting: the effect motherhood has on your relationship with your husband. It’s just different. I think it’s something physical or biological that makes it feel different. I was joking around with my doctor when she asked, “How’s everything going?” I said, “Well, no one tells you that you hate your husband!” (Laughs) She did say there’s something chemical at play when you’re breastfeeding.

Best baby gear …
The pacifier! Also, some women at Ted & Honey told me about this book and how just paying attention to [babies’] sleep can make a big difference. Knowing how important sleep is for your baby beats any piece of gear on the market.

Biggest waste-of-time gear …
I registered for a wipe warmer. What was I thinking? Waste of space, electricity. And I don’t want my kid to be that precious either, where it’s like heaven forbid he has a mildly cool wipe on his butt.

If we could jump into a DeLorean and race back in time …
I would write and record a little more about Jackson. There are things that they just don’t do anymore. When he was born I started a letter to him, it’s on my computer. Even if it’s a sentence once a month saying, “You have just lit up my world razzing for the last three weeks.” Or silly things like: “You are a boob man!”

I don’t want to be a nut about recording each moment, though, where he gets a tome when he’s 21 years old. “Here’s everything you ever did. Today you had three poops …”

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