Monday, June 21, 2010

The Mom Switch

I just don't feel any different.  On a basic level, I mean.  I feel like the same old Jenny, but now with a baby. Of course, I generally still feel like the same person I was when I graduated college.  A lot more stable, yes, but basically the same.  I thought that being pregnant would make me a completely different person.  When that didn't happen, I thought something would "switch on" when my daughter was born and I would be a completely different person then.  So now I am still waiting.  When do you start feeling like a mom?  Or a grownup for that matter?

I thought when I got engaged I would feel like a grownup.  Nope.  Married?  Nope.  How about buying a house?  Nope.  Actually, this process made me feel even more childlike and inept than planning a wedding.  Okay, SURELY when I found out I was pregnant, I would feel like I was an adult?  Wrong again.  So why did I expect actually giving birth to be any different?  I mean 14 year olds do it every day and they certainly aren't grownups. 

I remember the first thing I felt when I held her was not some overpowering emotion.  It was exhaustion.  I was just exhausted.  It took weeks - if not months - for me to get over the feeling that I was doing a 24-hour-a-day babysitting gig for some mysterious set of parents who would eventually (please God, SOON) come and take away their tiny, extremely demanding baby.  I thought I would just automatically be different.  Lucy is 9 months old now.  I am still waiting for the Mom Switch to turn on.  I am a MOTHER, after all.  I created life.  Shouldn't that change a person? 

Even the whole process by which my baby came into the word is shrouded in that fuzzy post-birth-hormonal-cocktailed haze.  It could easily not have happened at all.  If not for the constantly changing, sweet, funny, beautiful little girl that is sleeping in the next room, I might think I had dreamed the whole thing.  If anyone actually remembered childbirth for the way it really is for many women, we would have died out as a species long ago.  And I had a pretty easy time of it (if you don't count how long it took).  Yes, giving birth is a right of passage...but it is rarely honored as such in our culture and people don't generally have a celebration for the birth of the mother that happens at the same time as the birth of the baby.

All that aside, I know I have changed.  When I see kids in danger on TV or in the movies, it hits home in a real, visceral way.  She is in my thoughts most of the time.  My husband and I can refer to "she" or "her" out of the blue, in no context at all, and we both know who we are talking about.  My heart has expanded an infinite amount.  It has expanded so much that I wonder how it could possibly expand any further to include any more children.  I yearn for her when we are apart.  I worry about her safety, her development, her health.  I imagine her future with a smile on my face.

I guess the Mom Switch is much more subtle than I thought it was.  I expected to have a complete personality overhaul or something.  An ex-boyfriend of mine once said, "I want to be a fly on the wall when the doctors take you away after having a baby.  I want to know what they do to a woman to make them into moms."  Implying, of course, that he would recognize me after I had turned into one myself.  I suppose I took that more to heart than I ever should have.  I suppose I am still me.  Just "Mama" me.  I sometimes wonder if my mom ever looks at us and thinks "Wow, I can't believe I have KIDS!" or if the wonder of it all wears off after 30 years or so. 

So maybe the Mom Switch is really just a reshuffling of priorities as opposed to the total system reset I was waiting for.  I think of Lucy first and myself and my husband second.  That covers it, in a nutshell.  I think it might also be the switch that grows your heart to 1000 times its original size.  But I suppose even the Mom Switch can't make a perennial kid feel like a grown up.

I have to admit, though, having a real dining room set made me feel a little grown up.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Capitol Steps - You Probably Had to Be There #3 King Tw-t's T-t

We do many MANY shows every year.  Somewhere on the order of 300-500, depending upon the year and whether or not there is an election.  An individual performer may have as many as 9 shows in a week (or as few as none, once again, depending on the year and the season).  This means that performing in any given show can become an exercise in autopilot.  Most of the time this is fine.  The muscle memory kicks in, and the brain takes a 90 minute vacation.  Sometimes I have literally "come to" in the middle of a song and wondered which lyrics had come out of my mouth.  This is when things get dangerous.  You start to think and then you start to screw up.  The mind, oftentimes, is a BAD NEIGHBORHOOD - you should stay out of it.  If the brain has flipped the autopilot switch, it is best to STAY OUT OF YOUR MIND or face dire consequences.  Other times, I have known exactly that I was SUPPOSED to say, and listened in growing horror (or amusement, depending on how I am feeling that day) as not a single thing that my mind is coming up with is making its way out of my mouth.

This is what happened to AJ one day a few years ago.  Fortunately, it happened at the Reagan Building, where we record every show for potential album cuts.  This is one of the benefits of doing so many shows - when there is a truly delicious screw-up, the first thought is usually "Are they recording this??" as opposed to "I really screwed up, wow, I suck" or some other such self-flagellating mental comment.

The song had been dubbed "The Supremes".  It was a parody of Staying Alive about how all the justices on the court were well past their prime.  It is actually a very funny song starring the more liberal justices on the court - Justices Ginsberg, Souter Stevens and Breyer.  It was before the passing of Chief Justice Rehnquist and before Sandra Day O'Conner retired.

The line was "Well they say Renhquist could be King Tut's Twin and Sandra Day knew Ann Boleyn".  A mouthful under any circumstances.  I do not know what was going through her mind.  I wasn't in the show that day.  But I heard about what she said.

"Well they say Rehnquist could be King Twat's Tit and Sandra Day knew Ann Boleyn".

Clear as a bell.  King Twat's tit, ladies and gentlemen, King Twat's tit.

The Capitol Steps - You Probably Had to Be There #2 - President's WHAT??

I was recently back from 3 months of maternity leave.  I was doing a show with the boss (we'll call her E).  We were sitting backstage going over the running order.  This is a pre-show ritual in which we sit around and read through the list of songs and make sure everyone knows the parts they have been assigned to sing.  Only rarely does it turn up any real problems, since E is meticulous about these things. 

This particular night, we were going through a song called "Oprahbama" (uh, don't ask).  The line I am supposed to sing is "After the most recent/president's election/can we know our country's headed in the right direction?"  E says "Haha!  Jenny make sure you don't say 'President's ERECTION' Haha!"

I say "Thanks E, now I WILL say it!"

Please note that I have a 7 week old baby. I have not slept more than 3 consecutive hours in 7 weeks. I am hormonal in a very, very serious way. 

We go through the show.  Oprahbama is at the end of the first act.  We are backstage, getting ready of to go on for the first act closer.  I am thinking to myself "President's ELECtion.  President's ELECtion."  Over and over and over again.  And over agaan.

Have you ever said a word so many times that it just doesn't sound right anymore?  That's what I did.  "Election" just didn't sound like the right word anymore.  I get to my verse, start singing, and in my head I am thinking "Election just sounds WRONG.  It must be erection."

So that's what I sing.  As loud and clear as one could possibly sing it.  I sang about our most recent president's erection.  The audience titters a little bit, wondering if there is a Bill Clinton joke coming.  They quickly go from amused to confused.  I can't look at anyone else.  I see E's smile broaden wider and wider out of the corner of my eye as she tries to get through her verse without cracking up.  I hear the guys on the other side of me supressing snickers.  I look straight ahead and can barely breathe for laughing under my breath.   I don't think I sang a clear word for the rest of the song, let alone a correct note.

Needless to say, I didn't sing that part again for a very long time.