Old friends, ex-husband, and the old ‘hood in B’lyn

my brooklyn babyYesterday was everything I’d hoped it would be. I am still totally exhausted. I can’t tell you how strange it was to spend the day in my old ‘hood, where I miscarried so many pregnancies. It’s also where I fell in love with DH, and spent our entire first summer together basically in bed or eating great food and drinking great drinks. It’s where we held New Year’s Eve parties and roof parties and led candlelit jam sessions to the backdrop of the Brooklyn skyline. Where we wrote many, many papers on psychology and talked into the wee hours about what were learning. And where I rolled around in pain, crying harder than I thought was possible for a human being to cry.

I had one particularly poetic moment yesterday.

I was walking past Behren’s Pharmacy, the mom & pop pharmacy in Fort Greene where I used to fill all of my prescriptions: fema.ra, clo.mi.d, fol.gar.d, prescription prenatal vitamins. DHA, EPA. And of course the other supplements we all take, just in case—CoQ10, bee pollen, and you know the rest. The lovely Indian man behind the counter had a good idea what was up, especially with the prenatal vitamin tip-off. Who takes prenatal vitamins for a bazillion years without ever sporting a bump? “Hello there! How are you! I have your prescription ready!” he would say to me, smiling. We’d have a conversation about something. And he’d always say goodbye with a warm, “Good luck to you, Miss X! See you next time.”

There was always a next time. And I was always not pregnant. When I had to fill the prescription for Cyt.o.tec, I made a point not to go to him. I just didn’t want him to know. I went to a chain store instead—where, of course, the pharmacist was about nine months pregnant, warning me of the cramping I was about to endure.

I was walking past Behren’s Pharmacy, and I could see the Indian man inside, waiting on a customer with his customary smile. For a spilt-second, I had the impulse to go in and say hello, but then I caught my reflection in the storefront window. I could see my very swollen belly, and the quiet smile on my face. And through my reflection I could see the Indian man. I just stopped and let that poetry unfold. I felt that was enough. I walked on.

Another place that was weighted with memory was one of those wicked-cute B’lyn baby boutiques, where everything is overpriced and amazing looking. When it first came into being, I was in the throes of loss and confusion, and I was pissed that I would have to walk past it nearly every day on my way to the subway. When DH went inside, once, to buy his niece a gift, I told him I’d meet him at home and walked on. I never went inside. It was my neighborhood kryptonite, the door a birthing canal for pregnant women—they were always coming out of that store with bags fat with purchases just as I was walking by.

I went in there yesterday and tried to sink into what it felt like, really felt like, to have a sense of belonging there. My history always separates me a bit, but it still felt healing to browse, touch the items, and think of my baby wearing them, playing with them. I didn’t feel that the pregnant women around me were my tribe, exactly—you are my tribe—but I did feel myself relax and let categories of identity melt a bit. I had fun in there. I even bought two things—an on-sale wooden book and an on-sale (12 bucks!) starfish martial-arts-like top featured in this post.

“Who my little starfish babykins?” I found myself murmuring in sing-song motherese to my little babykins, stroking my belly. “Who my sweet little starfish mister? Mm?”

I just get this sense of sweetness from him. A sweet, sweet energy that makes me melt. I can’t wait to hold this little guy in my arms!

The day started with lunch with my ex-husband. He bought us slices of gluten-free (me) and vegan (him) pizza, and we ate outside, talking for hours. He’s a good guy. I noticed right away how clumsy he still is, and I had to hold myself back from helping him with his coffee lid, helping him with pizza plate—these are things a wife does, not an ex-wife, but after fourteen years together, it’s almost impossible not to fall back into old habits. I got some cheese caught in my hair, at one point, and he reached over automatically and pulled it out. That sort of thing. Off-hand intimacy that almost feels gene-level, it’s so entrenched. So I try to be mindful of it.

We talked about our families, our mutual friends. It was very good to talk to him about some of the problems I’m having with my parents and nephew, as he has known them since he was nineteen and had good insights and reminders. His wife is currently not sure when she wants to have kids, and he’s wondering if they should freeze her eggs (she’s 31).

“Do it,” I said, without hesitation. He was talking about how she thinks now isn’t a good time for her to get pregnant, considering all of the documentary projects she is working on, and considering their slightly not-optimal financial situation. “There will never be a good time, and you will never have enough money, ” I said. “If you can, try to decide now, make some decisions now. Just remember that going through infertility treatments is much, much harder and more expensive than starting a family naturally now.” He said he agreed. It was an odd conversation to be having with him, in a way, but then again, not. We’ve always been blatant advice-givers for each other.

It was so nice to see him so happy for me and my belly, to see his delight in the ultrasound photos, to hear his fascination with the kiddo’s development. “He just finished working on his outer ears,” I told him. “He’s been so busy and working so hard!” My ex knows more than almost anyone how much I’ve wanted to be pregnant and be a mom, and he was worried it wasn’t going to happen for me. Even after all I put him through during the separation, breaking his heart and forcing him to let go, he came out on the other side still wanting what is best for me. And I feel the same way about him, despite the years of horrific arguing, neglect, being taking for granted.

He and I are proof that relationships can take a serious beating and still keep growing. You don’t have to give up, write people off, do clear-cutting. You can hang on through the traumatic rupture and move on through to the surprising landscape of repair.

That was a big theme yesterday: relationships, and rupture and repair.

I talked about that with my next “date,” watermelon lemonades with a friend from social work school. Man, is she a keeper. I just love her energy, the way she is so present as she listens, and the warmth of her affection. She was over the moon, rubbing my belly. We talked about her upcoming move out west and all that’s on the horizon for both of us. We also talked about a friend who unfortunately did some of that clear-cutting I just mentioned and seems to have written all of us off. It was especially hard for my friend, as she and this person were very, very close.

After watermelon lemonades, my by-then dog-tired swollen feet walked to a new restaurant on Myrtle, where I met my third “date,” the woman I mentioned in my last post who is surprisingly pregnant, and due in December, too. It was fun to compare notes! We even had the waitress take a picture of us and our preggo bellies. I concealed my twinge of jealousy that she and her boyfriend started talking about trying for a baby almost as soon as they got together, since she is 39, and she conceived a healthy baby immediately. But she knows my history and am glad she didn’t talk about that too much. Ouch. Well. But my path is my path, and I know once I hold this baby, I will wish I had no other path. I already do feel that way.

This woman unfortunately has been experiencing a great deal of depression during her pregnancy and she asked me for advice on how to relax, enjoy, and stop worrying that something is going to go wrong. How crazy that I am less worried than she is, but it just goest to show—it’s all from where yer at, as friend of mine used to say. I suggested doing things that affirm that her little baby girl is going to indeed be born into this world—sing to her, talk to her, write letters to her, keep up with what she’s working hard on growing this week, from body parts and brain cells to fat and hair. “Think of it like you’re a team, you know? And she’s in there, doing her part, and you’re out here, doing yours.” She seemed to really like this advice.

I felt so fulfilled after all of this socializing. I can’t wait to go back with DH, and with our baby, in a stroller or sling.

Wow! That’s actually going to happen!

When we do, I want to walk under the windows of our old brownstone apartment, and look up.

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12 Comments

  1. Lovely post, so good to hear from you. Can’t wait til your little angel boy is born! xxx

    Reply
  2. How I miss Brooklyn! Spent almost 10 years in WillyB myself! It’s nice to go back and reconnect with your old “hood” and your old friends! I’m so happy that you enjoyed yourself. And Im on the same page with you with old relationships. You loved each other and you cared about each other. That never goes away really, so it shows the type of person that you are, where you can repair and move on.

    Reply
    • Oh, great! I used to live in Greenpoint, right on the edge of Williamsburg. What a thriving area, wow. Ten years is a long time! I was there for eight, DH for *fourteen*. He’d still be there if it were a more practial place to live (and if I wanted to—I’m ready for greener pastures). Thanks so much, hon, and glad to hear you’re in the same page re: relationships. It’s good to be able to repair because lord knows we will be going through ruptures and fights and misunderstandings with friends and lovers for the rest of our lives.

      Reply
      • Where are u guys located now? We’re in New Rochelle, which we LOVE!!! I grew up in white plains, so i knew i wanted to raise my kids in the suburbs, BUT with the way that It is now in that part of Brooklyn, it’s an AWESOME place to raise a family…tons of kids everywhere you look (and for us, lots of LGBT families which i think is important, not necessary but important)

        Reply
        • We’re in Long Island (meh—well, meh to the culture, wow to the beaches + water + sunsets) and looking to move after babykins is born. Pittsburgh is top on the list, also Asheville, and various other places. I’m glad you guys found the right fit in New Rochelle! We always look up LGBTQ stuff and Buddhist stuff in any city we are considering moving to. Chances are if there is a healthy LGBTQ community, then the city is going to be a good place to raise kids. I just started following your blog—it looks great!

          Reply
  3. What a wonderful relationship you have with your ex-husband. It’s so rare to read stories like that where you can still sit down and chat with each other and be genuinely interested in each other’s lives. I am happy for you that you get to spend time with different people. You’re doing really well!

    Reply
    • Thanks lady! Moving on, slowly but surely, it seems. I know—I feel damn lucky that my ex and I have managed to be close and supportive. He’s someone who has known and loved and supported me since I was nineteen! Jeesh. Amazing. I’ll always try to keep that relationship nurtured and going, and I know he will, too. He feels like an old, old friend, or a brother, or a combo of the two.

      Reply
  4. I loved hearing about your relationship with your ex. That is a beautiful thing. It made me quite sad. I really do enjoy reading your updates and your happiness. This is what it is all about :)

    Reply
    • Ah, don’t even get me started about my ex—I get very wistful, and feel a deep sadness. We were just kids when we met and helped each other grow up. We just didn’t know for the longest time how incompatible we really were when it came to a romantic relationship. And we were stuck in old habits, old ways of being, and did not seem able to let each other grow and change. I feel a lot of guilt for being the one to force the separation and divorce, even though it was certainly the right choice. But in any case, it’s great to be able to feel love and compassion for him now, and to remain friends—I know that that is so rare after divorce!

      Reply
  5. Beautiful post! I love the revisiting of places that were painful before, and now there is a sense of peace. I love the starfish top — so cute! And while I completely cannot relate to sitting and eating pizza with an ex-husband and discussing family planning with him, it’s amazing that you have that repaired relationship! Holy crow. Impressive. I can just picture you walking around Brooklyn with your swollen belly and your peaceful smile, and it makes me so happy. I am so excited for when you come to those places with your stroller/swing!

    Reply
    • You’re a doll. Yes, ex-husband and I have achieved the best possible outcome, and I have to give a ton of credit to him! After all, I’m the one who broke his heart and shocked him with separation and divorce, and yet he worked through his pain and met me back in friendship. I admire him so much for that! And am so grateful to him. When I developed a serious cat allergy, he even took care of our country-turned-city kitties (that was hard, hard for me) and just buried the last one recently. I wish life weren’t so difficult for him—he deals with a lot of anger and inability to achieve his dreams. Anyway, yes—we triumphed, hurrah! Thank you for your love, sugah.

      Reply

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