Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Fish Mommy

(image from

Everyone in my life is pregnant right now.

I'm not joking. Everyone. In my life. Is pregnant. If you send me a message saying, "Oh hey Melissa. I'm in your life! I'm your mom- remember me? I'm not pregnant!" I will ignore you.

So just go with the fact that EVERYONE IN MY LIFE IS PREGNANT.

This has had an alarming affect on me. I waffle between deep despair as I realize Brett and I are nowhere near procreation and ridiculous, incredible relief that I am still "free." Wine tasting on a Tuesday? YES. I have no baby! Plans to try out every local restaurant's calamari appetizer and then compare them? Weird, but YES. I'M GAME. NOTHING LIVES IN MY STOMACH OR IN MY HOME.

Which is not true. I have a fish.

Let's get to him.

Brett is home for the week, and after he landed he eagerly asked to see our "pet,"- our 3 year old goldfish Caper. Caper is about 7,000 pounds and lives in a TANK by himself. Not a bowl. A tank. With a freakin' filter system. By himself. Needless to say, Caper can sometimes be a handful. His tank gets extremely dirty really easily. He eats 2 times a day- on a schedule. I can go maybe 12 hours without feeding him, but he will act out if that happens by hurling his hefty frame repeatedly against the glass the second he sees me come home. He is most likely brain damaged, because this has happened several times. He also has taken to "Free Willy"-esque suicide leapings from the water, and every single time I see him do it I wonder how much longer until he just hurls himself to the floor for dramatic effect. He is my baby, though. The one sole thing I can attach whatever motherly feelings I have to. So, when Brett saw Caper for the first time in 3 months and commented on his dirty tank and fat body, I bristled.

"Are you trying to say I am a bad fish mommy?" I asked him through clenched teeth. Brett, to his credit, recognizes a war zone when he sees one, so blessedly tried to back-pedal.

"No. All I am saying is that I think, but I could be wrong, but I think...that you are maybe over-feeding him? And you need to be more diligent about cleaning the tank?"

"I can't BELIEVE YOU ARE SAYING THAT!" I exploded. "You have NO IDEA how hard it is for me to take care of him ALL BY MYSELF! I have to do this ALL BY MYSELF! How dare you question anything?!"

"Melissa. We are talking about a fish."

"How do I know you don't think I'm not ready to be a mother?! You think I am going to be a bad mother!"

(Yeah. We got there. I don't know how. OH, WAIT YES I DO. Because I am insane.)

The rest of the day was spent with Brett trying to soothe my hurt feelings even though he was completely bewildered himself. In retrospect, I wasn't exactly proud of the way I handled that non-situation, but I redeemed myself by allowing Brett to clean the tank without attending a support group or anything. I guess the whole thing just touched on a deep fear that I have that maybe I am one of those people that wouldn't be a good mother. Let's face it- I know my way around a karaoke bar, I won't say no to a glass of wine in the afternoon, and I can't ever support my baby nephew's head properly. He ends up flopped and folded over my arms like some crumpled version of discount-store baby doll. It's something I really, really want to have in my life, and something I am really, really afraid I won't ever be able to do.

The friend that passed away was my beautiful cousin Sara. She was 30, gorgeous, funny, kind, and totally way more fun than I ever was. We would spend hours drinking champagne in the kitchen during family events, having drunken and hilarious conversations about how we would never have children. At one of these events, the tone was more somber. My doctor had just found some growths on my cervix, I was facing surgery, and suddenly the realization that I actually could face not having children was uncomfortably real. Sara led me to the garage for privacy, champagne clutched in her hand, and made a big announcement. "I decided," she said grandly, "to carry a baby for you. I will even stop drinking wine for 9 months." She did a little bow then, and I will never forget how I felt standing in that garage- just gifted with something that felt even more beautiful than a new human life. It was an ultimate gift of love- of incredible, selfless love- and it moved me more than words can say.

Sara is gone now, and I have a (blessedly) healthy cervix, and I have the ability to have a family someday...something that was taken away from her far too soon. So, it doesn't matter that I can barely take care of a goldfish. It doesn't matter that my mothering skills are flawed and often robotic and not fully formed. It doesn't matter that maybe I won't be "the perfect" mom. I will embarrass my kids. I will sing too loudly, I will probably feed them too many sweets, I will let them stay home from school once and awhile to help me paint a mural in our living room on a whim.

And hopefully my husband will come home, see his little family covered in paint and cookie crumbs, his flawed but (hopefully beautiful) wife laughing and living and not exactly worried about how dirty the fish tank is.

I think that sounds like a good mom.

Maybe I'm (almost) ready after all.

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