Sunday, April 15, 2012

Ava's Confession

"The time has come to talk of many things: Of shoes -- and ships -- and sealing wax -- Of cabbages -- and kings." That's from Lewis Carroll's poem "The Walrus and the Carpenter" (Through the Looking-Glass). Dona's always said that when we fold shop, we'll make that quote the top thing on the page. And a quote from Charlotte's Web the last thing.

But we're not folding shop. I am, however, talking about something. Jim wants to call this "Ava's Confession" and probably will (I really don't give a damn about the headline). But I don't feel it's a confession because I don't feel that my private life is anyone else's business.

Ty had an exchange with a piece of trash posing as a reporter. The trash just wanted to trash Betty. I've read the e-mails. Before reading the e-mails, I'd heard from Dona that Ty had tried to be very nice to the reporter and had answered questions, etc., etc.

My only question was: Did he tell her about my baby?

No, he didn't.

Then I could breathe a sigh of relief.

But it'll come out at some point and I always planned to bring it up on my terms so I'll write about it now.

public domain baby photo

If you read the community newsletters, this is old news. But not everyone of our readers is a member of The Common Ills community.

People like Kat and Mike and Trina have taken up for me in recent months at their site noting that I was dealing with a family issue or was very busy in the offline world.

That is correct.

I gave birth to a wonderful little girl.

That's why I haven't been subbing at Trina's site very often to cover Congressional hearings.

The full story.

I got pregnant.

I thought we were being careful.

But Jess and I only see other on the weekends. He's doing law during the week, I'm on the road speaking out against the wars. We see each other on the weekends. We're usually all over each other and both of us can get a little over enthusiastic and a condom can break as we found out.

I didn't realize I was pregnant until C.I. looked at me one day and said, "Ava, you need to go to the doctor, you're pregnant." She could see it in my face. I laughed, "Pregnant, yeah, right!" And then I thought, "How late is my period?" Really late.

So I whisper to Kat, "Get me an EPT!"

I didn't want to be pregnant. I didn't think I was pregnant and I didn't want C.I. to even think I thought I was pregnant.

Kat didn't tell anyone and we did the test together. And I said, "I don't believe it. I'm going to go buy another test." At which point, Kat tells me she bought three. So we do the other one and I don't need the third one, I accept reality.

It was a huge shock to me because I had assumed I'd have some kids in my mid-thirties if at all.

So now I'm pregnant and trying to figure that out.

I make the mistake of telling my older sister who naturally tells my entire family starting with my parents.

This is so great, this is so wonderful -- I'm told -- we all love Jess and you'll be so happy together and let's figure out the wedding and --


I don't believe in marriage.


Try "Crash."

Am I keeping the baby? Sure. Why not? It wasn't a planned pregnancy but being a mother doesn't cause the problems for me that it would other women. I have money so that I don't have to work, there won't be economic worries and that's probably the most stressful thing about most pregnancies, worrying about where the money will come from and how the bills will be paid.

Jess knows my feelings towards marriage. Longtime readers of this site will remember they popped in a roundtable here in the first or second year and Jess was rather surprised that I didn't believe in marriage and didn't plan on getting married. That was years ago. He's had plenty of time to get used to it.

What I couldn't get used to was my parents. In fairness, my mother took it slightly better. She wasn't thrilled but took the attitude of, "When have we ever been able to talk you into anything? You're going to do what you're going to do." And she was right.

My father, however, took the attitude of trying to guilt me in any number of ways including that someday he's going to die and that may be before "you come to your senses," so I might get married someday, after he's dead, and won't I feel awful then?

To which I replied, "Daddy, of course I'm going to feel awful when you're dead. It won't take a wedding to make miss you."

He did not appreciate my logic.

After various other attempts by him to make me realize he would be dead someday, he switched tactics to the child -- whom he was (wrongly) convinced would be a boy. "How will your child deal with the shame?"

I don't feel there's any shame. We are a Catholic family, yes. But I really think is the 21st century and I think we've all moved on past the notion that you have to be legally married to someone to have a baby or the baby is illegitimate. Certainly, so-called 'legitimacy' didn't prevent Barack Obama from becoming president. (In the eyes of US law, his parents could not have been married even if they had a wedding ceremony. When Barack Sr. arrived in the US, he was already married to a woman in Kenya. Bigamy is illegal in the US. Anyone who is married to more than one person at the same time is considered, by the law, to only be married to the first partner they wed.)

There was never any question that Jess would be in the picture. As some have noted at their sites, I purchased a house near C.I.'s (same street, we can walk to each other's home) in the Bay Area. Jess, Dona, Jim and Dona & Jim's baby live there. Should Jess and I break up and not be able to continue to live together and I not want the house, I'd give it to him in full. If we broke up and I did want the house, I'd pay him half the value of the house. That's because I bought the house but he made the house. I'm on the road. He's the one who oversees it. (And thank you to C.I.'s house keeper who helped Jess interview people to hire for the lawn and cleaning, etc.) If it's a home, it's because of Jess. Not me. It's our home together and if we broke up and needed to live apart, he would either get the house in full or get half the value.

So my parents were freaking out (especially my father and my oldest sister) and it was becoming a real problem.

At which point, Jess proposed.

He flashed an expensive ring and asked me to marry him and I told him, "I can't believe your doing this. You now how I feel about marriage."

At which point, he told me, "I wasn't finished. I'm asking you to do me the honor of both marriage and divorce."

Yes, that way my father could stop freaking out. We would get married and we would get divorced.

Which is what we did. I was in the hospital after giving birth when we started the paperwork for the divorce.

That's not meant as an insult to Jess. We are a couple. But I don't believe in marriage.

So there needed to be a wedding. And my parents wanted a big one but quickly learned that I didn't. And that if they wanted to attend, it would be small and private, no engraved invitations, no announcements. I was doing this mainly because for them (also for Jess who figured a way to please us all) and if they couldn't appreciate that, then I would be doing for them but without them.

We had 200 people. (Trust me, that's a small wedding. If you knew what my father wanted, you would realize that immediately.) We did it in the middle of the week. There were no announcements in the papers. It was family on my side and on Jess' side and it was our friends who could make it during the middle of the week. And Jess had to be in court the next day so there wasn't a honeymoon. We still plan on having that honeymoon. Yes, we are divorced now, but we do plan on taking that honeymoon and we've got it scheduled for July right now.

Now all the above? Even the birth. None of it stopped me or slowed me down.

Unlike Dona, I had a very easy pregnancy. She had morning sickness morning, noon and night. She was always throwing up. And her ankles were so swollen. (As she's written of here.) My 'morning sickness'? I had a morning where I burped repeatedly for three hours straight. Loud belches. Couldn't stop. That was the closet thing to an incident of morning sickness.

It was a breeze and I was determined that it would be. I think maintaining the speaking schedule that Kat, Wally, C.I. and I keep helped a great deal. It allowed me to focus on something else and to stay busy and the time flew.

It's a little different now. Just a little.

When we're speaking, it's not different at all. I take her with me on the road and one of us -- Wally, Kat, C.I. or me -- is holding her while we're speaking with various groups about the wars. She's a happy baby who gets bored if we're home on a Monday. If it's a holiday or somehow Dona's managed to schedule us a Monday off so that we're home that extra day, my daughter will fuss and fuss until you take her to the car and take her somewhere. That is normal to her. And I'm thrilled by that.

Dona and Jim have a beautiful girl (she looks just like Dona -- Jim agrees with that). And I know her daughter and my daughter will be great friends, lifelong friends and I'm so glad of that and so glad that they will be raised differently. That's not an insult to Dona. Dona does a great job with her baby. But I don't want my daughter exposed to sameness. I want her friends to ideally bring a different experience to the table so that my daughter knows about more than just her own life. And like Dona and I bonded over our differences first semester in college, hopefully our daughters will as well.

So my baby's going to spend as much time on the road as possible. She'll see the country and be used to being mobile.

But things are different now. The speaking's the same. But I can't carry her into a hearing with me. If she's sick (or just possibly sick), I'm staying with her. If she's not sick, my mother's watching her. (My mother started looking for a place in the DC area shortly after she learned I was pregnant. She bought a house two blocks from C.I.'s. She gets out schedule from Dona and leaves NYC for DC to be there when we are.) (When my father sees the place, he will be surprised. This is the first home she's decorated solely based on her tastes. It's very lovely. My parents have a lovely home in NYC and in California as well. But those were decorated with an eye towards what my father would like as well. This house she's decorated solely on what she likes.)

So there are times when I can't write about a hearing because I'm not there. There are times when I am there but when the evening rolls around, I just want to play with my daughter. There are times when I'm in the hearing but I find myself texting my mother to ask her what they're doing? And I'm focused on that and not what's going on in the hearing.

So I haven't subbed for Trina much since I gave birth.

And because I'm not doing it, Kat and Wally skip covering the hearings a lot of the time. If they covered it and I didn't, even more people would have been wondering why I wasn't? As it is, there are e-mailers convinced I'm mad at Trina or Trina's mad at me and that's ended my ever subbing for her again.

Nothing could be further from the truth. I love Trina. She's raised 8 kids and is now helping to raise her granddaughter. She is both a source of inspiration and information. I value her so much. Rebecca's daughter is the same age as Trina's granddaughter. She's also full of helpful advice (but only when asked). Fridays, when we get to Trina's, I don't see my baby except from a distance. You've got Trina, Rebecca, Ruth, Elaine, Marcia, Stan and Mike holding her and playing with her. During the week, I've got Wally, Kat and C.I. and, if we're in DC, my mother. (Or if we're in NYC. As we were for the United Nations Security Council hearing last week. If we are in NYC, Dad works from the home because he has to have to his granddaughter around him.)

I am very lucky that I don't have to worry about a number of things other mothers my age have to. That's both due to money and due to friends and family. On Sundays, Tia Rita (my mother's sister) arrives at 8:00 am and says, "Where's my baby!" And watches her the entire day. Which is good because Third is an all night writing edition (one I loathe but that is how we decided to do it) and I'm exhausted Sunday morning. At home, I also have Ty, Dona, Jim and Betty as resources and I thank them for that. (Jess, of course, as well but he's the father. It's expected that he will be there for his daughter. But I will thank him here. Thank you, Jess.)

That's the only secret I feared being exposed. I planned to write about it but was going to wait until this summer (right before the honeymoon). Having written about the baby, let me make clear that Jess can anytime he wants. He may have wanted to before but been respecting my wishes. But since I've let the cat out of the bag, if he wants to, he can now write whatever he wants to about the above (the baby, the pregnancy, the wedding, the divorce, anything).
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