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24

Jun

My Birth Story… This is How I Remember It Almost a Year Later.

(Originally Appeared in American Baby Magazine June 2013 Illustrations by Ingo Fast)

I was entirely consumed by my pregnancy. If a book had the word “birth” in its title, I devoured it. If a magazine’s cover featured a woman with a baby bump, I flipped through it wild eyed. Water birth, Hypno birth, The Bradley Method and Lamaze—I studied them as if there would be a final exam involving multiple- choice questions and a true/false section before I was permitted to deliver. My husband, Josh, is an actor, so I had optimistically assumed that he would eagerly put in the hours of preparation required to fulfill his upcoming role of supportive partner during labor. I could not have been more wrong.

“Jess—this is a woman’s business. What can I really do to help you once we are in a room full of doctors?” Josh asked while accompanying me on a research trip to the bookstore.

“You’ll be helpless, just standing there feeling like a failure while I do all of the work!” I insisted, with my hands resting on the sides of my over- inflated belly, as if I were covering the ears of our unborn child. While the cashier rang up the six various guides to motherhood I had chosen (for young moms, hot moms, first- time moms, yoga moms…) I hurried back to the parenting section in search of reading material my husband could delve into. Wedged between What to Expect When You’re Expecting and 1,000 Baby Names sat an 80-page guide to labor and delivery for men. 80 pages! If Josh merely read two pages each week of my pregnancy, he would be the confident, all-knowing labor guru I needed him to be! I added the book to my stack, noticing a slight smirk from the cashier.

“Oh, he’ll read it.” I assured her.

And he did read it. Every single word of the entire…first chapter. I found the slim volume behind our headboard, the 13th page dog-eared. There I stood, nine months pregnant, realizing that the man I had chosen to father my child had absolutely no idea what kind of battle we were about to go into! Poor Josh was woefully ill prepared, and I could burst into labor any minute. It was as if I just learned my triathlon teammate was both aquaphobic and drunk!

Being two weeks overdue was not in my 6-page, double-spaced birth plan. I bought as much time as I could, but after two weeks, my doctor called it. Josh and I rolled the hospital bag onto the labor and delivery floor just before midnight, a plastic band was wrapped around my wrist and the induction began. Our nurse carefully read through each bulleted intention on the document I handed her and dolefully shook her head, a look of concern creeping onto her face.

“Next time,” she whispered, leaning in, “home birth.”

I was promptly hooked up to an IV, and cables and clasps peeked out of my hospital gown. If I wanted to use the restroom, I unplugged from the monitor and dragged an entourage of screeching wheels behind me. Pitocin raged through the IV into my bloodstream and rocketed relentless contractions. In a cramped, crowded space, I focused on my mother-in- law’s eyes as she reminded me to breathe. My own mother massaged my back and applied a heating pad. Seventeen hours after we’d begun, my progress was non-existent. My body had one job to do yet was failing tremendously.

My husband was far exceeding my performance at his own chosen tasks: Stay out of the way and refill ice chips. That’s right , my knight in shining armor had valiantly come to my rescue with frozen water! Once in a while, he even patted my perspiring forehead with a wet cloth.

Once my cervix had been labeled countless degrees of disappointing, my chart status was updated to failure to progress and a C-section was decided as the final course of action. Josh was asked to leave the room as the anesthesiologist walked in. Finally a real knight, one with a sword full of magical meds. I thought to myself. As I sat on the bed, leaning forward and trying to breathe, ignoring the strong pinch against my spine, I looked out the window toward Central Park and saw a familiar outline sprawled out on a bench, arms tucked under his head and eyes closed.

“He had better be dead,” I said to my doctor as he and the nurses transferred me to the operating table.

“Because if he is napping out there,

while this,” I motioned to the jungle of IVs, tubes and monitor cords tethered to me, “is happening in here, I am going to kill him.”

The drugs made my arms shiver viciously and I had to be strapped to the table. A divider went up to shield me from my own numb body. My eyes were filling with tears of inadequacy and sheer terror. Each salty droplet an embarrassment. I hadn’t prepared for anything like this.

I closed my eyes, dearly hoping to disappear from the lights shining down on me. I did not want this to be my introduction to motherhood. I wasn’t giving birth. No, this birth was happening to me.

“It is okay to cry Jess—there is nothing natural about this.”

I looked up and saw my husband’s soft blue eyes between a green cap and matching face mask.

“Hi honey bee,” he said gently as the surgery began.

He firmly gripped my hand as the pressure on my stomach moved up and then down, left and then right. He whispered into my ear a story about a bear that I had heard a dozen times before, a story that kept me calm.

“It’s almost time to find out if it’s a boy or girl.” My doctor’s voice rose from over the curtain.

How is that possible I wondered. I should have been pushing, yelling, at the very least sweating! Instead I lay onatable,feelinguseless,while everyone else did all of the work. I’m failing, I failed were the words that looped through my mind. Then I felt Josh’s hand stroking through my hair.

“You’re doing an amazing job,
I am so proud of you,” my husband’s rough voice scratched against my ear. Was Josh talking to my doctor? She was the one laboring.

Suddenly the energy in the room pulsed. Voices grew louder. Then silence. Our baby’s first taste of air filled his lungs and I heard his cry. Still clasping my hand, Josh stood and looked over the curtain, acting as my eyes. “It’s a boy Jess, a huge boy!”

“He looks like my grandfather but he has your eyes,” he said a couple of moments later, our son, Noah, in his arms. I was desperate to hold him, touch him, smell him, but until I could, knowing his father was there provided the comfort I was desperate for.

For the next hour after I delivered, Josh rushed back and forth between soothing Noah and kneeling down to give me the reassurance I needed. HewrappedNoahupin his arms, answered questions for the nurses, squeezed my hand, and whispered words that reminded me that I had accomplished something amazing. No amount of studying or hours spent envisioning assorted scenarios could have prepared my husband for that day of our lives. When push literally came to shove, what my guy offered in that room— support, distraction, comfort and encouragement—weren’t the kind of skills that could be learned, not even in 80-pages.


13

Feb

Not Everyone Is a Kardashian.

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With the help of unrelenting paparazzi and the fame appetite of any Kardashian, media has turned celebrity into an obsession. For most unhealthy obsessions, there is a treatment plan. A 12- step program or support group, at the very least a hotline, but when it comes to the unexplainable desperate need to know about a celebrity’s life, there is no treatment, only outlet after outlet to help someone get the quick fix they need.

Our culture has reached an all time low, stooping to levels that lack any dignity, leave no trace of respect and seemingly a serious disconnect from the reality that there are real people’s lives that are being affected by this perilous level of intrigue. The truth is that while a celebrity’s secrets, their shame and their sins may go for a higher price now than ever before- this fascination of fame is nothing new.

In 1932, American aviator, Charles Lindbergh’s baby was kidnapped and murdered This was clearly a time of struggle and despair for his family, yet, on the courthouse steps hundreds of strangers gathered not to show their support or their contempt for such a monstrous crime but instead to exploit. The scene appeared to be an absolute madhouse; beverages and snacks were carted through the streets. Miniature replicas of the ladder the kidnapper had used to enter the home, along with copies of the ransom note that was left were for sale only yards away from where devastated parents grieved and sought justice for the murder of their baby. Understandably, when I read that recently a paparazzo died trying to get a photo of a pop star in his Ferrari, I was barely moved, knowing that history has seen much worse devastation and our society will continue in that direction. As long as there has been fame, there are those desperate to make a dollar off of the lives and vulnerability of the famous.

There is no longer a clear line of what is acceptable and intolerable when it comes to being the first to get a story, to have the inside scoop. Fences will be climbed, trust will be broken and all boundaries will be crossed.

The closest I had ever come to fame was at the age of 7, a local news team was showcasing the city’s new pool and I was in the frame, behind the reporter, wearing a blue bathing suit. That was my three seconds of fame and it didn’t impress me enough to crave more. I have spent most of my life out of any kind of spotlight, avoiding unnecessary attention and writing under a pseudonym because the idea of people knowing me or knowing about me- it seemed uncomfortably disturbing.

Fast-forward twenty years and I find myself in a cab, on my way to meet my now husband for a date. His blue eyes and dusty blonde hair come across the screen on my taxi TV. There he was, staring out at me, saying words in the same rough voice that was making me forget all of my Christian virtues and all I could do was stare back, speechless. Though I obviously knew who he was, it wasn’t until that very moment that I realized, if this date and the next and the next went well - in time people would likely know who I was too.

Over the next weeks and months my edgy nerves were calmed by the way I saw him carry his status, his celebrity, his fame. While no, it wasn’t the daily chaos that swarms the Brad Pitts of the world (all one of them); it was a daily if not hourly reminder that his life, my life, our life - was somehow interesting to others. Since he had always maintained privacy and demanded respect for the things he held valuable, I felt safe knowing that his protection would cover me as well. I genuinely believed that what we shared would remain solely ours. But that reality was shattered rather quickly.

When we were engaged, rumors had already started to brew and weeklies came calling for a comment. Rather than bat away inaccurate gossip, he decided to announce it in his own words, in his own way. An engagement, a declaration of love, a cause for celebration was received enthusiastically by our close few and negatively by the rest. I had trapped him. I was marrying for money. I wasn’t good-looking enough for him or him for me. I was nothing but a young body and nice eyes - our marriage wouldn’t last a year. Though I have maintained my rule of never ever reading the comments, the naysayers always find a way to be heard.

The day before our wedding, an event that we had been so careful to keep special, TMZ shared the details with the world. It was embarrassing to have the most cherished day of our relationship pinned alongside ‘breaking news’: Lindsay Lohan gets coffee and Kim Kardashian wearing leather pants. How insulting and demeaning could someone be without seeming to realize it? With 350 words they stole the sacred intimacy that we so desperately needed, when we made our guest list of 20 people.

It was that moment that I realized this part of our society has no boundaries when it comes to even the slightest celebrity, there is an unrealistic and unfair demand to be informed, to be included.

I was adamant about not releasing a photo of our son when he was born. Knowing that the media would be so busy with the Blue Ivy Carters of the world and Tori Spelling’s growing spawn, I rested easy on my delivery day. Within hours, absolute fury came over me when a nurse at our hospital alerted paparazzi and People Magazine soon after we checked into the maternity ward. That breach of privacy, the capitalizing on our vulnerability seemed so dishonest. Though it took my husband and I out of our moment, out of our experience, I knew that it was and would remain a part of my new life, the readers and editors and commenters would always be the big elephant in the room.

This might be hard to imagine as US weekly’s fly off shelves everywhere and Jersey Shore’s drunken cast are made into heroes but there are some of us who value intimacy and the privacy of our families, our loves and our struggles.

Seven days after I returned home from bringing my son into this world, I was contacted for a comment on the story “Jessica Henriquez is dying of Cancer” from the Huffington Post. My breath was gone. A sickness I had kept so silent, so safe, was now being made into a story, a hero, a villain and a happy ending - a mere 1,000 words to entertain the next celeb vulture, thirsty for fresh blood. Would nothing in my life ever be sacred again? Would I wake up every morning, paying the price of notoriety without actually having made the decision to catapult myself into a career that demanded it, all because of the man I chose to love?

 

The funny thing about celebrity is that it is defined as being well known when the reality is that celebrities are rarely known well. With the endless inaccuracies, misquotes and false identities created for them on paper, that person is something that was created out of the monster of media imagination and sub-par story telling. There is a real human being behind that persona, behind that screen and that magazine cover- a human being who wants to do what they love or love who they choose without millions of eyes critiquing their every move and waiting to pounce at any sign of weakness. Poor little rich girl, stop complaining they’ll say. You’re not even really famous some will type, but fortunately for me – I don’t read the comments.

 

 

02

Feb


We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.

We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.

22

Jan

Six Things My Six Month Old Should Not Be Doing


6 things That My 6-Month Old Should Not Be Doing

Should I thank the Baby Plus?

Two months into my pregnancy, my husband came home, excitedly walking towards me with a small box in his hands and a smile across his face. It was a gift for me, “well for you and the baby” he explained, tearing open the package. I peeked inside, hoping to find baby’s first outfit or maybe some sexy maternity wear but what he pulled out looked more like a battery powered fanny pack.

“What is this and why is this in our house?” I questioned suspiciously. He introduced me to “Baby Plus” the key that would make our baby the smartest, calmest and most creative baby on the block. That was my husband’s sales pitch, not the company’s. BabyPlus is a device that is, similar to a fanny pack, strapped around a mother’s growing waist throughout a pregnancy. 16 naturally derived sounds, resembling a mother’s heartbeat, are played on rotation for one hour, twice a day, until the end of baby’s time in utero. What these patterns do (supposedly) is introduce the baby to a sequential learning process, built on the natural rhythms of the baby’s environment. The company boasts that 25 years of research show the results of babies who have longer attention spans, are more relaxed and aware at birth and of course, reaching milestones earlier than babies who were not exposed to BabyPlus. Of course I thought it was nonsense and immediately wondered how much he spent on this silly gadget. Soon, the excitement of seeing my husband showing interest in our little fetus’ growing brain outweighed my doubt. So I strapped on the device every day for the next 8 months. I wore it while I vacuumed, slept, in the car driving, and occasionally under my thick winter clothes while out shopping. Now that my son is six-months old, I can say that he is the smartest, calmest and most creative baby – at least on our block and I wonder if I have the BabyPlus to thank for our happy, confident, little over-achiever.

Calling Me By Name

I had just gotten used to the endless hours of repeated sounds coming from his mouth: gluck, perg, ba, da and yah. The first time he softly mumbled mama I gasped. I convinced myself it was a fluke until five minutes later he tapped me on the hand and proudly belted MAMA! When I walk out of the room now he calls for me by name and I proudly come running. In the morning when he is ready to get out of his crib he says my name repeatedly until the magic words make me appear. His papa is getting jealous.

Crawling and Cruising

I had taken my first steps by 8 months; my husband skipped crawling and started walking around the 9-month mark. Our son caught me off guard by crawling at 3months. Already, he has mastered the art of pulling himself up to stand and spends his afternoons cruising around his crib, playpen and living room with an ever so slight grasp onto nearby furniture. Our relatives excitedly send different vehicles for him to scoot around on. I thought we would have more time but it appears baby proofing is now immediately necessary.

Sleeping Through the Night (10 hours)

When I heard the term “sleeping through the night” I always thought that meant until I was awake and had already had a cup of coffee. Wrong. From the beginning I would wake up our little one to remind him to eat every few hours otherwise he would snooze until sunrise. Our pediatrician and multiple friends with babies continue to remind us how lucky we are that we have a baby who is sleeping through the night. So even though his alarm clock goes off when I am still snoring away in dreamland, I am aware of how much worse his sleeping habits could be.  

Communicating With Siri

It took me almost all of 2012 to figure out how to use my new iPhone accurately. My son on the other hand knows what button to push to make the light appear and apparently that is just the beginning of his technological knowledge. Recently, I went to check on my son during his afternoon nap and he was lounging on his Boppy, my iphone in hand, talking to Siri. After reading the dialogue I discovered that despite his best efforts at forming words other than mama, She continually repeated that she didn’t understand. What is so hard to understand Siri, he is a baby, he wants a bottle or a cuddle.

Brushing His Teeth

When his first tooth sprouted at 3-months, as a breastfeeding mama I thought Thank god it is just the one! Less than 6 weeks later he was showing off 4 full teeth, top and bottom. He has chompers and he knows how to use them. Hoping for a sparkling smile when he is older, we are starting his dental care early. He has his own tiny toothbrush with baby safe paste and during bath time he shakily rubs the brush along his gums and over his tiny tooth buds, only occasionally   

Responding to specific directions

We have two dogs and like any baby, ours speed crawls toward them and tries to rip off their tales. Gentle we remind him and suddenly his groping turns to soft, careful petting while he looks our way for approval. When his fascination with leather leads him to my winter boots, a simple but firm Stop will remind him that shoes are for walking and not for eating and he will find something else to devour.

13

Dec

An Open Letter to Santa Claus:

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Dear Santa, Kris Kringle, Pere Noel, Sinter Claus, Father Christmas - man of many names yet only one suit: 

I want to begin by apologizing. Not for my own offenses but on behalf of my parents, they killed you off pretty early on in my childhood. In fact, and you aren’t going to like this so brace yourself, this is actually my first letter to you as all other letters regarding Christmas have been addressed to Jesus. If I’m being honest, I was pretty unhappy with that set up. I would pray 365 days a year yet he rarely gave me what I wanted, mostly sweaters and the occasional bible story book. By the time I was 12 my parents had outlawed Christmas altogether. Trees were forbidden in our house because they were a pagan symbol. I need you to know that I bought one, decorated it and kept it in my closet; turning on the lights only after everyone went to sleep. Think about that, what I risked for you, for the spirit of Christmas.

 

I know enough about you from TV and the occasional conversation with a 5 year old to know that you are capable of some crazy shit. First of all, you are morbidly obese; no offense intended I’m only stating facts. With a diet of cookies and milk I have no doubts that you’ve developed severe type 2 diabetes by now. So how is it that a man of your size, age and health condition can work the hours you do? Travel as much as you travel? Have such a sharp memory for not only every child’s name but also their annual behavior? On top of all of that, you still make time to ring a bell and collect money for the Salvation Army! If I didn’t know any better, I would say that you are the poster child for cocaine addiction. Don’t worry; it isn’t important how you do it all, its important that you never get caught. Keep that wisdom, my gift to you.

But here we are now, me looking to you for a Christmas miracle. I figure since it is the first time I’m asking, there is a good chance you’ll say yes. Unlike those obnoxious children that the Huffington post keeps ranting about who want thousands of undeserved gifts, when all they’re willing to offer in exchange is cookies! Seriously, I can do better than cookies.

I know you’re probably wondering if I’ve been good this year- don’t bother asking your elves, they are liars and get their misinformation from sources like twitter and Google.

For the most part, I’ve been fairly well behaved. I’ve given change to homeless people, offered up my seat on the train, listened to every word of a telemarketing spiel before hanging up. I followed most laws (except for the ones I couldn’t have known about because I was traveling out of the country and their rules aren’t posted and it isn’t even on my record so in my opinion, no harm done). Now full disclosure, I did live in sin for most of the year and also carried a baby out of wedlock but those are minor in comparison to the havoc that the Republicans are wreaking throughout this country. Plus those are things that the old Santa could never overlook. You- the 2012 enlightened, pro-choice, equal rights Santa, you get it.

I’m not asking for much, just this itty, bitty, little thing. If you can’t do it, that’s fine, I’ll understand- I probably won’t write you again but I’ll forgive you. That is unless you send some elf assembled toy train set in place of what I want. Don’t bother I hate trains. And elves. They are very similar to midgets, I mean little people and they freak me out. They’re like angry children with facial hair.

So here it is, the only gift on my wish list: Judd Apatow. Not the entirety of Judd because I realize as Santa you are probably against kidnapping. Also, I am not entirely fond of the unibomber-esque facial hair. I would be totally onboard with taking over his husband duties with the Mrs. but there’s a part of Judd I desperately lust over.  Please strip him of career and creativity, place it under my tree, wrapped (because who doesn’t like to feel surprised?), and I promise that I will never unlikely ask for very much more in the future.  Assuming you pull through, I would say that makes up for the last 27 years of bad sweaters from Jesus.

 

Say hello to the Mrs. for me,

 

Jessica Lynn Ciencin Henriquez 

08

Oct

The Stories I Plan To Tell His Future Girlfriends.

As many of you know, I recently grew a human being inside of me and he is now wandering around this world, not too quickly or too far as he is only beginning to crawl (read: rolling around awkwardly and grunting). 


Motherhood has been absolutely wonderful to me. I feel OWED at least an easy begining since my never ending pregnancy was awful. Awful. But once that little guy was viciously cut out of the numb half of my body (I am not too posh to push, my baby was way too late and way too stubborn after 17 hours of unmedicated labor but that is neither here nor there), the rest has been a breeze. Breastfeeding came naturally for both of us, my skinny jeans slid right back on, and not one tear fell from postpartum depression (but again, I’m sure I ran out of tears during that 43 week pregnancy).

Over the last months I have become that mother. The mother whose child is perfect, can do no wrong and sends out unrequested baby pictures to friends, family and strangers, like a fiend. But I am here to tell you that no amount of love or adoration could stop me from the realization recently that Babies. Are. Gross.


We were in Los Angeles for Josh to do some press, and specifically The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. I was only halfway through my pregnancy the last time I saw Jay and was looking forward to showing off our new bundle. Backstage in the greenroom, we all sat around catching up and talking shop (I’ve always wanted to say that and now I have, thank you.). My arms wrapped around Noah while he sat on my lap, adorable in his striped Onesie and matching booties, just staring at the other guest on the show that night, Ellen DeGeneres (he was staring, not me. Okay I was too but can you blame me?). 

There was no warning, no sudden movement or piercing noise to alarm me of what would happen next…life is too often unfair that way. As Jay leaned against the wall next to me, I felt a sudden warm dampness on my lap. Oh my god, Noah peed on me. My eyes widened when I realized the potential embarrassment. I quietly cleared my throat to get Josh’s attention but apparently I did so too quietly as he didn’t blink or even glance my way, engrossed in a conversation about vintage trailers. I carefully shifted Noah forward to assess the damage and what I saw can never be unseen. Noah had somehow had the most explosive (in quantity and quality mind you) diarrhea I have ever seen from any baby, any human being or any YouTube video (gross, I know) ever. Somehow all of it had bypassed his diaper and sprayed all over my lap, generously spreading evenly on my right hand. Holy shit. How could this happen? I immediately shifted Noah back to cover up the damage he did and proceeded to act as if nothing was wrong, as if I was not covered in another human being’s feces.  Noah, a natural actor it seems, smiled and cooed adorably at his father across the room. I politely excused myself from a group of totally unaware adults and snuck off to the bathroom where I bathed my jeans, my arms and my child, from head to toe. Yes, I may have used all of the hot water and all of the paper towels, but that is a small price to pay for the memory of the time Noah was so excited to be on TV that he shit his pants. But really, my pants.

*I do still love my child as much as before the incident, the only difference now is that I make him wear a tighter diaper and pants…always pants.

24

Jul

Motherhood is a collage of different sleeping positions.

Motherhood is a collage of different sleeping positions.

10

Jul

To Noah:

Welcome to the world.
You were born to explore it.
Open your eyes.
Buy the ticket,
Pack your bags. 
Just go there.
Whether it’s across the street
Or across the globe.
Go to see.
Go to be.
Go to share.
Especially to share.
We’ll be with you, holding your hand
And letting you go.

Love,
Mommy and Daddy

To Noah:

Welcome to the world.
You were born to explore it.
Open your eyes.
Buy the ticket,
Pack your bags.
Just go there.
Whether it’s across the street
Or across the globe.
Go to see.
Go to be.
Go to share.
Especially to share.
We’ll be with you, holding your hand
And letting you go.

Love,
Mommy and Daddy

14

Jun

Soon to be someone’s mother.

Letter to Baby

I have never felt like I was a part of something so intense, so magical, so undeniably miraculous- until the first time I saw you on a fuzzy black and white screen. I watched your entire body catapult into the air for a moment as a hiccup rocked your world but barely caused a flutter in mine. You have so far been my greatest responsibility, my greatest sacrifice and my most beautiful gain.

Somehow, someone greater than me had faith in my ability to become selfless, to become gentle and careful and protective. Over the last 40 weeks I have watched my growth as much as I have watched yours and with every new development you make and each milestone you mark, I realize I have been marking my own along the way. 

I never thought about wanting you until I was told by a doctor that because of the cancer in my body, I couldn’t have you. That was devastating to me to have a future I’d never fairly considered pulled away from me. Three months later, your existence became my biggest surprise and most beautiful blessing. I have been so careful to be so full of care with you. I have dreamt of you, named you, felt your every move and watched you grow closer and closer to being a part of my world.

_______________________________________________________________________________________

Had you told me last year that I would become not only a wife but a mother as well in 2012 I likely would have laughed uncontrollably, called you a liar and demanded my crisp $20 bill back after accusing you of being a dime store psychic.

My life was not headed in this direction. At least not from where I stood, I never saw this reality in my two year, my five year or even my seven  year plans (carefully scrawled out along the backs of receipts and napkins). That is the beauty of life though isn’t it? The possibility of change, the idea that opening one door can redirect a life forever. I made choices last year to open door after door and hold my breath while I awaited the results of what changes and challenges came next, here I am now anxiously anticipating the results of those stubborn thoughtless brave choices.

This morning as I did my regular tuck, roll, bend and bolt, 3rd or 4th trip to the bathroom, it dawned on me that it is down to a small number of days or even hours before I am someone’s mother. Once this title is bestowed upon me, it will remain a part of who I am and no matter what circumstances life swings in, this will never change. 

Normally that would be terrifying to me, paralyzing even; the idea of being defined by something else, by someone else. Knowing that there is a life that is dependent upon my willingness to give and give and give would have been more than enough in the past to cause me to run as fast and far as possible but this experience has taught me to stay. Not only to stay but to really see the beauty in feeling fear, facing my doubts and staying put. 

When I chose to stay, I quickly learned that when I don’t flee, I have the opportunity to look around and really let the blessings sink in. So while I count down the seconds until my title forever changes, I am counting the blessings that have come with the titles I’ve held, the ones I have now and the permanent one that I will earn so soon. 

16

May

Becoming Alexandria

There is a time in every Jessica’s life where she becomes exhausted with the unoriginality of her name. It is inevitable, I assure you. While we were in the womb, our mother’s thought that “grace of God” (the meaning of the name) would be a perfect description of our undeveloped personalities. God apparently was feeling pretty gracious in the late 80’s as Jessica topped the popularity chart year after year between 1984-1992. I disliked my name from the minute I discovered I could only write backwards S’s. In my teens I complained that it had far too many syllables and demanded to be called Jess by everyone. Years later the only people who use my full name are strangers, angry boyfriends or the occasional disappointed mother.

 

A name is such an important part of who you are and who you may become. I believe Harry Burns said it best when he claimed “A Sheldon can do your income taxes, if you need a root canal, Sheldon’s your man… but humpin’ and pumpin’ is not Sheldon’s strong suit. It’s the name. ‘Do it to me Sheldon, you’re an animal Sheldon, ride me big Shel-don.’ Doesn’t work.” And right he was! While a rose would still be a rose, I doubt we’d be excited about a great big bouquet of Googenshlingers on a first date. You understand my predicament then when I decide to pursue my passion in writing and the only name I have to sign on my masterpieces is plain, old, unimpressive, backwards S, too many syllables, Jessica. Famous Jessicas include: the wife of Roger Rabbit, a character that no one remembers in the “Merchants of Venice” and a string of half-wit actresses. This was not the name that would bring me success unless I chose to pursue the life of a cartoon cabaret singer.

 

In my search for inspiration during my name makeover I thought of the qualities that I would want people to think of when they heard about me or saw my byline. First, I wanted something that would roll off of the tongue. This excluded Gertrude, Marta, Pollyanna and also covered most of our grandmother’s real names. I wanted something that was sexy or at the very least sounded seductive. I crossed off all unisex names like Sam, Ryan and Taylor. During my search for a new identity, my primary subject of writing had been men. The last thing I needed was to be confused for one. I longed for a name that was easy to remember and unlikely to be confused with anything similar. Examples include Maryanne for Marienne, Jennifer for Jessica, Melanie for Melody. I had crossed off almost all of the names that I had originally written down at the beginning of this quest. When each one seemed more disappointing than the last, I knew I needed to find the real reason that Jessica would not do. My initial spark of this change in identity would have to wait until I was sure of exactly who I wanted to become and why.

 

I wanted a name that was captivating, memorable, marketable and if possible, I wanted a name that was significant to me in some way. Writing is my passion and when the day comes that writing can also be my profession, recognition will never be my motivation. I will do it because I love it, because it is a part of who I am. I write because my emotions and my thoughts never learned any other way to escape!  From my very first diary at the age of 6 (it was a blue silk cover of venice, wide ruled paper of course) to the leather bound journal that I shared with the love of my life; every thought has been documented, cried on, dog eared, erased and rewritten multiple times. Writing has always been my life and I desperately wanted a name that would capture this. Then one night, months after my initial name search, it came to me while I was making no effort whatsoever. I was certain that I’d found it and I felt immediate satisfaction.

 

I borrowed (read:stole) the first names of the two men who have played the most significant and consistent male role in my life. The basic ideas that I have of men come from these two. The understanding I have of their thinking, their actions, their motivations – they were taught to me from an early age and lovingly burned, broken and beaten into my memory. I have seen these two men live, love, be heart broken, break hearts and I have seen them grow. It seemed that I would have no other choice but to use the first names of my older brothers; Alexander and Christopher. Right there, in a silent, darkened bedroom, the author was born: Alexandria Christopher.

After this name is acquired, I am published in sixteen different publications. I am thankful that I no longer have to practice my Ss, I do not mind the syllables and well, the number of views from the site confirms that Alexandria Christopher is quite memorable. As we all know, every googenshlinger has its thorns : The name Alexandria comes from the Greek Alexander and the meaning of my name, the name I have used to bash, to tarnish and to train the opposite sex, Alexandria: Defender of Men.