There were 2 Heathers in my New Mom Support Group at the Upper West Side prenatal yoga center: “Hot Heather” and “Medium Heather.” (Our husbands named them to avoid confusion.) On her own, “Medium Heather” — tall, blond, blue-eyed, ran marathons — could have been “hot Heather,” but, alas, the name competition kicked her down to middle-of-the-road status. She wasn’t as perky or cheery as “Hot Heather” either, so that didn’t help matters. Though, through the years, I felt less and less convinced of why the hot one was always smiling.
I joined the class three months after Zoe’s birth. These were all our first babies (some our last). We would gather and sit on medicine balls, with our fourth-trimester babies splayed precariously in front of us, and ask the teacher what the hell we were supposed to do with them. That is, most people brought their babies. By this time, I had secured a part-time nanny. After the first few classes, I realized Zoe was more of an accessory than a necessity (The prospect of post-class playdates for the babies were nil, given they were either sleeping or sucking and totally immobile). So I left her at home and initiated some hands-and-breasts-free post-class mom playdates. They were invariably over coffee at this nearby cupcake cafe, but I was testing the waters to see when we could swap coffee for wine. Didn’t take long.
Things might have gone sour by the 5th class when I showed up to class late and tipsy, sans baby, with the excuse that I had just come from lunch with my parents at Nobu for restaurant week. The potential for judgment was high and moms kind of love to judge, as I would later learn. But my mommies resisted the easy urge and laughed at my quirky extravagance and asked what I ate, so they could live vicariously.
At first, I was most intrigued by “Medium Heather.” She was clearly smart, educated and informed. When, during the 1st class she mentioned just finishing “Revolutionary Road” I thought she could be “the one.” The book was on my to-read list and and how cool: A zombie-mom who finds time to read. (Then I saw the movie, and I can tell you that it is not a good movie to see or book to read months after having a baby, unless you are summoning the courage to jump out of a high rise.) Her choice of reading was very telling about her, though: Medium Heather bucked trends and wasn’t afraid to face life’s shittiest shit. In fact, I believe she kind of enjoyed staring it down. And I think, despite a social streak she sometimes suppressed but usually indulged, she was happy to be left, mostly, alone. She could see you or not see you and would be equally happy with both.
But then Kate spoke. Oh, the sound of it. In a perfect British accent she announced that her husband Martin and her had just moved to NYC a month before the birth of their son Alfie, knew pretty much no one, and were on the market for friends, acquaintances, etc. Being an incurable anglophile, she had me at “hello.” I suggested we ride home on the subway together and offered my hand in friendship immediately. She suggested my husband and hers go on a hockey date since he had tickets and, sadly, no one to go with. This was the first and last time this strong lady ever sounded desperate.
I suppose I should have been irked when Lily-the-laywer, after only a few classes, passed me a copy of “Sippy Cups are Not for Chardonnay,” whispering “I think you’ll like it.” But I wasn’t because she was so spot on. Not that I was swallowing bottles of Sancerre daily, but she got that I loved sarcasm and didn’t take this mom thing too seriously — publicly anyway (I was a ball of nerves at home). She sensed my secret anxiety but knew it was no match for her’s: This is a woman, a few years older than the rest of us, who made a spreadsheet of her contractions the night she gave birth. She liked things that made sense — babies don’t.
And, of course, there was “Hot Heather.” She had a Jackie O quality about her. She was slight and very thin, with the absolute fattest baby. She would rock back and forth on her medicine ball with massive baby girl cradled on her shoulder, attempting in vain to pacify her. She told of desperate sleepless nights where she rushed to feed Beatrix (aka “BB”) if she so much as made a peep. This, in turn, led to a lot of nocturnal peeps.
As BB got bigger, Hot Heather got smaller. It was like this baby was literally sucking the life blood from this beautiful creature. Heather started the vicious cycle, but she couldn’t stop it. And no matter what advice the teacher gave — or we would later give — she would nod, commit earnestly to employing it and invariably go back to her old pacifying ways. If we hadn’t had our baby girls within a week of one antoher, I’m not sure if Hot Heather and I would have crossed paths and I probably wouldn’t have gravitated toward her if we had. She was a true Connecticut WASP, but she loved to be party to — if not indulge in — down and dirty humor, discretely covering her mouth when she laughed at it. She was constantly telling me how funny I was. At first it was a compliment, but, as I got to know her, I realized it was more of a statement of her own anxiety about not being funny or interesting enough. She was lovely. Lovely is definitely the word you use to describe her.
Most of these ladies have left the chaos of Manhattan for the ‘burbs (various Darwinian locales in Connecticut) or other crazy cities (London, Chicago), some with purgatories in-between the big city-suburb jump (oh, Bronxville). They left due to job changes (theirs or their husbands), general malaise, city stress… But I think of them often.