Flashback to our first issue
Evil Witches Vol. 1, originally published Oct. 23, 2018
I have two pregnant friends, one on her second kid, the other with her third. Both are over 40, with advanced degrees, day jobs, little kids in school. Both have told me they feel bad because they’re not more excited or grateful about the pregnancy, which makes me start shouting at them, because I like shouting at pregnant ladies. No, it just turns my crank that not only do these busy women now have to ponder the 2018 car seat market, deal with a g e r i a t r i c pregnancy, revisit the lack of sleep, the destroyed immune system, and acquire baby gear long after they'd donated the old stuff—they feel bad that they aren't enjoying how horrible they feel. Don’t listen to your dumb body and brain and years of experience—you're gonna have a baby!!
These ladies shouldn't feel the need to pretend they want to enjoy their pregnancies if they're not. I think our (mostly, relatively, sometimes) healthy, happy children are evidence we are working hard as parents, that we are all in. That evidence should give us freedom to speak plainly about what is meaningful and difficult about our lives. I want to talk about how pregnancy is awful, postpartum is a hellscape, and how sometimes our kids bring out the worst in us. I want to talk about the tiny and huge ways marriage and motherhood do not fit neatly into the life of a feminist with career goals. And I need to hear from women whose kids are behaving badly or acting weird, stumbling over some random milestone, because otherwise, I’ll feel so alone. And while I’m at it, I want to hear what these same women are eating, reading, drinking, wearing, watching, and smearing on their faces.
Luckily I already have a lot of friends who are on this same wavelength, and being in touch with them seems to make this whole gig feel more tolerable. My friends-who-are-moms are happy to share their experiences but aren’t defined by them. Whether you gave birth in a field surrounded by candles or happily numb in a hospital, we’re all in the same boat on an unexpected sick day or winding down the clock 'til bedtime.
I would be lost without these friends, who make me laugh, make me feel better, are sparing with the unsolicited advice, and never ever suggest I try an essential oil or try to feel more present.
More mothers need friends like these, and so now I’m going to share a bit of their mojo with you.
Kids • The Legend of Pregnancy Horror Finger
The other day, a friend crowdsourced tales of women's oddest pregnancy symptoms on Facebook, and the responses ranged from eczema to a better singing range to improved eyesight. But nobody had a better story than this lady:
"When I was pregnant with my first, at around 30 weeks the blood vessels in my left pointer finger rose to the surface, and I started squirting a fine, mist-like spray of blood from my hand. All the time. Like a horror show. Everyone was baffled. My OB sent me to my PCP, who sent me back to my OB, who sent me to a vascular guy, who kicked me to a Mohs surgeon. All the while I was squirting blood when it wasn't bandaged. It was nuts. The Mohs surgeon diagnosed it as pyogenic granuloma, cauterized the spot, and forever altered my fingerprint. That particular delight did not repeat with child #2."
If you think you can top this tale, you need to let me know ASAP.
A Word With • The Mom of Chronic Barfers
My friend Elizabeth's kids are the same age as mine, 3 and 6. I always felt bad that she seemed to have to deal with puke more than I did, but was fascinated by the system she developed for handling her seemingly ever-sick kids, so: interview. Fun fact: Elizabeth and I both attended Georgetown, setting of The Exorcist, which has arguably the most famous vomiting scene in cinematic history. It is my gif(t) to you that I'm not including that image here.
Here are some of her words of wisdom and tales from the front:
My son, now 6, used to deal with some textural sensitivities; he’d get overwhelmed by something in his mouth and he’d throw up. On top of that, when he was younger he got stomach viruses several times each winter. Once, when he was one and a half, he threw up for 6 days straight. I was panicked he was going to die because he wasn’t eating for so long, but I eventually realized your kid can survive just fine.
We just reconciled ourselves to knowing we’d have to replace the rug eventually when the kids got older.
I learned the hard way you have to be prepared for when your kid throws up in the car: many times we weren’t. Things that are helpful to have on hand:
Rolls of paper towels
A beach towel or blanket, for the kid
Bottled water—you're not supposed to use actual cleaning products on car seats, just water, and very mild soap, because you don’t want to degrade the material
Backup clothes in the car, for the kids and for you
Once I was taking my son to daycare and he threw up because he got himself worked up about something (and not because he was sick) so I was still going to take him in. I pulled over to make sure he was okay but I was like, ‘Sorry kid, we’re on our way to daycare,’ and he changed into his extra clothes there. I had to go to work. I stopped at Walgreens and bought water and paper towels and I tried to get the worst of it out—the big chunks.
I was so afraid, leaving work later, that I was going to be asphyxiated by vomit smell when I got in the car. I don’t remember it being that bad though.
You have to take the whole thing out of the car, because you’re probably going to need to clean out the area under the car seat. We take it out in the yard, or in the driveway. I yank off the car seat cover and throw it in the washing machine with gentle detergent. Then you have to air dry it. The harder part is dealing with the plastic seat and straps, which are the worst part, again, because you can't use strong cleaning products; sometimes I mix water and vinegar. We've taken the garden hose to it, or we put it in the bathtub. You just have to get down and dirty with a sponge and do your best.
Sometimes I hear someone complain about their kid throwing up one time and I think, "You don’t get it."
It’s hard to act like it doesn’t bother you. When my 3-year-old daughter threw up six times during one ride last winter, I wasn’t the nicest person in the world—I held her away from me at arm’s length. "Ew, whose child is this? Not mine." God only knows what people thought of me as I pulled her clothes off in 30-degree weather. I was definitely not huggy and loving that time.
Once you realize you have kids who throw up and you have to wash the car seat sometimes, you're better off just owning that. Once when my daughter had a stomach bug and we were leaving swim class, she threw up all over herself in the car and then on our way home. She said, “I don’t feel good.” And I’m like “Just let it happen.” There's nothing you can do. You just let it go.
Something I’ve learned from OT is that if your kid is gagging and you’re worried he might throw up, take your pointer finger and press it under where his mustache would be, under the nose. I don’t know if it's a distraction or a pressure point, but it helps. If something’s been in his mouth too long, he gags. I’m like, "Take a deep breath, press on your mustache, take a drink of water," and he works through it.
Whenever my kids had stomach bugs, they’d say "I’m so thirsty," and they’d drink water and throw up and I'd start all over again. Here's what I've learned: a few hours since they were sick, the heavy syrup from a can of peaches is the best thing for settling a stomach. It’s gentler than water and gives them a little boost of sugar. It has to be the heavy, not the light.
We have a Designated Barf Bucket—it’s an old trick or treating bucket. Whenever one of the kids is sick, it goes next to their bed. Everybody knows that's what that bucket is for.
It’s worth noting that Elizabeth earned her PhD while in the process of raising these barfy kids; she is now an assistant professor of theological studies at St. Louis University. An assistant professor of theological studies who had to clean the car seat of child effluvia yet again this very week.
Y R Spouses? • No Consent for Political Rants
Do you have one of those spouses who is an expert on politics? ...Even if nobody is asking for their opinion? ...Especially if you actively don’t want their opinion? Steal this, from a friend of mine, next time you want to shut. it. down.
"My husband does this thing where he forces me to listen to him run down the political outrages of the day, and a lot of times I just don’t want to know every single Trump outrage. I know the major shit but I find all of the Trump and now Kavanaugh stuff so upsetting, I like to control what I read or consume. He likes to read/consume EVERYTHING POLITICAL. I will BEG him to stop and shut up and he just keeps talking and it’s horrible. Finally tonight I was like 'I AM SAYING NO AND STOP AND YOU WILL NOT STOP. THIS IS A CONSENT ISSUE.' And boy did THAT shut him up. It was like a giant light bulb went off. Let’s see if it sticks.”
FOOD • "What's for Dinner?" :::Shrug:::
If you’re usually the one who plans, preps, makes, (and cleans up?? I hope not) dinner, and you’re feeling a little unappreciated, I recommend taking a day off of from planning dinner. Just don’t tell anybody about it ahead of time. Don’t use it as an excuse to go out or order in. Just try, once, saying “I don’t know!” when your spouse or your children ask you what’s for dinner in the late afternoon. Odds are, they will be confused, maybe a little enraged, and you will feel free and wild.
But don’t play yourself: The key to do this is a day that you’ve put something in the freezer you can heat up for yourself after your kids have inevitably had breakfast for dinner (#BforD.) My truest friends understand that sometimes a frozen entree is the perfect meal, because you're not really cooking, and you're handling the human interaction of ordering in. These are three recommendations from my friends who are as secretly into frozen meals as I am for the night you skip dinner:
BirdsEye Steamfresh Veggie Made Fettucine Alfedo: I am suspicious of things that say they are pasta but aren’t: lentil pasta, spiralized veggie pasta, shirataki noodles—just, don’t. (Spaghetti squash is fine, once a year.) My friend Catherine got me to try these. I will tell you the truth—the pasta-hybrid smells a little unusual when you heat it up. Definitely like food, but no food you’ve ever made before; a little like “food.” But it tastes pretty good if you are a frozen food slob like I am. Unlike the other Veggie Made varieties, which tasted a too much like "food" to me, this one was a quite passable pasta, al dente which is great if you love chewing on a piece of noodle (and I sincerely do).
Trader Joe’s Tarte d'Alsace with Ham, Onions, and Gruyere: I personally love the truffle mushroom and tomato brie flatbreads, but during a very intense chat about favorite frozen flatbreads, some friends of mine swore up and down that the ham and gruyere one is the best. "I screamed at my husband for trying to take a piece of mine the other day,” explained one.
Trader Joe’s Cauliflower Gnocchi: These are a sensation in a cooking group I belong to. I haven’t tried them myself but these gnocchi have nearly cult status among my home chef friends. You can either cook them as TJ’s directs or try my friend Maura’s two methods:
Regular: Cover the cookie sheet with parchment and spray some oil on the sheet. Spread out the gnocchi, drizzle oil over the whole thing, and toss to coat lightly. Then sprinkle with salt and garlic powder. I do 375° for like 15-20 minutes. Check them, flip, give them maybe 10 minutes more. They get a little browned and crisp outside, but soft inside.
Fancy: I cooked two packages’ worth in the oven while I sautéed ground pork sausage with garlic, onion, cabbage and greens. I also added a few dashes of coconut aminos for some oomph (you could use soy sauce, too). Then I mixed it all in a bowl with the gnocchi and topped with some Trader Joe's Hot & Sweet Chili Jam. HOLY MOLY it was good.
Enjoy it your way; just remember not to share with anyone.
• End Credits •
Hope you enjoyed the first installment of Evil Witches. Big big thanks to my friends who shared their time to help get this off the ground. You can follow us on and talk to us here. If you know someone who'd like this sort of thing in their inbox about twice a month, forward it their way, and encourage them to subscribe:
This issue has been brought to you by my six-year-old son’s favorite things:
Gum: Gum is great. It’s kind of a grownup treat, one that little brothers are definitely not allowed to have. You can’t really chew it while little brothers are around but you can still ask for it, and refer to it as “g,” as if that’s its street name.
Candy: Candy is sweet and delicious. It’s the best part about getting a haircut. You can also sometimes collect it in a gift bag at school and then the bag mysteriously disappears after you bring it home, but you don’t notice because you’re six and you’ll get more candy soon anyway. Candy is good.
Not being in trouble when your little brother is: It doesn’t get better than this for older kids. You see, not only are you not in trouble, the other one is.