First I Got Pregnant. Then I Decided To Kill The Mountain Lion.

How Mommy Set Off Amid The Hollywood Hills To Hunt The Monster.

n 2012, a mountain lion fled his home in the Santa Monica Mountains and journeyed 20 miles to Mount Hollywood. He slunk across freeways, bounding between trucks and across parking lots and through resident’s front yards, all the way to the hills surrounding the iconic Hollywood sign, where he hid himself in the public hiking trails.

During the day, he slept, occasionally snapping awake at hte chatter of hikers. Below him stretched downtown Los Angeles, the Pasific Ocean, and the spotlights at Paramount Studios danced across the polluted sky, he emerged from his nest to hunt, craving deer but settling for rats, which rustled in the garbage cans near the public toilets.

Scientists suspected that the mountain lion had fled from the coast because things were getting crazy there. Resources were dwindling. One UCLA reporter wrote of “rivalry, Slaughter, and incest.” The Santa Monica Mountains were played out. Griffith Park, although comparatively tiny, seemed to suit him better. He spent his new life in solutide. A Ghost Cat.

But trail cameras eventually captured his presence, prompting Hollywood residents to panic in true Hollywood fashion. The park was a popular place for families. It’s Trails wove around the Hollywood Sign and to the Griffith Observaty, Where Rebel Without a Cause and La La Land had been filmed.

The park service issued reassurances that mountain lions (also called cougars or pumas) are basically shy creatures. To keep an eye on things, they sedated the animal, put a monitoring collar on him, and mamed him P-22 (P for Puma, 22 to indicate the number of urban mountain lions being tracked at the time), and released him back into the park.

During this time, I Lived in New York City, unaware of P-22 and his Hollywood haunting.

Four years later, I decided I’d have to hunt and kill him.

Brooklyn had been broody and dark and angry in a way I’d loved. There, I drank too much in cazy booths, felt anonymous in crowds, got into mutually therapeutic swearing matches with strangers on the subway, waved my hands a lot while talking about books, and struggled to keep houseplants alive in our dim home.

In Los Angeles, our new apartement boasted views of palm trees from the toilets, and so much natural sunlight that you had to wear SPF in the kitchen. On clear days from our living room, you could see the bone-white letters of the Hollywood sign through industrial fog. Outside, people smiled. My husband and i made new friend who boasted of their sobriety and invinited me on “hikes.” In spite of my long-honed east coast cynicism, the paved desert entranced me. It felt healty, the sort of place where a modern-day Jane Austen character might go to Take The Cure. Evolutionary forces tied to environmental pleasures and age and general happines elbowed my husband and I to reproduce. Our beatific surroundings sparked a roosting impilse.

Once the bliss of my first positive pregnancy test wore off, an animal panic set in. In order to exorcise from my mind the statistics surrounding miscarriage and genetic abnormalities, I gave up coffea, threw away my most effective acne creams, and ate organic, choking down unpalatable, nutrient-dense foods. Despite the west coast diet, east coast neuroticism clawed its way back into my brain. At 11:11, I kissed my fingers, muttering, “Strong Baby. ” I spent all day googling, “How to make a healty fetus.”

If i couldn’t do anything to destroy my good fortune, then i couldn’t do anything to protect it, either.

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Since I had wanted to become pregnant, and had sort of planned for it, some of what I read online felt familiar. I’d already gone off the psychiatric drugs that might otherwise have given my fetus bad things ranging from emotional problems to a micro penis, and I knew that I needed to take prenatal vitamins and avoid snorting cocaine. But other stuff surprised me: like, apparently no one wal allowed to rub the spot between my ankle bone and heel, or I’d go into premature labor, and I had to use plant-based beauty products, whatever those were, and the European studies about wine being okay where a myth, people over there were simply self-aggrandizing alchoholics, and if I bought baby clothes with buttons on them, the kid, if it surviced gestation, would choke and die, and Tylenol, which I’d thought was fine, caused ADHD. I internalized it all.

Then one day, I found myself struck by a pregnant symptom eupphemistically described by doctors as “breats tenderness,” which felt like someone had cut off my nipples off with a serrated knife. I tried ice3 and Vaseline, but ehwn the pain would not break, I broke and swallowed Tylenol. Afterward, I called a doctor friend and murmured that I’d just given my fetus a learning disability.

“Nah,” she said.”It’s all heredity and chance. We can’t say that to patients just in case something goes wrong and they sue us for malpractive. But the truth is, you can’t mess this up.”

She paused.

“Unless you binge drink every day or accidentally ingest abortion herbs. But I’m pretty sure they only sell those in Mexico.”

She meants to reassure me-to remind me that entire cultures eat raw fish or drink wine while pregnant, and carry on. “Thinks of our grandmothers,” she said, and I knew exactly what she meant. Mine smoked and drank martinis throughout her seven healty pregnancies, and beside the youngest, who’s a little weird, they’re all high-functioning adults who’ve never had cancer. (when she found herself pregnant with my dad, her fourth child, my Nana’s 1950s doctor-horrified, apparently, that she was fatigued and stressed out by the whole thing-prescribed her amphetamine. Lots. And arguably my father’s only flaws are restless leg syndrome and being twice divorced.)

All of this suggested that if I miscarried or produced an imperfect child, it might not be the result of my pregnant regimen. The argument was tailored to relieve me, but it did couldn’t do anything to destroy my good fortune, then I couldn’t do anything to protect it, either.

A few days after this realization, Trump won, and at my next doctor’s appoinment, I found out we’d be having a girl. My husband made me promise to stop visiting pregnancy message boards. I blocked out the internet, turned off the news, and downloaded one of those apps that give cute, week-by-week size correlates. (Your baby is a blueberry!” “Your baby is a troll doll!”) Over the next few weeks, my body grew soft patches of blonde fur and I woke in the middle of the night to scavenge the kitchen for food. Nourished with prenatal vitamins my nails grew, resembling claws by the time I remembered to trim them. One day, I scratched my chin and clipped what I assumed to be another pimple, only to realize I had crumbs of yesterday’s bread cought in my beard. According to my doctor, All of this was normal.

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