Saturday, May 28, 2016

parenting, guilt, and an announcement

About four and a half months ago, Berowne and I were watching something on Hulu and a Subaru ad came on, showing a man taking his fourteen-year-old dog on what was clearly a bucket list trip. I choked out (this is true), "SUBARU, WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS TO ME," before proceeding to sob until I couldn't breathe.

So the results of the pregnancy test I took the next morning were not an entire surprise.

I know I wasn't this tired during my first pregnancy, because I didn't have a two-year-old, but even with that taken into consideration it has been a hilariously emotional ride so far. Within the first week I started keeping track of things that made me cry. Below, a non-exhaustive list:
  • A split-second shot of Mowgli with his forehead against that of a wolf in one of the Jungle Book trailers (oh, Bear)
  • A picture sent from daycare in which I convinced myself that Perdita looked friendless and isolated (her actual expression was "face full of cupcake", but I know what I saw)
  • The day that I was in Trader Joe's and someone dropped a jar of mayonnaise (there were things in that aisle I had wanted but I had to leave without them, and I had to drive home with the windows open because I could still smell it on my clothes, and tears of disgust and self-pity do, in fact, count)
  • Berowne reminding me of the Subaru ad (WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS?)
  • Cute names for kiddie options on Chinese takeout menus
  • The moment when my mirror forced me to remember that, oh right, pregnancy doesn't result in any changes to the hair on the top of my head, but the hair on my face goes from "relatively normal peach fuzz" to "Wolfman" overnight
I thoroughly enjoyed it when a nurse told me that a warning sign of me not doing okay would be, "You're just watching a movie and all of a sudden you're crying." I wanted to point out that at my house we call that "a weeknight". Sometimes even when I'm not pregnant.  
But otherwise things are going okay! This one is going to be a boy (!), and with Perdita I fell down the rabbit hole of Cute Girly Clothes early, so if anyone has boy or gender-neutral baby clothes they're done with, we are shamelessly soliciting hand-me-downs over here.
Read lately:
From the Charred Remains, by Susanna Calkins. Non-compelling novel about a maidservant in 17th-century England who is smarter than everyone and pursued by every man she meets. Oh, and she solves mysteries. As I am sure many of them did.
A Trace of Smoke, by Rebecca Cantrell. Non-compelling novel about a reporter in 1930s Berlin who is smarter than everyone and pursued by every man she meets, and solves mysteries. Super-, super-bored with the impossibly perfect heroine, especially since when you make her the narrator and thus she has to be the one to tell the reader about her perfection, she becomes unbearable almost from the first page.
The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine, by Alexander McCall Smith. The latest in the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, and a fluffy little number indeed.

The Nature of the Beast, by Louise Penny. A known quantity and a good thing.
Push Back: Guilt in the Age of Natural Parenting, by Amy Tuteur. Ha! Dr. Tuteur is ANGRY, and in kind of a wonderful way. She is angry about the whole concept of "natural parenting", because (and I agree) it is actually "natural mothering" (when was the last time you heard of a man being told to wear his baby 24-7?) and it is designed to keep women at home and bound to / identifying through their children. It prioritizes, in her excellent phrase, the process over the outcome. It tells women, among other things, that they have failed if they don't have a non-medicated vaginal birth, and instructs them to suffer through needless, excruciating pain for the same reasons that the church was against using pain alleviation during childbirth: if you don't suffer, you don't deserve motherhood / you're not a proper woman. The current loud voices may call it "going against nature" instead of "going against God", but it is exactly the same damn thing. If you don't suffer, you can't bond with your child. If you don't suffer, you're an unnatural mother.  

I had been thinking, and am still having to work very hard against thinking, that I have to get through this upcoming fellow's birth without medication. That that is my only chance to redeem myself, after failing so emphatically at Perdita's birth. Never mind that I know exactly how painful it is and have been through the experience of, despite NOT having a low pain threshold and NOT being a weak or cowardly person (and the fact that I have to be so defensive about it tells you all you need to know about natural-birth pressure and judgment), being so utterly destroyed by the pain that getting through it without medication was not an option.

("Well, if you'd had kids in the nineteenth century you would have had to get through it!"

If I'd lived in the nineteenth century I would have died at age three of croup, before I even got around to dying at age thirty-five of cancer [assuming cholera, the milk trembles, smallpox, gangrene, lead poisoning, crinoline fire, etc, didn't get me in between], so your argument is invalid.) 

Tuteur also goes rabid about lactivism (yay!), and made me feel better about Perdita's formula days. Of course, I am also still guilting and pressuring myself about somehow magically doing better with this one in terms of milk supply, as if I were agreeing with all the jerks who tried to convince me it was a matter of having the right attitude. Interestingly, I just met with a high-risk OB doctor who, when talking about my genetic predisposition toward blood clots, was rather horrified to hear that the nurses and lactation consultants on my care team last time prioritized the sedentary process of literally non-stop nursing / pumping / nursing / pumping over how genuinely dangerous it is for someone in my situation to not get up and move around after childbirth. And that was a way I had never looked at it before, even though I had previously acknowledged that it was emotionally dangerous for me to be tied to the pumping machine, and the day I put that damn thing away was the first day I enjoyed motherhood. If you have safe water, formula is not going to harm your baby in any way. Period. (Its expense sucks, but as I once read somewhere else and agree with 100%, breastfeeding is only free if a woman's time is worth nothing.) And prioritizing the baby getting a few ounces of breastmilk a day over the mother's life is insane.

Anyway, I could go on, but Tuteur is awesome in her rage. Although, as a friend reading the book at the same time noted, "makes for great reading but I bet she's a nightmare at dinner parties". And I do have the major quibble that she claims all OB docs think like she does, when it was an OB doc giving me the f'ing Mt. Everest analogy and the "women have done this for centuries" lecture instead of the pain relief I was asking for. And yes, I am getting my OB care somewhere else this time around (though I don't blame my whole care team for the fact that Dr. and Nurse "We Make Your Birth Plan For You!" happened to be on shift when my labor started).

Good stuff, for me. It beggars belief that I can look at my healthy, happy, bright daughter and think that I failed, but guilt is a terrible thing.

The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap: A Memoir of Friendship, Community, and the Uncommon Pleasure of a Good Book, by Wendy Welch. Welch and her husband start a used bookstore in the Appalachians. It's okay, but that was a savvy editor who decided to put Welch's book recommendations and anti-recommendations at the very end. Would I have read the whole thing if I knew upfront that Welch hates both Anna Karenina and Moby-Dick? Hell no. That person cannot be trusted.

Well, the young miss is up from her nap, so I must dash. As much as dashing is possible at five months pregnant, which is: not much. Gaining enough weight the first trimester was NOT a problem this time around, and I am well on my way to outpacing my "over-the-line" weight gain of last time. So we can all look forward to posts about body image and doing that part of pregnancy wrong! Hooray!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

girls and sharks

It's Mother's Day, about which I have Opinions, but I have been ranting enough on my Facebook about that and will leave it out of here.

Perdita has turned two, and is a force of nature, in the same way that the Atlantic Ocean is. She's delightful and exciting and changing every day, and sometimes she is full of sharks. But I have always preferred my nature like that: it's one reason a vacation in a tropical clime sounds incredibly unappealing to me. Soft, perfectly-blue, warm water that doesn't want you dead? What's the point? I want my daughter to stay strong and opinionated and believing that her wants are valid. I also want her to have manners and consideration for other people - we're certainly not working in one of those "spirited child" models which teach that giving a toddler limits means crushing their creativity and soul - but a shark or two is a good thing, especially to have in reserve as she faces a world which will forever be telling her that girls don't get to do certain things or behave certain ways or study certain topics or have ownership over their bodies. Whenever anyone tells her those things, I want her to have teeth.

Read lately:

The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey, by Rinker Buck. Buck and his brother travel by mule-driven covered wagon along the Oregon Trail, in a Bill-Bryson-inspired travelogue / history primer / memoir. I liked the history sections best, though Buck at least loves and takes excellent care of his mules, unlike the excruciating saga of animal neglect that is Tim Moore's Travels With My Donkey. I wasn't terribly interested in how this trip was about Buck's father, but it was a decent read.

Sun and Shadow, by Ake Edwardson. Yet another Scandinavian police procedural to blend into the mental files. Often while I am reading one of them I forget which country it's set in.

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, by Atul Gawande. Blub. Written with profound intelligence and profound emotional awareness, as is the case with all Gawande's writing. Also about death and decline, and therefore utterly heartbreaking, for all the encouragement he offers.

The Janissary Tree, by Jason Goodwin. A eunuch in 19th-century Istanbul digs into a murder. It started out quite strong, with excellent period setting and an intriguing protagonist, but lost me by the end, when the coincidences and convolutions of the crime became too much.

A Feathered River Across the Sky: The Passenger Pigeon's Flight to Extinction, by Joel Greenburg. A little boring: after the first few chapters it just turned into a litany of ways people killed pigeons.

The Resurrectionist, by Matthew Guinn. Novel about the dark racial history of a Southern medical college (I know; who would have thunk it). Actually better than I expected, for a first novel available for free on Amazon. But our hero wasn't very sympathetic and the story stayed too much on the surface. Still definitely shows potential for Guinn's future work.

Cure: A Journey into the Science of Mind Over Body, by Jo Marchant. I expected this book to be much more of an exposé, but Marchant does a really good job of reporting the ways in which placebo treatment, mental distraction, and emotional support effect health outcomes, without ever going along with any actual "mind-over-body" claims. And she has plenty of stories of people who blame themselves for their diseases and try to cure them with diet, homeopathic remedies, and "positive thinking", and how tragic the results inevitably are in such cases. The conclusion, with which I agree: pseudoscience is pseudoscience and hurts people. The science of integrated (emotional and physical) healthcare can help people.

Wine of Violence, by Priscilla Royal. Medieval nuns and monks solve a murder in their abbey. The murderer's identity is too obvious, but I thought this was fun nonetheless and will probably check out more in the series.

Happy Mother's Day if this holiday brings you joy. If it doesn't, remember that there are fifty-one Sundays of the year when going out for brunch doesn't feel like trying to get a lifeboat seat on the Titanic. Let us all be grateful for those.