Bionic Mamas

you're not losing a vagina, you're gaining a son


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video interlude

Hi everyone, Sugar here. Bionic told me yesterday that she very much appreciates everyone’s supportive comments on her last post and is still working on processing everything. In the meantime, I thought you might enjoy some video of the Bean:

Saying goodbye to me in the morning:

And loving the Google Doodle from yesterday.

And I would also like to personally thank Google for inspiring the Bean to allow me to practice the piano. I told him I could play Clair de Lune if he would let me at the keys without freaking out, and he did! Progress!


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things that go bump in the night

Sugar here again. We’ve apparently entered a phase where the Bean finds a lot of things scary. A LOT of things. Like dogs. And the moment in the movie just before the toys get to meet the train. (Because of the narrative tension? I have no idea.) This past month I seem to be the idiot who is set on introducing him to the scary things. Go me!

The first case in point: kids night at the Botanic Garden. Kids night was supposed to feature a puppet show about vegetables. This did not seem terrifying to me in any way. Unfortunately, however, it featured not puppet-sized puppets, but tall adults dressed up as gigantic vegetables, screaming into microphones. (Pro tip: the reason to have a microphone is so that you don’t have to scream, but I digress.) I had walked over to the show with the Bean and was cheerfully pointing out a large eggplant wearing glasses when I realized the Bean was shaking. Actually shaking! I immediately walked him away again, but when we got back to our picnic blanket all he wanted to do was leave. “Where is that purple guy? That purple guy wearing sunglasses and a carrot on his head? I don’t like that purple guy. Where is he? Is he coming here?” We’ve been fielding questions like these for weeks now.

angry-egglpant
eat your veggieeeeeess………

Then, a couple of nights ago, I read the Bean Owl at Home. In that book is what I thought was a charming story about Owl getting frightened by his own feet under the covers because they looked like two lumps. I finished reading that story, which ends with Owl deciding to sleep in his chair, and was going on to the next one when I heard a small voice say, “those lumps are scaring me.” Fantastic. I’m scaring the Bean right before bed. Brilliant.

So, I showed the Bean what my feet look like under a sheet and explained that the lumps were just feet. Isn’t that funny? Just feet! He laughed. Then two seconds later he said, “the lumps are scary. I don’t like the lumps.”

ooookay.

So then I tried to demonstrate with the Bean’s own feet. This entailed me running around the room looking for an acceptable blanket. (He hates all blankets.) “I don’t like that blanket.” “Okay, but it’s just for a minute, to demonstrate!” “I don’t like that blanket.” “What about this blanket?” “I don’t like that blanket either.”

I finally found an old muslin baby blanket that he would consent to have draped over his feet. We made two lumps. He laughed. But I’m still not certain that the scary lumps are forgotten.

On the other hand, the Bean is also doing a terrific job of scaring us. The day after the purple guy incident, he woke up in the morning, turned to me and said, “There’s a ghost coming across the street.”

“Really? What does it look like?” I asked.

“It’s gray. It has a large head and two legs. It’s coming to our apartment. To look at us.”

In my head I heard “I see dead people…”

Then, just yesterday, he told Bionic that the gray ghost was coming to our building again. This time, it wasn’t going to come to our apartment, but the reason it was coming to our building was to look for people. To eat.


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Food for Difficult Days

Sugar here. Bionic says all she wants to eat this pregnancy is meat, and also, that spicy food makes her tummy feel better (?) so on Sunday I tried this recipe for the East African version of meat-in-a-pocket. It took two hours from start to finish, but it sure was a tasty breakfast. (Disclaimer if you try this – it is NOT HEALTH FOOD. Also, after reading a few other recipes, I didn’t use a whole egg in each, but instead poured a little beaten egg over the meat before sealing the packet). If you are very considerate of your health, you are going to want to get a dental check up and learn about dentures depending on your age.

Here I am making them:
paratha-1
And eating!
paratha-2

Then yesterday I had my horrible eight-hour job interview (I’m trying to get promoted). Eight hours is not an exaggeration. I started at 9 am at HR and ended at 5:05 pm in my boss’s office. In between, I had a jury of my peers (9:30-10:45), a jury of everybody else in management (11-12:30), lunch interview with my boss and more peers (12:45-1:45), interviews with faculty (2:00-3:00), led a discussion for most of the above (3:15-4:00) and then interviewed with my boss again (4:00-5:00). Then I nearly died. Thankfully, I had some natural stress relief products on hand to help tide me over for the next few hours more.

When I got home Bionic made me a dinner of risotto, garlic spinach, and ethical veal (well, as ethical as eating a baby animal can be, anyway). It was delicious. And thank you Jenny F. Scientist for sending her the recipe!


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I held a tiny sleeping bundle and now I’m sappy

Sugar here. I’m writing this post even though we haven’t gotten past the nuchal yet (the appointment is Monday). I feel a bit superstitious about writing anything at all about Bionic’s pregnancy until after we hear those results, but here I am doing it anyway.

Yesterday evening Bionic and I took dinner to our neighbors across the hall who just had a new baby and got their clothes online, find more about it at this site. Our friend answered the door and talked to us for some time with the new little guy sleeping against her chest. Eventually I mentioned that I hadn’t seen him in the flesh before, and she just up and handed him to me. And there he was in my arms contentedly sleeping away, and there I was feeling all mushy. I do not think of myself as a baby person, but holding that tiny baby suddenly made our decision to try to have another one seem so great.

Before last night I was not feeling not-great, but I was feeling apprehensive about sleep deprivation, our lack of space, the inevitable question of money, etc., etc., and nothing about the new possible baby felt real yet. Now it feels real. I am so grateful to our neighbor for jolting me past that hurdle BEFORE the new baby arrives this time.

In other news, I spent last night in a very narrow bed with a toddler and six (six!) very pointy toy trucks. I am hoping one thing this new baby may do is sleep better than the bean, egads.


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a surreal morning

Sugar here.  Bionic and I are happy to report that we do not owe the $4,000 that an EOB we received in the mail last night said we owed.  Turns out the baby factory billed our insurance for someone else’s procedures.  Oops.

And the call I received at work yesterday about how we were getting evicted — also an error.  WTF was up with yesterday?

This morning continues strange.  A few sound bites from the Bean:

“Is there a ghost outside?”

(To the tune of Mary Had a Little Lamb) “There is a boy named Frankenstein, Frankenstein, Frankenstein… Frankenstein…”

“I am not going to eat the cats.”

Okay.

IMG_0458


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THINK BEING A PARENT WON’T COST YOU? NYC Department of Social Services will at least make you feel terrible about it every day.

Screw you, NYC Human Resources Administration, Department of Social Services. Every day when I take the subway I find myself staring at your new campaign, which is not only hateful, dismissive, and ineffective, but makes me, a person far outside your target audience, feel terrible about myself. Good job!

There have already been articles written about why the new campaign against teen pregnancy is terrible and wrong: it stigmatizes an already stigmatized group, it perpetrates shame, it is classist, racist, and, on top of those already great reasons to NOT DO IT, fear tactics have been shown not to be effective in encouraging behavior change. Basically, if the department of social services went out trying to do as horrible a job as they possibly could, they would have come up with this campaign. So why does this campaign exist?

Any campaign so clearly not based on the science of behavior change or any decent research into the target audience is based instead on prevailing prejudices. Let’s think about how this campaign probably got approved. Here is my best guess:

Some douchebags at an ad firm thought, we’re not being paid that much (the total campaign cost the city $400,000, which in the context of an ad campaign is not very much) and the client isn’t really selling anything anyway, so who cares? They slapped something together based on their first dumb-ass thoughts about poor young mothers. Then they did focus groups with teens and older people who had been teen parents. (Well, they say they did. ‘Focus group’ can have a wide range of meanings. I also wonder what they asked these teens and parents. Did they say, hey, does this idea make you feel really bad? Great! That’s the point!)

Then, some other people at DSS heard the ideas and didn’t ask if there was any research to back up doing the campaign that way because wow, those were their dumb-ass assumptions too! Yay! Let’s all be dumb together! End of guessing.

So the posters were printed and put in subways and bus shelters all over the city. Then a bunch of people noticed that they were really awful. Then the mayor came to his own defense saying that we have to keep hating on people to keep them down it was “past time” to be “value neutral” about teenage pregnancy. That brings us to now.

At first I saw my own feelings of inadequacy while reading these posters as collateral damage. It seemed clear that the groups the ads are trying to make feel awful are people of color, people living in poverty, and teenagers. I am in none of those groups.

However, this campaign (and really any campaign aiming for mass behavior change for supposed social good) is strongly normative and I and my family are not the ideal towards which norming points. Perhaps this is why I’m feeling the reverberations from it so strongly.

This is what I hear when I look at these posters:

  • Only wealthy people should have kids. Anyone else is harming their baby and society. I AM HARMING THE BEAN.
  • Your partner will leave you. OH, GOD, WHAT IF THAT HAPPENS?
  • Being a single parent is impossible, don’t even try it.
  • Having a baby makes you poor. WHAT IF THIS IS HAPPENING TO ME TOO?
  • Your child won’t graduate from high school, and you should feel terrible about that.
  • Above all else, don’t be black.

This is the poster that makes me, personally, the most irritated. First of all, this number is BS. We live in New York, which is a very, very expensive place to live. Two years ago we had a baby. There is NO WAY it cost us $10,000 more to live during our first year with the Bean than the year before. I know this because I am not $10,000 in non-college-loan debt, and yet the Bean lives. It’s so expensive that sometimes I need a loan, and I found the best loans on this article https://local.checkintocash.com/in/indianapolis/2328-east-stop-11th-road-2021.html.

Second, like all the posters in the campaign, this one features a weeping/frowning child. No one wants to look at a perpetually weeping baby, and there are already enough things in a subway car that I don’t want to look at. Thanks, DSS, for adding one more. My immediate emotional response to this weeping baby is to want to rescue it from its current circumstances. This is not useful. This is a picture of a real baby, not a theoretical construct. Once a baby is out there in the world, wearing a sweater, you can’t put it back where it came from. So the only option is to ‘save’ it from being, what exactly, poor and black? Why is DSS encouraging me to think this way? Wait, don’t answer that. This has to feel terrible to a person in one of groups actually being targeted by the campaign, and especially for those who have kids now. Here is a big sign saying that you are ruining your child’s life, just by existing.

But what gets me the most about this poster is the underlying assumption that the main item of value, the thing that makes the most difference in life that you can give your child, is money. I certainly hope this is not true. I would like to believe, and most of the time do believe, that love, patience, caring, reading, talking, drawing, playing and all the other nice, difficult things we’ve been doing over the past two years are of more value than cold, hard cash. Whoever a person is, and whatever her life is like, if she is putting forth the effort to love and care for a child, even a child born to (gasp) a teen, our society should support that, with, at the very least, messages of encouragement. I would benefit from such messages, I know.

I am disturbed by this campaign every day. After so much new coverage about it, much negative, I had this crazy idea that it might be pulled. But no, if you visit the DSS website there is still a self-congratulatory page talking about the benefits of the campaign and showing all the horrid posters. My faith in this city dies a little more every day.


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Radical Nonchalance

Hello there. It’s Sugar again. Today is my birthday. I’m 37. I’m happier than I was when I was 27.

Over the past five years or so I’ve become less concerned with a whole group of things that used to somewhat obsess me, and I am the happier for it. I put this change down in part to the aging process and in part to trying to think deeply about how to improve my level of happiness without anti-depressants. Some of the things that I’ve done to be happier are familiar and obvious. For instance, exercising more lifts my mood, so now I exercise more. But a large part of why I think I am so much happier now than when I was 27 has to do with a mental program that could be called ‘Not Caring in a Radical Way’ (or it could be called something catchier, if I could think of it).

I’m writing about this here because parenthood and aging has pushed me even further in the direction of radical nonchalance, but I think for some women (like my own mom) parenthood and aging pushed them the other way. There are a lot of cultural pressures to go the other way and I think we need to resist them.

Here is some stuff to not care about, and I mean really not think about, rather than say you don’t care about, but actually constantly return to in your mind:

  • Gray hair, wrinkles, aspects of your body that sag or look different than they did when you were 16, weight gain or loss
  • and the corollary: excessive corrective grooming and dieting
  • and the other corollary: whether other people think you look attractive/young
  • your numeric age
  • how perfect your clothes are
  • whether your house/apartment looks extremely clean and nice

I bet this doesn’t sound radical, since it’s basically what smart liberal women have been telling me forever. Radical would be letting go of those things internally, truly knowing that those things are distractions. Not only do they not matter, but worries about them are actively imposed on women to prevent them from being happy and doing interesting things.

What do these worries really accomplish? Worrying about my appearance and age makes me feel competitive with other women, bad about myself, and like I am less worthy than more attractive people.  Worrying about what other people think about my appearance gives away power to those who didn’t earn it and don’t necessarily deserve it.  Excessive grooming and house cleaning waste my time.  Dieting makes me ill.  Worrying about my wardrobe wastes my money.

I’m done with this crap. I want to have as much time and energy as possible to do things out there in the world rather than waste my life in front of a mental tribunal and a mirror.

At least I’m trying to be done with it. I’ve had better and worse luck with this, but here are some things that have helped.

Don’t read ‘women’s’ magazines. Don’t even look at the pictures. Just don’t. This includes parenting magazines, which usually have a section devoted to making mom sexy again. I used to believe that I enjoyed looking at the fashion spreads in Vogue, etc., but eventually I realized that I actually felt considerably worse about myself after an encounter with any magazine like that. They are designed to suck the life out of you. They are your frenemy from high school, the one that would tell you that she would ‘help’ you be more popular. No.

Try not telling yourself anything negative about yourself for 24 hours. I know this sounds like advice from someone’s dopey therapist, but it is shockingly difficult and interesting. 24 hours is about all I can do (and really, I’m asleep for 8 hours of that 24, ideally). I tried this and discovered that I tell myself that I’m terrible in some way constantly. I tell myself that I’m sad, unattractive, incompetent, have boring ideas, have inappropriate emotions, and generally have failed at life. WHAT IS THE POINT OF THIS? I think that somewhere in there I believe that if I’m not always reminding myself of my weak points, I’ll get worse. But this is just nonsense.

Just don’t do some shit. Parenting helps with this! Because who has time for a 20 minutes of blow-drying her hair when the toddler is trying to put cake in the printer? A friend of mine who has a son about the same age as the Bean recently said to me that she used to wear make up but hasn’t since her son was born. I expected the follow up to be some self-flagellation about how she should get back to it (because that’s the women’s magazine rhetoric, that grooming is somehow ‘time for yourself’ and I hear versions of this all the time), but instead she said, “I’m so much happier this way.” Yes.

These things have helped me have a calmer perspective on my life, but I am not saying that people who enjoy wearing make up or high heels or whatever should give those things up. If you like something, do it (within reason). What I think we should reject is the litany of pointless and manipulative shoulds that come with being a woman. If we think we should do something, particularly something we don’t enjoy and that doesn’t have a meaningful and positive outcome, we need to evaluate its true purpose. And if it doesn’t matter, then stop worrying about it. For real.


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Sketches for Giraffe’s Dream

Sugar here again. I can’t get this illustration right, so instead of sending our hero into his adventure, I’m ruminating on what to do with page two.

I tried to finish page two, and I got this, which I really don’t like:

he wanted to move to the city

At the very least, the car in the foreground needs to go, but so much is not right here that I’m going to do it over.

I went back to my quick story board for the book. Here’s the original ten second sketch:

he wanted to move to the city

For some reason, giraffe looks like a hippopotamus here, could be the bowler.

Next I tried to make a sketch that showed buildings, trees, and cars as three dimensional shapes, rather than the flat approach in the first painting:

he wanted to move to the city

And then I tried again:

he wanted to move to the city

But I was worried that the road was not a good place to run the text, particularly because the greys and blacks I seem to be mixing are UGLY. So, I moved the horizon line down:

he wanted to move to the city

This is better! I was going to try to do this in paint last night. Unfortunately we then had Toddergate Part One, in which the Bean did not eat dinner, punched Bionic in the eye with the corner of a book (she’s ok) and then took two and a half hours to fall asleep, effectively killing the evening. Toddergate Part Two was this morning, just as much fun, but with persistent attempts to yank me out of the shower and lots of wailing when I was anywhere except within six inches of the Thomas the Train set up. Good times. The poor guy has cold sores and a bad diaper rash right now, but he’s on the mend, so maybe this weekend will be better.