Bionic Mamas

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


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The Bendectin Story

Hello, Gentle Readers. Greetings from thank-God-we-are-finally-pulling-out-of-St.-Louis, aboard Amtrak’s Texas Eagle. We are running late, which I would be more annoyed about except that Sugar flew home yesterday and was so much later in so much less pleasant a way. She spent most of the day in the Detroit airport, spent $100 on a cab home from Newark, ate a soggy tuna melt from an all-night diner at midnight in our kitchen, while discovering that the freezer door had been just slightly open for the last two weeks. In contrast, I was fed a steak dinner and gelato and lay on a reasonably comfortable bed and read A Bargain For Frances to The Bean during our delay. Advantage: Amtrak.

The other reason trains rule with toddlers: no seatbelts. “The cars and trucks are going to meet their friends,” he says. (This wholesome, wooden-toy moment brought to you by several hours of puzzles on the iPad.)

The cars and trucks are going to meet their friends

Thank you for your spotting reassurances. It hasn’t come back, and there was so very little that my working theory is self-inflicted crinone-applicator wound. Mad skills. I has them.

I should have written sooner to tell you, except that I’ve had my hands full managing my father at my in-laws and wrangling the Bean. I’ve also been quite drowsy, thanks to my new best pharmaceutical buddy, doxylamine succinate, AKA, Unisom.

I’m not taking it for insomnia, though I have been having trouble sleeping for several weeks. I’m taking it because remember how I was puking in trash cans? Well, it turns out this stuff is a whiz at sorting out nausea, and, get this, it is category A for pregnancy. Category fuckin’ A, y’all. Do you know how many things are A? Not bloody many, thanks to the difficulty of ethically arranging the kind of studies the FDA requires for that designation; it’s pretty much folic acid and this stuff.

So why didn’t anyone mention this to me (or maybe to you) before now? Doxylamine in combination with B6 used to be used by 40% of pregnant Americans, as a drug called Bendectin. There were at least 25 studies and two meta-analyses, which basically say: this does not cause birth defects. But if Bendectin wasn’t a teratogen, it was, says a friend of my father’s, a lit-ogen: that is, it caused law suits.

According to dad (whose business this is), about 3% of babies have a serious birth defect of some kind. No one likes that. A certain number of parents sued the makers of Bendectin. And even though the science is absolutely, uncommonly clear on this subject, law suits wear a company out. Eventually, the drug was taken off the market simply because its maker tired of defending it in court.

Meanwhile, some corners of the popular press believe that smoke always means fire, and jumped happily on the Blame-Bendectin Bandwagon (also the name of my new ska band). Bendectin is used in a third of pregnancies of children with birth defects! Well, if it was used in 40% of pregnancies, excuse me if I think that’s good news — if 40% of all pregnant women took it and it’s only present in 33% of cases of birth defects, that almost sounds protective, the was I figure it. Anyway, the magazines said, you can make something just as good at home: just combine half a tab of doxylamine with some B6…. *headdesk*

Folks, I gotta tell you, this stuff is great. I haven’t tried combining it with B6 yet, because I haven’t been able to find the B6 in small enough doses. But half a unisom a night, and I have almost no nausea, let alone reasons to defile public transit property. Twice now, most recently two days ago, I’ve decided to stop taking it, and both times my body has made me aware in no uncertain terms what a stupid decisions that was. Morning sickness definitely still in effect, when not masked.

I keep re-googling this, convinced that anything I’m getting this much benefit from must be terrible for babies, even if I did learn about it from my OB’s website. Eventually, I asked myself why I was so anxious about it, given that I take my nightly singulair without concern, and there’s hardly any data at all on that one. I think the answer comes down to thalidomide and the curse of Eve.

Did you see a lot of thalidomide documentaries as a kid? I did, or at any rate, the ones I saw made a big impression. And I think my psyche stored away somewhere the idea that what happened to those children was not just a horrible accident but a judgement of sorts on their mothers, for trying to escape a natural but unpleasant part of pregnancy. Chalk that up to one more subtle way ideas of the natural as applied to women’s experience are always ready to become a cudgel.

The unisom is kicking in now, and Little Rock comes early in the morning; I must to bed. But y’all: what we need more of is science.

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Ballots and Biscuits

Happy Election Day, oh my (American) internets! At least, I hope it will end happily.

Sugar and I went to the polls this afternoon, in company of a NOT AT ALL SLEEPY Bean, who went on nap strike today. After I gave up on the whole business, I got ready to go vote, but when I asked the Bean, who generally lives for trips outside and starts pestering us with cries of “shoes? Walk? WALK?” long before the sun is up, if he wanted to go vote, he said, “no.”

“Bean. Listen. Romney wants to fire Elmo.”
“Elmo?? VOTE!!”

And just like that, the fire of democracy was kindled in the bosom of a new generation. Lucky for us the Elmo candidate is also the candidate who thinks we have the right to be a family. Could be a tough dinner table conversation if it were otherwise.

Luckily, our polling place is a school with a playground. Luckily still, I GUESS, the table for our district had separate lines by last name, and Sugar’s line was very short, so she and the Bean could go play while I stood in the endless first-half-of-alphabet line for another hour or so. Not that I’m bitter. No, no, I’m proud to be part of the half of the alphabet that gives a damn about this country, unlike certain second-halfers I could name.

As usual, our polling place had no stickers. C’mon, people! Adults don’t get that many sticker opportunities, you know? Give a little.

Someone at Comedy Central knows how I feel, anyway. They provided one, free, on the cover of one of the free newspapers people thrust at you as you leave the subway stations in the mornings. So the Bean, who voted early and often, with us and with his babysitter/favorite person/Facilitator of Walkies earlier in the day, gets his Baby’s First Major Election picture with sticker after all.

Stars and Stripes, Sans Culottes

He never did take a nap, but thank the Lord, he is now asleep. Sugar is faintly tolerating my mainlining of election returns and carb loading. To that end, I have tinkered yet again with the sweet potato biscuit recipe I’ve been dallying with, and I now feel so deeply satisfied that I will show my work. This is a tinkered version of this, from Chowhound. I apologize for the weird measurements, but that is partly where the tinkering has come in.

Sweet Potato Biscuits You Will Like

Ingredients
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1.5 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
3/8 teaspoon baking soda (1/4 t plus half of that spoon again)
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 cup baked (boiled, whatever) mashed sweet potato (about 1 medium potato; freeze extra if you have it, for next time)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, FROZEN
Heavy cream for brushing the tops (Used half and half tonight; was just as good)

Okay, remember before you start that the key to biscuits is a light hand. This isn’t bread; don’t take you emotions out on it. Handle it as little as possible, lest you awaken the demon gluten and end up with hockey pucks. To that end, lay out your ingredients, your implements (spoon, basting brush, biscuit cutter/glass, cookie sheet and optional parchment paper) ahead of time.

Preheat oven to 400.

1. Combine dry ingredients. Whisk it around with a fork. Don’t bother sifting.
2. Combine sweet potato and buttermilk. If you’re a little short of sweet potato, use more buttermilk so that you still have 1 3/4 cups wet stuff.
3. Do this brilliant thing Starrhillgirl taught me: Grate the frozen butter into the dry ingredients. Stir it around so that it’s reasonably evenly distributed.
4. Add wet ingredients. Stir just enough to combine everything. Don’t get crazy.
5. Plop the dough down on a lightly floured surface. Use your hands to gently press it into a mat about 1 inch tall.
6. Cut out your biscuits. If you don’t have a cutter you like — I use a 2-inch one — use a juice glass.
7. Use your hands to form the leftover dough into appropriately sized biscuits. Don’t make it into a new sheet; this way involves less handling of the dough. Trust me.
8. Place biscuits on a lightly greased cookie sheet or parchment paper. Or a Silpat. Brush their tops with cream or what have you.
9. Bake for roughly 15 minutes.
10. Eat. These are nice with pork and onions and just as good with eggs. They are positively divine with the damson preserves I brought home from Starrhillgirl’s.

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A Very Good Mother

Hello, internets. Apparently my iPad got peckish and ate the post that was almost done. I’d say it was a pity except it wasn’t much good, so perhaps it is in fact a blessing. Anyway, hello.

My hand is still bandaged but much less terrifying, lest you feared I’d met a gangrenous, Game-of-Thrones-ish end.

The Bean is splendid and only driving me slightly insane on these hot, mostly house-bound days; he more than makes up for it with his new love of the alphabet. I’m not claiming he knows what a letter is or anything, but he is quite smitten with the list itself and now babbles bits of it. He has this sly, preening look he gets when he knows he’s about to do something clever; the other day at breakfast, he looked at my side-long under a raised eyebrow and remarked significantly, as if making a witty observation,

H I J.

In short, he can play me like a violin.

Meanwhile, here is your Friday Feel Good, thanks to Mombian:

This month is the 40th anniversary of PFLAG, Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, which is the kind of organization I can’t even really read about without getting a bit teary. I’m just going to quote two of their six strategies goals, while I collect myself:

Create a world in which our young people may grow up and be educated with freedom from fear of violence, bullying and other forms of discrimination, regardless of their real or perceived gender identity or sexual orientation or that of their families.

And

Create a society in which all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons may enjoy, in every aspect of their lives, full civil and legal equality and may participate fully in all the rights, privileges and obligations of full citizenship in this country

Until today, when Mombian posted about it, I’d never thought about how PFLAG’s founding; it was just there, helping people like me and my family, and maybe still more blessed, helping parents who maybe aren’t quite sure what to think when their children come out to them, giving them a place to be afraid and unsure what to think and still love their kids.

It turns out the whole thing started with one hell of a rockstar-mom, Jeanne Manford, who stood up for her gay son after she saw him on the TV news, injured at a protest while the police did nothing to help. She wrote a letter to the newspaper, saying something both perfectly natural and, in 1972, not quite three years after Stonewall, revolutionary:

I have a homosexual son and I love him.

She marched in that year’s NYC pride parade, carrying a sign reading, “Parents of Gays: Unite in support of our children.” And they did.

Thank you, Jeanne Manford. Thank you, all you parents of us LGBT folk who just keep on loving us. We know it’s not always easy. I hope that in those moments when loving the Bean requires courage, I can live up to your example.

(reading about Jeanne Manford today keeps making me think of the brave — both in her life and in her willingness to show her vulnerability when writing about it — author of the blog Transparenthood. Check her out.)