Bionic Mamas

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


On Political Strategy

Here is a thing that happened:

I was involved in a political discussion on the ol’ FB, and someone I do not know (friend of a friend) commented that he certainly hoped, apropos of my refusal to loathe a candidate he loathes, that I don’t have a son or daughter who could be sent to die in an oil war.

I do, of course, and if he didn’t know that, I’m sure that had he found out, he would have been pleased with himself for giving me such a tangible reason to come around to his way of thinking.  I see the rationale of arguing in that way, uniting the desire I have to protect my children to a specific political preference he’d like me to share.  

(NB I’m not naming names here because I am not interested in having a traditional leftist circular firing squad in this space  — nor in the general election, which is how I found myself in this situation. I imagine you can read between the lines anyway.)

Here’s the curious thing, though: that gambit doesn’t work that way, at least not for me.  His comment did rouse my ursine protective qualities, but not such that I came rationally around to his point of view.  In fact, my unsubtle brain identified *him* as the threat to my children.  I was suprised at the intensity of the hostility I suddenly felt towards him, where before I had felt only a mild irritation.  Moreover, some of that feeling transferred itself, however unfairly, to the candidate he was supporting, despite the fact that I have no real beef with the candidate in question.

The experience reminded me of how I didn’t truly understand what lay behind that standard advice about not getting between an actual mother bear and her cub until the first time the Bean was old enough to walk without holding my hand (though still very small) and someone walked between us: we were in a park or somewhere similarly safe and I could see him just fine — there was no actual danger — and yet I wanted to launch myself at the person between us and rip at them with my claws.  How dare they!

I bring this up not to invite a debate on whose box I should check in the primary (or even whether I should vote in the primary, a position I find more morally defensible than usual in the case of the Democratic presidential candidates, if not lower offices) but rather as an observation on the complicated nature of brains and the care those of us who do feel deeply about our candidates would be wise to take when scoring rhetorical points.  This only matters if one likes winning, of course.  I’m not altogether sure my political allies do always prefer winning to being self-righteous — but that is a story for a different time.


On Discombobulation

The Bean is having another not-nap today.  There is distinctly unrestful thumpery emanating from his room, but so far no crying for me to come.

He’s not ready to give up his nap, that much is clear.  He never napped on Monday and was an emotional wreck for the remainder of the day.  Yesterday we were on the subway to the Bronx Zoo at his usual nap time.  We were with friends he adores, but he spent most of the ride staring, glassy-eyed.  He steadfastly refused each offer of a bottle of milk (his usual at bedtime and nap), although he would normally accept a bottle with no going-to-bed strings attached in a heartbeat.  I thought he might do the usual inconvenient baby trick of falling asleep two minutes before our arrival — last time we did this, he fell hard asleep two minutes before we pulled into an elevator-less station where construction forced us to make a three-stairway transfer — but no. He was full of energy to run (and run away) at the zoo, to find the tigers, to prove I’d been wrong when I told him there were no buffalo or red pandas (apparently he remembered them from his last trip, the better part of a year ago), to continually ask for the cookies I’d told him were a treat for the ride home.

He desperately wanted to see the giraffes, though, but when we headed their way after lunch, he fell asleep in his stroller before we could see them and did not wake up until we were nearly home again.  Whereupon, seeing our friends, he smiled and said, “on a special, special train!” Then he spread his arms in a comic “what gives?” gesture and said with a twinkling eye, “Oh! No cookies?”

One possibility is that he’s ready to switch his nap to the afternoon, which would complicate our lives in some ways and simplify them in others, if only I had the first idea how to facilitate the switch.  But I wonder if there’s something else in play here.  Several times in the past week, he has woken up — or rather, not woken up — with night terrors, long periods of flailing and a kind of screaming I never hear from him in neurologically ordinary moments.  Screeching that would peel paint off the walls, that floods my body with adrenaline, my brain frantic to find who is skinning my baby alive.  That kind of sound.  He’s been like this before, generally after naps — I refuse to believe these are tantrums; he’s so clearly not there — but not in a few months.  Their reappearance makes me wonder if the nap refusal is part of a larger pattern of sleep disturbance, perhaps related to a leap in cognitive/neurological development.

It’s happened before: the last time sleep went deeply to hell (not that it’s ever great around here), Sugar noted that his vocabulary was just exploding.  Growing a brain is a lot of work; big changes are bound to require some disruptive furniture-moving in there.  No wonder he’s a mess.

*    *    *

I wonder if any of my readers are surprised that I’m not posting about the goings-on at the Supreme Court this week.  Naturally, I feel strongly about these cases.  I even have some thoughts about them, imagine that.  I don’t have a good answer, except that I somehow can’t bear to.  Just reading about them for a few minutes at a time leaves me in tears.  Sugar can’t bear to read at all.

I nearly wrote just now that we are hardly on the front lines of these cases, living in a state that recognizes our marriage and having the usual denial about the death-related problems Edie Windsor’s DOMA case centers on.  But the truth is, we are on the front lines here, whether we want to be or not.  By virtue of living our lives in the most truthful way we know how, we are subject to having those lives dissected in, at best, dispassionate terms by powerful strangers in faraway chambers.  Moreover, our lives are subject to discussion by everyone with a mouth or a keyboard, and what isn’t deliberately dehumanizing is too often the kind of devil’s advocate “objectivity” unpacked very well here and here (in terms of feminism, but a very close match).  While nothing about the details of my days this week sounds terribly heroic — nap strikes, zoo trips, endless games of trains — I feel nevertheless buffeted by invisible winds.

Yesterday, my Facebook feed bloomed red.  Huge numbers of my friends, including tons of straight ones (and one who seems to be calling herself straight now, despite an impressive track record to the contrary in her youth, ahem) have replaced their avatars with HRC’s red equal sign logo.  Then came the mutated memes, the equal signs made of wedding rings, card catalog cards, broken matzo squares.  There are Rotko-esque ones, Muppet ones, Lucy/Peppermint Patty ones, and one made of belly-flashing corgis.  Eventually, even I had to get over my profound irritation that HRC, who are admittedly dab hands at branding, is going to be associated in people’s minds with this moment, when it is the ACLU who deserves the praise and the donations.  (Okay, I’m not over it. But it’s no longer my principle feeling.)  It truly is remarkable that, as one friend put it, “for the first time in my life, being gay is cool.”

Like a number of my married gay friends, I changed my profile picture to an image from our wedding.  I found I liked seeing these friends marching along my feed in their fancy dress, cutting cake and exchanging vows, kissing and just grinning at the camera.  There is something visually right, to me, about these pictures being surrounded by the sea of red, the allies sublimating themselves for a moment to those of us who, like it or not, find ourselves on the front lines.

This moment is incredible; if you’d told me, even five years ago, this week would happen as it has, I’d never have believed you.  I can’t believe, as I frequently tell my students, that the conversation has gone from, “Should gays be allowed to teach school/live in settled areas,” to, “Should gays be allowed to marry,” in only the time it’s taken me to get from high school to here.  It doesn’t seem possible, anymore than the strength our elders have shown in carrying us here seems like something I could find in myself.  I see this picture of Edie Windsor* entering the court today, and I see a warrior.  I see this picture and I think of song by Sweet Honey In the Rock: I don’t know how our elders have done it, but I do remember.


*from the ACLU twitter feed

I admire more than I can say the bravery of the people who have taken the most public steps to bring us here, though I know all of us who have made this issue seem real to our friends and families are helping in small ways, too.  Even though small ways are exhausting in a week like this.  Allies, we are so happy to have you, so proud of you.  I can’t think I’m the only one who feels the strain, though, so I ask one more thing this week.  Please, be gentle.  As in the Bean’s brain, big changes are happening in our worlds.  It’s surely no wonder if some of us are a bit of a mess.


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.


On Marriage

Better late than never, eh? Seems apropos, given the subject.

Hi, again, internets. Hope you enjoyed NaBloPoFortnight as much as I did. Following the streak-ending snafu on Tuesday, the Bean got an awful cold and refused to even try to sleep except against one or both of us, which didn’t mean much sleep for us at all. I ate Thursday night’s dinner in the dark of his room, to give you some idea, lying on my right side with him on my right arm, my plate balanced on my left hip, lowering bits of omelet into my mouth like an ancient Roman at a La Leche League banquet. Very conceptual and hip.

Things are somewhat better now: though the Bean still flat out refuses to fall asleep except against us, he can at least be transferred once asleep. In a related story, he has now officially climbed out of his bed. He did wait at least eight months longer than I though he would.

Anyway, here, terribly late, are some disjointed thoughts on marriage for that blog carnival I told you all about. Can’t wait to read the rest of the posts.

Sugar and I were legally married in Connecticut, three years ago last Tuesday. It was Friday the 13th, because that was the date our parents could all come. We wore pretty dresses and rode the commuter rail up to Greenwich with them and two friends: through a funny piece of fate, each of us had a lifetime friend living within a few blocks, despite neither of us having grown up here. Sugar’s friend was the little brother of her childhood best friend, the one they’d made walk out on thin ice in the swamp to test its strength and sacrifice his baseball hat to carry home a deer skull from the woods. Mine was my only true babyhood friend, born six months before me to a friend of my mother’s who later took care of us both. Before I was born, my mother held her on her lap. I kicked and she started crying. She’s been getting me back for it since. A friend from the community garden gave us a box for our rings and the most beautiful bouquets, a mix of store bought flowers and a few miniature roses still blooming in our garden in November.

We went to Greenwich because it was the closest place on the train line with a tolerable attractive court house. I had hoped for nice weather and a wedding under a red leafed tree, but the wind blew the rain hard that day, and we settled for the fluorescent gloom of a conference room lined with disapproving portraits of the Village Selectmen of the mid-1950s. The camera seized up from the humidity and refused to focus.

Same sex marriage wasn’t legal in New York yet, but the Governor had declared the state would grant them reciprocity if they were performed in jurisdiction where they were legal. This shouldn’t have been big news. States routinely recognize each other’s marriages, even marriages (such as between close cousins) that are not legally allowed in every state; there is no such thing as federal marriage law in the US, except for the provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act, including the one specifically giving states the right to refuse to recognize same sex marriages. But under the circumstances it was big news, and it was the best news we thought we were likely to get. We thought we’d better act on the offer before a less friendly governor or a constitutional ban rescinded it.

In 2009, we’d been together for 12 years. It was a little strange that we weren’t married in some sense already. We’d certainly shown any number of other kinds of commitment, including beginning to try to conceive a child together. But we don’t have a faith in common and didn’t especially feel like making our own ceremony, unmoored from a religious or legal framework. It’s a fine thing to do, but it’s not our thing.

So up to Greenwich we went. Our friends met us in at Grand Central, and we got everyone on the train. I spent the ride up sewing a button back on my good coat. We piled into cabs and found our conference room and submitted the paperwork afterwards. We looked at some regrettable art in the hallway. The train ride back to the city was pack with commuters, so some of us stood and the others sat alone. We all had a nice dinner at a Korean restaurant in Park Slope. I got a positive on my ovulation predictor pee stick, but despite the potential romantic story, we did not do an insemination that month. Our parents went home.

I didn’t really expect any of it to change our lives much. It seemed like the thing to do, something we ought to take advantage of, if only to insist to the world that we meant the things we had always said about our relationship to one another. Our parents seemed happy about it, although they would probably have been happier if they hadn’t all been sharing the same vacation rental apartment. But really, we’d been together for 12 years, and this wasn’t a big party with lots of family and friends and all that. This was just for the sake of form.

When it comes to practical matters, the ways our particular marriage — as opposed to just the act of living in a place where gay relationships are generally accepted and sometimes celebrated — has improved our lives is a fairly short list. For the first year, the New York State Revenue Service couldn’t figure out what to do about our taxes, but now that marriage equality is the law here, we save some money by filing jointly. Because of the Defense of Marriage Act, there are a whole host of marriage benefits we cannot have, including the right to file joint federal tax returns. Because we are legally married, Sugar’s employer gives her some money to partially offset the imputed income penalty we pay for her to have me on her health insurance, a form of taxes straight couples do not pay. The money doesn’t make up for the whole penalty, but it’s a nice gesture.

The surprising thing, then, was in fact how very different being married does feel from being “married,” as we were for many years. The difference hard to pinpoint or explain, but it is profound. Immediately, I felt more confident in my right to have my relationship respected, more settled in the world, in some fundamental way more real. Alex Ross has recently written a very fine essay for the New Yorker on the history of gay rights advocacy, one that describes with a more dramatic scope of time what I try to explain to discouraged college students now: how incredible the changes feel, how rapid this can seem sometimes, even for someone who is simultaneously impatient for greater change (the end of DOMA, a federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act). He says about his own marriage,

When you get married, your relationship is taken more seriously by those around you; when you are also gay, the sense of public affirmation goes strikingly deep. Friends reacted as if we had done something vaguely heroic. I realized, as with coming out, that personal gestures ripple outwards into politics.

On election day, couples in three more states were given the right to find out for themselves how it feels to go from talking about my “partner” and “girlfriend” to saying, with the sense of pride and absolute authority that only the law can give someone like me, this is my wife. Congratulations. I hope it feels as good for you as it does for me.

Forty-one states to go.


Barely Legal

The deed is finally done!  We had our second-parent adoption court date yesterday, and BAM, we are now a legal family in all fifty states and the good ol’ D of C.  Feels mighty good, I tell you what.
Between Sugar having to run home from the subway station to fetch her ID, my brilliant decision to take a different train downtown (forgetting how infrequently it comes and not knowing the elevators were broken at the downtown station), said train’s passing us without stopping after we waited for one hundred years, torrential rain, and all the joys of going through security with a stroller, a toddler, and all the accoutrements both collect, we thought we would be so late that they’d tell us we were out of luck, but somehow we weren’t quite that late after all.  The elevators were confusing, but the nice man at the desk where we had to leave our camera gave us directions and congratulated us; when we got upstairs, there were toys in the waiting room and the court clerk went down and retrieved our camera.  Thanks to her, we have this winning picture of me with half-popped collar — I am tough, but sensitive — and blinking with our lawyer:



The Bean is chewing on a wooden block from the adoption office, a block likely encrusted in the spit of hundreds of fellow Brooklyn babies. Ah, tradition.

The Bean was an amazing sport about the whole thing, especially considering it was very much nap time. A lot of cookies were involved. Special thanks to the guys working security, who stood next to huge signs prohibiting food or drink in the court house, x-rayed our huge bag of Bean food, and only asked if the steel water bottles had hot liquid.

Afterwards, the Bean napped in his stroller while we walked to and through this phenomenal new park; when he woke up, we visited a playground and had a magnificent feast at Superfine, thanks to a sweet friend (and stupendous non-bio mom) who is a chef there.  After a postprandial return to the waterfront, we climbed back into Brooklyn Heights (that name is no joke, y’all) and rode the subway home, exhausted and happy.






A Clarification and An Elephant

Hello again.  I love all the comments on the last post!  I should rant more often….

I do, however, want to clarify what I did and did not mean by that rant.  (Dr. Jenny has pretty much already written my clarification for me, but even so.)

  1. I did mean that I think sleep training is not damaging or cruel per se.  (Insert boilerplate about at a reasonable age, yadda yadda.)
  2. I did mean that sleep is important for human life and health and general pleasantness, and that pretending otherwise is unhelpful.
  3. I did mean that crying isn’t necessarily an indication that what is going on is bad for the baby.
  4. I did mean that Dr. Sears is an ass, likely a hypocritical one.  Weissbluth, too, lest you think I only pick on the Attachment Goons.  They both have some useful things to say and some unhelpful garbage and a whole heapin’ helpin’ of erasure of mothers as people, in my always humble etc.
  5. I emphatically did NOT mean that everyone ought to sleep train, that not sleep training is somehow bad for or cruel to babies, that cosleeping, nursing all night, or whatever it is that works for you and your baby is somehow wrong, even if it’s not what works for me and Sugar and our baby.

This is not to say that I’m never a judgmental busybody about Other People’s Parenting, just that I have my limited spheres of true conviction.  I divide OPP into two rough categories, as follows:

  1. Things With Objectively Right Answers (most of the time).
    This category includes carseats, smoking, real neglect, and the Parenting Topic Who Must Not Be Named, Lord Vaccimort.
  2. Things Without Objectively Right Answers.
    This category includes practically everything else, from where babies sleep to what they eat and what containers they eat it from (well, soda out of baby bottles is Cat. 1, but I certainly don’t think there’s an objective right answer about breastmilk vs. formula, which is what folks fight about) to what kind of diapers they poop in, whether their giant robots transport them in carriers or strollers, what is or isn’t done to the ends of their penises, if penises they have, what solid food they eat and when, and even, though this one is teetering on the edge of being Cat. 1, whether their parents see fit to put sex-identifying lacy garters around their newborn heads.

I don’t mean to say that I don’t have opinions on Cat. 2 items, just that I’m unwilling to say that my opinions about them are the opinions everyone should hold or — and this is important! — that those opinions are so fact-based that I would think the same thing even if we were in a different situation or had a different baby.  Breastfeeding was important to me and I’m grateful that Big Pharma has made it possible for me to do it without agony, but if that weren’t the case, I am certain it would have been better for the Bean to be exclusively formula fed (instead of the mixed baby he is, like his Mama) than for him to live with my being in angry pain all the time.  He isn’t circumcised, but if Sugar or I had had what my father calls a contract with God about that, he would have been.  I was dead-certain BFF was cruel to let her baby cry at nap time until the universe sent me a baby who couldn’t nap without a good cry.

I think sleep is important, but I don’t think sleep training is important in its own right.  Pom, you are off the hook.  You, too, Frankiesoup, even though I think your metaphor is flawed.  (Here’s why.)  The fact that you’re even making metaphors suggests to me that you are functioning better without sleep training than I ever did, so keep on keeping on. Nor do I believe sleep training confers any long-term sleep advantage: I think it may (when it works) lead to more more sleep in the near-term, but I believe adult sleep patterns have nothing to do with babyhood ones, except inasmuch as both are affected by genetics and disposition and the benevolence or not of what gods may be.  That’s a belief, not a certainty, but as I’ve yet to see any evidence from those who believe the opposite, I’m sticking with it.

Not off the hook with me are those people who feel it’s their ever-lovin’ duty to not just give real advice, offer reassurances, or personal examples but to tell other parents what they “ought,” “must,” or “should” do, in particular those who follow up with “for the sake of the baby!”  There are plenty of things we should do for the sake of our babies — not maintain meth labs in the basement, for instance, or bungee their carseats to the Harley for anything beyond a quick trip to the OTB — so perhaps we could all save the bossier modal verbs for moments of real need.

The thing I find most grating about Dr. Sears’s “adjust your attitude” remark is how it echos the petty tyranny of the most condescending middle school teachers, those little Umbrages I remember taunting nasally, “you need to adjust your attitude, missy.”  I’ve spent a fair bit of time with students that age.  They can be pretty annoying, but what they “need” to adjust, in my opinion, is usually behavior.  Their attitudes belong to them, and to suggest otherwise is a belittling attempt to shame them, which is about power, not about teaching.

Shame is the elephant of the post title.  Like an elephant, shame can be useful in limited amounts: elephants built the ancient temples of India, and shame at lying to my father about how that piece of tile got broken taught me there are worse things than the fear of punishment.  But like an elephant, shame makes a lousy roommate.  Both can be impressively destructive and tend to fill the place with shit.

I don’t know about you all, but I’m finding motherhood plenty full of opportunities to feel shame without additional help.  Some of that shame is the useful kind (say, how I feel about losing my temper at lunch today), but the overwhelming majority is not (say, most of the blathering about birth I’ve subjected you to).  I manufacture shame prolifically, and yet some people in the world nevertheless seem to think I need more of it.  Shame in its noun form may be an inevitable companion to motherhood in my case, but its verb form has no place here.

I don’t mean to suggest that most of us mean to shame each other, only that it’s too easy to do and has a terrible domino effect.  When the Bean was 8 weeks old, the Other Lesbians from birth class asked us how we got him to sleep and then, when we told them what kind of soothing worked for us, said, “babies don’t like that,” and followed up with the unsolicited news that our very small baby was just manipulating us and absolutely did not need to eat at night.  (Which he absolutely did.  The child has the metabolism of a cocaine-addled hummingbird; even now, he’s below the 5th percentile for weight (CDC) despite nursing tons and eating five daily meals of solid food, and at that point he was still recovering from my early supply problems and his early latch issues.)  My anger at being told what to do by people with a whopping five days more experience than we had shielded me pretty effectively, but in hindsight, I wonder if what drove their pushy evangelism was shame, whether from people telling them they were fools if they didn’t sleep train, people saying they were cruel for doing it, or both.  I may be wrong about them, but I think I am right about the most abrasive woman I ever encountered at the mom’s group I quit, whose declarations and insistences on a whole range of topics made more sense when all the babies got hungry and she alone, in a crowd of crunchier-than-thou Park Slope moms (basically this, plus jobs in finance), pulled out a bottle of powdered formula.

Does this mean I think we shouldn’t have opinions or give advice?  Of course not!  What am I if not an opinionated, oar-sticking loudmouth?  I just think engaging in the Mommy Wars (gag me), even accidentally, is a distraction from better work we could be doing, or at least from enjoying our friends and our children.  I am cynical enough to believe that a whole lot of the external pot-stirring on issues like breastfeeding and sleep training is more or less designed to keep women where we have been told we belong: at home, and I mean that not in a literal way — the present economic structure all but requires two money-earning parents, so we ladies are welcome to our little jobs — but as a metaphor for out of the way of the big boys making decisions about our lives.

So I say let’s not do it.  Let’s by all means talk about our children and our desire for children, what works in our houses and what we’d like to try.  Let’s give each other advice and support and encouragement.  But let’s not take the bait and use inflammatory language to shame each other for the things we decide to do differently, eh?

Except for that head-garter thing.


Reports of My DOOM Greatly Exaggerated

Good things happened today:

I took another look at those stretch marks. They haven’t disappeared, but they aren’t as bad as I’d remembered, either. As no one has ever thought my stomach was my best feature, perhaps I can Build A Bridge And Get Over It.

Following another 45 minutes listening to the same “song” on hold (I like synth glockenspiel and rhythmic static as much as the next lass, but I do wonder how much my tax bill would have to rise in order for buy them more than a 4-minute loop), today’s phone agent says, no, my insurance isn’t canceled, everything is as it should be, why would you think otherwise? I guess yesterday’s report to the contrary was just a stress test of my cardiac function.

Cervix check was not super-fun but not really that bad either. And did you catch the use of the singular there? Dr. Skinny only checked one. I tried to figure out if she knew there were two without actually accusing her of not reading my chart. She said the Bean is pushing mostly on one — as in my fondest hopes, as that is the way it needs to go for a vaginal birth to work. I’m a little skeptical that she could tell without checking both (they are *very* close together, unless pregnancy has changed the geography of my ute a great deal), but not nearly doubtful enough to have insisted she dive back in. It did hurt a bit, and I spotted quite a lot afterwards and am still a bit crampy (though that is likely partly because of wandering aimlessly through our mostly-useless Target while on hold), but on the whole it was much better than I’d feared.

Dr. Skinny says I am 1 cm dilated and 50% effaced. I know that can last for weeks, but I feel hopeful that my body is doing things on its own. I figure if 1 cm took 37 weeks, I should only be pregnant for another six and a half years.

The fruit stand lady on my way to acupuncture let me choose my own banana. That never happens. This is totally a pregnancy perk, as was the lady at the post office being nice to me. (Note: this was not my local post office, where I’ve had an employee threaten me physically; this is in a much nicer neighborhood. If it had been my post office, I would just assume I had slipped into a coma or was otherwise living in a dream world.)

The White House seems to have located their collective gonads. (Just as the legislative branch loses its mind — Keiko has done such a fine job on this one; you should just read her post. I do not have her knack for explaining why this matters without insulting or enraging those who disagree with me.)

Finally, I have decided that I am having my own glass of wine tonight, dang it. Down with quests for perfection, up with rationality. Aside: I don’t really mind not drinking per se, but I find it enraging to know that no number of studies showing that doing so is okay this late in the game will ever change the medical recommendation that the preggos OMG STOP KILLING UR BAYBEES WITH TEH DRINKKIN. ’cause if you give those ladies an inch…well, it’s just Exhibit Z in Women Cannot Be Trusted With Their Bodies (see above). Whither science, I’d like to know.

Thank you for your hand-holding and other comments on yesterday’s post. Much food for thought. As soon as I locate my brain, I will have to get on thinking about it all more.



Greetings from the snowy midwest, where we are visiting Sugar’s family. The snow is not too deep and very pretty, but I am nonetheless grateful that my mother’s giant grey marshmallow of a down coat still closes around me. It’s touch-and-go after a meal, I tell you what. Luckily, we’ll be out of the cold weather and down to my parents soon, so it only has to hold on for a few more days. Related gripe: why doesn’t anyone make a maternity coat that is actually warm?

Perhaps because pregnant women are supposed to be warm all the time, but let me tell you, this one ain’t. Obviously everything is going as it should in terms of the important aspects of gestation, but I do find it funny how many of the “typical” symptoms have not visited me. I am cold all the time. My skin has never been drier — shea butter on the face every morning or the skin just peels away. And that business about your hair not falling out and then all coming loose after birth? I have very thick hair to begin with, but if it finds a way to fall out more than it is already, I will certainly be bald by the time The Bean sees me. (And yes, I will trade all that happily for the mildness of my morning sickness.)

I will also take it in happy trade for the nurse’s call yesterday saying my glucose test results were normal, which saves me a fight with the doctors, since I had made my mind up firmly to refuse the three-hour test. It was just over 24 hours before I was recovered from the one-hour, by the way, with an additional 24 to get rid of the migraine it brought on. And meanwhile, I’ve been poking around the journal literature and have become increasingly convinced that nearly all of the GD paranoia is based on g-d horse shit. I won’t bore you to death, but just for starters: in a study of outcomes for gestational diabetes patients and babies, wouldn’t you suppose it a good idea to exclude women who had poorly-controlled diabetes BEFORE pregnancy? Of course not: that would exclude almost all of the scary outcomes, and then how will you get published?

Sugar is champing at the bit to do laundry, so I’d better get out of these very soft but somewhat whiffy pajamas. (Yes, Melody, they are pajamas. Garnet Hill German cotton flannel. Get yourself some; I promise you will not be sorry. This is my fifth set.) I will leave you with a picture of my rapidly expanding mid-section, circa 28 weeks, and a promise that I will be back to report on anything exciting that happens on Christmas day at Sugar’s paternal grandmother’s house, where we’re not at all sure anyone has been told about the pregnancy. Last time I was there, one of Sugar’s cousins refused to do anything but gape at me while I was talking to her (about such controversial topics as “your daughter is very cute”). This should be even more fun without alcohol.


P.S. Yes, I’m beyond pissed about the legal goings on of my home state. Guess it’s off the list of “states I will allow us to live in prior to being absolutely certain we’re done having/adopting children.” Nice feeling to have about a place my family has lived for 250 years.


What’ll It Be?

Over the past few weeks, we’ve taken a crucial step in practicing belief that the lump in my belly will one day be a Real Live Baby TM: we’ve told lots and lots of people. We’ve told the friends we hang out with but don’t make the “we’d want you to know about a miscarriage anyway” list (GULP). We’ve told my boss I can’t teach in the spring (financial GULP). We’ve even told Facebook (high-school-frenemy GULP).

By and large, this has been great. Most people have said something nice, and no one’s been rude — one of the great things about being loudly gay is that the suckier-type people don’t want to be friends with you anyway. Excitement has come from unexpected quarters: Sugar was suddenly hugged by a moderately nerdy male colleague running for the train yesterday, and the father of our favorite toddler, who was luke-warm at best on the topic of reproduction prior to the arrival of his daughter, checks in on my health nearly as solicitously as my mother does.

Nearly everyone we tell in person immediately asks, “Do you know what you’re having?” which sounds like something a diner waitress would say.

I have an impulse to answer, “BLT, fries, and a coke, please; no mayo on the BLT,” but that would be unhelpful. Instead, I tell them, “I’m hoping for a puppy, but it’s looking more and more like a baby.”*

Partly Mostly, I answer that way because I’m a congenital smart-ass, and I’d hate for my friends to think pregnancy has changed me (though apparently they expect it to — a shockingly large number of them have not laughed, but rather stared at me as if I’ve lost my mind). Partly, though, it troubles me that even now, at whatever fruit-metaphor size it is this week, the bean is already supposed to be defined primarily by its sex.

Now I know, I know. I know it’s just small talk, that no one is saying our baby can’t wear a tutu while operating a steam shovel or be the butchest kid on the synchronized swimming team. I get it. It’s meant to be nice, a way of thinking of the baby as a real person. But though I’m pretty darn gender-conforming in lots of ways, I’m still not nuts about the whole business of tying personhood to sex.


Our anatomy scan is a week from today, and we haven’t decided yet whether to find out the sex. Sweet Sonographer has promised she will not let me find out if I don’t want to know, even through I’m on deck for lots of extra scans to look out for IUGR. So that means the decision really is up to us.

On the one hand, knowing would make it a little easier to buy/beg for clothes. It is remarkable how much is either pink or blue. I don’t hold with the whole pink/blue thing — both of those colors are a little blah — but it sure is a lot of what’s out there. And even though I grew up in the South, where pink is a normal color for men’s shirts and even though I know that pink was the baby boy color in the nineteenth century (apparently because of its association with powerful red) and even though my dad does look very smart in a pink oxford, I’m not so sure I want people to think we’re those lesbians, if you know what I mean.

And yet…. I have a strong feeling that once we know one way or the other, the follow-up to those diner-esque questions will be non-stop advice based on stereotypes or anecdotes of babies of whatever sex. Which sounds annoying. (Yes, we can use “Pregnant Women Are Smug”**-style evasion, but I don’t think I could really keep that up. Sugar could.) Whether to circumcise isn’t going to be a tough decision for us, and nothing else seems like something we really need to decide right away. We like the green IKEA crib. We can pick two names, as our parents did for us.


Yesterday (when I started writing this, for what it’s worth), was National Coming Out Day. I don’t remember to think about it every year, but it is a day I hold fond. In college, it was the day of my favorite party, after which everyone would stream out all over campus armed with sidewalk chalk. In the morning (and, with lucky lack of rain, well through fall break, when prospective students and parents often tour, heh), every sidewalk and pathway would be covered in explosions of support and affection, everything from “I love my gay roommate” and “I love my parents (even though they’re straight)” to triumphant labia and, when Sugar was around at least, the sweetest love poems. It was late on the night of that party, my first year, that I first (tentatively, awkwardly) came out to a friend. These days, when it is so easy to forget how hard that was, it’s a good reminder that there are plenty of people, especially teens, who need us to be loudly, gladly out, who need the reassurance that full, happy lives are not only possible but actually easier when we tell the truth about ourselves.

But even though being out is important and often a pleasure (see note about lack of sucky friends, for instance, plus the fact that, in my case, it means being able to marry Sugar), coming out is mostly scary. It’s scary because it requires you to tell everyone in your life that you are not, in fact, the sum of the expectations and assumptions of your sex; you are yourself. It’s amazing how difficult it can be to remind people of something that shouldn’t be so hard to remember.


As you may have gathered from my earlier post, the bean has gotten big and strong enough that we can feel it now. And I mean “we.” This has been so far an unusually physically non-mutual pregnancy — not only didn’t all those years of, erm, “trying on our own” work, not only didn’t we do this at home with the baster, but Sugar wasn’t even allowed in the room for the transfer. It’s therefore even more magical that the first time I felt something I couldn’t explain away as anything other than its beanship, Sugar was holding her hand on my belly and she felt it, too. The strongest movements don’t feel to me like “flutters” or whatever else the book says. They feel like throbbing, like very strong blood. Like another heart, held in my belly.

For now, I like just feeling the bean move on its own, reminding me that it is its own person, even inside me. I’m not sure I’m ready to cover it up with all my expectations and fears about boys or girls. When*** it’s out in the world, I will no doubt learn soon enough that it isn’t every boy or every girl or even primarily a boy or a girl, just itself. While it’s inside, not knowing seems to help.

*On balance, I’m glad it’s not a pony. Those hooves intimidate the hoohas rather a bit.

** You HAVE seen “Pregnant Women Are Smug,” right? On the off chance you haven’t, go watch it now. I command you.

***Knock wood, knock wood.

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Who Dat?

It’s Sunday, the best day of the week for music chez Bionique. On Sundays, our speakers play nothing but the Greatest Station In The Nation: WWOZ, the listener-supported, volunteer-programmed New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Station. Thank you, streaming internet broadcast! I no longer know what I would do without OZ. Every day on OZ is magic, but even though there’s no “Sittin’ At The Crossroads” (whose DJ signs off “May your blues be on the radio”), there’s Gospel and Cajun & Zydeco fais do do and the inimitable Hazel The Delta Rambler.

Today of all days, even Brother Jesse can’t help adding to his mix of “Nearer My God To Thee” and “Balm In Gilead” a more-earthly praise: “When The Saints Come Marching In” has made quite a few appearances.


Listen, I’m not a football fan. I was raised in the land of basketball, and that remains the only sport I truly understand and care about (besides anything in the Olympics, but that’s another post). However, I decided some time ago that when I need to declare an allegiance, I would choose the Saints, in part because I love New Orleans* and in part because I love how New Orleans loves them. I know people in other places love their teams, too — when I lived in Chicago, I really did see tables of men at Due’s murmuring sad “Da Bears” into mugs of beer — but New Orleans loves the Saints on a whole other level.

Chris Rose writes about it in 1 Dead In Attic (which you all should really read anyway). I just started tearing up all over again looking for a good quotation to share with you, but I think I’d better choose something before I fall to reading the whole book again. This is from a piece he wrote after the first post-K game, in the Superdome that so many of us outside NOLA associate only with shame and horror but that many New Orleanians think of also with love for its life-saving shelter, however imperfect (as Rose says elsewhere, “The toilets didn’t flush and there was no cold drinking water and not enough medicine, but toilets didn’t flush anywhere and there was no ice or medicine anywhere”). See, I can’t hold myself to one quotation, and don’t even get me started on the piece about the lady with the cats. Or the piano store. Where was I? Right:

The Saints are family around here and you’re stuck with them just like you’re stuck with, well…family?

The Saints are our crazy Uncle Frank, prone to off-color remarks and broken promises and he’s certainly not the guy you send to car pool to pick up your kids when you’re stuck at the doctor’s office, but you have to admit: holiday gatherings just aren’t as much fun without him.


It’s a long road home no matter what color glasses you’re wearing today, but there is something about waking up in a community that is thinking the same thing — if only for a moment — as if we had all just accomplished something together — when actually it was a bunch of millionaires whose names we hardly know.

I’m not trying to claim that I’m a supa-dupa Saint, but I wish I were, which is more than I can say for my feelings towards any other team.

Speaking of those millionaires, here’s another reason I’ll be wearing black and gold today (assuming I make it off the couch): Scott Fujita. I’ve heard quite enough about the Tebow Focus on The Family (Well Not YOUR Family) ad (though I encourage you to watch this response from Sean James and Al Joyner, who talk about honoring their mothers and daughters by believing in their ability to make medical decisions for themselves). I want to hear more about Scott Fujita, a Saints linebacker (and transracial adoption baby — he’s white; his family is part white, part Japanese: “I have no Japanese blood in my body. But I’m Japanese at heart.”) who has decided to use his time in the spotlight to champion gay rights. The whole interview is worth reading, but here’s part I though you all might find particularly interesting:

A year ago or two years ago, I remember reading about an initiative that was proposed in the state of Arkansas. It was some kind of measure that was aimed at preventing adoptions by single parents. Now, the way I read that and the way that I translated that language was that only heterosexual, married couples could adopt children. As an adopted child that really bothered me. I asked myself, what that is really saying is that the concern with one’s sexual orientation or one’s sexual preference outweighs what’s really important, and that’s finding safe homes for children, for our children. It’s also saying that we’d rather have kids bounce around from foster home to foster home throughout the course of their childhood, than end up in a permanent home, where the parent, whether that person’s single or not, gay or straight. Either way, it doesn’t matter. It’s a home that’s going to be provided for a kid who desperately needs a home. As an adopted child, that measure really bothered me. It just boggles my mind because good, loving homes for any child are the most important thing.

Oh, and he’s straight (and married) and — did I mention — a FOOTBALL PLAYER? (Yeah, they do call him a pinko commie in the locker room; he speaks up anyway.) Scott Fujita, you are my hero.

This post is near long enough, and I’ve got stamps to carve and roux to make. In conclusion:

*Shameless-but-proceeds-to-charity plug: You can read my love letter to the city in Submerged: Tales from the Basin. Buy the book, and I’ll tell you my seekrit identity, though I need for various reasons to keep my real name the hell away from this blog. I don’t get any money if you buy it — never did get any — but several organizations working on sadly-still-necessary post-K recovery will.