Bionic Mamas

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


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Items Gestational, For The Nonce

Dateline: 38 weeks, 4 days.

Item: I am still pregnant.

Item: I wonder if that will be true for much longer.

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The view from now

Item: Had a nice visit at the OB’s yesterday. Sweetly enthusiastic u/s tech kept enthusing during my BPP, making me feel a bit jaded in comparison. (Partly, I’ve been spoiled by the image quality at the high-risk place I go for growth scans.). She really was adorable, taking care to point out specific bones, to enthuse over how Jackalope was practicing breathing, “which they don’t do all the time so we don’t always get to see it!” Apparently both placenta and fluid levels are fantastic, or words to that effect.

After a rather too-lengthy wait for the OB portion of the visit (not because anyone was late but because there are few slots for BPPs, and this was the best we could do), a punchy and overtired Bean accompanied me back to the exam rooms, where he roll on the floor. Blood pressure up a bit, which I suspected as I’ve been having these darling little panic attacks, but not enough to worry anyone; weight down a bit. “Undress from the waist down,” said the nurse, and I said no, I’d wait to talk to the doctor before setting myself up for cervix rummaging, thank you. I do not remember that fondly at all, and have decided I am not submitting myself to painful procedures without good reason.

This, it transpired, was perfectly fine with Dr. White*, who came in wearing yet another pair of hip glasses. (Between my previous visit with her, this one, and my doula’s report of meeting her at a delivery, no repeat frames yet.) She agreed that there wasn’t much to do with the information except satisfy general curiosity and encourage me to go to the hospital quickly when labor starts if it happens that I am secretly already fairly dilated. “But,” she said, “that is already what you are planning to do, so it doesn’t matter.”

* Who is, point of order, not white. But I am into using fairly obvious nicknames this time around (why have I been protecting Dr. Russian and pals?) and the other obvious ways to alter her name are not nice.

I really like her. She was so encouraging about everything, saying she really thought everything was going to go well and I would do great and my birth plan looks good, too. She talked to me for a long time, wanting to hear again a bunch of details from my labor with the Bean, and here, gentle reader, is where she really won me over. I was describing the Horrible Cab Ride, and how even though it was Horrible, I was apparently at 4 cm both before and afterwards (leading to my point about how much better and faster everything went after the epidural, not matter what the books say). “It sounds like you were in transition,” she said.

Internets, I was floored. YES, that is exactly what I thought at the time. Everything about how I was feeling and acting was exactly how transition is described, except supposedly I wasn’t because transition is said to happen from 8-10cm. (This led to some real shock at the hospital when the resident said, brightly, “you’re at 4 cm!” not realizing I had been told the same four hours of agony previously. “WHAT??” I said, or perhaps roared. “Um, maybe four and a half,” she said, in a frankly adorable attempt to mollify me.)

When I told my mother about the transition confusion, she said the same thing (minus the cab) had happened to her when I was born, and that moreover, when she was in med school, they were taught that transition was a kind of labor, not a particular point in dilation. (In other words, maybe many people experience transitional labor in the 8-10 cm range, but that doesn’t mean the two are synonymous). Until Dr. White’s comment, I have never heard anyone with more recent training agree with that concept, and I can’t tell you how relieving it was to hear that maybe I am not crazy, and that did happen. Redeeming, that’s the word.

Anyway, yay, Dr. White. On the basis of nothing except our chat (which included how I’d thought I was going into labor last Thursday and then not and then that being able to walk to a restaurant two blocks away for my date (!) with Sugar on Monday made me think I was having a pre-labor burst of energy and then how I could barely sleep that night from pain because in fact I was not up to that walk and how I’ve been having these panic attacks, sometimes without even consciously thinking about anything that worries me), anyway, on the basis of that long parenthetical, she mentioned cheerfully several times how if I happened to go into labor in the next couple days, she would be on call. “Go ahead and make an appointment for next week, just in case,” she said. She almost rolled her eyes when I asked about their induction date policy. (It’s 41 weeks. I never bothered to ask before because I never expected this pregnancy to last longer than the Bean’s. But here I am, still knocked up.)

And then I went home. And then I lay on the bed in various kinds of back pain and contraction exhaustion for several hours, while the Bean covered me with stuffed animals and trucks. And then I lost a great deal of sleep last night in the same way, unisom notwithstanding, and had a pretty rough morning, to boot. And I am starting to wonder if she might be onto something.

At least we have made it to the lunar new year. The Bean and Sugar are both rabbits, you see, and I have been secretly hoping for a little horse, like me.

Oh, and post-scriptural Item: Thank you for your many kind and encouraging comments on the birth plan. I do want to clarify that many of the things you thought it was horrible to have to request are, in fact, standard at this hospital. I know from being there all but plan-less with the Bean that they always hurl the newborn onto your chest and assume you will all room together. (In fact, the dumb tour guide we had last time said that was mandatory, which sounded intimidating. That was only one of many things she was wrong about. The LCs at that place…I don’t have much good to say about the two I encountered last time. I plan to skip the whole business this time and just see the good one I eventually found in Brooklyn if needed. And my insurance will pay! Thanks, Obama!) As far as I know, non-gestational parents can hang with the baby post-caesarean. Nor do I think anyone’s penis gets automatically docked in the absence of a specified desired to leave the thing alone.

The yelling and so on — well, I certainly hope none of my providers would do such a thing. It’s just that I’ve been so wrong on that count before, and felt so helpless to do anything about it (or even, for a long time, to admit it had happened). Really, putting all that in was mostly an exercise in showing myself I could be an advocate for myself, taking control and all that.

I really do like and trust the OBs in this practice, as much as my twice-shy self can trust anyone. Even Dr. Smarm I think is probably okay, despite not being my favorite: she gets very good reviews online, and Dr. Ready seemed genuine when she assured me that, weird appointment or no, she would not do the things I fear. I feel a bit defensive on this point, partly because of my own history, but also because I often feel sort of demographically pressured to believe I should see midwives instead of OBs. I like midwives, in the abstract, but sometimes the praise of them necessitates a villain in a way I find problematic. Point of order, I have good reason to have chosen OB care, both times. I really like this hospital, and no midwives deliver there. The local midwifery practice everyone loves delivers at a hospital I do not love. The hospital with the fancy birth center and therefore more midwives is farther from our house, and the present cab ride is sufficiently long. In particular during my last pregnancy, I was thought to be at increased risk of needing a c-section, and I thought on the whole I preferred to know the person performing it.

This is part of a longer rant on the problems of birth activism’s concerning itself with abandoning medical systems in favor of options (midwives, home births) that may be great for many people but require, among other things, “good” health. Midwifery has a problem, in my ever humble etc., if hospital-based practices risk out patients for things like gestational diabetes. More to my point, it is not ultimately appropriate to advocate that “healthy” people abandon hospital care en mass as a primary response to problems in that care, inasmuch as removing the most privileged (in health but also, statistically, in race, class, and education) from the system, leaving those less well positioned to advocate for themselves stuck in a system activists would do better to improve. (Mind you, I am talking about activist rhetoric here; a given individual’s decision to have a home birth I have no ideological argument against.)

But meanwhile, my back hurts. I am going to take a bath.


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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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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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Tricycles and Gender

Sugar here. I haven’t written here in a while, but I’m thinking I’m going to try to get back to it, so here is a post:

I was on the playground with the Bean the other day, engaged in my usual playground activity, eavesdropping. This playground has a lot of donated, semi-broken toys, many of them plastic cars, rolling benches shaped like cars, and tricycles. The Bean was busy sitting on cars. He can do this for a very long time, just trying out what it feels like to have his butt on each vehicle, so I had a lot of time to sit and notice what else was happening near by.

A couple of feet to the right of the Bean was a mom trying to take a picture of her son, who was maybe three years old. He was rolling along on a pink and purple tricycle with silver streamers on the handles.

“Oh your daddy’s gonna love seeing you on that pink bike!” she said. She didn’t tell the kid to get off the bike, and she clearly didn’t think it was that big a deal, but there was still humorous disapproval in her voice.

What the hell? I thought. This woman, in addition to caring for a toddler, apparently also has to worry about the reaction of her husband to any, ANY, non-normative gender behavior in her son, including the sin of just thinking that an available tricycle is awesome and not shunning it because it is pink. Are men really this fragile?

Here is another example of this phenomenon. A colleague of mine has a son, who at the time of this story was four. She described to me the difficulty she had when she took him to buy pencils at the grocery store. He really, really wanted a particular packet of pencils, but they were Dora the Explorer brand and were purple (purple!) with glitter in the paint. She knew her husband would be very upset if he saw their son with those pencils. Unsurprisingly, the four year old didn’t think much of this argument. Now, I’m having a kind of emotional day here, but this story kind of makes me want to cry. JUST BUY THE FOUR YEAR OLD THE PURPLE PENCILS. Also, maybe leave your husband. Ok, maybe that’s a bit extreme, but COME ON.

One thing that is interesting to me about stories like this one (and I don’t have just one of these, I swear some woman or other tells me something like this at least once a month) is that they are always told in a sort of resigned and conspiratorial way, the subtext of which being, “I don’t really think this matters, but you know how men are. Too bad we are stuck propping up their masculinity and norming the hell out of our kids all the time, but it has to be.” My answer to this, if anyone ever said this out loud to me, which by the way they never will because they are so deeply embedded in their fun-house version of reality to be able to tease out the subtext of anything, would be, “You are not stuck doing that. You are choosing to do that. And your choice is based on things you think are important and real, but which are in fact trivial.” Fixed gender identity? Nope, not real. Your husband withering into a melted pile of horror-movie yuck when he sees his son wearing a pink garment? Probably not going to happen. What will the neighbors think? Sorry, but the neighbors aren’t really paying much attention.

So, Ok, I’m probably not the best person to play the resigned-and-conspiratorial card with. For one thing, I don’t have a husband. I’m not all, poor men and their egos! Being a feminine looking gay woman with a toddler gives me this bizarre window into straight-world thinking. Other moms forget that a) I don’t have a similar story about my husband not helping with whatever, and b) I do have a very different perspective on the necessity of shaping myself or my son according to societal expectations.

Here is a simple question I wish these moms would ask themselves: why is what my (not even present in the situation) husband thinks more important than what a) I think and b) my kid wants to do? Why is my husband worth protecting, and what am I protecting him from? Or, to be more charitable, why do I believe what I am saying/doing helps my child?

I suspect that the answer to this last question would be that all this norming helps the child learn how to not be teased, to learn (right now, at age 3!) to live in a world that expects and enforces cisgender behavior. I reject this. This is just wrong. It’s wrong on the small and immediate scale, in that purple pencils and pink bikes don’t really say anything about the gender of a 3 year old, so you are just making a big sad confusing deal out of nothing. It’s also wrong on the large and eventual scale, in that every time you label an activity or preference as ‘wrong,’ i.e. gender-nonconforming, you are teaching your child that he lives in a hostile world that judges him on the basis of how closely he can conform to a nonsensical ideal.

I find conversations with many straight moms (And I guess I should be clear here that at our local playground this means pretty, young, white, straight, married women with money – so basically people who’ve yet slam up against the ugly side of societal expectations or bias – just wait, ladies) so frustrating because it is clear that they don’t see their ideas about gender as ideas. Rather, those ideas are just part of the fabric of the reality that surrounds us, invisible and immutable. So there’s no conversation to be had. But there is. There is so much of a conversation that should be had about this, and people need to be having it before they raise another generation of sad people who are uncomfortable in their own skins.

BUY THE PURPLE PENCILS FOR GOD’S SAKE.

trike


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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.


24 Comments

A Quick Rant On A Fat Tuesday

Hi, loves.  Real post soon, at least some Items.  Things have been busy.  Short version: there is a Stomach-Flu Fairy, and I HATE HER.  All recovered now — please, please let this weekend’s horror-show be the virus the Bean already had — but suddenly it’s a teaching night and I just remembered how I was telling the students last week not to leave the reading until the last minute because in place of our usual 15-page story, I’ve assigned my beloved “A River Runs Through It,” which is beautiful and perfectly controlled and heart-breaking and over 100 pages.  And it’s been a few years for me, too.  Oops.

In the spirit of not getting my work done this morning, I wrote the following rant for a friend currently in the sleep-training trenches and feeling bad about herself, consequently, as one does.  Folks seemed to get a kick out of it, so I thought I’d throw it up here just in case you want to see me rave about something besides my vagina for once.  The self-sacrifice theme is in keeping with the coming fast, right?

 

Friend said:

Thanks for telling me I’m not horrible. But I have a hard time feeling that this is good for her. Deep within me beats the heart of a hard-core Dr Sears loving attachment parent.

 

I replied:

See, the thing that pisses me the fuck off about Dr. Sears is that so much of the supposed basis of his recommendations resonates with most if not all of us. We all want our children to feel loved and to love us; we all want to make healthy choices that lead to good outcomes; we all want to feel confident that working hard and being brave and strong will make everything turn out right. Then he takes those shared desires and turns them into massive guilt cudgels for following HIS rules, which may or may not be any better at making any of those things happen. I realize that my contempt for the man’s attitudes is well-established, but his answer to feeling exhausted by a baby who won’t sleep is, “adjust your attitude?” FUCK YOU, buddy.

Maybe I’m just an embittered and cynical ol’ feminazi, but i find it pretty interesting how much of the published and touted sleep advice of ALL kinds comes from *fathers*. Not at all to say that men can’t be knowledgeable or involved parents, but when the advice comes down to endless self-sacrifice for the primary caretaker — whether that’s Dr. Sears’s endless white night or Weissbluth’s command to NEVER be out of the house anywhere NEAR naptime — it makes me wonder whether any of these professionally successful gentlemen have really walked the walk.

I think that by any rational measure we waited plenty long to stop saying nothing but “yes” to every need and desire of the Bean’s. I also think that it’s not unreasonable to suggest that being able to self-soothe through the more wakeful moments that are part of every human’s sleep cycle is a useful skill, and while I’m not sure whether sleep training is teaching it, per se, or only allowing it to develop at a time when the baby’s brain is ready for that work, I don’t think it’s somehow automatically better parenting to ignore the situation.

Would your daughter know how to crawl if you never set her down? Certainly not. You didn’t teach her to do that, but you let her have the chance to learn, even if it meant bumping her head a few times. If crying a little is okay in that context, why not in this one?

If you like rants about sacred cows even better when they’re written thoughtfully and full of medical evidence, I highly recommend Good Enough Mum‘s parenting blog, Parenting Myths, Parenting Facts.  Good stuff.