How is it possible almost six weeks have passed and I haven’t chilled you to the bone with my How I Had My Baby story? Well, grab your warmest blanket and a mug of hot chocolate, kidlets, because here we go.
Thanks to an incredible series of classes with doula and midwife-assistant Shara Frederick and some serious book learnin’, both on the subject of childbirth itself and, more broadly, on the question of what kind of parent I didn’t want to be, I felt reasonably prepared for what was to come. (As part of that intelligence-gathering effort, I reviewed a couple of the Bad Mommy Memoirs I plowed through for Cheek Teeth: Are You My Mother? and Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal?) I knew it would be difficult, especially for someone with so little experience dealing with enduring pain, but I also knew that putting it off wouldn’t make it any easier. So BRING IT ON, said I.
It was like shouting at the ocean. The baby had her own plan. In accordance with that plan, I found myself a week later still pregnant, still awkward and sore and quite tired of the ten-month gestation process. My “What to Expect” app had run out of even semi-useful tips and had started preparing me to “Start losing the baby weight!” First I need to lose the baby, I growled.
In an effort to lose it — or, more specifically, to loose it — on my due date, Monday, Sept 10, I got a prenatal massage from the fabulous folks at the Providence Day Spa on Atlantic Avenue and then ate a brownie the size of a cinder block.
I’m not sure which was more delicious.
By the time I was done, the contractions were both noticeable and regular, and the birth team stood ready: Mr. Ben with his catcher’s mitt out, Charrow in a rubber apron and gloves. We expected the early stages of labor to be rather slow-going, since it can often take at least half a day to make significant progress. But again, the baby had her own plans. After just a few hours, the contractions had gotten stronger and closer together enough that Mr. Ben called the midwives and the midwives said head to the birthing center.
CONTRACTIONS. MIDWIVES. BIRTHING CENTER. There’s been an infant cooking in my belly or dangling from my breasts for almost a year now and I still can’t believe this is my life. [/end note]
We gathered the ten bags of stuff we had put aside to bring to the hospital, called a car, and got to Methodist at about 8:00 PM. The pain was still manageable; everyone was excited; it seemed like perhaps the baby could propel herself out that very night and avoid the trauma of having her birthday forever synonymous with national tragedy.We all squeezed hands and waited for the midwife to come in.
There were five women in the midwife practice, and whoever happened to be on call when I went into labor would be my sherpa for this arduous, uncertain journey. Five women, and I really liked four of them. Any one of them would be fine; I wasn’t picky! Just, please, I told Mr. Ben, not Grumpy Gail — she had the bedside manner of a 12-year-old boy.
Naturally, the midwife on call was Grumpy Gail, giving my laboring body a choice to make. Should I keep barreling forward and aim to have the baby on September 10th, or throw the process into reverse and (probably) have the baby on September 11th with one of the others? The decision was made before I was even conscious of what it meant. My labor shuddered to a halt. Grumpy Gail sent us home with instructions to drink some wine, get some sleep, and come back in the morning.
Unfortunately, it turned out, the baby could only be put off for so long. About an hour after I tried to go to bed a contraction woke me with the force of a sledgehammer. It was followed in short order by another contraction, and another, both of which made the contractions of the evening — even the ones that sent me to the birth center — seem like cuddly embraces. There was no going back to sleep; no vineyard on earth had ever made wine strong enough to help me now. But what could we do? If we went back to the birthing center, we would have to put our trust in Grumpy Gail to see us through, and that was why we had left in the first place.
We decided to tough it out until dawn, when we figured the shift change would bring another midwife. What I didn’t fully grasp was that I was also electing to go through what would turn out to be a night of back labor at home without any kind of drugs. Back labor. At home. Drug free.
That, friends, is where our story really gets going. Stay tuned for Part Two!
Thank God for What to Expect When You’re Expecting! Without their daily emails, I would only spend one out of four minutes every day worried about body image and the bizarre physical manifestations of pregnancy; thanks to their constant carping on issues of weight, however, that increases to one out of three.
Here are some other [points] that might motivate you to keep your eye on the scale — and your hands out of the cookie jar (unless, of course, you’ve wisely stocked the cookie jar with soy chips).
Reader, I love you, and I even love potato chip substitutes, but if you keep a cookie jar in your house filled with soy chips, I will plant a bomb under your carriage and you will go up in flames like Archduke Ferdinand.*
*Fascinating historical note: the Archduke never did go up in flames. I just learned, doing some cursory research, that although bombs were thrown at Franz’s carriage, the assassins were incredibly inept, and none of the bombs managed to do the intended damage.
According to Wikipedia, “The motorcade passed the first assassin, Mehmedbašić. Danilo Ilić had placed him in front of the garden of the Mostar Cafe and armed him with a bomb.Mehmedbašić failed to act. Ilić placed Vaso Čubrilović next to Mehmedbašić, arming him with a pistol and a bomb. He too failed to act. Further along the route, Ilić placed Nedeljko Čabrinović on the opposite side of the street near the Miljacka River arming him with a bomb. At 10:10 am, Franz Ferdinand’s car approached and Čabrinović threw his bomb. The bomb bounced off the folded back convertible cover into the street. The bomb’s timed detonator caused it to explode under the next car, putting that car out of action, leaving a 1-foot-diameter (0.30 m), 6.5-inch-deep (170 mm) crater, and wounding a total of 20 people according to Reuters.
Čabrinović swallowed his cyanide pill and jumped into the Miljacka river. Čabrinović’s suicide attempt failed as the cyanide only induced vomiting, and the Miljacka was only five inches deep. Police dragged Čabrinović out of the river, and he was severely beaten by the crowd before being taken into custody.”
Franz was shaken up but all right. He went about his business, complaining a little (and who can blame him?) about the attempted murder. Then, however, he echoed the mistake made by so many heroines in horror movies: HE WENT BACK INTO THE HOUSE. Er, well, car, in this case. That is like if the bullet had missed JFK and he decided to just keep joy-riding through Dallas to feel the wind in his hair. Sure enough, that decision was the death of him and the start of World War I: he was shot to death on the road.
Back to fat and how bad it is. Perhaps you were unaware, you fat fatty, that fat is bad, perhaps because you missed your regularly scheduled Fat Shaming Class or didn’t you do your reading on the Obesity Epidemic. Let’s go over the high points, shall we?
Excess weight gain increases your risk for developing hypertension and diabetes — both of which make your pregnancy much harder to manage, while creating risks for your baby. The heavier you are, the more likely your baby is to be larger, increasing the odds that a vaginal delivery will require the use of forceps or vacuum. That’s if you can deliver vaginally at all, since being overweight increases your chances of delivering by C-section — which makes for a more difficult recovery after your baby is born.
Obesity and ongoing health issues: Gain too much weight and you’re likely to retain twice as much after your baby is born than you would have if you gained within the guidelines. And if you think all you need is time and willpower to lose the extra fat, research has weighed in with a different idea: Women who gain excessively and don’t lose the extra weight within six months after the birth are at a much higher risk of being obese ten years later. Obesity often leads to significant health issues, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease.
YOUR FAT WILL LEAD TO DEATH AND SHAME, not necessarily in that order, so get it together, you fat fatty! What defines a fat fatty, by the way? So glad you asked. “If you’ve been instructed to gain the standard 25-to-35-pound total in your pregnancy [i.e., by 22 weeks, or five-and-a-half-months], by this week you’re likely to have gained anywhere from ten to 16 of those pounds.”
Here is a picture of Nicole Ritchie at around 22 weeks. If that represents a weight gain of only 10-16 lbs, I’ll buy a hat just so I can eat it.
What to Expect is saying you should strive to be thinner than NICOLE RITCHIE. And look at that picture! You can still see her ribs!
Say you haven’t managed to restrict your gain to only 10-16 lbs at this stage of pregnancy. What should you do to avoid the terrible fate outlined above? Now that you’ve larded your body with all this extra fat that’s going to ensure that you’ll have a C-section and be obese forever until you die young and your corpse has to be airlifted out of your bedroom with a crane, how can you rid yourself of those pounds? TOO BAD, SUCKER. You can’t. As the email goes on to note in a parenthetical, “losing weight is always a bad idea when you’re pregnant.”
Thank you, What to Expect. I will be forwarding all further correspondence to the dumpster, where it belongs. In the future, I will be getting my health news and information from Gretchen Reynolds and the NYT.
NOTE: Because I am as vain and neurotic as the next person, I feel the need to mention that I have not actually gone off the deep end, weight-wise. But what if I had? Or what if I do soon? What if other people getting this email have been trying their hardest and yet have been putting on more weight than they would have liked? These kinds of emails are gross and unhelpful. Fat shaming is not productive, not even when it comes from a “good” place, as these pieces of advice ostensibly do.
Pregnancy has turned me into a baby. For stretches of time, all I want to do is eat, sleep, and cry. My needs feel impossible to articulate, so I wave my tiny fists in the air with impotent frustration, until someone holds me and I sniffle a little and am comforted.
Who said “second childishness” comes only with old age? (That’s a rhetorical question: I know who.)
“At 18 weeks pregnant, your baby is hitting the height chart at five and a half inches long and weighs about five ounces (the weight of that boneless chicken breast you’re making for dinner).”
Hahahahha yes! Boneless chicken breast! That’s exactly what I’m making for dinner, because I am a non-vegan, fetus-carrying version of Gwyneth Paltrow. No way will I be stumbling home from the gym and heating up some frozen Trader Joe’s entree in the microwave. Similarly, no way did I go to Five Guys for lunch today to satisfy a serious craving for french fries.
My favorite “What to Expect” tidbit was actually meant for the male half of the couple, and it said, “Soon you’ll see whether she’s carrying Daddy’s Little Princess or Daddy’s Little Slugger.” These were the options! I was like, man, what if I want a Jewish baby? Or at least one that’s not quite so aggressively gendered? Why not just tell me I get to have either a He-Man or a She-Ra?
Speaking of gender, people keep misusing that word. No one wants to say “sex,” possibly because it will remind me of what got me into this pickle. So people insist on asking, “When will you find out the gender?” I’m tempted to answer, “Oh, when squee* is in middle school, maybe, or goes through puberty–whichever comes first.” Since I’m not an asshole, though, and because being outraged all the time is exhausting, I answer the question they mean to ask and tell them, At the Week 20 Anatomy Screening, coming up soon!
It will be pretty exciting, if only because Mr. Ben and I get to narrow down names. No, I’m not sharing the options as they currently exist. Okay, fine, but keep it a secret, okay? We’re thinking Vanilla Lacrosse Galynker for a boy (“Nill” for short) and Raisinette Aloha Bloom for a girl. Or vice versa, whatever.
Back to the point: I have become a baby–selfish, emotional, needy, uncommunicative–but the world, sadly, is not baby-proofed. I still have to ride the rush-hour Q train every day, pressed up against people who are singing along to whatever’s playing too loudly on their iPods. Meetings at work are still mandatory. (Sadly, I can’t suddenly shout, “The baby doesn’t like it!” and walk away from unpleasant situations, as one good friend suggested.)
And art is not a reliable escape. Anne Lamott’s new memoir about becoming a grandmother, Some Assembly Required, could have been an adorable, stress-relieving bedtime book. Instead, its vivid, horrific description of pregnancy, labor, delivery, and early motherhood sent me down a panic spiral last night that left me hyperventilating on the floor by the bathroom. And the intense Iranian drama A Separationis a great film, but its plot hinges on a 2nd-trimester miscarriage. (Surprise!) I gotta improve my screening process.
Just over 17 weeks down; 23-ish to go. There’s still time to get the hang of things.
All right, let’s say you — grown, responsible, possibly partnered, somewhat solvent person — have agreed to have children. (HYPOTHETICALLY.) They’re important to have for various reasons: in case you need a kidney later in life, or a loan, or someone to spring you from jail because they feel obliged to. Your parents can also serve these functions but only for the term of their natural lives.
So! How many, then, should you have? Some people wing it but I think a decision like this should be well-thought-out and based on logic.
A) 1 child
CONS: Only children are brats. Some only children will bristle at this information and tell you it’s not true, but some only children are also known to be liars and also to think rather well of themselves, presumably because they do not have any siblings to keep their egos in check.
PROS: Cheaper! Easier. More portable. Best parent-to-child ratio (2:1)
NOTABLE ONLY CHILDREN: Natalie Portman, Robin Williams, FDR, Frank Sinatra, Alan Greenspan, Chelsea Clinton, Ella Fitzgerald
B) 2 children
CONS: If you produce one good kid, you could chalk that up to luck. If you produce two good kids, it’s tempting to become a snooty, self-righteous prick who thinks they have it all figured out. Also it’s tempting to dress the two kids in matching tennis outfits and have them pose for the cover of the J. Crew catalog.
On the other hand, if one child is good and the other bad, the good child inevitably becomes resentful of all the time & attention lavished on the bad one.
PROS: Having two kids is optimal for your health. “Too few or none at all, and they are at increased risk of dying from almost all of the conditions studied, perhaps because they lack the extra motivation to look after their health. But too many, and they struggle to cope with the financial and emotional stress of bringing up a large family. Having two children, however, is just right, the journal Social Science & Medicine reports.” — That’s reasoning right out of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”!
Two girls, specifically, if you can manage it. Harmony! Hair-braiding! “Helping around the house!” (Ew.) But doubling it up doesn’t mean double the fun: for some reason, four girls is poison: “Families with four girls were the least happy, according to the study.” Doesn’t that seem a bit weird? After all, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy did all right.
If you do have only girls, though, the father is more likely to leave. It is true that Marmee spent a suspicious amount of time as a single-parent, and Mr. Bennett, God knows, was not happy. Would Tevye have skipped if he were able to? Questions for the ages.
Also, two gives you a bit of an insurance policy in case the first one is rotten and/or refuses to donate that kidney.
CONS: At this point, it probably helps to have a house, or even, ideally, a bed-and-breakfast.
PROS: A big, happy family! Or, more likely, a realistic view of life. Even if you first two were good, what are the odds the third will be too? If the third indeed is less good, then you’re brought back to earth and can go around with a humbled, penitent smile, apologizing for all the bragging your first children made you do. Then your friends will once again take your calls.
NOTABLE PRODUCTS OF THREE CHILDREN FAMILIES: Ayn Rand (oldest of 3 girls); Bart, Lisa, and Maggie Simpson; Alvin and the Chipmunks; the Chipettes; the kids from “Full House”; me
D) More than 3 children
CONS: You’re contributing to global warming.
PROS: Well, you’re definitely hedging your bets.
NOTABLE PRODUCTS OF FOUR CHILDREN FAMILIES: Paris Hilton (oldest of 4)
I’ll have your babies! Let’s mash our eggs together (science, you know, whatever) and I’ll take care of the resulting children. You can see them whenever you want!
This may sound forward of me. After all, you don’t know who I am; in fact, I could be the kind of 5’7″ blond, sweet, well-adjusted lady who would scar a kid for life, if that kid were like you. But I’m not! I’m short and wry, and I read too much Dorothy Parker when I was 12 to ever have a normal outlook on life.
I’m Jewish, which is like being Greek, I imagine, since most of what I know about being Greek comes from reading David and Amy Sedaris, and they are Brothers Of Another Mother to us Jews.
I live in Brooklyn Heights, one of only a few select city neighborhoods ruled entirely by baby carriages. It is a perfect environment to raise children: there’s a kids’ gym and a kids’ spa and a toy store and a fancy cupcake place and a farmer’s market and right across the river there’s Manhattan, where the beautiful people live.
As you can tell, I’m wordy, like you, and over-educated, but I am made almost entirely of cleavage, so I was also designed to be maternal. My husband’s nice too! He’s a big fan. If he could have sex with you once, even with lights off and most clothes on, that would make him really happy.
The bottom line is, the world needs more of you, Tina. I know you’re doing all you can — the show, the movies, the upcoming book — but you’re only one person, after all. You have limitations. Maybe if I expose our babies to radiation they’ll have no limitations, like superheros!
Take your time. I’ll be fertile for a while yet (I think).
I mean, I *like* Baz. I own his Red Curtain trilogy — Romeo & Juliet, Strictly Ballroom, Moulin Rouge — box set. And even I know that is a terrible idea on par with an all-cat ballet production of “Hamlet.”
My award for the person who should most be ashamed of themselves is none of the above. Of Qaddafi, as my old co-worker Adam astutely pointed out, no more could be expected. Limbaugh has been burbling offensive nonsense for too many years for us to suddenly take umbrage now. And Baz? Well, at least he’s taking artistic chances, and at least he’s offering us the fascinating Michelle Williams as Daisy.
My award goes to Modern Love contributor Andrea Askowitz who succeeded, this weekend, is publishing the most smug, sexist, cringe-inducing piece of narcissism I have seen in a long while. In it, she describes her efforts to snare “a young wife,” one with, she specifies, “big breasts. A pretty face is nice too.”
But she’s not shallow! Far from it. She’s overeducated. Quoth she:
Scientists have discovered that the lower the body’s waist-hip ratio (medically known as the WHR), the more attractive the woman. Marilyn Monroe, for example, had a 0.7 WHR, meaning her waist was 30 percent smaller than her hips. Salma Hayek and the Venus de Milo also have small waists relative to the size of their hips.
I didn’t know any of this at the time, but I would find myself walking along Lincoln Road on South Beach, where I’d notice a woman between the ages of 18 and 35 spilling out of the top of her dress. She’d pass by and I’d turn to leer at her behind. If it was big, I’d have an uncontrollable urge to club her over the head and drag her to my fertility cave.
I wasn’t objectifying women. I was a woman of science.
Anyone out there want to vomit with me? We could make a party of it. I’ll go, then you’ll go, and then we’ll admire the newly splatter-painted carpet. Because this offensive, unselfconscious blathering goes on.
Once she tracks down the nubile-seeming future mommy, *she* wants to do the inseminating.
“Can I do the insemination?” I asked.
Before the nurse answered, Victoria said, “I don’t think you can do that.”
I felt clubbed in the head.
MY moment was now and the woman I loved — my woman with childbearing hips — was thwarting my destiny.
“My woman with childbearing hips.” Her woman! Who is there to serve her needs! Who dares to have opinions of her own about how her own body should be treated!
This is all about power and control, where the woman who has the sperm — who, btw, seems to have the most serious case of penis envy I’ve ever seen in real life — gets to make the decisions. If she actually thought it would be hot to do the turkey-basting, all Andrea had to do was ask her poor girlfriend IN ADVANCE, and not wait until GF was stretched out naked and uncomfortable and cold and with a nurse looking on. I can’t think of anything more awkward than fighting with my partner in that position; of course she gave in rather than continuing to argue.
Andrea gets everything she wants–first, her “top pick” sperm, baseball-playing, college-educated, mother-loving man juice (10 vials at $250 each), which produces one child; then, a wife & mommy with a perfect waist-to-hip ratio willing to be impregnated by that sperm; and finally, getting to do the impregnating herself. And she writes about her triumph in the New York Times!
Comfort comes from one source, anyway: Hubris of this magnitude is exactly the kind of thing that makes the gods snort with laughter.
This contender for “best comment ever” appears on a Gray Lady article called “The Mommy Penalty,” documenting the damage done to women’s salary prospects after they take off time to have kids. Doctors fare better than MBAs; PhDs fall somewhere in the middle. Starbucks employees? Who cares? Not the NYT!
But that’s not important right now. What’s important is, this man (who sure does love his exclamation points!) has probably never spent several hours pacing in the dark while carrying, and singing to, an inconsolable infant who is squalling and leaking fluids onto his shoulder.
If I had to choose between repeating that night I spent babysitting a six-month-old and “material riches,” you’re damn right I would dive for the MBA — or the MBA, or the PhD –, and so would he. I mean, if the tedious, thankless work of keeping babies alive is “priceless,” why the hell doesn’t he do it?
Judging by the resounding silence that greeted his comment — if you listen hard, you can even hear cyber-crickets! — the Gray Lady’s fan base agrees with me.
Going in, my assumption was that my brain would be roughly 130% female because I’m told my body shape, baby-face, and negligible amounts of body hair correlate strongly with having more estrogen than a soybean field. There are other stereotypical reasons I would think so, too: I am hyper-verbal but scared of numbers; I am equally indifferent to cars and sports, unless there is a narrative to follow (or, failing that, something pretty to admire); and at times I hate myself, as female-type people are wont to do.
Speaking of which, I watched the Oscars Sunday night. The best parts of the ceremony, in order:
2) The Horror montage, perfectly described by David Rees: “Kill Everyone with your Chainsaw … the Dolls are Alive … Dreaming of Murder … Blood and Gore Will Cleanse Your Soul … The Baby is Satan … I break your feet … eat a rat for dinner … big-ass freaky ears and eyes … Frankenstein wants a kiss … the Headless Horseman rides again … Alfred Hitchock’s “Too Many Birds” … screaming and yelling … people staring at each other …long hallways with kids in ‘em … I see dead people … bloody monsters that you have to kiss … blood coming out of elevators … rats and mucus … mouths and teeth … AND THAT, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, IS HORROR.”
1) The fact that Bigelow won for Best Director and then got to win again for Best Picture. The audience understood the moment Barbara “Liberal Jewish Feminist” Streisand walked out to present the first of those awards that Bigelow was going down in history, but the second win was still a happy shock. As Dana Stevens put it,
it’s unbelievably gratifying to see a woman who does fine, small-scale work triumphing over a man who erects massive monuments to his own vanity. Bigelow’s victory makes it seem like hard work is worthwhile, because someday someone will recognize it, no matter how loudly that asshole at the center table is talking about himself.
I quibble with the idea that the Hurt Locker is “small-scale.” Um, it’s a war movie. It’s about men and guns and battle and heat and exhaustion and explosions. Did I mention men? I don’t think there is a single speaking woman in the whole thing. We’re not exactly talking about a well-mannered Jane Austen adaptation here.
I do love the fact, though, that in two speeches Bigelow got around to thanking “firemen” (!) and still didn’t slip in a reference Cameron, her ex-husband and co-front runner. Didn’t you expect her to mention him, at least? To say some cursory “thank you” for … I don’t know, something? At least I would assume that would be the gracious, self-effacing, feminine thing to do.
Back to the point: how did I fare at the gender test?
Part I was a look at spatial understanding, something about lines and angles. “If you scored 18 – 20: You have more of a male brain [emphasis added]. On average, men outperform women in this task and those with more mathematical knowledge tend to score quite high as well. In past studies, 60 per cent of the people in this range were men.”
Well, that’s a shocker! But it may be an outlier. How about Part II, which is more about objects changing position? “If you scored between 0 – 33%: You may have more of a male brain. Scientists say men tend to under perform in this task. The corpus callosum, the part of the brain that links the right and left hemispheres, is a fifth larger in women. This means women can process visual and other signals at the same time more easily than men. There is also a theory that oestrogen levels in women give them an added advantage in spatial memory.”
Sorry, test. I scored low because I was afraid to make a mistake (points were deducted for incorrect answers as well as awarded for correct ones). All of the things I guessed, however, were right. I played it safe. What’s more female than that?
Still, it was kind of exciting to be seen as male for two questions. Then the test took a turn for the physiognomical: It wanted to me actually gauge my hands, which betrayed me. My empathy & sensitivity to emotion results, which came next, were off the charts. Though I have a better-than-average appreciation for systems (for a girl), I suck at mentally rotating shapes. I must have been asleep the day they covered that in school. Oh wait! Just kidding — they never taught us how to do that. Is this one of those “innate” IQ things?
I screwed myself by knowing significantly more synonyms for given words than either men or women are supposed to know. Come on! The word for that is not “female,” it’s “dorky.”
To add insult to injury, the test insinuated that I am a lesbian by pointing out I like men with “feminine” faces. (Ha!)
And so I ultimately come in exactly as “female” as the average woman taking the test. Go skew their results, would you, please? Man, it sucks to be average.