Get Clucky!

Monday, February 28, 2005

Some Things I Saw

On Friday, b and I went to a movie downtown—I met him after work, we ate, saw a movie, and then met some friends at the Hungry Brain. All of this, of course, falls into the category of stuff that won’t happen for me after we are pregnant. Hnnr. (As a side note, over drinks, I commented that I think in some ways I drink more now than I have every before, and it was a funny moment because we could talk about that with our friends even though only b and I knew what, really, we were talking about. Privacy! It’s weird for me; these are good friends.)

Anyway, had I not already been thinking about motherhood, I would have been after the movie. It wasn’t, in fact, an actual movie; it was a showing of nine of the short films nominated for Oscars this year. Though these were all separate movies made by separate people, they did have an almost universal theme, and it was this theme that put parenting newly on my mind. The theme was: the world is bad, and the badness of the world can be poignantly revealed via the suffering of children. In the short films we saw, we saw children suffering in New Zealand, Korea, the Kashmir, and London. Somewhere else, too, I think. But the children suffering in London were the worst. Those children, four of them, were (the movie) the daughters of a really really young working class British mom who loved them very much but was too young to really be a good mother. She couldn’t manage basic mothering things like feeding them, for chrissakes, so when the only food in the house is some moldy bread she resorts to desperate measures like giving them A BAG OF SUGAR to share (“don’t eat it all!”) and then taking them to wait for hours in the parking lot of a pub while she spend her little remaining money buying beer for a boy she is trying to convince to like her.

This all goes on a shockingly long time, and is incredibly awful to watch, even though nothing ever really desperate happens (except a wasp crawling inside the babies mouth, but that works out okay too, sort of). B. and I both were sort of blown away by it; it won the Oscar and it deserved (as I said, one of a type, but a really good one). But even so, I felt a little manipulated by it. It made me think of how both my mother and mother-in-law are hyper sensitive to a lot of stuff—just no critical distance when it comes to the representation of children.

I myself find this a little irritating. I mean: buck up, right? Don’t spoil every one else’s narrative pleasure just because you want to put your deeply-felt maternal instincts on parade. And this movie—all these short movies, really, who play to an elite audience really interested in class guilt and guilt appeasement—were really interested in letting you put those instincts on parade. I could talk about this more, but it’s sort of beyond my main point and worry, which is this: what if I start to have those maternal instincts?

I always want to be above stuff like that. But it makes me wonder if there’s more integrity in having and expressing those feelings (and developing a feminism that has a meaningful place for them) or in working hard to put those feelings, if I have them, in perspective and realize that while I might need to be a protective mother the world doesn’t really need to care about that.

I don’t know.

Something else I saw this week: a realize amazing McDonald’s ad that featured a totally hot girl walking down the street being ogled by boys who are shocked to see, as she passes by, that whoops! She’s a mom; there’s a baby in her backpack. She walks on by, and they laugh good-sportishly to themselves. The joke’s sure on them! They thought a mom was hot, o ho! I’m lovin’ it!

The really tragic part was that McD’s clearly thought this ad would also appeal to women, who would be flattered to imagine being hot ogled moms. Good lord.

Friday, February 25, 2005

One other thing

I am spending too much time trolling the internet for local interesting birth classes/options. And I just want to say: there doesn't seem to be very much out there. What is the point in living in a progressive city like Chicago if there aren't an abundance of midwives and doulas and birth centers to choose from? Shockingly, I've found a lot more stuff in the suburbs...I guess because that's where people go when they are having kids. Oh, Urban Mothers, where are thee? Surely I am not the only one: I know you are here, because your children irritate and distract me when I am in coffee shops in the morning trying to work.

Anyway, hopefully I'm just looking in the wrong places, and once I actually get pregnant and am willing to talk about it with people (whenever that is) I'll find out about more resources. Because really folks, it still seems like "starbaby" is the best I have found. And that is just sad.

Why you should go to the Red Line, unless you are PREGNANT and can't

So I have lamented a couple of times here that now that my mind has gone through the bellyaching of deciding to have a baby, my =actual- belly seems to be dragging its…feet. Or something. I continue to find this tiresome.

That said, I am also a little glad about this womb foot dragging, because every time I do something, I think about not being able to do it anymore…when I am pregnant. For instance, lying on my back. Nope—can’t do that in the later months of pregnancy! And also, lying on my stomach. That will be out for the obvious reasons.

But the other big thing I will not be able to do once pregnant, and probably not very often once bebe arrives (and I can once again assume all sorts of normal lying down positions) is go to bars. And this is very sad for me, because I love bars. I like the kind where you wear jeans and sit around and drink Old Style, and these are often the smokiest ones which means that they will be the ones that are Right Out once I am prego.

The –only- good thing about the impeding departure of bars from my life is that now I have a very good excuse to go to them all the time—and a very good line with which to manhandle B. into going with me (he, sadly, does not particularly like bars, which makes me think that maybe he should be the prego-getting one).

Case in point: last night I wanted to go out to a bar, and b. said that we should not because it was late and we were tired and hadn’t we already been out to a bar this week? And normally he would win that argument, but not now! No! Because of the bebe, or the hope of it. I win! So off we go to the Red Line Tap.

And we are so glad we did, because, although we had forgotten this, Thursday night is Open Mic night at the Red Line. Had we remembered, we would not have gone b/c who wants to sit around listening to melodramatic folk singers do bad impressions of Ani DiFranco? I am so past that. But this turns out to have been a very special Open Mic, because the ani-impersonators were outnumbered, and indeed outplayed, by a series of large and chaotic musical outfits playing instruments like euphoniums and—I’m not kidding here—wash tub basses. In fact, one band (which turned out to be an ensemble band from the old town school) had TWO, plus a guy playing the spoons and a very cute girl with pig tails blowing on a whiskey jug. And like six other people banging on things like flower pots.

Also, the guy with the euphonium was wearing sort of a sequined choir robe.

The music was not –all- that (the junk yard ensemble, though very fun, had a hard time incorporating modern “microphone technology” into their act so they were a little hard to hear), and if you had gone to a performance theater night in college expecting to see some crazy-sequined-euphonium-shit, you would not have been blown away.

But since no one at the bar was expecting to see anything like this, the evening had an incredible energy. The whole haphazard audience (a typically “diverse” Rogers Park group of men with few teeth and the less hipster of the hippies) had its collective mind totally blown. It was fantastic. And I will definitely go back, and so should all of you. Unless, of course, you are pregnant. Then you can just hang-out waiting for me to sulkily join you in the not-going-out-but-also-not-LYING-DOWN excitement of your lives. I can just hardly wait.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

All About the Benjamins

I've decided something. If we have a child, and if it is a girl, I have decided what I will tell her. I will tell her: make shitloads of money. Pick a career that involves dollars and dollars and dollars, everyday, all day. But don't let it be stripping, because that can bite you in the ass later when/if you run for office. But make lots of dollars, because they will be very handy when/if you run for office. They will be handy when you want to do anything.

I have never been opposed to making money, as something I might do, but at the same time I have never really done it. I have also not really approved of people who picked a career with the explicit goal of making money in mind. “Personal enrichment” and “intellectual progress” and “world saving” have all been ambitions I admired; “money making,” just straight up and not as an accidental sidecar to an otherwise moral act of artistic genius, has never been high on my list of interests or approbation. I mean, money?

But now I see the light. The answer to all a girl’s problems is, indeed, money. And she should do her damndest to make it herself.

Here’s the deal—as I mentioned the other day, I am finding myself newly agreeable dropping the whole career thing to do some pretty serious mothering. I have been baffled by the fact that this idea is indeed agreeable to me: how did I consent to this? When did my long-standing ideas of myself just sort of flitter away with out my guardianship, like so many dollars donated to ATM fees?

I think it happened when I married someone who made about three times as much money as me, with the promise of making four times as much money as me within a couple of years. And I don’t know, probably about five times a few years after that if he doesn’t get irked working for the man and drop out to be a poet.

So with all this income coming in without any effort on my part, with all the condo buying and 401k investing without any labor from me, my labor has stopped seeming urgent. It just doesn’t feel like it really matters. What matters to our new little practice family is my flexibility—my ability to accommodate life to my husband’s much more lucrative schedule. And as long as I’m doing that…well, the rest of the time I can do what I want.

Which is very freeing, I must say. Without the pressure to like my job, without the pressure to excel in it, I get to think a lot more carefully about whether or not I do like it and want to excel in it, or maybe I just want to do something else entirely? Maybe I want to stay home and pluck away at the strings of a novel. Maybe I want to volunteer full time for NOW. Who knows? Might as well.

But this week I am feeling a little bad about it, a little cornered. It’s nice to feel a lot of freedom, but it’s not nice to feel that all your ambition really doesn’t matter, because what you might, through your ambition, actually accomplish won’t have much to do with the central life of your family (assuming that you really do value your family, very much). I don’t like to feel that my professional accomplishments, no matter how great, don’t really have very much pull with the overall course of my life because they just won’t be as great financially.

So, though I am not sure how to immediately apply this insight to my immediate plans and schemes, my own dreams of motherhood, I say: dollars. Earn them. They will be very good for you, and very good for your feminism.

Monday, February 21, 2005

life proceeds apace

I have no new news on babying, but I will say that it's an interesting thing to have decided to get pregnant and then to not be, yet. I had not anticipated this stage of the pre-prego experience. So for instance, my in-laws were here this weekend. I felt that we had a Very Big Secret to conceal from them--we have decided to have a baby! But in all ways not pill-related this is not at all new news, we've always planned on having kids. And for all I know, we're no more pysiologically prepared for baby-making than we were a month ago, because I can't imagine I've ovulated. So not much to say--at least, not much that we won't likely still be saying this summer.

But anyway, they came to visit. We went to the auto show. I have never wanted to go to an auto show, since I have never wanted to pay more than the mininum necessary attention to cars (as my mechanic can attest) but it was in fact a good time. I would like to say that I was torn between identifying with the mini (marker of my youthful hipsterness) and with the subaru station wagen (icon of my future urban-saavy momness) but it was not really a contest, I wanted the subaru, it is true. I only felt a twinge of hipster rearing its head when it was proposed that B. could have a mini and I could have the subaru, which did seem unfair and a harbringer of social inequalities to come. But we quickly agreed that we could both have both, actually, so that was okay.

The cover story on the NYT review of books yesterday was a review of a new book about mothering--I don't think I'll read the book, but I was struck by the reviewers sadly blase agreement with the basic claim that having kids, for a woman, really necessitates toning down the professional ambitions, because you're just not going to be perceived as the same career-minded person once the bebes come. This makes me sad, but it also makes me sort of shocked to realize how calmly I feel about the idea of sacrificing job for baby. Not to say that I am planning on doing so, but--I mean, we have a dog, I know I'm the only one who takes her to the vet, and I know what that means for how childcare duties will filter down in the future. Unless I suddenly become very wealthy or b's company takes up a suprisingly liberal paternity policy, when we have kids most their care will fall to me, and it will be up to me to fit in "career stuff" as I see fit.

I guess I'm just very startled to find myself at all okay with being a half-time or even full-time mom. It is interesting to get to know this new me! Her and I will have to work on our relationship a bit. I would say that it would be a good pre-pregnancy project except that the old me feels that my main pre-pregnancy project should be drinking heavily and staying out dancing until all hours. It's a hard call.

Friday, February 18, 2005

treading water

Just one little thought here.

It has been three weeks since I went off the pill, which is not very long. It is especially not very long when you consider that I went off the pill not really expecting to ovulate at all for three or four months, and not expecting to get pregant for probably a few months, at least, after that.

But man--I am getting antsy. It's like, I've decided already, I'm reading the books, I'm ready! Ready to go!

Now--where's my egg?

The fact that I have no idea how long it might take my historically reticent eggs to emerge makes me all nervous and frustrated. I think I could pace myself psychologically if I knew how long-ish I would have to wait. But the fact that ovulation could happen any time or no time is very hard to plan for.

thoughts on starbabies. for real, starbabies.

So today while walking my dog past the neighborhood organic foods store, I saw a flyer for a thing (a group? A school?) called “Starbaby Childbirth and Parenting Education.” I’m not usually interested in organizations that include words like “starbaby.” Starbaby? Really—any interest I might have had in astrology and universal oneness faded after age thirteen, and vanished completely after, you know, I started reading Freud. But because I am deathly afraid of caesarean sections and have a general interest in knowing more about non-hospital birth options, I picked up the flyer. I brought it home and checked out the website. And I thought to myself: if I get pregnant, and want a non-hospital birth, is “starbaby” lingo what I’m reduced to?

Nothing against the “starbaby” group, of course, I’m sure it’s grand, and since it’s local and accredited and stuff I’ll probably end up taking classes there myself. I suppose I shouldn’t judge them too quickly just because of the hippy trippy name “starbaby” (rendered, I might add, in a bad and hippy trippy font) and because their “starbaby” jingo carries into the names of their classes, such as “a star is born.” I can get used to that, I suppose, once I have a little “star” of my own.

Why must I get used to it? Because thus far, “Starbaby” is the best local pregnancy thing I have found—and by “best” I mean the only one that doesn’t focus almost entirely on insanely materialistic and suburban issues of maternity clothes and…I don’t know, storks. It seems the language of pregancy is really polarized between the extremely heteronormative (picture mother-to-be in sensible sweater-set reading Good Housekeeping) and the extremely new age (picture mother-to-be wearing a batik jumper reading How to Release the Goddess-Mother Within).

Between those two poles, I probably prefer the birth-experience of the godess-mother/starbaby group. I appreciate those folks for thinking that pregancy can be a cool, enpowering experience. But I have to say that I don’t really identify with them. And finding “Starbaby” stuff around the neighborhood really provokes my fear that for me pregnancy will be a profoundly lonely experience.

I know very few people who speak my language, as it were—people who are political, who are counter-cultural (whatever that means), who are earthy but also ironic—fewer still who would use that language to speak about pregnancy.

In some ways I suppose this points to a shortcoming in that language, one that bothers me and makes me feel a little lonely even when I’m not thinking about pregnancy. It’s like what everyone said about the intellectual/progressive left this election year: we haven’t yet found a way to be the contemporary intellectual left and also talk about values. Pregnancy is one “value”—one place of almost sublime experience—that we don’t yet have a very good way to talk about.

On the other hand, it seems to me that the discussion around pregnancy has a lot to gain from the lexicon of the intellectual left, the indi-rockers among us—a sense of the ironic, if nothing else.

So I guess this is to say that I’m willing to take a “starbaby” class and feel a little reverent and a part of something cosmic and magical and real. That sounds good to me. But I hope when I do, there’s someone to roll their eyes with me in the back of the class.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

it's like an illness, but it's a bebe

B. is sick this weekend. It is a revelatory downer. Having to do everything myself makes me think about doing everything myself…for a long time. It also makes me think about exactly how much I/we are going to have to do if there’s a bebe—because bebes are not sick, but they might as well be. And then they get all active and I suppose there’s even more to do then.

Anyway a couple of topics that occur to me:

1: Sickness.
I know nothing about sickness, really. When is a fever bad news? It’s baffling. And I think about my dog, and how many little ups and downs she has with her well-being, and I just imagine myself spending the first year of my child’s life on the phone with a nurse.

On the positive side, though, this was the first time ever in my life when I touched someone’s forehead and could tell that s/he had a fever. I’m sure that this means I am now totally ready to be a mom, because this is one of the magically mom skills—fever detection—that I never ever have had, and have worried about. So I am thankful that my husband got a 102 degree fever, because it has somewhat increased my confidence. Or whatever.

I had once voiced my concern about this to B.—not about detecting his fever, but just about my lack of the magical mom fever detection skill—and he pointed out that if our dog, with whom we are in pretty constant contact, suddenly changed temperature, then we would definitely know. This made sense to me, but I wasn’t actually comforted by this theory until I saw it in practice this weekend, with my husband and his changed temperature. I can say with confidence that it is very noticeable.

2: Staying in.
We are staying in. It is a downer. I mean, for real—last week were at the Empty Bottle arguing about whether the band name “Man Man” was just a bad rip-off of “Man… or Astro Man?” and this weekend we are shuffling back and forth between the living room and the bedroom; I took advantage of the spare time of Friday night to clean out my closet.

Is this what getting pregnant does to a girl? I mean, it’s different…you can go places with a belly or a bebe, even if that place isn’t the Empty Bottle…but there are some similarities. I friend of ours with a three year old couldn’t come to my b-day party because his daughter missed her nap and then fell asleep at 7:30. So he had to stay in and watch some teletubbies crap because that was the only DVD they had not already returned to netflix.

I am more or less ready to make these lifestyle changes, I think. But this weekend has been a little hard.

3. X-box

I think I should take it up. It has been B’s major form of entertainment through his illness, and the great part is that you can just talk to whoever else is on line. Also, the dog loves it because he stays in one place but is still sort of moving around interestingly and talking a lot. It seems to me this might be a good way to get through late pregnancy/early childrearing. X-box! But I am not really interested in any of the games I have seen thus far, and I still find the whole video game thing a little foreign and intimidating. But perhaps I should buck up.

4. Menstruation.

This really has nothing to do with B’s illness, I’m just thinking about it. I’ve been Off The Pill for two weeks now. I wonder when I shall ovulate? I have been planning on it taking months—my doctor said I should expect at least four, given my weird menstrual history and how long I’ve been on the pill—but I realize that I am a little antsy for something to happen, something to indicate that I have indeed gone OTP and my body is different now.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

sort of real

**this is out of order due to some blog merging issues.**

Today is the second day that I have decided not to take a birth control pill. This means that it is not really real yet—it’s still very easy to go back. My body won’t start controlling it’s own births for a while—maybe a long while. But I have four days, four days total, to change my mind without anything really stressful happening hormonally.

It makes the decision seem undecided some how—which makes it harder because it’s easier to doubt myself. Today is not at all physiologically different than any other day when I’d forgotten to take a pill.

B. and I are trying to make it seem different, and more real, by putting my pills into a box instead of in to me. As a wedding present we got an amazing box made out of a solid piece of Lapis Lazuli. We have loved it in a vague and museum-like way—we agree it’s real cool, but have just sort of left it around to get dusty. But now it’s holding my pack of birth control pills, maybe my last pack for a while. And in the packet the dial is turned to yesterday’s bill, the pill we decided that I wouldn’t take.

We went to the bookstore yesterday to find books about babies and bodies. A frustrating process, maybe more so even than looking for good wedding-planning stuff, because babies are so much more important than weddings (though the books are less frilly, necessarily, because even the girly ones have to talk about poop and hemorrhoids and getting fat and engorged nipples).

Also, it’s different for me because we were both decided that our wedding would be for both of us. Despite the big white dress aspect, it seemed clear that we wanted to share the wedding and the decisions, etc.

And it’s hard to be that clear about a baby. The boobs and the womb are mine, finally, and it doesn’t matter if B. is really more comfortable with the freakish pregnant nipples than I am—I am the one who will get the freakish nipples no matter how much we do or don’t use them.

The book we decided on buying has lots of photos of different women being powerful and womanly and birthing—things I like—and every time I look at them my stomach turns over. And I think about not being able to lie flat on my belly and it all seems very worrisome. I don’t know how I’ll know myself.

There weren’t books about the deciding to get pregnant thing, really, at least not in the pregnancy section. Maybe in the abortion section? Books about getting pregnant stop talking about decisions or professional negotiations after chapter one…there’s a week by week guide but they don’t say things like “around week three, don’t plan a meeting with your advisor because you will be very weepy and they will loose all respect for you” or “by about week 36 even your advisor will stop condescending to you because by then you will for sure look like a MOM, but they might not want to talk about books with you either. They will want to talk about the BEBE.” They don’t say “by week 38 you will be deathly tired of talking about the BEBE and deathly tired of being prego but don’t wish prego away! No! because at least prego is house trained, and once the BEBE actually is there, man, it’s shit city, and for real no sleep, worse even than it is now when you can’t lie on your stomach.”

Maybe they don’t fully need to say those things because I can already guess them. But I’d like to think about them more. The idea of pregnancy makes me fabulously humble. I don’t know how I’ll feel, what I’ll want. I think for me it will be like going to Burning Man the first time, and spending a week in the dust storms, and learning to take pleasure in how little I was by comparison.

But that’s a rosy place to put what really is a very stressful proposition—being a part of a different generation, a different sort of me with priorities that are practically, if not theoretically, very very different. What a lot of work!

Monday, February 07, 2005

one week out

Have now been off the pill for one week. I have two things to say about this: first, I swear my tits have shrunk, and second, my libido has been doing the hormonal equivalent of climbing Mount Everest. That's a little embarrassing for me because I like to think of myself as a sexually well actualized person, and to think that I'd been placidly going along with a chemically depressed sex-drive is a little weird—especially because two years ago I did think that my birth control was getting to me, and so "fixed" the problem by changing to another pill. I had memories of a more, um, "perky" sexual existence, but had more or less attributed that to some combination of youth and having something to prove.

O, it is a sad day—the day you realize that the "medical industrial complex" has depleted your sex drive and then convinced you that it was all because you were soooo matuuure.

But maybe not, maybe it's just a temporary thing because I'm so hormonally flux-tastic right now.

The new "lets have sex-again!" me is making the rest of me even more interested in spending some time, pre-baby, off the pill. I read a book a couple summers ago (Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver) in which several of the characters were biologists and they all talked a lot about pheromones and ovulation. It made me sad to realize that I had not ovulated since I was 19, and only rarely before then. What if I spent my single years deprived of my greatest sexual attractiveness and my greatest sexual appetites? It would be a crying shame. All that time, I could have been going around bowling people over just by smelling right.

But on the other hand, lets not get too down on birth control here. I was just talking to my mom about how she literally can not conceive (heh) of how miserable she would have been without birth control; how she would have had ten children and then a collapsed uterus and then also no career and probably, at the end of it, no interest in sex (which, it was implied, would have deprived her of one of her greatest life joys. my mom is –very- sexually actualized; it's a stressor). I don't trust my fertility enough to think that I would have had quite such a hard time of it, but I don't know. And I can say with some confidence that without birth control I probably would have gotten pregnant with The Wrong Guy, my college boyfriend, and that would have SUCKED. Sucked. I can't imagine.

All girls should be on birth control until they're at least 25. That's not a new idea, but it's one I'm feeling particularly keenly these days.

Anyway: now I get to be all spry and fertile for a while with The Right Guy, and hopefully we won't get knocked up too fast for me to enjoy it.

That said, babies are starting to seem more straight-up fun and less an existential responsibility, which had been the major motivator for the baby-now movement in our family. So I hope we don't get pregnant too soon—but I also hope it doesn't take too long.