Archives: crap you don’t need

Life with Pollyanna

It’s been one of those weeks, where you arrive on Friday sweating and shaking and gripping onto the side of the week with ragged fingernails and white knuckles, just hoping to slide into the weekend intact.

The toddler’s teething. Which means if he lets you sleep for more than say two hours in a stretch, you’re laughing. Or at least able to form coherent sentences, or something like that. Up every hour, most nights.

So this morning, after battling peak traffic both-ways across town to drop my hot car to the air-conditioning magicians, and then into the city, baby sleeping in the back,* Daddyo says to me, “Look on the bright side” as I’m sitting there, exhausted, wondering if I’ll risk another coffee or if it will just make me super anxious. If it will make me nervy-shaky, not just tired-shaky.

Stuck in the enough-not-quite-enough caffeine limbo …

… with tired eyes, sore eyes that make me feel as if there’s someone pinning my lids back, Clockwork Orange style, but with pure chlorine being dripped in.

And Pollyanna says, “Well he slept from 1:30 and 4:30 this morning, that’s about three hours straight sleep last night, that’s good, isn’t it?” all sparkly and fresh-like.

And I say,

“No, it fucking isn’t.”

 

*Baby-sleep in car! Wasted sleep opportunity!

Just dropped a container of defrosted taco mince across the kitchen floor. Freshly mopped yesterday, that floor was.

This is what comes from attempting to be organised.

Cate Blanchett, on any day

In the morning, someone says, “Those sunglasses are cool. They make you look like Cate Blanchett… on a bad day.”

Later, the young supervisor at pilates plays something by One Direction. It’s unfamiliar. Then, something else: “Surely you’ve heard this one.”

Nope.

“I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t know One Direction,” she says.

I’d say this day was one full of compliments.

Permanent birth control: tied up in knots

Knots

Dr Atticus is jaunting around Europe on his annual sojourn, so I’m to see a locum for my regular check-up.  I get an inkling of the type of appointment we’re in for when he asks for my sample jar. I don’t think anyone has asked for my “wee wee” in four decades.

It does make me wonder, this certain generation of obstetricians who really don’t seem to like women, who patronize them at best. (I’m oldish, too, Imma be generationalist if I want.) All this bloke has to do is go through the steps: check my blood pressure, have a little feel of my bump, and test that “wee wee”. But no, he has bigger plans for my visit.

“So I guess this is it for you, then,” he starts.

Brilliant deduction. Yes, my partner is planning his vasectomy as we speak, I tell him.

“Why? You should be having your tubes tied,” is his immediate response. I have known this man for less than five minutes. Note: not “why aren’t you”, but “you should be”. Interesting.

I explain that I do not want to have a tubal ligation. That a close family member, one whose genetic and obstetric profile is virtually identical to mine, suffered some heavy-duty negative side-effects after hers. I do not add: dude, I have had two caesarians (and am about to embark on another), from necessity, for this family. Daddyo is more than happy to even the ledger a little with a procedure that can be done in a doctor’s surgery with the assistance of local anaesthetic and, later, a bag of frozen peas.

A vasectomy and tubal ligation are not identical procedures. Comparing them is not a straightforward appraisal. But this doctor seems to think that, since they’ll be “in there” doing a caesarian, I may as well go ahead and seal my fallopian tubes, too.

He tells me that my fears are completely groundless, that tubal ligation is safer than a vasectomy, and that it can decrease my chances of future ovarian cancer. (To be fair, a meta-analysis of 40 studies supports this.) He cites a study that followed a group of women who had their tubes tied, and another group whose husbands have had vasectomies. He tells me that both groups reported heavier bleeding as they got older: “It’s just a part of ageing, nothing more”. I get the feeling he trots this one out frequently.

This doctor has no idea about my medical history; in fact, he doesn’t even seem to have looked at my contraception, or caesarian, history on the file in front of him. (If he did, he’d read that I’m a “bleeder”, that I’ve hemorrhaged after varied surgery.)

He declares all is well with baby; actually says I’m a “wonderful incubator”. Since a sense of humour has been absent so far, I can’t assume that he’s joking. I wonder if any patient has ever hit him.

He frequently drives the conversation back to having my tubes tied.

I feel railroaded. Bullied, even. “I will consider it,” I say. “Fuck you,” I think.

I will mention this conversation to my obstetrician next visit. However, not for the reason this man wants me to.

Now there are many places to research these two options. You can do the Google, too. Try a question like “Is a vasectomy safer than tubal ligation?” There’s even a Facebook page for Post Tubal Ligation Syndrome.

I’ll copy one summary below. It’s from a site called Male Health Centre.

Once you’re confident that you’re ready to put your reproductive years behind you, there are two options: vasectomy (male sterilization) or tubal ligation (female sterilization). Vasectomy makes you sterile by cutting the pipelines (the vas deferens) between the testicles and the penis. These small tubes are located just under the surface of the scrotal skin, and it takes less than 15 minutes in the doctor’s office to snip them and seal the ends under a local anesthetic. 


Tubal ligation involves cutting and tying a woman’s fallopian tubes, which are well below muscles and other tissue in the abdomen. It requires a general anesthetic and a hospital visit.


A couple of statistics might make the differences even more clear:
  • Fatalities per 100,000: tubal ligation = 3.51; vasectomy = 0
  • Approximate cost: tubal ligation = $2,500; vasectomy = $750 – 850
Vasectomy is simpler, safer, cheaper and takes less time to recover from than tubal ligation. Their failure rates are just about the same: 1 in 2,000.
KnottedVasectomy: lower risk. Lower cost. Is somewhat reversible. Importantly for me, it involves my partner taking contraceptive responsibility.

As I leave, he has another shot.

“If it were me, I’d be having my tubes tied.”

“You don’t have any tubes to tie,” I reply.

“Yes I do, and nobody’s getting their hands on them.”

He says this. Seriously.  How dare we women expect our menfolk to sacrifice their gonads in the name of birth control?

What a prick. Good manners hold my tongue (which surprises me, too) and I walk out.

 

And then I realize: if I go into early labour before my regular doctor gets back, this is the jerk who will help deliver my child. Please hurry home, Dr Atticus.

Surfing the small stuff: third trimester torments

So far, I’ve been fortunate to avoid the bigger complications of some pregnancies, like gestational diabetes or public tracksuit-pant wearing, and other, lesser ones such as varicose veins or delivering an actual crying infant.  But, third trimester, third pregnancy has returned me some old nemeses.

 

Drama: Heartburn.

Why is it the moment I finish eating breakfast I need to bend over to do something essential, like pick up a dirty sock or dislodge ninja Lego from between my toes? Oh, that’s right, because I have a couple of pre-teen sons. And I’m yet to learn: bend before breakfast, not after.

Pregnancy-related heartburn isn’t just reserved for those special moments felt immediately after eating. No, it’ll save itself for the moment you’re drifting off to sleep, too. Or when you’re out in public attempting that thing that some call “pre-baby date night” (but others may call “let’s sit in an overpriced restaurant and bitch about our son’s useless teacher while I gaze bitterly at your alcoholic beverage”).

Solution: Quick-eze, the old-fashioned chalky tablets that come in a roll (not the useless chewy squares). Bought in bulk, crushed up, and mainlined.

Drama: Restless legs.

Restless legs are an utter motherfucker. You’ve just got your ample bulk arranged in its pillownest, you’ve bum-shoved the notpregnant person sharing your bed over to their allotted edge, and you’ve finally fallen asleep after your third toilet trip. Right as you hit the good REMs, it starts. Niggle, niggle, niggle, that junky’s cursed feeling of ants sneaking around inside your sciatic nerve casings.

Solution: Waking up. Walking around the fucking house. They say magnesium supplements can help, too. Stretch your legs a little during the evening And drinking more water. So if the restless legs don’t raise you, the bladder will. Checkmate.

Drama: Curious foot spasms.

This one’s a personal treat. Following spinal surgery, I had a minor neural after-effect, resulting in an occasional night-time left foot spasm (varying in intensity from a big toe standing up, unbidded, at right angles, to the whole Daniel-Day-Lewis-Academy-award-winning left foot and leg spasm). Of course, pregnancy exacerbates this. If my hormonehorrorshow didn’t have a go at such an easy target, we’d be almost disappointed. Over a few months, the hormones have progressed a minor nighttime ballet of restless legs and freaky toe spasms to a major choreography. The growing fetal weight pressing down on the base of the sciatic nerve way up there in that slackening pelvis does its bit, too.

Solution: Not being pregnant. Failing this, keeping well hydrated. Pilates. The magnesium helps. It’s most effective taken just before bed. An unexpected side-effect of taking magnesium at night is its effects on dreams. Apparently it can act as a bit of a psychedelic neurotransmitter, resulting in crazier dreams. I don’t make this shit up.

Because pregnant women need to experience even crazier dreams.

Oh, and a couple of weeks ago I started visiting a chiropractor (even though I’d sworn off the creatures) who specializes in old knocked-up broken women. She’s pretty much stopped the spasms. So maybe I should have mentioned her first.

Drama: Shortness of breath.

I’ve never claimed any level of aerobic fitness, but panting at the top of two flights of stairs was a scary revelation – and that was a couple of months ago, before there was even much of a bump to bitch about carrying up the stairs with me. I was almost relieved when Dr Atticus advised that rather than pitiful fitness, I could blame pitiful hemoglobin levels. You know, pregnant ladies need more iron, hemoglobin carries oxygen in the blood, low hemoglobin means less oxygen getting around the body. It was all the hemoglobin. Nothing to do with the lack of fitness.

Of course, now, with a bump encroaching on valuable lung space, there’s another dimension added to the breathlessness. Now, it’s also about internal organ real estate.

Solution: Iron supplements. Stand taller. Surrender.

Drama: Tiredness.

Tired, mid-40s pregnant woman? Quel surprise.

Solution: A nap. Right now.

 

5 reasons why people click on your mummyblog post

1. Oh, hello. You clicked!

2. What is it with us, the Internet, and numbered lists?

3. It’s quite a lazy way to write.

4. And there’s often little substance involved.

5. You know how I said there were 5 reasons?

6. I lied.

7. Anyway, here’s a flying pussy.

Flying kitty

Boot cut

You may recall the dark despair felt when I realised my old maternity jeans were long gone. Determined to unearth a secondhand pair of Citizens, I stalked the interwebs until one day there was not one but two listings beckoning from the screen. Unsure of size, I bid on both, 28s and the 30s, thinking a roomier spare pair wouldn’t go astray. And won them both.

Well, they’ve arrived. That’s the good news, I guess.

The not-good news: They’re boot cut.

Yep, you read that right. Boot-bloody-cut.

Hideous*.

Boot cut? What was I thinking? Surely this was mentioned in at least one of the listings. I can’t believe I willingly wore a pair of boot cut jeans even ten years ago.

Boot cut. What sane woman reads these words and thinks, “hmm, yes, I want to revisit 1998. I’m thinking boot cut jeans.”???

Boot cut. Not even enough pizazz to aim for a full retro flare.

Boot cut. The cut that says “forget these calves, check out what this proportion-illusion does to those thighs: they’re not all that slender, are they?”

Here come the boot cut jeans

Holy fucking first world maternity fashion problems. At least the denim feels nice. That’ll be appreciated when I’m gardening in them.

 

*And the 28s may have been shortened, too, so they flare around a high ankle. Nice. I could be wearing my son’s pants.

The pink machine, and why I won’t tell you my baby’s sex

 

Oh yes, I have a problem with pink.

 

We had our 20-week scan last week, and for the first time in three pregnancies, I wanted to know what gender this little toad’s turned out. Not so I can bake a cake and colour the sponge pink or blue, or start stockpiling ruffled pink bloomers or macho blue truck-print onesies. No, I just reckon it’s been enough of a bloody surprise, this later-years’ pregnancy, and right now I’m over the surprises.

The Envelope

So, after the scan, we had the sex written down and sealed in an envelope. We opened it on Easter Sunday, just our immediate family. (Exactly half of us had guessed correctly, if you want to know.) And it will be a limited reveal. For a reason.

It's a...

I don’t want to appear ungrateful, but, if we are expecting a daughter, the last thing I want is visitors turning up with pink presents. Pink singlets, dresses, blankets, stretch headbands. Etc.*

It’s not the femininity that grates. It’s the colour.

Because pink has become a symbol.  Colour as hyper-simplified semiotics.

Pink = “girl”.

The commercialization and commodification of our kids has produced a corporate “pink machine”, and to a lesser extent, a blue one, but it’s pink that’s the most rigid. (And purple, that “other pink”. The ever-so-slightly tougher, yet still female-prescriptive, colour.) A corporate code to sell stuff. Segmenting the market by hue. Those racks of pinkness in clothing stores: pink, fluffy, feminized. I cannot remember more defined gendered children’s clothing in my 4-and-a-bit decades on this planet.

Girls are taught, from birth, that they have one colour, and their colour is pink.

Which would not be such a big deal if this was restricted to a rather dull fashion palette. But the pink girl-branding continues across all of a girl child’s consumer options. Clothes. Stationary. Kids’ yoghurt. Furniture. Toys.

Toys.

Walk the aisles of your local toy barn. Note the aisles that glow pink. It’s a little scary.

I have two sons. I’ve not had to face the pink machine, yet. As a mother of boys, I can avoid, with a certain smugness I confess, those toy shop aisles that glow in their Barbie rosiness. The “girls” aisles. Even non-gender-specific (or traditionally “boys”) toys are re-branded “for girls”. Pink-tinged blocks. Pink guns. Pink fucking Lego Friends.**

Girls are taught that pink (and sometimes purple) is their colour. And then they’re presented with a lesser range of toys branded “girl”.

Girls toys are coloured pink, and appear to be reverting to the 1950s. Boys toys aren’t just blue, they are every other colour.

Because pink designates girl, and then dutiful girls choose from the pink toys. Pink sections in toy stores encompass the traditionally “female” toys: the nurturing ones. Baby strollers and toy kitchens. Not superheroes or cars or tools or action figures.

Few traditionally “male” toys are coloured, or packaged, pink. Why is this an issue? Because a girl less likely to play with a construction set is less likely to want to be an engineer when she grows up. Or it may be harder to imagine being a scientist when you’re flouncing around in your pink gown and tiara, pushing a pink toy stroller. A girl caught up in the princess fantasy is less likely to play the hero in her own daydream, and rather more likely to seek her handsome prince saviour.

And please, lower those itchy trigger finger fingers from the reply button, mothers of girls. I understand that some girls actually choose to wear pink. That they want the frilly feminine. I get that. I, too, have friends whose gender-neutral raised daughters reached for the pink, frilly, tutu girly-ness as soon as they could assert their taste. Pre-kids, I may have claimed to be a “nurture above nature” feminist who believed that every bit of gender-stereotyped behaviour could be ascribed to societal influence. Then, of course, I had sons, the universe’s special gift for feminists, boys who turned into blokes despite my best efforts to keep life gender-neutral. Who turned sticks into guns when our house was gun-free.

I now think there’s a bit of nature AND nurture defining kids. But at the moment, girls are shoved by the mainstream onto a one-way gender conveyer belt.

My daughter, when she has an opinion (if she’s a she), sure, she can dress in pink or play with as much frilly pinkness as she wants. But until then, I plan to show her some options. I don’t remember pink owning kindergarten fashions during  the 1970s. (And the photographs, if I can find them, shall prove me right…) But I do remember being castigated for not spending enough time playing in doll’s corner (uh, puh-lease! What fun was there in a dusty space containing a toy cot, an ironing board, and a rack of smelly clothes?), choosing to hog the tractor instead. But that was 1974, for Uma’s sake! FORTY YEARS AGO. Are we sending out daughters back to a colour-coded dolls’ corner?

Because, as Rebecca Hain writes in her blog, the pink princess marketing is forceful, and is outstripping the choice that little girls used to have to choose pink or not.

And there it is: It’s not the colour, it’s the lack of choice.

My sons’ toys come in all shades. Girls toys rarely do. By reducing a girl’s perceived choice, gender roles are prescribed before the child even has a chance to choose how to define herself.

If you walk into my house with that toxic Disney Princess crap, it will be walking back out with you. Please don’t think me ungrateful.* I’d be delighted for you to visit the baby. She’ll have enough stuff (we all do!); you don’t need to bring anything at all. Please respect a feeble tilt at the commodified mainstream, and help me to keep her mind uncommercialised as long as I can. Babies and children are not just mini-consumers, and feminity is more than a colour.

 

*In fact, please don’t bring us any thing! Just turn up and have a cup of tea, and maybe hold the baby while I change out of my PJs at 4 in the afternoon. The best gift anyone gave me was a friend turning up when I was frazzled with my brand new firstborn, who looked at me and said, “please let me hold him while you go have a shower”.

**Ah, Lego Friends. Let’s go there in a later post.

 

Want more?

Since I’ve been working on this post, which I started a few weeks ago, I’ve stumbled across a number of articles across this theme. Here’s a tiny selection.

Analysis of the pink machine

Seeking a non-gendered McDonalds Happy Meal

Laura Nelson v gender apartheid in London

The fightback against gendered toys

It’s the marketing, stupid

The Baby Gender Diary

The pro-pink posse

What’s the problem with pink anyway? 

Everything pink is not lame

 

 

Ice cream

Q: Does ice cream count as a craving, or am I being a greedy little piglet?

 

A: Yes.

 

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