school

Dude, working and momming is hard. I didn’t intend to take a hiatus, but holy shit. I am posting this from my phone. While pumping. We’ll see how this goes.

I refer to Cayenne’s day care as school. The idea is that this will make me feel less guilty about leaving him there every single day. It does not. But I do it anyway.

We go to the best provider in town. The only one in the county that is NAEYC accredited. I know he likes it there. And I really do have to work — that is, if we want to continue to meet our obligations — so it’s not like there are a lot of other options.

None of that makes me feel any better about sending him there, so the school fiction persists.

I just commented on Bunny’s post about finding a preschool that it brings up so many feelings.

I am a product of moderately shitty public schools. In 11th grade English class we read Michael Crichton. In AP American History we spent a ridiculous amount of time making presentations to prove to the corporate donors who’d provided our computer lab that we were making good use of said lab. This may be why AP history stopped at the Hoover administration at my school.

But.

We did have a computer lab. We did have AP history. So I know that right there I was in a better situation than a lot of kids.

Now we live in a county that has one of the top school systems in the state. However, our state is almost the worst in the nation for public schools. So . . . The best of the worst, I guess? And this is where Cayenne will go to school.

Do I send him to the public elementary school down the street? The one that proudly notes they are sponsored by Burger King because they don’t get enough public money to keep the doors open? Do I send him to a private school that pushes a religion I don’t believe in? Do I just fucking move?

And to what degree am I just being a snob? I mean, yes, my public school experience was not great, but I can read and reason and at one time I could do trigonometry, so does it really matter how “good” the school system is? Is it really all about making a home that values learning?

healed

Last week I brought Cayenne into my office for a visit. My coworkers have been asking about him, so I thought bringing him by might be a good way for me to start getting back into the mental space of work. It was really nice — I honestly enjoy the people I work with, and it was good to chat with them, and of course there was much exclaiming over Cayenne.

People asked me lots of questions: is he sleeping through the night? Are you nursing? Are you excited to come back? How much does he weigh? The one that landed with a thud (or a splat) was: Are you healed?

What a question. I’ve been thinking about it all weekend.

I mean, there’s the obvious sense in which she meant it — am I physically healed from the birth? — and even that is fraught. My incision is closed and it didn’t get infected or anything like that. But the scar has formed with lots of keloiding (which I didn’t even know was a thing, but now I’m all self-conscious about it), and it’s still painful, and I’ve still got serious numbness in the whole ladybits area, and I’m still very weak — a 2-mile walk through my neighborhood or a very gentle yoga class just wrecks me. So, am I healed? I guess.

But there’s other healing to be done.

Infertility has gotten its grubby mitts all over my whole life.

Why didn’t I think I would be able to breastfeed? Because all evidence so far was that my body was a barren waste.

Why can’t I answer the question “When are you going to start trying for #2?” Because … well, duh.

Why don’t I have any friends? Because I spent four years locked in a dark smelly room with just my poisonous thoughts for company. Not that I was, like, a debutante or socialite or whatever before, but my hermitlike tendencies have really gotten out of hand. And now that I’m not depressed* I can look around and see the empty spaces in my life where friends used to be. I don’t have the slightest idea how to reach out to the truly delightful people I shoved away for so long, and since we moved it’s not even as though I can do a casual let’s-meet-for-coffee thing. I guess I also need to start fresh — but the truth is I don’t actually know how to make new friends anymore.**

It’s going to sound insufferable and sanctimonious, but the healing I have done so far is all down to taking care of Cayenne. I can do this, I find, and he is thriving, and holy crap he learned to roll over, and he smiles when I sing to him, and I’m actually his mom.

* Not-depressed is awesome. I had forgotten. It makes me sad for all the time I lost, and for anyone who is still there. I wish I could give you a hand up out of that deep hole.
**Seriously, how pathetic is that?

work

I go back to work in less than a month. 25 days, but who’s counting? Cayenne will go to day care, where someone named Miss Vaunda will feed him bottles and put him down for naps and absolutely not just strap him into a bouncy seat to wail for the rest of the day. I will pick him up in the afternoon, when he will definitely not have forgotten who I am, and will certainly not have come to prefer Miss Vaunda and the day care center to me, my husband, and our house. Right? Right?

To exactly no one’s surprise, I am feeling a lot of anxiety about the whole going-back-to-work thing. I know I am incredibly lucky to have had as much time off as I did (24 weeks, unpaid after I used up my vacation and sick days) and that lots and lots of brave mamas go back after 12 weeks or even less. I’m actually a bit of a trailblazer at my company, it seems — my HR rep was very surprised that I wanted to take the full 12 weeks of FMLA as opposed to coming back as soon as I was medically released, and when I requested an additional leave without pay it had to go all the way to the director of the company, as no one had ever asked for such a thing before and there was no precedent for it. So yes, I’m grateful, and I know I’m incredibly privileged to be in a situation where we can make do without my paycheck for so long, but still. I look at Cayenne, and he’s a baby! How can I possibly leave him?

After waiting so long for the chance to have him, and watching him pull through all the scary, scary stuff at his birth, and just now after nearly five months finally starting to get the hang of this momming thing (though I still suck at the housewifery thing), I’m supposed to just drop him off?

Dramatic handwaving aside, I know that day care is not actually prison, and that it will probably be good for him in the long run to be with other kids all day since he is so unlikely ever to have a sibling, and that millions and millions of kids kiss their parents goodbye every morning and say hello again in the afternoon without having forgotten them in the meantime. I know this. And yet …

Would anyone really notice if I discreetly slipped a pack-n-play into my cubicle?

bivouac

Next weekend we are taking a road trip up to the Ancestral Home so that my grandma can meet Cayenne. It will be our first overnight with him. It’s about a 3.5-hr. drive, and we will be away from home for just over 48 hours.

I have always prided myself on being an efficient packer. It’s, like, a thing with me. I once packed ONE suitcase with everything my husband and I would need for three weeks in Asia. And now I have a baby, and it’s all gone to hell. Here are the things I have determined are absolutely necessary for the care of a tiny being who only really needs breast milk, clean diapers, and sleep:

Baby containers:

  • Pack-n-Play with sheet and mattress pad
  • Maya Wrap
  • Baby Bjorn

Entertainment:

  • Play mat
  • Extra toys to hang from the loops in said play mat
  • Teething toys
  • Gentle Giraffe (white noise machine)

Hygiene:

  • Diapers
  • Wipes
  • Toilet paper*
  • Changing pad
  • Aquaphor
  • Burp cloths

Food, vitamins, and medicine:

  • Boppy
  • Vitamin D drops
  • Gas drops
  • Baby Tylenol

Clothing:

  • 3x footie pajamas
  • 2 swaddle/sleep sacks
  • 6 onesies
  • hoodie sweatshirt
  • an indeterminate number of pairs of pants
  • sun hat

All I can do is laugh. I think my days of light packing are over.

* This is to dry his bottom in between using the wipes and applying the Aquaphor. We have found that putting Aquaphor on a wet bottom leads to unpleasantness.

no crisis?

Great news, ladies! A Prominent Feminist Blogger has decided that there is no infertility crisis! So you can just pack up your eleventy billion babies that you had no trouble conceiving or carrying and chuff off to soccer practice. Or something.

Snark aside, the post itself isn’t that bad — she’s absolutely right that delaying family building is not a bad thing, and that women’s fertility does not actually fall off a cliff like Wile E. Coyote on our 35th birthdays.* However, conflating “There is no infertility crisis” with “There is no infertility crisis caused by women delaying family building” buys into the typical media framing: that infertility is a manufactured problem consisting entirely of upper-middle-class fortyish white women who spent the last 20 years building a career instead of popping out babies, and don’t they know they are too old and shriveled for baby-making, and anyway they can Just Adopt if they want a kid so bad.**

This framing does nothing to help us move forward on this social justice issue, which is something I would expect Prominent Feminist Bloggers to care about, which is why this piece got under my skin so much. (Well, that and the comments. When will I learn not to read the comments?)

So here’s my essay on why infertility, ART, and adoption are social justice issues.

ACCESS

Why does the standard media narrative of infertility center on upper-middle-class married hetero fortyish white women (UMCMHFWW)? I think there are two reasons. First, because infertility (like contraception) is widely understood to be a woman’s problem. Men are absolutely erased, even though MFI is just as common as problems with the female reproductive system. Second, because for the most part, UMCMHFWW are the ones with access to treatments. Infertility stories in the media tend to focus on ART, and it’s hard to write a story like that when the subject can’t afford the treatments.

I think the time is absolutely ripe for a discussion of why medical insurance doesn’t generally cover ART. It’s the flip side of the ludicrous resistance to the contraception mandate — not only do conservatives want to keep us from exercising our right not to build a family at any given moment, insurance companies prevent many, many people from trying for a medical solution to the medical problem of infertility. Access to the technology and treatments currently available is just as much part of bodily autonomy as access to contraception: there is no other anatomical system about which we tell people “Nope, sorry, you just don’t get to use that one!” Lack of access to treatment results in a have/have-not situation in which some people are able to build their families and others (those with lower socioeconomic status) are prevented from exercising their reproductive choices.

ART also represents a major family-building opportunity for the LGBT community. It’s a community with its own activist priorities, of course, and I don’t presume to speak for them, but improved access to ART would allow more LGBT families to grow. Access to ART for LGBT family building is a social justice issue and one that feminists should care about.

“just adopt”

I know that adoptive mamas and potential adoptive mamas read this blog, and I sincerely hope I’m not being offensive here. Please let me know in comments if I’m missing something or misrepresenting. I will edit or make a new post to clarify.

I think adoption is a wonderful thing when it can be done with love and with informed consent from all involved adults. Unfortunately, with a foster care system that does a poor job both of returning children to their first parents and of matching children with potential adoptive parents; coercive tactics by “crisis pregnancy centers;” and the potential for coercion in international adoption — it is not always practiced with perfect love and consent.

This is an obvious social justice issue: even without coercion, telling UMCMHFWW to “just adopt” means assigning to women of lower socioeconomic status the role of producing surplus babies for the consumption of the upper classes. It also means propping up the current foster care system with its uncertainty on both ends (“will I get my kids back?” “will I get to adopt this kid I’ve been caring for?”) instead of taking real steps to ensure that (1) every child is a wanted child and (2) every wanted child can be cared for by the family that, well, wanted them.

postscript: the overpopulation thing

Predictably, in the comments to the Pandagon piece, people brought up overpopulation. The world has enough people, so why would people spend thousands (the access thing again!) just to selfishly make more? I’ve addressed this before.

Trying to curb overpopulation by telling infertile people to suck it up is like trying to fight obesity by telling some people to starve. Why not work instead on making sure every child is a wanted child? Access to contraception. Access to ART. Education for women and girls in the developing world. This is a feminist issue. This is a social justice issue. You can’t try to fix overpopulation by denying bodily autonomy to some part of the population. Either we have it or we don’t, full stop.

* I had mine last month. I’m pretty sure my remaining eggs didn’t all self-destruct.

** Yes, age-related infertility is A Thing, but as we know in this community, it’s far from the only reason people can’t conceive or carry to term. And it also completely erases men from the equation as well as LGBT family building.

noodles

Yesterday was my husband’s first day back at school, so even though nothing really changed for me, it felt a little different — like I was officially a (temporary) SAHM.

He has been craving a good bowl of noodles since we watched this on Netflix, and who am I to deny him what he wants? This was a good one to do while taking care of Cayenne because I was able to do it in several short spurts throughout the day instead of having to find a whole block of time to cook.

IMG_2591

For the broth:

  • 4 cups dashi
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • a thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
  • soy sauce to taste
  • black pepper

Everything else:

  • Hard-boiled eggs, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
  • Thinly sliced cooked pork (I cooked a couple of boneless pork chops in about a T each of sesame oil and vegetable oil)
  • Thinly sliced scallions
  • Cooked sliced mushrooms*
  • Cooked noodles (I used thin Chinese egg noodles)
  • Steamed spinach

Prepare the dashi,** pork, mushrooms, eggs, and scallions ahead of time.

Combine all broth ingredients and bring to a boil slowly; simmer, covered, until ready to serve.

Just before dinnertime, cook the noodles and lightly steam the spinach.

Fill each bowl with noodles, pour broth over them, and top with pork, egg, vegetables, and freshly ground black pepper.

* Because I live in the Wonderbread Belt I can’t usually get shiitake mushrooms, which is what I really wanted. I steamed some plain button mushrooms. This didn’t really work; next time I will saute them in sesame oil or leave them out altogether.

** This is the method I used to make the dashi; there are lots of ways to do it, but they all basically involve soaking the kombu then adding the katsuo bushi and straining it.

ur doin it rong

The thing about parenting is that there are so many, many ways to do it wrong.

I’m not even talking about, like, wrongity-wrong (by which I mean abusive); I just mean the banal, everyday, non-stop knowledge that I am fucking doing this wrong. I am addicted to advice, to data, and to rules; and there are so many, and they are so contradictory, and it’s amazing that there is so much to fuck up with a kid who basically still just eats and sleeps. Here is what I’m thinking much more often than is healthy:

  • If he cries for more than 90 seconds his cortisol levels will rise.
  • If my milk supply is too low, he won’t get enough nutrition.
  • If my milk supply is too high, he won’t get enough hindmilk.*
  • If I don’t swaddle him, his startle reflex will wake him up.
  • If I keep swaddling him his hips won’t develop properly.
  • If he is awake for more than 90 minutes at a time he is sleep deprived and his brain won’t develop properly.
  • It goes without saying that I am slowly poisoning him, as well as wantonly ensuring that by the time he grows up the world will pretty much just be a giant landfill, by using disposable diapers and not making my own soap and diaper rash cream.
  • And let’s not even think about the damage I will be doing in three months when I drop him off at fucking day care.

At a certain point it just becomes noise.

I think the lesson I need to learn, and right quick, is once again upekkha: equanimity. Calm. Trusting myself that I do know what to do, that when we hit that 91st second of crying he won’t actually explode, and that he, and I, will come out the other side intact.

Because most of the time I am loving this. And I’m not doing it wrongity-wrong. And even when I’m wrong I’m doing it with love, and the very best of intentions, and he seems to be doing OK so far.

The brahma-viharas are no joke. Metta to everyone. Karuna to those still slogging up Infertility Mountain. Mudita to everyone who’s feeling joy (shout out to Daryl!). Upekkha to the whole fucking world.

*Can we get a moratorium on the phrase “the thick, rich hindmilk?” It’s on every breastfeeding site, usually followed by a cutesy-poo reference to “dessert.”