Archives for the month of: February, 2013

I’m knocked up again.  This was an “accidentally on purpose” development for us.  You see, back in the middle of November, after eight months of breastfeeding my daughter, I weaned her.  I was trying to wean her for six weeks prior to that, honestly, but the stubborn little butt just wouldn’t take any formula, even mixed in with her mashed up bananas.  I had always thought I’d breastfeed for the entire first year, but here’s the God’s-Honest: breastfeeding was making me a crazy person.  I felt trapped by my own child.  I couldn’t have a day off, an evening off.  It didn’t help that I also had a crazy over-production of breast milk that made everything painful, wet, and leaky if I didn’t shove my nipple in some kind of sucking device every three hours or so.  I was stressed, exhausted, and, though I was a stay-at-home mom, I felt like I had been stapled to my baby, my “spot” on the couch, and my living room.  I was in prison.  Worse, I was in solitary.  I was snapping at my husband, feeling like I was the only one responsible for keeping our child alive and healthy, which was unfair to him and way too intense for me to handle on my own.  Weaning was hard decision to come to, but ultimately it was the best decision for us.

<Sidebar> This overproduction of milk, though, let me do something really rewarding, but really difficult while I was nursing.  I donated 240 ounces of breast milk to Mother’s Milk Bank of Ohio.  That’s almost two full gallons of human breast milk.  It was a very time-consuming and hard process, but I’m glad I did it, if only to have had the experience.  Also, it was a great way to use up my extra milk.  There was no way that my daughter would have been able to drink all of my milk that I had pumped and stored up before it started to sour [every day, I was pumping an additional 8-10 ounces, on top of the 30 or so she was getting every day. I’m apparently part bovine on a genetic level], and this way, I get to have a great story of how the woman in charge of the local milk bank smiled at me and said that my donation was “like Christmas” for her.  “Until you came in, we didn’t have enough to run our pasteurizing tanks.  Now we do!”  That made all of the hassle of sanitizing and pumping and cleaning and freezing and labeling really seem worth it.  I don’t think I’ll do it again, though.  Because it really *was* a gigantic hassle. </Sidebar>

But then the decision to wean was just kind of made for me, several ways.  First of all, early in November, I contracted the worst UTI of my life.  Delivering my daughter vaginally damaged my bladder (I’ll talk more in depth about that in a later post).  My nerves on the inner sphincter to my bladder (the part that connects your urethra–your “pee tube”–to your bladder) got damaged from the delivery, and consequently, they atrophied.  It was a process that started during pregnancy (I had both stress incontinence [Oh, shit! I sneezed and peed myself!] and urge incontinence [Oh, shit! I had to pee and couldn’t make it to the toilet!] while I was pregnant), and one that can’t be fixed with Kegels (So, friends and ladies, though I know you mean well, kindly quit chirping, “Just do Kegels!!” to me when I open up about my recent and lasting relationship with Poise Pads.  I get it.  I do ’em.  All the time.  And still just pissed myself. Thanks for the tip.).  Anyway, these weakened bladder muscles mean that I am more susceptible to UTIs and other infections because I’m more “open” down there and exposed to any wandering bacteria that want to move in and take up residence (and they actually do call it “walking bacteria.” No shit. That’s a real medical term.).  So I got this UTI.  Within an hour, I went from, “Hmmmm.  I feel like something may be a little off” to pissing blood.  My pee looked like cranberry juice.  It was midnight on a Friday, and my husband had to pack me and our daughter into the van and take me to the emergency room, me now doubled over in pain and certain that I had cancer in my lady-parts.

The ER doctor said that my urine was the worst she had ever seen.  “Awful.  Just awful.”  She gave me an IV drip, and started Morphine, because I was in so much pain (Morphine, by the way, made me completely stone.  I kept telling my husband that I was wearing football shoulder pads.  That my shoulders were out in front of my body.  I wanted my shoulders back in place.  But on the plus side, I had forgotten about my burning peepee.).  Then she started prescribing antibiotics.  A lot of antibiotics.  And then four days later, the hospital called me and said that they wanted me to continue my current run of antibiotics, but start an *additional* round of them, because it turned out that my UTI was drug resistant to the other two I was already on.  Technically, they said, I could continue breastfeeding, but my daughter would get diarrhea.  Bad diarrhea.  And my body wouldn’t be able to filter out all of the meds.  So she would get those too.  I decided that was it.  Before I started my third round of antibiotics, I breastfed her for the last time, crying into her hair and trying to explain to her why she was going to be unhappy the next few days, why this had to happen so suddenly, and apologizing for not living up to my end of the bargain, apologizing for secretly being relieved that I had a legitimate excuse to stop this beautiful, but exhausting ritual we had.  Three minutes into her feeding, while I was still blubbering, she was already asleep.  I put her in her crib, and I knew that she would be okay with this next phase, this new development.  “It’s okay, Mama.  I just want you.  Just you.”  And I was right.  Three days after I started my antibiotics, our little girl was taking all of her bottles with ease, and my husband could finally start putting her to bed at night. (He is now the champion of bedtime.  I can put her down, and she’s up and crying after an hour.  If he puts her down, she’s comatose until 9am.  I don’t know how he does it, but I will make him continue to do it forever.)

But as I said before, it wasn’t just the UTI that inspired me to wean my daughter.  It was also motivated by talk of conceiving #2.  You see, in order to get pregnant the first time around, my husband and I had to undergo fertility treatments.  We tried on our own for six months, after which I happened to mention to my gynecologist that there was nothing regular about my cycles, and he recommended us to a fertility specialist.  After a battery of tests, we were given a 4% chance of conceiving on our own.

<Sidebar>Remember in Sex and the City when Charlotte was having trouble getting pregnant, and she went to her doctor and started sobbing and freaking out because she *only* had a 15% chance of getting pregnant?  Well, now I know that Charlotte can suck a big donkey dick, because 15-20% chances for pregnancy are about the monthly odds for healthy, normal couples without fertility issues.  I was given 4% odds when they were able to make me ovulate.  After being on the drugs for a few months, we figured out that my lazy-ass ovaries weren’t all that interested in ovulation, even with medical intervention. I would have tap-danced on my doctor’s desk if he had said 15% odds.  I would have been able to just have sex.  Hell, I could have fucked.  Instead, I was having reproductive intercourse.  On schedule.  No funny business.  Let’s get this going, babe.  So, yeah, I loved that show, but that scene just makes me cringe when I see it now. </Sidebar>

I was on Clomid for six months, then we tried an Intra-Uterine Insemination (IUI).  As far as infertility goes, it’s the easiest and cheapest of the procedures you can do for pregnancy issues.  The doctor takes your husband’s, ahem, sample (spunk), spins it up in a centrifuge so that only the good, strong swimmers get concentrated at the top, then takes a little pipette, and injects the boys directly into your uterus, bypassing the cervix altogether (which can also be murderous to sperm.  Really, it’s amazing that anyone is able to get pregnant, because the female body is NOT nice to those things!).  A few days beforehand, I got a shot of hormones directly into my ass, then had to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound to look at my ovaries and see if and how many eggs I had ready to release.  Our doctor didn’t have a lot of faith in this procedure for us.  He told us that we’d try it four times, then move on to IVF (to give you a sense of the scale of infertility treatments, let me point out that the IUI costs about $300 per session.  IVF, after insurance, is about $13,000 per session.  And you often need more than one.).  Bobbie and I were already discussing in a joking-but-not-really way the possibility of adopting a Chinese daughter (“They come with their own abacus!”).  But, then, I felt funny.  Just nine days after the procedure, five days before I was “supposed” to take the test, I woke up and took a pregnancy test.  And there it was.  Boom.  A blue line.  Our daughter.

When our daughter was six months old, my husband and I began talking about starting the process for our next baby.  We talked to our fertility doctor, and he said that before we began anything, we’d have to have our baby completely weaned from breastfeeding for at least two full months, then we could start the process again, jumping straight into the IUI if we so desired and skipping those months with Clomid (I so desired.  Clomid is wonderful, but I was an insane bitch on it).  I decided I would start the slow process of gently weaning my little girl, with the hopes that she would be fully off the breast in October, and we could start 2013 with a fresh outlook and a fresh goal for a new baby.  Well, like I said, my girl did NOT want to be rushed into weaning, and by November, we were still pretty much breastfeeding (and I mean *breast* feeding.  She often wouldn’t even take my milk from the bottle if she knew that Mama was at all close by).  Then, the strange godsend of that horrible IUI forced both of us to put an end to it.  By November 15th, I could say that my daughter was fully weaned from the breast.  The countdown was on.  By January 15th, we could start our process for baby #2.  Even though we knew that the odds of us getting pregnant again so quickly were slim, we began to talk in excited tones about me taking a pregnancy test on our daughter’s birthday at the end of February, and seeing that gorgeous blue line.  We’d have so much to celebrate!

In the first week of January, I started taking Provera, a hormone to make me start my period (my cycles have never made any kind of sense, so Provera helped while we were trying to conceive to at least give me some kind of a schedule).  I took it for ten days.  And waited.  No period, which was weird, because it always used to make me start right away.  But the nurse said that it would take up to two weeks for my period to begin.  So I waited some more.  Then, on a Thursday afternoon, while my daughter napped, I just decided to take a test.  Just to see.  Just in case.  And there it was.  That blue line.  I was six weeks pregnant.  I had been pregnant since New Years.  Without medical intervention.  Without drugs.  Without reproductive intercourse.  Without a pipette and an ultrasound wand.  It had just happened.  All on its own.  In spite of 4% odds.

And now I’m almost 10 weeks along.  My babies will only be 18.5 months apart in age by the time this one comes along (oy vey), which is almost exactly how far apart my big sister and I are in age (double oy vey).  Because this is my second pregnancy, I started showing almost instantly, and I realized today that I already can’t see my vagina anymore (hence, the title of this post).  I was planning on writing a hilarious post about the trials and traumas of the first trimester (I’ve thrown up in my kitchen sink, while feeding my daughter breakfast, more times than I’ve thrown up in the toilet thus far), but I guess sometimes I don’t have as much control as I think I do.  And as I look down at my little round belly, I guess that’s not always a bad thing.

Advertisements

This is going to be a little departure from mommy blogging.  You see, outside of my family, writing, reading, and learning how to cook, my next biggest passion has got to be watching and analyzing commercials.  No joke.  They’re like short, intense signifiers of culture.  Just full of meaning.  Recently, I’ve seen several commercials, all for insurance companies, that all base their “cleverness” on blatant sexism and sexist assumptions.  And while I know that many viewers are currently in an uproar about Volkswagen’s latest commercial, depicting a dad teaching his son how to throw a baseball (and doing a terrible job, to say the least), I have to say that the sexism depicted in that commercial just doesn’t compare to the sexism depicted in the ones I am going to talk about today.  True, there are many things wrong with the “Idiot Dad” caricature that has gained so much popular currency in the last fifteen years or so, and I fully believe that reversing a sexist dichotomy does nothing to eliminate the dichotomy itself.  However, remember that even a blundering father is still an involved father, a loving father, a caring father, and very much a product of the twenty-first century’s relaxing gender stereotypes concerning father involvement in child-rearing.  These Idiot Dads are insulting to many capable, strong, competent, and talented fathers that I know, but they are the over-simplified, pop-culture result of what many see as the “sudden” transition from a woman-centered domestic sphere to a shared space of partnership.  The Idiot Dad is the guy who grew up never thinking he’d have to know where the forks are, or how to buckle a rear-facing car seat, but has unexpectedly found himself in a progressive home where such tasks are not exclusive to the wife-and-mother character.  The dad in the Volkswagen commercial is not comical because he’s failing as a father.  On the contrary.  He has obviously just come home from work (the assumption being that he financially supports his family).  He’s playing with his son.  He’s outside, talking and bonding.  Also, the insinuation is that he otherwise makes responsible, good decisions (like buying a Volkswagen). He’s just not athletic, and therefore “failing” only in terms of a patriarchal expectation for masculinity.  The same thing cannot be said for the depictions of femininity that I am going to address here.

 

Congratulations, State Farm and GEICO, you are Rachel’s Asshole(s) of the Day!

Both of these companies have recently released commercials depicting women who are idiots.  But not just “Oh, I didn’t know that” idiots, and not well-meaning idiots either, but persistent, unflappable, kind of bitchy idiots who don’t understand basic concepts of modern life, and who apparently have never heard of The Internets.  Both commercials are promoting these companies’ new insurance applications (that’s the full name for “apps,” for all you ladies out there) that can be downloaded onto a smart phone.  A large company developing mobile-friendly software as a way of responding to our increasingly multi-use device-driven modern world?  Ooooh, unique.  Honestly, State Farm and GEICO, both of which are multi-billion dollar companies (State Farm was ranked #37 in the 2011 Fortune 500, and GEICO—a much smaller company—makes about $9 billion annually), are a little behind the curve with the introduction of their mobile apps, in my estimation.  Numerous other banks, credit cards, and regular-payment-needed services developed quick online paying and banking services years earlier.  Way to respond to demands, State Farm and GEICO.  Maybe in three years you can Rickroll us all, too.

But I digress.

In the State Farm commercial, a man is seen, snapping pictures of an automobile accident with his cell phone.  A woman walks out of a nearby building, and asks him what he’s doing.  When he explains that he’s documenting the accident in order to send it to State Farm, the ditz flat-out refuses to believe him.

Woman: I thought State Farm didn’t have all those apps.

Man: Where’d you hear that?

Woman: The Internet.

Man: And you believed it?

Woman: Yeah.  They can’t put anything on the Internet that isn’t true.

While the man chuckles over the bimbo’s obliviousness, another man slouches up, wearing a forward facing fanny pack, large glasses, and a three-day scruff.  The woman smiles, saying that this man is her date she “met on the Internet,” and that he’s a “French model.”  When the ungainly man shrugs, “Uhh, bon jour,” the blonde woman smiles/smirks at the original man before going off with her date.

GEICO’s commercial takes a slightly nastier, meaner approach to the dumb-woman-as-humorous-shill/shrew sketch taken on by State Farm.  In this, the “little piggy” who appeared in an earlier GEICO advertisement is on an airplane.  Two flight attendants (both female) ask him to “power down his little word game” (an obvious reference to Alec Baldwin’s notorious Words with Friends incident).  When the pig (whose name, apparently, is Maxwell) points out that he’s not playing the game, but is rather paying his GEICO bill, the flight attendants (or should I stop being politically correct and just call them “Cabin Bitches,” as GEICO obviously wants me to?) act with downright cruel condescension and utter disbelief that such a mysterious, magical tool could possibly exist. (Paying your bill online?  With your cell phone??  But mine still runs off of my car battery and has a magnetic antenna I have to put on the roof when I want to call my Auntie!! Sidebar: Anybody remember those?  My Uncle John had one, and I thought it was the most amazing piece of technology ever.  My cousin, John, and I also used to pull the perforated edges off of Uncle John’s printer paper.  We would fold up the long strips to make accordion necklaces and bracelets.  Uncle John would get SO PISSED because we wasted miles and miles of printer paper!  Aunt Cyndi just liked her necklaces.)

Maxwell: [I can] pretty much access GEICO 24/7.

Cabin Bitch 1: (Smiling and wrinkling her nose) Sounds a little too good to be true, sir.

Cabin Bitch 2: Mmm-hmm.  I’ll believe that when pigs fly.

Cabin Bitch 1: (Rolls eyes at Cabin Bitch 2 in acknowledgement)

Maxwell: (To the [Male] passenger sitting next to him) Okay, did she seriously just say that?

Unlike the involved-but-perhaps-a-little-less-than-ideally-masculine-according-to-patriarchal-standards-that-are-impossible-for-any-individual-to-live-up-to-regardless dad from the Volkswagen commercial, these Idiot Women have zero redeeming qualities.  They aren’t smart, they aren’t attractive, they aren’t good citizens, or even good neighbors (of course not, because State Farm is our “good neighbor,” right?).  They are merely shells of humanity, embodying all that is wrong with “womenfolk” as it has been defined by patriarchy for generations.  They talk too much, give their opinions too freely, don’t know or understand technology (on any level), don’t listen enough, are so self-centered that they have become comically oblivious to any aspect of their situational surroundings: the blonde ditz was so narcissistically enamored of her ability to nab a “French model” that she couldn’t see her date’s hideousness; while the flight attendant was so convinced that she was right, she couldn’t make the connection between her closing adage and the fact that, literally, a pig was flying.

These women are dumb, and what’s more, they’re dangerous to themselves and others.  They are the stereotypical women who need to be “saved” by the much smarter, more mature, more knowledgeable and worldly men around them.  But the men don’t even want to save them, because, frankly, there’s not a whole lot of good in any of them.  They are examples of all that is wrong with a modern, more progressive world.  These commercials insinuate that these women need to be confined to their home-spaces, to their tiny domestic lives, so that they can be taken care of, treated as the mentally deficit drains on society they are.  They need to have husbands who can deal with harsh, overly opinionated harpies, and who will get knowing, empathetic looks from the “real” men who pass by (and they will pass by.  Because a “real” man will know that he doesn’t want a woman like that).  But instead, these women are out and about in the world, in charge of airplanes and allowed to venture out with strangers.  Outside.  Without an adult present or anything.  These women are idiots who are choosing their own destinies, and that pisses us all off.

Of course, we can all be happy that these women are only living up to the very low expectations of a masculinist culture, and pursuing a life in the public sphere that fits in nicely with sexist expectations of women.  The blonde ditz from the State Farm commercial is going on a date.  She’s actively looking for a man to take care of her. Whew!  Thank goodness, sweetie.  We don’t want you to get hurt out there.  The two flight attendants in the GEICO commercial?  Well, they’re stewardesses.  They aren’t pilots, or fellow passengers.  In fact, look at that commercial closely.  Go ahead.  There is one woman on the plane, far in the background behind the man who looks sympathetically over at Maxwell (not even sitting next to him!  Nobody’s sitting next to either that man or Maxwell.  Because men need, nay deserve space.).  Right in the beginning, the flight attendant is standing in front of a person with long hair, which I suppose we can assume may be a woman (and since everything else about this commercial is so stereotypical, then, yes, I’m going to say that they won’t have any long-haired hippie type of men on this flight), but, outside of the flight attendants, and the one woman out of focus, way in the back, the plane is solely peopled by men.  Because men are important.  Only men fly.  Women just serve them drinks and give safety presentations that nobody pays attention to anyway.  Because nothing women say is ever important anyway.

State Farm and GEICO, perhaps you need to know that the “they” putting “things” on the Internet are, actually, women.  According to an article published in The Atlantic in June of 2012 (that’s over eight months ago, again for any girls out there whose heads start hurting a little whenever math’s introduced), women—not men—are the leaders in adopting new technologies, outstripping their male counterparts:

Let me break out the categories where women are leading tech adoption:

  • Internet usage
  • Mobile phone voice usage
  • Mobile phone location-based services
  • Text messaging
  • Skype
  • Every social networking site aside from LinkedIn
  • All Internet-enabled devices
  • E-readers
  • Health-care devices
  • GPS

Also, because women still are the primary caretakers of children in many places, guess who controls which gadgets the young male and female members of the family get to purchase or even use?

Women aren’t idiots who don’t know how to use technology.  We’re the ones using it, and at a faster and more adaptable pace than men.  Yet, these commercials would have the entire world believe that women don’t grasp the basics of a technologically-driven world.  Worse, these women are fighting technology, putting up a resistance to it that seems to suggest they want to remain in the past, when things were simpler, and a woman didn’t have to do all of this independent stuff on her own.

These are the attitudes that are keeping young girls out of the hard sciences, and scaring them away from technology fields.  These commercials are a symptom of a larger cultural disease that insinuates that women are only “good” when they are attractive, silent, family-driven, unambitious, and know where their place is (the home, with their heterosexual, bread-winning husband and their 2.3 children).  Even the trope of the Idiot Dad plays into this disease, for, while he is lost in the domestic sphere, that is where the woman reigns supreme.  One day, Idiot Dad will learn where the forks are, and how to change a dirty diaper (because at the end of the sitcom, he always learns a lesson, doesn’t he?), but Idiot Woman will always be useless outside of her home, because she’s incapable of listening long enough for the lesson to sink in.  She needs to be in her home, shut away, isolated from the scary, big world of technology and interconnectedness.  And, what’s more, that’s exactly where we want her.

So, congratulation again, State Farm and GEICO! You are Rachel’s Asshole(s) of the Day!

 

Now, suck my ovaries, you sexist asshats.