(Not So) Happily Ever After

With two little girls wearing a variety of sizes, I’m constantly doing a weird clothing dance that involves a closet, a trundle under Julia’s crib, and three under-the-bed storage units.  I rotate out summer and winter, sizes from 6 months to 2T to 3T and even a couple of 4T things.  Shoes, hats, socks, underwear – all that stuff needs to be switched out, stored, possibly donated, and sometimes even thrown out.  I also like to buy ahead of season, so I have one storage thing that’s exclusively 4T summer and winter clothes for Hazel’s next year.  Sometimes Hazel likes to “help” with this rotation by pretending to do laundry, a game in which she flings stuff all over creation and hides it under our pillows.  A couple of days ago, as she was playing, she pulls out a very lacy, frilly dress and demands that I put it on her.  The dress, which was one my mom had made for me when I was four or five, is one of those things that I don’t want Hazel to wear, per say, but I will not give away.  Somewhat bemused, I slipped the dress on her.  Halfway up she tells me to stop, she doesn’t like it, what am I still pulling it up for, WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO ME?!   What would any mother with my extremely high propensity for sarcasm have done?  Take pictures, of course!!

I could not be more thrilled with her hating this dress (sorry, Mama – no offense!).  So many little girls would FREAK OUT at a frilly dress all their own, a white one – like a bride!  I hate the princess culture, and I’ve worked hard on keeping Hazel away from it.  In the store, she frequently points out pictures of princesses on anything (books, toothbrushes, cereal, you name it) and says, “Look, Mama, there’s that girl you don’t like!”  I thought it was very interesting to see her reaction to this dress, since she wants to wear skirts and dresses pretty often.  I was just so damn happy that she wasn’t prancing around, but instead sulking at me, that I just had to document it.


Why Raising Awareness through Sexism Isn’t Beneficial to Anyone: the Facebook Breast Cancer Memes

Normally I do not post any social commentary on this blog, but I think I am going to start.  I have always been a socially political person, and growing older and going through new experiences has only added to that.  So, expect to see more of a mix in the future.  The following is a post I just made on the site Blogher.com, which is an amazing collection of blogs, all by women, on a huge variety of issues ranging from recipes and entertainment opinions to commentary on politics and economics.

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and with the start of the month comes the deluge of pink reminders peering at us from everywhere from grocery stores to online ads.  Much has been written on the idea of using commercial products painted pink as a sign of supporting breast cancer research; I am not fully opposed to the idea, insofar as the money that is actually donated to research funds.  What I am concerned about is what these attempts at awareness say about the women of our culture.

Take, for example, those pink can openers and bejeweled bracelets.  What kind of message is that sending to our public?  That women, who are certainly the vast majority of consumers willing to purchase these glaringly pink household objects, can only be counted on to raise money via shopping?  That we’ll only be aware of breast cancer in the grocery store aisle where these goods are displayed?  Regulating the support of research on this disease into an arena culturally designated to the female audience sends the message that this disease should only be of concern TO women, forgetting that men can also suffer from breast cancer, both directly and indirectly when the women they love suffer.

Even worse is the Facebook meme that is, regrettably, repeating itself right now.  Last January users saw women updating their statuses with colors and patterns, leaving other users not in on the joke scratching their heads (or maybe, more appropriately, their balls).  The idea was to raise awareness of breast cancer by posting the color of the bra the female user was wearing.  Driving the supposedly anonymously started movement was the idea that men and other users would be piqued by these vague updates, thus asking questions about the mystery to uncover the truth.  And then, I ask, what is supposed to happen?  That those users would then go donate to breast cancer research?  Or that they might participate in Race for the Cure or volunteer at a hospital?   Unfortunately, this trend has nothing to do with raising awareness or instigating action.  Instead, it plays on the idea that men can only consider breast cancer when it is framed by sex and that women can only voice serious social and health concerns while baring their naked, and necessarily sexy, breasts.  The current trend circulating as I type is mimics these same tired stereotypes even more explicitly by having women post where they like to leave their purses.  With responses like “I like it on the kitchen counter” and “I like it on the front seat of my car” the sexual implications could hardly be clearer, made even worse by the awareness on the part of the posters of this sexual undertone.  Further, what does this have to do with breast cancer?  At least the first meme was loosely related to breasts.

Both men and women, but particularly women as the instigators and perpetuators of these trends, when talking about a serious health issue that affects an overwhelmingly female population, can only do so by limiting themselves as sex objects.  Nowhere has anyone posted about something they have done to support breast cancer research as a result of these posts.  As such, all these memes truly do is raise awareness about how sexist our culture really is.

Another First – and a Tiny Surprise

Yesterday we had a *big* first – first time with a babysitter!

I had to go to my 6-week postpartum appointment yesterday, which posed a slight problem.  See, we went for an awesome, cost-effective convertible car seat that she will use up until she's about 2 years old.  So we don't have a heavy yet somewhat convenient carrier for the baby.  Mostly I tote her around in the ring sling, which I adore and usually works.  It wouldn't work, however, whilst I'm lying down with the midwife checking out my business.  So my bud Carrie offered to let Hazel hang at her house!  I was totally relieved – Hazel's first time with someone not in the family was smooth, worry-free for me, and relaxing for her.  Carrie said she did a great job and even had 2 bottles (baby is going through a growth spurt!!), and I only went over all the extra clothes, bottles, toys, and phone numbers one time with Carrie.  

Also I have a bit of news…
I'm officially Laura A. Confer now.  Yep, I decided right before the baby was born that I didn't want to be the odd man out, the midget on the basketball team.  Already Amos and I have encountered people asking are we already married, am I the "real mother," and it's just so upsetting and appalling for me.  I don't want to live with it, so for my own peace of mind I changed my name on Friday.  I think if we had never had children it would never have bothered me…I don't like people assuming I'm a stepmother or something, though.  So there you go – I'm Mrs. Confer now, but not Mrs. Bill Confer.  I'm still a feminist, you know!  ;)

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Today, Tomorrow

I'm headed to the hospital this afternoon at 3 pm to start the induction process.  Today they'll put on the progesterone gel and tomorrow morning I'll start an IV with pitocin, the dread contraction drug.  I'm so wound up and confused…this is how I'm feeling right at this moment:

1.  Excited to finally meet the baby
2.  Happy my mom's going to be here
3.  A bit relieved to not be pregnant anymore
4.  A bit sad to not be pregnant anymore
5.  Very, very creeped out and upset that I'll be induced instead of having a natural birth
6.  Worried that it will hurt worse than it could have had it been natural
7.  Defensive when people keep saying, "A healthy baby is all that matters," meaning get over your feeling about being induced.
8.  Also furious about #7.
9.  Scared I'm going to snap her neck or she'll have some congenital disease or something equally horrible.
10.    Very irritated and prickly at nothing and everything, off and on.

Probably I should add exhausted to that list.  I mean, wouldn't you be if you kept switching back and forth through all that?  But I'm too hyper/upset to be tired.  This whole process really just creeps me out.  Do you know what I mean?  That every aspect, even getting a good night's sleep beforehand (via "something to help you sleep," which is just vague and that is also annoying) is planned out and controlled.  Did you know that tomorrow if they stopped the pitocin I would stop being in labor?  So, technically, we can even control how long the labor will last.  It's creepy!!!!!!!  I really, really hate it and am totally jealous of the 50 bazillion women who have had natural births.  At the same time I'm terrified that if I insisted we wait past the magic 42 week deadline she'll immediately be huge or deformed or start dying.  Seriously, this is the kind of thing I've read and been told might happen.  So what would you do?  Of course, opt for the clinical scary gross birth instead of risk the baby being harmed somehow.  Sigh – rock and a hard, sterile place.

And please, no platitudes.  Like I said up top, this is my birth experience.  It's not just about having a healthy baby – and believe me, I am so anxious and elated to meet her finally and to get to be her mother.  Apart from her, though, it's this awesome, personal, feminine experience for me, and I think I'm right to feel sad about having to be induced.  Maybe that sounds selfish or overly sensitive and defensive; this is a great example, though, of the crux of feminism as related to motherhood, and I refuse to listen to people telling me to get over it and focus only on the baby.

So, I imagine I'll be absent for a while.  I'll be in the hospital at the very least until Thursday, maybe to Friday, and when we get back I'm sure Amos and I will want to spend every moment of the weekend with Hazel and get settled into the house again.  He has to go right to work on Monday; actually today is his first day of classes, but of course he's taking the week off to be with us.  Us.  I can't believe that tomorrow we'll be three!  I promise photos ASAP, though, and wish us luck!

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These Things are Shocking (is it only me??)

Be forewarned; I'm about to go on a mini-tirade, but please bear with me, because I think you'll be on board.

I'm going to smack the next person who smirks, "Are you having twins???" at me.
How can women, and ONLY WOMEN have asked me that, be so rude?  Besides pointing out that I'm obviously very pregnant, that comment alludes that not only am I huge, I'm clearly too huge to be "just" pregnant.  I am so big that it begs a public forum.  I must be pregnant with multiples.  Even in pregnancy I can't escape the constant body criticism of our culture.  I can't remember ever saying that to a woman who was pregnant; mostly I remember thinking things like wow, I bet she's uncomfortable or will I get that big? 

It's already borderline inappropriate to be asking pregnant strangers about their pregnancies anyway.  I mean, think about it; if I saw a man walking around with a cane, could I politely inquire as to how much longer he'll be needing that cane?  Or what's wrong with his leg?  Not so much, because strangers asking other strangers about personal issues is generally not considered acceptable small talk.  

I know what you're thinking:  "Just smile, say 'no,' and don't let it bother you."  No f*$(%ing way.  It's invasive.  It's rude.  It's my right to go about my business without strangers commenting on my body.  And while part of me wants to respond with, "Twins?  No, I'm just really really fat,"  I'll refrain, because as we all know two nasty comments just make two assholes instead of one.  But it's not my job to remain completely polite in the face of such inappropriateness.

This relates back to what I spoke about recently, about women judging women.  I am just continually surprised and dismayed, as I traverse these typical feminine roles, of how much other women heap degradation, judgement, and their own baggage on my (very obviously 9-months-pregnant) back.  

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You Could Fill a Book with the Things I Don’t Know

This has been on my mind a lot lately, and I think I just need to get it out there and vent a little.  

How can a woman in our current times, with the exception of those chained into oppressive religious viewpoints, profess to not be a feminist?  I find it ridiculous that any woman, or man for that matter, would be under the impression that the playing field is level or would be so irresponsible in not trying to make it so.  I seem to be labeled "radical" in my thinking on this matter, though to me it just makes sense.

Feminism started decades ago to help liberate women from forced roles – the wife, the mother, the secretary, the uneducated, the prostitute.  As it grew feminism had an impact on millions of lives, changed those lives for the better.  It was also grossly misrepresented in the media, particularly relating to motherhood, being a biological occurrence that has risen to sainthood throughout history.  Feminists have been portrayed as nazi, man-hating, martyrs to the womb.  With the exception of the rare case, and every movement has those fanatics, those thoughts and ideas don't correspond to the actuality of feminism.  I'm being short here, of course, but even a cursory approach at research will show that I'm correct in my short take on the history of feminism, and I've completed more than a cursory approach.

As I'm preparing myself to become a mother, thinking about how my life will change and how I will teach my daughter what is valuable and what is not, what is right and what is wrong, I find myself surrounded by women who question my ideas.  I have to shake my head sometimes with incredulity; how could I not feel the conflict between work and home, when women for decades have felt the same?  Why is it that my decisions for my life and my daughter's can easily be turned into a public forum, even though they are private and personal to me and mine?  How, when my husband can accept my decisions, can it be so hard for people I've never even met to understand that I chose not to take his last name when we married?  This judgment for personal matters is, in my opinion, one of the very things feminism was first started to prevent; I am not on trial for my decisions because I am a woman.  No one has ever asked my husband how he could let his wife not take his last name; almost everyone I meet assumes that I'm an unmarried pregnant woman who is lucky her boyfriend hasn't taken for the hills yet.  

I guess I've answered my own question; women, people, who fail to seek out knowledge about feminism and rely instead on one-sided, slanted reports and hearsay are the ones who can feel justified in slamming those men & women who have worked so hard to get us to this point.  People who have no idea who bell hooks is are the ones who are so vehemently opposed, and to something they don't even understand.  Still, ignorance is no excuse, people, and starting your sentences with, "I'm not a feminist, but…" are not a get out of jail free card.

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End of Travels and (almost) Work

So the fam is back in Bama today.  We took Momma and Josh to the airport this morning after eating sausage links and thick waffles at a diner close to the airport.  Despite the 40 degree temperatures and rainy, overcast, lame skies, we had a pretty good relaxing time.  We shopped, walked, ate out, and vegged out while watching movies.  Overall, good times, just more low-key than I'm used to.  I think that worked for them too though.  Can you tell that I'm still really tired, lol?  I feel exhausted!!

In other news, I am getting close to the end of my serving career at Nola's.  This weekend it's business as usual, since the college in our little village has graduation on Sunday.  Next week, however, I'll be working with someone everyday instead of being the only waitress, and the week after that I'll have two shifts a week max with two shifts as a hostess that will continue probably up until the baby is born.  Part of me is looking forward to the extra time.  I have a list of huge projects that I want to finish before she arrives, including chores like cleaning out closets and fun stuff like finishing up the felt book I'm making for her.   Also, lately my feet have had some pretty bad pains (real pains, not the typical aching and soreness that most people mean when they say foot pain) all the time, not just after work, so hopefully that will let up too.  On the other hand, I'm generally less happy when I'm not working.  Granted, I'll still be doing product photos, and housework, and all the other assorted little things I do, but I like to be busy.  Frantic, almost.  Honestly!  I suspect that my listlessness and purposelessness will fade somewhat after Hazel's here, just because my activity level will probably jump back up to "frantic."  I guess I'm just having some conflict over being a SAHM (really Work AHM, since I have always and will always do photos) that still needs some more exploration.

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