Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Parenting Choice I Envy

Tons of people are talking about the Toronto couple who has decided to keep the sex of their 4 month old baby Storm a secret. Headlines covering the story tout that the parents are trying to raise a "genderless" child, but to me--they are empowering their child to choose their own gender.  As we know, gender isn't inherently tied to biological sex.  According to the Human Rights Campaign statistics on the amount of transgender people living in the U.S. vary and are incomplete, but the guess is around 1 percent of the population is transexual--which as they point out ignores the broader transgender population.

So if around 1 percent of the U.S. population is transexual, imagine how their childhoods were: feeling trapped in the wrong body. Having a penis but feeling like a girl or woman and vice versa. 

I really envy this family's decision because I can't imagine how hard it must be to maintain such a secret, espeically with the pressure of society pushing to know the sex of the baby.  Like the couple's other children, Storm should be able to express his/her gender despite their sex.  In the past, other parents have come out and told the stories of their children bending the gender boundaries, such as the beautiful book My Princess Boy.  If Storm ends up choosing to express his/her gender in a way that "counters" his/her sex, then so be it.  Just think--if no one knows Storm's sex, then Storm will likely face less teasing and criticism based on choices like clothing, toys, etc.

I won't be hiding the sex of my child once it exits the womb, but I admire this couple.  At the end of the day the moral of the story is about accepting our children for who they are and not trying to push them into confining societal standards of gender identity and expression or sexual orientation. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Pushing Towards a Less Medicalized Birth--Part I

For my friends, it's no surprise for them to hear me talk about my future at-home, midwife-assisted-water-birth where my favorite women will be in my womb circle, surrounding me with their positive energy as I give birth to new life. However, women in 23 states may not have the option of choosing how or where to birth.  In 23 states, Certified Professional Midwives (CPMs) are not legally authorized to practice midwifery thus pushing the birthing standards in these states further towards the medicalized model.



Sure, some birthing women actually need the special care that only a hospital can offer, but for the other healthy women--why is it necessary to give birth in a hospital?  Because we as a society have been taught not to trust women, and especially not to trust women's bodies.

The Midwives Model of Care is based on trusting women's bodies and the process of birth. Also--
"The application of this woman-centered model of care has been proven to reduce the incidence of birth injury, trauma, and cesarean section."

Obstetrician-gynecologists are trained to look for problems and view labor and birth as a series of potentially disastrous problems that they are there to "fix". For these medical professionals, drugs and procedures are the answer and women play a rather passive role in their own labor.

Consider too that until recently almost all OBGYNs were male and that the women who are now obstetricians are taught by males, with curricula written by men.  Sexism is rampant throughout the OBGYN model, and women's bodies are viewed as passive, weak and untrusted to do what they are built to do during labor.  As you can imagine, this innately gender biased model results in an extremely high cesarean rate, increased use of pitocin, oxytocin, epidural and episiotomy--most of which are unnecessary and can cause harm to mother and child. 

Midwifery NEEDS to be a model more trusted in our society--and legalized in the remaining 23 states of the U.S.  Until then, we will continue to have high maternal mortality rates, high cesarean rates and births that are the result of drugs and procedures rather than the woman's body--when it's ready--giving birth naturally and safely.

That's it for Part I of this series.  For folks interested in reading more, I recommend The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth.  It's a tremendously valuable resource.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Information Era

In my quest to get pregnant and during the past several weeks of pregnancy I have been chatting quite a bit with my mom and grandma, and it amazes me how little they knew about their bodies, sex, pregnancy and birth.  I remember my mom telling me about when she gave birth to me.  She had finally pushed me out and felt relieved and exhausted.  Then the doctors told her to keep pushing and she freaked out: "the baby's out! why do I need to push?" and that's when they told her she had to push the placenta out too. Can you imagine not knowing that?! Why the hell didn't her doctor tell her about the stages of childbirth beforehand?

And it's little things like how to get pregnant or how NOT to get pregnant.  After having three boys my grandma told me she wouldn't let my grandpa sleep in the bed until he "got snipped."

Sure, nowadays there are books, blogs, and videos galore that cover every facet of pregnancy and birth.   I started reading books on pregnancy almost an entire year before I even started trying to get pregnant. I'm obsessed with soaking up the information on baby products, breastfeeding, midwifery, organic pregnancy, parenting, etc. OBSESSED.



My new favorite read is one given to me by a friend and fellow feminist called The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth. About a month ago I bought the movie The Business of Being Born.  Hubby and I watched it together it really made him understand why I want to have a midwife assisted home birth. The Thinking Woman's Guide is a great book to piggy back the movie in that it details the different medical interventions that can happen at a hospital during birth, the pros and cons, what your alternatives are, and what questions to ask before getting any of these procedures done.  So far it's been an invaluable resource and has solidified my desire to birth at home.

Women these days are so fortunate--we have all of this crucial information at our fingertips.  However, with cesarean sections and birth inductions at astounding rates in the U.S., not to mention our high maternal mortality rates (1 in 2,100 is among the highest of any industrialized nation),  I wonder how this powerful information can be better distributed and more easily accessible to all women. Knowledge is power and if more women had access to midwifery care and the breakdown of statistics of the unnecessary interventions that take place in hospitals, women will be better for it. 

To me--being pro-choice means more than the right to safe and legal abortion.  It means being informed of all of the choices we have related to our reproductive lives: choices in contraception, choices in birth plans, choices in fertility treatments, etc. 

Friday, May 13, 2011

How I got Knocked Up with a "Broken" Reproductive System

For the past 8 years I have been battling severe endometriosis. In 2003 I had my first laparoscopy and at my post-surgical check-up my doctor told me I should have a hysterectomy because the endometriosis was so bad. I was only 20 years old.  Three surgeries, 2 rounds of medical menopause (from a yucky drug called lupron depot which is also prescribed to treat prostate cancer and causes crazy side effects), and FOUR doctors later I am pregnant.

But getting here wasn't easy. The surgeries suck balls. Menopause sucks even more and I can't  believe I let another doctor convince me to do a second round. Let's backtrack a few months:  In September of 2010 I began getting lupron injections again because I was constantly in debilitating pain and I was tired of letting people cut into my uterus. The plan was to do menopause by taking three lupron injections that last 3 months each.  Well into the 3rd month I was so tired of showing up to important meetings drenched in sweat, gaining weight and being a complete bitch that I decided to quit the lupron and try to get pregnant instead.

The lupron should have been out of my system by the beginning of December. It wasn't. I was eagerly waiting a period so that we could immediately start trying to conceive. At the end of February I decided to call my doc about the missing period and she said I needed to come in immediately for an ultrasound. I ended up getting my period the day before the appointment but they made me come in anyways. The ultrasound results were fine but my doctor still wanted to put me on Provera (a scary hormone that induces menstruation) and then Chlomid (an even scarier drug that induces ovulation.)

Since I JUST started a period after 6 months of hot-flash-hell, I was not about to go on two other crazy hormones. So I refused the prescriptions and decided to try to conceive for at least 6 months before taking a serious fertility drug like Chlomid.

During my stint on lupron I read "Taking Charge of Your Fertility", a book that has changed my life. You see, unlike what your OBGYN will tell you (unless they are on board with FAM), not every woman's body is the same and therefore not every woman has a 28 day cycle with ovulation occuring on the 14th day. It's hogwash. A big fucking lie. But when I went to my preconception appointment back in December the nurse handed me a little sheet on how to get pregnant and it contained these same lies.

Luckily for me I am a smart woman and before I was handed that sheet of paper I had already read the whole TCOYF book and I knew the sheet of paper was bogus (big shout out to my Kelli W. for telling me about the book!)

The book in a nutshell: women's bodies are different. Some women have 20 days cycles while others have 32 days cycles.  The same woman can have one cycle lasting 28 days and the next a 42 day cycle. So how the hell do women a) get pregnant or b) keep from getting pregnant if we are fed the wrong information?

The answer is easy! Practice the Fertility Awareness Method, or FAM. Since studying FAM and practicing I feel so unbelievably in control of my body. Basically, every morning before you get out of bed you take your temperature and record it. Then throughout each day you pay attention to your cervical fluid (dry, sticky, clumpy, stretchy, wet) and record this to into a chart. The highest-quality fertile cervical fluid is stretchy and wet, like egg white--this means you will ovulate soon (the spermies need this kind of fluid to swim to your cervix and egg; the clumpy  or sticky cervial fluid makes it hard for the spermies to get up there).  The morning after you ovulate your temperature will spike and stay up.  What this means is you have a a way to track EXACTLY when or when not to have sex!

This system is great for a number of other reasons like detecting potential fertility problems, but you need to read the book to get all that info.

Here is my chart--the hearts are when we had sex, you can see the temp spike and first green vertical line when i ovulated and the plus sign and second green vertical line for when I got my positive pregnancy test!
Pretty ah-mazing, right?!  I have never felt so in control of my body. The other great thing is that because I knew when I ovulated I was able to take a pregnancy test super early instead of waiting for a missed period AND my due date will be more accurate. Oh, and I'd like to offer a special "fuck you" to the asshole doctor who wanted to remove my lady bits and to the other doctor who told me I may never have children. With FAM, we got pregnant on our very first try. 

Also, for ladies who want to try a natural and free form of contraception--I highly recommend FAM.  I plan on using it for birth control once our little poppy pops out in December.

Great Video

This Video of a natural birth parody on SNL is soooo hilarious.  A must watch.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Gender Roles and Children

So, obviously I am not an official parent yet but I do worry a lot about my future kids being socialized into a narrowly defined gender role.  Because of this, my hubby and I are not going to find out the sex of the baby before birth (I also just want it to be a neat surprise after hours of labor).  Our nursery will be "gender-neutral" colors of green, turquoise and yellow and our baby shower won't be bombarded with frilly pink dresses or sports-themed blue outfits (at least I hope not!)

I want our child to have a clean slate. I'm sure my parents will buy a very gendered outfit once the little one is born, but for us those outfits will be the minority. If say, we have a girl and she begins leaning toward dolls and pink clothing--fine, but it will also be fine if she hates dresses and plays with army men.  I want it to be *her* decision and not one thrust upon her.

What actually concerns me most about the gender binary in our country is the gross sexualization of girls.  Just take a stroll through Target in the girls' clothing section (mini skirts and triangle bikini tops), or watch one of the popular Disney shows (way too much makeup and revealing clothing) and you will see it. A new study recently found that one-third of young girls' cothing is "sexy" in nature.

I am immensley bothered by the idea that our girls are growing up to see themselves as sexual objects with nothing more to offer the world than their bodies.

I know that we can only protect our children to a certain extent, and that those of us who were surrounded by the Disney Princess infatuation and Barbies (like me) turned out to be strong, self-actualized feminists, but that doesn't mean we should accept this corporate production of inappropriate and overtly sexual products aimed at children.

Ok--that's my rant for the day ;)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Naked Toes

In a 2005 study, researchers found an average of 200 industrial compounds, pollutants and other chemicals in the umbilical cord blood of newborns.

Safe chemicals is a feminist issue. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a coalition of women's health organizations and environmental organizations, analyzed the ingredients in hundreds of cosmetics and personal care products and found that ONE IN FIVE personal care products contain chemicals linked to cancer, reproductive problems and birth defects.  What's even crazier is that the cosmetic and personal care industries are not regulated by a government agency like the FDA, so these companies get off scott-free with poisoning our bodies.

Now to the topic of my post: my naked toe nails. About four months ago I began my own chemical cleanse. Those that know me know that I am a make-up and beauty product whore.  I thought switching all of my products over to safe products (no cancer-causing pthalates, petrochemicals, triclosan, lead, formaldehyde, or 1, 4-dioxane) would be a huge pain.  Surprisingly I was wrong.

The only products I have left to switch are my hair conditioner (let me know if you have suggestions!) and nail polish.  Now, I actually know which nail polish i need to switch to, but I keep forgetting. 

Now it's warm outside and I am sporting my flipflops with boringly naked toesies. I know it sounds silly but I had a hard time deciding not to give in and paint my toes with the polish i already have.  Yes, I still use my "bad" conditioner and I will until I find an adequate replacement, but nail polish is a whole other story.

Nail polish contains dibutyl pthalate (DBP), which has been shown to disrupt hormonal systems and
"Phthalate exposure in pregnant women, as measured by urine samples, has been associated with a shortened distance between the anus and genitals in male babies, indicating a feminization had occurred during genital development. Shorter anogenital distance is characteristic of female sex in both humans and animals. Other research in humans has shown that baby boys exposed to phthalates in breast milk had alterations in their hormone levels."

As a pregnant woman there are LOTS of things I can't do, can't eat, etc. and some are easier to avoid than others.  My decision to avoid nail polish until I buy the safe kind is a decision not only for me but for my little embryo growing inside of me.

Sometimes I can't understand why the feminist community as a whole hasn't taken up the issue of safe cosmetics--these toxic chemicals are linked to breast cancer (among other types of cancer), reproductive problems, and birth defects. I know that hazardous chemicals are everywhere and practically impossible to avoid, but that doesn't mean that we should knowingly rub cancer causing lotions on our bodies everyday.  We should fight these cosmetic companies to make their products safer and also urge the US government to ban pthalates and other chemicals linked to cancer from personal care products.  The UK did--so why can't we?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Pregnancy and the City

I'm starting to think that the city is not kind to women in their first trimester of pregnancy.  Daily occurences that had never phased me before are now seriously affecting my work days:

The Train:
Despite the common delays and crowded cars, pre-pregnant me LOVED taking the train to work everyday.  BUT now the 20 minute ride is a serious pain in my ass.  I can't stand to be on a crowded train--it makes me nauseous.  The constant movement of the train also makes me nauseous. Then there's the woman on the train with the strong smelling parfume that makes me nauseous.  Oh, and let's not forget about me puking on the train this week. Yep--I'm not joking.  It came so suddenly that I didn't have time to grab my plastic baggie that I had packed for such an occasion. Fortunately, I barfed right before my stop at Metro Center and there was hardly anyone around me.  I did it. I did a puke-and-run.

Streets:
Usually some nice fresh air helps my nausea but that whole idea goes out the window when I catch a whiff of bus fumes, cigarette smoke, cigar smoke, or the aroma from a DC food truck.  As you can imagine, when I am walking outside I am nauseous a majority of the time.

Elevators:
Sometimes I want to ban cologne and parfume all together.  Because of my super senses (I can smell EVERYTHING) I can smell people even after they are out of the elevator.  However, the worst is when I am stuck in an elevator and someone has food.  Moving in a small box, while strong food aromas fill the space is a recipe for disaster.  I haven't puked on an elevator yet but I won't be surprised if I do.

Friday, May 6, 2011

A Two-In-One Post for You

LE BUMP

I'm still in my first trimester and obviously not showing yet. I really can't wait until I have a big 'ole preggers belly, but for now I will just glance down at the fat pouch on my belly and pretend I have a mini-bump :)

WHEN TO PULL THE "PREGNANCY CARD"
This is obviously harder to do when it's not physically evident that I have a bun in the oven, but it works wonders on the phone:

Me on phone with airline, trying to change to a better seat:
"Listen. I'm pregnant and I guarantee if I sit in the back of the plane I will be vomiting the whole five hours. I need a roomy seat in the front, preferably close to a bathroom."

Airline customer service dude: "Oh. Well, congratulations m'am. Can you hold?"

one minute passes....

Airline customer service dude: "Well, m'am it looks like something has opened up in 8D. It's not an exit row but has just as much space."

8D was an awesome seat. It's instances like this that I have no problem pulling the pregnancy card.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Marsupial Envy

Just think--what would the world be like if humans had evolved to have pouches like marsupials? Answer: complete awesomeness. Both women AND men could carry infants hands-free, as well as other items like groceries, snacks, wallets, etc. Plastic bags would be non-existent and the environment would be better off.
But then you gotta wonder: would some pouches become "sexier" or more desirable than others? What kind of random products would be invented for them? I can picture it now:

  • "Got stinky pouch? Well worry no more! Introducing Pouche Douche! Pouche Douche comes in four different scents and is perfect for all of your pouch needs."
  • "Tired of your stretched-out pouch? Dr. Roo is the pioneer of poucheplasty, specializing in tightening and firming those saggy and slouchy pouches. It's the new cure for the mother in your life!"
Oy. You get the picture. Still, I envy kangaroos (minus the whole three vaginal canals thing, but that's another story) and their nifty pouches! Instead, I have to find a baby carrier that will cost an arm and a leg. Yuck.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

I'm THAT woman.

All I can talk about is being pregnant and having a baby. Ugh.

But wait--is that bad? I'm sure its annoying for most people, but isn't a woman's ability to be ultra-communicative a prized evolutionary trait? In general talking about personal experiences, especially ones as terrifyingly beautiful as pregnancy and birth, help people to learn from one another and create bonds. And we know how I like to bond. People like to bond. We are social animals after all.

In the words of Audre Lorde: "I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood."

So this brings me into a whole other realm of my woman-ness. I struggle sometimes with my femininity, feeling as though I am not feminist enough if I love makeup and skirts and my hubby opens doors for me. And for me, being pregnant is the most feminine thing I could be doing right now.

We could of course get into the whole gender binary that our society has constructed: feminine=bad (weak, sensitive) & masculine=good (strong, stern) and how this association poses a huge problem for us critical thinking folks. I can be super-girly. And that's bad, right? Or am I just another victim of our patriarchal society, giving into these preposterous, antiquated notions of gender expression? Because we all know that the patriarchy is really just jealous that women can create a new person AND feed it, all with our own bodies and a semen donation, and that the world would be a different place if men did the childbearing.

THEN I take a deep breath and remember that feminism is about CHOICE. Not just the choice of deciding whether or not to have children (though that's a big one) but the choice of whether to wear makeup or not, to have a career or be a full-time mom (which is a career of its own), to marry or not to marry, to have sex or not to have sex and with whom, and so much more.

So this is my choice. To get knocked up and raise a family as a working mom with my wonderful feminist hubby. And to talk about it as much as I want. :)

Holy shit. It's positive.

Peeing on sticks is funny. There's really no graceful way to do it. And what's even funnier (or scary actually) iis that one urine-soaked stick can change your life. FOREVERRRRR. Then of course you pee on a few more sticks just to make sure you aren't imagining things (since, for once in your life you want it to be positive.)

So--here's our succession of events:

Day 1: pee on stick. Stick reads negative. My heart feels sad but I know its still a bit early to Mr. Stick to detect any HCG (the pregnancy hormone) in my pee. I resolve to try again in a few days.

Day 2: I'm anxious, feeling emotional and decide to go ahead and try Mr. Stick again. Stick reports POSITIVE results. I smile and show it to hubby. I feel dazed, like I am floating on a cloud. I call my mama--she's excited too. Hubby and I go to the aquarium to celebrate where I end up crying during the dolphin show.

Day 4: Using my "first pee o' the morning" I pee on the third stick just to make sure I am not getting excited over a false-positive (which, by the way are rare.) Holy shit. It's positive. I then go back to bed and kiss my hubby.

Days 4-8: Randomly smiling, with bouts of nausea (not sure if its from the prego hormones or my nervousness instead.) Sometimes I forget I am pregnant until I remember I can't drink coffee. Shit.

Day 9: Pee on another stick (I had a bunch in the bathroom cabinet...why waste them?) Positive. This is getting real. My body is working hard to create a person and a whole other organ, the placenta. Wowza. No wonder I am exhausted all the time.