Thursday, November 30, 2006

Mountains and mountains of crap

Babies generate a lot of stuff, most of which seems to be appalling. Things in pastel colors (shudder), things with bows and ruffles and bears and puppies and "jungle" themes. This shit is everywhere, and it makes my skin crawly to even look at most of it. I don't think "it's so cute" or "it's for a baby!" should be an excuse for bad taste and buying mountains of cheap plastic crap. There are a few nice baby things out there, some well-designed, sleek items to use with your dear little one, but they're going to cost you. A lot. If you want something without ruffles or bears or pastels, something that’s well-designed and not a total piece of stupid plastic crap, you have to pay out the ass for it. Which I don’t get. A nice, austere baby blanket would take way less fabric than the appliqué-and-ruffle-drenched shit I keep seeing. Why are you charging me double for less fabric?

I’ve been looking over some of the checklists supplied in every baby book and on every baby, mother, or parenting website in creation. I’ve come to the conclusion that most of them are total bullshit, fabricated by the Baby Industrial Complex, to make you buy more stuff. For example, do I really need a

Changing table (like I have room for this, and why do I need a special table to do it on?)
Rocking chair/Glider (again, it's not like I have room for this, and why can't I just sit on my couch? Is there some rule that you can't use an old chair with a new baby?)
Crib Bedding Set (You’re not even supposed to put the comforter on them, why am I paying $300 for it? And does a crib really need a dust ruffle?)
Mobile (that will probably play some jangly, annoying tune)
Diaper Stacker (dear God, how DID civilization progress without a bow-covered sack for diapers?)
Matching Accessories -Lamp, wall border, rug, valance, etc (You’ve got to be kidding me. I don’t even have that stuff in MY room)
Car seat, Stroller, Travel Crib, Co-Sleeper AND Playpen (let’s not forget the special sheets for the playpen mattress)
Swing, Walker, Bouncer, AND Stationary Entertainer (who has room for all this shit?! Why the need for all these devices to stick the baby into?)
High Chair with “splat mat” AND Booster Seat (because it's not enough to have one place for them to smear food everywhere, you really need more)
Cradle/Bassinette, with extra sheets of course (What about the playpen? The crib? The travel crib? The co-sleeper? Can’t they sleep there?)
Baby Monitor (our apartment is less than 950 square feet, I’d have to work NOT to hear the baby all the time)
Sleep Positioner (what is this?)
Safety Gates, Outlet Covers, Cabinet Latches (the kid can’t even find its own feet yet, why is this on a “new baby” list?)
Crib Toys, Activity Toys, Baby Gym, Playmat (can’t I just give it some cat toys and a rusty old saw blade to play with?)

We are going to try our hardest to avoid falling into the Pit of Baby Stuff. We've finally managed to pare down our crap (and will have another opportunity when we move again) to a reasonable level. I don't want to get buried in stuff again, especially not if it's pastel or "jungle-themed." Ugh.

Cross that one off the list

Note to self: If the fetus turns out to be of the female variety, do not name it Emily. I’ve been getting a fair amount of spam in my gmail these days, and a lot of it is of the “I like you/I think you’re attractive/I saw you the other day, let’s have some fun together – my name on MSN Messenger/Yahoo/AIM is ________” Except lately, that blank is always filled in with Emily Somelastname or 86EmilySlut or some other variation of Emily. Apparently Emily gets around, or there exists a whole tribe of slutty girls named Emily with very good Internet access.

Monday, November 27, 2006

You don't know me at all

I was talking to my little sister yesterday, and somehow the subject of drugs during delivery came up. I said I don't want any, and she was surprised. Really surprised.

Which I don't get, since I have always fallen on the crunchier, granola-inclined side of things. Of course, this is the same sister who asked me if I'd accidentally gotten pregnant, when she knows I don't even like to go to the grocery store without a painfully specific, footnoted, annotated, bilbliographied list. I won't even take an asprin right now, won't drink diet soda, won't take allergy medicine or cough syrup. I don't know why she thinks I'd be that careful for ten months and then get shot chock-full of paralyzing, numbing stuff just when I come to the end of it all.

Maybe it's just that she's 21 years old, a happily self-involved college student, and has no frame of reference for things like this. Maybe it's that since I am far away now, she's forgotten who I am. I get this feeling a lot when I'm talking about the baby, but curiously enough it doesn't happen when I tell a stranger I find the thought of an epidural horrifying or I can't eat tuna right now. The strongest confusion/criticism/surprise always comes from the people I thought knew me best. Although they are all 3,000 miles away so I can't actually see them, I get the feeling my friends, relatives, and assorted loved ones have been looking at me oddly since we let the word out. I definitely get the impression their view of me has been...skewed somehow, as though they're all looking at me sideways or something.

I understand surprise; that I get. I was not exactly on the "Top 10 People Most Likely to Procreate" list. What I don't understand is surprise and bewilderment at other choices, like no drugs and no Elmo. It's very much like the craziness that ensued when we decided to get married; people who've known me my whole life and who have discussed my loathing of mascara, refusal to wear pantyhose, and absolute hatred of the color pink didn't understand why I didn't want to be some poofy, pastel, overly-made-up Rent-A-Bride publicly given away by people who, while they did create me, I have never gotten along with terribly well.

It was very lonely and difficult standing up to all their expectations (not to mention meddling, guilt, and anger) in that case, and I didn't even do a very good job. I wound up, for the most part, the poofy Rent-A-Bride I'd tried so hard to avoid. I just hope the smothering attentions of my loved ones don't turn me into a friggin' soccer mom before I realize what's going on. Ugh.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Why the other PTA members will be afraid of us

My husband Max has been enthusiastically keeping track of the fetus's progress via several web sites. He likes to show me the pictures of what it looks like each week and read aloud the "what's going on with your baby this week" blurb. It seems odd that all this stuff is going on in there and, aside from a lot of barfing and nausea, I don't feel a thing. All those little cells and molecules going about their busy work, and I can't even tell.

Me: "Does it still have a tail?"
Max: "No, the tail disappeared a few weeks ago. At least, it was supposed to."
Me: "That's too bad. Tails are kinda cool. You know if our kid was born with a tail, we'd totally make the kid keep it. And then we'd put the kid in a freak show."
Max: "Oh, yeah. Absolutely. That kid can earn his college tuition."
Me: "Tuition? Hell, the kid can earn his keep. Get out there, Monkey, mama needs a new pair of Chuck Taylors!"
Max: "I wonder if it would be able to grab stuff? Would it be like an elephant's trunk?"
Me: "Oh, that would be awesome! You're reaching for the remote, and it's too far away, so you ask the kid to get it with his tail. Extra fingers, pah! We got the useful mutation."

Friday, November 17, 2006

Book Review: The Girlfriend's Guide to Pregnancy

I hated this book. I hated, hated, hated it. It was insulting to both genders and offered almost nothing in the way of advice, help, or useful tips. Every third or fifth page had some stupid note on it to the husband (the term itself, being so gender-and-marriage-specific, bothered me) about how he should buy the pregnant woman jewelry or stop telling her she looks fat or something. The author suggested you leave the book open on his pillow so he’d notice her sage words of wisdom and not only stop calling you a fat cow but also buy you a shiny diamond.

Let me paraphrase some of the book’s major points:

- So you’re pregnant! Well, congratulations. You’re going to get fat, you know. Really, really fat. And your husband (because nobody but hetero married couples have babies) is going to laugh at your big fat ass and call you a big fat fatso fatty all the time because you’ll be really FAT! Isn’t that funny? Ha ha ha ha ha! Don’tcha just love being Girlfriends?

- Your husband is freaking out right now because you’re pregnant. Even if he says he’s happy, he’s not. I know y’all didn’t do this together, on purpose, because a man would NEVER consent to having a child willingly! He doesn’t want that responsibility! Men are really just big babies themselves, ha ha ha! And he can’t be happy about this, because it means he won’t be the only baby around anymore! Even if he’s being nice to you and not calling you a big fatty fat fatso like most husbands do, he’s faking. He’s just waiting so he can get “sympathy pains” and “sympathy nausea” and gain “sympathy weight” so you’ll have to baby him again. Because, you see, he’s just a big, whiny tittybaby like all men! They’re all big babies, tee hee! But, shucks, us gals gotta take care of ‘em, because that’s our job! Hee hee hee! Where would we be if we didn’t take care of our big baby men? Why, we’d be the lowest form of life on earth – husbandless women! Ha ha ha! Don’tcha just love being Girlfriends?!

- Don’t bother with exercise during pregnancy. You’re going to get HUGE and FAT anyway, and exercise won’t make your husband want to sleep with you again. Besides, all those studies that say women in better shape do better during labor are full of crap! Take it from me, your Very Close Girlfriend - you should just lay on the couch for nine months! Do nothing! Become a human garden slug, only with less movement! Get even fatter, because your husband doesn’t love you anymore anyway!

- Oh, how cute! You think you’re going to have a “natural” childbirth? (*pats me on the head*) Well, sweetie, take it from me, Your Very Close Girlfriend, you won’t. You’ll be screaming for that epidural in no time. You’re just not strong enough to do it without drugs, hon. Women aren’t that strong, we’re just built to be mommies, not endure torture. And why would you even bother? What’s the point, you think you’re cool or something? Trust me, Your Very Close Girlfriend, when I say that you’re going to get the epidural. No matter what your poor little womany birdbrain THINKS you’re going to do, you’ll get the epidural anyway.

- Don’t bother with maternity clothes, just wear your husband’s fat pants. Why bother trying to look nice when he won’t touch you in bed anyway? And also borrow his hugely oversize t-shirts; the slob look is good for you! But if you do wear maternity clothes, I suggest lots of stirrup pants. And schlubby overalls. Or better yet, you should get my favorite item of pregnancy clothing – a stirrup-pants jumpsuit! ***I am so not kidding, she did actually mention stirrup pants BY NAME and rave about her one-piece jumpsuit. The damn book was written in 1995, not the fucking Dark Ages. Stirrup pants? Really? Give me a goddamned break.

- Your husband is a big, dumb louse. All men are. And he’ll probably call you fat, or laugh at you when you’re being a Psycho Pregnant Lady (because all women are psycho hose beasts underneath, it’s our hormones, tee-hee), or he’ll start fucking the interns at his office, but that’s okay, because (*adoring smile*) he’s your guy! And guys are like that, ha-ha! And they’re all dumb and insensitive and lecherous and afraid of fatherhood! HA HA HA HA! Isn’t that FUNNY? Don’tcha just love being Girlfriends?

I could not actually get all the way to the last page of this book. I think I had 10 pages to go or something. It was so insulting and stupid and useless I could not force myself to go on. I do remember getting very upset at the chapter about labor & delivery, because she said
a) go to the hospital as soon as you feel the first little twinge – why bother staying home? The sooner you get there, the sooner you can get some drugs and your epidural.
b) Lots of doctors and nurses will come in and poke at you, and do things to you, and you won’t have a say in it but that’s okay because why should you care? You’ve got your epidural and you’re going to be a MOMMY!! What else could you possibly care about?
c) You have to do whatever the doctors say, whenever they say it. They’ll maybe let you keep your own socks on, but that’s all you get to control.

For some reason, the socks part upset me most. I showed it to my husband and I was really, really freaking out about it – almost hyperventilating and crying upset. “SOCKS?! That’s all I get out of this, I get to keep my SOCKS? They can poke me and tie me down and not let me eat or drink anything and they only let me keep my SOCKS?? I want to keep more than my socks, I want to do it wearing my own clothes! I don’t want a stupid hospital gown and a bunch of people looking at me and poking me and telling me what to do! I want to keep more than my SOCKS!” I was wailing now, picturing this horrific scene, like from an alien abduction movie. It seemed so scary, all of this, and I wanted to crawl away and find the crunchiest, granola-est midwifery practice I could. After reading this book, I was pretty much ready to start training for a marathon and then go give birth in the woods, since sitting on my ass for nine months and going to the hospital meant all I got to keep was my damned socks.

My husband found the book pretty fucking offensive, too. He’s not a big whiner, a big baby, or a pig. This whole kid thing was his idea, and he’s still way more excited about it than I am. He is totally psyched about being a dad, whereas I despise the word “mommy” and have pretty meh feelings about this whole baby thing so far. He doesn’t think I’m fat, and still desires me as much as ever (no, he’s not just saying that, like this book and so many others would have you believe). He takes good care of me when I need it, gives me space when I need it, and never says things like “I want my old wife back, you know, the one you used to be before you got pregnant.” According to the book, he’s either faking all this or he doesn’t exist, and either possibility is one he objects to.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

So it begins

I have already posted about my mother-in-law referring to the fetus I am toting around as "our baby." Not "the baby" or "my grandbaby." "Our baby." Which annoys me, since a) I don't recall her being around for the conception (*shudder*), b) I don't see her horking over a toilet once a day and unable to drink plain water for fear of puking it up, and c) I haven't noticed her in my living room when I'm up late at night, insomniac and worrying about losing my identity to motherhood.

I don't have the best relationship with my in-laws; though they were pretty sane about the wedding, the creeping, reaching, clutching "we want to discuss how you feel family fits into your marriage" talk they tried to ambush me with the week after the wedding did not sit well with me (not to mention all the shenanigans they pulled before we were legally married). Sometimes I feel as though my mother-in-law and I are dogs, circling and growling at each other, hackles raised as we bare fangs and try to nudge the other out of my husband's life.

My husband was also bothered by the "our baby" comment, which I took as a big step. We've been together three and a half years, and I've spent much of that time convincing him to let his parents know less about his life, not more. It caused a lot of trouble between us and I had to tell him that if he could not learn to put me first - put us first, our life together, not the life he had with his parents, not their needs or wants or opinions- that I would find it hard to build a life with him. He eventually got it, eventually realized that the less information he gave his mother, the less ammo she had. Now that we are about to have a child together - our child, created by us and not really something his parents can take credit for, lay claim to, or take away - I think he really does get it. This is something that is absolutely ours, and I think his hackles were raised a bit when he heard his mother trying to wedge her way in there.

He hinted to her this weekend that perhaps she should find a different moniker for the much-anticipated grandchild. Much along these lines: "I'm just surprised, is all...I thought you'd be calling it your grandbaby, you've been waiting for this for so long..." He tried several times to get her to bite, and she refused. She essentially replied that she was going to keep calling it whatever she wanted. "We're going to be there for that baby when it's born!" she said. "As soon as it's born, we'll be there!" He started trying to find a way to tell her that we'd prefer not to have a pack of relatives hanging around the hospital when the baby comes. She immediately got huffy and started in with the "well, if you don't want us to come" line. He had to backpedal and say no, it's not that they can't come at all, just that we're going to need some time. "Well, of course," she said. "I mean, of course you guys are going to want a couple of days..." Which she's said before, when we told her. Look, I know they're excited, but (as I told my husband when he said that maybe it wouldn't be so bad and they could help out and it might be nice to have them around blah blah blah, like we can't even take care of our own damned baby without their valuable help) I don't relish the thought of having a house full of people the day we come home from the damned hospital.

As I explained to my husband, his parents aren't exactly the type to entertain themselves, nor are they they type to go and find the coffee filters and figure out how to work the coffee pot when they want some. They'd hint they want some, but it would be up to me to make it. They'd feel it was impolite or something, I suppose, to dig through my cupboards for filters and mugs. Even though they have no problem passing judgement on everything their son does and inviting themselves for visits, I don't think they'll raid my cupboards for snacks. What this means is that, although they won't be sleeping here (at least I don't think they're planning on THAT), I will wind up being the one responsible for feeding and entertaining them every minute they're here. It's not like we can go out travelling the countryside with a newborn (germs! crowds! strangers touching my baby!) and how long can we possibly sit around our (stuffy, hot, and generally bad for entertaining) apartment gazing at the baby? "Look it's sleeping." "Yup, still sleeping." "Oh, there's the poop-face. Time for a diaper change."

And, truthfully, when I hear my mother-in-law saying that she will call it whatever she wants, and show up whenever she wants, I feel like raising my hackles and baring my fangs. Back off, bitch, this is my show. You have no jurisdiction here. At least I feel certain that my husband will back me up on that one.