After birth, the lies continue

Now I get why older generations didn’t talk sex and pregnancy with their children. Pretty sure it was because they wanted grandchildren and we all know that knowledge is power. As a mother in the 21st century and a public servant, I feel it is my civic duty to expose the lies associated with the postpartum life.

1. Pregnancy is 9 months long.
Untrue. Pregnancy is 40 weeks long and if we discount the errant five-week month or two, anyone with basic math skills can see that 40 weeks means 10 months. During a time in which every day matters, it’s misleading to measure pregnancy in units as large as months. One day makes the difference between pre-term and full-term. We discern a baby’s appropriate development based on how many weeks s/he has been cooking away. An ultrasound has the weeks and days of gestation printed across the top, not the nearest whole month. Would you round up or down? No one can answer that because pregnancy is 40 weeks, not 9 months. And then for some people, it’s 40 weeks. and. three. days. #%$%^&@%$

2. Dipping into your husband’s closet is a cost-effective way to expand your pregnancy and postpartum wardrobe.
False. Dipping into your husband’s wardrobe is a cost-effective way to make you feel like a sea cow dressed in men’s clothing.

Wearing your husband’s clothes while pregnant is a terrible, horrible no-good, very bad idea for two main reasons. One, if your husband is larger enough than you that his clothes fit you during pregnancy, see above. Two, if you and your husband are about the same size, by 25 weeks (see Lie #1) his clothes won’t fit you and by 32 weeks you’ll outweigh him and your last shreds of self-confidence and dignity will be trampled beneath your swollen, sea cow cankles. There are two small caveats to these guidelines. One, if your husband is slightly taller and broader than you, his t-shirts can hug in all the flattering places before 20 weeks, lending you that sporty, glowy*, newly pregnant look. Two, after delivery his casual oxford shirts can button nicely over your much-larger-now bosom and skim your much-larger-now hips. That is, if the shirt buttons can reach their holes all the way down. And they probably won’t, so you will cry a little. And as you cry you will look down at the ground which you can now see. And there you will see your sea cow cankles and bread loaf feet and you will weep anew. And you will long for the day when your old fat pants no longer fit you like jeggings. And you will wipe your tears on the sleeve of your husband’s shirt. And a little bit of your snot, too, because he’s a wonderful, patient man who lost weight during your pregnancy and he deserves some snot on the shirt sleeve for that.

3. The pregnancy glow.

The pregnancy glow lasts about 15 minutes. Then, as you realize what you’re in for and your girth expands exponentially and you have less energy to put on make up…and shower…and do laundry…what people mistake for a glow is actually the sheen of oil on your face because you don’t even care not even a little bit about what people think or if you have mascara on or not. In fact, it’s quite likely that if you had mascara on two days ago, it’s still on because you were too tired to wash it off, which means now you have the smoky eye look going on and combined with the oil slick on your face, I could see how some would conclude that you’re “glowing.” But really, there’s no glow. There are breakouts and you’re supposed to stay out of the sun so you get white and puffy all at the same time and then you feel awesome, the same kind of awesome you felt as a high school freshman, which we all know was everyone’s best time.

4. Back is best!
For mom, sure, it kind of is. It’s lovely to be able to stretch out and lie flat on your back like you haven’t been able to do for months. The sleep is divine. Then during your lovely back-sleeping you wake up short of breath and realize the baby is on track to sleep through the night and you’re about to be crushed under the weight of your own boobs. I digress. The ‘back is best’ mantra of course references the current pediatrician-endorsed way to lay your baby down to sleep. Funny thing about APA guidelines is that babies don’t read or follow them so when your baby falls asleep on her side and she wakes up and wails when you lay her dutifully on her back in her crib with no bumpers, tight-fitting sheets, no toys and no blankets, do yourself a favor and tilt her back on to her side, prop her up with a blanket, and offer a prayer of thanksgiving that you found a way to help your baby sleep soundly. Then every time you go to the pediatrician’s office and have to fill out the yes-or-no survey, cross your fingers under the clipboard when you answer “do you ever lay your baby on his/her side or stomach to sleep?” I even drew the quotes around no once. “No” I “never” do that.

4. Baby wash cloths.
Pfffffft. They neither wash nor are they cloth. Baby wash cloths are the biggest waste of space and money in the entire universe of things a baby could possibly have. Pack of 12 baby wash cloths? Oh, you mean pack of 12 crappy, cheap little strips of junky material that curl up in the wash, roll up when you try to use them, and attract like a magnet the hair of every creature who lives in or has visited your home? Ever? And when wet they have the audacity to wilt like the house-brand paper towel in a side-by-side comparison commercial. Baby wash cloths are the fabric equivalent of a booger you can’t get off your finger.

5. Babies don’t need shoes.
Sure they do. Because baby shoes are cute and since none of yours are going to fit when all is said and done, someone in the house may as well have kicky little rides. This is the first and one of the only times it is acceptable to live vicariously through your child and her hot pink Mary Janes with the flowers on the toes.

6. Trust your body.
Yes and no. For example, your body will want to sneeze after you get home from the hospital. Your uterus will ask it not to. This is a time when you should not trust your body. Deny the sneeze at all costs. Here’s another example: When it is time to get up from lying down, your body will want to sit up. Do not allow your body to sit up. Ask someone to sit your body up for you. This is another time when you should not trust your body. On the other end hand, your body will want to eliminate waste again. You should trust it to do so when it is ready but you should also be popping stool softeners like they’re candy and probably washing them down with something sugary that will give you the runs. Don’t be a hero.

7. This is the best time of your life.

I’ll be real, I am seriously enjoying motherhood and parenting and expanding our family. But to say this is the best time of my life is like saying the Carter years were a high point in American history. It just ain’t so. It’s dangerous and completely unhelpful to let new parents think they should be having a blast with the first few weeks of postpartum life. The serious indignities of labor and delivery (and these indignities multiply tenfold if it’s a c-section–who knew?) extend, albeit temporarily, into your new life. Things you thought would go away immediately don’t. Things you thought would look normal again haven’t yet. This isn’t the best time of your life and don’t pretend like it is. The best time of your life will happen later but watch the champagne because good times+the bubbly is how some of us got here in the first place.

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Revolution: 55 minutes of my life I’ll never get back but tears of laughter I’ll never forget

Or, Electricity: The Tie that Binds

When commercials for the new J.J. Abrams show Revolution started over the summer, I was unimpressed. And then I was amused. The husband was, too. We wondered from these tidbits of post-apocalyptic primetime teasers why the power would go out and the world would revert to the middle ages and stay there. We wondered how suburbanites the country over would learn how to use ancient weapons and be forced to use them to defend themselves against all other PTA members in a daily battle for the survival of the fittest (which reminds me—how did the asthmatic kid survive so long?). We laughed at the seeming absurdity of it all but decided, when channel surfing tonight, to watch the pilot and give it a fair shake. And that’s about all it’s going to get from us, except for accolades as the funniest show we’ve seen passed off as a drama.

Revolution begins with a nonchalant male narrator, explaining in casual vernacular how “it used to be.” When the scene cuts to how things are “now” with the power out—children dressed in colonial garb, herding sheep through what once were manicured front lawns—my husband and I gathered that “now” is a world in which the Amish have become an economic powerhouse. But there’s no mention of them. Apparently everyone else has died, except for the 30 people who are now chasing each other across once-urban Illinois in a quest to…restore electricity? Keep the power out forever? Avenge deaths? Who knows?

The evil militias, a result of fallen governments, are clearly renegades and not constitutionally bound like real militias in this country. I hadn’t realized the Constitution ran on electricity but apparently it does. When the lights go out, so does the law of the land. Which, I guess, explains why society has gone to hell. Without electricity, we the people are nothing. In fact, the death of the main character’s mother, which she carries as a chip on her shoulder and references every eighth line throughout the show, is never explained further; I can conclude nothing but that the woman died of electricity deprivation. What a way to go.

Even though we have seen the show now and we understand all these things clearly, there were some things my husband and I couldn’t figure out. Things like:

  • How come all the cars stopped driving at the same time but their lights turned off in aesthetically pleasing order on the highway?
  • How come the ice cream was already melted when the little girl started to eat it, three minutes after the power went out?
  • Who invited the Old Spice guy and his horse? And where did he get his leather chain mail?
  • When did everyone learn to ride horses and shoot crossbows?
  • How come half the people are dressed like they are from Middle Earth and the other half are dressed from the Target clearance rack?
  • More importantly, how do they keep their brights so bright and their whites so white? Heaven knows there was no advance in sartorial technology between the Civil War and Maytag’s inception, so how DO they DO IT?? My mind can’t fathom.

Despite being able to quote-predict the show twice in ten minutes, I admit I was wrong when I assumed the militia was going to shoot the son Patriot-style the second the kid showed up with his Nerf bow to defend his father. But I did call the Amistad rip-off when MacGyver dug the nail of out of the wood with his fingernails to pick the lock on his handcuffs.

Know what really blew my mind? That the power has been out for 15 years, there is no glass in the windows, but the candles from the Pottery Barn catalog fall collection have arrived and are burning bright across the whole first floor of the house in the first half hour. Clearly conservation only extends as far as the corn field on the cul de sac. None of this going to bed when it’s dark business, there’s free shipping on orders of 24 candles or more!

All I can conclude is that you can’t make this stuff up. Oh that’s right, they didn’t, the took it from every other post-apocalyptic, Armageddonesque film and book produced in the last generation, downgraded the story line, subbed in grade-C actors with inexplicable accents, and put it on prime time. It was a Monday-night SNL version of Hunger Games, The Patriot, I Am Legend, The Road, and Alas, Babylon. Revolution was 55 minutes of my life I’ll never get back, but the years I gained from laughing out loud more than make up for it.

Busy bees

In the last two weeks the husband and I have hosted out-of-town company, traveled to and from the home state, prepared for and celebrated the dad’s 60th birthday, planned and (barely) carried out family photos while in the home state, had a baby shower, cleaned the entire condo, started the new dog walking job, replaced tires and passed a commonwealth-mandated vehicle safety inspection, and picked a baby name.

Now we’re back in town and little things like go to the DMV and switch license plates and driver’s licenses, walk more dogs, and plan for the little oyster are on the immediate to do list.

I’m also hoping to finish the painting projects I started the other week so I can at last blog about them and then clean up the newspaper that is strewn expectantly across the floor in the baby’s room.

While we were out of town, Dietrich stayed with a friend and had a grand old time. How do I know? Well, one, he always has a grand old time with her and two, he looks like this at 10:30 in the morning:

A t-shirt that slims one’s hips…why?

Or, In which I rant and rave about one side of an issue while in my head formulating valid counterarguments for said issue and still choosing to take the position herein extrapolated.

Last night the husband had a softball game and my poor back couldn’t handle sitting in the bleachers, so I went to Barnes and Noble and spent an hour with Real Simple instead.

Normally I love that magazine and look forward to each month’s new edition (I called it an ‘episode’ the other day–it’s the TV age, what can I say?) but this month’s was a letdown. The gift ideas for dads and grads made me think what?? and the rest of it was just as puzzling and, in my humble opinion, unoriginal and useless.

Particularly so was the article about finding a flattering t-shirt. I get the articles about finding a bathing suit that flatters one’s shape–there are as many different bathing suit styles as there are body shapes in the first place–but t-shirts? Anyone with eyes should be able to tell when a t-shirt fits right and is flattering, and if someone can’t tell, I can virtually guarantee that person isn’t reading Real Simple to remedy the situation.

The little blurb that introduced the t-shirt article ended with the claim that there were even some t-shirt options to “slim your hips!”

<crickets>

I like looking nice, and I like clothes that fit me well. But I only expect my t-shirts to do certain things, like have holes for my arms and cover my boobs.

Almost no woman looks at another woman and says to her friends, “Wow, that t-shirt really slims her hips. What a flattering cut on her particular shape and proportions” and my scientific research, i.e., asking the husband, reveals that no man would a) notice or b) care how a woman’s t-shirt makes her hips look. Men don’t tend to appreciate women’s t-shirts for what they do for the hip area.

It’s important to feel good about the way you look, woman or man, and clothes that fit can help with that. But since when do my hips need to be slimmed, Real Simple? And what makes you think that until your lackluster t-shirt-hunting articlette, women everywhere were in a panic over the dearth of hip-slimming t-shirts we so desperately need and could find nowhere, simply nowhere?

Before thumbing through Real Simple, I read the first few chapters of Tina Fey’s autobiography Bossypants. She made an excellent and humor-laden observation along the same lines: since when did it become more than fat or skinny? Fey writes (and I summarize) that at any given moment, a woman somewhere is trying to fix one of the following physical problems with herself:

pores too big, brows too thick, brows too thin, brows too high, brows too light, lashes too sparse, skin too red, skin too yellow, skin too green, feet too big, calves too big, calves too small, boobs too big, boobs too small, boobs different sizes, waist too high, legs not long enough, hips too big, butt too flat, butt too round, butt the wrong shape, hair too thin, hair too flat, hair too thick, too curly, too straight…

Who decided the size of anyone’s pores is a problem that one would want to fix using your not-so-moderately priced product? Who says these are problems in the first place? What is “too small” or “too big” and to whom are we comparing these calves of obviously gargantuan proportions?

It’s great and important to feel good about yourself but I wonder how many women would have recognized they had all these problems to fix without the help of commercials and magazines like Real Simple.

Yes, you can definitely choose to ignore all this stuff and live your life sized and dressed in a way that makes you happy and comfortable. And sometimes there are real problems to fix and knowing what products to use is helpful. But as I watched some commercial last night about getting your spider veins zapped away, the entire 60 seconds of which showed a woman’s tanned, shapely and vein-free legs running around a family picnic, I couldn’t help but think who in the world except for that woman noticed the veins in the first place, much less enough to have a conversation about her and what a horrible, ugly, rotten, veiny person she must be, if her nasty pegs were any indication. No one, that’s right.

On the show America’s Got Talent the other night a plus-sized pole dancer performed. Now, pole dancing and naked women generally are not my things, but I know there were some people who were intrigued. What wowed me was that average-sized people, even on the morning shows today!, were simply agog at the fact that she “had the guts” and that “it must have taken her a lot to get up there” and “more power to her” and so on, once she got up there and shook what her mama and McDonald’s gave her.

More power to her? It must have taken a lot? Do we say that when svelte Jenny McCarthy poses naked for Playboy? Does anyone think Jenna Jameson “has a lot of guts” for baring it all in her films and photo shoots? No, because those are the body types we expect to see, the types we want to see, the types it’s ok to show off. Everything else is wrong and “more power to” whomever disregards the social norms dictating acceptable sizes, and performs in a bikini with a pole on national television.

Don’t get me wrong, the large pole dancer appeared unhealthy and watching her wearing a bikini and gyrating against a pole is a mental image I wish I could erase. But under the guise of praise and admiration, what “good for her, it must have taken a lot of guts” really means is “she and what she is doing are not anything we want to see because she and what she is doing don’t fit what we as a society have decided and tried to imply to her is acceptable for someone her size and shape, which, as we have also tried to imply to her, are wrong.” It’s insulting, patronizing, and dishonest all masquerading as accepting.

Yesterday I dashed into a maternity clothing store in search of a few summer staples. When I told the saleslady, who had asked, that I am at 24 weeks, she exclaimed “You’re so small! You’re tiny!”

Am I? I have more fat in more places than I have ever had and I weigh more than I have ever weighed in my life. I don’t like how I look, I don’t love how I feel, and despite having an “excuse” for being this size, I don’t like it. Really, I’m not tiny but why should I want to be? Why was the saleslady’s exclamation meant and taken by me as a compliment?

Because tiny is best, just ask Real Simple. Whether it’s your hips that need to be smaller and you’re in the market for a t-shirt to help, or your eyebrows and pores need to be smaller or your calves, waist, caloric intake, any of that needs to shrink, rest assured that you’re on the right track with anything you’re doing to make it happen because no matter what it is, whatever you have and whatever you used to have, it needs to be smaller. Get a t-shirt to help, if that’s the only solution.