Hello, World

Hello, world.

My name is Vale. I am a few days past five weeks old. Like all babies, I eat, poop, and sleep a lot. These constitute my primary activities in any given 24-hour period. I am a serious baby and frequently have contemplative expressions on my face, or look at people out of the corner of my eyes suspiciously. I don’t smile much, I frown a lot, and occasionally I am prone to a smirk here and there. I will probably be sarcastic as an adult.

I laugh and smile in my sleep, and also coo and make grunting noises. I rarely cry for unexplained reasons, and have never wailed for any extended period of time. When I do cry heartily, Mom calls me “ugly fetus face” because my whole face scrunches up into a big mess of wrinkles. I sleep through extremely loud noises and social gatherings, and have been sleeping in 5-6 hour stretches already. Mom and Dad (perhaps too optimistically) hope this will continue.

I don’t mind baths too much. The first time I was plopped in a tub, I thought I was going to cry, but then decided it was not so bad. I don’t like clothing, and spend most of my days just wearing a diaper. Mom takes me out in public like so and sometimes people say, “Ooh, a naked baby!” I guess other babies usually wear clothes. I like to cuddle with Daddy the most. I love to eat. Eating is great. I could…I mean I do do it all day and night.

Mom makes me listen to Arcade Fire, Billie Holiday, Elliot Smith, and other hippie crap during the day. We go for walks sometimes with grandpa, because I am supposed to get some sun every day, but I hate having sun in my eyes. Mom is training me to pee and poo on cue to eventually stop relying on diapers. Mom and Dad started this process by doing a whistle every time they change my diaper. The whistle is Rue’s whistle from the Hunger Games. Don’t ask me how they decided on that one; my parents are weird.

I have two cat sisters who do not pay me much mind. I think they resent me, but they are not particularly unfriendly. They always like to be close by to Mom and Dad, even if I’m around. Sometimes I disrupt their slumber at night and they grow irritated and leave the bed. Fiona steps on me when I’m trying to sleep. Maybe one day we will get along better.

Thoughts on Ignorance as a Cause of Post-Partum Depression

I am not a psychiatrist, a medical specialist, or even a scientist, but I have a sneaking suspicion that post-partum depression, while obviously a complex condition, is rooted at least in part in one phenomenon: distorted expectations from lack of sufficient and accurate information.

Likely owing to society’s desire to increase the population of humans, and general squeamishness and avoidance of gross subjects, most women are exposed to only a very topical and rosy view of pregnancy, birth, and motherhood throughout their lives leading up to the decision to reproduce. Everyone’s heard of “pregnancy glow.” On the other hand, things like pregnancy constipation, pregnancy constant flatulence, pregnancy insomnia, pregnancy leaking of urine, and pregnancy leaking of amniotic fluid are less frequently mentioned, if at all. After labor, everyone knows about the “bundle of joy,” but probably not the bundle of shit on the delivery table.

Unless a woman happens to keep company with a horde of brutally honest women who don’t mind sharing things like a desire to literally die during childbirth because of the horrible pain (thanks mom!); how badly their vaginas tore, got infected, then tore again; among other horrifying stories not fit for dinner conversation, a woman may find herself pregnant and learning these very real possibilities for the first time. Society wants you to think of the glow, not the farting, leaking, pain, tearing, and shitting, because if women carefully considered all these downsides, some undoubtedly would have second thoughts. It is true the more women know and contemplate the implications of these realities, the more careful they are going to be about their decision to reproduce, but this should not be a bad thing.

Again, I’m not a medical professional, but I speculate jumping into pregnancy imagining the glow and the rewards of motherhood, then being subsequently ambushed by a slew of physical ailments, followed by serious physical compromise or injury during labor, topped off with the reality of becoming responsible for a squirming, screaming, crying, shitting bundle of mess all while suffering sleep deprivation and possible problems with breastfeeding, is an easy recipe for depression.

This is exactly why all women should seek out all the relevant information, both positive and negative before deciding to have children. Having worked in the field of healthcare law for many years, I know the detailed and precise description of risks and complications, both common and rare, discussed with women before they have so much as an appendix removal, brow lift, or boob job. For almost all surgeries, no matter how minor, physicians will review risks, benefits, and alternatives, providing an overview of common complications, expected outcomes, and even some remote risks, such as death. They are required to do this for every procedure, even life-saving surgeries most people in their right mind would never refuse. The basic rationale behind this practice is that people should know what they are getting into, and that includes not only common and expected risks and outcomes, but at least an idea of remote and unlikely complications as well.

Yet, as it relates to reproduction, a completely elective choice in this day and age, women hear merely about “pregnancy glow,” “bundle of joy,” and perhaps vague references to fatigue and morning sickness before committing to something of significant medical, physical, and emotional impact not only for the next 9 months, but indeed, possibly for the next 18 years. With this in mind, it’s actually amazing more women do not suffer post-partum depression.

Of course, while society has a tendency to give women inaccurate impressions, women need to take responsibility for their own decisions. I doubt many women look into the full panoply of risks, complications, and outcomes associated with pregnancy, labor, and the post-partum period in great detail before deciding to become pregnant; I know I didn’t, and I am actually someone who really took my sweet time deciding to have children at all. I had cataloged in the back of my mind a collection of horror stories from honest women over the years, and went into this with an understanding of a lot of worst case scenarios, because that’s my personality. I figured if I could accept the possibility of these worst case scenarios, then I would not have any regrets, but as far as being actually informed, this is totally not sufficient, and I met with plenty of surprises upon finding myself pregnant.

As with most things in life, preparation is key, and I surmise the more women know, the more they can do to prepare emotionally and physically, and the less shock and disappointment they will experience, which in turn would reduce the likelihood of post-partum depression.

Sunset Boulevard

It was an aimless time in the rain whiskey burning in the veins and someone whispered please sleep but sleep bribes with the most useless promises and giving in is the most undignified part of the day, when forced ripples of unconsciousness threaten to be continuous so they used small, orange dolls to force wakefulness with a torrent of fire and abandon. Sunset Boulevard would not die so the four of them took a booth at Denny’s and she tugged her hair, sighed, and he turned to look at her, his expression asking what am I doing here but she only smiled, because she did not have the answer. She closed her eyes and thought those liquid-slate eyes are the most fleeting of all, unstoppable, and when she opened her eyes she felt she had miscalculated and was spinning in confusion at her own error. When the sun rose she drove to the airport, crying at the drab hideousness of the 405 and its ceaseless droning, and she did not know why, but her friend, leaning her head against the passenger seat window, was secretly pleased with her tears.