I entered an Instagram contest for a beer haiku:
I may be pregnant
But will dream of local brews
Until I give birth
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.
Desperate to know whether your little princess has a future as a ho-bag or slut in store for her? Take this simple quiz to find out. Keep track of your score for each question. At the end, give yourself 5 points for each “yes” answer, and 0 points for each “no” answer.
Just kidding. This is not a real quiz. And the answer for anyone taking it is, “Who fucking cares?”
Men in their late twenties and thirties everywhere who slutted it up in their youth and find themselves expecting, or father to, a young daughter have this bizarre concern their precious princess is going to grow up to be a loose woman. I do not know where this fear comes from, as it takes two people to have sex, and if these men enjoyed slutting it up so much in their youth, they should view slutty women as a boon and source of great joy to men everywhere, not something to be feared. I love drinking beer, traveling, and eating. Therefore, I would not have any irrational fear of raising a son who becomes a lover of beer, traveling, or eating. See how that works?
Oh, wait. Sex is different. Women aren’t supposed to enjoy sex, so all those slooties these men slept with in their youth were defective, broken, or immoral. This mentality strains logic to the breaking point, yet is shockingly common. Men somehow want to constantly fuck different people, but cannot bear the idea the women on the receiving end might do the same and enjoy it. Why? I don’t know. Maybe because they are rapists at heart. I think it entirely fair to characterize it as such, if these men truly enjoy going around feeling like they’ve conquered a bunch of unwilling, unhappy, and begrudging participants, who obviously cannot possibly be moral, normal, or healthy individuals if they actually want the sex. There is no way around this logic. Every time a guy fucks a woman, hopefully, that woman is consenting to it and enjoying it. If a guy has consensual sex, there is presumably a woman on the other end who wanted to have it with him. This isn’t fucking rocket science.
Or maybe the real fear is just that – these men come to a realization that they were predating upon women they believed to be emotionally unbalanced, weak, not in the right mind, and/or semi-retarded, and fear their daughters may face similar predators. In that event, the men with these concerns should reflect upon their lifetime of asshole behavior, rather than project their fears into a sick need to obsess over their daughters’ sexuality. Additionally, maybe the focus should be on raising a happy, well-balanced, non-retarded daughter instead of fretting over the number of dicks that might go inside her vagina. The order of priorities could not possibly be more absurd here.
Even in 2017, some men are unable to grasp the concept that individual women own their own sexuality; men – whether husbands, boyfriends, fathers, or brothers – do not. A woman is like, a human being and stuff. Women have sexual desires just like the other 50 percent of humanity. Men fail to understand they sound like total neanderthals when they talk about using guns to threaten their daughter’s boyfriends. They do realize this is the acceptable, westernized version of certain fundamentalist Muslims who treat their daughters and wives like property and guard their sexuality with head-to-toe covering, right?
Making violent threats of murder no less, against innocent young boys trying to date your daughter is not funny. It is not cute or merely being “overprotective.” It is fucking disturbed and psychotic. I have a nice brother, about 5 1/2 years younger than me, who is a good person, and whom I love. I was probably a gun-hating liberal in his early days of high school, but if I learned some deranged dad of some princess threatened him with a gun, I would have been on Google searching the fastest way to get my own fucking gun to threaten to blow that dad’s head off myself. If you think threatening to stone or beat women to protect their chastity is lunacy, you should find violent threats against innocent, young, male suitors for the purpose of protecting your daughter’s virginity equally insane.
It is literally the same concept. Male relatives who think they have a right to use violence to enforce their female family members’ chastity – whether against the woman herself, or against perceived violators of that chastity – do so because they feel entitled to control female sexuality, “purity,” and ultimately, reproduction. They likely can articulate no reasonable explanations as to why they feel compelled to control sexuality or reproduction, but it’s certainly traced back to the base and patriarchal construct that emphasizes the need for women to be virgins. This is 2017, people. Your daughter is not a piece of property; she owns herself, and by extension, she also owns her personality, her desires, her actions, and her sexuality. There are few things in existence in the United States in 2017 that are more embarrassingly unprogressive and backwards than this.
And please don’t insult anyone’s intelligence by arguing the “biology” card. While there are obvious biological differences between men and women, these are far too minor to justify society’s drastically disparate treatment of men versus women’s sexuality. Further, even assuming your bullshit biological “argument” is correct, biology does not dictate morality. Biology explains why children are more likely to be murdered by their stepfathers than biological fathers, but this says absolutely nothing about the morality of murdering stepchildren. Stepfathers don’t want to waste resources on children who do not pass on their genetic material, and are more likely to kill unrelated children. But even though biology explains this phenomenon, the explanation is nevertheless irrelevant to the ethics involving murdering children. Similarly, whether biology explains how women behave sexually is irrelevant to the ethics or morality of telling women how they should behave sexually.
If you want to dwell on biology, arguably, men invented this patriarchal idea that women love being virgins, hate sex, and only want it with one person because evolutionarily speaking, men want to pass on their own DNA (and no one else’s), and therefore wanted to guarantee they did not spend energy and resources being cuckolded and raising a child who biologically belonged to another man. But again, irrespective of what accurate or inaccurate biological explanations may exist, this is entirely irrelevant to ethics and morality. Also, newsflash: paternity tests were invented in the 1960’s, and there is no longer any excuse for a creepy obsession with seeking unmarred virgins under the guise of wanting to preserve your DNA. You can always find out with an extremely high degree of accuracy whether a woman is carrying your DNA or not. See e.g. Various episodes of Maury and Jerry Springer. It seems the classy, educated gentlemen featured on those shows are capable of grasping the benefits of a paternity test. Men who haven’t caught onto this nifty invention are a good 60 years behind the times. Let me emphasize that part about being “backwards” once more.
Then, there’s the crowd favoring the “emotional problem” argument alongside the “biology” argument. This group couches the thinly-veiled criticism of women who love sex in falsely sympathetic terms, in that they pretend they only shun or dislike sluts because they claim it is evidence of some kind of emotional or mental illness in women. Again, I fail to see how a man who loves having sex is normal, but a woman in the same situation is mentally or emotionally ill; regardless, this sentiment is nonsense for other reasons. Don’t think you can bullshit me with this kind of false concern about the emotional well-being of women, because I know the men pulling this lame excuse aren’t also irrationally and inexplicably concerned about their female fetus or 4-year old princess becoming an alcoholic, drug abuser, manic-depressive, narcissist, sociopath, or psychopath, which are equally if not more common, and much more serious and destructive emotional problems. Read: “I don’t care if my daughter is a half-retarded heroin junkie sociopath – just please don’t let it be the case that she loves sex!”
I thought I was slightly neurotic because I daydream of animal costumes for my fetus (cat ears! leopard print!) and have detailed mental debates on which classical instrument she should play (piano if we choose a traditional lifestyle, violin or cello if we decide to live a nomadic one), but I’m pretty sure being scared of how many dicks will one day see her vagina encompasses a crazy of epic proportions.
My parents basically never had any discussions about sex with me, and left that task up to public schooling and my friends. However, I recall one time in high school, when my friend joked in front of my mother that her mother thought she was a big whore. My mother raised her eyebrows and said something to the effect of, “Don’t worry about being a whore. Just don’t get AIDS and don’t get pregnant.” I probably laughed hysterically at the time, but in retrospect, this is practical and reasonable advice for a 15 year-old girl.
My husband and I are concerned about whether our future daughter will be intelligent, healthy, and happy. We do not give two donkey shits about whether one day many years down the road she might have sex with more men than the acceptable number set by society. If you do, your priorities might be in the wrong place.
Our cat Fiona has always taken it upon herself to train Kyle for having babies by waking him up at odd hours, making strange noises, and demanding food at ungodly times. Recently, she has really upped her game. Today, Kyle was gone for work but she must have pestered me for food five times after I returned home from work.
I wrapped a present for a baby shower for the next day, set it aside, only to return several minutes later to find Fiona had made a small tear in the pretty wrapping paper, and was sitting her ass on the present. That was not enough mischief for the night, though.
I turned on the hand steamer, set it down on the kitchen counter to heat up, and turned my back for not 30 seconds to grab a snack. When I glanced back to check on the hand steamer, I practically had a heart attack when I saw Fiona had her whole face pressed into the holes where the steam is supposed to come out. I yelled at her and she quickly retreated, exactly 3 seconds before hot steam came streaming out. I thought she was going to burn her eyeballs off! I think this is the first time I encountered a cat safety hazard while engaging in domesticity. I thought she needed to blow off some energy, so I played with her, but when it came time to use my computer, this was happening:
When I finally got to use my computer, she crawled into my lap like the spoiled thing she is and pretended she was totally innocent.
ADDENDUM: The next morning, she attempted to drag me out of bed at 6:50 am and pestered me to no end. She even bit my face at one point. I am a firm believer in not giving in to such antics, but although I ignored her bad behavior, I was not able to go back to sleep. I still refused to get out of bed until 8:00 and then went downstairs to have coffee before yoga class. To top it off, as I was headed out the door, Ophelia circled my legs, blocked me on the stairs, and clung to my leggings as I was trying to leave. I texted Kyle and let him know the cats are extra neurotic when he’s gone.
We recently came into some used furniture, courtesy of my parents in-law after they bought new stuff, and we decided to do some painting. We hit up Home Depot and bought some coarse sand paper, water-based primer, and low VOC (baby safe) paint in a pretty, plain white by Behr (called “Ultra Pure White” – or maybe “bone” or “eggshell” according to Patrick Bateman?)
I was the primary sander, as I thought I should avoid inhaling paint fumes, whether low VOC or not. The original handles were a antique brass color, and we used some leftover black spray paint from prior projects to give the handles a new matte coat. I considered silver spray paint for the handles, but we had tons of black on hand, and it I imagined it would make a bolder statement with the white.
We also painted a matching nightstand. This was a fun project and I liked the result so much I wanted to keep the dresser in our room. There’s no way an infant needs all 5 of those drawers anyway!
Weekends have changed a bit since being pregnant. Waking up late hungover is no longer an option, and since I don’t party all night, I don’t sleep in as much. Even so, I love sleeping in, so it was sort of a big deal that I woke up at 8:20 a.m., drank some coffee, had husband snap a “Week 23” picture, brewed some caramel macchiato flavored coffee, and headed off to yoga. I’m not in the habit of taking pictures of myself half asleep in gym clothes, but I noticed that my outfit was unintentionally extremely pink and obnoxious (hot pink shirt, purse, yoga mat) and husband found it amusing.
After yoga, I played some Chopin for Fetus: an etude and the Fantasie Improptu. She wasn’t impressed. No kicking, no response. Sort of like how my cats flee the room when they see me reach for the guitar, except Fetus is imprisoned inside me and has no choice. Afterwards, I finished up some chores. Husband had to go into work on a Saturday, so I went to lunch with Tony and Belen (also preggo). We first went to a smoothie shop in San Marcos called Disfruta. I got there a little before them, and scanned the menu, which was entirely in Spanish. This was exciting because it makes getting a smoothie near your house feel like a foreign adventure.
Fortunately, I had learned lots of fruit names on DuoLingo, and further, have a shortcut to Google Translate on my phone. I ended up ordering a Jugo Berry (berry juice) and Belen and Tony ordered smoothies. The berry juice was basically pure blended berries, probably consisting of strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries. I didn’t think any sugar was added, and it was totally amazing. Belen and Tony ordered smoothies; I tried theirs, and they were really good, though I am partial to the simplicity of pure juice.
Next, we hit up Mi Rancho Market in Escondido again for the best tacos on the face of the earth. This award as determined by me has been stripped from Tacos El Gordo and bestowed upon Mi Rancho. I ordered the adobada and lengua, which I had last time and loved. They were just as good this time. On this day, Belen also pointed out they had birria de chivo (goat) tacos, and so I had to get one of those. The first and only time I had birria was in Rosarito in November, and this was a pleasant surprise. The birria taco was juicy and delicious and I wished my stomach was bigger so I could have a few more.
We went to the mall afterwards, where Belen wanted to check out the maternity section at Macy’s. The maternity section was fairly predictable. Everything was boring and frumpy as fuck, and the sale items weren’t very cheap, so I changed strategies. I went to the junior’s and women’s section, and bought items in larger sizes and/or stretchy material. I ended up getting a a $6 dress, a $7 sweatshirt, and another $7 dress. I did splurge just a little and buy a really pretty maxi dress with cherry blossoms on it for $24 (gasp!)
Next, I went across the way and bought a large stretchy pencil skirt at Cotton On, and another dress for $15. Seriously, fuck maternity clothes. They are hideous, and a total rip-off (but maybe check with me again in 3 months to see whether this strategy is still viable at 7-8 months pregnant). While I was trying on about 20 items, Tony and Belen wandered off to Brookstone and other stores, then made their way back to me. I told them I was at Cotton On, but I happened to be in the changing room when they showed came back:
I met them at Spencer’s. I probably had not been inside a Spencer’s since high school and had no recollection of this store stocking sex toys, but there it was – a big wall of dildos indeed, in pretty much every color of the rainbow.
I was largely able to stick to my regular exercise routine during the first trimester. Of course, exercises that were routine before suddenly became monumentally harder, but nevertheless, I was mostly physically capable of doing the same things, including sprinting up hills, steep hikes, the ab roller, push-ups, planks, leg lifts, stairs, lunges, squats, triceps dips, etc.
Come second trimester, things have started to change. When doing leg lifts one day, I noticed my abdominal muscles came to a cone-like point, which according to Google, means my abdominal muscles are separating, a known occurrence in pregnancy called diastasis recti. The general consensus is that exercises requiring direct pressure in the abdominal muscles should be avoided if this occurs during pregnancy. To my surprise that eliminated a lot more exercises than I expected. Obviously, leg lifts, planks, and ab roller were out, but I noticed my abs would also do the weird cone-like point thing during push-ups, pull-ups, and mountain climbers. Fuck.
So right now, it’s a lot of sprinting, squats, and lunges, but it’s getting pretty boring. In addition, my knees have started to creak a little from all these squats and lunges, so they could use a little break. I also noticed that if I go even on a short jog, I have to make sure to totally empty my bladder before. Even if I do not feel like I have to pee at all before jogging, the bouncing up and down causes me to feel like I have to pee while I’m in the middle of a jog.
I took my first prenatal yoga class last week and rather enjoyed it. It’s just what I need because I am pretty much the least flexible female ever. It’s sort of a big deal for me to touch my toes and my flexibility is comparable to that of a man, for sure. The instructor (who is awesome) handed everyone a card with an encouraging phrase, and mine was “Let Go.” This, along with the 5 minutes of total silence and relaxation in darkness was quite fitting for me because I’m completely horrible at sitting still and slowing my thoughts. That being said, it was not exactly a vigorous workout, so I continued to search for options.
I browsed Craigslist and found a pair of adjustable dumbbells for $20. The plates ranged between 2.5-10 pounds. Perfect for arm workouts! So husband agreed to pick them up on the way home from work and I said, “Heh, time to get swole!”
I went to yoga again yesterday, even though I needed much more vigorous exercise after eating gummies, chocolates, goldfish, and other unfortunate snacks throughout the day. Toward the end of the session, our instructor had us relax and envision standing at the shoreline of the ocean. She asked us to take in the wide expanse of sea, and to listen to the rhythm of the waves.
The type of beach that came to mind immediately was in southeast Asia. I started in Phu Quoc, Vietnam, but a little jellyfish swam by my feet, so I migrated to Phuket, Thailand, but the water was a bit darker than I preferred. I settled on the shore of White Sand Beach in Candidasa, Bali, where I sipped on a large bottle of cold lager and ate an entire grilled fish, with a side of a local sweet and sour fish sauce-based dip while lounging in the sand. It suddenly occurred to me I will not likely be carefree and alone with my husband on a remote beach in southeast Asia, drinking and eating with reckless abandon any time soon, or indeed, for many years to come, and I sort of wanted to cry.
Of course, that was not the point of the exercise, and our “birth wisdom” tip sheets at the end of class fittingly reminded me to check negative thoughts at the door.
I’ve read in multiple sources that gratitude is a significant contributing factor, if not the key, to happiness. In a study by two psychologists from UC Davis and the University of Miami, researchers found that writing about things for which people were grateful led to more optimism and positive feelings about the subject’s lives (here and here).
Even in the absence of scientific evidence, this theory seems to make intuitive sense, and at the least is worth a try, because it can’t hurt. I am fairly happy in general regardless, but pregnancy is not always my cup of tea, so I thought this would be the perfect time to make a list of things for which I am grateful:
Everyone knows the 3-month rule. Due to the higher chance of miscarriage in early pregnancy, many, if not most, like to keep things under wraps until the second trimester. I did not follow this approach for a few reasons, however.
While the risk of miscarriage in known pregnancies is, according to Dr. Google, 10-20 percent in the first 20 weeks, the odds still appeared to be largely in my favor. I also considered the fact there are no known miscarriages in my family and I’m pretty healthy. Whether these are scientifically sound reasons for being optimistic, I can’t say, but that was my thought process.
I balanced these odds with the absolute certainty that within a week or two, I’d find myself at a party, uncharacteristically without an alcoholic drink, and would face questions about being pregnant and have to lie. I knew this with absolute certainty, because there was one occasion on which I attended a baby shower after a night of brewery hopping. As I had indulged sufficiently the night prior, I decided to take it easy on the alcohol at the baby shower. I was one of the earlier guests, and actually did help myself to a mimosa, but after that, I refrained with the exception of a virgin Bloody Mary, which is nice the day after drinking. Also, I hate vodka and love tomato juice, so I always drink Bloody Marys virgin, but I do not do this frequently, so not many people know this.
Subsequently, my husband received several text messages from his friends insisting they “knew” I must be pregnant, because none of the girlfriends or wives saw me imbibe alcohol at the shower, and in fact, saw me order a virgin drink. The texts were so adamant my husband actually called me on the way home from work to ask tentatively, “You’re not pregnant… are you?”
So I had a pretty good idea that any time I’m caught without alcohol, there would be questions. I am not a good liar and I could see myself being really awkward with this. Further, I’d have to make up a lot of lies if I was seeing people or being invited places over the course of 3 months.
Additionally, while you never know until it happens to you, I did not think I’d be the type to be completely devastated if I miscarried. Surely, it would be frustrating, but I suspected I would tell myself it was my body’s way of rejecting an organism not meant to be born, and doubted I would become a total emotional wreck. I balanced the relatively unlikely possibility of having to tell multiple people I miscarried with the absolute certainty of telling many awkward lies, and decided the awkward lies would be worse for me.
We told parents and family almost immediately, followed by close friends. Everyone else, we told if they asked or if it somehow came up. We did not go out of our way to share on social media or make any type of formal announcement. To be honest, for me, the beginning was characterized by a certain level of anxiety, and I didn’t want to feel like I had to put on an act for everyone about how exciting and joyous this all is. Maybe that makes me weird, but it’s the truth, and I was not inclined to put on a fake show. You can fool the world, but you cannot fool yourself, nor should you try to.
[Note: pictured above indeed is our little fetus, not a cat sitting on a plank, however appropriate that might be.]