What to Expect When Everyone Else is Expecting

This blog post is about me and my family on our journey to pregnancy. Plenty of people choose to remain childless by choice, and that is as rewarding and valid as the choice to have a child. Check out http://www.childlessbychoiceproject.com for more thoughts about this. We are also well aware of other options of having children, including fostering, adopting, and surrogacy. This piece is not about those options at this time.

My partner and I are trying to get pregnant. Some people know this, and some people do not. Some people know specific details (and text us sweet words the morning of insemination), and some people only know that we’re on this journey.

I don’t know if it’s because I’ve got conception and babies on my mind, but it feels like I’m seeing pregnant people everywhere. Out of the five women on my organization’s board of directors, three are pregnant. Many young people in the drop in center where I work are pregnant. I see pregnant people and women at the co-op, at the park, and at restaurants. I see them at the bus stop, at the movies, and walking past our house; all in various stages of “bump”. Recently, someone was excitedly telling me about a pregnancy in their extended family. “How nice for them.” I said dryly, as I stared at my computer screen and clacked away at an email.

I don’t like them. Ok, let me back up; I’m sure they are all nice people. I don’t even know them. But my partner and I have a challenging and costly journey to pregnancy (if that will be the end result) due to age and egg/sperm viability, and seeing people have “happy accidents” and “perfectly timed bundles of joy” really chaps my ass. To borrow a phrase used around our house from the kid lately: NO FAIR. I can be peaceful and steady minded about a lot of things, but not knowing if this road will lead to a child makes it extremely hard to be happy for others who are meeting egg and sperm in rapid fire succession.

Many years ago, before I met my partner, I had all my reproductive pieces removed from my body. I knew that even if children were in my future, it sure as hell was not going to be me that carried them to term. As I was showering a few nights ago, tiny thoughts crept in before I could stop them. What if I still had my uterus? What if I kept those ovaries? I wonder if I stopped taking testosterone long enough…. But that’s where the thoughts stopped. I was surprised that I was even considering that as an option, but since it’s not possible, I didn’t think much more about it. See what this has done to me? I’m reaching backwards for pieces of myself that don’t even exist anymore in the hopes that we could have a baby.

Once we made this choice to move forward with getting pregnant, I signed up for all sorts of informational websites. I read books and talked to friends about the pregnancy and birth process. That is all good, and has been helpful. But I’ve noticed that lately, with a few unsuccessful tries under our belts, those emails and books have been quiet pokes in my side. “Look at what you’re missing” they all seem to say. One website, “The Bump”, is particularly annoying with frequent emails. Until we have a few weeks of a successful pregnancy behind us, I’ll just keep deleting them:

Actual gif of me deleting the email

and keep my scowling face towards pregnant people in public to a minimum.

Exhaustion Guilt

Today I am exhausted. Little Bear has moved into full on toddler-hood, tantrums and all. She hasn’t been sleeping very well the past two nights. She’s not running a fever or tugging on her ears, just screaming and crying. Both my partner and I are tired and frustrated after several nights of only a few hours of sleep.

Several people I know have been posting that New York Times article “Cheating Ourselves of Sleep” about the long term impacts of insufficient sleep. It just made me mad. Trust me, I know that I am not getting enough sleep and that it is bad for me. I am also frustrated because I think about how people who are more likely to get insufficient sleep are probably working multiple jobs for not enough pay while trying to take care of their families. I’m willing to bet most people with “insufficient sleep” aren’t consistently not getting enough sleep by choice but by circumstance.

I know I tend towards overly mushy posts about how much I love being a dad and how much I love my kid. Today I am giving myself permission to be tired though. It is ok that I am tired and exhausted and maybe can’t give 100% to my job or my kid. It is ok that this morning all I could really do was stare at my partner with glazed eyes and apologize for the shitty sleep we got before I staggered out the door go get croissants from the bakery instead of making breakfast.

Caregiving is hard work. Like so many other parents who want to be more involved in organizing and activism, I am wiped out at the end of the day. When Little Bear goes through one of her bouts of not sleeping well, neither my partner nor I have much time to do anything other than wipe the dinner remains off the table and maybe wash a few dirty dishes. I feel guilty about not getting this blog post up on time, turning down invitations to organizing meetings, not picking up my old volunteer shifts at the shot clinic, still not having gone to a radical families group that has been meeting in my city for over a year, not going to fundraisers and events, and so much of the rest of the activities that made up my life before being a parent. Today I am going to do my best to absolve myself, and let go of that guilt. To use the words of Ethan, my friend and fellow blogger, “let’s take care of ourselves so we can take care of others.”

Book Burnin’, Pearl Clutchin’, and Idea Evolvin’

(Please read title in the voice of Arlo Gutherie, because that’s how it sounds in my head)
These shoes really have nothing to do with the blog, except that they're absolutely fabulous. The toes light up! Rainbows on the sides! Sparkles!

These shoes really have nothing to do with the post, except that they’re absolutely fabulous. The toes light up! Rainbows on the sides! Sparkles!

Last month, I attended a feminism-and-social-justice oriented science fiction convention—specifically, Wiscon. I’ve been going since I was 18.* It’s always been an amazing and thought-provoking experience, and this time was no different. While there, I picked up a copy of Rad Dads: Dispatches From The Frontiers of Parenthood and am looking forward to diving into it soon. I also picked up a picture book for Jetpack. I wasn’t paying attention to the writer (whoops) and discovered, when I sat down to read it to Jetpack for the first time, that we’d picked up a fully innocuous kid’s book written by a rather gross transphobe—Derrick Jensen.

Oops!

Jetpack loved it, but I (when I realized who I’d supported) felt horrible. Taking my feelings to Facebook, where all feelings must go to be shared,** I asked what I should do.

A surprising number of people responded firmly with “burn it.” Those words left me mentally wringing my hands, faced with a possibility that had never crossed my mind.

We teach Jetpack to have respect for books. He is chided when books are left on the floor, or thrown, or their pages are bent. Books are not to be used as the stepping stones over imaginary rivers, are not to be ripped, ended up picking written in, or otherwise maimed. Books are objects to be treated with respect. I would feel hypocritical if I destroyed it, right? That’s not what I want to be teaching him, is it?

I’ve heard this before, once—specifically when talking about the extremely large number of books at my local thrift store by Focus On Family’s anti-queer, anti-woman, good-things hater James Dobson. Then, it took me off guard, but I shrugged it off as a joke.

The book by the transphobe was, as I said, innocuous, and I think the biggest problem (in my mind) was the small bit of financial and emotional support I gave Jensen by buying it. Dobson’s work, conversely—totally offensive.*** (And, being second hand, I could hypothetically buy it without contributing to him at all…).

What do we do with bad books, though? Like, really, what the hell do we do? Suddenly I find myself with real empathy for the used bookstore employees and the thrift store employees. Can you imagine having to shelve all those used (ugh) copies of Fifty Shades of Gray? But what else do you do with them?

Who am I to destroy books? Books are precious, right? Do they deserve to exist simply for the worth of the paper they are printed on? For every Dobson book I may or may not get my fingers (or for that matter, matches) on, LITERALLY millions more exist. When the Library of Alexandria burned, it was a destruction of knowledge—if an entire library were to burn in the US today, it would be a sad financial and emotional loss, but no books would likely be irreplaceable. And then there’s electronic books—book burning may be a radical act, but what about deleting the file off your kindle?

The destruction of books is still a powerful thing. It feels historical–a high school history topic about Nazis, or maybe an English class reading the Bradbury novel. But it’s not all history. Intolerant, narrow-minded jerks still think that burning the Quran is just great (”We had a court process,” said Pastor Terry Jones, who acted as judge, in a phone interview. “We tried to set it up as fair as possible, which you can imagine, of course, is very difficult.” REALLY). They still find the burning of paper with words on it to be a powerful and political act. The protests it spawned among Muslims prove that power as well. But the sacredness of a single, particular copy of a book, has, perhaps, a changing definition.

For the time being, I’m not burning any books. Jensen’s book is hidden. And, for the time being, Jetpack and I will continue to treat books with a high degree of respect—though I won’t be clutching my pearls when someone suggests destroying materials they find offensive. And who knows, maybe, someday, I’ll drop $50 at the thrift store and have a toasty, queer, Dobson-laced bonfire…

 
*This…maybe means that this year was my 10th year oh god I’m getting so old.
**Wait, no, that’s Twitter.
***In Dobson’s world, for example, AIDS is still a punishment for homosexuality and promiscuity. Whoops, I think I’m seeing red again.

Pre-K Microaggressions

 

jetpack, self portrait with plants

jetpack, self portrait with plants

 

Don’t worry, this isn’t a scary post, or a heart-wrenching post (not intentionally anyway!). This is a musing post. (Don’t know what the title refers to? Scroll to the bottom)

Jetpack’s bike is pink. I don’t think any of us consider him a “pink boy,” he just wanted this particular bike. And we don’t worry about gender binaries much around here. He also went to preschool today in jeans and a tutu, so. He’s a unique kid, and we like that about him.

Anyway. His bike gets him some strange looks from confused kids, but most of them don’t mind too much. He’s got two friends who have asked about it a couple times. They’re both girls, a year and two years older than him, and his closest neighbor friends. The most recent time, they were a little more forward about it.

“Jetpack, why do you have a girl’s bike?”

Jetpack, not even faltering in his bike-stride, responded, “It’s not a girl’s bike, it’s my bike!”

I tweeted about this at the time. I was proud of him for standing up for himself, for feeling confident. A few days later, at home, he sat down on his bike and then said, crossly, “[our neighbors] say this is a girl’s bike, and it’s not a girl’s bike, it’s my bike.”

I assured him that it was. We talked about how girls AND boys can like whatever they want. About a day later, we had a similarly-upset conversation about his hair. He likes keeping it longer, but informed me, with sad sniffles, that he didn’t want it to grow any longer because he didn’t want to be a girl.

!

We talked about how hair length doesn’t change gender (well, it was more age appropriate than that) and talked about all of our friends who had different lengths of hair and different genders.* I think it helped things get figured out, especially as Jetpack is still refusing to get his hair cut, so. Obviously his worries about turning into a girl (yes, that was his concern!) have lessened somewhat.

So I’m not saying in any way that our neighbor’s kids were intentionally harmful with their words. They are good kids, and they mean well. But sometimes there is power in our most harmless of words. I was thinking about this, and this HuffPo article, and how awful/scary/wonderful children are. Words have such meaning to them. As adults we like to pretend that so much language is water on our backs, that the only words that really matter are the few that really get beneath our skin. But when a kid is learning a couple new words a day** they seem like they mean something extra.

So the enemy is once again not an enemy at all, not a boogie man at all. I want the source of my child’s pain to be easily visible.

nelson

So I mean, now we’ve talked about this, he and I. I guess I was a little ill-prepared though, for these itty bitty 4-year-old microaggressions. Something about a small and really friendly preschool and a stay-at-home-parent made me hope/believe that it would take longer.

So, it’s not-really bullying, just unintentionally painful words, but it seems like the methods of conceptualizing his reactions and needs are similar to those of a bullied child. Some stuff I’ve found here on the intertubes:

10 Tips For Talking About Bullying. I liked this because it’s not quite as full on, “don’t make eye contact or react to your bullies!” as some of the other stuff out there. The first tip is “Keep your emotions in check. Parents are very protective of their children and it is only natural that you would have strong emotions regarding your child being bullied.” I’m pretty sure I need that as a tattoo across the back of my hand, like when I was in high school and wrote homework assignments on my skin.

Bullying: how to spot it. This is a little stronger, but I appreciated that it breaks stuff down by age. The questions it talks about asking your kids “when you suspect bullying” sound like really excellent questions to ask when your kid comes home from school, like, pretty much every day.

Stopbullying.gov is flipping huge and has a lot of stuff (and, uh, some dead links on the front page? Sheesh, .gov folks, even *I* know better than that…). But it’s worth perusing and keeping in the back of your head if you ever need it.

So who else has some resources? Ideas? Commiserations? Verbal eye-rolling?

 

Vocabulary! (lifted from wikipedia) Microaggression is the idea that specific interactions between those of different races, cultures, or genders can be interpreted as mostly non-physical aggression. Sue et al. (2007) describe microaggressions as, “brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color.”

*Which is actually hard when your dear friends are a lot of queers who identify as genderfluid/genderflexible/genderqueer! One in particular has a fab short pompador-esque haircut and is queer-gender identified and female-bodied. I remembered their short hair, and brought it up before thinking the whole thing through. Jetpack’s response, verbatim, was “she’s a boy.” Not useful for that particular conversation (or maybe more useful than I realized?) but awesome, nonetheless.

**I actually got this fact off of Babycenter, which is about as statistically reliable as a real baby. So.