Linky Link Round Up

I’ve been writing less here and more on other sites that, you know, pay me. Here’s a round up of some of my recent stuff:

I updated my piece on being an alcoholic mother for Buzzfeed, adding in more of what it’s like now to be a sober mom.

I’m super excited to be writing a weekly column for Ramshackle Glam about motherhood, anxiety, and those pesky things I sometimes have called “feelings.” I wrote about being the wrong kind of mother a few weeks ago and was pretty floored by the response; apparently I’m not the only one who feels like she has no idea what she’s doing. I also imagined what it’d look like if my 1.5 year old pitched her game concepts to the CEO of Hasbro, and what happened when we took her to the amusement park and lost Monk Monk.

Here are some tips on cool Amazon features you might like if you’re pregnant.

My first and only ever (I’m sure) magazine centerfold for Kiplinger’s is about the gender pay gap (of course).

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My Cesarean

I did not want a C-section.

I wanted to give birth the “normal” way, which is to say via a nickel-sized slit that had previously only been used for sexy purposes.

I also didn’t want an induction, but I got one of those, too. I was 43 weeks pregnant when “I don’t want an induction” turned into “induce me right now or I’ll slay you.”

I labored for 50 hours before they wheeled me into surgery. I was 5 cm dilated and decided I couldn’t labor for another 2 days before starting to push, if that’s what it came down to. My husband sat by my side and held my shaking arms down as they sliced me open and pulled out my daughter. That was birth.

Physical recovery was difficult. How does one recover from major surgery while also not sleeping and worrying constantly and feeling emotions that had not previously existed? Very slowly.

Emotional recovery takes even longer. While I’m grateful my daughter was born safely, I didn’t want this. I didn’t execute my plan. I failed to give birth the way I should have been able to. These are the thoughts that creep in and strangle whatever ownership I’ve managed to take of my experience. This is the shit that gets to me.

One night, I was laying in bed with my husband and just happened to brush my hand across my scar. I broke down in tears.

Shouldn’t I be over this already?

Does any woman, ever, anywhere, get over the experience of giving birth? No. You’re not supposed to.

This 6 inch slice that cuts across my abdomen exists to remind me that I cooked up Lucy right inside of there. Thanks for the sperm, but I did this myself. I made dozens of small decisions every day for 10 months about what to put in my body, how much to move it, and how to take care of myself in order to grow her exactly how she is. During labor, I made the best decisions I could through excruciating pain, tremendous fear, and piercing self doubt. When they carted me into surgery, I was unbelievably fucking brave. I meditated, I counted, I breathed deeply as they slit me open from one hip bone to the other. “You’ll feel some pulling,” they said, as they lifted my 9 pound baby up into the air. I did that.

Birth is birth, and it made me stronger, softer, braver, and better. And I got this kid to prove it.

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You can read my full birth story here.

Women

Presidential primary season, which lasts so long it’s actually like 5 seasons, is one of my very favorite times. This season has been especially exciting; it’s not every year you get 17 potential nominees on the Republican ticket or a guy like Bernie Sanders pushing the Democratic party left. I love this shit.

But every day it’s becoming more drop dead serious and less fun. The rhetoric on both sides has become increasingly divisive, dismissive, abusive, and scary. And no one is suffering from these dialogues right now more than women.

Part I

I was listening to NPR while driving home from Lucy’s daycare drop off this morning. Morning Editions’ guest was Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of a pro-life organization called the Susan B. Anthony list. She astonished me by using feminist rhetoric, quotes, and examples to discuss why the pro-life community believes that women should be forced to carry unwanted pregnancies to term.

She claimed early feminists thought the “soul” of a baby and mother were inextricably linked, and so modern feminists should, too. She had to go back 150 years to find an example of a progressive that NPR listeners could hopefully relate to. We’ve done some research, we’ve made some progress since then. If I wanted to back up a social and medical position I hold, I sure as shit wouldn’t cite research done in the 1800’s to back up my point.

She also defended Donald Trump’s revision of his statement two days ago that women who get abortions should be punished, and instead agreed that the doctors who provide abortions should be jailed.

I’ve always been angered by the pro-life movement, but listening to this woman on the radio felt devastating. She spent the largest portion of her on-air time pleading that women who do not want to have babies, who want abortions, should be helped by those in the pro-life movement, to the extent that this makes them want to have their babies.

Using my first pregnancy as a benchmark for the experience, here are my questions for Marjorie Dannenfelser:

How will you help me through my first trimester, when I feel sick to my stomach for 3 straight months, but still need to work full time and take care of my one year old daughter? How will you prevent me from feeling wretched, pukey, like I need to lie down all the time? How will you help me meet my deadlines at work? How will you help me run around after my daughter when I’m completely exhausted? How will you help me afford any medications I need?

How will you help me in my second trimester, when my clothes no longer fit? Will you buy me new ones? Will you help me to afford healthy food? Will you pick up my 30 pound toddler for me when I no longer can? She likes to be carried. 

How will you help me through my 65 pound weight gain? My paralyzing back pain? My insomnia? How will you help with my anxiety? Will you pay for my hospital bills? Will you pay for my c-section? Will you go through 50 hours of labor for me? Will you go through awake surgery for me? Will you help me through the trauma of birth? Will you take my baby away after birth and give it to someone else since I didn’t want it? Will you help me feel whole again? Will you pay for my therapy after birth? For my Lexapro when I suffer depression after birth? Will you pay for my birth control so I don’t get pregnant again?

This is a woman whose party thinks that food assistance and subsidized health insurance are hand-outs that should not be supported. So please, how the fuck will you help me?

Claiming that it is a feminist act to force a woman who does not want a child to go through pregnancy and birth is fucking sick.

Part 2

I want to address this even though I know it’s not a popular opinion for young Democrats, who are largely with Sanders.

Yes, you can be a feminist and vote for Sanders, fine. But you can’t say that you look at both candidates equally and decide based on positions and personality, and not on gender. It is not possible to do this. Because all media coverage is not created equal. 

What you know about your preferred candidate, you know from media coverage. The coverage you consume is hugely biased. Research shows that women running for political office are not discussed the same way their male counterparts are.

For example, Bystrom and her coauthors found in newspaper coverage of 2002 mixed-gender gubernatorial and senatorial races that 8% of news stories about female candidates mentioned the candidate’s marital status compared with only 1% of men’s news stories, and that 6% of women’s news stories in that year mentioned appearance compared with only 1% of the men’s stories. Bystrom and her colleagues also found disparities in the extent to which reporters call attention to the gender of women candidates, but not of men candidates. Qualitative examples of gendered media coverage abound. For example, Carol Moseley-Braun, the only African American woman to ever serve in the U.S. Senate, who sought the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination, was once described by The Chicago Tribune as a “den mother with a cheerleader’s smile.”

When men run for political office, we just don’t talk about this kind of thing. I don’t hear anyone saying that Ted Cruz or Bernie Sanders will be a good or bad president because they’re a certain kind of Dad. No one gives a shit that Bernie Sanders divorced his first wife, nor should they, but it doesn’t go both ways.

Most notably, media coverage of Hillary Clinton in 2008—and especially cable news coverage—was filled with sexist remarks, from Glenn Beck describing Clinton as a “stereotypical bitch” to Tucker Carlson stating, “When she [Hillary Clinton] comes on television, I involuntarily cross my legs.”

There were also instances of sexism faced by Clinton on the campaign trail that the media did not regard as newsworthy: Susan J. Carroll observes, “Sexism and sexist remarks by journalists and on-air pundits were treated as acceptable—a normal part of political discourse.” Although they are from different parties and brought quite different backgrounds to the 2008 presidential election, both Clinton and Sarah Palin were portrayed in sexist ways and faced the same gender stereotypes.Women are grossly underrepresented at every level of political office in the country.

These are examples from the right, but they infiltrate. I’ve spoken to many young Democrats for Sanders who think Clinton is shrewd, unlikeable, untrustworthy, pandering. Why are these the words that are used to describe her?

Read this paper. Here’s an excerpt:

Before Hillary Clinton’s bid for the Democratic nomination, Elizabeth Dole was the first serious female candidate for a major party presidential nomination. Research on her campaign showed that voters were more likely to learn about her appearance or character than her issue positions, and many stories were negative (Aday & Devitt, 2001). Her role as Bob Dole’s wife was mentioned in a significant number of stories and was usually mentioned in the first third of the story. Overall references to her family outpaced those for her opponents (Heldman et al., 2005). Dole was not alone in being portrayed stereotypically. In 1984 Geraldine Ferraro, the first woman on a major party ticket, ‘‘was described as ‘feisty’ and ‘pushy but not threatening,’ and was asked if she knew how to bake blueberry muffins… . When she stood before the Democratic National Convention in San Francisco, anchor Tom Brokaw announced: ‘Geraldine Ferraro … The first woman to be nominated for vice president… Size 6!’’ (Baird et al., 2008, p. 1).

To Bernie fans: of course you do not have to vote for Hillary because she has a uterus (as Killer Mike helpfully pointed out). But be aware that you’re not making your decision based on “the facts,” when “the facts” are fluid. There are no “facts.”

Women have a long history of being told to pipe down, to look hot, to speak softly, to smile, to put out, to nurture, to not be so emotional. Hillary Clinton is a strong, smart, powerful, competent woman. She speaks up. She interrupts. She doesn’t apologize for things that she shouldn’t, like being paid to give speeches, which was her job, even though she is expected to.

Whether you want to admit it or not, these engrained biases will affect how many people vote.

I’m voting for Hillary Clinton because THIS MATTERS. I agree with many of Sanders’ positions. I would love to see universal health coverage and affordable college tuition. I would love to see a marked change in the devastating growth of income inequality. Lucky for me, Hillary Clinton agrees on these issues; she always has. People just don’t believe her.

There’s an old trope, a thing I heard growing up that we tell our kids: you can be anything you want to be when you grow up. How can I tell my daughter this? How can I tell her she can be an engineer, when only 18% of those holding bachelor degrees in engineering are female? Can she be one of the 17% of mathematicians in the United States who are female? Can she be one of the 0% of U.S. Presidents who has ever been female?

Vote for whichever candidate you want, but don’t tell me it’s not about gender, or that gender isn’t an important factor in this race.

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An Imaginary Exploration of Rohan’s First Birthday

Lucy is turning one on Thursday. To celebrate, I am buying mini muffins at Trader Joe’s and then dropping them off with her at daycare so I can work. But if I were the kind of mother who tooled around with Gwyneth Paltrow, or this fucking lady, I imagine it would go more like this:

I awake at 4am, perfectly revitalized, radiating the warm goodness of the sun goddess, even though she still slumbers (O, lazy empress!). I rise from my organic, lavender-scented cotton bedsheets and walk fiercely to my meditation room. I am surrounded by pillows, bejeweled by Tibetan monks in the brisk mountains of another Asia. I practice cunnilingal yoga, by curling my tongue around a single crystal while in Warrior 2 pose.

After my morning retreat, I levitate towards the kitchen, where I heat electrolyte-enhanced spring water in a small copper kettle. I add a squeeze of organic meyer lemon from my grandmother’s tree. I pour a small bowl of endangered tigers milk, and lap at it like a cat.

Before Rohan wakes, I quietly enter his room with a black velveteen bag of healing crystals. I pass each crystal over his small, perfect body while chanting in Sanskrit. His eyes peel open; they are laced with tears. “I love you, Mama,” he says. These are his first words. I peel a bursting breast from my silken robe and weep as he latches.

At 7am, Rohan and I sit down for breakfast, an alkalizing blended green juice of organic kale and seaweed, filtered through pristine white sands and moon rock. Rohan gazes up at me lovingly, and I down at him, and we stare at each other, getting lost in our love gazes while we sip. The breakfast nook is teeming with warm energy and thick linen curtains. “Happy year of your birth,” I declare. He nods, silently, and slowly sips his green-hued nectar.

We each chew a heaping tablespoon of bee pollen as I dress Rohan. First, his under layer of fine silk. Next, he is wrapped in hand-sewn organic cotton, and topped with a sweater knit from the fur of a single alpaca, who was fed a gluten-free diet of only elderberries and pistachio.

While in his room, I explain to him that the tradition of a day of birth anniversary is to receive a present. From beneath my robe, I pull out (as if by magic!) a small, earthen box. He gazes upon it with delight. “Mama!” he exclaims, stunned by his spoils. As he opens the box, beams of light protrude outward from its geometric prison. He dips his tiny hand into the light, and pulls out a single red ruby, affixed to a silver chain. “For your neck,” I say. He smiles, displaying both of his incandescent white teeth.

Now that the celebrating has commenced, I affix Rohan to my body with cottons and other fibres, and we proceed to walk the 7 miles together through downtown LA to my flagship juice store. He is hungry upon arrival, and requests a floral bouquet of cilantro and thai basil to nibble while I examine this mornings batch of raw almond cacao sea foam activated daisy milk. It is not up to my standards, and must be remade. “Do not waste it,” I explain to my employee, all patience. “Make sure this batch is delivered to the homeless youth.” The sun beams a single ray onto my heart chakra as I speak these words.

Rohan and I spend the rest of the day making pilgrimages around LA to my various juice stores. We stop for a lunch of raw, organic zucchini ribbons and seaweed essence, which we eat only until we are pleasantly full and revitalized. We can feel the cells of the zucchini bursting into our own, the flood of energy: we meditate, holding hands. I feed him a small chard of low glycemic vegan chocolate. Happy birthday, my son.

At the end of the day, Rohan again nestled into my heaping breast, I chant and hum ancient melodies. I catch a small beam of light glinting off his ruby necklace, and know that the universe is benevolent. I gaze upward towards the heavens, and smile. I lay my sleeping baby down, nestled into a cloud of blankets, and float airily towards the door.

Exhausted after a long day, the doorbell chimes. I perk up instantly, knowing that my guru has arrived for our nightly 3 hour advanced Savanasanali yoga session. I plop a single raspberry into my mouth, and feel light and joy course through my being. “Thank you for giving your life so that I may have mine,” I say to the raspberry.

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Sometimes, I Just Don’t Want to Mom Right Now

At some point, without my permission, my baby turned into a toddler. Now, instead of carrying her around, I’m following her (unless there’s something I really need to do involving two hands, in which case, she absolutely must be held at that moment or it’s power tantrum time).

My one-year-old’s main interests include the following:

  1. Pulling tissues filled with snots out of the bathroom garbage can and trying to eat them (and if you take them away from her: power tantrum).
  2. Trying to get into the dishwasher to play with knives.
  3. Dipping her hands in the toilet.
  4. Throwing 100% of the food you give her at meal times off her high chair tray and onto the back of the dog (think “spaghetti comb” because that’s what I have to do after dinner).
  5. Pretending not to understand what “no” means.
  6. Attempting to fling herself head-first off the couch.
  7. Insisting that you read the same book to her 18 times.

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sharing used toilet paper with mama – so thoughtful

There are moments in our days that are really nice, like when she cracks up about something, or figures out how to put a puzzle piece in the right spot (GENIUS), or makes adorable sounds. But also? Having a toddler is really, really hard, and exhausting, and it caught me by surprise.

Now, in addition to the having to feed, clothe, bathe, care for a baby thing, there’s also a constant battle of wills. She does NOT want you to wipe up her nasty boogers as they slime their way into her mouth. She NEEDS you to let her eat that applesauce pouch right this second or she’s gonna lose her shit. She will look me in the eyes as I say “Lucy, No” and fling spaghetti onto the dog’s head.

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spaghetti

So, I’m tired.

And honestly, if I didn’t have the luxury of part-time daycare (to cover my part-time work schedule), I would be looking for a full-time job. Because honestly, I don’t know if I’m cut out for this all the time. I love every squishy, boogery ounce of Lucy, but doing this for 12 hours a day 5 days a week? Nope. I couldn’t do it.

Admitting this to myself isn’t easy. I still operate under the (incorrect) default assumption that the parts of me that are wrong are just things that need to be fixed, so that one day I can be perfect. It’s like I want to take my 1997 Honda Accord to the mechanic and have him turn it into a Tesla and then not charge me, just because I’m so great. I just want my therapist to boop me with a magic feelings wand and all of a sudden I’m an infallible mom machine.

But instead of doing everything right all the time, I get exasperated a lot. I get impatient. I look at my iPhone.

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here she is feeding printer paper to the dog

I know better than to feel guilty about this. If any of my mom friends admitted to me they felt guilty for this shit, I would tell them they’re nuts. This is totally normal! So what if you look at your phone! So what if you want nothing more than an hour alone after a 12 hour day! That is NOT WEIRD.

And yet.

The internet is a place full of faerie moms, who breastfeed their 11 year olds, and cosleep with their 12 year olds, and whose 1 year olds gleefully slurp kimchee without ruining their clothes. They have faerie babies who never get sick, and all they do all day is run around together holding hands in fields of wildflowers.

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don’t ask me about the last time I vacuumed

By 5pm (or, ya know, noon) I am desperate for reprieve. I am counting down the minutes until my beautiful girl is tucked into that crib, and I can finally sit on the couch with a cup of decaf and watch Top Chef totally alone.

Sometimes I miss it; being alone.