Category Archives: Rants and Storms

Dear Microsoft,

Windows 8 fucking sucks and you are all a bunch of ripe turds for putting it together.

You should have made two versions (or modes within the same version), Windows 8 for mobile devices/tablets, and Windows 8 for desktops. The two forms of usage are discrete, and you cannot serve both. You made a choice to serve the tablet market. You chose…poorly.

I should not have to uninstall and reinstall programs I intend to use in order to decouple them from the requirement of being linked to a Microsoft account.

I should not have to give a separate command (beyond non-maximizing a program) to my GODDAMNED LAPTOP in order to make it function with more than one window open on the same screen – you know, as a fucking computer and not a mobile device.

I should not have felt the need to investigate whether a change to a different operating system was in order.

I should not be contemplating purchasing apps from third parties to restore your fucking system to the functionality that I require.

I am not a luddite. I am someone who uses my computer as a computer, not an entertainment consumption device, and you have basically shat all over my needs as a customer with this OS. I hope that by the time I need to replace my hardware again, all the industries with which and within which I work no longer require the use of Office, at which time I will happily give you two birds and embrace another company’s product.

For now, you have me caught. But now it’s on sufferance and not by choice. So fuck you all.

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The INTJ Pregnancy: 4th Trimester

AKA New Motherhood

My baby is now pushing 2 months old. An eternity in a blink.

Becoming “Mama” has come a lot more naturally than I thought. I have never really wanted kids for the sake of babies but rather KIDS, so I expected infancy to be something I would suffer through to get to the good stuff. Instead I have found a shocking amount of joy and sentiment in having a baby…holding him, cuddling him, learning to understand what he’s trying to communicate, watching him grow and change on a daily basis with this internal clock ticking down the moments we will have like this, sifting away one by one in the hourglass of life spent vs. life yet to come. I have always, even as a child, been aware of the finite nature of life and any given circumstance within it, but never has the poignancy of that riven me with this kind of acuteness. I’m crying sitting here typing this, with him asleep on my chest in his wrap. I don’t even know if I can still blame it on hormonally driven emotional intensity.

But just because I am enjoying my baby doesn’t mean there have been no challenges.

The worst among them was learning how to breastfeed. Is, I should say, as we still sometimes have issues. I went into breastfeeding unprepared. I thought it was something that would be pretty simple to do, simple for the baby to pick up – after all, baby horses are on their feet nursing within minutes of birth. Surely the only difference with a human was having to be held? Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

Ha.

I understand now why so many new moms give up on it. You’re sitting there in a hospital bed having not slept for two days, with your arms trembling from spending 2 1/2 hours pulling your torso up into a McRoberts’ Maneuver and so weak from exhaustion you’re afraid you’ll drop the baby, and he’s 9 pounds and squirming and came out strong enough to push himself up your chest with his arms or his legs so you have to use both hands to hold him in the feeding position, and the lactation consultant grabs your boob and holds it in his mouth and he starts sucking like a starving lamprey, and you think, I got this. Then you get home, and you realize you don’t have three hands, and how the fuck are you supposed to hold his head with one hand and his body with the other and still have a hand to shape your boob with? And then your tits swell up so much that for a few days you have no nipples at all – side effect of all the shit they pump into you with Pitocin and an epidural, and when they mentioned the edema it would cause they never thought to include your breasts in the list of places when clearly that just happened – so now it’s impossible to latch him without breast compression, which you can’t do because you have both hands holding him in place, and he’s frustrated and biting your nipples to bruising with his little gums until any pressure is enough to draw tears, and he’s screaming for hours because he hasn’t had a proper feed since the night before, and you’re crying and he’s crying and your husband is standing there saying “Why don’t I go get some formula?” I can see why people give up.

Luckily my husband is supportive enough of breastfeeding for the baby’s immune system health that he was willing to try one more tactic, so right then, the morning after our first night at home, he went and bought me a breast pump and some nipple shields, and to hell with all the La Leche League fascism about no bottles for 4 weeks and no nipple shields ever because the only problem they recognize is a latch issue which shields won’t solve. At that point I couldn’t feed my baby from the breast – he couldn’t find it most of the time, and even when he did it hurt so much I knew I was on borrowed time. My husband was only going to tolerate me sitting their with tears streaming down my face while the baby fed so many times before he insisted we switch. So for us the pumping/bottle-feeding early was the best thing we could have done. My husband and I both felt better after the baby got a feeding that we knew went down, and I felt better knowing that I could feed my baby without crying (pumping hurt way less than his frantic sucking). It took the pressure off getting him on the boob. When we tried a breast-feed with the prosthetic nipple over my flattened lumps, he sucked and slurped happily until milk was leaking out the side of his mouth because he had finally got his fill.

Yeah. That first 24 hours at home was a nursing nightmare.

It also started an ongoing beef with the overall attitude of lactation advice online. Same shit, different topic, as all the insufferable mommy blogs I gagged over while pregnant. I get that they feel like they’re part of a movement to re-normalize breast-feeding in American culture and well-intentioned with their advice, but I find a certain…rigidity to the articles that is both off-putting and unhelpful.

For example, the first few weeks after we got home, even after resolving the worst of the latching issues, my nipples hurt. At first it was because they were bruised from the baby’s first couple days (he even made one open up and bleed a bit that first night home) and then I spent several weeks gettting vasospasms after every feed so that my nipples were in a constant state of pain. I think some of it was residual damage from what he had initially done, and some of it may have been continuing latch/pinching issues, but I think I might tend toward Raynaud’s of the nipple (I have vivid memories of winters in high school spent with constantly aching breasts because of the cold air in my parents’ non-insulated drafty old country house). Whatever it was, I hit a point where if I read one more time that “breastfeeding isn’t painful if you’re doing it right” that I was just going to give up. It’s such an obnoxious thing to say, and the last thing a new mom who’s sitting there in pain needs to hear when she’s on the verge of giving up.

Other edicts of the breastfeeding fascists go against reality, such as not using any kind of artificial nipple (bottle or pacifier) for four weeks. Sorry, kiddo, I wasn’t mom enough for that…I would pump a bottle and let his daddy take one of the overnight feeds so I could get at least six hours of sleep in a row, and we caved on the pacifier thing about two weeks in because sometimes the baby was just inconsolable except with my boob in his mouth, and there was no way I could nurse him 24/7. I wasn’t even mom enough to nurse him 18/7. Giving him one bottle-feeding a day and something to suck on besides me for an hour or two of the day was helpful and necessary for our peace of mind, but all the pro-breast literature makes it out like that’s some horrific mistake that will ruin your baby’s willingness to breastfeed. Again, not helpful to the new parents with a baby who screams like the world is ending when he is taken off the tit no matter how long he just nursed or how much he ate. Then there’s my current question, which I can’t find an answer for and will just discuss with his doctor – at what point can I wean him of breastmilk and not need to replace with formula? According to my mom I started refusing the breast around 9 months and they just went to a full solids diet from there…is 9 months an appropirate age for that? Is 12 months really better or is that just the LLL agenda? I am not in a hurry to get him off the breast, but I don’t want to do extended breastfeeding (over 1 year), and my husband would like his favorite toys back sooner than that, and I’m not insensitive to his perspective. But everything out there is 1 year or longer! As long as you want! Until he goes off to school! Which, again, not helpful to someone interested in breastfeeding for the health benefits of the child rather than as a lifestyle.

Another: the lock-step condemnation of nipple shields. I don’t know if they are over-used in some hospitals, or too often pushed as a first resort instead of a last, but for me they saved breastfeeding. Without them, the best I could have managed for those first days after we came home, when my breasts were essentially razed and had to recover from pretty serious trauma, would have been to pump and bottle-feed every time he needed to eat…and who knows how hard it would have been to get him on the breast after that. We are still using the shields, and I feel no guilt about it. It’s inconvenient, but that’s about it for drawbacks. Periodically I try to latch him without a shield, and he will just start screaming. I can’t deal with it. And considering the only potential problem with using the shields long-term is supply, and my body tends toward over-supply (which has been its own challenge), I just don’t care enough to spend the energy weaning him from the shields. Either he’ll do it on his own or he won’t. Either way at least we’re still breastfeeding exclusively. Good enough for me.

In fact, I think my tendency to hyper-lactate might be part of why he still likes the shields. I have both a fast let-down and a fierce spray. I’ll hand express in the shower sometimes and shoot nearly a yard out of multiple ducts. No wonder the poor little guy chokes and sputters and says “oh hell no” sometimes even with the shield! Without one that fire hydrant spray is hitting the back of his throat instead of just flooding his mouth.

So, in all, breastfeeding has been a challenge, and at first it pretty much sucked and was hard to stay committed to. No one warned me about that.

We also have had some sleep struggles. Never at night, thank god – he has been a good night sleeper since day 1, going down between 8 and 10, logging 4-5 hours, then a feed and down for another 2-3. Lately we’ve added another 1-2 hours after that early-morning feed, so I am consistently getting 7-8 hours of sleep each night in 3 segments. Our sleep struggle is in the daytime. For the first, god, 5 or 6 weeks I could hardly get him to sleep at all during the day. The only times would be if he fell asleep on the boob and I didn’t move, or if one of his grandmas was rocking and singing to him. For me he would not soothe like that, which was bizarrely hurtful…I thought Mama was supposed to be the best! How come everyone BUT me can soothe my baby? I could soothe him, of course, but only with a feeding. I still can’t really put him down to nap during the day. He loves being in the wrap and will sleep for hours against me; he loves being held after a feeding and will sleep for hours while I read or watch TV. He’ll sleep if we take a walk with the stroller, or go for a drive, or if I rock and bounce him. But if I put him in his crib or his bouncer to try and get something done, he’ll wake up within 10 minutes and be upset. So I’ve given up trying, at least for now, and he is sleeping more now at 2 months than he ever has, and cries less than he ever has. I finally feel like I’ve got a handle on what he needs. Whew! Just in time for everything to change again as he makes the moves toward independent exploration….

The other new-mom challenge I’m noticing is on me, not the baby – I am just withdrawing deeply into my own head. There are ways I reach out of myself…texts, emails, blogging. Those are easy, probably because they are (or at least can be) accomplished on my phone, one-handed, while I’ve got the baby held between body and knees and only need one hand under his head. And in-person visits are easy, because whoever I’m with can just see how things are. I don’t have to explain. But phone calls have become prohibitive. It’s just impossible to explain verbally and spontaneously how things are with me. I’m fine, no post-partum blues, getting decent sleep, love my baby, what more is there to say? But of course it sounds so pat and rehearsed to say that; there’s no meat there, no real sense of what my life is. How do you say that my life is now spending 15 hours a day in my own head? I don’t know what I do in there all day. What I think about. I read a lot. Watch TV and movies sometimes. Read news articles online. Sometimes I even try and write. It’s rich in there, but how do you say it in a way someone who isn’t in here with me can understand?

I am slowly adding parts of my old life back in. I am cooking dinner again most nights (vs. just doing things like frozen pizza or Hamburger Helper). I  have taken the grocery shopping back from my husband – the baby goes in his wrap and has a most excellent nap while I go about the store. I am starting to jog in the mornings, stroller in tow…next week I can finally start trying to lose weight again without fear it will affect my milk supply as long as I’m careful not to undereat too much. I am getting annoyed when the house stays dirty and wanting to tackle some of the organizational projects I know need to be done to make room for the indefinite presence of this little guy in our house. (That I would have started on earlier except for that needing to hold him all day thing.)

I have stopped getting the feeling of “when does my life go back to normal?” and internalized my new reality. I am still trying to find the right equilibrium within it, but at least I no longer feel like everything is upside down.

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The 99 Problems of Contemporary Romance

In addition to historicals, I have been reading a lot of contemporary romance these past weeks. I have never been hugely fond of co-ro, mostly reading it now as a break from historicals, with which I am saturated. While most of the contemporary stuff I’ve picked up has been enjoyable enough, I am seeing many of the same structural flaws pop up over and over again in the genre – not just what I select but also the chaff I sort through.

Foremost among the issues are: how inconsequential most of the conflicts are. How trivial the barriers to being together. And how goddamned repetitive the tropes are.

Historical fiction is pretty easy to run on external conflicts, either as barriers or facilitators to love – family pressure to marry one person and not another…the need of one party to marry money…class differences…racial or religious differences…social pressure and expectation…scandal…the list goes on.

But what are the impediments to any two people making a relationship work in a modern context? Basically…each other. In any sort of real life scenario, the only thing that will keep apart two people is one or the other of them. Sure, geographic situations can happen, but if the relationship is the priority that can be overcome with sacrifice of a job or property. So the conflicts that hinge on the characters living in different places seem forced, and those that hinge on emotional baggage (I got dumped once/my parents divorced, so I don’t do relationships!) are just juvenile and silly.

What remains, after an author has come to those same conclusions, are outlandish situations – lying about a relationship so you need a fake partner because you are too embarrassed to admit the truth…having crazy terms of inheritance that require a marriage of convenience dictated by a relative…needing social cache to break into a good ole boy business network…knocking up a one-night stand despite using condoms…having a ridiculous, bullying family that thinks a hasty marriage is necessary when their (adult) little girl gets caught having sex. Or taking thing to the same realm as historicals in terms of wealth – rich girl getting death threats needs bodyguard, business empire merger requires marriage so it stays “in the family,” bored trust fund brat surprised by love, celebrity goes incognito for a break and lies about their identity to The One, etc.

It’s not realistic. I mean, I get that romance isn’t meant to reflect reality, but at the same time, situationally speaking, can’t it at least be plausible?

I have found myself picking up more small town series than anything else, even if the conflicts are petty. But they have their own issues in addition. For instance, how many people do you know who are really happily paired off, in a true love sense? Two other couples? Three? To have every bachelorette in a small town find the one and only begins to stretch credulity after a few books. Even if you can get past the slim odds of that, is it likely to happen one right after another? Doubtful. If the books in a small town series were spaced out more than 3 months between them I might find all those love matches more believable than when 6 happen in a year. Also, how big are these small towns supposed to be if every person featured is totally good-looking? Where are the average schleppy-looking folks that, you know, comprise 2/3 of the population? Especially out in the middle of nowhere. Now, if you have a town of say 30,000, I can believe the numbers of foxy mates…but then the whole small-town charm, everybody knows everybody claim disintegrates.

Also, what the hell is up with the “I used to be in love with him” trope?! Why must every case of falling in love with a sibling’s friend or old acquaintance hinge on a case of puppy love/hero worship?! Why? Why can’t it simply be a case of adult onset attraction? Gah!!!!!

What I think most of this boils down to is that a contemporary love story has the story for a novella and has to be forcibly extended to reach even short novel length, and every added wrinkle stretches the mooring ropes tethering the piece to reality a little more. I would rather see shorter, more straightforward stories with more interpersonal dynamics and less pointless drama. But, then, no one has ever accused me of liking conflict for its own sake…

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Dealbreakers: impossible premises

I have been doing a lot of reading while nursing the bebe. (And thank God for ebooks! No way I could wrangle a physical book in this position!) And in whittling down some of my historical romance TBR pile I have found quite a few books that I cannot finish because the premise was too…impossible. (Or, less charitably: Ignorant. Ill-researched. Anachronistic. Stupid.) One drawback of researching historical periods, I suppose, is becoming unable to suspend disbelief when certain fallacies occur because I now know better.

The worst offenders have to do with marriage and paternity.

With marriage, specifically annulments. They were not granted because a marriage hadn’t been consummated; they were granted for (1) fraud, (2) impotence, or (3) lack of consent (aka duress)/parental consent for a minor. Period. A father might ascertain his minor daughter’s marriage had not been consummated before annulling it, but the annulment had nothing to do with whether the couple had had sex. Neither would it bear on any other type of annulment. But I see that trope all the time. One story I was trying to read hinged on a woman believing she wasn’t good enough (class-wise) for her husband and determining to annul the marriage. Um, no. That’s not how that worked. Since there was no other conflict, I just couldn’t. Her feelings of inferiority could have worked as the main conflict if the context had been having to stay married, not him convincing her to stay as if her plan was viable. Nooooope. Sorry.

Another had as a plot device an aristocrat who wasn’t the biological offspring of his titled father. He vacillated between being horrified that someone would find out and whining about how he wasn’t “really” titled. Um, yes, he was. He was the acknowledged child born in wedlock. Legally that made him the next lord of whatever stripe. The social scandal would have been huge, and I suppose the cousins might have sued to have him removed, but I don’t think they would have had a standing; the entire point of patrimony laws protected children born in wedlock, which he had been. So I couldn’t do that one either after about his third declaration that he wasn’t really his lordship. No…to the law you are so STFU, your position is secure.

Another had a matchmaker trying to steer her unassuming charge clear of an aristocrat’s heir because he wasn’t attractive physically. No. No way in hell would a rich and titled-to-be suitor be dismissed like that when the girl wasn’t a prime offering; equally impossible was the matchmaker not knowing he was an heir in that small a neighborhood, yet never once did she bring up “I know he’ll be the earl but you can do better.” I mean I wouldn’t have believed that, but at least it would have addressed the issue!

I begin to see why the crazysauce historicals with kidnappings and false identities and whatnot are still popular with some readers – you know going in that you’ll have to suspend a lot of disbelief so errors to the legalities, morals, or social standards of the time are really the least of your blind eyes to turn.

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Big 5 Romance: novels by and for the petty bourgeoisie?

Today is a Friday the 13th, the day the madam of The Honest Courtesan uses as a call to awareness for sex workers’ rights. It’s my chance to state publicly that I believe all sex work, including prostitution, should be decriminalized (or legalized, as long as that is not used as a backdoor to regulate it out of existence). The sooner our society leaves off attempting to legislate morality and dictate private, consensual behaviors, the better off all of us will be. And the sooner our legislative bodies and feminist activists stop the infantilizing of adult women by suggesting that we are incapable of making a rational choice to have sex with a particular individual for any reason whatsoever, the safer and more empowered all women in this country will be.

Pretty much since I started this blog, I’ve been mentioning an observed trend in the romance genre out of New York that started somewhere between college (early aughts) and 2009, namely, the excision of almost all “unsavory” elements from historical romance. First they came for the booze. Then they came for the whores. It’s the most bizarre thing, that even as the amount and variety of sex in romance explodes, the presumed morality and interests of its readership narrows.

Why are these changes happening? Is this trend driven by readership or by the “gatekeepers” (agents and publishers) or by the creators themselves?

Before I go further into this topic, let me clarify that I don’t think genre is a static thing, even for a genre like romance that has very clear rules that haven’t changed since the early 1970s (or the 1930s, when Georgette Heyer started producing her Regency  romances…or the 1810s when Jane Austen was inadvertently inventing the genre). There are always going to be cultural values embedded in literature that reflect the perspective and anxieties of the time in which they are written, not the time in which the book is set, and this is especially true in romance, because it is by women, for women, and centered around issues that women still consider important (love, marriage, and how those fit into women’s lives). The books from the 1970s and 1980s are pretty dated now, with relationships that border on (and sometimes cross over into) abusive and heroes who would be rapists except the heroines always secretly want to have sex but can’t admit it, so instead of viewing him as a criminal and an attacker, the audience (of the time) saw the “won’t take no for an answer” hero as a tool to give the heroine what she wants without her having to accept the responsibility that comes with sexual agency. The abusive man/forcible-seduction scenarios are pretty non-existent now in non-50-Shades-knockoff romance (erotica is a different matter altogether!), although I still see a lot of seductions where the hero’s magical sexual power “overwhelms” the heroine so that she can’t resist. Modern-written historicals often verge into anachronism by using heroines who insist on not needing a man’s help for no clear narrative reason and who feel no moral or practical dilemma about having premarital sex, also for no clear reason. So what I am really interested in, and why I wanted to write about this topic, is why the particular cultural values being embedded in (imposed upon?) romance are the ones being used.

One of the people who made me see the “cleaning up” of romance most clearly was Thaddeus Russell (though his writing has nothing to do with fiction). His book A Renegade History of the United States made me view historical settings in a different context–specifically just how fractional a part of the population romance really focuses on–and also how few people even in a historical context actually shared the obsession with chastity and saving virginity for marriage that 99% of all historical romance problems revolve around.  He revised my view of politics and social reformation vis a vis how much of it was done by a very narrow interest group and a narrow part of society. I have never gravitated toward books with “reformer” heroines, even though such women existed, but after reading Russell I downright loathe that type of character. I can understand women who are willing to live within the rules of their class—despite my perspective I am very conventional in the way I live my life, especially as seen from the outside—so they don’t bother me even if they have vastly different agendas or thought processes from me as a modern woman.  But the reformers who want to ruin everyone else’s fun?  No, thanks.

However, most romances don’t feature reformers per se; the authors simply let certain behaviors (such as doing charity work, supporting one or more severely physically/psychologically damaged persons in their domestic service, abhorring male fun such as gambling, drinking, fighting, etc., and sitting in judgment of any drug use beyond alcohol or tobacco) stand in for the heroine’s personality as if there is no possible question about the legitimacy of those “virtues” or the fact that everyone in their audience would applaud them. Despite their newfangled free-love/fuck-like-men-feminism approach to sex, romances are more often than not extremely socially conservative in all other ways.

And why? Beyond, I mean, the obvious answer that publishers push what sells and pressure the authors who still work for them to conform with those codes.

I have a theory: the acquisition editors buy to their own taste, and that taste is uniformly ivory-tower elite, with the proper number of women’s studies classes on their transcript and lockstep “socially conscious” moral edicts that are based on proving how much you care. (Think that’s incompatible with social conservatism? Then why is it that public health initiatives to ban cigarettes and cut down on drunk driving are driven by Democrats? – they just pretend it’s about saving children when it’s about controlling people’s private behavior. The only difference between that kind of statism and what the Republicans peddle is that Republicans are more honest about wanting to legislate morality. And also that the Republicans are basing their moral imperatives on religion versus some nebulous idea of social conscience or you-wouldn’t-like-it-if-it-happened-to-you emotional appropriation.)

Romance may have started out with a high percentage of smut (low-brow) vs. story-driven (high-brow) novels, but now that erotica has emerged as a genre in its own right, most of what’s left in romance attempts to appeal to the readers who want more than just lust – who require a story. And that story is always the same: no matter how unconventional the characters are to begin with, their story ends with a return to convention. Romance, in fact, has only two stories, that of a man raising a woman up via marriage (up either from low birth or a moral failure), or a woman and her love bringing an immoral man back into the fold of upright society. It’s a normalizing genre that reinforces the nuclear family and the idea of monogamy and marriage.

But why is that normalizing infused with all those other social values? The answer to that piece of illogic lies in knowing who still gets married these days – middle class women, especially upper middle class women. The same women who are curating the genre at a publishing house level. The same women who are writing and reading romance from the major publishers. Some of them are even self-publishing romances in the same vein.

Yes, some of the self-published romance is more of the pap the big publishers ladle out, but not all. To me the most exciting part of self-publishing from the perspective of both writer and reader is that authors who have a different moral compass (in any number of directions), or who prefer to examine the grim realities of historical times, or who want to attempt writing actual historical attitudes as opposed to modern ones in costumes, are now free of any interference from a publisher who just wants more of the same “mistorical” romance. The attitudes and tropes of chick-lit that bled into the romance genre following the collapse of chick-lit as its own genre are no longer infecting the entirety of the genre. Thank goodness.

Or maybe just the free market of ideas.

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The INTJ Pregnancy: Trimester 3

I am officially full-term in my pregnancy (the clinical definition of full-term is now 37-42 weeks gestational age) so I thought I might as well go ahead and write about trimester three. Partly because it could end essentially at any time now, and partly because I have more aggravations I need to vent.

Myths and Expectations?

I don’t know that I have any tri-3 myths to bust. Pretty much everything that I was warned about has happened:

  • my back hurts all the time no matter what I do or what position I am in.
  • I sprout cankles if I wear the wrong pants, wear the wrong shoes, or stand or sit for too long. (I thought I might be one of the lucky 30% who dodges that bullet since I got to 36 weeks without foot swelling, but no. Weirdly–OR IS IT?–the only thing that seems to make it go away is a cocktail or two. Maybe it’s coincidence, because a tittle is timed with putting my feet up at the end of the day…but putting my feet up alone doesn’t seem to work. My guess is it’s a relaxation of the blood vessels/my nerves thing, but what do I know? I’m no doctor. And the only thing the internet says on the matter is to avoid alcohol because it will dehydrate you, and dehydration makes edema worse).
  • My heartburn is out of control.
  • My stomach has hit the point of diminishing capacity, where what used to be a normal meal feels like Thanksgiving gluttony and what used to be a snack is now a meal.
  • I have started waddling rather than walking, that charming rolling step you do like you’re on the deck of a ship, only it turns out the ship is you.
  • At least the only time I feel miserably huge is getting out of bed. That’s hard and, perhaps oddly, the time I most feel the extra weight I am carrying (in the mirror I have done a good job of not putting on much weight but baby and perhaps even losing some fat, but by the scale I am 10+ pounds over what I “should” have put on at the end, much less with 2-4 weeks to go).
  • I am exhausted all the time again, almost as badly as I was during the first trimester
  • I feel nauseated on a regular basis…like the thought of eating turns my stomach, even when I’m hungry. It’s a different sort of nausea than the first trimester brought, and just feeling “off my feed” is better than feeling carsick all the time, plus this comes and goes.
  • Everything south of my waist hurts all the time. If you’ve heard about the “punched in the pussy” feeling…it’s real. Apparently it’s the pubic bone shifting apart/loosening up. I have been blessed with either progressively stronger Braxton Hicks contractions or an extended podromal labor because I’ve had what amount to period cramps for hours on end every day for the last week or more. They aren’t labor pains – I can sleep, talk, work through them, and they are neither occurring in a regular pattern nor getting worse – but they are noticeable enough to make me irritable and distracted.
  • I never thought I would be one of “those women” who talks about just being ready for pregnancy to be over, but…I am. Sleep is torture, because there are no comfortable positions, but so is being awake because I have to go about my normal life in mild pain and physical exhaustion. Yeah. Baby can come any time. I’m ready.

Doctor’s Orders

The worst part about the end of pregnancy is the insufferable number of visits to the OB and, if you have any sort of “complication,” other support centers. The regular pattern is every 2 weeks from 28-34 weeks and then every week from 35 to the end of pregnancy. For me, having the “high risk” diagnosis of gestational diabetes, the added fun of twice-weekly fetal non-stress-tests (NSTs) was added around week 36. (In a way I have to count myself lucky – some OBs want NST’s done twice weekly from 32 weeks on with GD, or as soon as the condition is diagnosed. God forbid.) The NST center wanted to do an ultrasound every week, as well, which I declined. I am not comfortable having 8+ ultrasounds in one pregnancy, for no good reason (because I am already being monitored so often for fetal movements). IF the NST shows something is abnormal, then an ultrasound is medically indicated and appropriate. I don’t consider multiple precautionary ultrasounds an appropriate course of treatment…especially since they would also tell me (and the doctor) weight estimates of the baby.

The problem I have with the weight estimates is this: they are off by up to 2 pounds in BOTH directions. The u/s estimate is more or less right about a third of the time – AKA the same statistic the doctor would get if s/he were to just guess “small, regular, or big” for each baby. The reason this is problematic is that doctor’s perception of a baby’s size influences their risk assessment/decision-making process in delivery. A woman who is suspected of having a large baby (even when it turns out the baby was not large at all) is more likely to be diagnosed with failure to progress or a too-narrow pelvis and whisked off for an “emergency” c-section than a woman who is assumed to have a normal sized baby (even when it turns out the baby was very large). Since one of my goals is avoiding a section, obviously, I also want to avoid any fodder for the doctor’s fears that my baby will be macrosomic.

This avoidance stems directly from a series of appointments in which my doctor harped on the dangers of delivering big babies and stressed me out to the point of tears over it, because I felt like she was assuming that JUST because I have GD I would automatically have a big baby and that, by her emphasis on it, she would react poorly to any hiccup or stall in labor. While the reality is that I have a higher chance of a big baby because of my GD (apparently even seemingly controlled GD can result in a fat baby), it’s not a guarantee and statistically unlikely. Even with a big baby the chance of shoulder dystocia during birth is, again, statistically unlikely. I brought her a family history from my mother’s side, showing where she and her many sisters delivered all their many babies – a good third of them pushing 9 pounds – vaginally and with no complications. This was also the appointment where we went over my birth plan and I included a note about  being familiar with the maneuvers to get a baby unstuck, and after that appointment the OB hasn’t really brought up the big baby thing again. Maybe it’s because that list was a reminder that she assessed me in the beginning as having “birthing hips” (very wide pelvic opening) and that women in my family have no problems with bigger babies, maybe it’s that she is certain I understand the potential risk now, or maybe she just remembers we’ve talked about it now whereas for some of those appointments she forgot that she’d already brought it up. I do feel like, based on our conversation around my birth plan, that we are on the same page and she will not be one of those doctors who panics if the baby seems “stuck” so that is also reassuring.

Anyway, all of this stress and worry and emphasis on my GD has led me to some interesting places in terms of how I view obstetric care. Basically, it seems to me that there is a very real attempt on the part of the medical establishment to pathologize pregnancy – to take it from the realm of a natural process with countless and not-always-understood effects on the mother to a clinical chart, any deviation from which constitutes a problem that must be addressed medically.

For example: There is an interplay between anemia and gestational diabetes. Specifically, mild anemia can sometimes help keep blood sugars in check. So perhaps some explanation for the rising rates of GD is that women are now routinely given (or told to take) prenatal vitamins with iron, and prescribed extra iron if their blood iron level slips below the non-pregnant clinical definition of “normal.” Perhaps during pregnancy women are supposed to be a little bit anemic to help offset some of the effects of the placenta on insulin and blood sugar. If iron levels are artificially boosted back to non-pregnant levels, then the pregnant mother loses the protection afforded by her natural body chemistry. Therefore, treating the lowered iron level as a problem that needs to be addressed actually creates more problems by interfering in the natural bodily processes of gestation.

Obviously the above is just my own speculation, but it makes sense to me that interventions create more problems than they solve…especially when it’s not clear that what’s being “solved” is a problem in the first place. I’ve talked to my mom about when she was pregnant, and they had never HEARD of all the conditions that are routinely diagnosed now, nor was pregnancy monitored so closely, nor was any deviation from “normal” AKA non-pregnant body chemistry considered some sort of fucking crisis. How did the human race survive without all these tests? Oh, what’s that? Because it’s a natural goddamned process that even now most doctors don’t really understand all the effects and intricacies of? What needs to be observed and then treated from are normal pregnancy parameters, not pregnant vs. non-pregnant parameters.

But, hey, the doctors are doing a booming business, and so are the testing services that monitor all these “problems” and so are the pharmacology companies that sell the pills to correct the problems, so who cares if any of it’s truly necessary? If it saves one child it’s worth all the expense and stress and fear that are paid out by the mothers-to-be…right? RIGHT?

Another interesting aspect of GD I have found is who is more at risk for getting it (aside from women who already have diabetes before pregnancy): Asians, Pacific Islanders, Native Americans, Eskimos, and Hispanics (presumably many/most of whom are descended from some of the native peoples of Central/South America). Basically…any ethnic group that is more closely associated with the Mongoloid subgroup of humans. The reason this is interesting to me is because of a book my husband read (and told me all about) that discussed genomic differences between population groups across the globe. One point he made was to posit that the book of Genesis wasn’t actually wrong to say that childbirth became harder for women as a result of knowledge…that changing from a hunter-gatherer wandering society to permanent establishments with farming and a grain-based diet actually changed human physiology. Many of the women who have easier labors and deliveries tend to come from the groups that did NOT experience that physical structural change – AKA all the “native” nomadic peoples like the American Indians and the Mongols, and subsequently the parts of the general populations who descend from them. My mother is from Finnish Laplander stock (basically the Finnish Eskimos) so perhaps that explains why her family make such excellent birthers. It would also put me in a category of elevated risk for GD…that is easily mitigated by ignoring the Western grain-based diet in favor of meat and plants.

I also want to touch on the ridiculous and contradictory advice that gets distributed to pregnant women by the medical establishment. The one that got to me was the weight thing. One of the most common things pregnant women are told is not to try to lose weight while pregnant. BUT when you are told that you should only put on X number of pound – a number that is sometimes lower than the actual physical weight of baby, placenta, amniotic fluid, etc., how are you NOT supposed to lose weight even if the aggregate is a gain? Or, in my case, the diabetes center told me when I was first diagnosed that based on my pre-pregnancy weight and where I was then (32 weeks) that I shouldn’t put on any more pounds for the rest of my pregnancy. You know, during the third trimester when the baby is putting on approximately 1/2 pound per week. So…how was I supposed to avoid putting on weight if I was not also losing weight off my own body to balance what my baby was putting on? How is that not contraindicated? Do you think I am innumerate? Do you think I do not know how to do math, and how to balance equations? Do you think I do not consider these things when examining the medical advice given to me? I am sure every woman gets told equally asinine things to do/not do that, in conjunction with other medical edicts, become completely contradictory. So which are you supposed to follow?

I’ve chosen to do what feels right for me, which is to continue to eat normally, for the most part avoid junk and overeating, and let my body put on what it will. I actually think I look small for 8 1/2 months based on my overall frame and how big I THOUGHT I would get, so even if the scale says I’m a fat pregnant cow, the mirror exposes the lie.

I also want to get into the social aspects of late pregnancy, but this has rambled on long enough so that will be a separate post….

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#HIMYM Finale: Now We See the Betrayal Inherent in a True “Twist” Ending

We’ve passed the statute of limitations on spoilers for the finale of How I Met Your Mother, right? I mean it was over a week ago – surely if you were planning to watch it, by now you have. I’m going to assume so, anyway, and spoil the crap out of the ending without bothering to point out my spoilers other than to say: if you don’t want to know how it ended, just stop reading this post.

Or, What the Hell Did I Just Watch?

Perhaps I really mean “What the hell did I watch nine seasons for?”

I was NOT pleased and delighted by the ending of my favorite sitcom. I can’t even say that I was narratively satisfied, because the way the ending came about, for me, did not draw on what had come before but felt like an ending that had been decided on a long time ago and tacked onto the story stubbornly despite the fact that it no longer fit.

See, I always assumed the actual meeting of the mother would be anti-climactic…either that we would literally get nothing beyond Ted walking up to her at the bus stop and saying “Hi, I’m Ted,” or that it would be totally lame in the sense of love at first sight perfectness. I was not going to be let down by that sort of ending, because, by the time the 9 seasons had played out, for me the real story was Robin and Barney. Therefore as long as their wedding was epic and touching and romantic, then Ted’s meeting the mother being an afterthought wasn’t going to matter. It never occurred to me that the show might actually back off Robin and Barney being happy together. Not once. They always made sense to me. They made sense to me from the second or third episode I watched (which was somewhere around episode 8 or 10 in the first season) and continued to make sense through everything that happened after. I believed in the two of them together; I believed in the changes they underwent in order to be/as a result of being together. So for the ending to tear that down in order for Ted to finally, after 25 years of trying, get Robin, was just…infuriating.

The infuriating came from several different angles. First, the logic of it was flawed. Robin *always* matched better with Barney than with Ted – more naturally and more convincingly and more touchingly. I BELIEVED it when they had moments, near misses and changing minds and then finally the decision to actually commit to one another. Ted’s obsession with her never felt like real love; it felt like obsession. Additionally, if the reason Robin & Barney didn’t work was her career and the two of them not choosing to recommit to their relationship, what evidence can we find in the narrative that she and Ted would work ANY better? The entire reason she and Ted didn’t work was wanting different things…even at the end what Robin wanted was closer to what Barney did than what Ted did.

Also, on that whole divorce front…obviously we weren’t given the whole discussion between Robin and Barney, but it seems to me that how the conversation went was “Right now, yes, I would take an exit ramp,” and that led to “Then just take it” rather than the two of them facing and choosing to fix the problems. Call me old-fashioned, but that was a petty and stupid reason for them to divorce. It boiled down to them taking the easy way out rather than putting their relationship first. It was letting fear of failure and being hurt make the decision for them, not an actual failure of the relationship. Aside from whether I think they were still in such emotionally stunted places they could not see that, it would actually make more sense, narratively speaking, to see Robin re-marry Barney when he is all settled down and being a dad and her career is no longer pulling her anywhere but New York than for her to go back to Ted.

I keep bringing up the narrative and implying that it led us to Barney and Robin, not Ted and Robin. This is, for the sake of my writing blog, the heart of the problem. The show created an expectation in the audience that it then betrayed when it changed the ending from the logical conclusion of what had come before to…something else.

Exhibit: the time spent on each narrative (Ted and Robin vs. Barney and Robin) was 3 seasons to 6. No matter how many tidbits the show tossed in about Ted or Robin still maybe having feelings for each other or how many last-second “warning signs” they tried to throw in about her and Barney, the fact is that to spend so much longer building up the red herring story creates a false expectation in the viewer and sets up a betrayal of trust. This ending (the mother dying and Ted going back to Robin for one last try) would have worked and been poignant and heartfelt if it happened at the end of season 1, 2, or 3. Possibly even season 4. Not this far in, when the bulk of the story built a different inevitability.

Exhibit: the narrative structure itself. It makes sense that the story wasn’t really about Ted meeting the mother but about Ted overcoming his obsession with Robin. The whole reason the story of how he met the mother started with him meeting Robin was that he was hung up on Robin for 8 years and therefore couldn’t actually fall in love with someone else until he let go of her – the same way the mother was hung up on the guy who died and couldn’t really fall in love with someone else until she let go of him. The show built that dynamic perfectly, including layering in how Ted’s letting go of Robin was what moved her relationship with Barney forward. Including that part of Barney’s “final play” was telling only Ted of his (fake) intention to propose to someone else, knowing that if Ted told Robin it was tantamount to permission to win her permanently. One of the best moments in the last few episodes was Ted letting Robin go and her floating away from him like his red balloon had. That was the moment. That was the point when he became available to truly love.

Exhibit: the implication of Ted going back to Robin after losing his wife is that the mother and their two children were, as Marshall accused Lily of in their last big fight, “just a consolation prize” when Ted’s first dream (Robin) became impossible. The level of insult to his relationship with the mother was on par with Jacob’s creepy imprinting on Bella’s baby and the implication that his interest in her had always been her ovaries and not her. And if your story is reaching Breaking Dawn levels of dubious sincerity, you’ve pretty much failed as a storyteller.

The “twist” ending the show gave its fans was a betrayal of viewer trust. It felt to me like the creators were clinging to an original ending in defiance of the fact that the characters grew and changed in a way they had not anticipated when they came up with that ending – one of the worst sins new writers commit. Sometimes the characters take you for a ride and you end up in a different place than where you thought you would. And that’s okay. A worse explanation (worse in the sense of more insulting) is that the ending was an intentional “switcheroo.” The reason I find that an even more insulting possibility is because a switch that poorly executed is a parlor trick, a truly juvenile piece of showmanship that fails to hold up against scrutiny. See, a real twist ending isn’t really a twist at all – when you go back and revisit the narrative, the signs and hints are all there. The illusion is that the inevitable ending appeared to be a twist when it really wasn’t. In this case, the anticipated ending had been built too well for the twist to feel natural or inevitable. No, it felt plotted and forced, shoehorned onto a story whose natural outcome was something different, not the sort of twist you walk away delighted by, because in retrospect it seems so clear that you want to kick yourself for not seeing it. That is what the creators missed, that a twist ending has to be built into the fabric of the story. Ted’s obsession was, but the failure of Barney and Robin was not.

So…if they needed to go semi-dark rather than a totally happy ending, the mother still could have died by the time Ted is telling the children the story, and that casts the whole of it into a bittersweet shade of nostalgia. If they wanted to go darker yet, then the wife left Ted and his children pick up on the fact that he is still and always has been in love with Robin (which implies that’s why his wife left him)…and he takes a walk and sadly stares into a window where Barney and Robin are celebrating their 20th anniversary or something.

The consolation of Ted getting Robin in the end did not make up for the tragedy of either the mother dying or Robin and Barney not working, as the Ted/Robin pairing is the lesser for both of them, so to pretend that it’s some happiest ending we should all clap for is ridiculous. All I can say, if this was supposed to be the real narrative, is that when Ted says the second-greatest love story ever was about Maggie, the ultimate girl next door, and her window that closed for the last time with her childhood sweetheart, then first greatest was Marshall and Lily, AKA the only demonstration of actual love in the show.

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