Archive for the ‘Rants’ Category

They Shoot Wet Nurses, Don’t They?

March 10, 2009

Her name was Laura, and I nursed her baby.

We had met, initially, at breakfast and immediately hit it off. We sat down with our coffees and immediately got swept up in a conversation that ran the gamut from the advantages of Twitter over Facebook to the challenges of leaving one’s baby for a night. Which is precisely what I had done: I had left my baby to attend a symposium on parenting. And it was, as I told Laura over coffee, in some ways profoundly liberating, and in others completely terrifying. Also, my boobs hurt. Badly. I had forgotten my breast pump and an hour of hand-expressing in the shower that morning hadn’t helped much. I didn’t mention that part, though. I just said, I miss my baby.

She said, I know. Her own baby – a dark-haired sprite, just one year old – bounced happily on her knee. I would find it hard to leave her.

Yeah.

I liked her. I offered to help her sort out her Twitter/Facebook conundrum, and introduce her to some New York area bloggers. She invited me to a parenting event in Albany later in the month. We chatted throughout the day. The chirps and coos of her baby reminded me of my own chirping, cooing baby, who had accompanied me in the previous month to two conferences, who I was unaccustomed to being without, especially in this environment. My heart hurt, and my breasts ached. They ached. I kept my arms pressed against my chest for most of the morning.

At lunch I fled to my room and tried, unsuccessfully, to hand-express. I returned to the symposium, and sat down near Laura, and another woman that I had met that day. We were supposed to have a conversation about our parenting successes, or something like that. I said, you’ll have to count me out. I’m in a lot of pain and don’t know what to do. I huddled on the chair, squeezing the rock-hard contours of my chest as tightly as I could without screaming. I explained about the missing breast-pump, the terrible ache of my engorged breasts, the hours remaining before I would see my son. The other woman asked, is there a store nearby? I shook my head – the concierge had told me that there were no pharmacies in the immediate area. Laura cocked her head thoughtfully, and looked at her daughter, who was beginning to fuss. Would you consider, maybe… I know it sounds sorta weird, but… I have no problem with it, and she’s hungry… She looked at me, and waited.

Really?

Really.

I paused. My head spun, a little. Would I do this, really? Would it be weird? And then I thought, no. There’s nothing weird here. Boobs are boobs. Breastmilk is breastmilk, in all of its liquid gold glory. I bond with my son when we nurse, but it is not because he is latched to my breast. It is because I have him in my arms, and because I love him. Our intimacy derives from that love, and that love would be just as forceful if I fed him with a bottle. So would it be weird if someone else fed him from a bottle? No, of course not. These are only acts of nurture, whether they involve the bottle or the breast. And this is what the breast is made for.

I nodded, and reassured Laura that as a nursing mom I did not take any substances or medications that might compromise my milk.

And so. I took Laura’s daughter in my arms and she smiled at me and I lifted my shirt and she happily bent her head and drank her fill.

(Was it weird? No. It was different. Describing the thoughts and emotions that accompany nursing another woman’s child requires more space than I have here. It was intimate, but not inappropriately so – no more inappropriately intimate than someone holding your baby and cooing in his ear, whispering sweet baby nothings. If anything, it brought me to a deeper, more visceral understanding of my body as a miracle of biology, as a work of nature that is built to do certain things, one of those thing being – in my case; this is not necessarily true for every woman, and no woman is lesser for not being able to do it – nursing babies. My breasts are not sacred or magical objects, they are not quivers full of milk-arrows that can and must only be directed to blood-offspring. They provide milk. They nourish. They are both utterly mundane and terrifically awe-inspiring for that fact.)

I was grateful – so, so grateful – for Laura and her child; their generosity and open-mindedness and open-heartedness saved me a great deal of pain. At the end of the day, a mother was released from some considerable discomfort, and a child was nourished. Wonderful, no?

Well, as it happens: no. Not for everybody. Someone was watching, and someone did not like what they saw. Someone was watching and decided that what I had done was deviant. Irresponsible. Disgusting. Eww. So she wrote a post describing, in entirely misleading terms (we were total strangers! we had no discussion about it! a lady just blithely and irresponsibly passed her baby to a total stranger without a word! and that stranger – me, if you’re keeping track – might have been diseased!) (she has since admitted to me that her representation of what happened was misleading), what she saw and explaining why she thought it was wrong. And it was wrong, from her point of view. Unsanitary. Dangerous. Wrong. Her commenters went even further: why, I might have AIDS! Be homeless! A drug user! Sexually loose! In fact, was what I’d done really any different from wandering into a bar and asking some strange man to grope my titties? Really? Also: AIDS! Or some other horrible virus. That, and my boobs – this helpfully noted by the author – were probably unsanitary, to boot. Also, I’d probably been drinking.

I can’t even begin to describe how hurtful it was to read these things. This was me they were talking about. And Laura, who was as lovely a woman as I had ever met. Laura and I had just met, sure, but I think that we both hoped that we were becoming friends. And we share a belief – a healthy, woman-affirming, baby-adoring belief – that we mothers are all in this together, that we’re all served and enriched when we trust each other and help each other. She had a hungry baby; I had excruciatingly painful breasts that needed to be released of their milk. We came together with our needs. You’re welcome to say that you couldn’t see yourself doing this; you are welcome, even, to cringe and shudder a bit in distaste. Whatever. We all have our issues. Just don’t flaunt your disgust. And certainly don’t use it to publicly shame mothers who make choices that you might not make. What I do with my boobs – what any mother does to ensure that her baby gets fed – is none of your business. And your public expression of disgust and alarm hurts. It hurts me, it hurts all of us. It reinforces the idea that breasts and breastfeeding hover on the very razor’s edge of shamefulness, that these things on our chests are somehow, in some way, dirty and icky and bad, unless we operate them under the very strictest rules of propriety (only if they’re covered up! only if it’s your own baby! only if it doesn’t make us uncomfortable! only if WE SAY IT’S OKAY!)

Memo to everybody: these? Are not your boobies. They are mine. And my babies? Also mine. I will nurture and nourish them as I see fit, and I will champion any other mother to do the same. Your disgust, your judgment threatens to undermine us, weaken us, take away some of our power as mothers who demand to make their own way and their own rules. Which, fuck that.

This is MY motherhood. These are MY boobs.

Hands off.

Memo to everybody: in case you missed what I said above – “You’re welcome to say that you couldn’t see yourself doing this; you are welcome, even, to cringe and shudder a bit in distaste” – I’ll say it again (it seems that I need to): you are welcome to disagree with I did, and/or with what Laura did. You are welcome to say that you would not do this. You are welcome to voice a contrary opinion. I encourage it. I’m fascinated by so many elements of this discussion (not least, something that one commenter brought up – trust and community. Under what circumstances do we choose to trust or not trust each other, to take each others’ words, or not do? Laura trusted me when I said that I was healthy and not taking anything that might compromise my milk. Perhaps this had everything to do with my appearance, or with the fact that I was obviously a nursing mother, or perhaps just with the fact that she had decided that I was simply worth trusting. I was moved by this. We need more of this kind of generosity of spirit in daily life) and I enjoy hearing different opinions. What I don’t like: inappropriately expressed judgment or shaming. That’s the whole point of the latter part if this post: shaming hurts everybody. If you’re here to express an opinion, respectfully – great. I’ll support and defend that. But if you’re here to call names or point fingers or say anything that you wouldn’t say to someone you loved, then maybe just turn back now.

Let’s be kind.

Which means, too – and forgive me if it seems hoity for me to take this on – that everybody is very welcome to NOT direct opprobrium at the blogger mentioned here. This has no doubt been hard on her, and although I remain hurt and (yes, am juvenile) angry, I do not want her to be put through any more of a ringer than she already has. Please. Both she and I deserve some peace around this.

Comments on this post are now closed. I’m happy to read other posts on the subject – yes, even they disagree with milksharing – so if you write about it, please do let me know.

Advertisements

Who’s The Dummy, Mummy?

February 10, 2009

Rachel Cooke thinks that I’m a dummy. Okay, maybe not me specifically, but women like me. Women who talk or write incessantly about their children and their experience as mothers. Women who, when asked how they’re doing, launch into a extended narrative about sleeplessness and breastfeeding and hormones and Xanax. Women who are – how did she put it? – “boring, selfish, smug and obsessed with motherhood.”

Like I said: women like me.

“Once upon a time,” says Cooke, “educated women fought to separate their identities from the ideal of mother, knowing that until the two came to be seen as wholly distinct they would never be taken seriously; and, in any case, who wants to be defined by only one aspect of their life? In the past decade, however, a growing number of women have reverted, 50s-style, to identifying themselves primarily, vociferously, and sometimes exclusively, as mothers. They fetishise childbirth, and obsess about all that follows it, in a way that is almost, if not quite, beyond satire, and which makes me feel a bit sick.”

Which, whatever. So she’s not interested in mothers; I can live with that. I wasn’t all that interested in motherhood before I became a mother, either. But there’s a very great difference between lacking an interest in a subject and asserting that any discussion or celebration of that subject is somehow subversive of broader social goods. That someone, anyone, lacks an interest in the motherhood does not mean that the celebration of motherhood or extensive discourse on the subject of motherhood represent broader social problems for which mothers should be held responsible. I mean, seriously. I’m not interested in hip-hop, but would it make sense for me to say, on that basis, that pop-cultural attention to hip-hop is fetishistic and sick-making? I’ve certainly had the experience – pre-motherhood – of being trapped in conversations with women who went on at length about the details of childrearing and wondering how I was a) going to escape, and b) scrub my brain of the mental image of mustard poo, but I’ve also had that very same experience with people who only want to talk about politics (an occupational hazard as a former academic specializing in political philosophy) or cats or global warming. The fact that those subjects, in excess, cause my eyes to roll back in my head does not mean that anyone who is passionate about those things is an out-of-control fetishist. It only means that I am not interested.

Like any reflective bigot, Ms. Cooke asserts that she is not attacking all mothers – some her best friends are mothers! but they’re, like, the smart kind who you don’t mind hanging out with! – just the smug, stupid mothers who talk too much about being mothers. Because, you know, it’s not that mothers as a community are sickening in their fetishistic attachment to the terms and trappings of motherhood. It’s that so many of them are, and Ms. Cooke is starting to find it overwhelming. Can’t we all just shut up already about childbirth and our children and everything having to do with our children? Don’t we realize that the more we talk about this stuff, the more stupid and smug and selfish and Stepford we sound? Can’t we see that we are setting women back? And, also, nauseating everybody in the process?

This is what is, to me, most hateful about Cooke’s diatribe: the assertion that there is not only something unseemly and uninteresting about the discourse of motherhood, but also something fundamentally unfeminist about it. This is Linda Hirschmann Lite: devotion to motherhood is somehow not deserving of respect, because it limits – limits – women to a life experience that has been dictated, in some part, by the terms of their biology. This is biology-as-destiny, this is femininity-as-enclosure: this is what prevents us from being free, like, men, to do whatever we want. This is an old feminist argument (one, if you’re interested, that has roots in Marx), that women need to be liberated from their biological destinies – from the almost-inevitable biological condition of motherhood – so that they might work and contribute to society like men, because only then do they meaningfully contribute to society, only then are they members in full, only then are they interesting.

This is bullshit. Women do not become free by rejecting motherhood, by ignoring motherhood, by keeping the stories of motherhood hidden behind the veil, the wall, the enclosures of the private sphere. Women become free, in some significant part, by celebrating motherhood – by celebrating parenthood (men love their children too, you know, and some might even choose to make parenting their primary occupation, if it were more generally accepted and recognized as important work) – by demanding that it be as valued a part of civil society as politics and business and the arts and, you know, whatever else people like Rachel Cooke and Linda Hirschmann deem to be important and interesting. Celebrating motherhood doesn’t mean that every woman must choose motherhood as part of her life experience – we celebrate all variety of callings, without insisting that any of them are necessary for every individual’s self-fulfillment – it only means that we all of us recognize that mothering – parenting – and all that it involves is important work. Which means, in turn, we recognize discourse on those subjects as important discourse.

This is not to say, of course, that every anecdote about poo explosions in public places or every detailed explanation of the effects of sleep deprivation on the post-partum mother is in itself a critically important contribution to public discourse. It is to say, rather, that the sum of these stories is important: that in telling these stories, and in recognizing these stories as legitimate and important, we are sharing – we are making public, we are lifting the veil on – the experience of motherhood and demanding that it be taken seriously as something that contributes to – that is, arguably, the backbone of – civil society. Not every one of these stories will be interesting to everyone; many will be interesting only to a very few. But they are our stories, the stories of our parenthood. And we are, in telling these stories, telling each other – telling other mothers, telling fathers, telling future mothers and fathers – that there is no need to be (and every harm in being) isolated in one’s experience of parenthood. We are telling each other that there is community in parenthood, and that such community should be sought out and embraced.

Cooke summarizes her argument with this statement: “all this droning on about baby and toddler world is not, in the long run, doing any of us any good. For me, and many other women, it’s boring and selfish, and it implicitly casts judgment on the way we choose to live our lives.” I’m sorry that she feels that way. I, for one, am quite capable of listening to my husband’s colleagues drone on about the TV industry without feeling like I’m being judged for not being in that industry. I am also, for that matter, quite capable of listening to childless friends talk about their careers and their active social lives and their travel adventures without feeling as though they pity me for always having a baby strapped to my chest. If she feels judged, that’s her issue, not a larger social problem that needs to be nipped in the bud. Indeed, as I’ve said above, this compulsion to silence mothers, to insist to them that their stories are not worthy of sharing in public spaces, to demand that they just shut up already about their silly children and their silly fascination with organic baby food and sleep training and post-partum depression – this is the larger social problem. It’s a terrible social problem. It does more to keep women silenced and isolated than pretty much anything else I can think of.

So if anyone should just shut up already and stop complaining and judging and holding women back with her need to control what women talk about… well, you know who you are.

/rant.

(Thanks to Karen for the tip on the story. Funny how she knew just exactly what would make my head explode.)

Motrin Versus The Moms: When Painkillers Are Attacked, Everybody Loses

November 17, 2008

It’s possible that you haven’t seen or heard about MotrinGate, but I’ll wager that if you haven’t, it’s because you have enough of a life to not be reading blogs or compulsively checking Twitter on a weekend. If you haven’t heard about it – and you aren’t interested in going to Twitter and typing #motrinmoms into the search box, at which point you will be exposed to a digital outpouring of maternal outrage the likes of which you have not seen since, oh, the last breastfeeding scandal or the Great Mommy War Debates, Parts I through XIteen, and so on – here’s the story: Motrin posted an ad on their website that suggests, none too elegantly, that moms who wear their babies a) are conformist sheep-moms who only wear their babies in order to demonstrate that they’re “official moms” (dick fingers implied), and b) need Motrin to help with the pain caused by all that silly babywearing. Because babies are the new Manolos, and are just as likely to cause you crippling pain.

(I’ve posted the video of the ad below, in case you’re dying to see what the fuss is about. You might also check out their ad for children’s Motrin, which implies, with insufficient subtlety, that if you’re not getting enough sleep, you might want to consider drugging your kids up. You know, with Motrin.)

Of course, the ad is stupid, and deserving of the scorn that has been heaped upon it. But I’m not sure that it’s worthy of the scale of outrage that I’m seeing. Which may make me unpopular for the three or four days that this scandal burns its swath across the Internetverse, but so be it.

What’s stupid about the ad, obviously, is that it belittles a standard practice of motherhood: carrying one’s baby. The suggestion – again, complete with implied dick fingers – that women “endure” babywearing just so that they’ll “fit in” with other moms is stupid and offensive. I wore my babies – sometimes with slings, sometimes with Bjorns, sometimes just freestyle – because I could not possibly have had (or have) a life without doing so. Especially with the second, the six-month old who I carry constantly: he loathes being put down, and so my ability to move about the world freely requires that I bind him to my body in some fashion – with fabric, duct tape, or just an old-fashioned curve of the arm – or endure high-pitched shrieking. I don’t do this to prove my mommy bona fides. I’ve got ample scars that prove my mommy bona fides, not to mention a wardrobe of spit and shit-stained clothing, a muffin-top, a short temper and an inability to concentrate on any conversation that doesn’t reference potty training or preschooler discipline techniques. These get the point across, I think. I’m so obviously a mom that I’m surprised that random children don’t just follow me home from the park. I am EVERYMOM.

But I’m also, in my capacity as a mom, plagued by backaches and neckaches and stiff shoulders and all manner of discomfort related to the toll of days spent packing anywhere from 23 to 60 lbs of kidmeat around on my person,* not to mention the constant crouching and bending and lifting and bending and hoisting and crouching and bending and lifting etc etc etc that comes with the endless cycle of diaper changing and toilet training and shoelace-tying and buckle-fastening and binky-fetching and all the other back-breaking little tasks that are part of motherwork. That shit burns you out, people. It’s hard work, and it leaves you sore. It leaves me sore. So the idea that someone might pitch painkillers to my particular demographic isn’t really outrageous. Hell, the Motrin people could get together with the Smirnoff’s Vodka people and maybe even the Xanax/Ativan people and do a whole collaborative marketing juggernaut aimed at tired/sore/anxiety-ridden moms and I’d probably just roll my eyes and make a note on my calendar to renew some prescriptions and restock the liquor cabinet. So, no, I don’t think that the substance of the Motrin campaign is all that worthy of controversy.

It’s their delivery that sucked butt, for the reasons I explained above. If you’re trying to win over a market, you should maybe try to avoid insulting that market. But we – the quote-unquote market that they’ve insulted – need to be clear on what exactly it is that we find insulting. The suggestion that packing our kids around might cause a backache or two is not insulting (nor is it particularly damaging, as I’ve seen some suggest, to the practice of babywearing. Knowing that carrying a baby might cause some shoulder pain won’t stop any reasonable parent from babywearing. Knowing that childbirth is painful hasn’t stopped women from giving birth, has it?) The suggestion that babywearing is some kind of Stepford Mom conformity exercise is insulting, and it’s worth protesting.

But let’s keep our focus on the real problems here. The marketing of a painkiller to moms is not a problem. The suggestion (the appalling suggestion) that some or any of the practices of motherhood that might cause mothers to reach for a painkiller are in and of themselves stupid or risible or of dubious merit is a problem, because it makes a mockery of the work of motherhood and so makes a mockery of mothers. It demonstrates that advertisers are still unwilling, for the most part, to consider mothers as anything other than stereotypes: frazzled mom, harried mom, lonely mom, overwhelmed mom. These stereotypes have force because the life of a mom involves all of the components of those stereotypes – I am frazzled and overwhelmed and I will say here, frankly, that I have said to myself on more than one occasion, why the f*$# am I carrying this baby around every minute of every day oh my aching hell – but they become dangerous when they become the sole lens through which moms are viewed.

The only way to fight it is by reminding the culture that we are complex. We are not frazzled harridans griping about pain, but nor are we simply beatific nurturers whose deepest joy and pleasure is derived from carrying babies – light as farts with angel wings – against our ever-trilling mama-hearts. We need to keep broadcasting to the world that we defy simple characterization. Which means tempering our outrage with humor, and tempering our rebuttals with honesty: I’m a mom who wears my baby – and loves it but also sometimes doesn’t love it all that much and on those days maybe takes a painkiller or two or maybe just a hot bath and a martini – and I did not approve of that Motrin ad.

Now, somebody pass me the vodka.

*I know that babywearing doesn’t cause everyone discomfort. And I’ve heard it said a thousand times that if you’re doing it right, it doesn’t hurt. FINE. I’ve also heard the very same thing said about breastfeeding, and it’s just not true. Packing my kids around all day puts a strain on my body. Sometimes that strain is painful. Please do not tell me that I’m doing it wrong. It’s my babywearing and I’ll say that it’s sometimes painful if I want to.

** The ad was removed from the Motrin site while I was drafting this post. Behold the power of the momosphere!

Dear WestJet: Customer Service, UR DOIN IT RONG

September 29, 2008

WestJet – as you know if you saw the addendum to my last post – finally had something to say about the flurry of letters (including one from me) and posts concerning their policies on in-flight nursing after I was asked to cover up on one of their flights a few weeks ago, and damn if they didn’t manage to just make things just a little bit worse.

They did state – in direct contradiction to their first replies to some of you – that their policy is to never interfere with a nursing mother, and to not ask women to cover-up. Which: good. But they insisted upon prefacing that statement with a few pissy remarks concerning the blogosphere’s persistence in bitching about this matter which – according to them – occurred this past July and for which they’ve already apologized. So, hurray! The WestJet Owner Responsible For Placating All Those Stupid Complainers didn’t bother to read any of the letters or the posts or MY LETTER or MY POST addressing the incident involving ME in September – she just glanced at the screen and saw the word BREAST and assumed that it had something to do with something else from some other time – and decided to disregard. Which: awesome.

They suck. Am going to try to get an hour’s sleep or two before I decide whether or not I have sufficient energy to stay angry about this. You can find relevant links in the addendum to this post (just scroll to the bottom. I don’t even have the energy to put the extra links in here. AM SO DONE.)

Under The Blanket

September 9, 2008

It was the kind of thing that would have outraged me, had it happened any other day, any other week. It was the kind of thing that would have had me out of my seat, demanding explanation. It was the kind of thing that I would have written letters about, that I would have blogged and twittered and shared, about which I would have said, I would have hollered, to anyone who would listen, look, this just shouldn’t happen, we need to make sure that this doesn’t happen, why the f*ck does this still happen?

But it was the wrong day, the wrong week, and I just wasn’t up for it because my heart was too heavy and my head was too full and the last thing I needed was an argument with a flight attendant about whether or not I really should cover myself up with a blanket while nursing.

When she approached me in my seat near the back of the plane, blanket in hand, I ignored her. Jasper was tucked in at my breast, wrapped in his own blanket, his head pressed against the white half-moon of flesh that was barely visible beneath him. His head was damp from the stream of tears that had been running down my cheeks from the moment of our departure, the tears that I’d held back while saying my goodbyes. I bent my head over his, shielding my face, my breast, my baby, my tears from view with the veil of my hair. I didn’t even look up when she spoke to me.

Excuse me, perhaps you’d like to cover up with a blanket?

I don’t answer.

I brought a blanket for you.

She crouches slightly, bending closer. I gather my voice. I’m afraid that it will crack.

I’m fine, thank you.

She stands up, still holding the blanket in front of me.

Well. Perhaps I’ll leave it with you?

I don’t answer.

She reaches across me, across Jasper, and drops the blanket on the empty seat beside me. If you need help with it, let me know.

Thank you, I say, my jaw clenched, my throat closed. I am trying to not cry anymore than I already am.

Some women are more comfortable nursing with a blanket. I can’t see her, my head bent as it is, but I imagine that she stiffens defensively.

My tears are getting hot. I swallow my anger.

Thank you.

And then she walked away, and I kept my head bent over my baby for as long as he nursed and as long as he slept and until the tension in the back of my neck became too much to bear.

I didn’t say anything. I had always though that if that happened to me, I would say something. That I would I would ask why she was pressing the blanket upon me, that I would ask if it was WestJet policy to ‘suggest’ to nursing mothers that they cover up, that I would say that if I was comfortable with blankets I would have one with me, that I would say that no nursing mother wants a stranger bent over her while she nurses, asking if she wouldn’t rather cover up for privacy, that I would, if I had the nerve, ask are you serious? Are you really serious? Do you not see that I might be offended, be made more uncomfortable, by your hovering, by your suggestion that I cover up? To say, no nursing mother should ever be told to cover up. To say, it is my right, it is my child’s right, to nurse and be nursed here, right here, right now, in the manner that best serves us both. To say, fuck your blanket.

I always thought that I would say something, if it happened to me.

I hadn’t figured that I might, if happened to me, be caught in an anxious, unguarded moment, that I might be feeling vulnerable, that my heart might be sore, that I might not be the cocky self-assured self that I can be when I’m protected by my words, by the screen, by the condition of being virtual. I hadn’t thought that, in the reality of such a moment, I might just fold under the weight of my anxieties and my hurts and my self-consciousness about those anxieties and hurts, about my self-consciousness, full stop, and just want to disappear. Under a blanket, maybe.

Which is precisely the problem, as I’ve said before. A nursing mother is very often a mother at her most vulnerable. A nursing mother traveling – a nursing mother traveling on her own – a nursing mother traveling on her own and weeping – is almost certainly a mother at her most vulnerable. To approach woman under these circumstances to suggest that she do something to modify her behavior is to exploit her vulnerability. It is – and maybe this is too strong a statement, although on the basis of my own experience I think not – to bully.

I wish that I had the emotional strength right now to be more outraged about this. I wish that I had the emotional strength, even, to express a measure of outrage that amounts to more than this heavy sighing, this defeated complaint. I wish that I had the mental and emotional wherewithal to write a letter, to send an e-mail, to make a phone call. But I don’t. I’m spent, completely and totally spent. Everything that I have is going toward supporting my family and keeping my own emotional ballasts stable. There was, there is, nothing left over.

All there was to do, all there is to do, is to take cover under the blanket, and hope that it doesn’t smother.

*******

One of you, anonymously, took the initiative to get the contact information for media relations at WestJet. If you’re so inclined to express your opposition to policies advocating the blanketing of nursing babies on airplanes, here it is: Gillian Bentley, Media Relations, e-mail: gbentley@westjet.com.

Many of you have told me that you’ve already sent e-mails linking to this post. You are all so, so awesome. It’s warming, to be so surrounded by heroes, bare-breasted or otherwise.

You Got A Problem With My Boobies, PUNK?

August 8, 2008

Yesterday, I took my brood to the library. It’s a lovely library, with soaring ceilings and vast windows and big, plush leather chairs and – of course – miles and miles of books. We settled into a corner of the children’s section on a comfy sofa, Emilia with a stack of picture books and me with Jasper, on the boob.

It was raining outside; we were damp from our walk. Droplets of rainwater fell from my hair onto Jasper’s cheek and he pulled away, gurgling his disapproval. My breast dropped from his mouth and sagged, exposed, below the edge of my yanked-up t-shirt while he squawked.

“He’s mad at you, Mommy,” Emilia remarked without looking up from her book. “Because your boobies are wet.”

I laughed, and almost didn’t hear the polite coughing from the nearby stacks. A woman stood there, books in hand. She didn’t meet my gaze, but looked over toward a table of computers where three young boys – probably eight or nine years old – sat playing a game. She coughed again and raised her eyebrows in their direction. Her meaning was clear.

I tucked my wayward breast back into my shirt and pulled Jasper upright. My immediate impulse was to be embarassed, contrite. To gather up my children and my things and go find somewhere else to nurse, somewhere where I wouldn’t risk exposing young boys to the indecent display of my breast. To feel badly for making such a naked display of my motherhood in front of children.

My secondary impulse was to let my boob drop out from beneath my shirt again and use my free hand to make an indecent gesture at the woman.

I did neither. I simply looked away and pulled Jasper closer to my chest, tucking him against my breast so that his pale round head covered the pale round globe of the boob. And struggled to control my anger.

That woman had hit a nerve. Had we been at a bus stop, or a park bench, surrounded, say, by seniors, and someone had directed a disapproving look my way, I would have ignored them. But this woman had articulated her disapproval on behalf of children. Her problem, she implied with her look, was that I was exposing children to something inappropriate, something indecent. And for a moment, I bought it, and felt ashamed. Surely young boys shouldn’t see an exposed breast in public, right? Why, that would corrupt them!

Bullshit.

It’s so ridiculous as to not even be worthy of explaining, but still. Sometimes important things need to be stated as loudly and as often as possible: BOOBS ARE NOT DIRTY. BOOBS ARE NOT SHAMEFUL. BOOBS SUSTAIN LIFE. OF BOOBS PUT TO THEIR NATURAL PURPOSE WE SHOULD BE PROUD. OF ALL BOOBS WE SHOULD BE PROUD.

Women who nurse – and, for what it’s worth, women who don’t nurse – should feel proud – and should be made to feel proud – nourishing their children anywhere, anytime, in front of anybody. Especially in front of children, who, more than anybody, need to know that a mother nursing her baby is a natural, beautiful thing. That breasts aren’t just something for adults to leer that. That the human body is built for amazing things, and that the life-sustaining miracles that it performs are nothing to be ashamed of. Of course we teach them that some beautiful and satisfying things are private – but a mother caring for her baby is not one of those things. It is for everywhere, and should be celebrated.

It’s World Breastfeeding Week this week. It should be a week for celebrating our freedom of choice in how we nurture and nourish our children. Instead, all the stories about nursing that I’ve seen have provided more evidence that we don’t really have that freedom. A woman who was nursing in an H&M store in Vancouver was sent to a change room to nurse her infant. A woman on a WestJet flight was asked to cover up with a blanket. A woman nursing her baby in a library in Bowmanville, Ontario, got the stink-eye from some random stranger. We were – we are – all of us, at some point, made to feel ashamed for mothering.

Sure, we protest. But I’m getting really fucking sick of needing to protest. I’m tired of it. And this is why it sucks (no pun intended) (okay, sort of intended) so much: when women are made to feel ashamed for breastfeeding, they’re being shamed at the most vulnerable times in their lives. They are exhausted. They are stressed. They are, often, struggling with depression. And still they fight on, working so, so hard to care for their babies. They are champions. And yet it is during this time, the most trying time of their championship, while they struggle to keep their footing and to keep going, that others kick them down and shame them.

And that just makes me so angry that I can’t even see straight.

I’m not going to protest. I have no spare strength for protest. But I will do this: I will continue to bare my breast for my baby at every opportunity. Any time, any place. And if anyone so much as looks at me askance, I will look right back, and I will say – if only with my eyes, although I so wish for the courage to speak these words aloud – YOU should be ashamed of yourself for trying to shame me. You should be ashamed for belittling a mother. Shame on YOU.

And I will hope that my daughter is there to hear it.

Baby got boob.

********

Okay, for serious now, I am taking a small break, just a few days. There’ll be some guests here while I spend a few days restoring myself. They’ll take care of you. I’ll be around reading comments and such, but mostly I’m going read and rest and flash boob. Wish you were here, don’t you?

Community Is Hard. Deal With It.

July 2, 2008

DISCLAIMER: The contents of this post may not be agreeable to every reader. Reading this post may cause disagreement, hurt feelings, discomfort, frustration, boredom and/or anal leakage. The Author will not be responsible for any feelings of dissatisfaction, unhappiness, existential malaise or gastro-intestinal distress that might be caused by the reading of this post. CAVEAT LECTOR.

Here’s something that I’ve been feeling badly about: I have, in recent months, been a terrible blog citizen. I have only sporadically wandered out into this virtual neighborhood and checked in with friends and neighbors and kept up on the goings-on and the what-for and all the stuff that keeps this community humming. And I feel badly about that, because the neighborhood – you – have been so good to me, constantly dropping in for visits and bringing me pies and casseroles and bunches of flowers and keeping me surrounded with so much company that (oh shame to admit this) I haven’t felt that I needed to go out. Which is wrong, and I’m determined to change that as I feel better. Because I love this community.

I love this community even though it sometimes undergoes paroxysms of indignation that sometimes render it just a teeny bit intolerant. You can be cute when you’re indignant, oh internets, but when that indignation turns into sour judgment and hand-slapping, I get a little frustrated. Do we never learn? Why do we, as a community, find it so difficult to maintain our bearing when the road of social life gets bumpy? Why does every conflict, big or small, turn into a harbinger of our destruction or decline oh woe is us? Why do we get so fucking cranky?

Many of you know the current story, even though most of the posts and tweets and hand-to-ear whispers about it played coy with the details. I won’t be coy. Here’s the story: Sweetney twittered a comment about Fussypant’s blog, criticizing the similarity between the name of the latter and the name of another longstanding and very popular blog – Fussy – that many of us know and love. Sweetney’s tweet – which I did not see firsthand because, as I said, I’ve been hiding in my virtual kitchen, only peeking out from behind the curtains occasionally, which causes one to miss stuff – was on the snarky side. Sweetney – or, as I know her (this here would be a disclosure of bias) mah beeyootiful beeloved Traceyis snarky. She is opinionated. She is straight-talkin’, don’t mince words, don’t hold back, got-somethin’-to-say-gonna-say-it honest, and sometimes that honesty comes with a bite. (She is also an all-around awesome person with an honest-to-goodness good soul, and I say that as a person with very discerning taste in souls. Mmm, souls.) Because that’s who she is. And that’s how honesty is, more often than not, if we’re really honest about it.

The judgment from the internets was, from what I’ve seen and heard from behind my kitchen window, swift and merciless: Tracey’s Twitter comment was deemed bad. It was – everyone said – mean. It was nasty. She was mean and nasty. How dare she? How dare anyone say something like publicly? Who was she to criticize another blogger for emulating another? Who was she to call it copying? NOT NICE. BAD TRACEY.

Ironically, but not unexpectedly, much of the judgment passed on Tracey has gotten pretty mean itself. In the posts and comments that I skimmed last night, I saw statements to the effect that she was nasty and arrogant, that she’s just another mean girl, that her own blog is derivative, that she’s like totally stuck up because she’s popular omg and it’s totally obvious that she’s like threatened because that other blogger is like totally nice and omg you can just tell that she’s mean because she doesn’t follow as many people on Twitter as follow her. Also, she’s singlehandedly undermining the spirit of the community because, did you know? SHE WAS NOT NICE.

Which, okay already, I get it – feelings got hurt and nobody likes that – but people? CALM THE FUCK DOWN. Because you know what? The furor over Tracey’s comment is, I think, doing way more damage to the community – and says way worse about the community – than the comment itself. Because the blanket condemnation of Tracey for tapping out 140 characters into a Twitter box – characters that spelled out something critical of another blogger – amounts to a kind of censoriousness that I find a bit discomfiting.

There are a few issues here, as I see it, in considering that fateful Tweet: 1) was the criticism expressed in the Tweet wrong or inappropriate? 2) was it wrong that the Tweet was quote-unquote not nice? and 3) do either of those two issues, if confirmed as wrong, warrant censoring criticism?

1) Was the criticism wrong or illegitimate? Queen of Spain’s was the only post I saw that actually tackled that issue directly. The analogy made in her post on the subject was to hamburger joints: McDonald’s enjoys robust business on its street corner, and then one day another burger joint, Burger King, opens up shop on the opposite corner. Mickey D’s might not like it, but it shouldn’t criticize BK for just doing what it already does, right? Criticizing BK for just wanting a piece of the action is, like, a hallmark of hegemonic market domination, no? And anyway, there’s enough room in the market for everybody so don’t be a hog, McD’s, ‘kay?

Which is fine and good as a point of comparison except that in this case: a) it was not BK, but Mr. Mickey Donald’s Burger Emporium that opened up on the opposite corner, and b) it wasn’t McDonald’s that criticized Mr. Mickey Donald’s name and enterprise – it was a hamburger-loving (veggie-burger loving, in this case) observer who, between bites of crispy fries, said, oh hai, whaddup with Mr. Mickey Donald’s and its Rainbow Arches over there, yo? Isn’t that, like, not cool? So it’s not like this was some obvious turf issue, as has been charged – the observer in this case has nothing to gain from making the observation. She was just expressing an opinion. A trenchantly critical opinion that rubbed some people the wrong way, and that was undoubtedly hurtful to the proprietor of Mr. Mickey Donald’s Burger Emporium (who I’m sure is a lovely person who just thought that the name she chose was awesome and maybe didn’t look across the street), but still. It was critical opinion – and entirely fair comment, regardless of whether you agree with it or not, because no matter how you slice it, a blog called Fussypants that is written by a blogger who signs off as Fussy begs comparisons to the longer-standing blog called Fussy that is written by a blogger who is widely referred to as Fussy – critical opinion that, it seems to me, has been dismissed outright simply because it was plainly critical (and, also, that it was made by someone quote-unquote popular, which is an argument that I cannot for the life of me fathom. What does Sweetney’s – or Fussy’s – popularity have to do with the legitimacy of the critical observation? Seriously? Do we all need a lecture on Nietszche and herd morality? DON’T MAKE ME.)

Is the suggestion here that we should not, in this community, be critical of each other? Bullshit. A community that proscribes criticism within is not a community, it’s a cult. Or is it that we should not be critical of each other in public or semi-public forums? Also bullshit. We’re bloggers – everything that we say and do as bloggers occurs in media for which the lines of public and private are well and truly blurred – a proscription of ‘public’ criticism is a proscription of all criticism, full stop. And a community in which open criticism is proscribed has no foundation for robust discourse. It is, as I said, a cult.

So if we allow that we are, as members of a community, allowed to criticize each other, and that the critical observation under dispute here is not an outrageous one – indeed, that it is, arguably, entirely reasonable as an observation, regardless of what conclusions you draw from it or how contentious you view it – where’s the problem?

2) The criticism was ‘not nice.’ Tracey’s critical observation of the similarities between Fussypants and Fussy (and other bloggers; I’m not going to address those broader concerns here) was not articulated delicately. She was up front about the fact that she was criticizing someone, and not just gently pointing out a social faux pas or a small green piece of parsley between their teeth. She made it plain that the conclusion she drew from her observation of the similarity between Fussypants and Fussy.com was that such similarity was, in her books, not cool. And that plainspokenness was, unfortunately, hurtful to the blogger known as Fussypants.

Of course it was. I would find it hurtful. I, in fact, find most criticism hurtful. I don’t like have it suggested to me that something I’ve said or done might be wrong or inappropriate or in need of improvement. I want everyone to just love me and think that I’m awesome. Even the best intentioned criticism, the kind that is usually called ‘constructive,’ carries a bit of a sting. I is imperfect? Oh noes!

Criticism is almost always uncomfortable. Criticism, indeed, kinda sucks much of the time. Even when it turns out to be really helpful and promoting of growth yadda yadda blah, it’s just not the funnest thing, you know? And of course, criticism that comes in plainspoken – or snarky – terms is the least funnest thing of all. But here’s the thing: if we condemn anyone who utters criticism or makes critical observation – again, Tracey’s supposed crime here was not name-calling or general nastiness, it was the making of an (albeit stinging) critical observation – we silence ourselves, to our detriment. Criticism keeps us, and our community, self-aware and self-reflective. Yeah, it stings, but that’s why Socrates referred to himself – the greatest and most uncompromising of critics – as a gadfly: because no meaningful criticism fails to sting.

3) The problem, then: there’s been almost no real critical commentary about the substance of Tracey’s comment – almost everything that I’ve seen posted has condemned the fact of the observation-slash-criticism, and not addressed its substance. Everyone seems up in arms about the fact that there was a criticism, and that the criticism did or might have stung – the problem, apparently, being that Tracey dared say something that somebody might find hurtful, not that she was incorrect in her observation. Whether the argument implied in her comment was flawed or sound has, for the most, been left unaddressed, and this, I think, represents a missed opportunity – we could, instead of worrying about whether or not Tracey was too mean (a seventh-grade concern if I ever heard one) or whether her comment belies a vast Mean Girl conspiracy to preserve the mamasphere as the domain of some Trilateral Commission-like cabal of popular bloggers (which omg pleez), be discussing the ethics of propriety over blog names and blog personae and the relationship of this to the integrity of our community. Should we be trademarking our noms des blog plumes? Do we have any right to claim variations on names as our own? Do we have proprietary claims on innovations on style or content? How do we negotiate community when so much of our identities therein are associated with the brands – yes, I said brands – that we’ve (many of us) created? In the context of this community and these identities, am I Catherine, or am I HBM, and how would I feel if someone were going around calling themselves Her Bad Mommy or even Her Big Marmot and using the HBM acronym? Would I care? Would it matter?

The thing about these kinds of questions is, there’s no way to discuss them meaningfully without stepping on toes and hurting feelings, at least a little bit, because discussing them meaningfully means discussing them critically, with reference to each other. Talking about the ownership of our identities and our spaces means drawing lines between you – me – us and asserting our independence from each other. Our is not a wholly cooperative social compact – we do not pursue and articulate a General Will – it’s a network (a densely and intimately connected network) of individuals who work hard to make and define identities and spaces for themselves. We love and share and connect with each other – but we also define ourselves against each other, as distinct from each other. It’s what makes our community so vibrant, so NOT mommybloggerdrone-like.

So why are we not asking these questions? Why, instead, do we all have our collective tits in a knot about whether or not someone in our midst was less than kind in raising a criticism about someone else? Are we not, as a community, so much bigger and better and more interesting than just are we nice enough? Was someone not nice enough? LYNCH THE PERSON WHO WAS NOT NICE ENOUGH. Seriously. By all means, let’s endeavor to be kind, but let’s not sacrifice inquiry and discourse and criticism at the altar of kindness.

If you honestly think that Tracey was wrong or misguided in her observations concerning Fussypant’s blog, then address that issue. Argue the point – there are, after all, points to be made here. Say that you think it’s perfectly fine for one blog to adopt a name that is very similar to another. Say that you think no writer or artist should have proprietary interest in variations on names or innovations in style or content. Say that you think that such things are contrary to community, and that community is key here. Those arguments are interesting, they really are. But fussing and bitching about whether Tracey was being mean in making a criticism to begin with? Not interesting. Not interesting at all. Demeaning, actually, to all us, because it suggests that we’re not so much interested in critical debate as we are in making sure, above all else, that no-one’s feelings get hurt.

We’re a community. We live and love and learn in this space together. Feelings are going to get hurt, and they’re going to get hurt all the time (if you don’t believe me, do an archive tour of post-BlogHer posts for the last two years. Every year people write pages – pages – about feeling hurt and excluded and ignored.) That’s community, always has been, from the beginning of recorded time: it’s messy and ugly and rewarding and frustrating and thrilling and painful and fascinating and hard. That is, it is those things if we’re doing it right. If we come to a collective stop – if we attack and persecute each other instead of engaging each other, if we question our very integrity as a community – every time someone’s feelings get hurt, every time someone disagrees with someone else, every time things get a little uncomfortable, we’re doomed.

(Go on – disagree with me. But don’t call me a mean girl. I can be a pissy beeyatch, but I’m not a meanie, for reals. More to the point, neither is Tracey. Please to remember that.)

Comments to this post are now closed. It’s been a productive discussion, but seeing as Sweetney and Fussypants have – YES – hugged it out and put it behind them, I think that it’s time that we do the same. There’ll be plenty of time for further debate about community, identity and the ethics of criticism at a later date, I’m sure 😉

Peace, ya’ll.

Oh, Hai, Person With The Childbirth Horror Videos? DO NOT SHOW ME THEM

May 3, 2008

I haven’t even given birth to this child yet and I’ve already gotten my first flaming piece of assvice. Which, you know, would be totally poetic – seeing as this weekend is the weekend of a virtual assvicefest of a baby shower that is being held partly in my honor – if the nature of the assvice weren’t so freaktastically disturbing.

Yesterday, I wrote a little post that was intended to thank my sweet friends for throwing this shower. I preambled with some babble about how miserable I’ve been and how badly I want this behemoth infant out of my body and included a few lines about an exchange that I’d had with my doctor that morning that went something along the lines of oh hai doctur pleez get this babee out of mah body and no srsly doctur I can haz C-section? Which – and I didn’t think that this needed explaining – were tongue-in-cheek (mostly – more on this below) both in their original statement and in my recounting of them here, on this bad blog.

I did worry a little bit that I might offend someone – I know that some people have strong opinions about c-sections, and that some women who have had them experienced them as disempowering etc, etc, – and so I toyed with the idea of posting a little disclaimer to the effect that AM JOKING (mostly) PLEASE DON’T TAKE OFFENSE. But then I thought, a) if I had to apologize for every instance of black humor on this blog, it would be all apology, no blog, which kinda defeats the purpose, and b) I was also kinda not joking – to the extent that, yes, I am getting that desperate – and shouldn’t have to apologize for my awkward attempts at expressing the extent of my current discomfort.

So I left it alone. I had closed comments anyway, so that people would follow the links that I provided rather than feel obligated to leave comments, so I figured that I wouldn’t hear much about it. But then I opened my inbox in the middle of the night – have I mentioned? am not sleeping because there is no sleeping position known to womankind that can comfortably accommodate a belly with a 30-something inch girth – and clicked open a comment with a link to a video that seemed expressly designed to give me nightmares: full, unedited video of Anna Nicole Smith’s C-section. The next comment, which would have preceded the comment with the link, said something to the effect of you must watch this… get as far away from your OB as you can… they are setting you up for a slaughter! (Those last few words? Not paraphrased.)

Which, you know? Not helpful advice for a woman who is 9 plus months pregnant with a gargantuan baby and who can’t sleep even without the Sears-gone-Freddie-Krueger threats of doom and the explicit horror videos.

Look, I know that for some women, C-sections are almost as bad as female circumcision and forced sterilization in terms of disempowerment and violation of the female body, and I can totally see how if one felt that way, one might want to intervene to prevent others from undergoing such a procedure and that this person had all sorts of good intentions, BUT. How different is such intervention from, say, anti-abortion intervention, if imposed upon someone who has not asked for an opinion on the matter? I mean, sending me gory videos and telling me that I’m doomed for slaughter? Terrifying me isn’t exactly the right way to engage me on the issue of C-sections, nor does it any way help me in any way to cope with the massive physical and psychological burden that this pregnancy has become (yes, I said it: burden. I am that f*cking miserable from pain and fatigue and the feeling of complete and utter broken-down uselessness). You’re welcome to tell me that you disagree with C-sections (although, again, my request for a C-section was tongue-in-cheek, as are any and all statements to the effect that I plan on flushing this child out with castor-oil-and-vodka martinis) (maybe), but please do not tell me that I am ‘not thinking’ and that I am unappreciative of equal rights v.v. my body and puhleeze do not use scare tactics to make whatever point you’re making.

I’m not planning a c-section, nor would my doctor even support giving me one for anything less than pressing medical reasons. Which, again, is not to say that I wouldn’t joke that I can’t see getting much bigger and incapacitated without being tempted to demand one or perform one on myself, and that it wouldn’t be all the funnier for me because it’s maybe a little bit true. Joking about it doesn’t mean that I don’t take this birth – or the means by which I will undergo the birth – very seriously. It does mean that I take choice very seriously – as I wrote at BlogHer just this week – and that I hold in very high value the fact that as a woman living in North America in the 21st century, I can choose whether to give birth at home or in a hospital, with drugs or without, and that if I need a c-section, I can have one.

And it also means that I am very attached the principle that what I do with those choices is nobody’s f*cking business but my own. Which is to say, if anyone else out there is thinking of sending me gory childbirth videos starring doomed D-list celebrities, C-section or otherwise, don’t.

Just don’t.

Got MILF?

March 17, 2008

Monday morning post-caffeination confession: I hate the term ‘MILF.’

I know that there are a lot of moms out there who’ve appropriated the term and use it as a term of self-empowerment, especially in the context of maintaining some pride in appearance, (which I’m all for, notwithstanding certain evidence to the contrary) but still: I hate it.

It’s not that I think moms shouldn’t regard themselves as – to use the vernacular – f*ckable. Moms are eminently f*ckable, and usually have demonstrated themselves as such in the most convincing way possible: by bearing the children that unadulterated, unhindered f*cking yields. What I reject is the idea – the idea that I think underscores and gives the term ‘MILF’ its force – that mothers, as a group, are ordinarily so obviously unf*ckable that society needs a whole separate category and term for mothers who escape that norm. To say something along the lines of ‘her? Oh, she’s a MILF, totally’ is really to say, ‘her? She’s not like other mothers, who are, as a group, entirely sexually unappealing. SHE’s a woman one could see banging DESPITE the fact that she’s had children!’

Which, you know, is – obviously – demeaning to mothers, and to women generally. (Also? Referring to one’s self as a MILF? Grammatically confusing. Unless you are suggesting that you would totally be into doing yourself – as the use of the personal pronoun, signified by the ‘I’ in MILF, implies – which you might, in which case, more power to you – you should avoid the term. Just say, I AM HOT. That tells us everything we need to know.) Not because it categorizes some of us as sex objects – objecting to objectification is, really, a little bit futile in a society that frames the Pussycat Dolls as an example of feminine empowerment – but because it does, simply, categorize us on the basis of our sexuality and organize that categorization according to the assumption that mothers are ordinarily not f*ckable.

Which is bullshit. I might not be at the peak of my primping powers – and I may, in fact, be too goddammed cranky these days to be sexually approached without extreme caution – but damn if I couldn’t if I wanted to. I am far more interesting as a sexual being having had children – I’ve looked at sex from both sides nowwwww – than I was in my days of undimpled thighs and bra-optional t-shirts and forty-dollar lipsticks. So I resent feeling that I have to carry some outmoded idea of moms as asexual creatures in high-waisted jeans on the back of my psyche, and I resent even more the idea that I can only release the weight of that load if I beat it away with some titty-hoisting bra while proclaiming, loudly, to the world, that horny young men everywhere should want a piece of me. (They should want a piece of me – that, I think, goes without saying – but that shouldn’t be the measure of my physical and sexual worth.)

If it’s good enough for Tori Spelling, it’s not good enough for me. Because, you know, shouldn’t we be reaching a little higher (and deeper) than silicone and tank tops in our quest to feel good about our bodies and our sexuality as mothers? As women?

Or am I just too jacked up on coffee and hormones this morning to think straight?

Mothers Are The New Sheep

February 20, 2007

I became a mother because everyone else was doing it. No, really – I kept seeing all those flashy strollers and cool diaper bags and hip pregnancy clothes and I said to myself, girlfrennn! We have got to get us some of that! I’d been, like, totally ambivalent about having kids for, like, forever, but then when I saw that it was cool? And that everybody else was doing it? And that it meant more shopping? I was totally on board.

Gwyneth was doing it. So were Kate and Jennifer and Sarah and Gwen and Britney, back before she lost her mind, back when she was still hot. They were all getting pregnant and wearing skinny jeans slung below their bouncing bellies (totally sexy, omg, did you see them? Slinky little tank tops stretched over those smooth round tummies, belly-buttons poking cheekily through the filmy fabric? Hott!), slouching around with their decaf lattes and bags of super-cute baby clothes slung over their arms. Some of them already had their babies, and wore them on their hips, all fat and pink and decked out in the super-cutest little Burberry newsboy caps, like the sweetest little accessories that you ever saw. Kate, with her baby in one arm and that big white Birkin on the other? That was cool. And did you see when Gwyneth had Apple at the Live8 concert with those earphones pulled down over her little blond head, and Gwyneth had her hair all long and loose and neo-hippie-like and wore those big aviator sunglasses and was, like, totally rocking out with her adorable little blond baby and made motherhood look so cool? I loooooved that. I wanted to be that.

So I decided to have a baby.

Okay, so maybe I was already pregnant by then, but when I look back at it now I can totally see that I became pregnant because that’s what was hot. And that’s, like, totally cool. I got in on the trend at the very beginning. I saw the signs: Babies Are The New Uggs. Get Them Before They’re Out.

I was marketed into motherhood. I became a mamanista.

That’s what I’m told, anyway. That motherhood is, like, the new black and that all us mothers have just been, like, totally sucked in because the media and the marketers made it look just so tempting, like something that we had to have, like a totally hot new bag except with no waiting list (okay, nine-month waiting list! But still! Waaaay shorter than the Birkin list, omg!)

(Wait. Are we the same Gen-X/Y post-consumer performance artist hipster parents who are trying to make terminally un-hip parenthood cool? The ones who are exhibiting their babies as counter-culture artwork on their blahgs and Babbling about how to wrap their own baby slings out of vintage rock tees recycled from Goodwill?… Is that, like, the same thing or is it totally different? I’m, like, soooo confused.)

But here’s the thing about becoming a mamanista: it’s all fine and cool and hotttt and we all love the pretty shiny things that come with babies – even the babies themselves! – until we realize that motherhood isn’t as shiny and pretty as Sarah Jessica Parker makes it look and that even a Bugaboo Cameleon and a Burberry diaper bag don’t make up for all of the sleepless nights and the sagging, sucked-dry boobies and the spit-up stains on your vintage Diane von Furstenburg wrap dress and the fact that your swollen post-partum feet will never fit into Choos again. And then we get buyers remorse. That’s what they tell me, anyway. Mamanistas will regret – do regret – having babies, because babies are so less cool than you thought they would be.

They can tell, see, because of what we say on our blogs, because of how we’re quoted in the media. They can tell because some of us, sometimes, have said that motherhood can, sometimes, be boring. Frustrating. Messy. They can tell because sometimes, some of us, admit to having a drink. Or two. Or ten. They can tell because we’re obviously desperately trying to hang on to our selfish, urban-hipster-doofus-culture-victim lifestyles. They can tell that we’re miserable, and that we’re ruining our children.

So they’re issuing public warnings now: Don’t Have Children Because It’s Trendy. Don’t Get Pregnant Because Bridget Moynihan Did. Don’t Turf Your Birth Control So That You Can Buy A Bugaboo.

DON’T GET SUCKED INTO BECOMING A MAMANISTA.
Got that? Don’t do it, because you’ll regret it. No matter how much you end up loving – adoring – your children, no matter how incalculably precious you find those moments of snuggling/kissing/playing with/gazing at/thinking about your babies, no matter how inexplicably fulfilled you feel by this overwhelming, life-changing, soul-expanding thing called motherhood, you will regret it, because nothing – nothing – makes up for cellulite and baby puke on your Tory Burch wedges and you’ll only have yourself to blame when you find yourself, some dark night, in a strip-mall beauty-salon-slash-tattoo-parlour begging a nineteen year old to shave your head and tattoo the words BABY’S BITCH on your pubes.

So, if you have ever at any point in your life been ambivalent about having children, if you never played with dolls or doodled the names of your future children in your schoolbooks, and if you now find yourself inexplicably drawn to Starck-designed strollers or Oilily diaper bags or Cookie Magazine or Babble.com, or have noticed that you discuss with some authority the relative merits of Chuck Taylor sneakers over ballet flats for attending Saturday afternoon family dance parties or kiddie salons, or find yourself surfing Celebrity-Baby when you should be doing your taxes or planning your charitable giving, consider yourself warned: you may be, or be on the verge of becoming, a mamanista, and so may be in danger of spontaneously combusting from the combined effects of sleeplessness, boredom and frustrated fabulousness. For which the only remedy is to not have children – or, travel back in time and not have children – and save your money for an accessory dog and that Birkin bag.

Because that’s all that you really wanted to begin with, wasn’t it?

********

Thank you all, beyond much, for your reassuring comments on my last post. I still feel like a bad mother, but at least I know that I am in the best possible company.