Category Archives: ancient history

bumpwatch terror alert: week 25

if you look carefully, you can see charlotte’s tail in the background.

this pregnancy is racing by. only 15 weeks to go. it sounded like kind of a while until i realized that we’re talking fifteen weeks until jared & i become responsible for sustaining a tiny human life. not that i didn’t know that going in; it’s just kind of easy to lose sight of the big picture when the big picture is so fucking terrifying.

fewer than two weeks until jared is temporarily back in town (along with our friend amanda), two weeks to the day until the baby shower & the start of the second trimester. in three weeks, our babymoon in boston will be over & i’ll be back in lawrence by myself while jared tries to finish up his research on the east coast.

i have been going to bingo as much as i can while jared has been away. jared is generally pretty supportive of most things i want to do, in that he encourages me to do them even if he has no interest in joining me. i don’t think anything could compel him to play bingo. i myself have mixed feelings about it. it can be a very depressing scene. the game i play is at the american legion hall & most of the folks playing are clearly retirees. the young people that are playing would fit right in on an episode of “cops”. or in pretty much any scene from my childhood.

it’s not really a secret that i didn’t grow up with a silver spoon in my mouth. my dad had a decent job at an oil refinery, but he was an alcoholic & a drug addict, so the money he made was not well-managed. there were times when we had nice things, like a house big enough for all us kids to have our own rooms, or a nintendo system right when they were first introduced. there were other times when i had to get through the entire school year rotating two shirts because there was no money for a third.

now that i’m an adult living on a disability income, obviously i am not exactly rolling around in giant piles of money all day. & especially with a baby on the way, i’ve had a lot of anxiety about money. but my impending motherhood is also making me think a lot about my own childhood & the weird baggage i carry around from it & what values or assumptions i might pass on to my kid. for example, sometimes when i’m going out in the evening & am not going to be around for dinner, jared makes himself a dinner of lentils or beans on toast. i don’t like to eat meals like that. my gut reaction is, “why are we eating this way? we’re not poor.” (even though we kind of are.) but i was also telling him recently that i never really got into foods he thinks i would like, such as pancetta or lamb chops, because i think of them as “rich people food,” ie, food that people like me don’t eat. regardless of the fact that i undoubtedly buy groceries that are comparable in price. i’m not saying that any of this makes a lick of sense. i am saying that growing up with such limited means gave me a weird complex about money in ways that i am still unraveling, over fifteen years after i left my parents’ house. i think about what relationship i want my kid to have with food & i hope s/he will have an adventurous palate & like healthy foods, regardless of how much or how little they cost.

this weird class whiplash totally happens at bingo too, because, let’s face it. you can just tell that most people at the bingo game don’t really have a lot of money. the parking lot is full of cars manufactured at some point in the 90s, & a large percentage of folks in the hall are wearing sweatpants. & although bingo can be a lot of fun, & the prizes at the game i play are quite generous (the smallest payout is $40), the expense of it all can add up if you don’t watch yourself–& you are by no means guaranteed to win every night you go. in addition to bingo, there are other gambling games available, & they are popular. i’ve talked to a few people at bingo who told me they usually “only” play about $50 worth of bingo cards, but they easily drop $100 on the other games. $150. games happen twice a week. that’s $1200 a month. you recoup almost all your costs if you win a single progressive black-out within the time limit (a $1000 prize), but the likelihood of that happening is not good. so basically, going to bingo is an exercise in watching people who don’t have much money piss away what little money they have. in that respect, it can be very depressing.

personally, i try to limit myself to $40 in cards & i don’t play the extra games. the last time i went to bingo, i won the first special of the night for a prize of $200. that’s the most i have ever won in one night of bingo & i was very happy. more often than not, i leave the hall having won nothing. i just find the process of stamping the cards relaxing. i have heard tell of people who play bingo specifically to raise scratch for expensive hobbies they have (pageants, doll collecting, etc). i don’t get that. i haven’t kept track, but it seems like you pay more to play then you end up winning. the game i play actually posts statistics on this. they claim that they pay out, on average, 75% of their take. not 100% & definitely not more than 100%. & it’s in no way a game of skill, so there’s nothing you can do to increase your chances of winning besides get fast enough at dabbing to play more cards than anyone else in the game & give yourself more bites at the apple. & even that is a long shot.

none of this has much to do with the pregnancy, but it’s something i have been trying to wrap my head around for quite a while.

what we talk about when we talk about the bulk bins at the hippie grocery store

jared wanted to go to the hippie grocery store the other day to buy pumpkin seeds so he could make homemade granola. i know, right? i probably don’t need to explain that this is the same dude who won me over to cast-iron. i had been skeptical of anything that a) you can’t clean with soap, & b) is often used by people who live in collective houses & sew their own pants. so we went to the hippie grocery store & i guess jared figured that as long as we were there, he should stock up on pastry flour, lentils, i don’t even know what all he got. i was too busy wandering around in a stupor, saying things like, “bulk honey! what a great idea! wow, look at these cunning little glass jars with cork lids! can you imagine being the kind of morally superior person that would have a legitimate use for something like this? man, i wish i was the kind of person who cared enough about her health to actually eat stuff like steel cut oats drizzled with flax seed, blueberries, & goat’s milk yogurt!” i think some of the other shoppers thought i was making fun of them, but i was DEAD SERIOUS & totally having an aspirational hippie consumer experience.

before i got pregnant, it’s not like i was unaware that i don’t always make the healthiest or most responsible choices when it comes to what i eat or how i spend my leisure time or whatever. example: one of my friends was telling me recently about how her dad is kind of an intellectual practical joker. apparently he once convinced a child that he often sees that “down” means up & “up” means down, so the kid started asking to be “picked down”. he convinced another friend, recently emigrated from some country like turkey or something, that pizza is the ultimate american health food because it provides all the major food groups in a single recipe. the dude just started eating pizza for every meal, & as my friend (who is teeny tiny, i should add–i helped her pick out a graduation dress once & she had to request the dress off the mannequin because all the dresses on the floor were too big; this is not a problem i have EVER had) was explaining this part of the story to me, i was like, “yeah, of course, that’s pretty much how i live, pizza is the world’s most perfect food.” but i guess the conclusion to the story is that the pizza dude gained a bunch of weight & started developing high blood pressure & such forth from his purportedly “unhealthy” all-pizza all-the-time diet.

anyway, i had this idea that once i got pregnant, somehow a switch would be flipped & i would transform into a version of myself that does all the stuff that i imagine people better than myself do. like cook with cast-iron without being resentful that cast-iron has to be cleaned in a different way from all the other dishes. or eat steel-cut oats with flax seed, blueberries, & goat’s milk yogurt. or ride a bike to prenatal appointments (because the hospital isn’t really THAT far away…maybe like twenty blocks? maybe less). keep an introspective & insightful pregnancy journal. take weekly belly photos to enjoy the way my body changes. spend more time sitting on the back porch with a library book, soaking up the sunshine. getting out the sewing machine & making all my own cloth diaper wipes from old towels & soft flannel patterned with cheerful animals. realizing that keeping a stock of witch hazel could be a use for a cunning cork-top glass bottle that is also good for my health & healing. actually read the articles my friends send me about the dangers of vaccinations instead of just throwing them away & then distancing myself from the crackpot friend. i could go on.

i feel that i have spent a good chunk of my life feeling alienated from people that do things like go running around the pond just because they like to stay fit & active, or who join amateur marching bands as adults & learn how to play the french horn, or decide to invest $10,000 in buying a falling down old cabin & then renovate it completely relying only on their own skills & those of their friends. these are things i feel that i would NEVER do in a thousand million gazillion years, but i also have this nagging suspicion that the people who do do these things are probably happier, less judgmental, less cynical, & more well-liked than i am. & don’t i owe it to my baby to try to be happy, well-liked, non-judgmental, & non-cynical? i don’t want to be that mom that sees her baby walking for the second time & is like, “right. awesome. call me when you learn to stop shitting yourself.”

because jared & i can’t afford the hippie grocery store (seriously, some bulk grains, a new water bottle, & a three-pound chicken cost us almost $60, & we had to pack it into a reused cardboard box, which again, is one of those things that a person morally superior to myself probably wouldn’t resent at all), we go there very rarely & only to buy specialty items we can’t get at the regular cheapo grocery store. so every time i go, it’s a weird aspirational consumer experience where i imagine what life would be like if, you know, i was the kind of person that remembered to bring her own canvas bag to the grocery store & hand-bound her own journals & noted the passing of the seasons by pressing leaves & enjoyed eating new & unusual fruits, etc etc. i look around at everyone else in there & i’m like, “i bet you can do triangle pose without falling over, & i bet that guy over there totally knows how to make potato soup without a recipe, & that lady definitely knits her own socks.”

now that my pregnancy is like a third of the way over (-ish), i am coming to terms with the fact that becoming a mom is not in fact going to fundamentally change my personality. i’m still going to eat pizza. i’m still going to drag my feet on going to the pool for pregnant lady exercise. i’m still going to go into really long-winded explanations about how i cope with hot weather that result in me accidentally quoting avon barksdale from “the wire” (“you only do two days: the day you go in & the day you get out”). i’m still going to primarily interface with the world by making fun of the stuff that i think is stupid, which includes everything from musical theatre to people who stencil their baby’s name on the nursery wall to people who think being arrested by campus security is a really effective way to wage political protest. baby, you can’t change me.

relevant phrase: “on the topic of pelvic floors”

this morning i came the closest to throwing up that i have come in all my ten weeks & three days of being pregnant. & it wasn’t even because of morning sickness! it was because of a migraine. i have heard that some women who are prone to migraines have fewer symptoms while they are pregnant. (i have actually heard that about a lot of weird stuff, including arthritis, which you’d think would be worsened by the weight gain & altered center of gravity involved with pregnancy.) maybe i got a migraine because i was a little dehydrated. it was over 100 degrees yesterday & i arguably didn’t drink enough water. but i am worried i’m going to be one of those women whose migraine symptoms are the same or even worse during pregnancy.

about four months after jared & i moved in together back in 2008, swine flu hit the news. at the time, jared usually got up at around 6am to get ready for his long train commute to work, & i got up with him because otherwise we hardly would have been able to spend any time together, & i would have felt like a total jerk for sleeping in every day until 11am when he had to get up at 6am. so one morning jared woke up to get ready for work, & i woke up too & immediately burst into tears because i had such a horrible migraine. jared went to take a shower, & when he came back to get dressed, he found me writhing around in bed, sobbing hysterically. “do you have swine flu?” he asked.

“i don’t have swine flu!” i apparently sobbed, which made jared laugh REALLY hard, because apparently i sounded sad about not having swine flu. i did my best to get back to sleep, & woke up six hours later still feeling terrible. i got out of bed to get some advil, but just standing up made me throw up. migraines are the worst.

anyway, i didn’t throw up this morning. jared was kind enough to bring me some ibuprofen (i know, i know, it’s contraindicated during pregnancy, but when i tried to figure out why, all i found is that it can cause heavy bleeding during childbirth, if taken, like, right before delivery–if someone else can point me to some study that shows that ibuprofen will cause my baby to grow an extra set of limbs or something, i’ll stop taking it, but for now, i don’t really see the problem in downing a couple of advils once or twice a month) & i snoozed until 10:30am & begged off going to the pool.

yeah, i haven’t thrown up once during this pregnancy. i haven’t even come close. i was pretty nervous since almost everyone i know & definitely every pregnancy blog i’ve read goes on & on & on about how awful morning sickness is & how all the did while they were pregnant was puke. i even followed one blog for a while on which the author would write at length about how she peed herself a little every time she threw up–& she was throwing up a few times a day. she wrote about how she had to keep a change of outfits at work for the inevitable pee emergencies. & this is someone who was pregnant with her first baby! apparently her pelvic floor has no muscle tone whatsoever. i was worried that this was some kind of secret truth of pregnancy that no one talks about–that you just pee yourself all the time, until it starts to seem normal to be covered in pee. but that definitely has not been my experience even a little bit. knock on wood, i guess?

i’ve definitely experienced nausea, just for the record, & it has even been severe enough a few times that i spent literally the entire day in bed, sleeping (my only respite from the nausea, which actually seem to get worse after i eat, & is particularly triggered by just plain water). i’ve been nauseous pretty much non-stop for the last two & a half weeks. but never have i felt the need to vomit.

on the topic of pelvic floors: when i had my HSG done right before i got pregnant back in april, the nurses were trying to distract me from what i imagined to be the unbearable agony of the whole thing by asking me lots of questions. & of course they asked if i was trying to get pregnant, if it would be my first baby, did i want a boy or a girl, etc etc. at one point, one of them gave me this stellar advice: “it’s never too early to start doing your kugels, even before you get pregnant.”

i actually laughed out loud. for kind of a long time.

this is a kugel:

it’s a very delicious jewish noodle dish. YUM.

this is a kegel, which is what she actually meant:

an exercise to strengthen your pelvic floor, helpful for maintaining continence throughout life, even after the trauma of a vaginal delivery.

not that i would turn down the opportunity to enjoy kugel on a regular basis!

another thing i want to enjoy on a regular basis is GARLIC KNOTS. jared & i went to the royals-cardinals game in kansas city on friday with our friend cait (the culmination of the I-70 series, which is apparently a rivalry on par with yankess-red sox, or hatfields-mccoys). we got pizza first, & after i devoured a whole platter of garlic knots…i ordered a second platter for the road. they took so long to cook that we missed the opening pitch, which was apparently thrown by a very drunk jon hamm (“mad men”‘s don draper). throughout the game, cait kept saying, “what do you think jon hamm is doing right now? we need a hamm cam.” she also observed, “your baby is going to have the bluest eyes ever. you both have such blue eyes! are you trying to create an aryan super-race?” to which jared replied, “worst. super-race. ever.” i told her that she should get a fake hollowed-out pregnancy belly for the next time we attend a game & fill it with cheap beer. i think that’s what jon hamm did because he was nearly falling down drunk when he helped lead the crowd in “take me out to the ballgame” during the seventh-inning stretch. we stayed for the friday night fireworks, which were set to a confusing disco medley that included a surprising amount of queen’s “bohemian rhapsody”. after the grand finale, the beefy royals fans in front of us started chating, “U-S-A! U-S-A!” because, you know. fireworks are inherently a celebration of america. when we got home, at like 1am, i discovered that my garlic knot consumption had in fact been so fevered that i had marinara sauce splashed on my forehead. it’s the miracle of being ripe with child: you just don’t give a fuck about dignity anymore, like at all.

positive home tests, negative blood

so. i am having a completely rotten TTC week. a few days ago, at six days post-ovulation, i took a home pregnancy test. i definitely wasn’t expecting anything that early–usually implantation doesn’t happen until at least 7DPO, & it takes a few days after that for enough pregnancy hormone to build up in the body to trigger a positive test. most early testers don’t get a positive until 9DPO.

so imagine my surprise when the test showed a very faint second line! i tested four or five more times that day, & ALL the tests showed two lines! i showed the tests to jared & even he saw them.

it’s faint, but it’s there!

i tested again the next morning & got a slightly darker line. i tested two more times that morning & got two more positive tests. i was pretty much out of my mind with excitement & hope. i decided to cut to the chase & ask my doctor for a blood test. the science claims that pregnancy hormone will show up in blood before it will show up in urine, so a blood test is more accurate than a home test. most ob-gyns & midwives want blood test confirmation before they consider a woman truly pregnant. & a qualitative blood test can detect as little as two or three units of hormone in the blood, while the most sensitive home tests available need at least ten unites before they become positive. i figured that if the hormone was showing up on home tests, surely my blood test would be positive.

i see a second line!

i had the blood draw on thursday, 7DPO. EXTREMELY early–some doctors refuse to do a blood test before a woman has missed her period. but my doctor gave the okay when i explained that i’d gotten eight positive home tests. i waited around on thursday afternoon for the nurse to call with the results, but she didn’t. i spent all morning yesterday clutching my phone & carrying it everywhere with me so i wouldn’t miss the call. i just KNEW she was going to be giving me good news. i continued to test, & all the tests continued to be positive. the lines continued to get darker (but were still very faint–which makes sense because i’m still so early).

it’s a little darker!

i tried going for a walk to clear my head & distract myself from waiting for the call, but it didn’t really work. i was so anxious about the call that i finally wound up bursting into tears. when i calmed down, i called the nurse & begged for the results. my usual ob-gyn & her nurse were out of the office, so i was speaking with a different nurse i didn’t know. she told me the results were back but they hadn’t yet been okayed by a doctor. she said she’d put in a request for the on-call doctor to review them & give permission for them to be released to me. we hung up & i paced around the house frantically until she called back twenty minutes later.

after a lot of brouhaha & exposition about how clomid works & when tests become positive in relation to ovulation (i wanted to yell, “cut to the chase, woman! this is not my first time at the rodeo!”), she gave me the results: negative. they did a qualitative beta & my pregnancy hormone level was less than one. not even a whisper of possible pregnancy.

she elaborated that i was still really early in my luteal phase & that i should call for another blood test if my period is more than four days late. as if i wouldn’t, hello.

i was so stunned that i couldn’t even cry. i reported the results to jared & then i went outside & sat on the porch & just stared into space. it was 90 degrees out, but i started shaking & feeling cold. my teeth were chattering. i think i literally went into shock. after a while i went back inside & laid down on the couch for an hour or so. when i started feeling less shaky, i got up & went online & ordered another round of ovulation tests  , & several different brands of home pregnancy tests. i have been testing with wondfos, & some people think they are unreliable & have a tendency to evap. an evap would be a gray or colorless line where the test line should be, a line that looks like an indentation & has no color, a splotchy & inconsistent test line, etc. every test i did featured a thick, pink, solid line. generally, an evap line that is thick & consistent will be colorless, & an evap line with color will be splotchy. ALL of my tests (& by that point, i had done around twenty) showed a perfect-looking positive line.

i did another test yesterday before bed. positive. i did two more tests this morning when i got up.

also positive. & the test line is plainly getting darker.

but a blood test is the gold standard. supposedly any positive urine test that is not supported with a positive blood test should be considered a false positive. false positives happen, but they’re extremely uncommon. evap lines happen, but they are also relatively uncommon. i have never heard of a woman getting twenty to thirty false positives or evap lines in a row. i used this same brand of test, & the same lot number, last cycle & i didn’t get any lines like this.

i’ve done some google sleuthing & i’ve found stories from other women who had positive home tests, negative blood tests, & were indeed pregnant. their bloodwork eventually became positive, but in some cases, it took weeks. i can’t figure out how this would work, from a science perspective. if the blood isn’t detecting pregnancy hormone, how could it possibly be in urine?

four years ago when i had my abortion, i took several home pregnancy tests. they were all positive. i went in for the abortion at six weeks & had an ultrasound done. the tech couldn’t find the embryo & insisted on giving me a blood test to confirm pregnancy. she told me the blood test came back “inconclusive” & referred me to the ER for a possible ectopic pregnancy. sometimes with ectopic pregnancies, the pregnancy hormone level is lower than it should be for gestational age (although the range of what’s considered “normal” for gestational age ranges pretty widely). i was panicked & went to the ER. they did another ultrasound there & found the embryo in my uterus right where it should be. its size correlated to suspected gestational age. i had the abortion a week or two later & never got another blood test, so i have no idea if another blood test would have shown unusually low levels or if i just had an incompetent tech or what.

i’m really confused & really sad. i can’t help testing, & my heart soars when i see that second line (EVERY test for the last three or four days has been positive), but i’m so confused by the negative blood test. my game plan for now is to just struggle through the next week or so, & if i’m still getting lines at 15DPO–especially if they continue to get darker–i’ll request a second blood test. but i’m pretty upset. i want to be excited about my pregnancy right now, not staring at positive tests, wondering if they’re real. this sucks.

no children

things have been really exciting down in the trying to get pregnant mines. i did my third round of clomid this past cycle. this was my last round at 50mg. the doctor said that if it didn’t work (which is to say, if i did not get pregnant), she would double my dose & order an HSG. these are things about which i have feelings.

clomid is not actually the safest drug in all the land. it works by stimulating a person’s ovaries to riped & release eggs. sometimes it stimulates a person’s ovaries into releasing more than one egg. sometimes it does its job so effectively that a person’s ovary twists around on itself under the weighty bushel of ripened follicles it is sporting, which can cut off blood supply to the ovary, cause excruciating pain, & sometimes even lead to the emergency removal of said ovary. & since you obviously need ovaries in order to ripen & release the eggs that will hopefully become fertilized & turn into embryos, losing an ovary can indeed impair a person’s fertility. which is less than spectacular when you consider that like 99% of people taking clomid are doing it to address a problem with fertility. (the other 1% are people who got their aunt georgie to bring back illegal clomid from mexico because they are so desperate to conceive multiples & become the next octo-mom. seriously. there are entire websites devoted to helping women get their mitts on black market fertility drugs & conceive multiples. scary shit.)

& an HSG…it’s short for hysterosalpingogram. it’s a test in which a doctor shoots some crazy fluorescing dye into a lady’s reproductive system & checks everything out a monitor to look for any scarring or blockages that may be preventing her from becoming pregnant. it’s a diagnostic tool but it can function as a treatment sometimes, because the force of the dye has been known to unblock fallopian tubes. from what i understand (which is admittedly not much because i think this is the kind of thing i probably shouldn’t think about too much), the dye gets up into the uterus via a cannula that is inserted through the cervix. UGH UGH UGH DO NOT WANT.

remember that abortion i had four years ago? it worked the same way. a narrow cannula was inserted through my cervix & vacuum suction was applied to remove the contents of my uterus. the vacuum aspect didn’t bother me at all, but having something pushed through my cervix HURT LIKE A MOTHERFUCKER. apparently i passed out for two hours, although i have no memory of this. all i remember is pain. pain which probably feels like kittens licking my hand compared to the process of natural childbirth, but nonetheless. i tried to get an IUD a few months after the abortion, so i wouldn’t end up accidentally knocked up at any point in the future, but i couldn’t cope with having the little scrap of plastic pushed through my cervix. it brought back unfortunate memories of the whole unmedicated abortion thing. don’t get me wrong, i don’t regret my abortion at all & it’s not, like, emotional trauma that makes me have feelings about. & pretty much everyone else on earth gets some kind of painkiller or anesthesia before an abortion. i did not because of my vaso vagal syndrome (a breakdown in my body’s primary pain receptors). i knew that i have a tendency to pass out in response to pain, & that it’s not just “haha, she fainted, no big” passing out. it’s a life-threatening blood pressure crisis. the docs at the clinic didn’t want to take the chance that anesthesia would interfere with their efforts to revive me if my blood pressure started dropping…which it did.

anyway! so yeah, i am so not excited about having this test done. but if it sheds some light on why i’m not getting pregnant, & maybe paves the way for a pregnancy in the future, i guess it’s a good thing.

i had a lot of excitement last week when i took a fancy drugstore test & got TWO LINES! & they were both PINK! check it out, bros:

OMG OMG OMG

people always say it doesn’t matter how faint that second line is–if it’s there, you are pregnant! i called the doctor, but she suggested that i try to relax through the weekend & come in for a blood test after a few days, closer to the date of my next expected period. so i tried. but of course i couldn’t resist taking another test on sunday…which showed absolutely nothing. negative as can be. i swore i wouldn’t cry about not getting pregnant anymore. this was our ninth cycle trying, & trust me, it’s just not sustainable to maintain the level of emotion required to experience devastation month after month after month. but i couldn’t help it. i cried. & then i bought a pack of cigarettes because…why not, you know?

i still don’t know what this was all about. it could have been a bad test. it could have been an especially awful evaporation line (where the antibody strip on a negative test is visible enough to appear to be a second line–although an evap is not supposed to have color at all). it could have been a chemical pregnancy, also known as a very, very early miscarriage. it would appear to be a normal cycle to anyone who was not obsessively taking pregnancy tests on a daily basis. there’s really no way to know, & it doesn’t really matter. the bottom line: not pregnant. again.

i went in for a blood test anyway just to confirm the negative result, & the woman checking me in recognized me because i’m at the hospital getting blood tests for one trying to conceive-related thing or another like every two weeks. she asked if i was having a standard round of tests done because they have a different protocol for that. i was like, “no, i’m trying to get pregnant so i just get a lot of tests run.” not because it was her business. i was just making conversation. i don’t really see the point in keeping quiet about my fertility woes, you know? it’s not like it’s anything to be ashamed of.

i have medicare, so she had to ask me the medicare insurance coverage questions: are you a veteran? are you receiving black lung benefits? is your visit today to address an accident or injury? she chuckled & said, “i love asking pregnant women that last one. they’re always like, ‘how did she know it was an accident?’ hahaha!”

i kind of chuckled politely & said, “oh, if only it were that easy.” you know–hint hint, lady, did you not hear the bit about how i’m TRYING to get pregnant & this is like my seventh blood test in the course of two months? do the math.

she continued to laugh & said, “you know, you get a little fast & free with the wine coolers one night & the next thing you know–whoops! you’re booking some time in the maternity ward!”

i lost my temper & said, “or you’re moving into your fourth cycle of fertility meds & you have to get blood tests every two weeks in order to assess your hormone levels because it’s been almost a year & you’re still not pregnant.” that shut her up. seriously though! how the fuck do you get a job at the hospital when you’re that fucking clueless?

how i started to worry about my consumer choices

this is kind of a scary article.

i have never been a fan of amazon. in 1999, i moved from ohio to portland, oregon, & immediately landed a job in the genre room at powell’s books, one of the world’s largest independent bookstores. i headed up the romance, thriller, nautical fiction, & books on tape sections, & eventually took over erotica. in this era of protesting the WTO & anarchist summit-hopping, agitating for local stores versus huge corporate behemoths was a no-brainer. & for me, living in portland & working at one of the best independent bookstores around, it was all too easy to relax upon my high horse & exhort people to shop local.

for over ten years, i did as little business with amazon as i could. which isn’t to say i did no business with them. i definitely ordered things from them, including things i could have gotten at local independent shops. when i got hooked on the harry potter series, i pre-ordered them from amazon instead of standing in line for a midnight release at a local shop. not because there were no local shops doing midnight releases, but because i was just too embarrassed to stand in line with a bunch of little kids. (i did do the midnight release thing for the seventh book. it wasn’t nearly as embarrassing as i expected it to be, although i think jared disagrees, because he just walked me to the bookstore & refused to wait with me.) i bought all ten seasons of “friends” on DVD from amazon, even though i could have purchased them at a local music shop that sold movies. i don’t even have a good excuse for that one. maybe buying from amazon saved me a few dollars. when you’re living on $525 a month (as i was at the time), even $2 or $3 in savings can make a difference.

but since i moved to kansas, my good intentions have gone right out the window. & especially since jared & i started trying to get knocked up. there’s a company called formosa medical that sells unbelievably inexpensive, reliable, bulk pregnancy tests & ovulation tests. a bag of fifty tests costs $15 on amazon.com. by comparison, a box of three generic drugstore tests will cost at least $4–& if you want to get fancy & splurge on a box of five digital pregnancy tests, you’re going to be spending $17 for the privilege. buying cheapo tests on amazon has saved me literally hundreds of dollars–because, trust me, when you have been trying for months on end to get pregnant, no amount of logical thinking & common sense is going to stop you from testing three, five, ten, fifteen times a day. i also console myself with the knowledge that the cheapo tests are tiny slips of paper with no ecologically destructive plastic casing…but amazon’s super saver shipping makes it too easy to start shopping around for a few more items to add to your cart to take that $15 pregnancy test order up to $25 & qualify for free shipping. why not throw in some fancy french bubble bath, or a pair of jeans on sale, or an obscure book about conception that isn’t available at the local library, or a box of typewriter ribbons that i’d have to mail order anyway? this is but a small sampling of things i’ve purchased from amazon in the last year–justifying it by telling myself that i wouldn’t have been able to get these things from a local independent store anyway.

but that doesn’t mean i couldn’t have mail ordered these items from an independent store. maybe i would have spent more for the items in question, or for shipping, & i would have had to piecemeal the orders rather than doing convenient one-stop shopping…what i’m trying to say is that even though i recognize the consumer tricks amazon uses to trick people into spending more money with them (after all, i ran my own business–a zine distro–for seven years & i used some of these same tricks myself), i have fallen for them over & over again.

one thing i haven’t done is purchased an e-reader. don’t think it hasn’t crossed my mind. i have severe arthritis in my hands & holding books & magazines is routinely a painful experience for me. i have often wondered if having an e-reader that i can prop on a pillow & only touch to turn the “pages” might save me a lot of stress in the joints of my hands, because i read A LOT. but i haven’t done it. for a lot of reasons. i am really attached to the aesthetics of books. i like page weight, paper quality, the smell of a book. i don’t want to fuss with another electronic device that i’ll have to remember to keep charged. & all the restrictions around e-readers confused the hell out of me. some platforms only let you download books in their stores. it seems like no platform features every book i could ever want to read. for more obscure titles, i’d still have to track down paper copies. i wouldn’t know what to do with titles i didn’t want anymore. you can’t sell a used e-book to a bookstore or pass it off to a friend. i like to read books in the bathtub, which isn’t something i’d chance with an expensive e-reader. & i read dozens upon dozens of books every year from the library. how would that work with an e-reader? i have no interest in shelling out $10-$20 for every book i want to read, when i read well over one hundred books a year.

& add to this the fact that so far there is no small, independent e-reader company. to jump on this bandwagon, i’d inevitably end up supporting a huge corporation. ironically, books are pretty much the one area where i haven’t fallen under amazon’s spell. i don’t judge other people from getting in on the e-reader craze–everyone has their own priorities as a consumer & i recognize that being a paper book hold-out is going to make me something of a dinosaur within the next twenty years. but it really scares me to think that this monumental technological development could totally change the entire culture of publishing & bookselling.

(caveat: this is not a topic about which i know a lot, but i do know that i’m not making any novel critiques here, & that people are working on solutions to a lot of the issues i bring up here. maybe they will be solutions that enable me to go crazy with an e-reader; maybe they will just end up making me commit to paper books even more. i’m just trying to nip any condescending “let me tell you about why e-readers are so awesome” comments in the bud before they start.)

the journal of best practices: it’s not asshole disease

arguably the most exciting thing about this book, for me, is that it’s a memoir by a guy who diagnosed himself with asperger’s syndrome using an internet quiz. this is something i joke about all the time! i used to be a member of this online feminist community, & one of the most annoying members in the community had diagnosed herself with asperger’s using an internet quiz. every time she got called out for saying something stupid, she was always like, “stop being mean! the internet says i’m neuroatypical!” my favorite was the time she wrote a long, gushing post about how she helped deliver her friend’s baby because the birth clinic the friend had intended to use was closed for the weekend. yes. i forgot about how birth clinics maintain 9am-5pm monday-friday hours & all the women that go into labor on evenings or weekends get stuck doing unintentional home births with no one to help them out except for their bedraggled hippie friends. she also posted about food not bombs all the time & was like, “hey guys! there’s this awesome organization that feeds homeless people using dumpstered goods! maybe you’ve heard of them but i don’t know because they’re pretty underground & obscure. they’re called food not bombs. i think they’ve only been around for like 35 years or so.” that girl was so obnoxious that diagnosing yourself with asperger’s via an internet quiz couldn’t help but become a joke.

i wonder how ol’ david finch here feels about the fact that his book was released the same month as the news that autism is being wildly overdiagnosed these days became front page news from coast to coast? especially in light of how the book is all about how his marriage was teetering on the brink of collapse until he realized that he was autistic, & then he & his wife worked together to help him learn how to behave in more socially acceptable/neurotypical ways (even if he was just playacting his way through it).

i guess i should also note that after the internet told him he was autistic, he saw a doctor who confirmed the diagnosis. but, you know, doctors are the ones behind the over-diagnosing epidemic…i’m not saying this dude isn’t actually autistic, but a lot of shit he writes about in the book sounded more like a dude that is kind of socially inept, a little bit self-centered, & goofy, & less like a dude that is autistic. then again, i’m not an occupational therapist, so maybe i don’t know what the hell i’m talking about.

i kind of feel bad for the dude’s family. someday his kids are going to be old enough to read the book & finch doesn’t really come off as a great, involved dad. though i guess by the time his kids are old enough to read & understand the book, they’ll probably have already caught on to that fact. finch writes about how part of being autistic is that he is very obsessive about his daily routines. his morning routine involves getting up a full hour after his wife gets up with the kids, having a glass of water, downing some vitamins, & luxuriating in a hot shower for at least an hour. meanwhile, his wife is getting the kids dressed & fed & ready for the babysitter, while also getting herself dressed & ready for work, trying to fit in some bathroom time in between the dude’s crazy shower schedule…so he decided that it would be a nice husband thing to do if he got up earlier & took over some of the child care duties. this involved running off to the bathroom to check in with his wife about every little thing the kids needed. he seriously asked her if the kids were allowed to have juice after they requested juice. he asked if the little girl was allowed to wear the dress she had requested. once the kids finished breakfast, he plopped them down in their pajamas in front of the TV rather than getting them dressed & ready to go to the babysitter’s house. not exactly what i would call helpful, you know?

which he acknowledges. but rather than being amused by the foibles of this clueless dad, i instead felt sad. his older kid is like four years old. how does a person share his home with a child for four years without having any awareness of whether or not it’s okay for that four-year-old to have some morning OJ? it sounds like the dude has been completely checked out, & while a disability will certainly do that to a person, it still made me feel sad for everyone involved. but the way the book was written, i didn’t get the sense that i was supposed to feel sad. i got the sense that i was supposed to be chuckling & enjoying the hijinks.

he also writes a lot about how he brought a lot of pre-conceived ideas about gender into his marriage. he assumed that his wife would do the lion’s share of the child care & enjoy every second of it. he also assumed that she would take on most, if not all, of the housework, leaving him free to pursue his busy schedule of hour-long showers & nightly wanderings around the house to make sure all the lights are off. this, despite the fact that both he & his wife work. he would even have the gall to suggest that “we make an effort to keep up with the chores” when the laundry was washed & dried, but not yet put away, & to compare his wife unfavorably to the stay-at-home mom next door who always manages to have fresh cookies baked & a pork loin ready for dinner. he seems to be implying that his autism was somehow responsible for these sexist ideas–that this is how his parents’ relationship functioned, so it became a routine in his life that he expected his wife to maintain.

i was reminded of an incident a few years ago in which i volunteered at an anarchist bookstore with a woman who was being stalked. the bookstore was contemplating the possibility of banning the stalker from the space for, you know, stalking & terrorizing one of the volunteers. he explained to a couple of other volunteers that he didn’t mean to scare the woman; he was autistic & not great with social cues & thought he was just flirting. my response was, “it’s autism. it’s not Asshole Disease.” since when does atypical neurological functioning make it okay to be a fucking misogynist?

& granted, finch does acknowledge his sexism & begins making an effort to change it. it’s just amazing that his marriage lasted as long as it has, you know? long enough that he could begin the process of transformation & write this book. i wish him & his family the best of luck, but i am legitimately concerned that other people will read this book, diagnose themselves with autism on the internet, & use it as an excuse to behave selfishly.