Ask the grumpies: why does the patriarchy think it owns pregnant women?

Rented life asks:

Why is it every time I make a comment about how you shouldn’t comment/touch/etc pregnant women, some asshat needs to tell me that “like it or not” pregnant women are seen as public property? (I’d frankly argue ALL women are seen this way but I won’t fill up this comment with why). That these things are primal urges and I should just accept them? Hello slippery slope.

I know the short answer is patriarchy, but seriously, I am tired of having to work so hard against this.

Yeah, it’s the patriarchy.  You have our sympathy.

Sympathy and related complaints from the Grumpy peanut gallery?

Ask the grumpies: When to tell about a pregnancy?

Sunflower asks:

I am in my first year in a t-t position (although I had a two year limited term contract in the same position before convincing them to move me into a tenure-stream position). My husband (who is also t-t faculty in the same dept as me) and I are pregnant with our first child and are now at the “we can tell people” stage (13 weeks). We are not sure who to tell (or how) at work about our exciting (for us!) news. We will tell our Dean as soon as we can (we are non-departmentalized, so he’s our “immediate” report) – but are not sure how to go about telling our chair, colleagues, students, etc. We are collegial with most of our colleagues but not friends with them outside of work.

We talked about announcing it at our group meeting (not the whole faculty, but the subset that we work closest with), telling individuals and just letting word spread, not telling anyone and waiting until they figure it out… but haven’t decided which is best. Then there is the issue of telling our grad students (and the rest of the students in our area but not in our lab groups). We are both generally well-liked by the students, so we anticipate that they will all be happy for us… but it is gossip that will spread very quickly, so we have to be careful that the right people know first (e.g., the Dean) so that they don’t find out through the rumor mill.

We are both relatively private people – we keep work and private lives separate and don’t socialize with our colleagues outside of work functions (we are younger than most of them so we don’t really have much in common other than work-related things). We may be underestimating their reactions, but we are also cautious about how this will impact both of us (particularly me) – my chair is quite sexist and I’ve had to fight him on a number of things (although our Dean is a strong gay man and doesn’t put up with sexist nonsense from anyone, which is great!).

Only you can make these decisions (and perhaps you have already!)  I’m probably not the best person to ask– I told the people who mattered (my chair who is doing class scheduling and one of my friends who gave excuses when I had the miscarriage scare) and then took perverse pleasure in noticing when other people at work found out via the grapevine.  (I had a post about that in the drafts for a while but then had the baby before finishing it.)  It’s funny watching people gradually notice one’s growing belly.  You can tell they know when they start asking, “And how are you doing?” rather than the standard, “How’re you?”  There’s also a lot more door opening.  I found it greatly amusing with both pregnancies.

Of course, one of the dept secretaries just flat out asked me pretty early on this time around, and I always answered honestly if anyone asked.  And I did go to great lengths to hide it from a more sexist colleague in another department– his department didn’t know until someone’s wife saw me heavily pregnant at the grocery store when I wasn’t wearing something bulky.  Hopefully I’ve broken his stereotypes about pregnancy, babies, and women’s work ability.

And when one of my male colleagues announced his wife’s pregnancy (their child is about 2 months younger than our youngest), I mentioned to him, “me too”, but didn’t announce it to all and sundry.  Because I prefer to be sneaky like that.

My students cornered me one day before class and asked why I wasn’t signed up to teach anything the next semester.

So, if this advice is still useful, tell your dean as soon as you figure out what you want.  (Is there maternity leave?  Teaching load reductions?  What do other departments do if there isn’t an institutionalized policy?  I definitely recommend the teaching load reduction if you can get it because people will assume you got one even if you didn’t.)  As for the rest of the department, it’s up to you.

Any more advice for Sunflower?  (If applicable) How/when did you tell your colleagues other than your boss?  What have your colleagues done, and how did that work out?

A sad update on the relatives

The babies were set to be delivered at 37 weeks, to be induced if necessary.  The smaller twin had had several scares and had forced at least one extended hospital stay.

Just before 35 weeks, she went into labor.  They rushed to the nearest big hospital, and then to the big city hospital two hours away.  The smaller twin had died.  They stopped the labor and recommended she try to keep the babies gestating a little longer.  A few days later she went into labor again and 18 hours later they were born.  The larger twin was 5lb 4oz and other than standard preemie stuff (not wanting to be touched, lungs not fully developed) was doing fine at birth.  They held a funeral service at the hospital and another back home for the smaller twin.

The other baby is now off the ventilator and feeding tube and is cuddly and should be coming home soon.

Ask the grumpies: Suggestions on books for the new sibling?

Reader I asks through email:

I have a question for the one of you who recently had a second baby. I have a 4yo daughter and am soon due with a second girl. Were there any books that you found helpful in preparing DC1 for what life might be like with a new baby in the family? (that are not aimed at toddlers) What did you do to prepare hir? My daughter is super excited about getting a baby sister, but obviously she has no real clue how her life is going to change.

We talked a bit about books for parents on sibling rivalry, but came up with pretty much a blank.  However, there are a lot of books aimed at kids themselves.

We went through a bunch of books on what’s going on in mommy’s belly, though you have to scan through them because many are not age appropriate. For this we just hit the children’s nonfiction section in the library, and I read through a bunch before checking them out.  Finding out more about what was going on made the process less scary, especially after I stopped throwing up so much.

Many sibling books tell kids that they’re going to be feeling jealous but mommy and daddy still love them. We avoided these books based on research about how educational television makes kids misbehave by providing examples of misbehavior.

The book we found most helpful was Dr. Sears, What Baby Needs. It’s great because it explains generally what is going on (you’ll still want more about the baby developing and stuff, most likely– we found that “what size fruit/veggie is the unborn baby” each week helped), and what big sibling can do to help.  It’s upbeat, explanatory, and not preachy.  DC1 read it over and over, and definitely liked the suggestion to cuddle with mom while she’s nursing the baby.  (Ze also liked to mention that the baby doesn’t know how to do anything at first.)

There were some other books we had on the amazon wishlist but didn’t actually get. There’s a Mr. Rogers book that looked good, but we haven’t seen it so I can’t be sure of it.  We also had some videos on the Netflix queue, but I can’t recommend the Sesame St. one and we never did end up watching the rest.

Grumpy readership, do you have any more suggestions for books for older siblings?

Motherhood Online: A book review

We  were sent Motherhood Online by the editor, Michelle Moravec.

This book is a scholarly academic tome, but even given that, there are only two articles in it that I would call inaccessible to non-academic readers.  (And those two articles are both short and probably inaccessible to most academic readers as well.)  Non-academic readers will find the first section just as amusing and the second and third sections just as interesting as this academic reader.

The book starts out with case studies that will be familiar to anyone who has ever been on a pregnancy or mothering forum.  It does seem that if you’ve been on one of these forums, you’ve really been on all of the forums, for all the differences we perceive between the mothering.coms and the babycenters of the world, the dynamics are not that much different, even across forums from different countries.  Oddly, this section is titled “Theoretical perspectives” but is, for the most part, a-theoretical and, for the most part, focuses on each author’s own experiences with an online parenting community.

The second section… titled, “Case studies” includes articles with a broader theory base, more formal qualitative methods, and comparisons across different cases.  This second section focuses on communities that many of us have had less experience with, but are interesting in their own rights.  I especially enjoyed the studies of teenage mothers, autistic parents, port-wine stain, stay-at-home dads, and really most of the articles in this section.  I felt like I learned something reading many of these articles.

The last section focuses on blogs and community, with the stand-out piece being one on the community of people from developed countries who use (employ?) Indian women as surrogate mothers.

Although the introduction focuses on the positives to these online communities, the articles themselves are even-handed with both the positives (community building, information sharing, support) and the negatives (conflict, incorrect information, rationalization, etc.)  The authors come from a number of different disciplines, including communication, sociology, public health, anthropology, history and others.  These different disciplinary paths and perspectives come across in the methodology and writing.  Obviously we feel more comfortable with the social scientist methodologies, but other disciplines provide for entertaining reading and discussion.

Is this worth reading?  Sure!  Especially if you’re into non-fiction and would like to think a bit about they dynamics of online communities.  The book includes a nice collection of articles that, should, for the most part, be as easy to read as a Malcolm Gladwell book, but with perhaps a few more citations included.

Pregnancy Exercises

The BEST thing about the Bradley Course we took when I was enciente with DC was the exercises.

I’ve been recently reminded that I need to start doing those again because they feel so good.  (And not doing them… is kind of achy.)

1.  Pelvic Tilt/Pelvic Rocking:  This is the most amazing thing ever.  You get on your hands and knees and put your back flat, then you tilt your pelvis forward and back.  It should feel amazing.

2.  Butterfly.  Sit with the flats of your feet together and try to get your knees to touch the ground.  There’s also a variant where your partner pressures your knees in the other direction.

3.  Tailor sitting.  This is sitting with your legs crossed, but they don’t overlap.

4.  Squatting.  Something one should be doing a lot whenever one needs to pick something up off the ground.

5.  Kegels.  Also helpful when you sneeze…

6.  Relaxation while cuddling.  We haven’t done this one so much, but we made it an important part every day when DC was on hir way.

Any pregnancy tips you found helpful?

Weird things I eat and don’t: Gluten free whole-grain no sugar fru fru

Things I’ve been eating:

  • Stonyfield farm plain yogurt with fruit, trail mix, and crumpled up puffed brown rice from Lundberg farms brown rice cakes.
  • Spaghetti sauce … over beans.
  • Cream cheese on brown rice cakes.
  • Boursin on tortilla chips– this is amazing.  Sadly in a few weeks I won’t be able to eat tortilla chips anymore because they’re not gylcemically balanced enough for third trimester.  (Btw, even though boursin is soft, it should be ok because it’s more like cream cheese than like brie in terms of pathogens.)
  • Breakfast burritos on corn tortillas (ditto on the soon unable to eat)
  • Cheap brown rice sushi from a place in town that is totally like the Subway Sandwiches of Sushi.
  • Annie Chun’s Mai fun brown rice noodles.  In stir-fry!  In soup!  But not with spaghetti sauce as that would be wrong.

Horrific discoveries:

  • Most (but not all) of the Mexican places in town put flour in their cheese sauces.  It will be a long time before I eat out at a Mexican place again.
  • Many places in town lightly dust fish fillets with flour before grilling.
  • Even though buckwheat flour isn’t wheat, I can only eat four bites or so of a 100% buckwheat flour pancake before my body refuses and sends the signal to my brain:  What are you doing?!?!  Are you crazy?  Then whenever I think about pancakes my body tries to decide whether or not to feel queasy, but when I don’t think about it I feel fine, until someone posts on her blog about chocolate chip pancakes and my body starts going hey, shouldn’t we be feeling queasy by now?
  • But I don’t have the same problem with buckwheat waffles.
  • Most gluten-free pizzas are DISGUSTING.  Also really expensive.  (The pesto one we tried wasn’t so bad though… but not really worth $9 for a personal size.)  Though if there were a Lou Malnati’s in town I’d totes order his gluten-free pizza (formerly his Atkin’s pizza)– sausage crust is awesome.
  • 100% buckwheat soba is also pretty gross.
  • I cannot reuse the pasta pot without cleaning it first, even if it just boiled spaghetti.
  • There’s a local cheesemaker that makes amazing raw cows and sheep milk cheeses.  Or so I’m told by the rest of my family members.
  • Ethnic Gourmet only has one brown rice entree left, everything else has been switched to white rice.
  • Grocery store just started stocking a tonne of new ben and jerry’s flavors… they ALL either have wheat or they have no fat.  *whimper*

Fruits (and vegetables) of my womb

DC was initially cautiously unenthusiastic about the idea of a younger sibling. We got a lot of, “Why do you want another baby?” and no amount of “You’re so amazing, etc.” seemed to allay hir confusion and mild anxiety about the idea.

What started getting hir a bit more in tune with the idea was being able to visualize what was going on with the baby. Checking books out from the library helped, but before that we hit up the internets and their multitudinous pregnancy-week-by-week websites. Especially when the site compared the baby’s size to fruit.

We started with grape. Mommy has a grape-sized baby in her belly. “Mommy has a baby-sized grape in her belly?” DC guffawed. Nooooo, a grape-sized baby. This big. “This big?” Every week (on Tuesday) we check for the new fruit. Every week the same ritual. “Mommy has a baby-sized peach/avocado/grapefruit in her belly?” Noooooo, a peach-avocado-grapefruit sized baby! “This big?” This big. Ze did have to ask what a grapefruit was (“Remember that fruit you refused to eat when we went to the bed and breakfast? So mommy ate yours?”)

It has helped. So has being able to feel the baby kick with hir hand to belly.

Pulled from the internets:

week 7: a grain of rice
week 8: raspberry
week 9: grape
week 10: prune
week 11: fig or walnut
week 12: kiwi or lime
week 13: peach
week 14: lemon
week 15: apple
week 16: avocado
week 17: red onion
week 18:  Grapefruit
week 19: large heirloom tomato
week 20: length of a banana
week 21: length of a carrot
week 22: spaghetti squash
week 23: weight of a large mango
week 24: length of an ear of corn
week 25: rutabega
week 26: “an English hothouse cucumber”
week 27: cauliflower
week 28: chinese cabbage
week 29: butternut squash
week 30: cabbage
week 31: four navel oranges
week 32: jicama
week 33: pineapple
week 34: cantaloupe
week 35: honeydew melon
week 36: crenshaw melon
week 37: swiss chard
week 38: leek
week 39: mini-watermelon
week 40: small pumpkin
week 41: baby

If you have more than one child, how did you get the older used to the idea of a younger? (With me it wasn’t an issue as I had been lobbying for a little sister for years before I got one… DC, otoh, has been perfectly happy as an only.)


is currently the bane of my existence.

I threw up a lot first trimester.  After all sorts of stuff.  Coming into second trimester (and weaning off metformin), one thing still makes me throw up.


I’ll eat something with wheat in it, purposefully or not.  (Oh, Tempura… Oh, Worcestershire sauce…How you wound me.)  Then an hour or two later, I will empty the contents of my stomach.  I will repeat the process after the next meal no matter what I ate for that second meal.  I will spend the next day or two feeling queasy depending on how much wheat I ingested.

I hate this.

The internet tells me it could be two things.  I could have a wheat allergy or I could have celiac (wheat intolerance is less likely).  Both can be triggered by pregnancy.  If it is an allergy, it might go away.  If it is celiac, I am stuck with it for life.  If it is an allergy, according to the ‘net, it could become life-threatening by suddenly causing me to be unable to breathe (so I should carry around allergy meds just in case).  If celiac, it could hurt the baby’s growth if I’m not careful.

I brought my inability to eat wheat up at the doctor’s appointment and she was all, “Just don’t eat wheat”… and I’m like, Lady, it could be an allergy and could go away or it could be celiac, and celiac is pretty serious.  So basically she was no help.  (This was one of many reasons I switched back to my original doctor the next day, despite doctor #1’s overbooked schedule.)

The internet suggested a test to me to see if it is more likely to be celiac or an allergy (since throwing up is a symptom of either, and it doesn’t stay down long enough to present other symptoms).  Apparently rye has gluten in it, so you can’t eat it if you’re celiac but you can eat it if you’re allergic.  So I ate some rye wasa wafers and was fine, so hopefully the internet is right and it’s an allergy that will go away in a few months (because insulin resistance + celiac = misery).  Of course, I’m a bit sick of rye wasa wafers from overdoing it on them even before the anti-wheat stuff popped up.

I LOVE Indian food.  I love lentil flour.  I love papadam and pakora and methu vada and some of the dosa.  One of our admin assistants told me there’s an Indian place in the city that does gluten-free lentil noodles– man I wish I could try those.  I was loving sushi (cooked or veggie only) until the tempura mistake.  Also sweet potato is on my “ugh” list because a lot of things just don’t taste good anymore once you’ve tried them the other direction.  I’m getting a bit tired of brown rice cakes and a bit tired of oatmeal (recall, I can’t eat refined grains because of glycemic load… so there are a lot of corn, rice, and potato options that are closed to me).  We keep a pot of cooked quinoa or brown rice in the fridge at all times.  Sometimes I’ll use beans in place of noodles.  While the family enjoys spaghetti… I pretend I’m in a different part of Italy.

Last time around I was unable to eat wheat for a while, but it was combined with my inability to keep *anything* except fruit down.  So it wasn’t just the wheat.  And it went away by now, I think.  (My memory is kind of fuzzy at this point, but I think it stopped shortly after 2nd trimester started.  Definitely after I’d gotten off Metformin.)

So… not much point to this post, but that I’m feeling sorry for myself!  I could do wheat-free OR insulin resistant, but doing both SUCKS exponentially.  And I am so glad a good Indian place came to town last year so I can eat there at least once a week.

Why take a Bradley class?

Forget the epidural vs no epidural part.  Bradley classes are a wonderful thing and it would be great if more folks took them, even if planning on pain medication.  I can’t remember exactly, but ours were once a week for a couple of hours for 2-3 months.

Childbirth isn’t 100% natural.  Evolution must have relied on culture in order to make it work, just like breast-feeding doesn’t come 100% naturally.  In the past there were always women around to give tips on what worked for them.   Though, of course, childbirth is more natural than we make it in many hospital settings… for example, I really wanted to squat while pushing, but other heads prevailed and I ended up on my back in a position from which it would be more comfortable for the doctor to catch the baby.

The 1-3 hour childbirth classes from the hospital really don’t cut it when it comes to everything that’s going to happen with the birth and before and after.

The best part of Bradley classes, IMO, is the information on pain management during pregnancy as well as during labor.  The Bradley method heavily borrows from cognitive behavioral therapy techniques (CBT) for relaxation including breathing, positive visualization, progressive muscle relaxation and so on.  Prenatal yoga also borrows some of these techniques, but I’ve been told from people who have done both that the Bradley techniques are better and more focused.  In addition to the CBT techniques, a Bradley class will provide exercises that help stretch or strengthen the exact muscles that need to be stretched or strengthened.  I remember the first day of class when we learned the pelvic tilt– a collective sigh of relief from pain we didn’t realize could go away came from all the prospective mothers.  And I remarked to DH, just learning that one stretch made every penny we’d spent on the class totally worth it.

Bradley classes also provide valuable information for after that helps another unnatural/cultural gap:  breast-feeding.  There are a lot of counter-intuitive things about breast-feeding that cause insecure young moms to doubt their abilities, when in fact, it’s just the natural order of things.  Things like how a newborn’s tummy is the size of a marble and how and when one can expect it to grow, what colostrum is and when milk is expected to come in and what it looks like, where to find help for nursing in the community, and so on.

Yes, it would be great if the doctor’s visits gave this information, but most doctors visits seem to be focused on the medical aspects — blood pressure, what’s in your urine, and drugs, not exercises or relaxation.

I did have a natural childbirth.  It really wasn’t so bad (not like my crippling fear of anesthesiologists).  I don’t particularly buy the propaganda that a natural childbirth is what’s best for the baby, but I tend to believe that it does speed up childbirth in normal cases (I also believe that an epidural can speed up childbirth in a subset of cases), and may help avert c-sections.  I will say that I only know two kinds of mothers who successfully had natural childbirths– those who had premature babies and didn’t make it in time for an epidural and those who took Bradley classes.  (I know a few women who did Lamaze or hypnobirthing, but did not end up with natural births, but I don’t know as many women who did those classes, so it could just be a small n.)

When the contractions came at first, it hurt a lot.  Then my mom, a Bradley class veteran from 20-odd years prior said, “Shouldn’t you be breathing or something?”  And I did.  And my doula timed my contractions in 10 second intervals, just like in that awful exercise in class with the super-cold water (which, btw, hurt more than my contractions), and I alternated a hot shower with a heating pad.  And really, it wasn’t so bad once I remembered to breath.  There were other techniques we learned and tried that didn’t work so well (like the positive visualization or playing the calming CD we’d been listening to while snuggling each night, and other positions and stretches), but other mothers in the class said worked great for them.  The main thought that stuck in my head was, “How do women who didn’t learn these relaxation techniques survive before the pain killer kicks in?”  Unimaginable.

If you ask most Bradley instructors, they’ll tell you that their main job is to give the woman control– control of her birth experience, control of her body, and the ability to trust that she and her birth team are making the right decisions.*  No woman should regret her birth experience.  And I think having information, not only on when a birth goes right, but also information on things that can go wrong and what the various options are and pros and cons for those options so that nothing is a surprise, really does help in that respect.  I knew what to expect during labor and in the delivery room and what the words they used when monitoring meant.  If I’d had to have a c-section I would have known that it was a necessary c-section.  No second guessing, no regrets.  And I think that’s powerful too.

But really, it’s all about the pain management during pregnancy and labor (especially prior to an epidural).  Most awesome thing ever.

Have you taken a Bradley class?  If you’ve given birth, how did you deal with pain before getting to the hospital?

*Yes, some are preachy people who suck.  Sadly that seems to be true in every area of life.  But the ones in our town are the good kind who just want to give women agency so that birth is a positive experience.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 226 other followers