Occasionally, I come across something in a magazine, or a book, or a movie, or Faceb.ook posts, or memes, that irritate the bejeezus out of me.
These past couple weeks had a few, mostly internet-based, that I just had to write about so I could get it out and let it go.
Offhand Remark About Miscarriage
So, I was idly scrolling around Faceb.ook when I came across an article about Ali W.ong. If you haven't seen her special, Ba.by Cob.ra, and you like crass humor that's dry, she is the best. Of course, she's seven and a half months pregnant in the special, so that could be a deterrent for some, and she does a bit on how she needed some science to get pregnant, in the form of progesterone suppositories (and everything she says about those is SPOT ON and hilarious, except she must not have had the kind I did once that looked like a strawberry tart in a tin and had these red plastic caps that you could put on your fingertips like claws after and pretend to be a monster, and the cats really found them entertaining, to the point where I am STILL finding red plastic claw caps in random places under furniture when I do a deep clean). But the biggest warning is that she talks about her miscarriage, sort of as a joke, and that can be not so fun if your miscarriage wasn't seen as a blessing in disguise or a way to get things out of your husband. NOW. I know that she probably didn't actually do those things at the time. And in the article, which I read before I watched the special on Net.flix, she does say that she was depressed after her miscarriage, and I'm sure you don't include that part of the experience in your special because it's not ha-ha funny, but you have to dramatize things to make it laughable or provocative.
The thing that really pissed me off was that then she said that another comic and mom friend advised her "that people need to know that you're O.K. in order to laugh at your tragedy. I was able to get pregnant again, so people knew that I was O.K." So, instead of the "thank god I'm not having twins" way that she describes it in her special, she does say that it was a tragedy. But the part I took exception with was, I was able to get pregnant again, so people knew that I was O.K. Um, not to get all serious, but are you not O.K. if you can't get pregnant again? If you join the hordes of women who have a miscarriage (or multiple) and then CANNOT get pregnant again, are you not okay? Am I not okay because I never got pregnant again? I realize I personalize it a bit, but I felt that was a horrible message, that you're not okay if you don't get pregnant again. Because I can certainly joke about how my mothership is a ghostly death ship, but I consider myself okay, even though I never got pregnant again after my miscarriage. You can totally be okay even if you don't get pregnant and show the world you did it. Instead, you can show the world you're okay because you didn't succeed but you survived it.
I was so mad reading the article, but then I had to watch the special before passing judgment, because even though it was an interview and in her words, interviews can get skewed. I needed the source. And I loved the special, I really did--it was super funny and she is SMART and funny, but the miscarriage bit made me upset. The only good thing was that she did say she was talking about her miscarriage because she wanted people to talk about it, that as a society people keep that information close, and then you're left feeling alone when it happens to you. That part I appreciated. So, I forgive you, Ali W.ong, for saying something I felt was insensitive, because you are seriously funny and you had messages that weren't hideous, too.
A Very Tricky Meme
A friend of mine is battling a rare disease. It's been a long battle, and she conceived through IVF because she needed to get pregnant ASAP so she could be off her lifesaving meds for the smallest amount of time. This is a hard situation to be in, to weigh the impact on your health and life against having babies. She has two children, but continues fighting her diagnosis.
She posted a meme up on facebook that read:
Giving up is not an option when someone calls you mommy.
It was hard, because I wanted to be supportive of her, and like it to show my support for her, but the message of that meme was really hard to swallow. I get that your children depend on you when you're a mommy, but I can't help but see the inverse of that statement, that it's somehow easier to give up if you don't have children. That your life is somehow more valuable if you're a mom. It follows a lot of the other things out there where moms are touted as better than non-moms, capable of deeper, stronger love, with inhuman strength to hold families together, yada yada yada. I am not denigrating motherlove here. But I hate memes like that because it makes it seem like some lives are more valuable than others. When there is a tragic death, somehow it is more sympathetic if it's like "young mom of two" or "mother of three" than if it was "single woman" or "childless woman." And I know, moms do have people dependent on them, but don't I, too? Don't I have a husband who would miss me very much, and cats who might not get their litter boxes cleaned as frequently, and a mass of family and friends who would hate to see me go? Wouldn't it be sad to think of the teaching I wouldn't get to do, the accomplishments I'd never achieve, outside of motherhood?
Facing a difficult diagnosis or illness is difficult, but it should be hard to give up on the fight regardless if you have children or not. The message shouldn't be that simply by having children your life is more valuable and more worth fighting for. I applaud my friend's fight to survive, and I don't think that she meant ill will by posting that meme. However, I would support fighting a life-threatening situation whether she was a mom or not.
The Endless "Put the Swimsuit On" Mommy Posts
I love body positivity. I am trying super hard to be consistently body positive myself, even though I am constantly tested by things like hives and crappy knees and needing old lady orthotics to prevent foot pain and asthma that tries to kill me when I get the flu and all that. I do the best with what I've got, and what I've got is PCOS and a genetic predisposition to not be thin, despite the fact that I regularly walk 5 miles or more every day and enjoy hiking and do some kind of yoga/pilates blend 3 times a week or so (more and my joints are like WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU TRYING TO DO, CRAZY LADY?). I like pilates quite a bit. I also like pie. And so, my body is never going to be anything resembling athletic. I will be a size 12 forever (I'm trying really hard not to creep up in size). I can improve my endurance, and my strength, but my tummy is pretty damn resistant to shrinkage now that I'm 40 (and all through my thirties, and pretty much life). Plus, you know, I went through a shitload of infertility treatments that messed with my hormones and seemed to have reset my body's comfort level, the weight it likes to revert to. I am trying to accept that as long as I do all the healthy things, that my body is as good as it gets.
But this time of year, there are all these articles that come out on how you can't miss out on being out there with your children, on being in pictures with your children, because you hate how your body looks in a swimsuit. That in itself is a great message, and I love it very much. Where it starts making me feel a pit of distaste deep in my chubby belly is when they start going on and on about how AMAZING women's bodies are, how you have cellulite and stretch marks and a pooch because your body can MAKE LIFE and how great is that? You go, mama, because every roll and ripple and saggy boob sustained your children at the most vital time, and so BE PROUD of your body because it is a MIRACLE MANUFACTURER!
This is fantastic and empowering if your body creates miracles instead of tiny deaths and attritions. When your rolls are in part due to an endocrine disorder that has helped rob you of fertility as well as the result of occasionally eating your feelings, it has a different tone. My body is USELESS when it comes to creating humans. And when I read all about how amazing it is to be body positive because of the life-giving properties of women's bodies and mom bodies in particular, it makes me feel super deficient. I will never breast feed someone from my boobs (yes, yes, I know about induced lactation, please go here if you'd like my analysis of why that won't work for me physically or more importantly, emotionally). They do have a pattern of lovely green veins that appeared one time I was pregnant and never went away, so I guess I do have a battle scar from that... as well as scars on my lower belly from the laparoscopy that saved my life from the ectopic and removed one of my tubes along with the baby-shaped tumor that was threatening my existence and future fertility (HA, future fertility). I know that my body is amazing because it can (sort of) bounce back from having ovaries the size of large navel oranges and that I can be a human pincushion for the chance of having a baby, but I don't think the articles care about that. I am not their target audience.
Maybe when I go to the beach I should borrow other people's children so that people can be like, "what a brave woman, out in her swimsuit, rocking that body that made LIVES!"
Or I can go and not care about the body I have, that I take decently good care of, that is capable of climbing mountains and walking all day and doing squats and stuff even though my knees creak through all of those activities. I can be proud of my body that sustains me daily even though it never sustained anybody else, and know that this is a body that survived infertility.
There. I feel much better having gotten all that out. Call me bitter if you'd like, but as an infertility survivor (if not a success story), it's amazing where these feelings can come from. The smallest thing can trigger righteous indignation at implications that not-mother, not-pregnant, is not nearly as good or as valuable or as brave as Mother is.