Sunday, February 27, 2011

Housekeeping Post #1

A change in blog theme, Dear Reader, to celebrate the Autumn. It has been technically autumn here for a few weeks now, and it's beginning to grow cooler some nights and mornings, although during the day the hot weather has yet to relent. I hope to encourage the heat to dissipate with a change in blog design. I've also decreased the font size; I think it looks better, but if people have trouble reading it, please let me know.

It's heartening to check my stats and discover people have actually been reading my little blog. I hope people have been enjoying it, despite it being, at this point, just a book review and a handful of rants. I did create the blog to be largely a place to post book reviews but of course they are slower in coming than rants, as it does require me to read (or reread) books to write a review. Still, I'm nearly done with the next one I'm to post - I want to finish rereading it over again before posting the review. I'm generally happy with it, but I don't want to have forgotten anything.

I feel like I should tell you all a bit most about myself, or about the blog, or something like that. But I'm not sure what to say. I don't want to get too personal, as it's not terrifically relevant and anyway I think most of the people who come through here already know me already, from forums or social websites or similar. Still, if you have any questions, please ask them here and I'll answer them in a subsequent post. Anything I consider offensive or too personal will be ignored and deleted, of course. Also, any ideas for topics to cover in future posts will be cheerfully considered. A couple of people have already given me some ideas that will be covered in the future.

Having a dual-themed blog does present some problems, and some teething issues. I know some readers will be interested in feminist issues but not Pagan ones, and vice versa. I am happier at present with a dual-themed blog rather than two single-themed blogs, although I know that it's not always wise when starting a blog to split its focus. I think in time issues will get ironed out and the blog will find its feet, but I'm still interested in feedback on this as well. (Having said that, I will still keep the single blog for a time to see if those issues do indeed iron themselves out.)

So that's the state of things at the beginning of Autumn. The leaves are still green outside my window. The sun is still too bright, and still too hot. My toes are cold, though. The grapes in the garden are ripe. The sky is a rich blue. The dogs are asleep next to the hearth. And now I must away, to Sunday lunch with my family.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Afraid of Getting Fat

I follow a couple of tokophobia and childfree threads in forums. Occasionally, someone comes in and acts like an asshat, for whatever reason. As such I do, and will, have occasional reason to rant here about what is said. And something one of these asshats said has annoyed me. It annoys me not just for my own sake but for the sake of pregnant women.

"You need to grow up. You're just afraid of getting fat."

Pregnant women are. Not. Fat.

This isn't something people actually think, is it? That that distended belly is fat? I mean sure, a woman might put on some weight when she's pregnant (and she is entitled to do so), and some women were overweight to begin with, but that belly? not fat. It is in fact caused by a foetus growing within her uterus and so causing the muscles and skin and so forth to distend outwards.

For many people with tokophobia, this is what is disturbing. Not the prospect of being fat, but of their body being swollen out of shape by pressure from within.

To be criticised for something like a fear of gaining fat is maddening. As if there weren't a variety of ways in which pregnancy and childbirth change the body - sometimes forever.
The vaginal wall often tears - sometimes it doesn't, and should, so the physician cuts it. Then you get stitches. In your vagina.
The pelvic floor is weakened, increasing tendency for a prolapsed bladder, rectum or uterus. Don't know what a prolapse is? No one tells you, because it is so very gross.
Postnatal depression and postnatal psychosis.
Sexual dysfunction in the first year, resulting from reduced libido, vaginal dryness and pain during intercourse. Can also be related to that torn vaginal flesh I mentioned earlier.
The coccyx, or tailbone, can be broken. Yes. Pregnancy can be that violent.
Incontinence. Urinary AND fecal. It's that weakened pelvic floor causing trouble again. You don't even need to give birth vaginally to get this one.
Puerperal sepsis.
Hemorrage during childbirth.
Those abdominal muscles stay stretched out for quite some time. You really have to work at it to get it back to normal again.
Breasts inflate two cup sizes, and then deflate, becoming longer and flatter. They're also painful and leaky.
You bleed after pregnancy. For weeks.
Your internal organs shift to make room for the baby. Your colon goes up into your chest cavity. Your heart turns to the side. This is both gross and unnerving.
Not to mention the shuddering horror of having something living inside you, feeding off your organs.

Tokophobia, like all phobias, is irrational. For me, the warping of my body out of its proper shape and the idea of having something inside me are the most disturbing aspects, and what keep me from considering pregnancy anything but some sort of eldritch horror, like Azathoth or a Dalek without the rubbish bin. Everything else is just the icing on the cake, the logical and legitimate reasons why pregnancy is something to be avoided, and not a magical special miracle that is wonderful and shiny and not at all gross.

I mean, given all the down-sides, I honestly don't understand why people actually try to become pregnant. Especially given that you can circumvent the pregnancy issue by going out and adopting a kid. You can avoid the hideously boring first six months of life, too.

All that is even without mentioning what actually happens duing childbirth - including pooping as you push, and the fact that you don't just hug your baby straight after and everyone is happy. You have to pass the placenta as well. A big flabby organ, ejected through your vagina. It's disgusting.

......And then there's the exhaustion, the nausea, the hormones, the aches and pains that make daily life during pregnancy oh so much fun......

So no. It's not that I'm afraid of getting fat. (Well, I wouldn't like it, but it's not like if I don't get pregnant I'll never get fat. I do have to exercise and eat sensibly like everyone else.) There's a fair number of changes that happen to a woman's body during pregnancy, and some of those don't go away. There's not all that much in the way of fat involved. If you think pregnancy is "just getting fat", there are a lot of pregnant women out there just itching to beat you about the head with their copies of "Up the Duff".

It's a phobia. Phobia. As in, irrational fear. Your criticism is ridiculous. Reasoning away a phobia doesn't work. And if I wanted it, there's a long list of symptoms I can use to rationalise that fear.

More information:
Robert Winston: Human Body, Every Miracle
Warning! This video includes people without clothes on. If you have some sort of freakish problem with humans as they naturally are, or if you aren't able to separate things like breasts or penises from the context of sex, you may be offended. If you are, I suggest you take all your clothes off and stand in front of a mirror, and tell yourself you're beautiful until you believe it. Seriously. There's nothing wrong with the naked human form.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Book Review... or not.

I was going to review Alan Richardson's "Earth God Rising", but I'm on page ten and he's already made three comments that are heterocentric and sexist. I am really quite disturbed by this.... these comments were tangental to the point he was making and didn't need to be said at all. Whatever good I get from this book is destroyed because I can't read it without feeling disgusted. A book celebrating male divinity doesn't have to beat down women, and vice versa.

So, sorry about that. The next review may be a while coming. I simply can't bring myself to finish this one.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

THIS JUST IN: Pregnancy Not Always a Walk in the Park

If you know me, you'll know I'm childfree. You'll also know I have nothing against those who choose to breed. You know, so long as they don't furnish me with constant details, or anything. Indeed, part of being pro-choice is supporting the rights of pregnant women to have the pregnancy and birth that they choose. And one of the things that I tend to get up in arms about is the taboo surrounding expressing feelings of depression, frustration or disconnection during or after pregnancy.

I frequent a few forums, and in my wanderings came upon a woman who was distressed and upset because, she said, she had no connection to her 10 week old foetus. She had been under the impression that women bonded instantly with their zygotes and stayed that way right the way through, and because she hadn't done so, there must be something terribly wrong with her.

These feelings are more common than she (and many other women) realise. Societal pressure for women to be perfect, flawless mothers means that those that do speak up and try to voice their emotional distress aren't embraced and supported but ruthlessly attacked. Oh, not always, I grant you - but far too often. They are called horrible women, told they will be bad mothers and that they may as well abort or adopt the baby out, because they're obviously not going to make a good parent. These things happened to the woman I saw in the forums, and they happen to other women too. So women feeling that disconnect from their foetus don't express those feelings (would you, knowing you'd be at the receiving end of a barrage of insults and attacks?) and so feel isolated, as if they're the only people who feel that disconnect.

Women who have easy, happy pregnancies may give birth and realise they feel nothing for their children. Months may pass without this lifting. They might feel fear or dread when holding or looking at their baby. They may worry that they will never love their child. They may not want to hold their child, or breastfeed, or spend time with their child. These are indicators of post-partum (also called post-natal) depression, which is surprisingly common. Doctors and Plunket nurses will be able to diagnose and give more information, and help mothers with their support networks. But there are also women who, with hormones and a new baby to deal with and other life issues besides, are simply so busy or exhausted they don't have the time to bond with their babies.

It's not automatic. And we're conditioned to believe it should be.

Which leaves women who don't automatically love their babies feeling like horrible people. And gods help them if they try to express their frustration and distress.

Depression - which I will say now I have experienced, at least the non-post-natal variety - is exhausting. Absolutely physically and emotionally exhausting. It's hard getting help at the best of times, if nothing else because actually reaching out to others takes energy that's difficult to even contemplate expending. It's difficult to imagine building up the courage and strength to reach out for that help only to be harshly criticised for emotions that they can't help feeling, and shamed by others as bad mothers and bad women. They aren't bad women. They aren't bad mothers. But for many, as far as they know they're the only women in the world who feel the way they do, because it's so difficult to say. Difficult to admit, in a world where new mothers feel like they should know everything, in a world where mothers should love their children instantly and unconditionally, that they are sad, they are afraid, and they are unable to cope on their own.

Now pregnancy is a difficult time for many women. They may be feeling depressed, maybe they aren't connecting with their foetus. Maybe it's simply a difficult pregnancy and their symptoms are making their life hell. And when they express this, every so often, they get a comment like this:

"Do you know what I would give to be able to experience [that] 'hell'? I might not be able to get pregnant. I'd give anything just to be able to have one child of my own. So, I find this very offensive, and hurtful." 

And yes, that is an actual quote.
How is it some women can be so utterly and disgustingly self-centred as to consider every pregnant woman venting her frustration or reaching out for help as some sort of personal insult? You're offended? Why? Because a pregnant person dares to admit that their experience isn't one of constant ecstasy? Because she dares express emotions that are normal? Is a normal woman's natural response to her pregnancy actually offensive to you? What the fuck is your problem?

God forbid women be less than perfect. God forbid that pregnancy be anything less than a cake-walk. Apparently not going through life with a smile plastered across your face makes you some kind of failure as a woman, and if you complain, ever, all you're doing is intentionally hurting other women who would so dearly love to have such terrible problems as you have.

What happened here? Where did this crap come from? Fuck these taboos. New mothers are allowed to be human and they need to know that they are not alone, and that they're not failures or bad mothers for feeling what they feel.

I'm with you, ladies. I know that you secretly want to spit venom at those damn women whose pregnancies are a constant joy, who float around as if carrying a baby makes them the Virgin Mary or something and who coo over your belly while making inane comments about their own pregnancies. "Oh are you craving pickles yet? I simply couldn't get enough pickles. Have you chosen a name yet? Don't you just LOVE being pregnant?" Meanwhile you're barely aware of what's going on because you're so damn fatigued, and you're all stretched out of shape and feeling ill and not at all enthustiastic and all you want to do is punch these cooing bantams in the face and then lie down and drink some tequila, which you can't do BECAUSE YOU'RE FUCKING PREGNANT.

Plunket on Post-Natal Depression
Wikipedia on Post-Partum Depression
 Y'know, see your doctor, and all that. Peace.