Spun (#206)

You may have noticed some outrage on my page these days. And those are only the public messages, not the private ones. Some people are seriously pissed at me for writing posts that do not laud childbearing.

To which I say, why? Why is it so important that we revere pregnancy and procreation?

I’m gonna go with the marketing of Big Religion. Once birth control went mainstream, women suddenly had the option of not spending their lives trapped in an endless cycle of what The Women’s Room termed “[baby] shit and string beans.” More and more women saw they’d been denied the opportunities of their male counterparts. They got angry. They demanded the pill and equal rights.

Big Religion pushed back, utilizing Christian conservatives. Religious types blasted feminists as harlots and undesirables, while praising traditional, stay-at-home mothers. Conservatives labeled women shrill. Ball-busters. And don’t think this ended in the 1970s. Rush Limbaugh is still obsessed with Hillary Rodham Clinton, mocking her 70s pants, hair, and glasses this century.

Much of America couldn’t get past the avalanche of conservative spin. The Bible Belt certainly couldn’t. Hillary Rodham took Bill Clinton’s last name. She ditched the glasses, dyed her hair blonde, and traded in her pants for pink suits with skirts.

It worked. Arkansas embraced her. America embraced her.

And Hillary bided her time until she thought America had evolved enough to accept a strong woman in pants.

Turns out, we hadn’t. 53% of white women voters went for Trump instead. A guy who bragged about assaulting women.

Last week, 63% of white women in Alabama went for alleged child molester Roy Moore. Were we going backwards or what?

Not all of us. If you break down the numbers, those women think of themselves as Evangelical Christians. The same group that went for Trump. How can two such sinful men get so much of the so-called Christian vote?

Religious spin, of course. (Racism, too, but that’s another post.) The same Big Religious Patriarchy that went all in on feminist harlots went all in on abortion. They made the embryo the most sacred of all cows, and motherhood the holiest of all callings. (Once you have a kid, though, it can starve to death or die from lack of medical attention, especially if it’s poor or not white.) And the southern states bought in, big time. They ignore other issues, because abortion is murder and murder is bad, and you don’t vote for what is bad and that makes voter research quick. It’s a win for the lazy voter and religion, a loss for the country.

Big, Religious Patriarchy has been effectively spinning for years. The more kids their adherents have, the more their power religious leaders wield. No wonder the womb is sacred. Of course religious leaders praise women for fulfilling their “traditional” roles and being “obedient and “feminine.”

And even if you aren’t religious, this reactionary spin seeps into our media, our culture, and our bones.

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Spin is everywhere. Even here, on my pages. On my previous posts, where I list reasons not to have children. That doesn’t mean those reasons aren’t legitimate, mind you.

And I still think people should think – long and hard – before having kids. I wish we all hit puberty with a form of birth control. Then humans would have to consciously opt in to have children, rather than consciously having to opt out.

But, perhaps like the religious right, some of my spin came from fear. Big Religion fears women gaining power, realizing they’ve been complicit in their own repression, and screaming “I’m outta here!”

I feared being a terrible parent, with a terrible temper, like my father. I feared that, like my mom, I’d be worn out, an emotionally empty vessel after all the years of taking care of children. I feared I wouldn’t be able to give a child all that it needs.

I got past those fears — mostly. I came to terms with adopting a child in need. Singular. One kid only, I could manage. But then my husband didn’t want to adopt. He wanted that one child to have half of my genes, and half of his.

And that’s even more terrifying. That’s goddamned genetic roulette.

Especially if your family has some, er, atypical genetics.

Like mine.

Starting with triplets. Yes, triplets. On her second pregnancy, my mother’s overachieving ovaries released three eggs. THREE! There were complications, including one stupid male doctor. Mom lost all three embryos, plus a fallopian tube and an ovary. (Don’t worry, she rallied and made up for it by having another five kids.)

There was no way in hell I could be a decent parent to 3 infants at once. Andy and I were on our own. We couldn’t afford a nanny. I told Andy that, in case of triplets, we would offer two of the babies up to two of my girlfriends who were planning to adopt. He thought I was joking.

I wasn’t.

He came around, grudgingly, when I pointed out that the alternative was not having kids.

But that still left us with one other genetic issue:

Asperger’s syndrome.

Asperger’s runs – nay, GALLOPS — in my family. If you’re familiar with Asperger’s, then you know it’s not officially called by that name anymore, but you’ll also know  the type of high functioning autism spectrum disorder that I’m referencing.

If you aren’t familiar, the character of Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory is probably the best example of Asperger’s in pop culture. Enigma code breaker Alan Turing is an excellent historical example.

“Aspies,” as some self-label, are characterized by being brilliant thinkers and social nightmares. Like one of my nephews, they might teach themselves to read and do long division by age three. Like one of my sisters, they may spend kindergarten in a corner, reading a book, painfully aware of their classmates’ ridicule.

They miss social cues. Their speech is sometimes flat, sometimes grating, and often alienating.

Aspies often require early, intensive intervention in order to fit in with their peers and make friends. Until recently, most Aspies didn’t get that intervention.

My father certainly didn’t. He’d never heard of Asperger’s until I informed him that he clearly had Adult Residual Asperger’s. I don’t think he believed me until one sister, her son, and another grandchild were officially diagnosed a few years later.

Dad had manners and social graces pounded into his head by his mother, though. He learned to fake neurotypical behavior well enough to achieve some career success (aided by being a white male with familial connections). Conversations with Dad often devolve into lectures, however, with the focus on HIS thoughts about HIS favorite topics.

That’s not surprising. Perseveration and one-sided conversations are two common indicators of Asperger’s.

It’s not just my genetics that are problematic, though. Do you remember who else on this blog perseverated relentlessly? On everything from doors to male grandchildren? And lacked the slightest bit of social grace or awareness?

Andy’s father Jay. There’s no way that man did not also have Adult Residual Asperger’s.

I pointed this out to Andy. Andy agreed.

I asked, once more, “Are you sure you want our own kid? We could have triplets. All. With. Asperger’s.”

Andy is an optimist. He said, “Or we might have one sweet, charming little girl.”

I snorted. “First, I already told you, we’d have a boy. Boys are something like five times more likely to be on the spectrum. Second, the Bossy Ashbough Tyrant gene is dominant. Are any females in my family sweet and charming?”

“Uh…Ex-Stepmother?”

“She was only an Ashbough by marriage and you know it. So let me ask again: are you absolutely sure you want to spin that genetic roulette wheel? Because there’s a good chance it could land on a red three.”

Andy’s a gambling man. He set his jaw and said, “Yes.”

And we spun.

Baby Battle (#205)

My parents procreated like rabbits. Then they got divorced and procreated some more. Given that having children is pretty much the worst thing a regular person – not an Exxon Executive or a Donald Trump – can do to the environment, I figured someone in my family owed it to Mother Earth to NOT have children.

There was just one problem. My husband wanted a kid.

I came up with a brilliant solution. We’d adopt an existing child. And since my husband was Chinese-American and I was a feminist, I thought a little girl from China would be perfect.

My husband had a slightly different take. He said, “No.”

My husband NEVER says a flat no. He hates confrontation. I asked, “What do you mean, ‘no?’ No Chinese baby girls? Do you hate the land of your father or what?”

“No adoption.”

“What? Why?”

“Because.”

“Because why?”

“I want my own kid. I want our kid. Not someone else’s.”

I should have expected that sort of response, given my husband’s reaction to the neighborhood kids who stopped by to play with our dogs. Like many men, Andy was the lion who wanted to kill any cubs that weren’t his. (Though he didn’t actually want to kill them so much as have them conveniently disappear.) I glowered and said, “I do not understand you. We adopted our dogs and you love them just fine.”

“A baby is not a dog!”

“And you,” I informed him, “are not the one who will have to host a parasite and swell up like a hippopotamus with gland problems in order to have a child of your own. YOU won’t throw up constantly. YOU won’t get ripped to pieces. ”

“It might not be that bad—”

“It will be that bad! I saw what happened with my mom and Judgmental Genius Doctor Sister. I can expect all that and probably more.”

“I thought your mom loved being pregnant.”

“Mom’s mental health always was questionable,” I said with a sigh. “What’s unquestionable is that her body was a mess afterwards. You’ll owe me all kinds of surgery.”

“No problem,” Andy assured me. “I’ll start saving now.”

I snorted. “You say that, but the baby will take all the money. You’ll have to max out the flexible spending and health care spending accounts.”

“Of course, of course!” Sensing victory, Andy rushed to promise me everything.

But I had some ammunition left. I knew how much Andy adored his niece and how ambivalent he was about his nephews. I told him, “And you know what, honey? If we have a baby, it’s NOT going to be a girl.”

“What?! No!” Andy yelled. “You can’t possibly know that!”

“Oh, yes, I can,” I told him. “Our child would be a boy.”

“Is this like your grandmother’s witchy sixth sense?” Andy demanded. (My father once caught an illegal ride on a milk truck when he was a teen. At the exact moment he fell off the truck, or so the story goes, his mother dropped her hand of bridge, said, “My son is hurt,” and took off. She drove to the exact spot where Dad lay in the road, put him in the car, and took him to the hospital. Supposedly this was the only game of bridge Gram never finished.)

“I dunno,” I said. “I just know we’d have a boy. So if you want a little girl, the only way you’re going to get one is if we adopt.”

“I don’t believe you,” Andy scoffed. “What if you’d married Ethan?”

“Ha! I would NEVER have married Ethan,” I told him. “But if I had, we would have a girl.”

“You — you can’t know that. Or this. Or anything like that or this!” Andy sputtered.

I shrugged and said, “Maybe not. But I do anyway.”

Andy glared at me. The desire for a sweet little girl and the desire to pass on his genes warred for a few minutes before he told me, “I still want my own. And you might be wrong.”

“I might,” I conceded. “I mean, when you think of all the times we’ve disagreed in the last five years or so, I’ve been wrong how many times?”

Andy mumbled something.

“What was that?”

“Two!” Andy answered. “Two, okay?”*

“I like my odds.”

Andy mumbled something about Ashbough witches and then said, “So we’re agreed? We’re gonna have our own kid?”

“Not so fast, mister. We can TRY. But we might not succeed. And then what?”

Andy rolled his eyes. “You’re kidding, right? You’ve been telling me for years that your family conceives at the drop of a hat. You insist on backup birth control. And now you don’t think you’ll get pregnant?”

“It’s possible,” I argued. “There might be something wrong with your sperm.”

“There’s nothing wrong with my sperm!”

“You don’t know that. You’ve never had it tested. Maybe your little spermies are drowners, not swimmers. Or maybe they go in circles and bump into walls.”

“My guys are fine!”

“Okay, but what if they’re not? What’s Plan B? Do we use your brother’s sperm?”

“NO!”

“No spermy, no baby. Are we going for an anonymous donor?”

“I’m telling you, we won’t need one!”

“And I’m telling YOU, I need a plan,” I crossed my arms, planted my feet, and said, “No plan, no baby.”

******

It took 4 days for Andy to capitulate. Then it took a week to hash out the details:

We’d spend 6 months trying to get pregnant. If we were unsuccessful, there would be testing.

If my eggs/ uterus were problematic, we’d find a donor/ surrogate.

If Andy’s sperm were problematic, we’d look into adoption.

Andy remained quietly convinced that Plan B was utterly unnecessary.

And me?

I was kinda hoping for drowners.

*Andy wants everyone to know that this conversation took place years ago and that, as of December 2017, he has been right 7 times. But I tell him the last one doesn’t count because it’s become very clear that Donald Trump cheated. So he’s really only been right 6 times.

 

Hostess with the Mostess…Dysfunction (#179)

I’ve had a lot of comments from incredulous readers over the last few months. Apparently, no one believes that I have not lost my shit yet with my provocative Chinese-American in-laws. Not even when they nearly burned down the house and never apologized.

Spoiler alert: I have, indeed, lost my shit. In as spectacular fashion as any of you could want. It just wasn’t on my in-law’s first visit, the one I’m blogging about now. (Yes, my reward for surviving the first visit was a second visit! Whoo-hoo!) If you’re waiting on the East Dates West version of The Real Housewives, check back in a few months. Continue reading Hostess with the Mostess…Dysfunction (#179)

When Your Asian Guy Won’t Fight For You (#157)

This spur-of-the-moment midnight post might not be for everyone. But a fellow Western Woman involved with an Asian Male is heartsick now. Maybe there are a few other women out there running into this same cultural clash.

Maybe I can help. So here I am, riding in on my white horse, with this post about one of the biggest struggles I face with my Chinese-American guy. Not every white woman’s experience will mirror mine, and not every guy with Chinese parents will turn out like Andy. But some of you might see just enough of the same dynamic to find our story helpful.

*****

In my white, American family, dissent was acceptable. Continue reading When Your Asian Guy Won’t Fight For You (#157)

The Election Junkie (#154)

Everyone wants the U.S. Election to be over – by whatever means necessary.

Mothers are tired of explaining to schoolchildren that “pussy” means something other than a cat. Millennials are tired of hearing that they’ve paid more in taxes in the last five years than Donald Trump has since 1991.

Everyone’s mad that the end of Daylight Savings means there’s a whole extra hour of election season before the U.S. votes on November 8th. Continue reading The Election Junkie (#154)

Many Mothers. No Mom (#131)

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The Aisle of Pain

It was the year after Andy and I got married. It was the week before the United States would indulge in an orgy of brunches and flower arrangements.

Mother’s Day was coming at me. Much like a Mack truck. Of manure. Continue reading Many Mothers. No Mom (#131)

Sunny Daze (#109)

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My new, China-born mother-in-law had cornered me in the guest bedroom. She’d told her son that she wanted to have a talk with me about “woman” stuff. He couldn’t get out of the room fast enough. Possibly because Andy’s father had already subjected him to the “Ultimate Over-sharing Sex Talk, Given Fifteen Years Too Late.”

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The original cover of Our Bodies, Ourselves. Courtesy of their awesome and useful website.

Well, if Sunny thought she was going to intimidate educate me with some superstitious old world sex misinformation, she thought wrong. Continue reading Sunny Daze (#109)

The North Polar Bear (#105)

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When my elementary school classmates found out my parents were divorcing, they showered me with horrified questions.

“Are you mad?’

“Are you sad?”

“Are you going to try and get them back together? Like The Parent Trap?”

That last one was clearly from a naïve only child in a loving home. (The Parent Trap is the stupidest movie ever, BTW. Yes, both times.) I heaped scorn on her, of course. “No way! They should never, ever live in the same house AGAIN!” Continue reading The North Polar Bear (#105)

East Discovers the Joys of a Western Christmas (#104)

IMG_5112The year that Andy and I got engaged, he agreed to join my family in New Hampshire for Christmas. My family is huge and disjointed, however, so he would only be meeting three sisters and my Ex-Stepmother.

A week before Christmas, I spotted the ultimate in Yuletide perfection. A neon green headband with furry moose antlers that LIT UP with red and green lights. I pounced. That night, I showed Andy my prize.

He recoiled. “That’s hideous.” Continue reading East Discovers the Joys of a Western Christmas (#104)

Curfew (#102)

How late was your curfew?
How late was your curfew?

When Andy stayed with my family the Christmas before we got married, he was shocked by how late my Baby Sister came home. She was my last sibling in high school. Her boyfriend dropped her off about 1:31 AM. We, of course, were still awake, thanks to the three-hour time difference between LA and New Hampshire. Andy strained chicken stock while I frosted cream cheese sugar cookies. Baby Sister told us good-night and helped herself to a cookie on the way upstairs.

After she went up to bed, Andy said, “Isn’t it kind of late?” Continue reading Curfew (#102)