I am going to piggy back off of Jessi Klein’s sensational book, “You’ll Grow Out of It.” Please do not think I’m bragging original brain waves, I’m merely the choir member belting, “HELL YEAH!”
Jessi Klein’s book takes the reader through a banter of laughs and oh yeah and me too. I am certain I was not the only woman reading this memoir who said, “Yes sister, yes.” It’s just that as a mother and a woman who has not only birthed, but did it in NYC…she struck a certain tinfoil tooth nerve that reminded me of……ALL OF IT.
The chapter GET THE EPIDURAL spoke NYC truth that bleeds out into global society for all women. It just happens to be that the petri dish that is Manhattan makes those that feel it first hand completely stunned, staggered and raw enough to bitch to the whole world.
Jessi Klein describes being judged by everyone and anyone regarding her pregnancy and her inevitable labor by fellow apple walkers. She states how she is in a grocery mart (no markets, no super stores, buy your $40 cheese and move along) and a woman accosts her on her birth date and delivery plan…..meaning, if you get the epidural, you just cheated the whole human world. Her annoyance is perfectly stated in her own words, “Natural. It sounds so….natural. So relaxing. So earth goddess. So feminine. But how often do people really want women to be or do anything “natural?” It seems to me the answer is almost never. In fact almost everything “natural” about women is considered pretty fucking horrific. Hairy legs and armpits? Please shave, you furry beast. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to remove your pubic hair, that’s also an abomination. Do you have hips and cellulite? Please go hide in your closet and turn the lights off and wait there until someone tells you to come out (no one will tell you to come out.) It’s interesting that no one cares very much about women doing anything “naturally” until it involves them being in excruciating pain. No one ever asks a man if he’s having a “natural root canal.” No one every asks if a man is having a “natural vasectomy.” GET THE EPIDURAL- Jessi Klein YOU’LL GROW OUT OF IT.
Now let’s break it down. Before I go completely rah rah, I advocate for shaving. What? A wilderness lover, athlete, and female nurse practitioner thinks shaving is acceptable? Yes. Not only acceptable, but absolutely necessary….like brushing your teeth. I spent years in a frozen apartment in New Haven with no one to cuddle minus my fluffy cat and I stilled shaved every day. Why? Because this leg touches that leg and I have to draw the line somewhere to keep brushing my teeth. The only times I’ve not shaved I’ve been wilderness wandering or day drinking and even on the day drinking there have been exceptions that have left evidence of scars. I also bleach my hair, enjoy a good mani- pedi and the list would go on if I had the green back. I’m not judging the natural feminist nor the make up smothered one. We should be clear, I am also not judging the man. However, there are differences. When I sat my preggo belly next to a man lecturing me that “birth isn’t that bad for a woman because you know, they get the bed, BUT the man has to sit in the chair all night”- my teeth grit only in that he in particular is a complete toilet. Not all men.
Our apartment was 400 square feet off First Avenue- a studio three flight walk up with laundry three blocks away. Laundry was a hard core chore. Carrying the laundry to the mat was a workout. I begged my husband for a $50 push cart. He was not sure that was a warranted purchase. I know this sounds cruel, but until you live dime to dime in NYC- you really can’t judge. I was deemed an excellent chef for making microwave baked potatoes covered in Ragu (try that anywhere else and he’ll wonder if you did champs and crack all day). None the less, now I was pregnant, working, and carrying the laundry three blocks to the mat. I wanted a push cart. No, I needed a push cart.
One day my arms gave out and I dropped the basket all over First Avenue. A man walking by joked at me, “Girl, you should get a boyfriend.”
I snapped back, “I have a husband.”
He retaliated, “Like I said, get a boyfriend.”
I don’t want to give the impression that my husband was a jerk. However, we didn’t divorce because we were super duper ridiculously happy. Divorce Didn’t Imagine Very Often Reality Coming Eternal– hence divorce. I was at a party recently where a woman asked another woman if she worked. No one asks a man if he works, they ask “What do you do?” Yes I worked. And so did my husband- he worked hard. We all did. That’s NYC. That’s life. People work.
My job in Manhattan was in IVF (In Vitro Fertilization). We had an array of clients from young to older. I was 27 and pregnant. I regularly had patients insist that they could not speak to the pregnant nurse. I understood. It’s incredibly painful, disgusting and heartbreaking to go through IVF…..but, I was 27….and most (NOT ALL) of my patients were 42. Maybe, just maybe, it wasn’t so much about luck as about options. Is that not the rub for females? Males can keep on keeping on, but females- we have to make a choice- early! The more educated and liberated we get, the harder that choice becomes. The less educated we are, the more definitive that choice becomes entrapment. I do believe this is true.
I easily got pregnant and went into the world of Manhattan mommies. Postpartum pushing my own child, I got asked if I was a nanny from Russia (nice blonde bleached hair). While I was pregnant, I had my belly touched, I had my pregnancy judged (too young, good job, not enough money, small apartment, you’ll make it work, when you moving, and yes classically- are you doing this natural?) I couldn’t even go for a run in the park without getting into a fight. Once (at least) I passed a man uphill in Central Park to have him scream at my preggo belly “FUCK NO” and try to pull away- he didn’t. Manhood-shattered, because what could be worse? [Grit Teeth]
Natural Birth? I am a woman who can run a marathon that will put me on the floor unable to walk for two weeks. I can ride my bike to exhaustion, natural child birth- not for me! Why? Well frankly- if you see a barb wire fence riddled in razor blades and you have to either climb over it or fit easily under it….why not go under it?
Men do not have to give birth. They don’t even have to be pregnant. That’s not their fault, that’s genetics. That’s nature. I’m not an advocate to change nature. Men and Women should complement each other, not be at odds. As a Tomboy- Tomwoman- TomMom, I liked the idea of being a womanly woman, but I never like the idea of feeling more pain than my partner. Maybe that’s because I believed I was equal.
After my first delivery, I was shell shocked. I did not know pain existed like that. It was the beginning of the end, because empathy wasn’t there from my partner. It is impossible for us to know what another individual is going through, but it is not impossible to try to imagine.
Birth was only the beginning- with blessings the child lives, long, long after the parent. However, the feeding, care taking, raising, sleeping repeat repeat repeat…… I watched my husband bounce off back to work and I stayed home in a Rapunzel trap next to The Today Show, Ellen, Martha, LUNCH, Dr. Phil, Oprah, Friends, Prime Time……..while I breast fed. If I put my son in the stroller and ran him in the park- should he cry- I would hear the criticism- from many. If I put him the baby bjorn and walked him, I might slip on icy streets- and even if I took that risk, I got judged and lectured. I feared going out of my 400 square feet because honestly it was a septic pool of insults, opinions, side glances, and intrusion. Let’s not even talk about trying to breast feeding a kid in the freezing cold streets! People have a problem seeing a boob on a warm beach. They certainly did not want to see a blanket draped over an infant (NO BOOB EXPOSED EVER) in public in New York. The City that Never Sleeps, just couldn’t take it. I had micro wars before I was pregnant after that they became macro.
When I was 36 weeks pregnant walking away from a work party, my husband and I searched for a cab for 45 minutes at least. Eventually he did flag a cab down. I stood there with my belly protruding and my ankles protesting while I surprisedly watched a young 30 something man steal my cab. My actions? Linda Blair- take a time out, I got this. You really do not know what you are capable of until you are attacked.
How is this relevant to today’s awful feeds? What do you do in the face of hate and anger? Help in 9/11 when you could watch? Aid families on welfare on Naval Bases? Work at Planned Parenthood? Pull a military infant daughter out of a drowning in a hot tub? Help a person cross the street? Extend patience, kindness, love? Why assist another? Because either you may need help like this one day yourself or….
You might want to be a good person….Until we all walk the exact same path (which no one ever can- we are individuals) please do not blindly hate. We have one life. One experience on Earth. Look for the JOY. In the words of Jessi Klein, “GET THE EPIDURAL.”