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Go to Bed, Guilt

Life Outside(ish) BabyTabatha HansenComment

My education didn’t leave me feeling helpful. It left me wondering what I am doing on Earth. While I have developed my own sense of my place in the world (I am an ant who could be squashed by any thing at any time and it isn’t because God wants me), I still haven’t recovered from my education.

I got excellent grades, from the moment I skipped kindergarten until the day in high school I decided to smite my GPA and stop turning in all assignments. Excellent grades again once I started college, all the way until I graduated. A+ A+ A+ A A- A+ For me, a millennial who had a mostly analog childhood with a digital adulthood, those As were akin to the heart, the thumbs up, the new notification. They lit up my circuitry, they got me science fair money, they kept me studying so I could keep on getting boosts of dopamine. I was the kid that showed that extrinsic reward systems produce results. I wanted to be the best because I didn’t know there was a better thing to be: helpful.

What I want for my kids is for them to grow up and be helpful. For them to be able to see a problem in the world that needs fixing and be a part of the effort to solve it. Our current methodology in education doesn’t help develop an interest in community. American financial ideology teaches us to rise up on our own, be the best, make the most, take it all, let no one drag you down. Fuck capitalism, and fuck winning. Fuck pitting our children against each other, ourselves in a competition to outsmart the people around us.

It is agonizing for me to have a job that involves me taking money from other humans, but it is even more painful to consider what it would be like to take money from other humans for clothing I didn’t hand make. Sometimes I call this guilt a form of self-sabotage, the guilt that says, “You enjoyed doing that, ergo you don’t deserve to get paid for it.” Sometimes I think, “People need to have clothing options that aren’t sexy-ing their girl babies and numbing their boy babies, I am being helpful.” Other times I think, “I am taking people’s money and what if they now will have to dip into their credit cards to buy dinner?” I make the best small shoes I have come across, but do people really need them, or is buying handmade a luxury and should I be underselling my work to make it more accessible? Am I really good at this because I really care about it, or am I really good at this because that is what I have trained to be?

Right now, Iris says she wants to be an engineer or a surgeon. Part of this is because her other mom is an engineer, and the people Christina works with are surgeons. But she never says, “I want to design clothes like Mommy Tabtab.” She did recently say to her 2-month-old brother, “Felix, do you want to be an engineer, or do you want to make clothes?” Maybe Felix can identify my problem and solve that, take over this little business, expand it to really give kids options outside of compromised fast-fashion, heteronormative babywear.

Whatever they do, just please let it be helpful. I stopped playing my guitar, writing music, working in theatre, doing photoshoots, smiling, I have stopped smiling because smiling isn’t utilitarian. I am crushing myself with the guilt of ruining our planet, contributing to the rise of the plastics industry, not giving enough support to local farmers by growing my own garden, denying myself all creative outlets because they feel useless right now (despite only feeling less terrible from looking at the art of others). It is late at night. Perhaps these feelings are because I am a new parent again, that I am valuing myself less because I am creating less.

Or perhaps these feelings are because I truly feel like my entire formal education system taught me to only think about myself, and now that I have been out of school for years, I can finally see there is a great big world outside of myself and I am just drowning in it.

I Have a Him--Unless He Tells Me Otherwise

Family/LifeTabatha HansenComment

My partner would tell me I was being rude whenever, during pregnancy, people would ask me what we were having and instead of saying, “We don’t know yet,” or “We’re waiting til they come to find out,” I would reply, “A human.” I’d offer nothing else, almost like I was trying to circumvent the discussion of my kid’s genitals altogether. . . because I was, and for me there was no more polite way of having that discussion. “A human” is what I would muster instead of saying, “Does it matter to you?”. That would have been rude.

Besides the fact that my job is to consider and separate how capitalism has constructed color palettes to correspond with genitalia, yesterday I got the birth certificates for both of my kids and that meant filling out paperwork. Filling out paperwork means scrutinizing and editing to make it more inclusive. First, I crossed out “Father” and wrote “2nd Parent” (on the actual birth certificate, Father is listed as 1st Parent, like the one who incubated and birthed the kid is an afterthought. . . but I won’t get into that now. Let’s just say I’m not surprised). Then, I crossed out “Gender” and wrote “Sex.” Sex is biological, gender is cultural. Get with it, 21st century paperwork.

When I refer to Felix as he/him, I am talking literally about his biology. What is in his underpants. Had we had an intersex child, we would probably raise them as they/them until they decide. One could argue that we are making mistakes all over the place, like if we would, hypothetically, raise a biologically intersex kid as gender neutral, why don’t we raise all of our children as nonbinary, they/them kiddos with non-gendered names? This is where I loop back around to the part that when I refer to our kids as “he” and “her,” it’s literally about their sex. Their gendered names are things they can change if they identify differently as they get older. Chastise me, praise me, none of this affects people outside of our own family, so please respect our parenting decision and take comfort in knowing if we fucked something up, we will listen to our kids when they tell us we fucked up. My point here is that for this first part of my kid's life, we are calling them him/he because Felix was born with a tiny penis. As for Felix’ gender and his own chosen pronouns, he can figure that out later. Iris did.

We work at a farmers’ market every weekend, and I encourage use of they/them pronouns when I talk about my own kids as well as others’ kids. Or at least I did with Iris until last year. Two of our closest friends are nonbinary. My own pronouns are she/her they/them. Iris decided, one day when a stranger asked me if she was a girl or a boy and I responded, “A person,” that she prefers she/her pronouns. She identifies as a girl. She was four years old. Half of her head is shaved, she loves glitter and reading about space, and now when I refer to her as she/her, I’m talking about her gender. How she personally identifies.

So, we’ve got two kids: a boy and a girl. We’re raising them the same way. They get to share toys. Iris asked to keep her old dresses in case he wants to wear them. We’re growing out his hair until he chooses a haircut (though we do maintenance on the initial toddler mullet phase). He’s wearing all of the colors. We avoided ruffles with Iris and we’re avoiding ruffles with him. We avoided “pretty girl” clothes for her and we are avoiding “strong boy” clothes for him. We’ve lobbed off the end of the gender spectrum for this initial part of our babies’ lives. As they enter toddlerhood and begin picking what appeals to them, we go with it. As Iris entered childhood, she decided she’d like me to call her Iris, not them Iris. My partner has slightly different views on this (I’ve never heard her refer to Iris as they, but she does refer to kids we don’t know as “they/them” and encourages Iris to ask if they are a boy/girl if she is curious), and that’s totally fine.

Why are we raising our kids without pink and blue and trucks and dolls? We’re not. They each get all of it and everything in between. We just hope those we love support our decision to raise our kids without gender roles, and if not support it, at least respect it. Cue my favorite cliche Dr. Suess quote, “Be who you are and say what you feel, because in the end those who matter don't mind and those who mind don't matter.”

Birth Plan/Birth Reality

Pregnancy/Birth, Family/LifeTabatha HansenComment
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Labor can look like this

<—That kid was born after gardening, too.

Get through the really fucking painful back contractions while be able to talk to cutie pie Iris in between.

Have a birth tub with hot hot water here to help with those contractions.

Have a short enough labor that I don’t need to go to sleep and wake up multiple days in a row with escalating contractions that eventually slow down and deprive me of all energy, leaving me to have the kid on my bed.

I don’t want another on-my-back labor. I want to have enough energy to have this kid on my own feet or in water. I want to not feel the back pain I felt last time that extended for over six months. I want to not end up with a yeast infection that makes peeing feel like my crotch is being torn open.

I want to have the energy to hold my baby after I have them. With Iris, I couldn’t lift her for days. I couldn’t pick her up because it hurt my back too much. She latched from an upright position and from a side position.

I want to get a nap with Christina and Iris. I want Iris to be there when tiny person is born, and I want her to get to help cut the umbilical cord and look at the placenta and wrap up a new baby and I want her to feel good about the new person in our house.

My people and I got new life in the ground before kid came.  Spring solstice.

My people and I got new life in the ground before kid came. Spring solstice.

We had the kid! I PUSHED ANOTHER PERSON OUT OF MY BODY.

Above is my wishlist for this birth. A second birth at home. How did it compare to my “birth plan”?

  • Getting through the really fucking painful back contractions. I did it, and I figured out how to do it much more gently this time. Last birth, I got through them with pelvic massages while leaning forward onto a wall and then eventually was asked to lie down on my side to get through them since our labor had been so long and I was so exhausted. This time, I did a thing that didn’t seem intuitive: I labored through them with my pelvis fully upright, my body upright, no tilting, no leaning over. Some of them, I sat upright on the toilet for. Others, I knelt and put firm downward pressure on my hips. I also knew from the last birth that my body wants to yell but it also needs to breathe. Breathing in a long, low hum like I’m in theatre camp made it easier to push babe lower into my body and made it possible for me to get through what I remember being the most difficult part of labor.

  • Have a birth tub with hot hot water here to help with those contractions. Had birth tub. Didn’t end up having the baby in the birth tub, but I did get to labor in there for a while in nice hot water. It didn’t slow down my contractions like last time, but I ended up hopping out when I felt too much like I needed to poop** and walked over to the bathroom between contractions. I had a few contractions on the toilet until that became painful, and then I decided to stand totally upright for a while like a crazy person. **side note my wife found it amusing our midwife used a fishnet for to collect poop. ahhh poop.

  • Have a short enough labor that I don’t need to go to sleep and wake up multiple days in a row with escalating contractions that eventually slow down and deprive me of all energy, leaving me to have the kid on my bed. This one didn’t happen. I was in on/off labor from March 18-March 26. Over a week. A couple of those days, absolutely nothing happened, but most of those included about 12 hours of increasingly painful, real contractions that would start in the evenings, stop mid-morning. I fell apart on March 24th from exhaustion and stress. Put self back together, had some orgasms, and kept a thing our midwife said in mind: “Labor needs oxytocin to start and to keep it going.” Rested all day, watched a bunch of Veep in the evening (laughs! oxytocin!) and when I woke up after midnight with no contractions at all, we kicked out Iris to her bedroom. I got some foot rubs, walked around, leaned into yoga ball, and once contractions started regularly happening, my wife and I went into the living room to play Pandemic. Played the entire game hugging into the yoga ball, and by 5AM I started having the urge to push at the tail end of contractions. I called our midwife and had to throw the phone to go hum through another contraction. While my labor did go on for days with me half-dilated (many more days than when we had Iris), when the second half finally happened, it happened in about 6 hours. Kid also didn’t happen on the bed.

  • I don’t want another on-my-back labor. I want to have enough energy to have this kid on my own feet or in water. I want to not feel the back pain I felt last time that extended for over six months. I want to not end up with a yeast infection that makes peeing feel like my crotch is being torn open. Pushed the kid down into my pelvis “I’ve got the weird head lump in my crotch!” while standing up. Labored until I could no longer straighten my legs because said head in my pelvis. Labored more on my knees until I felt the amniotic sac coming out of my body. Held onto the cold edge of the bathtub and forgot how much burning happened as kid’s head came out. Asked if someone was going to catch the kid because I had no plans on catching the kid. Our midwife had to gently ask me to push the kid out because I stopped moving to get over the burning and enjoy the nice temperature. Christina caught kid. Kid born in amniotic sac. Water never broke. Mermaid baby.

  • I want to have the energy to hold my baby after I have them. With Iris, I couldn’t lift her for days. I couldn’t pick her up because it hurt my back too much. She latched from an upright position and from a side position. I could hold my kid. I held him. Couldn’t lift myself, but I could hold him. 8lbs.

  • I want to get a nap with Christina and Iris. I want Iris to be there when tiny person is born, and I want her to get to help cut the umbilical cord and look at the placenta and wrap up a new baby and I want her to feel good about the new person in our house. All of this, but the nap just happened with Christina. Iris hung out with grandma. She was there while I was in the birth tub, giving me a kiss occasionally. She was there when I pushed him out onto the bathroom floor. She was there to help weigh him and she was there to cut his cord and she was there when I got stitches and she has been there for every single diaper change as diaper change helper. She observed that, “We only have one baby but you have two nipples. I think we can have a second baby.” She still feels good. It’s only been a week, but new human week is a hard week.

Felix was born at 7:14AM after what probably wasn’t that much pushing in what our midwife called a “gentle birth.” I said, “Holy fuck it’s a person I can take a nap now.”

Our midwife and our spawn.

Our midwife and our spawn.

I thought, “Oh, we never took pictures of the kid living in my body. Done!”

I thought, “Oh, we never took pictures of the kid living in my body. Done!”

Here’s some dried blood and clots from my insides that didn’t make it onto towels. It’s not that bad!

Here’s some dried blood and clots from my insides that didn’t make it onto towels. It’s not that bad!

Next birth? I am hoping for less days of prodromal labor. Now that we know boardgame-playing and dry comedy and foot rubs up my oxytocin to labor levels, we can just start there and maybe skip the compost-schlepping. Also for some type of relief like a hot compress for my crotch during that head-crowning couple minutes of labor egads that was painful. And legitimately the only pain that happens during labor, too—all other “pain” disappears between contractions, it’s really just incredible pressure. But the crowning, that tore my body a little bit. Compress! Compress! Compress!