This is not good news for me personally. Or for any other woman who has to change underwear after a good sneeze. Stress Urinary Incontinence (peeing in your pants) is no joke. I mean it's no joke to feel a little involuntary squirt every time you laugh, or jog, or cough. But it's also no joke as in 'it's real' and boring and common for a majority of women ... eventually. Though it's not talked about much. Apparently there's a stigma to pissing your pants and other related, common issues like uterine prolapse (this is when your uterus slips down into your vagina or even out of it). An ob/gyn friend and mother of four once told me casually, "oh yeah, I piss when I jog all the time, and I have to pop my cervix back up every now and then, too." Her candor may sound shocking. But it's a lot better than some other coping mechanisms (like never leaving the house, which is apparently common among those with severe SUI). Most women keep it a secret from everyone (62% waited a year or longer before even discussing their condition with a doctor.)
So, I'm trying to come out about my--granted, still delicate--postpartum SUI situation in an attempt to pave the way for a out-and-proud future generation of pants pissers. Maybe when I'm 60, Jennifer Anniston will play a geezer with diapers and we'll all think it's cool. (Depends, take note). Kegels do help.
We went to the hypnogoogia exhibit at Deitch Projects on Saturday. Swirly spheres, a huge rotating ottoman spinning to the sounds of Sonic Boom (or similar), a giant video kaleidoscope. High concept psychedelia, equally appropriate for toddlers!
Lots of interesting discussion going on about the word "choice." Yesterday, during the big Roe V. Wade anniversary moment, pop politics suggested that we drop the word "choice" as a feminist slogan and replace it with "forced pregnancy." Not sure that works--the implication of rape is too distracting. But she makes a good case: "Are we 'pro-choice'? Sure. But so are Verizon and many school districts. When a word becomes associated with frozen dinners, it may no longer be the powerful political tool it once was."
A week earlier, Patricia Cohen wrote in a NYTimes Op-Ed about how "choice feminism" may not be panning out. She focuses on lawyer/scholar Linda R. Hirshman's controversial opinion that "choice feminism" is a myth. Choice "promised liberation... but actually betrayed women by leaving traditional sex roles intact. In short, women were still stuck with the housework and child-rearing." Are we really flush with great options? Or stuck with an array of compromises, struggling to maintain both job and family? Is the word "choice" just there to give us an illusion of control?
We know lots of otherwise ass-kicking moms who have become quivering jellyfish when it comes to "making the right choice." If it's all a matter of "choice" then whatever happens—kid gets ADD, husband leaves, can't find a matching sock— is all the mom's fault since she's the one who made the choice to do whatever she did. Way too much pressure. Where is the circumstance in all this? Maybe it's not so much about getting rid of the word "choice" as just acknowledging that life gets in the way of making them.
New mom and Brokeback Mountain actress Michelle Williams recently told USA Today: "I love being a young parent ... It's me, the baby and the breast pump." So nice to hear reference to the breast pump! The pump seems to be such a weird sort of secret. I get why we use it in private but I just still cannot get over how little (NOTHING) I knew about the breast pump until fairly close to the point where I actually needed one. When I first saw one in use I was shocked and thought it was actually pretty hilarious. Like something out of Woody Allen's Sleeper. I have since told non-mother friends about the pump (the suction cups, the tubes, the squirting of the milk into plastic receptacles, the "hands free" bra contraptions, the signs on my office door, the swirl of teary hormones in the middle of a workday, the freezer packs, storage guidelines... ) and they laughed, too. Surprised not so much that we do all this stuff but that it's so UNKNOWN to the uninitiated. Some reasons I can think of that it's meant to be mother's little secret:
Dairy farm imagery is too big an affront to Madonna & Child breastfeeding fantasy.
The pump is like a box of maxi-pads--something women need but details of usage need not be aired.
We're supposed to "cover" our identities as mothers when in workplace (where many women pump).
Boobs are just not supposed to be functional... and nothing says functional like a battery operated suction cup clamped to an engorged teat.
Another pregnancy scandal from the soap opera world: Kari Wurher, who built her career on MTV and Howard Stern, is suing ABC for firing her when she told them she was pregnant. The network counters the accusations with a truly low blow, saying she was fired because she wasn't sexy. The Times article on the subject refers to the Hunter Tylo vs. Melrose Place case a few years back, in which she was awarded 5 million dollars after the show axed her (post-pregnancy-announcement). They also list a few examples of movies/shows accomodating pregnant stars, with this reprimanding quote from a producer: "There are lots of ways to work with pregnant actresses. You just don't freak out and say, 'We can't deal with a woman who is pregnant.'" but without stating the obvious: Julia Roberts, Jennifer Garner, and Mariska Hartigay are all STARS. The choice to accomodate them was not about 'not freaking out' or being otherwise understanding. It was about not losing money.
I propose a new movie rating for parents: "CD" for child death.
Or "G CD" for gruesome child death.
This thought comes after braving SYRIANA last night. After the CD scene, I found it very difficult to reconnect with the movie and it took huge emotional willpower to keep from sobbing. The image -- a child electrocuted in the pool while his mother is unable to dive into the charged waters -- sent me over the edge.
I know it's important not to shy away from "difficult" moments in art just because I'm a senstive parent. And I will try. I will. Syriana was an excellent film. But I did wonder if writer/director Stephan Gaghan had kids of his own, and whether the answer to that question has anything to do with the way he used such an explicit CD scene as a plot device. Would a parent filmmaker consider the child's death the focus of the movie, and not just a way to propel Matt Damon into a situation? Ah, who knows. But I might have appreciated some choice about whether to go through this particular kind of violence, especially on "date night". Maybe next time I'll opt for spraying bullets and serial killers.
My vacation reading: one mind-blowing memoir, one ass-kicking manifesto/funny shit fest, and two depressing books about the various ways mothers are financially fucked up the ass. There were many scenarios like the one in yesterday's Modern Love column. Hundreds of pages of sad statistics on how huge a hit women take when they become mothers and leave the work force, cut down on hours, or even make themselves available for inevitable kid-shit like sickness and absentee nannies. Dads get it too: those who regularly leave early or miss days of work for kid needs make something like 20% less than those who make work their first (only) priority.
The basic premise of the books was that 1. The workplace needs to accommodate parents with less penalty and 2. people need to start seeing the raising of kids as actual labor rather than a “labor of love.” And that what’s happening instead is that women are getting pissed at each other for making the wrong choice, using whatever ideological ammo they think is important. Hence, ‘The Mommy Wars’, a much more fun talk show topic than ‘We Need More Flex-Time’ or ‘Childcare Should Be Better Compensated.‘
Jill Soloway, writer of the abovementioned hilarious work of feminist genius, discusses the problem on her new blog. I appreciate (and uncannily share) the Soloway furor. But are we really mad at women for making stupid choices, or are we mad at the choices? Most women are not deciding whether to subjugate themselves to their husbands or pursue gratifying—even self-supporting—careers. They are choosing from crappy cruddy compromised options, which get worse the less money you have. A huge chunk of women who stay home would not be making enough to cover childcare if they worked—and that’s taking into account the fact that childcare is one of the lowest paid professions there is.
Tiny Ladies in Shiny Pants: Based on a True Story, by Jill Soloway
Drugs Are Nice: A Post-Punk Memoir, by Lisa Crystal Carver
The Truth Behind The Mommy Wars, by Miriam Peskowitz
The Price of Motherhood, by Ann Crittenden