Thursday, November 21, 2013

The future state of the family

Decisions. I stink at them. A lot. I'm slow and indecisive about the big things in life. When I'm in charge and it matters though, I make quick assessments of what needs to happen and how to handle it and decide what's next fast. It's a skill I've honed because I know myself well enough to know how slowly I usually make decisions and I know my slow approach is impractical.

Anyway, family size. It's a sticky issue in PAIL land because, well, when families aren't easy to build it's hard to decide when you're done. Are you done after a miscarriage? Two? A failed adoption? After one infant loss? These are all totally fair places to say that it's enough for a lifetime and let it go and live with life as it exists then (child-free, one child, two children, fur babies, whatever it might be).

For me the worst part of infertility and recurrent miscarriages is the loss of control. It's all well and good to get pregnant but I was never convinced it would last until we had a baby in the room screaming with Little Monster's pregnancy. I was mostly convinced, yes, but not totally.

It's worse in my view to feel robbed of my choice, our choice, about when to be done building our family. I hate being cornered by a health  condition that's uncontrollable so completely. Most of health we have some control over. If you have asthma then you take your medications and avoid triggers. If you have type 2 diabetes then you can watch your diet, exercise, and take your medications. Infertile? No control. You can implement interventions or pursue adoption but there's little to control except when you step off the merry-go-round of treatment or waiting. The choices available if you're infertile are limited and unpleasant and don't feel like real choices because they don't actually offer more control of the situation. We don't have any embies on ice to consider but that sure adds another level of complexity - if you have some frozen, then what? Attempt another pregnancy if you can afford it? Give them up for adoption? And on what terms do you measure "afford" anyway? How much suffering is it worth going through in search of a child?

In my dream world we have 4 children. In this real world, there are currently two little girls frolicking and those three holes in my heart. But are we done? Is this it? Is there another baby or even two out there? Or no? I don't know. It's weird to be in a place where I'm planning the next 18 months of my life in excruciating detail and then thinking, "Wait. Does a baby fit in here somewhere? At the end? A year after that? Or... not?" It dawns on me that Little Monster will be the same age at graduation that the kid was when I started pharmacy school (within a month or two at least). That's pretty crazy to think about. Time flies, nobody is getting any younger, and the original idea was to have our third be a baby about now... so see how well that plan worked out...

Then we have been tentatively talking about adoption and because we'll almost certainly move when I get a job that adds to the wait. Is that necessarily bad? Probably not. I suppose at this point I'm in a place to get the spouse better informed on adoption and foster-to-adopt and all that jazz. Then we can figure out what we want to do once we have all our options really on the table.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Random snapshot part deux: electric boogaloo

Things that have made me laugh really hard this week:

My school is SO EXCITED that a woman prof got quoted in a news story about the lack of women in some professions and the lots of women in others (pharmacy being one of them). They interviewed the professor who most resembles a doll. Seriously. Of all my female profs, do they interview the most mature or the one with the most research credits or the assistant dean or the one doing the most innovative stuff or even the newest to the staff? No. They interview Bar.bie. HAH article on getting more women into STEM careers. Way to police yourself and not perpetuate stereotypes about how women should look to get good jobs...

The baby wanting desperately to be carried around by big kids. We were at the toddler gym, cruising by ourselves in the big open space and attempting standing/dancing/crawling/walking with various foam shapes. Then the 7 year old and 4 year old girls arrived and she kept crawling to the 4 year old to be carried. She grinned and laughed and loved it.

Phishing got my school's email domain blacklisted from lots of places so I can't finish emailing preceptors and I have to try to get them on the phone. Go figure, of all the things that would cause my emails to bounce, it's some fools getting phished.

Things I'm excited for:

The new baby over at Full Bed blog! BABY! YAY! Congrats to mama baba and big sister!

Loaded baked potato soup, which we will make this weekend in a large quantity and freeze so there's something to eat until after finals. (I'm less excited that we couldn't make soup yesterday because there's zero funds for it, but that's life right now... yay... you don't want to hear about the other stuff we can't afford between here and the next student loan disbursement so just imagine)

The end of this semester. Let me out! LET ME OUT OF HERE!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Snapshot part 1

I feel like this space is getting neglected. Sorry about that. Life is wild lately. Also miserable and so forth and who needs more misery in life?

So, a series of snapshots is in order. Part 1: while tidying up

Recent conversation:
Look at me! Look at me spouse! I'm putting away all the extra medications we bought at cos.tco. Look! I'm storing medications over the toilet... but, obviously they won't fall in because they aren't C2s (controlled substances that mysteriously fall into toilets all the time... hmm...).
Spouse: uncontrollable giggling

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Looking the part

Last week I read this really fantastic blog post about the status signifiers and how much they matter when they shouldn't in theory. Now the author is very focused on how this matters ever so much when you're a non-pasty white-ish person, and she is absolutely right that it matters ever so much more if you don't have the privilege of being a white American. Absolutely. But that power game of demonstrating by what you wear, how you wear it, subtly, that you are of the right class or smarter than average or whatever, that crosses skin color. So here's my experience with it to complement hers.

It's something I think about a lot since I come from a bi-class family. Example: my dad is a 2nd generation American, very working class, first in his family to finish a college degree (his uncle went for a couple of years on a sports scholarship until he blew out a knee and didn't finish). My mom's family is old money, much longer-term American, and a much higher class of behavior is expected in her family. Status is a thing for her (and the rest of my family) in a way it isn't for my dad's family.

This means that I have it in my head that there are situations that you need to look a certain way, that you use your big words and subtly show off, that you hold yourself differently to show your class, that you make sure your nails are clean and perfect and your hands don't show the wear and tear if you work outside (so much moisturizer when my mom worked on the farm to hide it). I have an impulse to purchase pearls, for example. It's just one of those things that since I'm a woman and need to display my status periodically, I probably should acquire. And let me add, it bugs the pants off of me. It aches to know I am socialized in such a way that I not only know about these overt and subtle status symbols but that it's so much in my head that I consider it whenever I get dressed.

Now this knowledge I need to dress the part and the budget to do so don't necessarily coexist, certainly not right now. I've selected a few wardrobe pieces very carefully and I wear them sparingly (one silk shirt, one suit, one nice pair of slacks in addition to the suit, one decent looking skirt, a couple of high end sweaters and blouses). I also have a sweatshirt with my college's name on it and my girls have a couple shirts with the name on it too. Subtle advertising. I often wear my school polo to the kid's school events when I can't spiff myself up enough so someone will ask about it and I can point out that I'm a student. My wardrobe mostly comes from second hand places but I'm very selective. I only shop at used clothes stores in ritzy suburbs or high-end neighborhoods because the selection is better and the wear is lower. I may buy exclusively used but I work hard to make sure it doesn't look like it's all used!

One very memorable occasion I got to watch a guy change statuses just with his posture. I was in line to get fabric cut, sometime shortly before Halloween, I was actually making a wrap to go to the opera of all weird things. Anyway, the gal cutting fabric was asking everyone what they were making for Halloween. A bee costume for a kid, a pirate costume for an adult, and then this guy came up to have his stuff cut. He gave his requests crisply but still slouched, wearing a plaid shirt of some type, looking like nobody important, just some old guy, not memorable at all. His fabrics were pretty outlandish and strikingly a bit odd. I bet the gal cutting fabric's guess was a hobo costume or something with the bright polka dots and strangely colored stripes. But she asked him, "And what are you going to make with all this?" in a pretty condescending way like he was a cute but confused old guy who must have had a shopping list from his wife. He drew himself up to his full height, adjusted his shoulders and his face and said, "I design for the University Theater" and he scooped up his fabric and huffed off (well he stalked off really, the huff was implied because he turned away from her very fast). Whoa was that lady shocked and put in her place! Just like that he changed his bearing and showed that even in his scrubby clothes he deserved a whole lot of respect. I saw the show with the costumes made from that weird array of fabrics and the choices he made were amazing. Everything worked just right with the tone of the show, the sets, the lights made it all look great. Boy did he ever design!

So why does the wardrobe matter? Well, I go to professional meetings. Lots of them, relatively speaking. When there's a gaggle of students at a professional meeting, the pharmacists don't chat with most students because you can spot them at 30 feet (aside from being in a gaggle) with the cheap clothes, no giant diamond rings, no nice earrings or tie clips. For me I have the advantage of not looking 16 (sometimes I am glad I went right from looking 10 to looking about 20 and stayed there for 15 years, other times it's awkward) but I also get the wardrobe thing. I have the right wardrobe and I avoid the gaggle of students (ok so that's natural antisocial behavior there) so I meet far more pharmacists than other students that way.

Why do these meetings matter? Well, it's a tight job market. It isn't super tight everywhere but it is tight enough that it's hard to get a job as a new grad, especially a full time one (unless you move somewhere super rural or otherwise unpleasant like the wilds of Alaska). I am on the hook to have a job lined up upon graduation since I will be the primary income, if not the only income. It's key for me to be seen at these meetings in a positive light so when I do meet someone, say the owner of a local small chain of pharmacies that might be hiring in a year and a half, I've already made the impression at a meeting before. Being at these meetings is hypothetically to network and get a job based on brains and/or connections, when really, it's largely about the suit, the being seen... I hate that I need to know these status symbols, that they matter so much, and yet... it's a part of our culture.

The other place I occasionally use my education and snappy wardrobe is when we're waiting around for some kind of assistance. It's amazing how much faster I get seen at the WIC office if I have business casual attire on than if I have some random scrubby t-shirt or even scrubs (yes I do wear scrubs just lounging or going to class because they are comfy and I can). It pays huge dividends for me to be able to put on my Upper Class You'd Better Pay Attention To Me wardrobe and face and posture and then to get it. In my little bubble, there's nobody I know who needs that push to help them get something they need, but I like to think that given the chance I'll do it. Our faith community has a young woman member, maybe 16 or 17, who I don't think really considers college as something that she could do. I think I'll offer her my college's alumna referral coupon so she could apply for free if she wanted to, to show her that I have confidence that she could succeed at a place with a middle to high level of prestige. She could, she's smart but she doesn't care much about school since she hasn't seen it benefit anyone.

I think it matters a lot that we all recognize this bias, that we mark status and treat people showing a high status so differently. It's all well and good to pretend everyone is treated equally but it isn't true at all. Maybe if more of us realize what we are doing we can fight against the prejudiced idea that poor people are stupid and that the clothes matter so much more than the brain behind the person.

Monday, November 4, 2013


You know that game with the gophers or some little furry creature that pops up and you whack them back down with a big fluffy mallet? Whack amole! I bet they are intended to be moles, now that I look at that name. That's what baby showers feel like to me. A series of hard hits on the head or to the heart that remind me of what will never be. It stinks. I'm unsure why I go. Well, I go because it matters to me that I am part of the family and making the effort matters.

Anyway. My extended family is finally having babies (aside from the 2 cousins who have kids the same age as my kid, the last of a few for one and the only for the other, we rarely see either of those cousins). I have this feeling I mentioned my dislike of baby showers when I attended the sister-in-law of this weekend's baby shower recipient's shower in June. As it works out, Little Monster is the oldest of this round of babies (on my cousins' other side of the family they have 4 additional babies born this year) so she's the only one sitting up and eating by herself, only one yelling in delight when she pulls up on the coffee table over and over and over, and the only one on the floor because the other babies aren't crawling yet (or aren't allowed on dirty floors without sanitizing them first/putting down a giant crawling blanket/etc). It's a weird experience. I'm mostly unfamiliar with not being the only parent of a small child in the room and how that works when the other babies are calm and well behaved and captive.

I think that being in a room with people who take it so totally for granted that pregnancy is simple and easy to achieve and complete hurts. Right now I'm doubly reminded of the things this baby doesn't have because either I donated them in a fit of fury after 3 miscarriages that were each a freaking year apart or because we are spectacularly broke. I think this week is the one where we figure out how soon we will need to go to the food shelf and if we might make little enough to get food stamps (pretty sure we don't). It just hurts.

Every comment about the cute baby in my arms just stings when I know the cute baby just across the room from me has a sibling the age of a baby who's missing in our family. Every "oh isn't she just the happiest baby!" grates on my nerves because I know that upstairs with the spouse is the angry child who I am failing spectacularly many times a day. Wanted, loved, absolutely, for both girls, but that doesn't stop it from being infuriating to handle this particular phase in the 5 year old. Every frilly pink thing on the youngest baby just rubs in that she's born a year after they got married. What a luxury and they don't appreciate it at all. My eldest cousin was at this shower too, childless still but I think they have some idea of children "in the future" and she's 35 or so. Not so much future left, I want to say, and yet I don't. I just pop back up at the next baby shower and think about how much it hurts and get whacked on the head some more by well-meaning aunts and cousins. Yet I kind of feel like I don't have much choice in popping back up either since it's so expected and it shouldn't be a big deal. Maybe that's what makes it sting the most, that I'm guilty about how miserable it makes me to go. On the one hand, having the token kid for 5 years has been lonely in a big family where lots of folk were married but not having kids. On the other hand, while it's nice that there will be second cousins for Little Monster to play with, it's hard too that she won't see them much and maybe even less depending on where we wind up when we're done with school.

I think it's good that nobody else is having a baby soon because I need a much longer break than 4.5 months before the next one of these things. Oof.