Monday, September 03, 2007

happy 200th post!

was parenthood easier thirty years ago?

were the rituals of pregnancy and motherhood less fraught and weighty, or more?

any thoughts?

Ap you should talk ot grandma about it man! she had like 13 kids over 30 years ago.
no way, dude. I don't want her to know I'm scared.
although, it would be interesting to get her perspective on how the whole pregnancy/birth process has changed from the time she started having children (in nineteen fortysomething) 'til the time she stopped (nineteen sixtysomething?).

did she notice any changes in physician's advice? "conventional wisdom"? so-called "common sense" that fluctuated from baby to baby?
latest and greatest technology for one baby that was considered outmoded (or even dangerous) for the next one?
I can only speak for parenthood 20 yrs ago. I don't think the rituals of pregnancy and motherhood have changed much. I was told that I MUST HAVE this book and that baby carrier and the other intellectually inspired video tape or my child would be a drooling misanthrope. The simple fact is, my children are now teenagers, and are by default, drooling misathropes. But they'll get over it just as soon as they want to find a girlfriend.

One thing that has changed, when my kids were infants,you laid them on their stomach to sleep. Now you're supposed to lay them on their back.
back in the 1920s and 30s doctors thought that touching and playing with and talking to the baby would cause all sorts of developmental problems, "spoiling" etc.

and I think I read somewhere that back in the mists of time cigarettes were prescribed to pregnant women to reduce birthweight. smaller babies = easier labor?

as far as I know, Grandma Selma says the only real food-avoidance advice back in the day was to stay away from salt.

these days you can't swing a carrot without hitting some prohibition or another.
I guess the main question is - was there ever a time when motherhood wasn't so weird? so conflicted? so pressured?
No. Never. Motherhood has always been fraught with peril. In my experience, there comes a time when you have to throw the book out the window and do what you think is right. How's that for vague?

I wish there were some sort of compass that would point to the right way. I say that, maybe there is to a certain extent. Alot of it is trusting your own judgement. If you can't do that, find someone you trust and trust their judgement.

Trying to listen to every Voice of Authoritah (thanks Belle)will make you crazy. And I know crazy.
Ap also don't forget, grandma and her sister were nurses...until they got pregnant.
I am sure she would tell you what has changed over the years...she still watches the birthing shows and what have you.
these days you can't swing a carrot without hitting some prohibition or another.

Yeah. The food list alone is insane. Let alone the "NO TOUCHING LLAMAS!" stuff.

I'm going to do a pregnancy food entry this week, I think.
oh, great...what am I supposed to do with Lloyd and Llouise now?

only kidding. but if I had llamas, I'd totally touch them.

of course, for every piece of anti-llama propaganda, there's someone saying that babies are actually made from 100% pure llama spit. that's what makes me mad. the exactly-contradictory advice.
Llama touching is a serious business! All llamas near you must be shaved, sterilized and destroyed.

Do not mock the Potent Power of Llamas.

(Or, sheep. It's something about the secretions in the wool.)
wow, man - how the hell do Andean women manage to reproduce at all, what with all the llamas?
(Or, sheep. It's something about the secretions in the wool.)

so, what, no knitting with wool while pregnant?

sounds like propaganda generated by the Garbage Acrylic Yarn Maker's Association.
turning away from llamas for the moment (because even thinking about llamas will surely melt the baby) - maybe this, this deep ambivalence and insecurity and fear and mother-advice-doublespeak and all, is the "price" we pay for unshackling ourselves from the whole "biology is destiny" thing?

I do have a slightly hard time believing that mothers of old met motherhood with such trepidation.

Labor, yeah. that was documentably more heavy, more life-or-death.

but the process of pregnancy? the process of knowing how to handle small babies and children? was that taken more in stride back in the day? was there a sense of "you're a woman, of course you can mother your children"?
it just seems to me today that there's a preconceived (haha) notion there of "you, mere mortal woman, can't do it without a team of physicians and a library of reference books and a hundred thousand pairs of teenyweeny socks and a stroller the size (and price) of an SUV and FORGODSAKE WHAT ARE YOU DOING DON'T EAT THAT!" etc.

was it always this way?
and rootie - thank god for you, oh sane voice in the wilderness.
No, i don't think it was always this way, nor indeed about say food (who worried about cholesterol count a hundred years ago, or a thousand?); otoh i suppose at least some of all the fussy fussiness is a product, if not partial cause, of overall greater longevity, etc. etc.

otoh i suppose at least some of all the fussy fussiness is a product, if not partial cause, of overall greater longevity

well, I hope it's good for the baby because it's about killing me!

(I exaggerate. but I really wonder what it does to the maternal mental health...)
where did the anti-llama advice come from, anyway?
AP, have you read this book? It's got a TON of info about how "expert advice" on motherhood has grown and changed to suit the times.
thanks for the rec, Veronica!
I had the $300 Limosine Stroller and the little $20 foldy umbrella stroller. Guess which one got used.
I think it's very difficult. I wish I could say something nicer than that. Really, though, I totally underestimated the difficulty level, the sacrifice, the work, the fierce and rather shocking animal attachment I would have, etc. etc.

You've said before how important feminism was to you as a young women, and we were a lot alike that way. I think I had bought into a lot of feminist de-emphasis on biology. Hey, pregnancy is just this biological process, blah blah blah! Right. Someone as religious/superstitious as I am? I should have known how it would effect me but it caught me totally by surprise. Obviously, since these emotions can't be planned for or thought through; they aren't from the rational mind.

For me, that was the thing.

You seem far more in touch with your feelings than I was (gak! -- sorry antiquated terms but I am not creative enough to think of others!) .. and if you are, you should be fine. Just beware, it's like (my favorite analogy) going to another planet. You won't have any words for it till you get there.
how wise, Daisy. I'll try to remember that.
I like the word 'parenthood', but any discussion of how it was thirty years ago would need to examine both 'motherhood' and 'fatherhood'. Asking people my age (early 20s) about their experiences of the latter tends to lead to raaaage.
thene - say more about that, if you'd like. I'd be intrigued.
It's such a mess I don't know where to start. I think parenthood - the gender-neutral concept of it - is a very new idea, one alien to the childhoods of all but a few of the people I've known. Most of us had a mother and a father instead, or a mother and a distant male figure in the background (what I had til I was 11 - after that, it was just me + siblings v world, so yes, I am bitter). I know three people (two women, one man) who've gone so far as to change their surnames by deed poll because they feel so betrayed by their fathers. Which isn't to say that mothers never let people down, but certainly the role of the father is more forgiving to those who wish to keep their distance.

I'd hazard the majority of us-nowadays would find that were we to have [twee heteronormative] children, we'd demand that the male partner put in more emotional and domestic care than our own fathers did.
I think parenthood - the gender-neutral concept of it - is a very new idea

it may be.

however, I seem to remember reading (I think it was a book called "More Work For Mother", about the history of housework) that in the North American Colonies men and women shared childcare duties.

of course, what constituted "childcare" remains ambiguous to me - after all, this was a time where household guidebooks suggested that the baby's swaddlings be changed every few days...ah, the golden age of diaper rash...

further, I don't know what it's like for non-western fathers and their non-western children.

in fact, I'm ashamed to say I don't know what it's like for fathers at all.

is my total ignorance of the nature of fatherhood just yet another symptom of this systemic paternal estrangement?

do you think that this generation of fathers will rebel and be all kinds of involved, as a reaction to their own experience with standoffish fathers?

do you think that this generation of fathers will rebel and be all kinds of involved, as a reaction to their own experience with standoffish fathers?

I thought that when I was younger, but it hasn't played out that way at all.

Also--the middle aged dudes are supremely sensitive about it. You should see some of the angry rantiness that linked to this entry a few months back.
do you think that this generation of fathers will rebel and be all kinds of involved, as a reaction to their own experience with standoffish fathers?

Wouldn't it be great if that were true? I would hesitate to tout it as a general statement, but that definitely works for my brother, and also for my partner (whose father walked out before he was born). Some guys want to work to create what they never had, and I love them for it. I think about it, everything I know about rituals-pregnancy-fatherhood I learned from Penny Arcade. I exaggerate, but not bloody much (and it's a great blog post anyhow.) Maybe I've not read the right things or talked to the right people. God knows there's no male relative I could ever approach about it. Maybe fathers have to make it all up as they go along - hope they're good at it.

'non-western'=/=monolith, but hey, neither is 'western'. Just us and our messy little lives here.
Just us and our messy little lives here.

ain't that the truth! :)
note - fatherhood discussion continued in new post, dated today.

not the bee one.
that's a fucking brilliant post, btw, Veronica.

My mom had the occasional cocktail while pregnant with me, put me to bed on my stomach, and never owned a carseat... and I turned out ok, right?

When they look at all of the precautions that I've take with my kids (such as not letting them play outside unsupervised or insisting my 6 year olds use booster seats) they think I am ridiculous and overprotective.
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