Friday, July 15, 2011

Who's on first? What's on second?

There's an old Abbott and Costello routine in which Abbott is talking about players on his baseball team, and Costello is having a hard time understanding him:

Costello: Look Abbott, if you’re the coach, you must know all the players.
Abbott: Right, certainly do.
Costello: Well, I never met the guys, so you’ll have to tell me their names, and
then I’ll know who’s playing on the team.
Abbott: Oh, I’ll tell you their names, but you know strange as it may seem, they
give these ball players now a days, very peculiar names.
Abbott: Well let’s see, we have on the bags, we have Who’s on first, What’s on
second, and I Don’t Know is on third.
Costello: That’s what I want to find out.

This goes on for quite some time, because the joke is that the name of the guy on first is "Who," the name of the guy on second is "What," and the name of the guy on third is "I don't know."

Much funnier to see/hear than read:
Here's a link on YouTube

I'm often reminded of this when we go to doctor's appointments with our surrogate. (As a tangent, those rooms are designed for 2-3 people, pregnant person, partner, and midwife or doctor. Imagine cramming our motley crew of 5 in one of them!) Our midwifery service has 9 midwives, so thus far we often have a new midwife. Imagine being the midwife walking into a situation with 2 women, 1 of whom is pregnant, and 2 men in the room. You can see the gears turning in their heads before they read the chart notes. They're trying to be polite, not ask outright, but I can see it cross their faces: Who's the mother? Which is the father? I don't know...oh, she's in the womb!

This got very tricky with something they call the "quad screen," which asks for all sorts of genetic information about the mother and father. But of course, in our case, this isn't the woman who is pregnant's genetic information, but our information. It's a good thing I was sitting next to the surrogate to help her out as she was filling out the paperwork as it is asking things like, "Is there a history of neural tube defects on the mother's side of the family? On the father's side?" and "Are their any genetic conditions on the mother's side of the family? On the father's side?" Naturally the paperwork assumes that the person who is pregnant is the mother. At one point I was glad I asked a question, "How is the risk factor for Down Syndrome and neural tube defects calculated from the information you collect?" Our midwife explained that it was based on the level of various proteins in the mother's blood (ummmm, hold on, no one took my blood, they took "Lisa's" blood), the results of the ultrasound, and the mother's age. Ok, time to do some sorting out. Is it the protein's the the person who's pregnant's blood, or the genetic mother? Turns out it's the person who is pregnant. OK then, is it the age of the person who is pregnant, or the age of the egg. Turns out it's the age of the egg. But there's no way in their computer system to explain that the age of the egg is different than the age of the person who is pregnant since it is assumed that the egg is the same age as the person who is pregnant. So calls were made to the lab and numbers recalculated. It didn't change much, but it reminds me that we can't take for granted that people who work with us in the hospital know our situation, and have taken that into account for every test. We have to think through every step to see if there's something that needs to be clarified.

Pretty soon we need to meet with our attorney to file a "judgement pro tem" explaining to the hospital and everyone who would possibly care that when the baby is born is is our child, not "Lisa's". Of course, from day 1, we've known this, and Lisa and "Linus" have known this, but the powers that be at the hospital don't legally know this, although by now our midwifery team does. We've got to have that piece of paper for when the child is born because otherwise the hospital assumes that the woman who gives birth to the child is the child's "mother," will make all decisions for the child, and will have the child go home with her. In our case, that's not true, but that's what the hospital will legally assume. And we all know what happens when you "ASSUME" something! ;)

This also changes rooming arrangements. Lisa can leave the hospital perhaps as early as 6 hours after the delivery, but particularly because we're going to be traveling to Seattle after the baby is born, the baby will stay a day or two. Which means that we'll have a postpartum room for the baby, even though I'm not postpartum. They usually keep the woman who has given birth and the baby in the labor and delivery room for about 2 hours and then go to the postpartum floor. In our case we may get 2 postpartum rooms, or they may keep Lisa in L&D a little bit longer and she can be discharged from there.

And, of course, the wonderful bureaucracy known as insurance is sure to be utterly stumped since they can't even seem to bill a standard primary care physician's visit correctly. Up until now, Lisa's insurance has covered the pregnancy, and will cover the delivery expenses and her care after delivery. But when the baby is born everything that she needs will be transferred to our insurance. Usually not a problem because the insurance company has seen all of the pregnancy bills and the delivery bills and it sorts itself out a week or so later when the baby gets her own insurance card. But what happens when we aren't even in the hospital's database system with our insurance information???

No matter how much prior preparation and planning we do, I'm pretty sure there's a bunch of things I haven't even thought of yet. And I'm the mother...but I'm not the pregnant person...but the egg is the same age as me...but the blood proteins are found in Lisa's blood....and now I'm totally confused. Oh yes:

Who's the mother. Which is the father. I don't know, she's in the womb.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The verdict is in.....

And it seems that I will have a lot more time to mull over gender roles and the shaping of gender identity and expectations by cultural influences because we are going to have....a girl!

The ultrasound was just beautiful. It's so intricate. The details of the anatomy: the perfect spinal column, all 4 chambers of the heart working with the valves, the individual metacarpals, metatarsals and phalanges. The mouth opening and closing as if to say, "Hi! Here I am!". The little hand waving back and forth and opening and closing. Truly amazing.

I, personally, am thrilled. My daughter comes from an amazing heritage of brave, strong, intelligent women, particularly on my maternal side. Her great-great grandmother, the second daughter of four daughters born to the mayor of her village in Japan, sailed across the pacific ocean at the turn of the 20th century to become a picture bride to a man she'd never met. Her great grandmother, also the second of four sisters, left an American internment camp with her husband, during world war II, to farm for the government that imprisoned them. While her husband oversaw German POWs working in his fields, this woman cooked extra food at lunch so that all would have enough to eat. Her grandmother broke the color line for her sorority nationally, and went on to break the color line in a school district in the Midwest as an English teacher. And then there's me, her mother, who has had all sorts of adventures. Aaron said he knew it was a girl from the minute he found out that the baby was kicking the surrogate when she was in a position the baby didn't like. It's not a Yokoyama-woman trait to sit on the sidelines. ;)

Now I really feel as if the pressure is on to get ready. The baby's room, until now, has been the room in our house that we toss stuff into when we're not sure what to do with it. And, to be completely transparent, it's mostly my stuff! So the rest of the day will be spent cleaning that room out.

Aaron and I have been holding off on name discussions until now. We quickly realized we had some strong opinions on names, and decided that there wasn't any point in arguing the finer points of one name over another when half of the names we would argue over wouldn't even matter. So now it's time to get into heated name discussions.

After Friday's ultrasound the reality very much set in. We're going to have a baby! It's going to be a girl! And we've got to get our rears in gear and prepare!!!!!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Pink or Blue...But What Ever Happened to Red?

So tomorrow's the "big" day, the day we have the ultrasound that will tell us if our child is a boy or a girl. Of course, along the way we've learned that what is supposed to happen on a particular day isn't always what happens. So, if the ultrasound doesn't show the gender, I guess we'll just wait for another little bit.

All along this journey people have been asking us when we'll find out if it's a boy or a girl, or if we want a boy or a girl, or if we have boy names and girl names picked out. When we went to Babies R Us I was honestly shocked at how "genderized" everything is. Out of all the crib bedding and whatnot there was only 1 that I would consider gender neutral. All of the others seemed to scream BOY or GIRL. Boy or girl, boy or girl, that's the big question. That's how one chooses how to decorate a nursery. That's how one chooses which clothing to pick. That even determines how people react to the baby. Let's say you dress a baby in as "gender neutral" clothing as you can, maybe jeans and a red t-shirt. If you tell people the baby is a girl, automatically you hear comments of, "Oh isn't she precious looking?" and "How beautiful!" Take the same child and tell people it's a boy and the comments become "Look at how strong he is!" and "Isn't he a flirt!" From the very beginning the child gets treated a certain way based on their gender.

There was an interesting article lately about a couple in Canada who has a child named "Storm." They have decided that, for the time being, they aren't going to tell anyone the child's gender. Storm will just be Storm. And people can react how they see fit. And this is causing an uproar. People like to know gender. It very quickly gears a person's thinking towards gifts for a child, or clothes for a child, or even for the phrases one uses with a child. A child without a known gender is uncomfortable. I'm not saying that I agree with rasing a child without sharing his or her gender, but it certainly is an interesting experiment.

I remember when a relative had a child born with undifferentiated genitalia. Even the doctors at the hospital had a hard time wrapping their heads around that one. Pink cap or blue cap? Baby Boy ____ or Baby Girl ____ for the name plate? Until the DNA results came back there was quite a bit of befuddlement, even from the medical professionals.

I wonder about how our children pick up ideas on gender roles and how different genders are supposed to behave. Several of our favorite family stories revolve around use of the iron in our household as we were growing up. You see, dad did all the ironing. I'm pretty sure my mom knows how to iron, but it was always dad who did it. It was mostly his work shirts that needed ironing and he liked it a certain way, so he ironed. As a teenager, if I needed something ironed I went to my father, not to my mother. So anyhow, the first story begins with me watching my father very closely, when I was around 4 years old. I mean, I was staring at him intently as he ironed one day. And dad, with his infinite patience, just waited until I was ready to ask my question. I took a deep breath and asked with all the seriousness a 4 year old can muster, "Daddy, can girls iron?" And my father, in his infinite wisdom replied, "Why yes, girls can iron. They can do they laundry and do the dishes. They can be doctors or nurses, lawyers or astronauts. Girls can do anything they want to." Several years down the road, I was about 6 and my sister was 3. We were playing in the family room, and, for some reason, mom was doing some ironing. The way she tells it, we were playing, and then all of a sudden we were very quiet. She looked up, and we were both looking at her wide-eyed. At that point I asked, "Mommy, does Daddy know you're using HIS iron?" It wasn't just ironing, when it came to childrearing and housekeeping both of my parents pitched in. Some of my favorite meals didn't taste right unless my father cooked them.

Then I contrast this with a statement another little relative made when she was about 3 years old. "I ONLY want to wear dresses. Pants are ugly! Dresses are pretty!" The thing is, both of her parents tried to raise her as "gender neutral" as possible. They dressed her in all sorts of clothing and colors. They both pitched in around the house. Her mom, while beautiful, hardly ever wore dresses or skirts. Mostly she wore jeans. So where did this little one get the idea that dresses were what was pretty and should be worn? They didn't even have cable in their house, so it wasn't like she watched a lot of tv. But somewhere she got that message and took it into her little heart. That was in about 2006. And, as much as I hate to say it, things have changed since I was a little girl, and I'm not sure that they are for the better.

Lately it seems like the "princess" concept has taken off everywhere. It used to be one just saw little girls dressed as princesses at Disney theme parks, and now they are all over the place. OK, here's my disclaimer. If you know me, you know I LOVE Disney! I worked there in entertainment for goodness sakes', embodying all of the things I'm about to have an issue with. So yes, there is a bit of me that is a hypocrite, but honestly I think there's just more of me that's plain old confused. Until 2000 Disney had never marketed the "Princesses" outside of their story lines. Whenever a Princess was seen on a shirt it was in the context of her story, eg: Snow White was always with the 7 dwarves, Sleeping Beauty was always with the 3 fairies, etc. Then, in 2000, after realizing how many little girls came to the parks dressed in homemade Princess costumes, Disney began the "Princess" brand and line. The big 5 princesses (Belle, Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora and Ariel) suddenly began appearing on t-shirts and sweatshirts all over the place. Specific princess costumes for girls were developed and sold in the parks and in Disney Stores. And little girls and their families ate it up. (I'm in the process of reading a very thought provoking book: Cinderella Ate My Daughter. definitely worth the read). Suddenly little girls were princessed up all over the place. And the concept has exploded. Yes, there's Captain Hook and Peter Pan, Buzz Lightyear and Woody, but not nearly to the extent of the princesses.

So here's my thing, and here's where I struggle. The princesses aren't exactly the best role models that I want for my daughter. Most of them (Cinderella, Belle, Ariel) have absentee mothers. Those that do have mothers have Wicked Stepmothers. A good number of them disobey their parent (Mulan, Ariel). And, as I see it, most damaging, most of them get into trouble or find themselves in trouble and instead of solving the situation themselves they require rescuing from a man. Cinderella needs the prince to rescue her, which he only does after she was all gussied up for a ball. Belle, who is a reader which I appreciate, needs Beast to fall in love with her to give her her freedom. Ariel, maybe the worst offender, gives up her VOICE of all things, to get a man to like her. Snow white needs a prince's kiss to save her. And on and on. It's also notable that the big 5 princesses are all white. So much for Pocahontas, Jasmine, Mulan and Tiana. Rarely are they included on any princess merchandise with the others. It's hard to find merchandise featuring them alone. But I LOVE DISNEY! So how the heck do I reconcile this? I guess it's watching movies with your children, male or female, and then talking about what you see and notice; the good and bad choices the characters make along the way.

I also think the "princess" theme tends to limit creative play instead of encourage it. When we were younger we played house and school and going to the zoo, and horses and some game one of my best friends and I invented with a flying machine in her back yard (which was actually a really cool tree) all sorts of other pretend scenarios. The thing about playing "princess" is that rather than using their imaginations, children act out the scripts they know. There is a formula to princess play that isn't as open ended as school or house. Dress up and pretend play iis great for kids, wonderful for their imaginations and necessary for psychosocial development. But when the script is already written, how much of it is pretend play and how much of it is regurgitation?

I'm sure if I thought it through I could come up with similar cultural influences on boys: video games, sports, etc. But I'm most familiar with girls because, well, I am one. And, to me, it seems like maybe we've lost some of the gains we had before. Try and find tops for girls that aren't pink and glittery. Try to find baby gear that doesn't scream BOY or GIRL. Try to find any nursery theme that isn't almost all pink with hearts and butterflies or blue with sports balls or trains. I wish I could find more in the middle ground. But it's very, very difficult.

So tomorrow we find out the gender of our child. And the thing that I hope Aaron and I always remember to keep at the forefront as we parent is that boy or girl, what is most important is that we help our child discover his or her unique God-given qualities, some of which may be gender related, but, I suspect, much of which has nothing to do with his or her gender, and nuture those qualities for what they are. That we think outside of the box the marketing executives and clothing designers attempt to build around the genders, and help our child to find who he or she is, the way he or she was created by God, and to believe in that and trust that.