Folic Acid and Pouilly-Fuissé
Ted and I had just placed our orders when my cell phone started vibrating. It was my mom, and she wanted to know how to use the bottle-warmer. I told my mom what she needed to know, hung up the phone, and almost started crying.
A detailed explanation of the planning and preparation that went into my lunch date would be instructive for anyone who is currently contemplating breastfeeding (and, for that matter, for anyone who would dare to judge a woman who chooses not to breastfeed), but the thought of composing such an explanation seems exhausting to me. Suffice it to say that, if Frances was awake and taking the bottle of milk I pumped for her just as Ted and I were sitting down to the table, a glass of wine with my lunch was out of the question, and a leisurely meal with my husband was in jeopardy.
As it turned out, Frances was happy with her bottle and I didn’t need to rush home to top her up. I was able to enjoy my sandwich—tuna, medium-rare, with wasabi mayo—rather than cramming it into my face, and I got to spend some time alone with Ted. Still, an experience that was supposed to be relaxing and restorative was slightly nerve-wracking. I loved being pregnant, and I love nursing my daughter, but I also kind of miss the days when my body was my own.
Which is why this New York Times article made me kind of nuts. It’s about new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommending that women of childbearing years consider themselves perpetually “prepregnant”—that is, they should avoid alcohol and cigarettes and take prenatal vitamins. The reasoning behind this shift from prenatal to “preconception” care is not unsound: “The problem, doctors say, is that by the first prenatal visit, a woman is usually 10 to 12 weeks pregnant. ‘If a birth defect is going to happen, it’s already happened,’ said Dr. Peter S. Bernstein, a maternal fetal medicine specialist at Montefiore Medical Center in New York who helped write new government guidelines on preconception care.” My problem is with the way these guidelines are meant to encompass even women who are not trying to get pregnant. The reasoning here is a little more shaky: Since more than half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, women should, essentially, plan for an unplanned pregnancy and birth.
Get Out the Vote
I’ve been getting a lot of mail from the Republican party. I asked Ted (he’s a political scientist) why that might be, and he suggested it’s because I am now a mother, and, as a mother, I am more likely to share the GOP’s “family” values than I was before giving birth. This says a great deal about the Republican party, and why they have any chance of continuing to win elections even though most Americans feel that the Republican President and the Republican-controlled Congress are doing a spectacularly shitty job. It all comes down to marketing.
First of all, it’s simply amazing that the Republicans have been able to define and own a concept like “family.” Think about it: Family is the basic unit of human civilization, but it has become synonymous with a radical Christianist, homophobic, sexist, and subtly racist worldview. This is a remarkable achievement, and it’s just one part of the fairly astonishing P.R. campaign that the Republicans have been running since their “revolution” in 1994. This party has, after all, successfully convinced people who don’t have a pot to piss in that the estate tax is a pressing issue. This party gets people to the polls by telling them that gay marriage is somehow a threat to straight marriage, without ever explaining why, exactly. This is the party that, to cite one example from my own state’s gubernatorial race, has decided that the best way to motivate the base in the days before the election is to run ads raising the shibboleth of welfare queens. I know that foreign policy is a hard sell, so I don’t expect my fellow citizens to be as worried as they should be about North Korea and Iraq, but you’d think that our abysmal, untenable, irresolvable position in Iraq would be more upsetting to voters than, say, faggots in wedding dresses and lazy black women, but that’s because you live in the real world rather than the scary, embattled, endangered universe successfully conjured by the Republicans.
The second thing to notice about the election literature I’ve been receiving is that the Republicans know that I’m a mom now. It’s not because I sent Ken Mehlman a birth announcement. It’s because the RNC knows everything worth knowing about me. That the Democrats have to fight to win in the current political environment is, of course, at least partly attributable to their own weaknesses and failures. But it’s also because the Republican Party knows who owns a snowmobile, and they’ve called snowmobilers to remind them that treehugging Democrats are more likely than freedom-loving Republicans to take away their God-given right to pollute and generally despoil publicly-held forests. Thus, the Republicans are able to motivate the laziest among us—those who believe that cross-country skiing is for Swedes and pussies, those who prefer the noise and stink and generous cushioned seat of the Rascal of the wilderness to a simple hike—to go to the polls on election day and vote Republican.
The Democrats are working on building a database that equals the mighty Voter Vault, but, obviously, it ain’t happening this election year. Those of us Democratically inclined have to vote the old fashioned way. We have to be motivated enough by the real issues facing our communities, our country, and the world to actually get out and vote. If you’re not motivated yet… Well, I would suggest that you haven’t been paying attention, but I would also recommend that you read this Rolling Stone cover story from a few weeks back. I know that the Democratic Party has a lot to learn about marketing, and “Hey, at least we’re not Republicans,” is not an inspired or inspiring rallying cry, but—this year at least—it really should be enough.