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GENDER IS A SOCIAL CONSTRUCT!

Say it with me now!

Gender. Is. A. Social. Construct.

I have been acutely aware this pregnancy of how quickly and readily the first question I receive upon hearing the news is related to the baby’s genitalia.

“Are you going to find out the gender?” (SEX! Gender is a social construct. And, no.)

Or, “A BOY! It has to be a boy!” (Yes, because I have complete and utter control over this process.)

Or “It’s because James needs a boy, huh?” (Yes, in fact, if it’s a girl, we’ll be giving her up for adoption. Or try experimental hormone treatments on her to correct this error.)

Sigh. I know these comments aren’t coming from an ill-intentioned place. No one means to sound as rigidly gender-constructed as they appear when they lead with these questions. And yet… and yet that’s exactly how they read when I hear them. I realize that American society in particular is extremely married to the male/female divide (check any children’s aisle in a department store or Big Box Mart for proof) but it’s so poorly guided.

Perhaps it’s my evolving feminism, or raising daughters, or the realization that my two children with vaginas are so drastically different that knowing that they were both going to have female genitalia prepared me in no way for who they would be and are, and how James and I would parent them, but it’s been more apparent this time than with either of the girls how often the question is asked in some shape or form.

Admittedly, with the girls, I wanted to know their sex. I felt like it gave me some semblance of control or knowledge or preparation – but in having two girls, I realized it in no way did that. In fact, it just conditioned me to buy pink and flowers and frills (which, hey, is tons of fun) but was truly not necessary for an infant with no gendered baggage whatsoever. It also had me envisioning a prescribed idea of what they might be, informed by a lifetime of societal stereotypes and conditioning around female vs. male. Which wasn’t fair to them. And wasn’t fair to me.

I love the not knowing. This baby is a blank slate, his or her own person and I am imparting no preconceived notions of who he or she will be because I don’t have this categorizing information to direct those thoughts. I feel like being surprised in the moment is one of the last true surprises in this life. A colleague responded this way when I told her that I wasn’t going to find out the sex, and went on to relay how she dreamed differently not knowing the sex of one of her babies during pregnancy. Anything was possible for that baby, because social norms and stereotypes weren’t subconsciously influencing her dreams.

We underestimate how powerful the male/female categories are in our society. Infants all look like gender-neutral, mushy blobs, yet people yearn for that piece of categorizing information. And upon knowing it, respond with, “What a beautiful, sweet girl!” or “Such a strong, handsome boy!” Study upon study proves that we speak to babies differently based on their sex, and yet we somehow think that boys just innately like trucks and fighting and girls princesses and pink – when, since before their arrivals, we’ve been conditioning them toward those things in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. With language, with clothing, with nursery decor, with toys, with visions for their future, and so on, and so forth.

You don’t need any information about my child’s genitals, or any child’s genitals, to know how to treat them or what to buy for them or how to speak to them. Infants, especially, represent a rare moment in a human’s life where the world is a blank slate. Let’s not begin it with our own gendered baggage.

And instead of asking “Are you having a boy or a girl?” or “Are you finding out the SEX?” upon learning of someone’s pregnancy, instead try leading with, “Congratulations. How are you feeling?”

P.S. I am in no way judging or condemning families who want to and do find out the sex of their babies prior to birth. James and I were those parents… twice! Every mother gets to decide for herself what is best for her body and baby and what information she wants and needs to get through this experience. We all need to be a little more live and let live on this front. I’m just asking that we think critically about why it is we want this info and how it may influence how we think about our child and their place in the world in both wonderful but also maybe not so wonderful (if we’re relying on gender stereotypes) ways.

Poultney // 2015

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Three weekends ago (where the hell has this summer gone?!), we once again ventured north to our friend’s house in Poultney, VT for some fun on the lake. We had such a blast the summer prior, that we decide to extend the trip to two days, and it was every bit as smile-inducing as we’d anticipated. Tubing. Boating. Swimming. S’more-making. Life is good on Lake St. Catherine.

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Apple Picking // 2015

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Since Sunny went back to school last week, I’ve been experiencing premature fall urges. We visited The Apple Barn in Vermont on Saturday for Maple Soft Serve Ice Cream and Apple Cider Slushies. We then spent Sunday afternoon apple picking at Lakeview Orchard for the earliest apple varieties (Snappy Mac and Williams Pride) and consuming our favorite cider donuts. No doubt we’ll be back many more times this season. We cannot resist ripe, in season, crisp, juicy apples straight off the tree. There’s nothing better. (Spoken like a proper New Englander).

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“A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2015.”

Sunny: So begins the season when we consume five apples daily. Hurray!
Kaki: Our Co(u)rtland Apple.

More details about The 52 Project here. To view all the portraits in the series visit here.

The Gummy Bear // Week 12

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Our attempt to ensure that The Gummy Bear gets at least SOME documentation of his/her gestation.

Unlike with the girls, where I was so nauseous I could barely stomach white bread and saltines (and thus lost 10-15 pounds during the first 12 weeks), I have gained a solid 15 pounds with this little one. Looking at photos of Courtland’s pregnancy, I look about the same as I did when I was 4-5 months pregnant with her. But let me be clear, I would so rather take the hearty appetite and weight gain over the debilitating nausea. It may take more effort to get back to my usual pre-pregnancy size post-baby, but it is so worth it to be able to consume nachos with abandon.

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First Day of First Grade

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August 27, 2015 – Pownal, Vermont

The Gummy Bear

Me: Mommy and Daddy have something to tell you two. Courtland is going to be a big sister!

Them: …..

Him: Do you know what that means?

Sunny: That you’re trying to have a baby?

Me: I actually have a baby already in my tummy.

Them: slow, sweet smiles and wide eyes

Courtland: I’m going to be a big sister and Sunny’s going to be a big, BIG sister?

Me: Yes, that’s right. What do you think about that?

Them: Good.

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Not quite the righteous, enthusiastic reactions we were anticipating given their constant demands for another sibling over the past few months.

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Later that night…

Sunny: Mommy, can I come kiss your tummy good night so that the baby knows how much I love her already?

Courtland: Mommy, is the baby sleeping? Is she hungry? Does she like the food you are eating? You can’t drink grown up drinks (think: beer, wine, coffee) because kids can’t have grown up drinks and the baby is a little, little, little kid.

They are already proving that they’ve got everything it takes to be the greatest big sisters for this little gummy bear (which is what we’ve taken to calling her thanks to a clever ultra sound tech).

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Ed: Unlike with the girls, we are waiting to find out the sex of the baby until the moment of her arrival. The girls are excited about the prospect of either a baby brother or sister (though Kaki has stressed that she would really like a baby brother because Daddy and Ferdinand need some more boys in this house). But the girls have taken to using the female pronoun when talking about her, so rather than “it,” we’re using “she/her” for ease and comfort. More on this soon…

 

The Third

This was written the first week of July 2015…

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We’re 20 years old and 2 weeks into “hanging out” and “watching movies,” awkward college-speak for dating, and I ask him, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”.  He responds, very truthfully and without a hint of irony, “A Dad.”

And that has been the truest thing I’ve known about James in the 12 years since. And he excels at being a Dad. A true partner. In fact, I’d say he shoulders the larger share of the parenting responsibility in our home, and he does so willingly and with his signature quiet humor.

And thus, it comes as no surprise that James has been on campaign for Baby Number Three since Courtland entered the world on August 10, 2011. As the oldest of four boys, he grew up in and loves a big family. Without pressure, but with a clear enthusiasm, he has always been excited about the prospect of us having our own large family.

I, on the other hand, have been truly ambivalent about the notion of a third child. We have such a lovely family dynamic with our two girls in our little house in Vermont, why complicate life with additional life? The finances! The lifestyle! The social dynamics! The bodily fluids! The sleeplessness! The zone defense! The world’s overpopulated! The fact that I’m now in my 30s! I couldn’t wrap my head around all the changes three would mean.

But then the girls learned to wipe their own butts. And (for the most part), sleep through the night. And dress themselves. And are the most delightful little humans with such a wonderful bond and connection that I began to see how another child might be possible. I’d catch glimpses of how they would help entertain a baby, and provide support that was lacking when they were new. And then they began asking for a baby. TWO babies, actually. A brother AND a sister. And the thought of my sweet Courtland as a big sister was one of the most pivotal in helping solidify my cautious interest in adding to our family.

Additionally, while I feel very much whole, as though our family is complete in its current state, when I would close my eyes and envision life 20 years from now, I would see more than just the four of us. I saw us with more adult children – a built in party, support network, and core. I’m not one of those women that leaves L&D yearning for a repeat of what I just experienced. Very much the opposite. But I am a woman who believes that my children, this family, will always be my life’s greatest joy and accomplishment. The thought of adding to that is what finally tipped the scales.

In December, the goalie came out of the net, as it were, and while I remained equivocal, I was willing to see what would happen. I noticed that with each passing month that my period would arrive, I would feel a hint of sadness, which signaled that this was the right course.

On Friday, July 3rd, over the holiday weekend at James’ parents’ cabin in the Poconos, I peed on a stick and two minutes later was greeted with a blue plus sign.

A third.

A third pregnancy.

A third baby.

A third child.

A third.

The Third.

I have been riding a high of excitement since. Yes, there are moments where I can hardly believe it. Yes, I loathe the predictable first trimester sinus infection that I was struck down with within days (just like I was with Addison and Courtland). I feel rather physically miserable (just as I did with both girls), and yet it is so liberating and wonderful to carry a third child. My emotional and mental health is so much more balanced and calm and happy.

With the first pregnancy, well, EVERYTHING is overwhelming and new and scary and exciting and WHAT THE FUCK IS HAPPENING?! And with the second there was constant worry about the beloved first born and what would the arrival of a baby do to her and how is it possible to have room in your heart to love equally more than one child?

But now? With the third? I’m not afraid of all the bat shit craziness my body is experiencing. That’s par for the course. I’m not scared of how James or I or our children will adapt to another family member, because the four of us are living proof of just how capable the human heart is to love deeply and unconditionally multiple children. Sure, it’s going to be madness and if I dwell on it too much I’m a bit daunted by the mechanics of parenting three children with two working parents. But I never doubt our ability to adapt and make it happen. And I never doubt our ability to love and welcome new life into our family.

James and I can do that. We have done that. And we couldn’t be more excited to do it again.

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I am due in early March 2016. This week marks my transition into the 2nd trimester. Here’s hoping that I feel a much needed surge in energy now that I’ve made it through the first three months.

Purple Sweater Wearer

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Courtland requested that I make her a purple sweater for her fourth birthday. Naturally, I obliged with my favorite little pattern. And I could not resist those cow buttons. Because purple and cows go together like peanut and butter. #spokenlikeanEph

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Ravelry details

 

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“A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2015.”

Sunny: Her summer has looked and felt very much like this.
Kaki: A little less sure of leaping into the lake full tilt. But excited to swim nonetheless.

More details about The 52 Project here. To view all the portraits in the series visit here.