When I was pregnant, I tried to make a SuperBaby.
April 9, 2017 5:50 PM   Subscribe

SuperBabies Don't Cry

"When I was pregnant, I tried to make a SuperBaby. I did not realize I was doing this. I believed I’d long ago shed the theory that a body could be made perfect. But looking back, my goal was clear. I ate 100 grams of protein a day. I swallowed capsules of mercury-free DHA. I gave up wheat for reasons I forget. I kept my cell phone an arm’s length away from my belly to avoid damaging my SuperBaby with electromagnetic waves. I did not own a microwave. I shopped at Whole Foods, bought all organic, sometimes racked up bills of $300 a week. I never let a kernel of GMO corn touch my estrogen-laden tongue. I spoke to my SuperBaby, welcoming it into my body so that it would feel loved and supported. I avoided finding out my SuperBaby’s sex so I wouldn’t project gender roles onto her/him/them. I slept on my left side because I’d read it was best for my baby’s and my circulation. In the last months, I never once reclined on a sofa because I’d heard the position could put a baby posterior. Instead, I always leaned forward, elbows propped on my spread knees like I was forever on the verge of imparting a proverb."
posted by peacheater (25 comments total) 75 users marked this as a favorite
That was great.
posted by chunking express at 6:18 PM on April 9, 2017 [5 favorites]

Damn that was good.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:14 PM on April 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

This is so fantastic, thank you for sharing. This writer also blogs about her life, with lots of thoughtful posts about Fiona, at Star In Her Eye.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 8:14 PM on April 9, 2017 [4 favorites]

really lovely
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:39 PM on April 9, 2017

What a well-written story.

Sometimes I think things would have been a little easier for me if I had had more contact with other kids dealing with the same chronic illnesses as me. But I was the only one in the area and my parents would have never paid for travel.

When I was in elementary school, the kids in wheelchairs learned in a separate wing of the building.

The schools I went to post-kindergarten took that a step further; instead of installing a few ramps, better doors, and a couple of accessible restrooms, they just paid out-of-district tuition to the nearest district with an accessible building for any student who used a wheelchair.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:43 PM on April 9, 2017

Great article, I just can't believe how much of this stuff still pervades... my father was the same way, though with less pseudoscience and more of his own pet theories. I can't count how many times I heard "you're not sick, you're just bored." He didn't mean any harm, he was trying to help, but...

Just a side note in case there's anyone who doesn't know... Microwaves produce non-ionizing radiation. The only way you (or your fetus) could be damaged by one is by being inside of it.
posted by gloriouslyincandescent at 8:45 PM on April 9, 2017 [3 favorites]

That was great.

Abandoning hope is an affirmation, the beginning of the beginning. QFT.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 8:46 PM on April 9, 2017 [6 favorites]

Thank you for sharing this. I've been transitioning lately, and on hormones long enough to get mushy, and this helped me with a soup of feelings I've been having. Here goes my venting:

I come from a family with people on the autism spectrum, as well as people with NPD and Bipolar. I got aspergers, depression, and also am a trans woman. Part of transitioning includes my decisions about my fertility, if I am to "father" a child with my fiancee. To be honest, I had such little concept of the future when I was numb and dysphoric pre-transition, and now I'm not sure I feel at all more invested in my child having my sperm. Unfortunately, even though I'm only about half a year into HRT, my gonads are dormant and possibly even sterile because of how they react to estrogen. My mother warned me it might not be worth it to freeze my sperm, since the pediatric neurologist who diagnosed me and my sister (who is lower-functioning autistic) warned her to not have more children unless she was prepared for a possibly more severely autistic child.

It also reminded me of a trip to see family, a few months before I connected the dots and realized I myself was trans. My mom was eager to introduce me to some cousin of my father's, who she said was just a great person. This woman was very religious, and was very concerned about the culture wars. Soon, she asked my mother how best to talk a young woman my age out of being a lesbian "because she just must be so confused. It's not who she is, her parents are so lovely and she's breaking their hearts." My mom went and explained how great it is that lesbians can marry, and that my cousin was able to marry a cute young lady and have children and have a lovely wedding. The tension was so thick, and she was so angry that my mother suggested people could subvert God's law like that. It got so bad, my grandmother, who is usually the one causing trouble with her NPD, defused the situation, saying God doesn't say much about it in the Bible. But when Caitlyn Jenner came up on the fox news my grandfather watches all day, my grandmother joined in along with the Dad's-Cousin making retching-noises. Even though I didn't know what I was yet, I felt hated. We watched God's Not Dead, because she said it was just the best movie. When Kevin Sorbo's smug atheist got hit by a car for a deathbed conversion, she sat up and started nodding, amazed at Movie-God's serendipity.

This same woman, my mom later told me, sent a nasty letter to my father when he was dying of cancer, saying he must reconcile whatever grave sin gave him the kind of lung cancer nonsmokers get. Otherwise, he wouldn't heal.

The "just world fallacy" is a hell of a thing, and it gives us purpose and motivation, but at the same time, it creates a crowd of morally depraved wicked to shun and jeer.

Later, my Dad's-Cousin got a pretty crazy kind of blood cancer. It's in remission now. She was going to get a new age treatment in Mexico, but settled for regular chemo therapy. While juggling whether to call an informed consent HRT clinic or not, I'm ashamed to say I felt like she deserved it at the time. And that's how it starts.

We're impermanent and fragile, and need to find the balance between emotion and numb safety. A thought that kept coming up as my mom kept telling me she thought HRT would kill me, since her mother had premarin (estrogen) injections and then had strokes, while I felt so damn numb proposing to my fiancee felt about as special as getting a free dessert.
posted by ikea_femme at 8:47 PM on April 9, 2017 [32 favorites]

Wow. That hit hard. Mrs. ntw is due in June with our second. We weren't aiming for some kind of superbaby like the author, but I won't lie, every parent-to-be has their own version. What a remarkable piece of writing.
posted by not_the_water at 9:04 PM on April 9, 2017 [5 favorites]

Thanks for sharing that.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 9:06 PM on April 9, 2017

God, so good. I often think that a lot of the things I've learned about life through having my kids are sort of ineffable and inexplicable, but reading something like this makes me think I'm just not trying hard enough. She has nailed down such a broad swath of truths about pregnancy and motherhood, truths that were hard work to win for myself.

Thanks for sharing.
posted by potrzebie at 9:25 PM on April 9, 2017 [3 favorites]

Thanks for linking to the writer's blog, pseudostrabismus, I've read a few and they are really great but this most recent one is amazing. I don't know what to do about all this inequality in our country. For a state like Ohio to go, "Ih. That's nice for you but our people don't want these kinds of things" is just so maddening. And how are any of us to know what our state is really providing for its people? We are all so interconnected and yet islands alone.
posted by amanda at 4:42 AM on April 10, 2017 [4 favorites]

The problem, it became clear, was mine: I wanted her different.

I have a daughter with similar - though not the same - special needs. To this I say: Amen.
posted by clawsoon at 8:15 AM on April 10, 2017

This was beautiful and a joy to read. I'm glad that she has come to some peace. When she says that that perfect SuperBaby wouldn't be her Fiona -- I think probably every parent has to get there, some with more or less to get over.

That said, a couple of things that bothered my editor brain:
"the deep-seeded belief" - argh, I see this eggcorn all the damn time lately

“Don’t worry,” a pediatrician said after examining my second child just hours after I’d birthed her. “Lightning didn’t strike twice.” Let me reiterate: he called my daughter lightning.

No, he called the disease that struck her lightning, or the situation as rare as being struck by lightning. And why would lightning be a derogatory thing to be compared to, anyway? Destructive, but mind-blowingly fast and powerful.
posted by fiercecupcake at 8:28 AM on April 10, 2017 [5 favorites]

And yes, her blog is marvelous. Can't wait to read through it all!
posted by fiercecupcake at 8:31 AM on April 10, 2017

Good piece, but with one disconnect, I thought. During her pregnancy she wasn't just trying to wish her kid into SuperBaby state. She did a whole bunch of physical things to improve the baby's health. Did those things end up supporting Fiona's development and giving her a best-case scenario, given her genetic makeup? Seems possible. Or does the author regret the time and money she invested in being as physically healthy as possible during pregnancy, given that the outcome wasn't as expected?
posted by mantecol at 8:34 AM on April 10, 2017 [4 favorites]

Wow her personal blog is incredible. And Yay for Vermont!
posted by k8t at 8:41 AM on April 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

This was exactly what I needed to read after staying up all night comforting our frightened new kitten. Powerful and important. (She's now happily playing with a ball, and I had a nice nap, so all is right in the world.)

Or does the author regret the time and money she invested in being as physically healthy as possible during pregnancy, given that the outcome wasn't as expected?

I wouldn't take this away at all. To the extent that practical things she did contributed to Fiona's well-being, of course she's grateful to have done them. What she regrets is having done those things in fostering an active belief that she held ultimate responsibility for every fact about her child, a belief which left no room for the reality that sometimes things just happen. Then, when something did just happen, she suddenly realized that all of that careful preparation had in fact left her weaker and more fragile.

And that's not to ignore that if one's idea of "practical things" transcends avoid known toxins and get proper nutrition to cross into only eat organic foods and don't use your cellphone, that definitely falls under "if wishing made it so".
posted by emmalemma at 9:31 AM on April 10, 2017 [9 favorites]

I know that she has broken my heart and put it back together in a shape that is bigger than I knew was possible.

posted by ellieBOA at 9:50 AM on April 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

Jesus, what a piece. Bless that family -- though it sounds like they're on an even keel and don't need my good wishes.

I have four kids, all physically typical. I don't think I am strong enough to persevere and to find grace like the author's in a childhood like Fiona's, if it had come to that. But I think that I have been deeply changed (and improved) by parenting. Oh, I am still a mess, but better, and trying. So could I have transformed that way? Maybe, but I'd be flattering myself to believe it.

Still working through my reactions to reading this. Thanks for posting, peacheater!
posted by wenestvedt at 10:15 AM on April 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

"SuperBabies Don't Cry"

I must not be a SuperBaby.
posted by TreeRooster at 10:43 AM on April 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

CW: Louise Hay. From AIDS humor zine Diseased Pariah News (DPN) #3, pages 18-19: Zen and the Art of Teddy Bear Burning. "Louise Hay literature makes the best kindling..." (note if you go further through that issue there are NSFW Captain Condom comics.)

At some point, they also wrote, "her philosophy is fucked."
posted by larrybob at 11:20 AM on April 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

So...I have disabilities, and actually all of the kids in my family do, some more pervasive than others. My family is all about the disabilities. We are a weirdo bunch. Growing up, I wanted nothing more than a brother or sister who was normal, who could play normal games and do normal things, wanted myself to be more like the normal kids at school, wanted my parents to have more time to spend with me rather than with my sister who couldn't talk and needed endless doctor's appointments. And I am sure the rest of the family felt the same way about my tests and medications and endless doctor's appointments and tantrums and special diets etc etc too.

So you'd think as an adult I'd be a very accepting person who doesn't have those kinds of hierarchies and ableist thinking. And I kind of am--I am pretty sure I do actually treat my friends with disabilities like real people--I am pretty sure I think of myself as a real person as well. I respect peoples' competencies and needs, whatever they be.

But I want a baby, and I am absolutely terrified of having a kid with a disability. I think of the endless doctors appointments, the IEPs, the tests, all that, and it freaks me out. Having read this, I want chromosomal testing, I want to do anything I possibly can to prevent something "like that" in my family. How do I destroy this kind of thinking in myself, the privileging of able bodies and minds? Why am I so scared and how do I stop?
posted by epanalepsis at 12:09 PM on April 10, 2017 [4 favorites]

epanalepsis: How do I destroy this kind of thinking in myself, the privileging of able bodies and minds? Why am I so scared and how do I stop?

Having a child with disabilities is scary. It's like being scared of getting a disability yourself. Losing a limb? Scary. Getting Alzheimer's? Scary. Having a chromosomal abnormality? Scary.

But then it happens, and you adjust. Energy that you once used for having friends and doing interesting things gets redirected. You love someone new, and it's complicated, the way that all love is.
posted by clawsoon at 12:25 PM on April 10, 2017 [3 favorites]

I liked a lot of things about this, but I really didn't like where she went here:

We want a SuperRace because we want to eradicate absolutely everything that terrifies us. We want SuperHumans so we can transcend that thing we are: human. But a SuperHuman would lack that crack in everything through which, as Leonard Cohen sang, the light gets in. There’s something in our suffering that we need. We’ve known this for millennia, and we make it clear in the stories we keep telling. The Buddha gave up his palace and meditated beneath a tree for a week. Jesus of Nazareth said yes to a cross. Our ache is our unfortunate, undeniable doorway. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, says the copper lady with the torch. When we walk into our pain, we sometimes find ourselves on the other side, freed of what we once thought we needed to feel free.

I don't like when writers feel the need to interpret/moralize other people's suffering. Find meaning in your own suffering, yes, good, fine. But the impulse to valorize suffering, to equate her suffering with other people's suffering, to mush up different kinds of suffering - chosen suffering (Buddha, Jesus) with random suffering with inflicted suffering - ugh. She walked through pain and found herself freer on the other side. Good for her. But what I am seeing is just another formula for 'do the right thing' --> 'get the right feeling' like the kind she was raised with. The narrative of motherhood as ennobling, maturing, etc., is nothing new and it doesn't seem so much more healthy to me than the other motherhood narratives she challenges.
posted by Salamandrous at 8:59 PM on April 11, 2017 [6 favorites]

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