Passing on the Pink

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Alternately titled: The Smiths are having a girl-squash.

It’s subtle, and it’s everywhere. The ultrasound technician who was photographing our baby’s head and made a comment about “Well, we don’t know whether it will be wearing a cowboy hat or a tiara yet!”. A co-worker who, upon hearing the news that we were expecting a girl, went out to look for pink flowers and apologized that she could find one. The racks and racks of frilly, sequined, bow-festooned clothing that I saw at Target when I went out after the Doctor’s appointment to look for something a bit more feminine than the jeans, striped onesies, and overalls I’ve been picking up. Jason’s question to me the next afternoon, about whether or not he could wrestle with a girl or play catch with her. And, I mean, he wouldn’t know. They wouldn’t know. No one means any harm. It’s just a nefarious lens positioned firmly on the way our society views girls as a whole.

When I first got pregnant, I had one of those woo-woo lady-intuition-type-feelings; I was going to have a girl. I tried not to think about it too much, and by the time we actually found out the gender I was ready for either one of them. Jason and I kept joking that we would either get a Hushpuppy (Beasts of the Southern Wild) or a Max (Where the Wild Things Are). Never did we have conversations about having a princess or a cowboy. When I envisioned having a daughter, I thought about a girl who would have the freedom to get dirty; to climb trees and collect bugs and make things out of mud alongside playing dress up with thrift store clothes, sewing, and having tea parties. I thought of it in this way because that’s how I was raised and to some extent, how I still am.

Parents don’t get everything right, and mine are not an exception (I can say that because I’m 95% certain they’ll agree. They’re not perfect. Thankfully, no one is). But one of the many things they did an amazing job at without even trying was raising two daughters with very balanced perspectives on gender. I did my share of “girly things” as a child – mostly in the winter, when it was too cold to play outside. But I never saw my place as being in the house vs. outdoors. I never saw playing catch or rollerblading or riding my bike or fishing as strictly masculine activities because neither one of my parents ever presented them that way. I loved going fishing with my dad. I loved learning how to work hard in the garden alongside my mom. I loved chasing after my older brothers on my bike.

I know, some of you are groaning to yourselves right now. She’s one of those new-fangled gender-neutral types who are going to never use the pronouns he or she and who will let her boys wears dresses and her girls wear suits if they want to. Typical post-modern parent.

So, let me specify: I take absolutely no issue with girls being feminine and guys being masculine. I take a lot of issues with how society has defined those two terms. I do not believe a woman’s place is always in the home, or that caretaking of a child should mainly fall on a mother’s shoulders. I do not want to raise my daughter with the expectation that the most she can aim for in life is to find a good husband and have a family. I want to give her opportunities to excel at whatever she sets her mind to – and that might be fashion design, and it might be sports, and it might be something that I don’t have any context for yet. It might involve marriage and a family it might not.

The bottom line is that it doesn’t have to be an either-or scenario. Dresses do not mean the subjugation of a woman, nor does a girl who can climb a tree mean the absence of healthy femininity. Having a girl does not have to equal pink. So, no offense Target or Kohls or wherever, but I will not be shopping your racks when I clothe my daughter. I want her to be able to choose a red shirt or a blue shirt or a green shirt, a pair of sturdy jeans or a skirt that makes her feel feminine and confident when she wears it and most of all, I want her to know that getting her clothing dirty and wrinkled while in the process of blowing up her imagination is totally, completely acceptable. Clothes are only clothes. The lessons you allow your children to learn with their hands and eyes and wild little minds are what’s really important.

Thank God for thrift stores. Thank God for my sewing machine. Thank God for the Ronias and the Hushpuppies and the Elnoras, for the Eilonwys and the Lauras and yes, even for the Katnisses. Thank God for a husband and father-to-be who is not too proud to admit that he struggles with emotional vulnerability. Thank God for a father who cried in front of his daughters and a mother who browned her skin in the summer sun from long days of hard work. Thank God for a wide-open backyard and acres of State Forest mere blocks from our house. Thank God for rivers and lakes and lightening bugs in the summer, for sledding and book-devouring and textile arts in the winter.

Thank God for green and red and yellow and blue and orange and purple. With so many beautiful colors to surround my daughter with, I believe I’ll pass on the pink.

In which I find out that pregnancy is a big deal

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8:11am – Posted this on Facebook and tagged my husband:

8:46am – Get a call from said husband. “Did you post the photo? Because my inbox is blowing up with Facebook notifications.”

A huge, flipping deal.

Now that the proverbial cat is out of the bag, I’ll be posting a few of my muses from that weird period of time where we weren’t being very public about the pregnancy but obviously, I still had a lot on my mind. I’m also thinking about doing a series of posts on the hilarious things that Jason has said since we found out. Because, really, they’re great.

I will say this: pregnancy has made me more of a feminist than I knew I could be. Perhaps feminist isn’t the most succinct way of putting it…I mean, there are other words that people might apply to my change in attitude, but I’ll leave that to your imagination. Suffice to say, I am far less willing to put up with people’s bull crap these days. Part of it is that I’ve had to unfortunately learn how much bull crap is out there related to motherhood/pregnancy, and part of it is that I care way less about keeping people happy all the time. Not that I’ve become a raving hormonal mess, lashing out at folks every chance I get. But I have been working on the art of tactfully saying, “Please don’t make comments like that.” Or “Please don’t take this news and run with it because it’s our news, not yours, and not only that but it’s somewhat personal news that doesn’t need to be broadcasted to every friend/cousin/aunt/uncle until we feel we’re ready for that.”

So, be forewarned. As always, none of what I ramble about should be taken as gospel. I’m just a fairly introspective girl woman working her way through an astonishing transition in her life and trying to figure out what it means to be true to myself in the midst of it.

To humor the throngs of people and their questions, I will provide a brief FAQ of the Smithling pregnancy thus far:

  1. How far along are you?
    As of today, I am somewhere in the 15 week range. My due date is November 26, so it’s a possibility that I may be eating Thanksgiving Dinner in a birthing center.
  2. Are you going to find out what it is?
    Yes, we will – July 10 is the ultrasound date. I like surprises just as much as the next person, but I guess I feel like waiting 23 weeks is long enough for the surprise. The idea of waiting until the baby is born sounds far too overwhelming in light of the fact that I’ll be, you know, giving birth.
  3. Do you have names picked out?
    Yes! We have a few names, both male and female.
  4. How are you feeling?
    Currently, I’m feeling really good. The first trimester was miserable, but not unbearable. I had lots of food issues, I was tired ALL THE TIME, and overall it was just weird and uncomfortable. I’m done to almost no food issues (back to drinking coffee!) and my body feels pretty good. I still get tired easily but it’s nothing that a quick nap doesn’t solve.
  5. Where are you going for prenatal care?
    There is a midwives group that functions under the Aurora network here in Milwaukee. So, they’re midwives, but more like hospital midwives. I was seeing them for my OB care before I got pregnant and have only good things to say about my experience. They’re kind, empowering, thorough, and they leave every decision up to me and Jason. No procedures have been “pushed” on us, and everything has been explained in detail. I love it.
  6. Where are you going to deliver?
    Originally, I always hoped to be able to do a home birth. However, I think that for our first go around, we’ve decided that a birthing center is the best route for us. I would really prefer to avoid a hospital birth because I don’t like the feel of hospitals in general. So far, everything seems healthy and I don’t think it will be an issue.
  7. Are you still running?
    Yes, with the full blessing of my midwife. I plan on trying to run until my third trimester.
  8. Is Jason excited?
    Jason is doing what he does best during transitions – he’s figuring stuff out. He’s reading books, asking me questions, and overall is very supportive. He’s not, by any means, glowing or swooning or gushing about “baby”. Which is fine. I would be concerned if he was because that’s not how he is about anything. He does have a very good sense of humor, and we’ve found that taking the situation lightly is good for both of us.
  9. Are YOU excited?
    Well, sure I am. I’m also tired, overwhelmed with all of the things that we need to start getting in order, weirded out by people’s over-the-top-reactions, entertained by the little pre-bump that’s become my stomach, incensed by the way that people feel it’s appropriate to stare at my waistline/touch my stomach/give unsolicited advice/make comments about how “tiny” I still am/etc, etc. Overall, the whole thing has been making me laugh. I haven’t had one of those moments where I just get awed by the “miracle of life” or something like that – I laughed when I saw the positive sign on the pregnancy test. I laughed the first time that I heard the heartbeat. I laughed during the first ultrasound, when I saw the little toot stretching its funny legs in the womb. It’s been hilarious and amazing all at once. I’m not a gushy person, and while I had wondered if pregnancy would change that, it’s really hasn’t. In a way, I’m not feeling any of those sentimental “OHMYLITTLEANGEL!” type feelings because I honestly don’t feel like it’s “my” little angel to coddle over. Sure, it’s mine and Jason’s child, and I like thinking about it growing and starting to respond to noise/touch, but on some level it’s very much out of our hands right now. It’s an exercise in trusting God that if I do the best things that I can do (eating right, sleeping, taking care of my body, etc) that he will keep it healthy and happy and hopefully help us not screw up too much when we become parents. It’s still rad, and I still think pregnancy is ultimately very bad-ass.

That’s about it for now. Stay tuned for more updates here and there. And you know, other stuff that I do, like, uh, writing a book. Because that’s important also.

Four New Chapters

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And some notes from Zefyr. And a new cover. And a few of my illustrations scattered here and there.

If you’ve been patiently skimming the dialog-ey relationship-building stuff (that’s a real author term, obviously) in hope for some actual action, start at Chapter 20. Things pick up a bit there.

Again, this is pretty new material for me. Stuff gets changed and re-worded whenever I do a read-through, but I don’t think anything major is going to change with the plot at this point.

Some of the stuff – the reactor and the subsequent disastrous flooding – I’ve been chomping at the bit to write about. I feel a bit like Zefyr at the end of Chapter 21, flying through the rain on the back of Noa’s bike and laughing when the thunder hits because, wheee, isn’t this fun? Finally, things start to come together. Zefyr has thoughts around the “L” word, which Noa would probably share in, if he knew what love even meant. Halcyon is not just methodical, it’s malicious. Which you probably guessed at all along but now you, like Noa can properly bask in the shock of it.

Anyway, I’ll stop jabbering and let you read it.

DWTW – Through Chapter 21

Novel-ey stuff

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*Edit 5/21 – See, I told ya. After reading over the interaction in the last part of chapter 17, I realized it was fairly abrupt. So, I went back and added a few things to tie in with some earlier chapters. Carry on, my shallots.

Some new chapters….

DWTW – Through Chapter 17

These past few chapters feel a little less certain for me – everything before that was actually on it’s 3rd or 4th re-write, and these have really only been the second re-write. So, be patient. They will very possibly change later on.

I know things slow down in this part, but I actually wanted them to because, well, this is where you start to realize that, oh, hey, they’re probably falling in love, and sometimes that process looks like commonplace conversations and realizations about the other person that move without hurrying.

So, there it is. Hopefully, I captured some of the awkward beauty that comes with adolescence, as the title of the Part 3 suggests. And hopefully, my parents get a kick out of the two merchants because I got a kick out of writing about them.

DwtW – Two New Chapters

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Hey kids!

Sorry it’s been awhile since any updates. The editing that I was doing up through chapter 13 was mostly just language-type stuff – cleaning up the sound of things so it didn’t sound so old-fashioned, if you know what I mean. Needless to say, I’m basically caught up in that department and now I’m back to actually re-writing and developing the plot. Hence, progress is a bit slower.

Anyway, here are two new chapters. And finally, a bit of action, for those of you who were getting bored…

DWTW – Through Chapter 14

DwtW – Through Part Two

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Sorry for not posting any updates last week…I thought that the end of Part Two would be a nice, clean break and I hadn’t quite finished working through Chapter 12.

So, Part Two…it doesn’t have a lot of action, so if you get bored easily, you could just skip ahead to Chapter 11, ha. That being said, I enjoyed writing it, especially the process of adults remembering (or in this case, learning for the first time) what it means to be a child – how big the world can be, and how frightening it is when the people that we think of as invincible suddenly aren’t.

It’s also very entertaining to write about Lieb.

Anyway, as a side note, please feel free to point out any grammatical errors. I tend to speed-read, and this is often disastrous when it comes to editing.

Read on.

DWTW – Through Part Two

DwtW – All of Part One

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As promised….also, I added cover art! Look how cool I am. The coloring needs some help – I was doing it freehand and it shows. I’d like to recolor it with my tablet at some point.

You will also notice a complete table of contents but obviously not all of the chapters are finished or even named properly. I’ll be filling them in as I go.

Thanks for the feedback so far. It tickles me to think that people are actually taking the time to read this. Best comment I’ve gotten so far was from my dad, who said that now he wanted to know what was going to happen to Noa and “whats her name”. Ha. (For the record, Zefyr’s name is pronounced “Ze-feer”. I know that typical variations of that word are pronounced “Zeffer”, but hey, this is my story. If you really want to think of her as “Zeffer” though, I can handle it.)

DWTW – Through Chapter 8