Foremost in my brain is my pregnant body and it’s unceasing demands, and the book I am reading right now, Birthing from Within, by Pam England. I wish I had read this book when I was pregnant with my first child as it talks all about how what a mother really needs to know in order to give birth and become a mother isn’t something we can learn in our heads, it’s a transformation our hearts and spirits and bodies must undergo. Learning everything about the way birth is perceived medically isn’t actually that much help when you are labouring because a woman experiences birth much differently than in the stages we learn about in childbirth classes. Anyway, I’m fascinated, and from experience know how true this is, so I’m enjoying the book, and I’m excited to do the birth art projects in it. MY doula for the last birth did some of the projects from this book with me and they were very helpful. But I don’t want this to turn into a pregnancy only blog, so here are some of my other thoughts for the day.
Americans really are different than Canadians. I know this is not that shocking to some of you, but I always thought living in Canada that we were much the same. My first inkling that this may not be the case came was when my future husband met my grandparents for the first time. He said yes the first time when they offered him something, and my grandmother visibly flinched. Since most of you don’t get this being American I’ll explain. There is a little ritual that we go through in Canada, at least where I grew up, later I lived in Vancouver with Asian neighbors and they are worse at this, but we in the Midwest do it too. When someone offers you something, you politely decline. This could be anything from tea or something to eat, to a ride somewhere, any kind of favor volunteered. You say no. This gives the person the chance to back out if they were only offering to be polite, or the chance to offer again. The number of times this happens until you finally accept or conclusively deny what is offered depends on who it is and your type of relationship, it includes a lot of, “well only if you’re getting some for yourself,” and “if you’re sure it’s not too much trouble,” and “no trouble at all,” and well if you insist”. A good guest must be coaxed into dessert, tea, a second helping, etc. My dear fiancé smiled and said yes please that sounds wonderful, and turned my grandparents little universe on it’s side for a second. It was while attempting to understand how there could be so much tension in a room over such innocuous conversation that I finally realized the existence of these rules, and was able to explain how they are broken. Until that moment I had taken them for granted.
Now that I’m a mother, making friends with other mothers here in southern California, I am discovering so many other things that are different, I feel kind of displaced and a little bit homesick. The international community accuses the US of being puritanical, you know, they may be right. I have never seen so many women afraid to nurse in public. If they do stay where they are to nurse it’s under a gigantic blanket with a spouse holding it up for them as they get it all sorted out. This is in the summer time heat. But that woman was quite bold. I have not seen one woman in church aside from myself actually nurse her child in the building. They go running to their sweltering hot cars at the far end of the parking lot where their husbands park on purpose so that they can remain as invisible as possible. But you can buy porn in every corner store it seems, why would something so innocent and beautiful be such a big deal.
I understand that lots of women are really shy and modest and maybe this is what they want, but it seems more to me like it’s to accommodate the men around them that are made uncomfortable by the idea that an invisible breast may at this moment, in their immediate proximity, have a baby's mouth on it. So you see why the word puritanical comes to mind. This is weird for me, because in Vancouver women nursed everywhere, buses, parks, coffee shops, restaurants, churches, public pools; I was definitely in the majority there. I’ve even nursed at the table in my grandparent’s house who have their aforementioned own brand of weird cultural ideas, but no one blinks twice at a nursing mother.
Another thing I can’t get over is how many grown-ups drink soda. Teenagers drink it, kids want it, but I don’t remember a lot of adults drinking soda when I was growing up like I see here. Maybe it’s just too hot to drink coffee, but you know, there’s iced tea and water. Oh yeah, and wonder bread, seriously, people still eat that stuff?
Oh and there are the number of women who don’t even try to breast feed but go straight to formula and don’t even appear to feel a touch regretful about the decision. That’s strange to me.
Or there’s the fact that half of the streets here have no sidewalks, so there are some places I can’t walk with my kids.
Or the total lack of anything that isn’t a gigantic chain store to shop at, not that I don’t love Target.
There’s the now famous poo vs. poop.
People are generally more optimistic here though, and more friendly.
Maybe this has more to do with moving from urban to suburban than Canada to the US, I don’t know. Maybe it’s just this particular piece of Southern CA that is like this. I find myself just sitting and listening and feeling very out of place these days, and I don’t say much because people are usually defensive at first if you comment on something they do that’s strange to you. What’s it like where you live, are there other differences that I haven’t noticed yet?