Monday, January 24, 2005
First, there was the third birth class we went to. I'll give a brief synopsis:
We arrived. The instructor had us watch a video of more babies coming out of more screaming women. She discussed massage. She had us massage each other, but this time it was real massage, not 'sprinkling rain' like in the last entry. Then she rolled out these giant blue balls and had us sit on them and scoot our butts around and she kept asking us "Now, doesn't that feel good? Yes! It's wonderful!" I have to say, my butt felt all right through the whole thing. Then she went on about how we can all do the same thing if we purchase these kinds of helpful balls. She asked if anyone had any already. Then she turned to Maisy and I (because we were closest) and said: "Have you thought about purchasing something like these? Or do you already have big balls at home?", to which I had to turn my head and hold in a sudden outburst of laughing. Maisy chuckled and said: "Yes, but not like these.", to which I almost lost it. I wasn't the only one. Most of the people in the room exchanged looks and held in a laugh or two.
Then, the instructor had us drive over to the hospital, all of us, for a tour. This was incredibly long and we mostly stood in place for an hour, jostling from our left leg to the right, back and forth as the cramping set in, while she outlined all the uses of the birth-bed. There was an RN there who was quite a bit more informative, but was kind of silenced by the instructor, who it seemed wanted to be the informative one. It was around 413 degrees in the hospital and my mouth and lips became so dry I felt like I'd only eaten hot sand for days.
Later in the week, we had the monster baby shower. This was huge, co-ed, and packed. About 40 people showed up, which is quite a bit for our little duplex home. We made it through just fine, but I did so much milling and socializing that my voice hurt for two days. I realize now that when I try to sound like I'm totally impressed (as in with something someone is saying or when responding to a gift), I raise my voice about two octaves and begin every sentence with: "Oh, that's so...". This octave maneuvering ruins my voice for hours after, and no amount of rejuvenating tea or whatnot can help.
That's all for now. There will be more.
Sunday, January 16, 2005
Saturday, January 15, 2005
Went to the 2nd birth class. Not only was this more agitating than the first time, but much more disturbing. There was more hypnotism, embarrasment, mean looks, and then.. on top of that... there was THE PROBLEM. But we'll get to that. I've gone ahead and compiled a list of various phrases the instructor used while discussing the birth process. These are terms, phrases and statements the instructor idley mentioned, and that I feel can be more euphonically described, however they DO definitely elicit a certain vibe (i.e. they're horrible sounding and conjur bad images).
1. Extent of bag-ripping
2. Mucous Plug
4. Torn Vagina
5. "...black, tarry, sticky feces if the baby goes to the bathroom inside you..."
6. Loose Stools
7. Barnacle-like Growths
8. "...if you see a cord hanging down between your legs, it's probably time..."
9. Membrane Rupture
10. Surprise Leakage
11. "...cream-cheese like substance..."
12. Bloody Show
Those said (and I hope you had some nice, vivid images to accompany them), the birth class went as follows:
We showed up on time but the class had basically started about 5 minutes early. We remembered to bring pillows this time, but as it turns out, wouldn't need them. I made sure not to bring any gummi bears for fear of being hurled more chastising judgements. The instructor had made nametags for us and mine said 'Rowan'. I didn't want to be Rowan and it isn't my name, but I liked her handwriting so politely thanked her and stuck it to my chest: I became Rowan. Rowan needed a new personality, I decided, so adopted a kind of confused smugness, like a guy who is completely bored with something, mainly because he's too stupid to understand it. It worked well. Rowan was a big hit with everyone. We started with a video that consisted mostly of 2-dimensional drawings of a pregnant woman and what occurs when the baby drops. This was of interest, especially when they started discussing the head-hook. The head-hook is a small stick-like device with a wire coming out of it (similar to a snake-catching loop). There's a little hook on the end of the wire. The doctor, during a period when its difficult to gather the baby's heartbeat (usually the last stage of pushing the little tyke out) will reach inside the woman and stick the hook in the baby's head. Through this hook and wire, the baby's heartbeat can be picked up again. The person who invented this method gets my weirded-out look.
After the video, the instructor talked some more about the active phase of birth, where the terms mucous plug, bloody show, torn vagina, etc... came into play. As Rowan, I decided to entertain myself by writing down anything the instructor said that sounded horrible. Rowan filled pages. Rowan almost made himself sick. Rowan needed some fucking gummi bears but didn't bring any. Once the informative part of the class was over (about 5 minutes), the instructor had all of us sit on the blue mats. This time, the blue mats were sticky and smelled like chalk. Rowan decided not to put his head on the mat, and so, when lying down, was uncomfortable. She tried to hypnotise us again. It was nearly identical to the first session last week, complete with the beach-scenario and the long list of colors. Rowan almost started laughing (a very Rowan thing to do), but kept himself under control because Rowan hates attention. After the hypnotism (which almost worked on Maisy because she fell asleep and very nearly started snoring), the instructor had us sit up to learn about massage. Rowan hates massage. He keeps all of his stress in his back and shoulders and can't let it out or it will eat him. When something touches, presses or kneads his back or shoulders, little pains streak through his body and make him think of lashing out. The instructor had Maisy get behind me and put her hands on top of my head. Okay. Then, she introduced the term 'sprinkling rain', and said it was a kind of massage. Okay. Then she said what 'sprinkling rain' was. Uh... Basically, Maisy had to type on my head. She just rested her fingers on top of my head and started tapping it up. I had just taken my hat off so my hair was sticking up everywhere and there's my wife, typing on my head. I looked around the room and everyone was doing this. Sitting there, looking complacent and at peace, getting their heads typed-on. This is ridiculous and I feel like an idiot, Rowan thought, as Maisy typed out the confusing and mystical message 'asxbduv' across his receding, home-row hairline. Then, Maisy was told to lay her hands flat on my head making a circle with her thumbs and forefingers. She had to slowly widen the circle as it went down my head. As my head came through her hands, they widened considerably and made my hair pull, which hurt, and then I just felt like I was being made fun-of, it was so bad, and her hands were supposed to be imitating a vagina and it was all so stupid that Rowan took over and quietly said: "This is stupid. I feel like I'm being born." This was bad, because Maisy started laughing. Really hard laughing. It made me laugh. Then everyone laughed because we all thought it was stupid. The instructor didn't laugh. Maisy couldn't control herself at all after that and started laughing wildly so she had to leave the room. Everyone calmed down and we went on with the massage, except that I was alone, so had to type on my own head and felt really sad and self-conscious.
Maisy was allowed back in and she had stopped laughing, but told me I couldn't look at her for the rest of the class or she'd start laughing again. This was difficult because later on we had to pretend she was in labor and I was supposed to look into her eyes and tell her to breathe and help her count. Except she had told me not to look at her, so she laid there breathing and having to fake little grunts and things and I was looking away and saying 'breathe... good one... now breathe, 1, 2, 3, 4, great... now breathe' and I wasn't really paying attention to where I was looking, just making sure it wasn't at Maisy, and I think this other woman thought I was checking her out or something because she frowned and gave me a reproachful look. It was the same look she gave me last week over the gummi bear disturbance.
Last, we watched another video. The instructor introduced it as 'a highlight of how different women handle their active phase' and it was supposed to be different ways to cope with the pain. I watched as 9 babies were born, all of them filmed with the money-shot, and most of the women's coping mechanisms were horrifying. One woman moaned so heavily that it didn't sound human... it was more yak-like. Another woman kept saying 'shut up!' to anyone in the delivery room who spoke. One of them screeched intermittently while everyone in the delivery room chanted 'ho' over and over again, which Rowan thought was hilarious. Then the PROBLEM happened. The last birth they showed was nightmarish. Blood everywhere. Doctors freaking out. The woman's coping mechanism was to scream louder than anything I've ever heard (and I'm a dedicated horror movie fan), over and over again, screaming 'OH GOD... OH GOD MAKE IT STOP... HELP ME OH GOD IT HURTS OH GOOOOOOD PLEASE NO HELP ME OH JESUS AAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! AAAAAAAAH NO! NO! NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!....." Screaming and screaming at the top of her lungs. The father was roaring alongside her, confused and horrified. The doctors were running all over the place, yelling and shouting to be heard over her screams and the husband's panicked roaring. Then the baby flipped out of her and started shrieking and kicking. There was so much screaming and horror that everyone watching the video in the birth class fell deathly silent and turned pale. Rowan disappeared deep inside my and hid behind an adenoid. Poor Maisy clutched my arm in fear. This video was not easing her suspicions of pain, it was cementing them. Her eyes were panicked and wider than a fully-dilated cervix. I thought, Damn it, shit. I've spent the last 8 months convincing Maisy that she's a strong woman, and young, and healthy, and that it won't be as bad as she thinks, that each push and pain is one step closer to the miracle of having a child, that it's all worth it and she'll be okay, she'll be fine... Oh, but now this video has just hurtled all of that hard work right out the fucking window and down about 60 stories. Though she'd told me not to, I chanced looking at my wife. And no, she didn't laugh. No, not at all. Instead, she closed her eyes and looked absolutely scared shitless. Thanks a lot, birth class.
After the video, there was about 5 minutes of uncomfortable, terrified silence where all of the women looked around at each other like infantry soldiers about to be dropped into hte 7th level of Hell with blanks in their rifles. Then the instructor folded her arms across her chest, proud, and calmly said, "Well, I'll see you all next week!".
Thursday, January 13, 2005
The Good: A rejection that surprises me by not being a form rejection, being friendly and seeming to be a cut above the norm. In short, a thoughtful, non-automated rejection (sometimes containing critique). If you send me a rejection that's handwritten, or that details the reasons behind your decision, you qualify to be listed under the Good.
The Bad: A rejection that seems overly rude, mean, snotty, or just plain shitty. If you send me a response where you've simply written "I don't think so." on the face of the return envelope, you qualify to be listed in the Bad.
The Clerically Ill: A rejection that I find confusing, unstated, an office screw-up, or haphazard. Also, as a bonus, any rejection with really bad clip-art on it qualifies for this ranking. If you send me a slip of paper that's supposed to have a response but you forget to write the response on it and I receive nothing but a blank scrap of paper, you qualify to be listed in the Clerically Ill.
So, for this first entry, the nominees are-
The Good: Jen Hawkins @ Arsenic Lobster, for a friendly, thoughtful, and very informing email that vividly described the nature of their response and explained the circumstances and reasoning behind it.
The Bad: Rowena Silver @ Epicenter, for annoyance. This rejection was a squared quarter-sheet that said in huge, bold letters: SORRY! TRY AGAIN!, and showed a strange clipart image of a little girl crying and throwing a tantrum, beating her fists on the floor and wailing. The rejection then went on to say: "After meticulous examination and discussion of your submission(s), we have decided that your work does not suit our needs at the time." The word 'meticulous' combined with the girl throwing a tantrum made this rejection seem rude to me (though I do admit, if someone else got this rejection and then showed it to me, I'd probably think it was funny).
The Clerically Ill: Julian Palley and Kate Ozbirn @ California Quarterly, for causing me several days of confusion. Basically, there was no response. They returned the poems like most magazines do, included a flyer mentioning all their contests, a subscription form, and a strange little scrap of green paper that I believe is part of their office filing system. Later, this rejection was clarified by email.
Also in the last week: Received another acceptance, this time from a magazine actually based in my home state. It's the first in Oregon to favor me. I'd only received rejections in Oregon until now. I'm happy with this, however I should state I've also received four rejections this week, and two more publications I've submitted to have now called it quits and closed up shop for good. Sad. I think I'm going to create a small dropbox on this page listing poetry magazines that have gone under, and will update it as I get more returned submissions. At least that way no one ends up losing postage on submissions that won't be received.
Sunday, January 09, 2005
At one point, I opened a package of gummi bears but doing so made a little plastic noise and everyone stared at me as if to say 'those gummi bears aren't welcome here' and so I got uncomfortable and had to hide the all gummi bears in my hat.
Well, the class went on like that, with the hypnotism thing, and eventually she just gave up and put on a video. It reminded me of high school, where my instructors mostly put on movies and various bottom-barrel instructional videos (but they only did that when they'd forgotten to keep a day ahead of you in the textbook). So, we're all watching the miracle of life. A maternity ward. A hospital. People in duress. Machines. Lots of fluids everywhere, most of them natural-made. It was the standard, money-shot video. The woman moans, sweating, breathing, surrounded by sentry-like doctors that don't speak, and then her vagina moves. You focus in on it because it moved. You watch, stunned. You've never seen anything like it except for three or four times before in other videos about it... like the others, this particular woman giving birth will be hairier than anything you've ever hear of... but then the vagina then goes wonky and the hair goes awry and you can't blink and someone in the class gasps. The people around you start muttering but the baby crowns and everyone shuts up. Then, as if a large, oiled balloon being nudged through a pet-door, the baby comes out slow, slow, then flying out mach 4 and all wet and a color they don't have a name for yet but it's similiar to German gelbwurst with blue and red splotches. The little lifeform then lands slippery in a pair of latex-gloved hands that are attached to someone with a doctorate. The woman falls back, exasperated. The doctors mill about but all you can see are their waists and legs. The camera angle shifts and they place the baby on the mother. She is amazed. Instant lifelong bond full of love and blood and instinct. The baby looks at her, totally tripped out. The mother kisses the baby. They're really tired. They may have just had a boxing match, they're so exhausted. A nurse comes and starts cleaning any particles and residues of the womb off of the baby's fragile little body. I eat the gummi bears and Maisy get's light-headed.
Also, this one woman's cell phone kept ringing. She got five calls during the two hour class, four of which were during the ten minute video. Everyone got pissed. She wouldn't take the calls. She'd just scoot quickly over to her purse, get the phone out, see who was calling, then hit a button that stopped the ringing (generally after about 15 seconds). She was also one of those people that have to keep their cell phone set to the loudest possible ring, with that horrible, maddening 'Reveille' ringtone, which is how they wake you up in military basic training. No one could figure out why she didn't just turn the thing off. Maybe she was hoping it would be a daddy. I, myself kept sneaking the gummi bears, guilty, but I couldn't help myself. I did muffle the plastic with the hat and, in forethought, I pushed the hat a few feet away from our warm floormat so the gummi bears wouldn't melt or get soft and bond to any errant hairs that might have been in the hat, which was smart of me. I'm a human being, and our power is opposable thumbs and heightened intelligence, and I have both and I'm going to be a great dad.
The class ended. We got in our car and left, completely depleted of any sparks of romance that may have existed in us prior to the video. Can't wait to go back next week.
Received a message on my answering machine yesterday from my employer, J__. I should explain the nature of my employment: About 18 months ago, I got a phone call early in the morning, waking me up. It was this guy named J__ who said he owned a sandwich shop. I didn't know him and hadn't heard of him or his shop. He asked me to come down to his business and work for him. Apparently, somebody I knew had overheard this guy complaining about his employees and how he wanted someone that would do a good job, so the person I knew told the shop owner about me, and that I did a good job (I've never worked in a sandwich shop before, and wasn't looking for another job). So, the owner calls me up and asks me to come down and work for him. I agreed to meet him, mostly based on the oddity of my being approached in such a way. My experience had always been that you apply for a job, then call and call and call until somebody finally tells you they already hired someone else.
I went to his sandwich shop. It was a little uptight for my taste, but pleasant. He mentioned the idea of opening another business, a pizzeria, and that he was looking for someone interested in running / managing it. I agreed to do it. He and his wife (she's very vacant, a little nuts, and wholly scattered) said they loved the idea, that I seemed bright and energetic, smart, whatever they were looking for... but, in the meantime, I'd just make sandwiches like the other employees. Okay. Sound's fine.
It's been a year and a half, and after the first 6 months, I realized they weren't going to be opening a pizzeria, or any other business for that matter. There was to be no managing. There were only sandwiches. More and more sandwiches. They began a hearty regiment of bitching at me about miscellaneous things that they, themselves were usually the culprits behind. For instance, the wife, R___ would cut about a pound of red bell pepper and then leave. The husband, J__ would show up, notice the cut bell pepper, and then start shouting at someone, sometimes me. It would be explained that it was his wife had done it, not any of the employees. He'd get madder, then blame some miscellaneous employee (again, oftentimes me) for having cut too much some other time (which was almost always a fabrication on his part so he didn't feel guilty about being as illogically pissed off as he was). So, you usually end up on the receiving end of (and I'm not exaggerating) month-long bouts of bad-employee treatment. You know, he won't look at you. Won't talk to you. Only gives you foul looks and dumps numerous extra jobs on you. That's the first of his problems.
The second is as follows: Also, after the first six months, he realized he was wealthy. Apparently, he just hadn't been watching his profit going up. He and his wife discovered they had a ton of money, and so built the biggest luxury house I've ever seen in my town. Once the house started to be constructed, oh man- what an ass he became. He started preaching about how people like the ones that worked for him made bad life decisions, and that's why we made minimum wage. That he was intelligent and knew the power of good investing (the money he used to buy the sandwich shop, which now generates most of his money, was a large inheritance that his wife got when her rich parents bit it, not an investment per se). That he'd earned his dues and now life was paying him back. His wife would strut around the workplace with that freshly baked bad perm and ask questions like "Ray... have you ever lived in a really big house?", to which I'd reply, "No." to which she'd add, "It's really quite wonderful. Everything is so much better in a house like that. How many bedrooms does your apartment have?" to which I'd reply "Less than we need.", and start an agitation-spurned string of curses in my mind that wouldn't stop until I could manage to escape at shift's end.
Anyway- I get this call yesterday on my answering machine. He's decided that, for my last month of working there (I gave him a three month notice, stating that my child was going to be born and that I'd need my nights off once the baby came), he was going to cut me out of half my work week. Now he's stuck me with two-shifts-a-week, a month before my child is born. Thanks a lot, fuckhead. Here, I'll turn around so you can get your knife back. He states that my week is being cut so that a new empoyee can start training to replace me, but I've seen dozens of people come and go at that place and no one ever got any training until the day they started, which was always the day the person they were replacing left. You know the drill: Your last shift is spent training your replacement on their first shift. I know he's cutting my week because he's pouty I'm leaving his business. It's something he'd do. He also brags about having never given a good reference. No shit. As far as he's concerned, if you leave his workplace, you're no good. I'll see if I can get ahold of a smug picture of him, but until then you'll have to visualize the little, beige, freshly-ironed shorts, the usual red complexion from constant inner stress, the hideous Tivas he wears with his calf-high socks on, the sweating legs from having just gotten out of his new Element with the vanity plates, and the really fake laugh he gives whenever he says something snide and classist disguised as a joke.
A little earlier in history and I can picture this guy being one of those arrogant slave-owning nobles you've read about, complete with a manor, nose-high walk, and a constant stream of 'my slaves don't deserve the good treatment I give them' blather.
Sigh. Posting this is probably my most ready means of throwing a tantrum, but then I'm a tantrum kind of guy. It feels good and is a lot safer than auctioning out his organs on ebay.