So Tell Me ... What's The Weather Like on YOUR Planet?

19 August, 2009

The Whole Story

I have been talking, with various people, about how to deal with the subject of rape, for the last day and a half or so. (And not talking, at times, because I'm not the sort of person who's really good at untangling exactly why some arguments sound like survivor-blaming and rape apologia because I find them too upsetting to disassemble coolly.)

And one of the things that came up for me and had me wickedly shaky last night is the way that no matter how many times, how many different ways, how carefully I tell my story, I cannot tell the whole story, not in one go.

I've written about the assault here not infrequently. And each post about it has a different piece of the story - like the issues around the social construction of consent and the failures of sex education to assist in rape prevention, the effects of women's sexuality being treated socially as a form of public property, my trauma around failure at the 'gatekeeper' social role, contributions from my repressed kinkiness, normalisation of rape and lack of support, the way uncertainty and the slow erosion of boundary defenses contributed, the induced vulnerability created by the social dichotomy between attractiveness and academics, trying to come to terms with shame and internalised self-hatred around the subject, comparison of superficially similar experiences, how I had to fight for the space in which I could actually lay the responsibility for the assault at the feet of the person who did it. In other places I've laid out the facts of the events, I've written about the major kink scene my liege and I did to try to do some mental reprogramming, I've written about other things. I've probably missed a few posts about it from here, too.

None of these are the whole story. The fact that there are so many renditions, so many ways of trying to talk about the experience, so many posts, that should probably be a tip-off as to the incompleteness, the giant fucking layer cake of the experience that can only be written about one pink-icinged stripe at a time.

I can't even think about it all at once, see all the layers. At least not yet; I wonder some if that's why I keep writing about it, trying to get all the angles clear so that I can grasp it as a whole.

There are so many stories in that one event.

There are all the stories about the social, societal, familial contexts that fed into what happened, that made the space in which it could happen possible, easy. And all the stories about the social, societal, familial contexts that shaped how I responded, where the damage ran, how I scarred, where, and how deeply. A few of those, I've written.

There are the stories about the events, the way things happened, and which stories those are depend on which events one wants to include.

There are the stories about the people, too.

And there are the secondary stories. Because, for example, one of the consequences of having a version of the story about him in my head - because I, unlike everyone I've told these stories to, almost knew him - is that it feeds my self-hatred and self-blame, because I can see a little bit through his eyes. And I know this, and this is why I don't often tell any of my version of his story - because it's very easy for me to slide into victim-blaming with it if I go into any depth, even though the victim is me. And even though I don't tell the story, I refer to it, I get frustrated with people who respond to my story as if he were a monster rather than an idiot kid, I gnaw at the incompleteness of things.

Someone wrote a post, talking about how there's a vision of what a rapist looks like, and it doesn't look like anyone we know, and that this isn't true.

And, for the first time I think, I wrote about who he was in response, not a name, not a referent, not treating him as an event, but the person I maybe almost knew a little. And part of that was to make that person's point a bit, to make it clear that this was ordinary, ordinary, ordinary, that my bog-standard assault narrative has a bog-standard person as the aggressor. And it's put me more in touch, mentally, with him as a person than I have been in a while, which leaves me shaky and uncertain.

He was a perfectly ordinary geeky, arty high school kid. A little on the tall side, with what gets called an athletic build; light brown hair, long enough to ruffle without actually being long and not that I ever ruffled it (that being a contact more intimate and affectionate than I was comfortable with), jeans-and-t-shirt-wearing type, like any other ordinary high school kid. I met him through one of my classmates, and he may never have known that I was technically not old enough for high school, let alone not a junior like that friend.

He did drama club at his high school, and I went to see him perform. He listened to Peter Gabriel. He lent me the Wild Cards books one at a time. He had a computer in his room at his parents' house, an old clunky thing with a green screen, and played Ultima on it. He quoted Monty Python, at length, on a frozen day outside the Smithsonian museums on the Mall, a day when it was windy enough to make the seagulls fly backwards. ("Albatross!") I remember nothing about what we talked about on the phone, and only one movie we went to (The Cutting Edge).

He was the sort of person that people I know would know, would spend time with, would never wonder about.

He was the first attractive, potentially compatible person who had ever shown interest in me; my experience of romance was all of the junior high variety, full of blatant abusiveness and harassment, and I was an awkward, nerdy kid unfamiliar with the vagaries of proper social interaction. He said I was beautiful, not that I really believed him; he said that he loved me, after a while. I had no idea how to deal with him, because in among all of this unexpected, unfamiliar, loneliness-curing kindness was the persistent ignoring of consent, pushing at boundaries whose precise location I did not, at that point, know, up until he hit the boundaries around sex, where I at least knew that I didn't want to go there.

When he let me escape after the assault, I fled to the bathroom to try to put my mind in order. When I came back out, he was fully clothed, sitting on the couch that he had tried to pin me to, and even in my pained dissociation I thought he had realised what he had nearly done, realised and was now ashamed. Maybe even wondering how he had read me wrong, maybe - and this would be good - wondering how long he had been misreading me, whether it went back to the beginning. There was sadness and silence there, and I did not ask what it was; he had never asked me what was in my head, and asking what was in his was too intimate even if I had not been shaking and shattered inside. He walked me back to the subway so I could go home.

It was probably the next weekend or the one after that he went to the second day of a Star Trek convention with me, which I left early, claiming headache, not saying that it was terrifying to be near him and I was bleeding inside. We never spoke again after that day.

I saw him, or someone who looked like him, in a bookstore a few years later. I had a panic attack and fled to the company of my mother at a cafe, sitting by the escalator he might have come down if he were leaving that way, and I watched the stairs moved in a panic.

When my lion and I went to see the Stargate movie in the theater a few years later, I was so triggered by the looks of James Spader that I could not really bear to watch any of it. I buried myself in other-things, and we laughed about the things we had done in movie theaters in the dark, without ever shedding light into that particular bit of darkness.

16 August, 2009

You Pays Your Money, You Takes Your Chance

I hate health insurance.

See, here's the thing. The idea behind insurance, right? Normal insurance? "We pay in in case something awful happens to someone who paid in, and what we've got here will cover helping out the unfortunate." It's gambling, paying in in case of theft, of fire, of flood, of whatever, but we don't expect to have these things happen, precisely, we just know they might.

And that's why I hate health insurance.

Before you start, you lose the bet.

You're gonna get sick.

Putting in money in case you get sick? Is, straight up, lost money. Because there is no "Maybe I won't get sick" like "Maybe I won't get robbed" or "Maybe my house won't burn down". That's resources lost, pfft. You'll get sick, or injured, or whatever else. Eventually. Unless you're hit by a truck tomorrow and die instantly, of course, in which case the insurance company will be really happy with you for being their ideal customer.

And because you will inevitably have need of health care, the thing where everyone's putting a little bit in as a bet against the chance that they're robbed/burned down/flooded out so the few who actually do wind up in need have enough resources to recover doesn't work so well. Everyone will be pulling something out sometime, so there's no chance for the pot to build up enough to take care of everyone's needs (unless, of course, we're spending exorbitant amounts).

And so the game goes like this: we pay money in, sunk cost, and when we need the money out, it's in the best interest of the insurance people to not pay that out (less money for them and, for that matter, for everyone else), so we get surcharges, pre-existing conditions, caps on how much medication we can take or how much care we can get even when we need it, all designed to keep the money drained out of us. So now we're down the money and we don't get the care.

So people try to 'economise'. Some go without insurance and pray that the major illness doesn't happen to them just yet. Some skip preventative healthcare (that would increase the odds of catching those major illnesses early) to keep the resources for catastrophic situations. Some have to decide which of their conditions will get treatment.

And people get stuck in awful places, because the whole system is set up to feed this goddamn protection racket. Trapped in a bad job but can't afford to quit because that would lead to 'losing health insurance'. Unable to get insurance and stuck managing serious illnesses out of pocket. Making major life decisions based on whether or not health care access will be possible, because we can't afford the risk - or have people depending on us who aren't 'risks' but 'actualities'.

And I hear rhetoric about how we don't want bureaucrats between us and our health care as a reason to ... make sure we have insurance companies available to kneecap us, rather than some sort of system that makes sure that basic care is available to people in general.

Pony up your blind. Shuffle up and deal!

Oh look, I got a two-seven unsuited. Again.

14 August, 2009

Grab Bag

I don't have the time or the brain to write up anything particularly brilliant, so I'm just going to throw out miscellaneous notes in no particular order.

Giving birth has corrected my pregnancy-induced gender dysphoria, which is a tremendous relief. Even the fact that Little Foot is, thus far, exclusively breastfed off my personal boobs does not ping me as being Axiomatically Wrong the way late pregnancy did - I might even go so far to say it doesn't ping at all, but given how awful I was feeling towards the end there I don't know if I have valid space for comparison. I'm not back to previous levels of mostly-able-bodiedness by a long shot -- a four-block round trip walk in the heat ( says 84F!/87 with heat index - that's 30 for you centigrade folks) completely flattened me earlier, my bad hip seizes up in horrifying ways every so often, and I still have stitches in my chassis -- but my body feels more or less like my body again, not this alien lumpy thing that I'm only existing in because I'm stuck there.

Labor and afterwards generalised childcare have convinced me that I need to buy a box of bendy straws to stash under my shrine to Neb.y Set (which is where I keep the rope and other such things stashed), for circumstances in which I might not be able to use my hands when drinking or am stuck in a position in which easy drinking is more complicated. Things one does not expect to learn from newborn care!

I love having the whole family in the same house, even if it's a little crowded and stressy-because-of-people-being-displaced. It's just ... yeah. A good thing. I know it's only temporary, while we're adjusting to Little Foot being no longer wodged into my innards and all, but it's a fantastic thing while it lasts, and I'm enjoying it greatly.

Little Foot herself is doing well. She's regained her birth weight, the pediatrician thinks she's doing great, she's sleeping well, eating well (ow), and generally being professionally adorable. The lion's parents are visiting us now, and they are appropriately smitten. All things are good. At least at the moment, 'cos she's asleep. ;)

A few links:

"How I Lost My Health Insurance at the Hairstylist's" is one of those punch-in-gut stories, and makes me even more enraged by the fact that the public debate has become "How do we get people health insurance" rather than "How do we get people health care". I wrote a ranty, impassioned letter to the White House about it. Gods know if it'll make any difference. But damnit.

"The Terrible Bargain We Have Regretfully Struck" is not an expression of my own experience, but it's an expression that needs to be heard. And, as pointed out over and over in the comments, it is an expression of my experience -- just in different adjective combinatorics. The rules are the same.

"An Open Letter to John C. Wright", meanwhile, is a lovely bit of response to a truly obnoxious homophobe. It is cheering, and also funny, and I think I need to buy one of this man's books because he deserves to have money aimed in his direction, so I have added that to my to-do list for books.

05 August, 2009

Enter Little Foot

WARNING: The following post contains descriptions of a reasonably difficult labor and delivery. If this is liable to distress you, just scroll down to the photo. ;)

The contractions started at midnight on 31 July, but were spaced out at an hour and a half or two apart, fairly dull. In fact, early labor is pretty much entirely boring, as far as I can tell; just this sort of anticipatory waiting punctuated with the occasional contraction. I called my parents to chat, thereby weirding out my father. ("I don't think I've ever had a phone conversation with someone in labor before. I'm sure they happen, like, in the movies, but generally with the father, not the grandfather..." "Star Trek!" "RIGHT! Star Trek! ...still the father.")

Midwife arrived at about 1am on the first of August, after a day I'd spent feeling kind of at loose ends, really. I believe I was in the birth pool when she got there, I seem to remember floating there and hearing her voice say, "Yep, looks like labor." Various things happened over time. Mostly I tried to rest between contractions, though I got increasingly irritable by little things. (Like, "Do you want some [insert foodstuff here]?" "No." A little later. "Do you want some [different foodstuff]." "No." A little later. "Do you want some [food of some sort]?" "I WANT PEOPLE TO STOP ASKING ME!")

I didn't feel like labor was actually going anywhere. The midwife said I was doing fine, that things were progressing well. I was getting tired, mostly, and aggravated, and frustrated, and finally we did an inspection to see how dilated I was, and the water broke. Which was a fascinating sensation....

Contractions got worse. Working theory is this thing called "back labor", generally caused by the baby position being unideal in a way that approximates agonising. This was not helped by the fact that, like my mother, I do not have normal-duration contractions (something like two minutes); mine ran to 4-5 minutes straight. And there was Stuff (subtype: green) in the waters. We first decided that the Stuff was not a risk to the baby, and then, a while later, found fresh meconium - perhaps caused by the stress of the long contractions.

After some discussion, discretion was declared the better part of valor, and we packed up and went to the hospital. There was ... mild drama, that I fortunately found out later; the hospital didn't want us. They spent a while trying to convince us that another hospital was closer than they were, but eventually relented before the information that our chosen pediatrician was on their staff.

How much of this has to do with an idiot midwife who only transports to hospital when things have already gone to hell in a handbasket and has afflicted that particular hospital twice (as opposed to what we did, which was say, "Hm, that looks like a handbasket; let's avoid it with caution") and how much has to do with local politics regarding midwifery I do not know; I suspect a fascinating combination of things.

Anyway, it was for the best that I was unaware that my condition and my child's health had been treated like some kind of hot potato as I limped up to Labor and Delivery; I might have killed something during a surge.

There was initial friction with the OB - he was hostile to our midwife coming in (see above paragraph) up until he sorted out that we had transferred as a precaution, not because I was about to detonate or something, and got a look at my prenatal medical records and saw that they were, in fact, competent. And that we weren't going to refuse all interventions like the filthy hippies we were, or something. I curled up on my side and listened to him talk with my lion (formerly referred to as legalhusband). Paperwork was wrangled. Every so often someone wanted me to lie on my back, which I find uncomfortable at the best of times, and which at that particular time was roughly like being drawn and quartered.

They put monitors on me, which I disliked, but wasn't really up for arguing about, and it didn't matter, I wasn't going anywhere. They put an IV in me, which I also disliked - I hate the damn things, though it was less bad than the one when I got my CAT scan, it just left my hand feeling bruised all to hell - but that enabled me to get some fucking painkillers, which at least removed me from the state of "Kill me now and extract the baby from my steaming corpse."

Forty hours of back labor are disrecommended, by the way. Which is about where I was by that time. Exhausting, unproductive, discouraging, and it fucking hurts.

After that, I floated on some narcotics, half-listening to paperwork wrangles and family support, waking up for only the most intense contractions and snarling for assistance getting through them, for about two and a half hours, at which point I was nearly fully dilated. They wanted me to hold back on pushing for a bit, and taught me some breath techniques for that, which were hard to focus on but manageable, more or less. Somewhere in there I got a second dose of the painkiller, and vehemently refused an epidural. (I was not allowed to sign a health care proxy giving medical decision-making power to the whole family because I was stoned, but I could consent to an epidural while stoned. I don't know, man, I didn't do it. I can sort of see the sense in it, but at the same time, if I'm not competent to consent, I'm not competent to fucking consent.)

After a bit, I stopped having the capacity to restrain my reactions to the surges, and we worked out a position for the actual labory bit, with the advice of the nurse on duty.

And my liege held me cradled against his shoulder, and my lion supported my leg so that I could work and helped me when my hip siezed every so often. And going through the experience between my husbands, held, supported, ... now, okay, I've hit the moodswingy bit of post-partum here, but it makes me all weepy, okay?

The doctor had mellowed out a bit and at one point said, "I see green hair!" Apparently the rest of the family chorused "It's a Muppet!" whereas I, on the floaty strange space of the labor, just driftingly thought, "Probably just more stained mucus" and carried right along with what I was doing.

Tearing during labor is like lines of fire. And nowhere near as horrifyingly squicky as being cut would have been.

I had to hold for an infinite while while they cleared air passages, and then there was a little more, and then the release, and another rush of fluid, and there was the other side. It was a strange, spent, empty space on the other side.

People were talking, bustle, I was following half-threads of conversation, bits and pieces. Eight pounds, fifteen ounces. I had two tears, a small one and a moderate one (I presume it wasn't huge, there was no drama about it, just a "... not so small..." sort of flavor). I needed to lie on my back, could I do that? It didn't hurt horribly. I could do it.

My liege was on my left. He had knelt for most of the seriously active part of labor, to hold me, and his knees were wrecked. My lion was on my right, stroking me when he could, when he wasn't needed to answer questions, or taking a few photos. The OB sprayed something almost hot on me, and started to stitch me up.

(Turns out lidocaine isn't effective on me for more than a couple of minutes. They sprayed me with it three times.)

They put pitocin in the drip to make me pass the placenta faster so they could do the stitches properly without the cord in the way. I barely noticed, still in the dreamspace of post-labor, still there. I had wanted to let the placenta empty its blood supply into the baby, and there was a part of me that was angry and frustrated at that failure, a distant, shouting, too-tired-to-speak part.

I wanted to hold her.

Eventually I could, hold her, hold her with all the agitated medical mess done with, feeling the flow of everything around me. Feeling in love with the universe, with my daughter, with my mates. Her skin was soft against my skin.

Do not offend the baby. She can kill you with her mind. See?