Tag Archives: body image

Made up

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When my mother puts on make-up, she says she is putting on her face. I usually find it easier just to go with whatever face I happen to wake up in, but sometimes that doesn’t feel quite … enough.

So when I was packing for the road trip Himself and I are currently enjoying, I crammed my supply of face paint into a small bag and shoved it into my suitcase. Day 2 found us rolling into Reno just barely in time for the start of the Hubbit’s 50th school reunion festivities. Getting there was good – a leisurely two days with an overnight stop at a comfortable Best Western. And while Nevada appears to be mainly a whole helluva lot of not a whole helluva lot, it has a certain stark visual appeal.

Arriving was a whole other matter. Tell this South African girl she’s staying at a “resort”, and she expects to see trees, grass, some chalets scattered around a rustic but luxurious lodge, a pool, maybe a miniature golf course – you get the idea. Quite apart from the fact that it hadn’t occurred to me that we were going to a casino (yeah, I know, call me stupid) the word “resort” had me expecting some sort of desert oasis. The reality of a high rise city center hotel, with a crowded lobby that was all marble and mirrors leading to bleak little rooms failed to enchant.

This is how we do casino resorts in South Africa

This is how we do casino resorts in South Africa.

As for the casino, it was creepy and depressing. A (presumably fake but I think full scale) mine headgear loomed in the gloomy arch of the domed ceiling. Arrayed around it were machines lit in lurid colors, silently waiting to swallow your money – and, with it, your hopes and dreams – but the alleys between the machines were dark. The hotel surrounding the gambling area was loud with voices and piped music, but the casino seemed clouded in a dull hush. It used to be fun to play the fruit machines – you carried your money in a paper cup and fumbled it out to push it into the coin slot, and after a while your arm would ache from pulling the lever, but you kept pulling because the sound of money clattering into the catch tray when you won was so seductive you had to keep trying for more, until you were left with nothing but the stink of money on your hands, and an empty cup, and sleepy daydreams of what might have been if you’d stopped just 15 minutes sooner. But now it’s all done with smart cards and buttons. Bells don’t ring, lights don’t flash, and winnings don’t clatter. I don’t know why anyone would bother.

So anyway, we checked in with just minutes to spare, and the Hubbit was all antsy to get upstairs to reconnect with the Good Old Days Of Yore, and I was rattled and discombobulated by finding myself in a crowded and alien world. I yanked my make-up bag (actually it’s a small linen bag that pillowcases came in and that I kept because I was sure it would come in handy some day – I don’t actually own a make-up bag) out of my suitcase, peered into the mirror, thought “Stuff it”, splashed cold water on my face, and followed Himself up to the hospitality suite.

It was full of happy old people clutching alcoholic drinks. I didn’t know anyone. Himself introduced me to Bob and reminded me that we’d met. (Poor Hubbit had no idea that Bob and I had been conspiring for weeks via email to make him feel conspicuous on his birthday, which happened to be the next day.) Bob called his wife over, and although

Apparently I don't remind anyone of Juliette Binoche.

Apparently I don’t remind anyone of Juliette Binoche.

she clearly had no idea who I was and no memory of ever having met me, she informed me that I did indeed look familiar because I reminded her of an actress, only she couldn’t remember which one. I snaffled a bottle of water and snuck away into a corner. People introduced themselves and told me where they were from and asked me where I was from, and at intervals Bob’s wife wandered past and said she was still trying to remember which actress it was, but my smile definitely reminded her of someone. Eventually everyone decided to go out to dinner together, and as we were leaving Bob’s wife found me again and apologized, because she’d realized I didn’t remind her of an actress, but rather of one of Bob’s cousins, who was a very sweet woman.

Alrighty then.

The next evening was The First Dinner (the one on Tuesday didn’t count because it was spontaneous). I blinged up a bit, peered into my makeup bag, and said “Stuff it” again. Earrings and a malachite bead necklace was as far as I felt able to go. And it was just fine, because no one was paying attention to me while Himself got royally roasted (two bottles of “viagra” – Bob’s wife told me she had to eat her way through a terrifyingly large number of M&Ms to find enough blue ones – and a gift certificate for a Happy Ending, whatever that might be – pretty much what I expected after telling one of the Hubbit’s peers to “be as juvenile as you like” in celebrating his birthday).

Last night was the Big Event. We have left Reno and are now in Vallejo, and last night’s banquet was hosted by an Admiral, no less. (The Hubbit is a Cal Maritime Academy boy.) Getting myself ready, I blinged to the max, and dumped my supply of warpaint on the sink counter.

Now to give some background to all this … My friend Wonder Woman decided, for my birthday in February, to make a woman of me, and she took me shopping for Face Stuff. Ignoring my mutters, winces and rolling eyes, she selected some kind of tinted face cream (for covering wrinkled and freckles), face powder (for covering the cream), eyebrow pencil (for revealing brows that might have vanished under a layer of cream and powder), brown eye shadow, and lipstick. And I used it faithfully every day for weeks, right up until Argos ate my lipstick and I ran out of tinted face cream.

Well, as part of preparing for this road trip, I betook myself to Walgreens and replenished my supply. I couldn’t remember what she’d bought, but how hard could it be to buy lipstick and face cream?

Yeah … maybe I need to put more work into this process… It turns out that Jergens Natural Glow is not so much a tinted moisturizer as a fake tanning lotion. I’d already covered my face before it occurred to me to read the directions. Then I hastily scrubbed it off … slathered on cold cream that I got at the Dollar Store … patted powder over that … touched up eyelids (brown), eyebrows (browner), and lipstick (brownish). I have no idea how it turned out, because I suspect that when I look in the mirror I don’t see what the rest of the world sees – and the Hubbit is no help, since he doesn’t ever comment on my appearance and, for all I know, doesn’t notice whether I look like a clown or a queen.

I dunno … I guess I’m just not that good at being a girl, y’all. On the other hand, I’m not bad at happy endings…

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Just me and my skin

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Himself went fishing today, so I decided to celebrate a day alone by not getting dressed … at all … apart from sandals, which became necessary when the Teenage Mutant Ninja Malinois decided that an unclad momma-boss lacked authority, and commenced chasing the horses with joyous disregard for my shrieks of “LEAVE IT!” from the porch.

As I barreled loudly across the yard clad in nothing but my Birkenstocks and brandishing a leash I did experience a brief little something-or-other, and if I’d had time to analyze it I would have said, “Huh – so that’s what a qualm feels like” – because while I dislike the Nasty Neighbor whose house overlooks the relevant portion of our yard, I don’t necessarily want to cause him a heart attack. But, you know, priorities … I got Argos out of the corral, confirmed that there was nobody waving at me from any of the surrounding pastures, and headed back into the house.

Out of consideration for the Nasty Neighbor I confined today’s gardening to the front porch, taking tulip bulbs out of pots to be stored until I plant them someplace permanent in fall. Apart from that, it’s been quite an ordinary day, largely spent dealing with some otherwise annoying business from behind my desk. I opened all the windows and set the ceiling fans to spinning and didn’t bother with air conditioning, and oh, the pleasure of a whole day of just me and my breeze-kissed skin!

Once upon a time I would strip off without a second thought. I’ve never been to a nudist resort – the idea of a place dedicated to being naked has always seemed a little silly, and I find it hard to believe that people there would be any less judgmental than people anywhere. But if you’re puttering about at home, or off on the river or at the beach or up a mountain somewhere where there’s no one else to notice or care – except, perhaps, one or two whom you love and trust – being naked has to be the best way in the world to minimize laundry.

I really wish I hadn’t stopped feeling happy and at peace and comfortable inside my skin.

Cape Point on a summer day.

Cape Point on a summer day, many years ago.

Still reaching for that elusive high

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Ketosis continues to elude me, It was so easy the first time I tried the ketogenic approach to eating, shortly after Thanksgiving last year. I wasn’t concerned when Christmas derailed me – I figured that was to be expected – although it was annoying still to be derailed several weeks into the new year. But I figured okay, I’ll just get back into the whole low carb / medium protein / high fat thing, and in no time I’ll be buzzing along on a high, burning up flab and feeling fabulous.

Not so.

Instead, it seems, my vile body is on high alert, making every carb do double duty, hammering me with headaches, cravings and mood swings, rationing out my energy in tiny little packets that take me nowhere. After two weeks of faithfully consuming plenty of fat, not too horribly much protein, and lots and lots of dark green leaves, I needed some encouragement so I stepped on the scale … and the number was UP. It was up a whole damn pound!

Is it normal to feel that I’m at war with my own body? I’m ambushed by Easter eggs and bludgeoned by depression and that thing our mothers told us (not mine specifically, but mothers in general) – that “you have to suffer to be beautiful” – well, according to all the messages my crocodile brain is sending me, that’s just propaganda. I have suffered mightily, and I have brought suffering upon Himself, and I’ve even not been especially nice to the dogs, and I’m still bulging.

So what to do? Do I admit defeat, embrace despair, accept that I’m doomed to a (probably drastically shortened) life of being in pain, uncomfortable inside my own skin, never to accomplish any but the most banal, foundational items on my bucket list? Do I shrug off the hours I’ve spent researching this, and pretend that the fantastic sense of YES I experienced just before Christmas was a silly illusion? Do I, in a word … quit?

Fuck that

Completely off topic, but I have to insert a brief aside here. I’ve mentioned before how much I love modern technology. Do you know you can find literally anything on Google? Here I was, bashing out this post, and it occurred to me that I didn’t actually want to write the word “fuck” – I mean, not that I don’t say it when sufficiently deeply moved, but it makes for lazy and sloppy writing. On the other hand, no other phrase said what I wanted to say as well.

Clearly, this was a good outsourcing opportunity. So off I went to Google, and I typed in “fuck that”, and next thing I knew I was listening to this audio by someone called Skrillex. (Why??? I mean, why be called Skrillex? And also, why would anyone choose to listen to this? Either way, fuck me if I know.) So anyway, that wasn’t good, but then I remembered that I recently acquired new headphones and subscribed to Spotify (technology! Yeah!) and so I’m now reformatting my synapses with Mozart’s horn concertos – yes, all four of them. (And for some reason I felt it was necessary to google “ear synapses” and … my goodness. Amazing! No – come back – you can go look at it later. And everything else on Google. It’ll still be there when you’re done reading here!)

After plugging a Mozartian horn into each ear I went back to Google for another go at the “fuck that” question, and contemplating the answers kept me happily googling for almost long enough to forget this post entirely. Then I found the GIFs, and oh how I hate when bloggers plaster their posts with these beastly things that jiggle about and distract me from the words – but aren’t they just nifty? Take this one, for example … It lacks the succinctness I was looking for, which is why I decided not to use it, but I know exactly how the ferret feels, and also how does one resist the cuteness factor? There’s not a lot of cuteness happening on this blog, and maybe that’s an area that needs work.

Fuckity ferret

I was hung up for a bit deciding whether to let Snooki or Dave Grohl say “fuck that” on my behalf, but after I’d googled Dave I decided – without in any way being tempted to switch from Mozart to Nirvana – that I’d rather be represented by him than by some skinny bint on a “reality” show that I have no intention of ever watching. Apart from anything else, he looks more like me – not quite as pudgy but still with not a lot in the way of cheekbones. And the beard is yummy – on him, anyway; I tend to give my own chin hairs short shrift. Ha ha – you think I’m joking, younger-female-followers-of-this-blog? Just wait – menopause will get you too!

Which brings me back to my original point: the war between Me and My Bod. Thus endeth this aside…

Nope, I am not quitting. Rather, I am reviewing my options, revising my strategies, and reinforcing my range of tools.

First, the strategy …

Number 1: Love Myself. This is hard! Maybe I’ll settle for just not hating myself… and forgiving me my trespasses…

In a spirit of Moving On, I am also forgiving myself for this ... although some may not forgive as easily. But that's a topic for another day. Right now all I'll say is that it didn't even taste good, and it left me feeling sick, although I'm not sure whether that was due to changes wrought by weeks of cutting carbs, or by my awakened conscience.

In a spirit of Moving On, I am forgiving myself for this most recent failure, especially as  it didn’t even taste good, and it left me feeling sick, although I’m not sure whether that was due to changes wrought by weeks of cutting carbs, or by my awakened conscience.

I also betook myself to Catherine’s yesterday and restocked my wardrobe … for the first time in about two years. Yes, it’s been two years since I bought clothes – because every time I think of doing so I think, “Well, but I can’t stand to keep buying things in that huge size! So I’ll lose weight and then I can go shopping.” Comes a point, however, when your underwear is disintegrating and the seats of your jeans have worn through and the holes in your tee-shirts are too large and too numerous to ignore (what causes those stupid holes? Moths? Fabric-chewing planned-obsolescence nanobots?) and you just have to say stuff it and go back to the damn Fat Lady Shop (because all appearances to the contrary I am SO NOT a Wal-Mart Person) and try stuff on and look at yourself in a three-way mirror and buy at least three of whatever fits so long as it’s on sale because you really don’t want to have to come back again too soon. And actually I found out that I had dropped a size – yah boo thumb-my-nose at the bathroom scale! Which meant that this morning, when I was getting dressed, I didn’t have to put on any of the scary new doesn’t-feel-like-me stuff sitting in shopping bags in my closet; instead I could fit into a pair of shabby-and-bleach-stained-but-not-actually-disintegrating jeans that I hadn’t tried on for a while. And then I hung up the new stuff, mixing it in with the older stuff so that I could get used to seeing it there and forget that it’s new.

So much for nurturing a sense of self-worth … Let’s focus on food.

Apparently I am exceptionally sensitive to carbs – so I’m cutting them out altogether, except for celery. Even my imagination isn’t wild enough to conceive of a situation where celery can be fattening. But I read a comment on a ketogenic lifestyle blog recently from someone who said she was, and I quote, “kicked out of ketosis by kale”, and here I’ve been glomming the stuff down in bunches. So I’m cutting out vegetables entirely, even avocado and the dark green leafy ones. I’m not doing this forever, of course; just for as long as it takes to get into ketosis – at which point I’ll gradually start reintroducing vegetables to see just how much carbohydrate I can tolerate. I’m also cutting out nuts, milk (alackaday – no more lattes!), and the delicious gravy Himself wraps around stews and pot roasts. (Yes, girls – I’m married to a King Of The Kitchen! It took me a while to get over my indignation at his contempt for my own kitchenly efforts, or to acknowledge how very much I dislike cooking – but I can now confess that I’m greatly blessed among wifekind!)

I am gritting my teeth, ignoring years of anti-fat programming, and keeping my fat intake high. Jimmy Moore’s book Keto Clarity contains several recipes for high fat treats … so, ugh, I guess that means I’ll be pulling kitchen duty after all. The benefit is that it doesn’t take a lot of high-fat snacking to leave one feeling quite satisfied – compared with sugary snacks that invariably seem to trigger a craving for more.

I’m also cutting back on protein, big time. No more protein in snacks, only two protein meals a day, and I’ll weigh the damn stuff if necessary to ensure I don’t take more than 30 grams at a time. Apparently if you eat more protein than your body needs it turns into sugar – and the amount you need is directly related to the amount you exercise. Because my overloaded feet and ankles hurt and my energy is still lacking, I’m not exercising a whole lot.

So that’s also got to change – which brings me to …

Second, the tools …

I really didn’t want to spend a lot of money, mainly because we don’t have it, but when I realized that getting into ketosis was going to be a challenge for me I bought the tool that everyone recommends: a meter to track my ketone production. There are three ways to measure ketones.

  • Ketostix pee strips measure the ketones in urine. By all accounts these are pretty useless, because they measure only the ketones you eliminate as waste. As your body adapts to running on ketones rather than sugar, you stop eliminating them – so the more keto-adapted you are, the less they have to measure, leading to a false negative.
  • Blood ketone meters are highly accurate, but they’re expensive and the strips cost around $5 apiece for the Precision Xtra meter, which is the one that gives readings at a level that are relevant to nutritional ketosis
  • Breath ketone meters are new technology, but several experts, including Jimmy Moore, say Ketonix is accurate and reliable. That’s the option I chose, because although the meter cost a little over $100, it’s a once-off investment – no expensive disposable strips. I bought mine on Amazon but have just learned that it’s no longer listed there. A word of warning: delivery is SLOW. I ordered mine on February 21 and I could wait until mid-April for it to arrive – presumably because the developer is battling to keep up with demand. But the reviews were good, so it seemed worthwhile.

And then there is exercise equipment. Given that it’s too cold to swim, it hurts too much to run/jog/skip/jump/walk, and my horse will either break or kill me if I heave my bulk onto his ancient and saggy back, I’ve decided to focus on muscle-building exercises. Apparently muscles burn more calories (i.e., fat) than flab, even when you’re not using them. Also, supposedly, if you have muscles you have more energy. To this end I have bought a yoga mat and an exercise ball … and we have resistance bands from the time I needed physical therapy – I just need to dig them out of wherever they’re hiding. I have a sneaking suspicion that I’ll have to do more than pile this stuff up in our bedroom to see any benefit. Argh. Well, I’ll keep you posted … maybe.

Third, just quickly, supplements …

Although my experience may not encourage you to try the ketogenic lifestyle, just in case you do, you will probably need supplements at least while you’re adjusting to the new way of nourishing your body. I found this link helpful.

  • Extra salt is key. You can add it to your food, but comes a point that just doesn’t taste good and I’m not sure it’s healthy. I take one Thermotab every morning – because if I forget, I feel washed out and weak by noon. It’s cheap and readily available, but there are side-effects so do your research. Most importantly, you must drink plenty of water when you take one.
  • Green tea capsules seem to improve my energy levels. I’ve been buying them from Costco but it looks like they’re a lot cheaper online. I’m not sure whether it would be better just to drink green tea – haven’t had time to research this – but for the time being I’m taking two every morning.
  • I take a daily multivitamin, although in time I hope to meet my needs from actual food.
  • Potassium and magnesium are two essential minerals, and if you run short of them you’re likely to feel spacey, tired and ill. I’m taking supplements while I restrict my intake of vegetables.

And, of course, drink water. Just glug it down – it improves your energy, mental acuity and general bodily processes.

So is anyone else out there struggling to love and nurture themselves into a state of good health? Does your body repeatedly sabotage you? What works for you? Also, do you think I need to inject more cuteness into this blog?

The promise

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This evening I sat down to write an inspiring but wildly funny post about My Flab And New Strategies For Getting Rid Of It.

This was an important post, because it came at the end of a day of assiduous consumption of everything in the kitchen that didn’t up and run away. I’ve become quite good at the housewife thing just lately, so my kitchen is almost completely clear of things with legs. In other words, not a lot escaped my ravenous maw.

It made me feel miserable.

I pondered the words in my last post, about wanting to “honor” my friend’s memory, and be a better person as inspired by her, and I mocked myself. Words like fat frumpy failure of femininishness came to mind.

The post I wrote was all very funny, of course, ha ha ha, not at all miserable, and then I tried to access a site that I wanted to link to the post and my computer had a fit, and by the time it regained consciousness the entire post was gone. It was one of those rambling exercises in free association that is completely impossible to replicate.

There was only one thing to do, and I did it. I drove the four miles to our nearest convenience store and bought ice cream. In a few minutes, I will take my ice cream and my book and climb into bed and call this miserable day DONE.

But first … there’s something I need to do. I hope it doesn’t make you feel used.

I need to make a promise. The promise is being made to myself, no one else, but I feel a need to make it public. I will probably regret posting this tomorrow, but I hope I will have the courage to leave it up anyway.

My promise is this: from tomorrow, I will begin to introduce new discipline into the way I nurture my body. I will nourish it with food that helps it work well. I will take it for walks as often as I can – I hope daily. And I will put it to bed in time to let it have the rest it needs. Most importantly, I will learn to stop hating, despising and resenting it.

With companions like these, and a place like this to go walking, how can I not learn to love "exercise"?

With companions like these, and such a place right nearby to go walking, how can I not learn to love “exercise”?

I will do this in honor of my friend, who started running to fight cancer and stood her ground for 26 years; who rose before dawn every morning until weeks before she died because time was too precious to waste; and who regarded each day as a gift.

But just to be clear, I’m not doing this for her. I’m doing it for me. She’s my inspiration, but I am my own and sufficient reason.

And I’ll be checking in with you on my progress as I go along, in particular sharing lessons that you might find useful. I hope you’ll stick with me and share your own stories. A change this radical isn’t going to be easy, and it would be good to know I’m not making it alone.

Anybody out there with me?

“It’s positive,” he said…

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… and my life changed direction.

Dr Gough was a kind man with a rumpled face and baggy clothes, and everyone in that small university town knew he would give you an abortion if you needed one. I already knew I was pregnant – I felt the winning spermatozoon drive into my ovum like a comet plunging into the sun, and soon after that the morning sickness began. I’d roamed Grahamstown’s quiet streets by night, breathing fog into the chilly air, cuddling my tender breasts beneath my baggy sweater and thinking through my options. So although his announcement was a shock, it was no surprise. I had made my decision.

“When am I due?” I asked, and watched as the pools of sad expectation evaporated from his eyes and a smile spread across his face. I loved him for being happy for me, for not thinking I should kill my baby.

* * *

I’d had no idea the heart would beat so fast. It was like holding a tiny bird in my belly. Every time I visited Dr Gough, he turned on a speaker so that I could listen to it with him. Later, after I moved away to the unmarried mother’s home in Cape Town and started going to a big state teaching maternity hospital for checkups, the doctors were discouraged from doing anything that would help us bond with our babies. The pressure to give them up for adoption was huge, and relentless.

Nowadays expectant parents always share their ultrasound pictures, and every time I see one I’m a little sad that no one ever showed me ours. But then I remember the eager hummingbird beat of her new-formed heart, I remember the quivering excitement of the moment I felt her begin to dance, and I know my memories are complete.

I have pictures to illustrate this post ... in a large green plastic tub, waiting to be sorted. The tub might be in the spare bedroom, but if so it's buried.

I have pictures to illustrate this post … in a large green plastic tub, waiting to be sorted. The tub might be in the spare bedroom, but if so it’s buried under all the other stuff waiting to be sorted.

* * *

I’d had a bit of a meltdown the year before I got pregnant. Someone I loved, in a complicated sort of way, died unexpectedly, and I had a car accident, and various other things happened and, to cut a long story short, I’d always been a bit of a basket case but all this shit pretty much filled up the basket that I lived in, suspended above reality by my beautiful balloon, and I fell out and plummeted to earth. So I was seeing a shrink, who liked me to tell him my dreams. I had been reading Freud, so my dreams were pretty interesting, until I found out he was a Jungian. I didn’t know anything about Jung so after that I didn’t know what to dream any more and our sessions became rather dull.

Anyway. When I told him I was pregnant, he said I had done it to get back at my father. I was pretty sure my father hadn’t crossed my mind at the time the getting pregnant was happening, but I didn’t argue. (I was a student, he was head of the Department of Psychology. Arguing about what was happening inside my head wasn’t an option.) Then he offered to put together the paperwork to get me a legal abortion. (Back then in South Africa, if a sufficient number of specialists concurred that you were sufficiently a nutcase, you didn’t have to give birth.)

So I stopped seeing him. Which was a bummer for him, because it turns out that pregnancy hormones give you the most extraordinary dreams.

* * *

When various well-meaning people finally quit trying to get me to give up the baby, they started in on my dog. “If you must have this baby, then for goodness sake get rid of the dog!” they said.

I told them not to be ridiculous. “She’s my first kid. I just hope I can love this new one as much as I love her,” I told them.

I really, really did love my dog. But it turned out I had vastly underestimated my capacity for loving.

I have a watercolor the Girl Child made of Shebie, our dog, but I can't find it in the spare bedroom. It must be in my ivory tower - a room that we inserted under the roof while building this house. We haven't yet figured out where the stairs should go, and I'm scared of ladders, so this picture is as close as I can get, for now.

I have a watercolor the Girl Child made of Shebie, our dog, but I can’t find it in the spare bedroom. It must be in my ivory tower – a room that we inserted under the roof as an afterthought while building this house. We haven’t yet figured out where the stairs should go, and I’m scared of ladders, so this picture is as close as I can get to it, for now.

* * *

I had a teeny little crush on Dr Alperstein. He was in his final year of med school, or maybe it was his first year after qualifying, but he was a little older than the other students in his year. He was stocky and pale with a beaming round face, and the head of obstetrics was tall and sallow with a long, serious face. The girls from the unmarried mothers home were all state patients, so they used us as teaching aids for the med students.

I lay on one of the examination couches behind flimsy curtains until the professor and his gaggle of students pushed them aside and clustered around me. “Open wide,” the professor always said, and as I let my knees flop apart I’d look for Dr Alperstein. He always focused on my eyes, with a nod and a smile and a “Good girl.” I felt as though he thought I was good because, of all the girls who were due when I was, I was the only one planning to keep my baby.

* * *

I glared at the med student. “I don’t know why you have to induce me. I’m not overdue,” I groused.

“There’s a big golf tournament starting tomorrow. Nobody wants to miss their game because you come into labor,” he said.

“Well can’t you wait a couple hours before starting? I really wanted a leap year baby.”

He snickered. “Don’t worry. You’ll have your leap year baby.” It was 6.00PM on February 28th.

He waited while the nurse strapped my feet into the stirrups, then leaned forward between my legs with a look of cold disinterest. Something bright flashed in his hand, there was a moment of invasion and not-quite-pain and a gush of fluid, then he stepped back and watched the nurse adjust the flow of medication through my drip. He glanced at me. “So how come a nice girl like you is so fat?” he asked.

I had no idea how to answer him, but it didn’t matter because at that moment the pain roared through me like a locomotive and carried me away. He chuckled, nodded to the nurse to undo the stirrups, and slapped my butt. “I’ll check on you in time for leap year,” he said, and strolled out through the swing doors. He was in a good mood. There were four of us there from the home, and he needed to catch just four more babies to be done with his obstetrics rotation.

I had gone from wondering what the fuss was about to hard labor in the space of a few minutes. I couldn’t remember how to breathe. It was too bright, the fabric of my gown was too coarse, and everything stank of antiseptic. The nurse turned out the lights, but would not open the window or let me remove my clothes. And then, after an endless time that took no time at all, a great hand took hold of me and squeezed. I opened my eyes and I was alone. “Nurse!” I called. “Nurse!” It was dark, and I had no idea where the call switch was.

“NURSE!” as the swing doors parted and she wandered through with a cup of tea. “The baby’s coming!” I yelled.

Her teacup smashed to the floor. “No! No! You mustn’t! It’s too soon!” she shouted, and scurried off to get help. (I think she must have been a student too.)

She came back with a midwife, and 20 minutes later we were done. It was 10.20PM on February 28th, not yet leap year day, and I didn’t mind at all. By the time the med student came back from his supper break he was too late even to catch the afterbirth. I smiled sweetly at him. “I guess you might just have to miss your golf game,” I said.

* * *

Lynn was a writer known for her acerbic wit. She was not the maternal type, so it was quite a surprise when she appeared abruptly at the foot of my hospital bed. In retrospect, she had probably taken me under her wing – one of several people to do so. In their different ways they fussed over me and fed me and wondered what on earth I was thinking, to insist on raising a child on my own, with no savings and no job.

The girl child was two days old, and I was surrounded by three or four women, all cooing and oohing and aahing, and passing her around between them. Lynn looked at them with a worried expression, sighed, and fetched herself a chair. She leaned forward to peer into the baby’s face.

“Would you like to hold her?” one of the ladies offered.

“Good God, no!” Lynn exclaimed, rearing back. They stared at her disapprovingly, and she looked embarrassed. “So. Um. What have you called it?” she asked me.

I told her, and one of the ladies gushed, “Isn’t it pretty? She’s named after the Greek goddess of joy!”

Lynn, however, roared with laughter. “Larissa?” she guffawed. “That’s the name of a dirty little railway junction in the middle of Greece. I’ve been there.” She never did get a foothold in the conversation after that. Moving as one, the ladies turned their backs and froze her out, and she left after a few more minutes. I was sorry to see her go … I was feeling a little scared, and she always made me laugh.

We have YouTube now so I checked it out online. Looks like they’ve cleaned it up since Lynn was there.

Your turn! Have you ever stood by a decision, and been glad that you resisted well-intentioned efforts to change your mind? Do you thing being pregnant is a reason to give up your dog? Have you ever been to Greece?