This Ain’t Hollywood

I’ve mentioned in the past that I have a long history with acting. I suppose technically I was only a “professional” with an agent and actual “big studio” work for 3 years, but I had my first lines in kindergarten, so…there you go.

I learned a lot about the fake side of tv and movies. Whether using makeup, apple boxes, or just clever camera angles, you can fake a lot about a person or place. I am not a tall girl by anyone’s estimation. Heels can help, but heels don’t always make sense for a scene. Cue an apple box. Suddenly I’m at least 5’10”.

I’ve seen ethnicities whitewashed and white bread darkened as appropriate. Tattoos and magnetic piercings, blood and bruises, even hair and eye colour is only permanent if you don’t have the budget for wigs or contacts.

So you’d think with all of this background, I’d know not to take anything I see on TV/Movies as anything all that close to real life. But you know what? When it comes to pregnancy and birth, I sort of did.

Let us look at this trickery together and glance behind the curtain…

Hollywood Lies

There are so many ridiculous things in this category. I think my favorite is the actress not realizing she’s preggo until she repeatedly throws up. Now I didn’t have that issue at all, but I can confide in you that the women I know who did were well aware that they were preggo by that point. A 3-4 week late period really gives you a rather strong indicator.

I recently realized that Hollywood (and media/ads/etc) like using preggos at about the 5-6 month mark if they use actual preggos at all. The model/actress at that point is obviously pregnant, but is just healthy and round. Cute, not waddling, and still obviously super happy/active.

I’m at this size now. I’m supposed to average almost an additional centimeter a week (from pelvis to top of uterus) from now on. Mine’s just above my belly button now. It’s not getting any smaller, and neither will I. I’m also not wearing a fake belly on a completely normal fit body. So more than just my stomach is bigger.

No wonder people look at women who are 8 months pregnant and assume they’re ready to explode at any time. Or look at normal pregnancies and wonder why the woman has gained so much weight.

According to the all mighty Hollywood, when you go into labor, your water breaks suddenly with a gush, you rush to the hospital, and give birth shortly thereafter. Sometimes your contractions make your voice lower so that you sound like a demon. You demand drugs. You will scream and swear and be generally crazy.

Now, I have had some women tell me that they got the gush of fluid, but most of the people I’ve talked to/read about weren’t even sure that their water actually broke. The general consensus seemed to be a question of whether or not they’d peed themselves…made worse by the fact that the fluid didn’t stop after the initial go, but kept trickling merrily along.

No one went directly to the hospital, with the exception of a mom who’d been laboring for hours and hours before her water finally broke. No one got demon voice. Some people demanded drugs, some simply said yes when offered, and others had no desire and went without. Screaming/swearing/crazy seemed to depend entirely on the person.

Here Hollywood gets super mean. Pushing takes about 10 seconds. The mom is always on her back (usually feet in stirrups) and always fully clothed/covered. Nothing untoward happens and placentas magically disappear on their own.

Would you believe me if I told you that I was 20 years old before I ever heard that a person pooped during delivery? It’s true. A friend told me her Mom pooped on the doctor’s shoes during her own birth. Not only did I find this horrifying. (“WHY are you telling me this?!?!”) I also figured it was a strange and unique one-off. Surely that didn’t normally happen. If it did, I would have heard something, right? Apparently not. Imagine my surprise when a delivery nurse confided in me that it was “pretty typical.”

I also remember the first time I heard of a woman pushing for HOURS. I was reading a birth story blog. She was excellent about keeping track of the time various things happened. I knew labor could be long, but I figured the pushing was just, you know, the last couple minutes at most. She pushed for almost three hours. And it was no big deal. She never felt like nothing was happening or that she wasn’t getting any closer to a baby. It was work, but it wasn’t impossible work.

All the extra “help” stuff (vacuum, forceps, episiotomy) weren’t on my radar until I started my preggo research.  Ditto stitches. Birthing flat on the back does happen, but even in hospitals it’s becoming rarer. (The top of the bed swings up to more of a sitting position.) And if the hundreds of birth stories I’ve read about/watched are any indication, lots of moms would rather be naked/topless/in nothing but a boob covering than deal with the annoyance of clothing.

As dumb as it sounds, it never occurred to me that you had to “birth” the placenta. I mean, obviously it wasn’t like the umbilical cord just snapped back like a tape measure, I just sort of forgot that having the placenta stay inside the body would be a super bad thing. (I did know this at some point. I remember the vet going over a mare’s placenta to make sure none of the pieces were left inside the horse. He told me a very bad infection could happen if any was left inside.) As usual, Hollywood failed me.

I found out very early that Hollywood uses “older” babies for any scene involving a baby…even in birth. I’m fairly familiar with industry laws regarding child and infant labor. (At least, I was when I was a child. I wanted to be a child actor sooo bad. Thank God that never happened.) I could be wrong, but I think it’s illegal to use a baby under 3 weeks of age. They also can’t be premature, underweight, or in any way unhealthy. The thing is, an infant under 6 months can only be “shot” for 20 minutes a day. Over 6 months and that jumps to 2 full hours.  Ergo, most “newborns” on TV and Movies are anything but.

Real life newborns tend to be tiny, wrinkled, vaguely purple humans who may or may not be a bit misshapen from birth. They can be covered with various sundry items ranging from blood to body hair. Surprise! Skin-to-skin is a better temperature regulator than a blanket wrapping. Breastfeed is encouraged in the first 20 minutes.

So why the lies? With the exception of not using fragile newborns for very unfragile film work, I can’t really tell you. Maybe it’s a little bit our fault. Maybe that’s what we expect, so something “real” would seem overdone or grotesque.

I’ve seen some fairly awesome births since doing all this study, and none of them were overdone or grotesque. Thankfully, the up-crotch camera angle I saw in health class many, many moons ago seems to have been largely abandoned. (Why you’d show that to kids of an age to reproduce is beyond me. We all know where it comes out, I certainly didn’t need to see it from a foot away.) Now you get to see the whole picture, including an often ecstatic mother who’s hit a state of grace like no other.

Maybe if more births were represented this way in mainstream film (even the Hollywood prettied up version) fewer women would be afraid to give birth. Maybe that’s just my own wishful thinking.

Still, I always felt like the “monsters” were way less scary when you watched the makeup go on…


Correlation and Causation – DMB III

For most of my academic career, I was all set up to excel in Psychiatry. I took the hard math and science classes, right along with my more artsy-fartsy classes. It likely surprises none of you that I’ve been a published writer (don’t get too excited, just poetry and short stories), and English and I always got along well. If I could have taken only English classes, I probably would have just done that.

It took a very perceptive and gentle professor to make me realize that my mental block in regards to pedophiles would make my intended career nearly impossible. (By “mental block” I mean a seething, completely irrational hatred. I’d been trained, logically, to understand their actions and motivations. Logic and pedophilia just couldn’t go together for me.) Working in forensics wasn’t to be in my future.

So from forensic psychiatry to research psychiatry I shifted. (Don’t ask how I ended up in Marketing/Graphic Design. It’s a long winding road my friends.)

Despite my love of all things art, science and math hold an interest for me too. (Although math stops being fun for me when numbers are no longer “real.”)

With science I was always fascinated by biology. By the questions regarding whether a person is born with every aspect of themselves encoded in their very cells…or whether their upbringing decides who they will become. (Personally, I always felt like it was a little bit of everything.) MFH still finds the occasional Punnett square sketching when I’m trying to work out proper chances of inheritance. (Yes, he thinks it’s very weird.)

With Math, my absolute favorite subject is statistics. I loved how simple it was to change the way people answered a survey just by adding or changing a few words in the questions.  It made me realize how skewed some surveys are and how unreliable they can be. It also made me keenly aware of the difference between Causation and Correlation.

You know when you hear all these studies about researchers finding “links” between this and that? Autism is an especially hot button topic at the moment, so I’m going to talk about that. There’s a lot of money being thrown at researchers to find a cause for Autism. There’s also a disgustingly high increase of online readership for any “news article” that posts about something linking to Autism. Let me be clear here that I completely understand the desire of the average person to read about a disorder that we really still know so little about. That’s not what I find disgusting. What I find disgusting is that certain “news sources” chose to release bad, poorly researched studies as facts, knowing it will drive readership to their pages.

But I’m getting ahead of myself here…

One study I’ve been following – and will continue to follow as it progresses through primate testing – shows that excessive exposure to ultrasound waves alters brain development (in mice). There is nothing being claimed here about Autism, but it was mentioned as a disorder that is centered in the brain. They are trying to see if excessive ultrasound use actually cause neurological disorders, or if the current “link” is simply a correlation involving other factors.

Lemme explain.

On one of my Statistics midterms we had this question regarding a study. The study showed a link between ice cream consumption and colds/flu. The less ice cream consumed, the more colds/flu. The question was, why isn’t there a causation between not eating ice cream and getting a cold/flu?

At first I had the same reaction I had when learning about weighted statistics. (Just because something only has two outcomes doesn’t mean there is a 50-50% chance. Airplanes don’t crash 50% of the time and land safely 50% of the time, for instance.) I didn’t really get it. I had a fleeting moment of wondering if a lower calcium intake had anything to do with a person’s likelihood of getting sick.

Then I noticed something. The graph showing this “link” between the two had an additional line of data showing the months of the year. It showed that the colder the month, the less ice cream consumption…and the more colds/flu. People weren’t getting sick because they weren’t eating ice cream…they were getting sick because the lower temperatures were effecting their immunity.

It’s a really simple, silly example, but you can clearly see that correlation between two things does not equal causation.


That’s part of the reason why I ignore a lot of hot topic research studies. Or, if not ignore outright, at least file into the column of “let’s see if anyone can repeat these outcomes,” before we get all crazy.

Such as in the case of Andrew Wakefield (and, man, do I feel like I’m opening a can of worms here), whose 1998 paper claiming that MMR vaccinations caused bowel issues and Autism was never able to be repeated in a lab setting. (I’m being very good here, not talking about all the other reasons Wakefield and this entire situation drives me bonkers.)

If a single scientist cannot recreate your work, one of two things happened. It is possible, and has happened in very rare cases, that the results were “fluke.” There was no malintent, just an odd outcome, never to be repeated. The more likely, though, is falsified data. This last makes me so angry, because falsified data not only turns the media into salivating monsters of misinformation, it also gives some people false hope. If someone is really sick, and some jerk releases a falsified study showing something random will cure their sickness…well, you get the picture.

I’ve talked ad nauseam about informed decision making, so I’m not going to bring it up again. I am, however, going to say that our world has become a massive influx of often instantaneous information. The thing to remember is that not all information can be treated equal.

Is it my job to force my opinion on…lets say vaccinations…onto others? No, it is not. If someone asks my opinion, I’ll give it. I may have to bite a hole in my lip to keep quiet, but I will not berate a mother for having a differing opinion. But when someone does not show me the same respect and attacks my decision making skills, you better believe that I will pull out my arsenal of facts and figures and use them to full effect.

[I will disclaimer here that if I see a mother actually harming her child, all bets are off. I am not quiet in defense of others.]

When did mothering become a death match competition where only you are doing it the right way and all other options are just WRONG, WRONG, WRONG?

It’s exhausting to try and navigate the waters of parenting. To figure out how to be supportive without smothering. To encourage without creating unrealistic expectations. Most of this seems to be worked out on the fly, with not enough sleep to safely brew a cup of coffee – let alone raise a human being.

So to anyone out there who has rolled their eyes at my choices, or more directly had it out with me over something I am or aren’t doing, relax. You’re still the best mommy in your own mind. I’m going to do everything in my power; read every study, scour conspiracy theories, and – shocker here – talk to actual mothers who I think have pretty great kids; to be the best mom I think I can be.

But you know what the funniest part of this whole thing is? Despite all my faith in stone cold research, sometimes I really do think you just have to go with your gut. After all, that’s where the babies come from. :p

Like a Circus (DMB Part II)

There are so many things that happened in the past couple days that I have an opinion on, but I feel like like people both smarter and more eloquent than me have expressed my exact feelings far better. It’s also not at all pregnancy related, so while it does in fact drive me bonkers, I’m going to leave that at that.

I woke up this morning to Britney Spear‘s Circus in my head.

I think it’s because I’m feeling for the Duchess Kate. I’m doing this under the scrutiny of my fantastic friends and family. I can’t imagine having to deal with the scrutiny of more or less the entire western world.

I especially get annoyed when people get all judgey about what a pregnant woman does or doesn’t do (or worse, how she does or doesn’t look).

Remember back when the Duchess was hospitalized for Hyperemesis Gravidarum?
Another pregnant woman commented that she had morning sickness too, but all she could do was go and have a bit of a lay-down in the ladies room at work until it passed. She went on to say how she would LOVE to be at a hospital with staff caring for her 24/7.


Hyperemesis Gravidarum isn’t just morning sickness. It is when your morning sickness will possibly kill you without intervention. I don’t know Kate, obv, but I can imagine that going to the hospital was a terrifying ordeal, not a cushy vaycay. Having a person claim their manageable nausea was the same thing is so ignorant, it makes me want to spit. (And I do not spit. My mother would KILL me.) That’s like someone saying they should be in the hospital on an IV of morphine because they had indigestion, just because I was while I was vomiting non-stop due to an extremely infected gall bladder.

I was equally shocked at how many people felt/feel the need to comment on the amount of weight one does or doesn’t gain while pregnant. I’m no Kim Kardashian fan, but I had serious sympathy for the chick when she started gaining weight faster than random people on the street felt was appropriate. Kim is suuuper short (much like myself), and five pounds on her is about equal to twenty on someone with a frame like Kate’s.

Not only does the chick have arguably better ob/gyn care than most of the people commenting about her (I can only assume here. With her money she’s certainly not concerned about insurance coverage.), she also has spent enough time in the limelight to know what needs to be done to stay in shape. If she looks less than perfect, it’s either because she’s been told to rein in the crazy diets/exercise or she just decided to stop beating up on herself to maintain a size 2 while growing a whole other human.

Kate, for the longest time, was getting the reverse. “She’s so skinny, she needs to eat more!” was like a mantra uttered by women the world over. When she finally “popped” suddenly she was the perfect size. For someone as fit and naturally thin as Kate is, it sure would have looked bizarre putting a full belly on her before her fetus was actually large enough to make an impact.

Mine’s currently the size of a blueberry apparently. So, unless we’re playing a weird game of the princess and the pea — er, blueberry – where people lay on my stomach and see if they can sleep comfortably, no one can tell anything.

Le sigh.

All of this keeps going back to that same thing that’s been so forefront in my mind lately. Why are we women so quick to tear each other down? To say that this one deserves something while that one doesn’t? Can we all just sign a pact together and make an effort to be kind, courteous, and careful with each other? Even if it is only for the nine months of pregnancy.

Can we sit back and enjoy the show, without secretly hoping that he tightrope walker falls or the lion goes apeshit on his trainer? I for one am full of wonder, dazzled by the colours and the lights. And I’m probably as excited to see the Royal Spawn as the next person.

I’m just more of the mind that when I see the new little royal, with (hopefully) healthy and happy momma Kate, it will remind me that I am not alone in this journey. That so many woman have had the strength to manage this before me, and so many will manage it after me.

I cannot judge how they got there. I can only be in awe of the way they were able to create another being, and hope I gain some wisdom from their journey.

Because all this hating is really, truly driving me bonkers.