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Winning through Ricochet – and Knowing What You’ve Lost

 

Ah, collagen. The most abundant protein in animals. Great for cooking into rich sauces – and glue (hence the name). It gives structure to mammals’ extracellular space. Your skin, tendons, ligaments, blood vessels, mucous membranes, cartilage, bones, and teeth all depend on collagen for strength. When our collagen lets us down, we can expect trouble.

Several diseases, from rheumatoid arthritis to scurvy, are connective-tissue diseases. Several attack our abundant collagen specifically. Sometimes, though, collagen weakens not because it’s under attack, but because it never formed right to begin with. Several genes have been identified as causing Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS), congenitally weakened cartilage, and several genes remain to be discovered. The worst types of EDS are super-weird, and super-scary. Your silly-putty skin could be so loose and stretchy that it’s obvious from birth you’d be a freak-show star, pulling your neck skin over your face for strangers’ amusement. Or maybe your joints dislocate so easily you’d join the circus as a contortionist, disarticulating yourself for cold, hard cash. Or maybe EDS causes your organs to explode, far less marketable but still super-scary. Many of us, if we’ve heard of EDS at all, have more reason to think “circus freak” than “subtle.”

But there are milder manifestations of EDS, too, manifestations much easier to miss, though still often crippling when not caught in time. May is “winning” month here on Ricochet. May is also EDS awareness month – yes, I’m mentioning an awareness month non-sarcastically. How dare I! Bad conservative! (May is also migraine and asthma-and-allergies awareness month – worse conservative!) EDS is such a rare syndrome, it might seem particularly moronic for anyone to suggest that ordinary Americans “be aware” of it in any capacity. But EDS in its less florid presentations is also routinely mis- and under-diagnosed, and, when EDS is not discovered early, it can lead to permanent, crippling injury – injury which often would have been prevented simply by knowing the EDS was there.

Some kids grow up noticing their skin is a little weird, but think nothing of it at the time. So, your skin’s a little loose, a little saggy, your scars don’t fade like other kids’ do – big deal: show me where there’s a right to perfect skin. And maybe you’re double-jointed, but no so extremely so that contortionism seems like a viable career path. Perfectly ordinary people vary quite a bit in flexibility – again, no big deal, right? And if a kid mentions pain in those naturally flexible joints, what is he likely to hear? “You must’ve slept on it wrong!” (Every single flippin’ night, apparently.) “It’s growing pains – they’ll go away once you’re all grown up!” (Then once he’s grown, it flips to, “Maybe you’re just getting old a little early!”) What’s clear, though, to any sensible, tough-minded person is that your range of motion is far too wide for anything to be seriously wrong, so just hang in there and tough it out – don’t be a snowflake. ‘Cuz snowflakes are the worst, amirite?

It was only here on Ricochet that I heard, instead, from @vicrylcontessa, “Have you ever been tested for EDS?” No, I hadn’t been. “That’s the circus-freak disease,” I thought. “Super-rare and super-serious. Sure, stuff’s been bugging me a very long time now, but why on earth would I ever even think it was that?”

But you don’t mess with the Contessa. Like many nurses, she doesn’t suffer whiners gladly: if she suspects you might have a reason to whine, it’s time to listen. It took some sleuthing for me to find an EDS diagnostician in my region who was only booked months, not years, in advance; then several months for Judgment Day to arrive. And yep … it was EDS. All this time. Hypermobility type, which is fortunately the mildest type, but caught late enough to have made quite a difference to my life.

There’s no treatment for it other than what you’re supposed to do already: keep strain off your joints by staying slim and doing exercises to promote functional muscle use, eat right, get enough sleep, use palliative medicine as needed but please don’t chicken out and go overboard, and maybe see a shrink if pain or disability start driving you nuts. The especially tough-minded, skeptical conservatives among us could be forgiven for asking, then, if the only treatment is what you should be doing already, what the hell are the benefits of knowing you have it? I mean, aside from the socially-corrosive “benefit” of getting to claim that science proves you really are a special snowflake – of getting to claim not only victim status, but rather exotic victim status at that!

But knowing matters. Even when you don’t aspire to snowflake status, knowing matters:


There’s growing awareness in the medical community that hypermobility (unusually flexible joints) can be a problem, no matter what the cause. It’s typical to rely on the natural stiffness of our connective tissue for joint stability, so that our muscles don’t have to do all the work. The more mobile your joints are, the more your muscles have to work to compensate. Which is OK if you know that’s what your muscles have to do. It’s less OK when you don’t know, when what you keep following is the standard, intuitive advice: If something’s stiff, stretch it! Still stiff? Have you tried stretching it more? Still stiff? Moar stretching!!! – All of which handily preserves or increases hypermobility while not addressing the real cause of the stiffness: the dysfunctional muscle use it’s especially hard for the hypermobile to avoid. Physical therapists are generally good at recognizing – and explaining – that strengthening, not stretching, is sometimes what’s needed to combat stiffness, but even physical therapists can only do so much when no one really knows what the overarching problem is.

That’s the most sobering realization:

If I never just happened to get to know Contessa here on Ricochet, I could just as easily still not know EDS was even a possibility. Even with all the wonders of modern technology and righteous, time-tested conservative morality at our disposal, it’s still possible to suffer and be truly clueless as to why. Moreover, it’s unfortunately not unreasonable for other conservatives to assume, if that’s what happening to you, that you must’ve done something to deserve it.


Conservatives are typically against two things (well, against two things among many): against the medicalization of everything and against giving people the easy out of claiming special victim status rather than overcoming their problems by making better choices. Furthermore, the more science and technology make it possible to fix problems, the more reasonable it becomes to assume that, if someone in an advanced nation has a problem, the reason it remains unsolved is not lack of knowledge or lack of ability, but lack of will. Being against these two things puts modern conservatives – especially younger conservatives (the elderly, after all, have earned the right to gripe) – who suffer inexplicably in a bit of a bind:

If these youngsters are lucky, their suffering can be fixed by some unknown combination of different choices, a combination which they might blindly stumble into if they always strive to keep making “better choices” and never give up hope. But the supply of choices you maybe should have made is inexhaustible. No matter how unchosen the problem might be, as long as it’s a problem not easily known and accepted, there are conservatives out there who’ll second-guess, who’ll point out that you can’t be sure your own bad choices aren’t to blame – and you’d better agree with their second-guessing if you don’t want to be a “special snowflake!” Thus does the pressure to prove that you’re not a snowflake paradoxically lead to increased pressure to medicalize suffering, increased pressure to add to the ever-proliferating “special snowflake” clinical labels for whatever’s ailing us, along with increased pressure to “raise awareness” for these labels:

Absent compelling evidence to the contrary, if we’re the good skeptical misanthropes many conservatives pride themselves in being, we tend to attribute others’ misery and failure to their choices, not their circumstances. And what counts as compelling evidence?

Cold, hard, scientific fact, for one. A mealy-mouthed label like “fibromyalgia” might merely be medicalized malingering, right? “You can put my collagen under a microscope and see that it’s physically, dysfunctionally different from typical human collagen,” on the other hand, has the ring of cold, objective truth (never mind that describing a physical difference, no matter how blatant, as “dysfunctional” is still a subjective opinion). A label that serves up its proof on a microscope slide sates conservative skepticism in a way the mellifluous excuse, “It’s fibromyalgia!” never could. And yet … in order to get to the point where some clinician even thinks to put your tissues under a microscope to begin with, your problem already has to be medicalized!

If you can convince hard-nosed, anti-snowflake conservatives that medicine they’ll believe in is on your side in your suffering, maybe they’ll finally let your suffering self off the hook if you have the temerity to notice that suffering might have legitimately cramped your style. Maybe then you can escape classification as failed person, a failed non-snowflake – a failed conservative.

That’s a pretty bleak picture of the conservative mentality, and not a fair one, fortunately. It’s especially not a fair description of the good folks at Ricochet, this Ricochet which has fortuitously saved me from inexplicable suffering. It is, however, the logical outcome of making “strong enough” anti-snowflake attitudes the mark of which self-identified conservatives count as “true conservatives,” a mentality we all risk falling into from time to time, and an attitude which the alt-right, as far as I can tell, fairly explicitly promotes.

Not only do I have Ricochet to thank for helping me out of this bind, I have Ricochet to thank for making me aware of this bind in the first place, of how deeply the cost of information can make it reasonable to presume others have chosen their suffering even when they haven’t:

Conservatives didn’t pull, “Absent compelling evidence to the contrary, we assume your suffering is self-chosen,” out of their duff. The assumption is useful because it’s often true, and, when it’s true, owning up to our choices empowers us to end our suffering – besides, what else is truly ours except our choices? The cost of wrongly attributing to circumstance the bad consequences of our choices is very high, not only practically, but especially morally.

Maybe alienating those who suffer innocently by wrongfully blaming them for their choices is a small price for a civilization to pay to avoid the even greater social cost of not noticing – or at least pretending not to notice – when suffering does result from bad choices.

Make no mistake, though, knowing you can’t answer for your suffering, especially when it’s wrong-footing you to the point where it seems impossible to avoid letting others down, is alienating. It’s especially alienating during periods of life when your own tribe expects you prove yourself – prove yourself a good tribe member; heck, prove yourself a decent human being  – by proving just how tough and non-snowflakey you are.


It’s even more alienating when the one correlation you have noticed between the suffering’s power over you and everything else in the universe also happens to have become a conservative sacred cow:

Now that I know I had EDS, even of a fairly mild type, I know I wasn’t so crazy all these years for hating natural female fertility from the first blush of puberty on. The hormones which flood a fertile woman’s body during pregnancy and which, in lesser quantities, ready it for pregnancy each month also weaken collagen and increase joint instability. One hormone, relaxin, is even named for doing this, though other hormonal fluctuations also contribute.

Even perfectly healthy, athletic women are more likely to injure their joints in sync with their reproductive hormones’ activity. It’s worse for those with joints already unstable. Weakened collagen affects other bodily systems, too, as EDS itself demonstrates. Knowing what I know now, I can now say with confidence what I’ve observed all along:

It’s not always irrational or (heaven help us) unconservative for a woman to find her natural fertility anything but beautiful. Sometimes it’s just realistic. Nor need a woman be an ungrateful, terrible human being for finding pregnancy, nursing, and the postpartum period so nightmarish that sometimes the only way to not take the nightmare out on her fellow human beings is to cut off all contact with the outside world, writing dystopian fiction to drown out suicide’s siren call.

No matter how much conservatives root for fertility, we should be honest that fertility imposes real costs on the female body. For most women, these costs are manageable, but can we be honest that it needn’t take much deviation from the norm to make them something else? Pace @rachellu, some pregnant women will become invalids. Some will have been trained to bear “good conservative” guilt for being so incapacitated by pregnancy unless they know they have very good reason to be. And some – as I did until just now – will have very good reasons, but still won’t (and may never) know them.

For me, going on “the pill” wasn’t about sex. It was about wrestling those “natural, beautiful” feminine hormones that inexplicably made everything so much worse into a chemical straitjacket. Of course, at the time, we had no idea why that straitjacket (initially just an asthma-control measure the good docs had to browbeat a timid virgin into trying) worked as well as it did. Now, in retrospect, we do:

[W]omen on the combined pill, who do not experience sudden drops in their oestrogen levels, are less likely to experience injury as the result of loosened joints.

Because I didn’t know until now why suppressing my “natural, beautiful” fertility hormones worked as well as it did pre-pregnancy, I couldn’t predict how badly bringing a baby into the world would tank my productivity, my reliability, and my general worth as a human being (I mean, I expected it to be bad, but not as bad as it was). Nor could I explain to my bosses (who were kind and patient and gave me every conceivable chance) what the flip was really going on, especially postpartum. You can’t so much as beg honest pardon for that which you yourself do not know.

Now, thanks to Ricochet, I have some clarity:

Because now I know – finally, after years of spurious “answers” that never really fit – what’s wrong, and why pregnancy so dramatically worsens it. Now I can just expect my childbirthing years to suck extra hard, and not in that warm, snuggly, La-Leche-League way (speaking of which, EDS can also impede breastfeeding in super-embarrassing ways). During the years in which I prioritize popping out spawn, guaranteeing anything to employers would simply be deceptive. That is clarity, clarity I can work with. It is not the clarity conservatives want young Americans to have: Frankly, it’s the clarity of a “loser.” But sometimes winning – or the closest thing to it that’s left – is finally getting to know what it is you’ve lost.


So thank God for Ricochet. Quite literally, I do. Simply knowing what I now know has given me back some of the power to plan my life I almost lost. With that, I end with one final request:

The Beighton maneuvers are easy to try at home. They’re not easy for a layman to score accurately (that takes clinical experience and a goniometer), but they’re easy enough to try to find out if you should ask a professional about hypermobility. Don’t worry if very young children are that bendy: that’s normal. What’s abnormal is retaining that kind of flexibility past age ten or so.

Hypermobile joints are not at all scary when you know you have them and know the risks they pose. It’s not knowing that opens you up for a world of hurt, not just to your body, but to your confidence and your very sense of reality, if (as often happens with the hypermobile) persistent attempts to “do the right thing” repeatedly turn out so very, very wrong. And…

If you happen to know any kid who’s extra-flexible and who has “weird skin” … well … medicos like to say hoofbeats should remind you of horses, but sometimes you find yourself in Namibia, on the savanna, in a place where it’s perfectly reasonable to hear hoofbeats and think, “Zebras!” instead.

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Members have made 51 comments.

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  1. Profile photo of RightAngles Member

    Wow, it must have been awful before VC came along! Very interesting and informative.

    • #1
    • May 18, 2017 at 4:47 pm
    • Like9 likes
  2. Profile photo of Nanda Panjandrum Thatcher

    Go Midge! Thanks for this…for the encouragement to *do what I can*, give what I can, and *receive* – when I need to – in a way that values others’ giving. Labels let us ‘overcomers’ find balance – by not internalizing *everything*. So glad the puzzle is solved (yay, Principessa!) Prayers of support and thanksgiving are ongoing! [Panda Hug for all at Rattler Ranch to share]

    • #2
    • May 18, 2017 at 4:55 pm
    • Like13 likes
  3. Profile photo of skipsul Moderator

    Thank God indeed for Rico. The answers you got may not have been the answers you want, but they’re answers you can work with. God Bless you and yours.

    • #3
    • May 18, 2017 at 5:09 pm
    • Like12 likes
  4. Profile photo of MarciN Member

    It is so important just to know. It helps enormously just by itself.

    I am so glad Ricochet’s @vicrylcontessa, realized what was happening.

    You will find more ways to be well as time goes on too.

    I have heard so many stories like this over my lifetime–people just baffled by seemingly inexplicable symptoms. I’m glad you got to solve this mystery.

    • #4
    • May 18, 2017 at 5:34 pm
    • Like7 likes
  5. Profile photo of Arahant Member

    So, is that how you pour coffee in the morning?

    • #5
    • May 18, 2017 at 5:42 pm
    • Like9 likes
  6. Profile photo of Front Seat Cat Member

    That is an amazing story – I am glad you found a diagnosis and it is amazing that someone on Ricochet helped you solve a crucial mystery – God bless you both – I sincerely mean that!

    • #6
    • May 18, 2017 at 5:44 pm
    • Like7 likes
  7. Profile photo of Joe P Member

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: Nor need a woman be an ungrateful, terrible human being for finding pregnancy, nursing, and the postpartum period so nightmarish that sometimes the only way to not take the nightmare out on her fellow human beings is to cut off all contact with the outside world, writing dystopian fiction to drown out suicide’s siren call.

    I hope this isn’t too insensitive a question to ask, but once it occurred to me I couldn’t not be curious: Was the fiction any good?

    • #7
    • May 18, 2017 at 6:15 pm
    • Like6 likes
  8. Profile photo of Arahant Member

    Joe P (View Comment):
    Was the fiction any good?

    Just consider the writing of hers you have seen.

    • #8
    • May 18, 2017 at 6:19 pm
    • Like6 likes
  9. Profile photo of Trink Reagan

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake:

    That is clarity, clarity I can work with . . 

    Oh Midge. What an informative, powerful and courageous post.

    So many hearts are moved by this . .

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: Simply knowing what I now know has given me back some of the power to plan my life I almost lost . .

    • #9
    • May 18, 2017 at 6:22 pm
    • Like3 likes
  10. Profile photo of Midget Faded Rattlesnake Moderator

    Joe P (View Comment):

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: Nor need a woman be an ungrateful, terrible human being for finding pregnancy, nursing, and the postpartum period so nightmarish that sometimes the only way to not take the nightmare out on her fellow human beings is to cut off all contact with the outside world, writing dystopian fiction to drown out suicide’s siren call.

    I hope this isn’t too insensitive a question to ask, but once it occurred to me I couldn’t not be curious: Was the fiction any good?

    Eh… no, not by itself. If I revisit it someday later, with some perspective, and edit it, maybe it could be. And I don’t consider it an insensitive question, especially considering I mentioned it to begin with.

    Right now, I’ve begun compiling and editing something else that’s been gathering dust even longer.

    • #10
    • May 18, 2017 at 6:23 pm
    • Like5 likes
  11. Profile photo of Midget Faded Rattlesnake Moderator

    Arahant (View Comment):
    So, is that how you pour coffee in the morning?

    Alas! By the time I started drinking coffee, I was a little too old and beat up to do that anymore!

    • #11
    • May 18, 2017 at 6:28 pm
    • Like2 likes
  12. Profile photo of Midget Faded Rattlesnake Moderator

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Joe P (View Comment):
    Was the fiction any good?

    Just consider the writing of hers you have seen.

    Arahant really knows how to zing a gal!

    • #12
    • May 18, 2017 at 6:31 pm
    • Like4 likes
  13. Profile photo of Arahant Member

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake (View Comment):
    Arahant really knows how to zing a gal!

    Or to hold up a mirror?

    • #13
    • May 18, 2017 at 6:40 pm
    • Like2 likes
  14. Profile photo of iWe Reagan
    iWe

    Thank you for this!

    • #14
    • May 18, 2017 at 7:25 pm
    • Like3 likes
  15. Profile photo of Midget Faded Rattlesnake Moderator

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake (View Comment):
    Arahant really knows how to zing a gal!

    Or to hold up a mirror?

    That clip took so long to load I wondered if you were trying to tell me I’m a vampire. But… sniff… dang you…

    • #15
    • May 18, 2017 at 7:59 pm
    • Like3 likes
  16. Profile photo of H. Noggin Member

    I’m really glad you got your answer. It’s amazing how blessings arrive, isn’t it?

    This is probably a stupid question, but do those animals have EDS?

    • #16
    • May 18, 2017 at 8:17 pm
    • Like2 likes
  17. Profile photo of Midget Faded Rattlesnake Moderator

    H. Noggin (View Comment):
    I’m really glad you got your answer. It’s amazing how blessings arrive, isn’t it?

    This is probably a stupid question, but do those animals have EDS?

    Yes, they do! It’s somehow cuter and less icky when it’s animals, isn’t it?

    • #17
    • May 18, 2017 at 8:32 pm
    • Like4 likes
  18. Profile photo of doulalady Member

    I have a friend who has been through two difficult pregnancies, and endless misdiagnoses over the twenty years I have known her, and who was confined to a wheelchair.

    She got an incidental diagnosis of EDS, and then the correct therapy, from a physical therapist who was helping her after a slight sprain. She has a whole new lease on life. She looks younger, fitter and is no longer using a wheel chair. She is off all the medications for her misdiagnosis too. It is wonderful to see the effect of the correct diagnosis on her life.

    Good for you and VC.

    • #18
    • May 18, 2017 at 9:56 pm
    • Like11 likes
  19. Profile photo of She Moderator
    She

    Oh, Midge.

    Thanks for taking us a little way in your shoes, and for the gentle reminder. I can only imagine the agony you’ve been through, both mentally and physically. I’m glad that, although the physical discomfort may not be over, the mental anguish almost certainly is.

    “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”

    Ricochet has more than its share of angels, both seen and unseen. I’ve had reason to be grateful for that, too. And I try to remember it every time I sign in.

    • #19
    • May 19, 2017 at 3:12 am
    • Like5 likes
  20. Profile photo of Richard Finlay Member

    I can relate — slightly. Coping can be easier when you have something real to cope with.

    • #20
    • May 19, 2017 at 4:07 am
    • Like5 likes
  21. Profile photo of Lois Lane Coolidge

    I am glad that you know the issue now and can deal with it. I must admit I’ve never even heard of this condition, and I’ve lived through quite a few Mays. (Granted, I was unaware this was asthma and allergy month, too, and I have both of those very pedestrian ailments, which just goes to show I’m not made “aware” by the calendar much.)

    I wonder if some contortionists have this issue but alleviate it without being aware of that’s what they’re doing because their jobs require so much muscle development?

    Mostly, apart from being happy that you have the information you need to improve your own life, I see the truth in what you’re writing about the conservative mindset. Though I don’t think we are a wholly unsympathetic lot, there have been times in which I have personally (internally) roll my eyes a bit at this or that person’s endless ailments without real understanding or empathy. I did this with someone very close to me, and then she had the nerve to up and die–not from EDS–because all of it was as bad as she said it was, though I felt she was just being overly dramatic.

    While I, of course, felt like a horrible, horrible human being after that experience, I don’t think anyone has ever articulated before for me the knee jerk reactions of a conservative who does balance so much of a worldview on matters of personal choice rather than the very real circumstance of sometimes being dealt an absolutely crummy hand. In some ways we on the right are a bit misanthropic because we require such self-sufficiency in others that we forget to exercise our own compassion and treat people like individuals. (Oh, the irony!)

    I think as I once missed an opportunity with someone I loved to be the person Christ would have wanted me to be rather than the curmudgeon in the corner talking about “bootstraps” and other such whatnot, your story speaks volumes to me.

    I am glad that you found an ear that listened.

    I also wonder–if I can be so bold?–how many children you ended up having and if any of them have this condition as well.

    • #21
    • May 19, 2017 at 4:47 am
    • Like2 likes
  22. Profile photo of Hypatia Member

    I don’t think conservatives object to “the medicalization of everything”.

    What I object to personally, (if I am a conservative?) is treating actual diseases and conditions( like HIV and disabilities like deafness) as though they were political/social opinions–

    and treating political/social opinions as though they were medical conditions , which either have to be catered to (“empathy tents”) or ruthlessly quarantined and eradicated (the Sweetcakes bakers).

    • #22
    • May 19, 2017 at 4:51 am
    • Like9 likes
  23. Profile photo of Kate Braestrup Member

    You’re writing a book, though, right? Keeping all your posts for eventual compilation?

    Apart from everything else, it is always worth reminding anyone, everyone of the paradoxical quality of so much in human life and thought and theory—thank you, Midge. Clarity you definitely can (and do) work with.

    Quality of life is about choices! Except when it isn’t. You can’t “free will” your way out of EDS anymore than my dear loved one can good-choice her way out of Bipolar 1-with-psychotic-features. And, as she will be the first to agree, there is a lot of luck involved even when it comes to getting diagnosed and properly treated. She is “lucky,” as you were “lucky” to have V.C. as a virtual buddy. Count the blessings, by all means…and yet…

    There is a lot of suffering that has virtually nothing to do with the choices one makes, and if the pain is bad enough, it makes all of us flail and flounder and do “stupid” things in an attempt to make it stop. Just after his baby boy died, my son declared that he now understood why people could be pushed by their pain to take heroin. I knew what he meant. Indeed, it’s a miracle more people don’t do even dumber things than that. It’s a wonder, given the pain the world holds, that people aren’t queuing up to jump off the nearest bridge.

    Well, it is a miracle, isn’t it? It’s THE miracle, in fact.

    In DC, another (much newer) law enforcement widow and I had one of those “here are all the great life lessons and personal growth I’ve experienced as a result of my loss” conversations. We were perfectly sincere; there are great life lessons and there is personal growth… and yet we would give it all back in a heartbeat if we could have our loved one back again. “Even for a day,” she said, and I instantly agreed.

    Those who suffer learn—like you, Midge, and like Nanda and many others—to manage unresolved and unresolvable paradox. We want to try to make it fit together in some tidy pattern of divine causality: “God killed my loved one/afflicted me with EDS/CP so that I would experience all this fabulous personal growth…”And maybe this impulse is particularly strong when it comes to other people’s suffering— “those people could stop being poor if they just made better choices…” allows us to avoid even a vicarious twinge of their misery. But whether it is “us” or “them” who suffers, quick and facile answers to the question “why” are to be avoided. The best we will be able to achieve is the simultaneous holding of what cannot be reconciled; “on the one hand” and “on the other hand.”

    • #23
    • May 19, 2017 at 5:13 am
    • Like9 likes
  24. Profile photo of Paula Lynn Johnson Member

    This was fascinating. I hate that you’re the subject, but I’m so glad you found some answers. And incredibly well-written, as always.

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: Nor need a woman be an ungrateful, terrible human being for finding pregnancy, nursing, and the postpartum period so nightmarish that sometimes the only way to not take the nightmare out on her fellow human beings is to cut off all contact with the outside world, writing dystopian fiction to drown out suicide’s siren call.

    You need to start sending that stuff out to agents. The Handmaid’s Tale is so hot right now (she says in her Zoolander Mugatu voice).

    Yeah, fertility is definitely a mixed bag. I love my kids like anything but I never experienced that “glow” or “pregnancy high” — just a lot of gross stuff. And now, being a woman of a certain age, I’m having fun with night sweats and insomnia (and maaaaaaaaybe the occasional mood swing. I can neither confirm nor deny. Please don’t ask my husband or kids to verify).

    From an evolutionary standpoint, I just don’t get it. Why does all this fertility stuff have to be so hard? I understand it has to be somewhat hard in order to cull the herd, but geez, postpartum depression seems like overdoing it. And how does menopause help the species? Maybe someone science-y can explain.

    • #24
    • May 19, 2017 at 5:42 am
    • Like5 likes
  25. Profile photo of Susan Quinn Contributor

    What a relief! I know you’ve suffered for so long, Midge, the not-knowing, not comprehending, not making sense of. It’s a wonderful miracle that the mystery is now solved. I’m humbled to be a tiny part of your journey. Thank you.

    • #25
    • May 19, 2017 at 6:04 am
    • Like2 likes
  26. Profile photo of Matt White Member

    Paula Lynn Johnson (View Comment):
    This was fascinating. I hate that you’re the subject, but I’m so glad you found some answers. And incredibly well-written, as always.

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: Nor need a woman be an ungrateful, terrible human being for finding pregnancy, nursing, and the postpartum period so nightmarish that sometimes the only way to not take the nightmare out on her fellow human beings is to cut off all contact with the outside world, writing dystopian fiction to drown out suicide’s siren call.

    You need to start sending that stuff out to agents. The Handmaid’s Tale is so hot right now (she says in her Zoolander Mugatu voice).

    Yeah, fertility is definitely a mixed bag. I love my kids like anything but I never experienced that “glow” or “pregnancy high” — just a lot of gross stuff. And now, being a woman of a certain age, I’m having fun with night sweats and insomnia (and maaaaaaaaybe the occasional mood swing. I can neither confirm nor deny. Please don’t ask my husband or kids to verify).

    From an evolutionary standpoint, I just don’t get it. Why does all this fertility stuff have to be so hard? I understand it has to be somewhat hard in order to cull the herd, but geez, postpartum depression seems like overdoing it. And how does menopause help the species? Maybe someone science-y can explain.

    Evolution doesn’t answer that, but there are other places to get answers.

    Genesis 3:16
    To the woman he said,
    “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;
    in pain you shall bring forth children.

    • #26
    • May 19, 2017 at 6:19 am
    • Like0 likes
  27. Profile photo of JustmeinAZ Member

    This is one occasion where I can truthfully say “thank you for sharing”. I can agree from experience that it is such a relief to know that you actually have “something”. What a wonderful and illuminating essay.

    • #27
    • May 19, 2017 at 6:32 am
    • Like4 likes
  28. Profile photo of Amy Schley Member

    Paula Lynn Johnson (View Comment):
    From an evolutionary standpoint, I just don’t get it. Why does all this fertility stuff have to be so hard? I understand it has to be somewhat hard in order to cull the herd, but geez, postpartum depression seems like overdoing it. And how does menopause help the species? Maybe someone science-y can explain.

    The evolutionary biologist answers are:

    A) Due to our societal impulse to help each other, tendencies for postpartum depression (as well as so many other harmful genetic predispositions) aren’t being eliminated from the gene pool.

    B) Menopause creates a class of women who, having no dependent children of their own, have time to spend taking care of their grandchildren. Given the extreme neediness and long development time of human children, kids with menopausal grandmothers were more likely to pass down their own genes. (It’s worth noting that very few other animal species go through menopause, and the ones that do also have long childhoods and complex social organizations.)

    • #28
    • May 19, 2017 at 6:38 am
    • Like4 likes
  29. Profile photo of Midget Faded Rattlesnake Moderator

    Lois Lane (View Comment):
    I also wonder–if I can be so bold?–how many children you ended up having and if any of them have this condition as well.

    We’re still in the process of kid-having, and they’ll have to reach age ten or so before we know. So far, it’s just one. He’s a year old and adorable. We hope to have more, and we won’t avoid trying, but spacing and total number will probably be different now. During pregnancy and postpartum, a knee I recently had surgery on just wouldn’t stay rehabbed. We rehabbed aggressively, but unlike previous times, the rehab just wouldn’t “stick”. Keeping that knee operational is likely going to be part of the balancing act.

    • #29
    • May 19, 2017 at 6:59 am
    • Like6 likes
  30. Profile photo of Kate Braestrup Member

    Paula Lynn Johnson (View Comment):
    This was fascinating. I hate that you’re the subject, but I’m so glad you found some answers. And incredibly well-written, as always.

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: Nor need a woman be an ungrateful, terrible human being for finding pregnancy, nursing, and the postpartum period so nightmarish that sometimes the only way to not take the nightmare out on her fellow human beings is to cut off all contact with the outside world, writing dystopian fiction to drown out suicide’s siren call.

    You need to start sending that stuff out to agents. The Handmaid’s Tale is so hot right now (she says in her Zoolander Mugatu voice).

    Yeah, fertility is definitely a mixed bag. I love my kids like anything but I never experienced that “glow” or “pregnancy high” — just a lot of gross stuff. And now, being a woman of a certain age, I’m having fun with night sweats and insomnia (and maaaaaaaaybe the occasional mood swing. I can neither confirm nor deny. Please don’t ask my husband or kids to verify).

    From an evolutionary standpoint, I just don’t get it. Why does all this fertility stuff have to be so hard? I understand it has to be somewhat hard in order to cull the herd, but geez, postpartum depression seems like overdoing it. And how does menopause help the species? Maybe someone science-y can explain.

    Amy explained the menopause thing. The short answer to “why is fertility so freaking hard” is that evolution, unlike God, is not teleological and it has no interest whatever in our well-being. What survives, survives. If enough of us can muddle through the mess and misery long enough to keep turning calories into babies, the muss and misery will remain. Human reproduction (as the author/Author of Genesis correctly noted) is unusually fraught, in large part because, when we stood upright, the pelvic floor muscles that in a quadruped merely keep the orifices decently clamped when not in use, must support the weight of all those organs and whatnot bearing down from above. (There’s a reason you never see a horse with hemorrhoids). An upright posture allows us to carry around a huge head full of brains, but that huge head has to pass through a pelvic opening that can’t be too wide because of that weight-of-organs problem. Babies getting stuck vs. organ prolapse? Take your pick; eventually, evolution either “decides” the big-brain experiment is a flop, or some workable compromise between cranial capacity and pelvic dimension is more or less reached. (More or less, I say, because had it not been for cesarean section, my fat-headed first child and I might have proved Darwinian culls).

    • #30
    • May 19, 2017 at 7:00 am
    • Like8 likes
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