Writing about getting your tubes tied

Humdrum 65

I’ve been pretty pumped about the new year so far. I like change and new things so I am all about diving into 2020. One major reason is a new writing project that’s been percolating in the back of my head since the fall. The project might ultimately become a book -- a collection of essays. This is exciting and scary since it’s been a while since I’ve thought beyond just a few hundred words. 

Before I get too carried away and overwhelm myself, I’m focusing on one thing, one essay on the topic of voluntary sterilization procedures for women. (More commonly referred to as getting your “tubes tied”). I know someone who had this done recently— though her fallopian tubes were removed as opposed to tied or clamped— and that inspired so many questions (why, what prompted the decision, how does it feel, etc) I decided to write about it.

I also wanted to write about it because getting this procedure done never occurred to me, though I’ve known for a long time I didn’t want to have kids myself. Not one doctor mentioned tubal ligation to me, even though every gynecologist I’ve seen in the past 10-plus years knows I don’t want to get pregnant. A gynecologist even suggested I switch to an IUD when I told her I didn’t want kids, but she didn’t say anything about other options. I feel like tubal ligation or similar should have at least been mentioned. Does this happen to other women???

I’m really interested in learning what other women's experiences were like with voluntary sterilization procedures. How did they learn about them? Were there any obstacles to getting it done? How did they feel afterward?

So with this new writing project, I'm taking a new approach. Typically my focus is on personal writing (my life, really) whether it’s essay or memoir. With this topic, I’m approaching it more broadly, with the primary goal of learning from others instead of exploring my own ideas. This is actually not too dissimilar from the research approach I use in my day job, which is often geared toward understanding specific experiences, behaviors, or attitudes. 

Even though this writing project has nothing to do with my day job, it’s exciting that I can actually employ those skills in my writing. This is not something I thought having a non-literary job would do. Yay!

Which brings me to an ask: I’d love to learn about more women’s experiences getting any sort of voluntary sterilization procedure, whether it’s a tubal ligation, a salpingectomy, or something else.

I know this kind of thing is private and personal so I created a short, anonymous survey. If you’ve had a sterilization procedure yourself, please take a moment to fill it out. If you know of anyone who’s had one, send them the link! I’d appreciate it so much. OR just respond to this email and tell me your story! 

Any information will be folded into an essay on the topic. I don’t know what the angle is yet, but an ulterior motive is to acknowledge and discuss a procedure I suspect many of us don’t know much about. At least I didn’t.

I’m excited to see how this new project develops, and grateful for any support along the way. Stay tuned for more in 2020!

Reading 

This essay wrecked me. A successful women writer copes with a violent (ex)-husband who is not a successful writer. Even when women achieve success, men are there looming, ready to knock us down. 

I’m enjoying Olivia Waite’s historical f/f romance The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics. I’m about half way through and overall things going pretty well so now I’m wondering if/what terrible drama is about to happen!

Newsletter business

I’m revamping Humdrum in February and moving operations in-house, which is a fancy way of saying the newsletter is moving from Substack to Squarespace. Basically this just means the newsletter might look a little different. And if you know anyone who’s interested in these random little essays I send out every few weeks, direct them to my new sign-up page. Please and thank you!

About this newsletter

Humdrum is written by Christina Brandon, a lover of beginnings. Purchase her memoir Failing Better anywhere you want, including Amazon. Connect with her by replying to this email or jumping on Twitter or Instagram. And tell friends to subscribe!

Can't the end-of-year madness be over already?

Humdrum 64

It’s the end of the year so of course it’s madness. Holiday parties, gift shopping, end-of-year project deadlines. One month in January can feel like plenty of time but not nearly enough in December. Time rushes by.

I’m on this bonkers project at work which in normal circumstances would be really interesting but the timeline is so insane and short that I feel like I have no time to really think about the project and how interesting it is. It’s six weeks of work crammed into three weeks. When this happens, I have to wonder what’s the point of forcing such extreme deadlines. I work in design, not medicine.

This week is my last week in the office before the holiday break. But I’m not really enjoying the countdown to vacation. I remember the anticipation when I was a kid, those weeks leading up to Christmas, as a continuous burble of energy in the back of my mind. I was so excited. Now, instead of looking toward something, I’m looking back, wanting something to end: oh please let it be over.

That’s kind of a bummer isn’t it? Maybe it’s the mood I’m in, but seems like that’s one of the things about adulthood: everything happens so fast that you’re not really noticing anything besides what’s immediately in front of you. I get why the idea of mindfulness is cropping up everywhere. A lot of us need reminders to slow down, breathe, focus on the present. 

I guess I’m sort of doing that now, writing this, and reflecting on this crazy ass time. I did some Christmas shopping over the weekend and decorated my Christmas tree so that’s helped kick up some ripples of excitement for the holiday break: visiting my siblings and their kids, eating cookies with abandon and, doing my annual goal setting.

But once Friday rolls around I will be so ready. I hope you all can slow down and have a fabulous holiday!

Book News

My book is out in paperback! This is one of the goals I had for 2019 and it’s taken close to the end to get all the details and ducks and such lined up. In the spirit of mindfulness, I’m trying not to focus on the time it took, or second guessing any of the design decisions (did I use the right font?!) but more on being happy that it’s published. Anyway, you can buy it and hold it in your hands now!

About this newsletter

Humdrum is written by Christina Brandon, who is looking forward to hours of reading instead of working. Purchase her memoir Failing Better anywhere you want, including Amazon. Paperback edition is out! Connect with her by replying to this email or jumping on Twitter or Instagram. And tell friends to subscribe!

Open enrollment is the worst

Humdrum 63

The open enrollment period at my job just closed. I was angry and confused evaluating which health insurance option I wanted to go with for 2020. Angry because at the core of it, I think healthcare should be a right and not a business, and confused because I had to project both my known expenses while keeping in mind a lot can go horribly wrong in a year, plus wading through packets of information that’s both not enough and too much.

I was going to write an essay about how ridiculous it is to shop for health insurance, how we shouldn’t have to make an educated guess about which business is going to cover us best (or dick us over the least!) should we get sick, break an ankle, or just need insulin shots.

My draft of that essay quickly became a rant so I’m going to spare everyone that!

Here’s what I’ll say though.

I recognize I’m in a privileged position in that I can get health insurance through my employer (three plan options) or I can get on my partner’s plan. His employer provides two options. That’s five options to evaluate. I can write more about the privilege in having options and being empowered to choose the healthcare plan that will fit me best or other kinds of nonsense. Isn't that a little messed up? Talking about privilege and healthcare in the same sentence?

It gets more messed up when you start looking at numbers. I whittled my three employer-provided options and his options down to one each:

My contribution for an employee-only plan would be $153 per month, with a $1,250 deductible.

My partner’s employee+partner plan: $78 every 24 days (Employee-only is $34). A deductible of $0. (And this is the expensive option!)

Holy cow, that’s a big difference. And this doesn’t get into the maze of co-pays and how much one plan covers of a service vs. the others, which doctors are in-network vs. out-of-network, etc.

Those numbers illustrate why I started ranting in the first place. There’s all this chatter surrounding healthcare debates about “choice.” But what kind of choice is it when your healthcare costs and access are dependent on what your employer is able to, or willing, to pay? The insurance company they’ve partnered with? The opaque deals the insurance company has worked out with hospitals? That you probably won’t know how much you’re getting charged for care until you get a bill in the mail? (And that’s obviously assuming you can get insurance through your job).

Sure, you can go on the healthcare exchanges and look at options and maybe find a better one. But that’s also the point: some people, maybe it’s money, maybe it’s luck, can get “better” healthcare than someone else.

And that’s what makes this whole thing feel so gross and fundamentally unfair. We all have bodies that need care and attention. And often through no fault of our own, things randomly go wrong. It’s part of being a fleshy, goobery human.

So thinking of “better” for healthcare, having to evaluate different plan options at different price points with different doctors and coverage makes zero sense. I mean, I just wanna go to the doctor for my annual physical and if I get sick or break a bone. I don’t want to play mind games with insurance companies.

For more background into our current system, checkout the podcast America Dissected’s two-part series on healthcare.

About this newsletter

Humdrum is written by Christina Brandon, who is obviously a supporter of Medicare for All. Purchase her memoir Failing Better anywhere you want, including Amazon. Paperback edition coming this month! Connect with her by replying to this email or jumping on Twitter or Instagram. And tell friends to subscribe!

I'm a professional business traveler!

Humdrum 62

I was so paranoid about oversleeping and missing my 6 a.m. flight that I was WIDE AWAKE at 2:30 a.m., 45 minutes before my alarm went off. 

As always happens, there was no reason to be so antsy about getting to the airport so early (but I’m an anxious traveler so I can’t help it). No traffic, and security was a breeze. I was flying to New York for work, for just two nights. I was pretty jazzed about it. I wasn’t on some crazy project deadline, and I was staying in a corporate apartment right around the coroner from my company’s office in Dumbo, a trendy corner of Brooklyn with stunning views of both the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges. 

I tried to dress the part, wanting to fit in to what I imagined a bunch of people getting on a 6 a.m. flight would look like (sales people? consultants?) while also fitting into the casual hip vibe of the design agency I work for. I chose my new midnight blue cashmere sweater, with gray jeans and my plum-and-blue slip-on tennies.  

Nearing 5:30 the hoard starts to gather around the gate in anticipation of boarding. And I notice: there’s a lot of dudes here. Like, a lot of dudes, solo, in suits or blazers, with hardcase suitcases and airpods stuffed in their ears. I counted 5 suits in various shades of blue. I kept hearing Tom Haverford’s voice, “Brooks Brothers boys make dope suits.” (I’m not sure he said that exact thing, but you get the idea).

Obviously, these people were going for work. This was even more striking on the plane. As I scooted toward my seat in the rear, I passed rows and rows occupied by men with thinning brown or gray hair. Close-cropped haircuts. A lot of light-colored button ups or gingham prints. Pretty much everyone was white. It was striking how similar they looked. 

Where were all the women? There were obviously some. But so few. I thought of the stories you hear about women and work, of women opting to stay home, pausing or giving up careers because childcare is too expensive. So I couldn’t help looking at the sea of manly scalps thinking, I wonder who’s staying home so you could get to the airport by 5:30 in the morning?

Because that’s the thing. Unless you live alone, if you have pets, or others that depend on you, what arrangements have you made that enable you to be gone for a few days, a week, or longer? 

I wonder about the negotiations, the discussions between the one that stays home and the one that travels. Who is left behind? What makes it OK to be gone?

While traveling for work, you enter a kind of stasis. Your life continues on around you but you’re separated from it. You have a narrower field of vision. I know I can easily spend long hours working because my daily routines and responsibilities have vanished. I don’t need to leave the office by 5:30, and can easily work over ten hours, or late into the night without thinking too much about it. It’s actually freeing in a way, this sharp focus on the task at hand instead of keeping one eye, and part of your focus, on the clock. 

But the opposite is true for the one who stays behind. I’ve been that person too. Responsibilities have increased as we keep up all those small things that make “normal” life moving along: dog walks, diaper changes, feeding the kids, cleaning house, buying groceries, buying sundries, and on and on. 

I admit I have a pretty sweet deal. No kids and my partner works from home and can manage dog walks and doggy daycare. We recently hired a company to clean our apartment twice a month.

Do these business travelers make enough money that they have a nanny to rely on?  A housekeeper, a cleaning service? To what extent does their partner bear the brunt of taking care of what’s been left behind? Is travel a regular thing or occasional? Did all parties sign up for their roles or has it just… happened?

Curious if I was observing a reality or my own biased indignation (of course these are all dudes!), I looked up some statistics and they were not as bad than I thought. 60% of business travelers are men (in contradiction to another site, which said 47% were women) and the average age is about 46. 

This one shocked me though: the top 10% of business travelers spend about 4 weeks of their personal time on a plane each year. One month of time, gone, on a plane! I love to travel and I don’t mind being on a plane (it’s reading time!) but that much time is nuts.

A friend of mine, a tech consultant, worked in Boston during the week and flew back to Chicago on weekends. This went on for months. But assuming she did this commute (that’s how she described it, as her “commute”) for a year, she would have spent almost nine days on the plane total, assuming the average flight time to Boston was two hours and 14 minutes. Not to mention the many nights she was actually away from home.

Even for a travel-lover such as myself, even though my ego swells when I get to tell people, “Oh, I’m going to New York for work” (65% of Millennials who travel for work view it as a status symbol), even though part of me likes the simplicity and focus of the work while gone, a month is too much time. Because that means more time in the airport, dealing with that chaos and the perennial stressball threat of delays. Because that means being away from your life, friends and loved ones. When could you try this new restaurant or go to this show? When could you indulge in your hobbies? When could you get a warm hug from someone you love?

And because I do not relish staring at a wall at 2:30 a.m., wondering what traffic is going to be like on the way to the airport. 

About this newsletter

Humdrum is written by Christina Brandon, who has no more work travel planned this year. Purchase her memoir Failing Better anywhere you want, including Amazon. Connect with her by replying to this email or jumping on Twitter or Instagram. And tell friends to subscribe!

October is creepy and it's my favorite

Humdrum 61

I love October. I decided just the other day that October is my favorite month. Not only can I finally wear scarves with abandon and my leather jacket, there’s a creepy vibe in the air.

There was a light fog last night when I took the dog out for our regular night time walk. I had my hood pulled up and was listening to an episode of Crime Junkie about the murder of college student YingYing Zhang in Urbana-Champaign. The neighbors around my new apartment have embraced Halloween with macabre zeal that makes me smile -- there’s skeleton hands emerging from the ground, clinging to railings. Ghosts floating over doorways. Graves with RIP in front yards, bones poking out of the earth, loads of big spiders and spider webs in the corners. I stumbled across an empty lot that had been converted into a grave site, complete with a floating skeleton. One building has a hunched over, hooded, full-sized figure draped in a shapeless gray coat, bony finger protruding from one massive sleeve, just standing on the front porch. Can you imagine seeing this dark shape through the window every time you left the building?

Hector and I did our usual jaunt, but I found myself looking over my shoulder whenever he stopped to sniff a patch of grass. The darkness and fog and air that was cool but still kinda warm prickled the skin at the back of my neck. I startled myself with the sound of my own keys jangling in my pocket. 

A short while later, my partner left (at 10 p.m.!) to go feed our friends’ cats while they were out of town. Their apartment is only a ten-minute walk away, but I had to stop myself from yelling, “Be safe! Call me when you get there! Don’t get in a stranger’s car!” 

I reminded myself that many of these crime stories I’m listening to are about murdered and missing women. By virtue of his gender he would probably be safe.

He returns quickly and safely, and I feel like a ninny. But I’m not going to stop listening to murder stories.

In the mornings, it’s still solidly dark out when I plunk myself at my desk with my coffee. But I enjoy this quiet cocoon before everyone else wakes up. The darkness now is peaceful and full of possibility. I like watching the midnight blue sky lighten. It’s beautiful when orangey yellow rays emerge. It’s been cloudy lately so the sky becomes only a brighter gray, the clouds more dramatic. I know the exact moment of sunrise because my computer automatically turns off Night Mode.

There’s a group of trees outside my window, five stories tall, still round with green, unshed leaves that rustle and sway in the wind. Other trees in the neighborhood are on the verge of becoming skeletons. When I walk by them on my way to work, as their dead and brittle leaves skitter past my feet, as I walk by homes with bones poking out of front yards, as those big puffy clouds drift overhead, and still some life clings to trees, I’ll think to myself with childish glee oh how creepy.

Recommendations

Share any recommendations you have for books, articles, podcasts, TV, movies - whatever you find fun or fascinating or moving!  They’ll be shared in upcoming letters. All you gotta do is respond to this email.

I’ve nearly finished Three Women by Lisa Taddeo. It’s taken me weeks because it’s one of those books I was both engrossed by and needed to set down for a few days. Taddeo researched and extensively interviewed three different women (background, age, location, etc) to paint a picture of the nuanced role desire played in their lives. A young woman who had an affair with her high school teacher, a housewife whose husband wouldn’t kiss her, a woman whose husband liked to watch her have sex with other men. The book is about sex, yes, but more than that it’s about love, how these women felt (or didn’t feel) wanted and cared for by their partners, lovers, family, their community.

Three Women reads more like three stories spliced together than a piece of in-depth journalism. It’s heartbreaking and thought-provoking and feels as close as you can ever get to the complicated inner workings of someone else’s mind and heart.

And speaking of books… Flea has a book club!

Live Lit

I’ve not attended a Story Jam Show before, but I’m excited for it since it combines two of my favorite things: sharing true stories in front of strangers and live music! Plus, their proceeds benefit The Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights. Show is November 17 at City Winery in Chicago.

About this newsletter

Humdrum is written by Christina Brandon. She’s been spacing out, watching the wind rustle the trees outside her window. Purchase her memoir Failing Better anywhere you want, including Amazon. Connect with her by replying to this email or jumping on Twitter or Instagram. And tell friends to subscribe!

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