Pronouns, Gender, and Feeling like an Outsider

A few months ago, I read an article about a mother who read The Hobbit to her daughter. The little girl insisted that Bilbo Baggins was, in fact, a girl, and, after some discussion, the mother agreed and began reading the story as if Bilbo was a women, changing the pronouns appropriately.

Initially, I recoiled at this. I’m somewhat of a literary purist, and Tolkien ranks up there, for me, as some of the finest works around. Certainly, his work is the basis for almost all modern fantasy. Changing his work is like changing… the Bible or something. You just don’t do it.

But the more I thought, the more I wondered, “Why not?” How does having Bilbo as a female change the dynamic of the story? Wouldn’t a female Bilbo be an exciting adventure story for our little girls to connect to? Isn’t this what I ask for over and over in stories? A rollicking adventure with a dynamic female lead who isn’t concerned with finding a darn prince for once?

The more I thought, the more I wanted to give it a try. So I did. For the past few months, I have been switching the gender pronoun of the main characters in all of Cricket’s stories. I tried it with the Grasshopper once, but she can read and quickly and firmly corrected me.

It has been an interesting experiment. Hearing the female pronouns over and over is jarring. It has gotten me thinking about how othering our language is. The default for everything is male. That can leave non-males feeling like outsiders and that’s not good.

Slowly, I’ve been getting used to hearing and saying female pronouns. It doesn’t feel as awkward as it did at first. I take that as a positive sign that thought patterns can be changed.

Words are powerful and I want the words my daughters grow up hearing to be about them. I don’t want them growing up feeling like outsiders.

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Review: Beyond Morning Sickness by Ashli McCall

This is a paid review. I was compensated for this post by Ashli McCall’s publicist. All view are my own.

Ashli McCall's books: Beyond Morning Sickness and Mama has Hyperemesis Gravidarum (but only for a while)
Ashli McCall’s books: Beyond Morning Sickness and Mama has Hyperemesis Gravidarum (but only for a while)

I need to preface this post with a confession:  I hate reading non-fiction.  With the exception of Happiest Baby on the Block, I’ve never made it cover-to-cover through so many of the parenting books that I often recommend.  I haven’t completely read Playful Parenting, Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves, Unconditional Parenting, or Natural Birth: The Bradley Way.

I try.  I really do.  I just hit the wall about midway through and start skimming and skipping around.  I love to read.  I’m not even going to tell you how many books are in my Kindle.  I just have a hard time getting through books that don’t involve some element of escapism.  Non-fiction is just something I struggle with.

I really thought I would have to push myself to get through Beyond Morning Sickness.  Boy, was I wrong!  Ashli structured this book to make it approachable to everyone.  Rather than ram-rodding a lot of information into your brain (and there is a LOT of information in this book!), she surrounds each segment of the book with the stories of women who experienced HG.  This makes it much easier, not only to read the book, but to digest the information.  I had a hard time putting it down!

The information itself is robust and in-depth.  The book was written in consultation with medical professionals, and Ashli provides citations throughout to support her points.

This book covers almost every aspect of HG.  Here is a link to her table of contents.  She covers everything from causes of HG to all different kinds of treatments to supporting a woman with HG to issues involving termination (see my caveat on this below).  For most people, this book could be considered a one-stop resource on HG.  For a sick woman, having this amount if information in a single, easy to navigate book would be extremely valuable.

My favorite part was the big middle section.  Here, she gives in-depth and practical information about various HG treatments.  She starts off with the least invasive alternative treatments and moves on from there.  Her section on drugs used in HG is excellent.  She even includes a treatment algorithm on page 120-121 that a doctor can work through with a patient to help get their drug cocktail balanced.

In the sections on IVs and PICCs she gives tips on things to look for and things to ask for.  For example, she advises if you have a PICC to ask for a size four french line to allow blood draws directly from the line.  I always imagined they would be able to do this no matter what.  Imagine how disappointed I would’ve been if I had found out that I needed extra sticks?  Ashli includes little tips like this throughout the book.  Things that don’t seem big but can make a huge difference to an HGer’s comfort level.

Another excellent section is the section on advocacy.  Here, she gives detailed pointers on how specifically caregivers can help a woman with HG.  She is able to step out of her own experience and see the situation from the perspective of an outsider looking in.  In her Dos and Don’ts section in chapter 13, she gives advise on what actions a caregiver or advocate might need to take to help comfort a woman through HG, and she also requests that they refrain from certain actions that might seem reasonable to someone who has never been through HG.

There was only one section that I truly struggled with, and that was the section dealing with termination.  I am strongly pro-choice, and will always support a woman’s right to choose whether to carry a pregnancy or not.

Ashli posits that most HG-related terminations are due to lack of medical care, and this is supported by the research she provides.  I firmly believe this to be the case.  There is often a profound lack of medical support for HGers.  We are told that the illness is in our heads (lie), that no medicine is safe when pregnant (lie), and many other harmful things.  Is it any wonder that a woman receiving bad information from her doctor would view the termination of a very much wanted pregnancy as her only option?  This is a failure on the part of the medical community and it’s one that Ashli and others are working to correct.

Ultimately, Ashli asks the most important question:  What is more harmful to a baby: Taking medicine that may or may not cross the placenta or termination?  I think the answer there is clear.  No woman should be forced to make the decision to terminate a wanted pregnancy because of lack of treatment.  Ever. On that, I firmly agree with her.

We part ways on this, however,  when she includes references from several anti-choice groups. Unfortunately, this means much of the “factual” information in this section is highly questionable and pushes a specific political agenda. I wish she had not chosen to write this book with that kind of slant.

If you have questions about the risks and facts surrounding abortion, I would encourage you to speak to your doctor or an organization like Planned Parenthood who will be able to provide you with facts that will allow you to make an educated decision about the subject.

So ultimately, what’s the verdict on this book?  I was almost afraid to read it after reading Ashli’s HG Diary.  Ashli’s HG was so much worse than mine ever was, and I was afraid I would find it frightening and off-putting.  Instead, despite the deeply flawed section on termination, I found it to be empowering and uplifting.  When I closed the book I was left with the sense that I really can get through this.

If you have or have had HG, read this book.  If you are a caretaker, friend, or family member of someone who has HG, get this book.  If you know an HGer, give them this book.  If you know of a doctor who is, shall we say, lacking in this department, give them this book.

Thank you Ashli for having the courage and dedication to write this book for us.  You truly are a hero.

How to get this book: In addition to being available through Amazon and Ashli’s website, you can purchase a copy through HelpHer.org with the proceeds going to help support HER Foundation research and education efforts.  Ashli has information on her website here about donating books to doctors.  You can check her list to see if a book has already been given to this doctor and if you do deliver a book to a doctor, please notify Ashli via her website to avoid duplicate donations.