Thursday, May 12, 2016

On not doing very well

I'm letting E run through the yard right now. The sun is about 20 minutes from setting, it's very breezy, and considerably chilly. Especially when you're a two year old in a t-shirt and shorts with no shoes on.
But he doesn't care.
Inside the other three - undoubtedly including a screaming, constantly hungry three week old baby - are under the supervision of their father. I pity him, if only for his inability to lactate, because B (the newest child) always wants to eat and tends to be upset when he isn't being fed. Oddly my maternal instinct has briefly shut itself off in reaction to the knowledge that a tiny baby is in need of my unique presence.
I don't care.
I'm giving E the chance to run, to play outside like the cold resistant creature he is. He's got a clogged, dripping, raw nose that should be my hint to keep him indoors, but he'd rather be out here any day, communing with nature in his strange but effective toddler way. He wants to dig through the white gravel that lines our drive, wants to trowel through the mud under the lone tree in our yard. He wants to yell at squirrels, encounter one of the neighborhood's many stray cats, feel the grass between his toes. The pain of stepping on things, the discomfort of plodding around without shoes on sharp rocks, eludes him. I can't explain it. It's like he hasn't been taught that pain is to be avoided, so he continues. Maybe to a degree he has it right.
Maybe we've been taught to avoid pain for so long that we're afraid to do the things that bring us joy.
Regardless, I'm drawn back to my own unhappiness. I've been unhappy for so long that I've sort of accepted that this is who I am. It's easy to forget how life changing a baby is once you're past the constantly needy stage that seems to take over everything you know. You get to the point of having a young child capable of communication and understanding, a child who can have a conversation and give you an idea of why they hurt or are angry or what they want for lunch, and you forget the sleepless nights and myriad diaper blowouts. You forget that you often spent hours praying desperately to whatever deity that would listen that if you could understand just this one time why the baby is crying after you've done literally everything you can, that you'd convert to that particular religion immediately. You forget all the times you had to physically separate yourself from the baby and go into another room because you were so tired, so frustrated, so angry, so upset that nothing made sense anymore and you couldn't remember the last time you'd gotten to shower without a screaming voice in the background or enjoy a meal without trying to feed the baby at the same time.
You forget how hard it is to be social, to be a human, when you're busy being a food source and a life sized comfort object. You forget how to be a friend, because you feel like everybody else is out having a life and a good time but you.  After a while it breaks you bit by bit, until you aren't sure you could go back to "normal" - whatever normal was to begin with - if you tried. If you had the chance. It becomes easier to curl back up in your tiny corner of despair than try to reach out for what always feels like the billionth time in hopes of finding a kindred soul. You sink into self hatred, convinced nobody wants you anymore. You slip a little farther every day, and it gets easier and easier to lie when someone asks you how you're doing.
Fine, of course.
Because why would you be anything else? Isn't this supposed to be bliss, a beautiful and peaceful experience that leads you to some sort of higher existence? You feel unappreciative of the gift you've been given, pathetic that you can't handle it this time around if it isn't your first, angry at yourself for needing to try so damn hard to put on a smile when others do so effortlessly. You are convinced there's something wrong with you, that you're broken emotionally (and physically if your birth didn't go the way you had intended). The fact that you feel broken makes you feel worse, because surely the old adage that all that matters is that you and the baby lived gets thrown in your face. Others have been in your shoes, you're reminded. So why do you struggle so when they easily push on, content and whole no matter their lot?
Why do you hurt?
Over and over it goes.
Finally we go inside, prompted by the screams of a baby accompanied by a gentle request of its father. E comes willingly, frighteningly enough, after picking up all the toys he'd gotten out. He needs little prompting. He runs to the door, and to a bath, all further reminders of how far removed he is from babyhood. He can make choices, describe his actions, argue his wants. He may lack clarity and sentence structure, his grammar may at times be atrocious, but he is obviously no longer a baby, especially in comparison to the tiny creature that ends up gulping at my breast minutes later. He's only two but he demonstrates creativity, imagination, and passion for certain subjects.
Meanwhile there's B. Tiny, unable to communicate besides cries and screams. Completely reliant upon others for every need, but especially upon me for food. It's overwhelming and terrifying. It's upsetting sometimes.
But we continue on.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

On the kids

G is nine going on fifteen going on forty. He's this emotionally thoughtful creature, simultaneously quiet and the loudest person you'll ever meet. He's like an elephant mixed with a sloth, and you'll never know if you're going to get the trumpeting stomping beast or the quiet, unobtrusive creature until the very last second. He's picky, puzzling, hard to read and a ball of emotion that can be overpowering on even my most understanding days. He's a flighty soul who doesn't know where he's going or why, but he wants to be there safely and with no complications ten minutes ago. There is nothing simple or straightforward with him, everything is a complex question and a challenge to what he's being told. I would say he questions things, but what I would really mean by that is that he sees the world from his very limited perspective, safe in his hovel of Pokémon and imagination, and doesn't understand that there could possibly be another way of doing things. It's both a fascinating and frustrating thing, and he'll often use that to his advantage, happily pointing out what he sees as inaccuracies in logic or questionable methods if he thinks he might sway matters into his favor.
To him, life is a disgusting thing. Blood is terrifying and injury is awful. The concept that these things can be normal is horrifying, and exhausting to him. Any intrusion into his personal bubble by pain is an affront to him, and his reaction is immediate, emotional, and full of what can only be described as confusion and anger.
It's obvious he sees the world far differently than a lot of kids. His SID/SPD issues have come a long way as he's grown and learned. At the same time it's still clear when he's struggling, when even the most gentle of reminders of rules can send him spiraling into an occasionally scary pit of overwhelming emotion. His brain seems to work on another level, one where imagination is the only safety and the outside world is actually a fairly scary place that's better avoided if possible. He absorbs information about his interests like a sponge and tolerates the introduction of further knowledge, if only to appease the powers that be; all the same, unlike many children who learn what's necessary to move on and then promptly forget the information, he stores it away to bring up again at the most confusing times. It's fascinating and at times frustrating, but that seems to be a good description of him in general, and it's one he seems to wear with pride.

A is .. So many things balled up into a single six-and-a-half year old. He has grown up in a world encompassed by his older brother, whom he has idolized and carefully groomed himself after for years before coming into his own. He is a perfect in between of the overly cautious and fearful G and the absolutely fearless E, willing to try new things and go to new heights if only to say that he was there, whether or not he enjoyed it. Like G, he is empowered by knowledge and facts, but his curiosity goes beyond his own imagination and the worlds stored there and filters out into our world as well. His focuses are on cooking and the human body, of which he takes equal interest; he can sit down and watch a questionably gory medical show that explains injuries and disabilities and all sorts of interesting things, then turn around and run off to the kitchen to help cook an entire meal without batting an eye. He often teases he wants to become a doctor or surgeon, then turns around and talks of being a chef, or a fisherman ("just like Grampie"). Whether or not he can accomplish any of those things, or maybe all of them, isn't a question to us - he is obviously able, though whether or not he can pick something is what might hold him back. 
Yet hints of the frustration that must come from having so many questions and no idea how to ask them shine through occasionally.
Most of all, A thrives on touch. What is for G a comforting thing done out of the need for tactile feedback and physical response is for A a sincere, emotional connection. The downside to this is that he doesn't seem to know when enough is enough, or when an appropriate time to touch is. He is very "in your face" and pushy about his need for affection, without regard for the personal space needs of others. It's a hard lesson for him, unfortunately, and one that he's working on, but not one that he's managed to master yet. Of all the kids I've ever encountered, he's unquestionably the most physically affectionate, happy to touch and be touched and to have the comfort of interaction. Still, there's a lot of love in that kid, and he's determined to give it to everybody in his path - whether they want it or not.

And of course, then there's E. I'm still not positive what to make of this child, at just over two years old, but he has certainly shown his personality. Every new word he learns is immediately integrated into his life, every new skill and ability is practiced again and again. He has no fear, no hesitation, nothing holding him back from overcoming the world and bringing it to his level. He is a flame, flitting and ready to burn anything that dares stand in his path, but with the added benefit of never being able to be put out. He runs himself ragged, a screeching creature drawn to the outdoors with no regard to temperature or weather. Rain delights him, the cold doesn't phase him, heat is irrelevant. He's proven again and again that he'd rather be cold any day, but in the long run, as long as he's outside - window down, playing in the yard, hanging out in a park - he's happy. He can go outside barefoot in weather just above freezing, with nothing on besides pants and a t-shirt, and stay out until he's forced back indoors. Even then, the only thing that will often catch his attention are either the promise of shows on YouTube about his favorite things (police cars, fire trucks, ambulances, and generally any other moving vehicle) or a bath. The kid loves water, no matter its source.
Oddly, he seems to have ended up with my druidic tendencies as well, able to get close to wild animals without having to sneak up or be anything more than himself. It's a curious thing, something I was able to do when I was younger and a skill he now possesses without realizing how beneficial and incredible that it is. Even familiar animals are well loved, forgiven for their transgressions of often being bigger than him (and thus more likely to accidentally injure him) or being too overzealous in their play with him. It's fantastic how easily he transitions from animal to human when it comes to interactions, and very telling of what kind of child he's going to be - besides a completely wild monster.

I love these kids so much. They're fantastic, and crazy, and I am so lucky to call them mine.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

On Loss

Some time ago, maybe a year or so, my mother in law - a woman I admire and adore - was diagnosed with cancer. A long-time diabetic, she'd already struggled with health problems before this ugly creature reared its head. She began treatment, with the caveat that it was maintenance only, but over the summer things began to go downhill far faster. She developed an abscess on her abdomen that could not heal if she continued chemo, and on top of that her doctors revealed that chemo didn't seem to be helping anyway. It was decided that she would stop treatment, and quite suddenly a regimen that had appeared to be giving her what could have been years that she otherwise might not have had was failing her miserably. She was given days, maybe a couple of weeks, and discharged on that dismal note on hospice.

She, of course, wasn't really on board with that idea. My father in law, a legal grower in their home state, researched cannabis treatments and began to provide what he could for her where traditional medicine had given up. Sure enough, though it took far longer than it would have for a healthy person, the abscess began to improve. She slept a lot and didn't heal much, but those days she was given became weeks, which became months. A woman sent home to die in a wheelchair moved to a walker, then began getting out again - and it seemed that perhaps she wasn't about to let what was unarguably a terrible situation get her down.

Unfortunately over the holidays she became ill. Common things that would get any of us down for a few days were a disaster for her, and now there seems to be no question of the inevitable. We are merely trying to determine how long, now, instead of trying to determine what's next. There is no what's next. That question is obvious. And it's heartbreaking.

We were lucky enough over the summer to be able to go visit them. Our stay wasn't long enough - though, how long would have been long enough? - but it gave the boys a chance to see a place they'd never been before, to see the place that Daddy grew up, and to spend quality time with family that they had last seen when they were too young to form memories. We took pictures, saw sights, they went on a train and airplanes and went fishing for the first time. They got to experience so many things - but most of all, they got to spend time with Grandma. They understood the pretense, that we needed to be there because she was sick, but the urgency of the whole thing was understandably lost on them.

Now, I have to come to terms with the fact that those few days in August were likely the last time I will have ever seen her. That every other time my oldest two had seen them, they were too young to make memories - and the last time they got to see her, will have literally been the last time. I think we knew those things, but at the same time, she improved little by little, and we had hope. Hope that she was stronger, maybe, than what was ravaging her. Stronger than such a silly little word like "cancer", just five letters long. Maybe as long in letters as she is in feet tall.

But earlier this month my father in law sent the email, the one none of us wanted to get: she understood, he said. She got it. She realized she wasn't getting better, and there was no "see you next time".

I'm not sure how to process this. I've never lost a parent, and while we always assumed my mother would surely experience some kind of life threatening health crisis first, instead I'm trying to figure out how to guide my husband through losing his mother. She has, for half my life, been a force of comfort and strength, a small but powerful person that I knew I could call and talk to whenever I needed to vent, or needed a willing ear that would listen to me. And she did, every time, without fail. Now, I have to try to figure out how to help him, and help the kids, understand - why Daddy is so sad, why Mommy is frustrated, why Daddy will (hopefully) be leaving in a week or two to go see them on his own, without the rest of us.

Because I want him to get to say goodbye.

I feel like I didn't get to. I know that the boys didn't, and I have a lot of guilt about that. But I don't think any of us wanted that summer trip to be a goodbye. We all hoped it wasn't. For them it was a unique vacation, a new experience, a fun trip. Thinking of it as a goodbye would have ruined so much of their view of the whole thing, would have filled them with confusion and dread instead of excitement and wonder. I wish she'd felt better, so we could have gone and done more things with her, but at the same time, I don't hold it against her.

I think, as hopeful as we all were, we knew the demon she was fighting was strong. Too strong.

So over the next few days we're going to be watching with bated breath for our tax return to come in, will be writing letters to Grandma and making videos for her. We'll be doing everything we can to "be there" as much as we can be - because at least four of us will have to stay here, and there's a chance that Hubby won't be able to make it up before something happens either. We're going to need to talk to the kids, to each other, and to who knows who else. We'll need to hope that he can get there in time, hope that the boys never forget her like I've forgotten my grandparents. We're going to regret being so far away, regret seeing them so infrequently, regret having so few pictures - and we're going to have to try to find ways to make up for that regret. To come to terms with it, accept it, and move on. We're going to have to accept how this may or may not affect my father in law, how he may react, what this might do to him emotionally. I have to learn very quickly how to help support and guide my husband through grief and all its stages, however long each may take, and how to come to terms with those stages myself. I need to figure out how to help our kids through these.

Most of all, I have to hope his mom doesn't forget that I absolutely adore her, and that I'm going to miss her like crazy.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

On Offending With Breastfeeding

This is going to be a potentially tough one to stomach, so if you're having a rough day, or if you're still facing emotional baggage regarding a decision to not breastfeed, or to stop doing so, this might be a post that's better put off until another day. I've been in that place, and I know that it's hard to accept choices or necessities sometimes without taking a step back, so please know if you skip this one because of what's going on in your world right now, I won't hold it against you.

But if you're all good right now, and ready to potentially be offended for no reason.. Read on.

I'm gonna post a few statements below. Some are opinions, some are borderline opinion/fact (badly worded facts, perhaps, or gross generalizations), and some are scientifically-backed facts. See if you can discern which is which:

Breastfeeding is disgusting.
Generally speaking, breastmilk is a more nutritionally and immunologically sound source of food for an infant.
It's wrong to breastfeed past six months/one year/etc.
Breastfed babies are smarter.
Formula feeding leads to obesity later in life.
Many moms who believe they have supply issues and turn to formula have been misled and may truly not have a problem at all.
All women can breastfeed.
Not all doctors, nurses, and even pharmacists truly know whether or not it's safe to breastfeed while taking certain medications or during/after certain procedures and may inadvertently lead a woman to wean prematurely, or pump and dump when it isn't necessary.
It's abusive if you drink alcohol while breastfeeding and don't pump and dump.
Formula feeding moms just didn't try hard enough.
Lip/tongue ties aren't real.

That's a pretty long list of random comments, so let's break them up into our three categories and see how you did.

Breastfeeding is disgusting.
It's wrong to breastfeed past six months/one year/etc.
All women can breastfeed. (Did you think this one was a gross generalization? I'll explain in a bit why I'm putting it under the "opinions" category.)
It's abusive if you drink alcohol while breastfeeding and don't pump and dump.
Formula feeding moms just didn't try hard enough.
Lip/tongue ties aren't real.

Gross generalizations:
Breastfed babies are smarter.
Formula feeding leads to obesity later in life.

Generally speaking, breastmilk is a more nutritionally and immunologically sound source of food for an infant.
Many moms who believe they have supply issues and turn to formula have been misled and may truly not have a problem at all.
Not all doctors, nurses, and even pharmacists truly know whether or not it's safe to breastfeed while taking certain medications or during/after certain procedures and may inadvertently lead a woman to wean prematurely, or pump and dump when it isn't necessary.

Now, take a look at all of those. Did the opinions piss you off a little? I'm sure at least a couple of them made you roll your eyes for whatever reason. Did the gross generalizations make you uncomfortable? That's a reasonable reaction, too. Did the facts make you nod, or make you grit your teeth? Now, depending on your reaction there, THAT is the issue we need to address: people getting upset, or taking personal offense, when facts are presented.

If you're one of the people who were able to go through the list and have a reasonable/appropriate reaction to all of those statements, then this post probably isn't directed at you (although it may help you better understand the reactions of those who fall under other categories). If the facts offended you and the generalizations made you want to slap someone, I'd suggest continuing to read: you're exactly the person I'm looking to talk to.

Here's the deal. As a country we're striving toward a more politically correct climate, one where people feel as though their choices and needs are respected and they as people are understood and acknowledged. But in some areas we've moved right past that point and have managed to run into this wall where any presentation of facts is not necessarily an attempt to educate and inform, but a mass assault against a person's integrity and parenting abilities. Sharing an article (no matter how it's worded, or how many research-backed papers it references) on how many women end up "booby trapped" and often end their breastfeeding relationships unnecessarily, or are placed in a bad situation where their ability to breastfeed, or confidence in their body's natural state of being able to breastfeed, has become downright offensive. Large pages, even those self-professed to specifically cater toward breastfeeding education and normalization, face backlash from parents, friends, and family members who seem intent on silencing any information that doesn't fit the "accept all choices without regard for facts" mindset that they function in. To a degree, of course, I can see why they struggle so hard to reset their brains on these concepts; I had a hard time too. My firstborn was exclusively breastfed for only four days before a readmittance to the hospital for severe jaundice led the doctor attending him to accuse me of starving him because I could not produce any milk when pumping (which led to an immediate order to move him to formula), and my second was doing well until about four or six weeks after he was born I developed awful mastitis, and a combination of that, stress, and severe dehydration led me back to the expensive but familiar world of formula out of desperation and a feeling of failure. I have been in their shoes, reading articles about breastfeeding or seeing people discuss it and feeling incredibly guilty. I have doubted my body, been shamed by strangers, been told I was somehow dysfunctional by medical professionals who made me think that my body was for some reason unable to perform this one biological imperative. Thinking about, talking about, looking at breastfeeding made me feel guilty. Even after I got over the initial guilt of using formula each time, there were always comments about searching out donor milk that made me feel terrible all over again - diatribes about how supposedly easy it was to access, and a million other things, even though in my area I have found that using donor milk either requires extreme luck and timing or an ability and willingness to make a HUGE monetary commitment to it, far beyond that of what formula requires. (Yes, believe it or not, sometimes finding a willing donor is not only not easy, but nearly impossible in some areas, and not every mother or family are able and willing to provide for the necessities and sometimes monetary compensation that a donor mom may require or request.) I struggled again with #3 when it was thought I would need to return to work at about four weeks, without a built up supply to speak of though I'd tried my best to pump, and couldn't find a single willing donor after days of searching, begging, and posting on pages and forums.

So I've been in those shoes. And I know that when you're still working through feelings of inadequacy, especially those you bring on yourself or those pushed by a doctor or nurse who you assume is an aware and educated person, it's incredibly difficult to see something about a still-tender topic and stay level headed. It's often just as bad, sometimes worse, to know that the move to formula wasn't a choice but a medical necessity, made because of specific medications or treatments, or because of previous trauma or surgery that makes a person unable emotionally or physically to breastfeed. It's worse thinking that maybe if you'd just looked harder for donor milk, or had known it was an option, or if you'd just tried harder... And then to have those same words spit back at you by moms who had no issue breastfeeding, or who want to compare their struggles to your's? It's an extra slap in the face to many who've already slapped themselves plenty.

The problem is that when you've struggled, or made tough decisions, or feel very firmly a certain way, and you react that way to opinions or even badly stated generalizations in an emotionally-driven way, it makes sense. Opinions are just that, and a person's ability to state them doesn't make them true or right, it just means they're able to type, or open their mouth, whether or not it's welcome or an appropriate place to share. When another's opinion ends up pushing the question of your parenting abilities or your ability to make a conscious, educated choice - well, get angry. I would too. I have in the past and still will in the future. That's a rational reaction.

But when a person is given a fact - or even a gross generalization that has some merit but was badly stated or pushed to be far too general - and they become angry and defensive, that isn't rational. It might make sense to correct a generalization, but flat out accusing someone of harassment, of abusive behavior, of purposefully being personally offensive, makes no sense. Facts need to stop being considered something that can hurt us. I understand they might be hard to stomach sometimes depending upon mindset, but wouldn't it do more good to look as objectively at something as possible, take a step back, then ask yourself whether or not your first emotional response is appropriate?

Consider: A mom (or single dad, or parent unable to breastfeed for whatever reason) uses formula. They come across an article on Facebook discussing how formula, while nutritionally adequate, doesn't provide the same immune benefits or additional nutrients that breastmilk does. The rational response to that information is to understand that this fact (because it IS a fact) is not meant to offend or upset, but to spread education and information. Or, a formula feeding parent who had to stop for reasons involving medications or treatment comes across a shared status talking about how many health professionals may not have access to the same information, or may not have had the same previous experience with certain medications and procedures, and thus may erroneously indicate that an infant should no longer be breastfed or that a woman should pump and dump. The rational response is for that parent to acknowledge that they are doing the absolute best they can given their information and situation, that they are still providing for their infant, and perhaps consider further investigating their personal situation (or, if they feel confident in what's been presented to them, continue to know that they were provided good information). Regardless of their emotional state, or any feelings they may still inwardly have toward their situation, it is still their responsibility to recognize that a fact should not be an offensive thing and that its presentation to the public is not an inherent attempt to undermine their choices or needs.

Think this is a little long? Well, I'm almost done, and I apologize that this sort of thing can't really be expressed with any brevity. I have two more quick points to make, though.

First, there ARE assholes out there. They're the ones who quite frankly don't care who you are, what your story is, where you are or what you can or can't afford. They don't care what treatments you're undergoing, whether or not donor milk is available, what medications you're on, or whether or not you're a survivor of sexual abuse or trauma. They have no concern for any reason you might give, no matter how honest and legitimate it is, as to why you aren't breastfeeding (or at least using donor milk). They set out to shame, to bully, and to vilify knowing that in reality they won't really face any consequences (as these sorts often exist on the Internet exclusively). I don't want anyone to think that I'm ignoring the presence of these jerks, who are quite separate from the concept of "lactivists" (that is, breastfeeding education and normalization activists). They give lactivists a bad name, they seek only to cause injury, and somehow they walk away from shaming sessions with a smile on their face as if they truly think they've done something beneficial and made a change. In reality, nearly every lactivist dislikes and will openly and willingly discredit and distance these types of people, because trust me when I say that we all know they do nothing more than push away those otherwise willing to learn, to spread information, and who might have otherwise been made aware that they had done the best they could with what they had and that they are not bad parents, only potentially misinformed or uninformed. These asses exist. We don't like them. We wish they'd shut their mouths if they've nothing nice to say.

Second, I promised I'd address my decision to include the statement of "All women can breastfeed" as an opinion instead of a generalization. It's a very fine line between the two when it comes to this one, as TECHNICALLY it could be categorized as a generalization as much as the two I listed under that category. Indeed, research exists and numerous doctors agree that there is likely a correlation between feeding formula and obesity later in life (although this may be simply correlation and not necessarily causation, and requires further research), and there is likely correlation too between an increased intelligence (which is difficult to measure in all aspects as it is) and feeding breastmilk. However, I feel that while these things can be considered "relatively true statements", or gross generalizations (they are statements that should be further expanded upon if they are to be made at all, or avoided if one only wants to state them as is without offering up further research), the idea that "all women" are capable of breastfeeding has become much more of a questionable statement. While medically impressive, and of course welcome, there are a number of procedures and medications that can keep a person alive while drastically reducing either their milk production or completely negating the safety of breastfeeding to begin with, and for many there are no alternate options that may make breastfeeding a choice again. There are, too, more women experiencing sexual assault and trauma that makes breastfeeding difficult or impossible, at least not without serious amounts of additional therapy and psychiatric help that a mother may not want, or may not be able to afford. Her ability to access that therapy may be negated by financial situations, her current mental ability to process her emotional link between her trauma and breastfeeding, and by the distance she lives from a therapist able to take her on as a patient and competently able to help her overcome the issue - assuming, of course, that she's able to do so in the first place. It's ignorant to assume any amount of therapy can help any single given woman undo what could be years of sexual abuse or other trauma that has left her with a painful connection between the act of breastfeeding and what she's endured - and while it's nice to think that ideally every woman could and would be able to find a provider she feels comfortable with who is experienced enough in helping to unwind that connection, it's a rather utopian dream that we may never see come true. Too, a woman's ability to stay on top of breastfeeding related problems and easily overcome any obstacles that might otherwise prevent her from doing so in the first place, or might make her stop early, depend completely upon how comfortable she is with the concept, seeking help if needed, and whether or not she has the type of support easily accessible to her that she happens to need. A woman who needs a pediatrician or pediatric dentist who understands how to diagnose and release all forms of lip and tongue ties but doesn't know that could be a problem, or who has an unsupportive pediatrician who perhaps believes ties don't exist or that her child cannot possibly have one, cannot be blamed for what may be an inability to find another provider, or for not realizing that there's a problem if her trusted provider says there can't be. Thus, I believe that the phrase "All women can breastfeed" is better categorized as an opinion, rather than a gross generalization, given the massive number of women now falling under one of the above problem categories,

So, there you have it. I realize some of this may have seemed rather asshole-ish, but I promise it comes from a place of understanding and of fear for the suppression of helpful information and education in the face of perceived harassment. It's high time women accept their decisions, their needs, and start separating fact from opinion without deciding that anything that's presented that doesn't fit their personal experience is meant to offend them. Doing so isn't helping normalize breastfeeding - it's doing the exact opposite, and it's pissing me off.

Monday, October 12, 2015

On Being Fat and Pregnant

In case you haven't heard - and maybe you haven't - we're having another child. Our fourth baby is due in April of 2016, and this will be our last child. After E was born I was hesitant to consider being done having children, but I've come to peace with it now and I'm fully ready and prepared, I think, to say "no more". We'll be taking appropriate permanent sterilization measures after the new one arrives, and our family - at least that of genetically related children - will be complete.

However, in the times that I've been pregnant, I've become increasingly aware of exactly what it means to be fat and pregnant.

Sound funny? I mean, pregnant is just.. Pregnant, right? There are "plus size" maternity clothes and bras, and all sorts of other things. There are baby carriers for larger people. And maternity clothes are already made for people who are expanding - so it seems unreasonable, at least in this one aspect of life, to start complaining about how fat people are supposedly treated differently. To a degree, of course, you're right - the problem is that the "really big" women are kind of ignored when it comes to this section of life.

That's right: once you hit about size 28/30, you might as well never tell anybody you're having a child, because there is nothing out there to accommodate you. Maternity clothes stop being something you can look forward to and start being something you can abhor, because you aren't going to find any. Your options consist of sweat pants and stretch pants that are often unflattering and made of uncomfortable materials like 100% polyester, that refuse to breathe and leave an already hormonally challenged woman sweating balls. You can buy progressively larger t-shirts, or sink money into abysmally unflattering "big shirts" touted by companies as being pretty much the last bastion in fashion for women who have made the horrible decision to exceed size 28. You make every effort to wear your jeans until the last possible second, even forcing them into uncomfortable positions on your hips and expanding abdomen because you know that the day you give them up is the last day you'll wear them while pregnant - and of course, who knows how long you'll go without them after you've welcomed your new bundle of joy, too, because not every woman loses weight afterwards at the same rate. Underwear stops being something you can buy in "box" stores (think Wal-Mart) and starts being something you have to carefully pursue online, with the knowledge that you're lucky enough to not only be incubating another human being, but to be forced to only buy underthings from stores online that specifically cater to "large" women, that also happen to have confusing and impossible-to-navigate return policies that basically don't allow you to even turn try them on before giving them back.

And nursing bras? Forget it. Sure, options exist - but they're almost always priced so high that if you can afford one, you're lucky. Even then, they're typically badly fit, and even then sizes only go so high - and you find yourself desperately looking up tutorials on YouTube to try to convert a preexisting bra (that you sank good money into) into a nursing bra that might suffice, only to give up when you realize the time and effort necessary to possibly destroy an expensive piece of clothing isn't worth it.

Think it can't get worse?

Consider the adoring looks and knowing smiles and nods that obviously pregnant women get. Sure, you're never supposed to assume a woman is pregnant and ask those invasive questions, but even when you don't say anything, people still kind of know. You get that LOOK, that shows that people respect that you're probably tired and looking forward to getting it over and done with, but are happy that you have the chance to be in the position you're in. Once you get to my size, you never get to look pregnant. My body type - the B belly as it's called - means that I never really look like I'm going to have a child, but instead just look progressively larger and larger. I don't get a break, nobody offering me seats or doing all that invasive belly rubbing and asking when I'm due. I'd probably hate it if it did happen, but I wouldn't know - because it hasn't. Nobody has ever mistaken me for a pregnant woman, not even up to the day before I had any of my kids. The only thing I've ever been "lucky" enough to get is a bunch of disapproving, assuming looks from people who don't know if I'm pregnant or not and don't care to find out. They'd rather assume that I'm some huge creep who would rather spend her life living off a bed, eating continually. Because obviously that's all fat people do, anyway.

So, yeah. Being fat and pregnant really, really bites. Because when you're fat and pregnant, you might as well have found a brand new way to stop existing in the eyes of society.

Monday, July 20, 2015

On Everyday Life

I don't post here much anymore - partially because our lives are a whirlwind of moments and I have a house to clean and (temporarily) five children to watch after five days a week, and three the other two, and partially because I simply don't find myself interesting enough to talk about - but I feel the need, now, at least, to try to share some of what goes on in my head.

Things here are.. Okay. We have good days and bad days, and there are moments when I close my eyes and sincerely wish that things were different, but most of the time I wouldn't give up anything I've got in the world. Being mom to an eight year old, a (nearly, in three days) six year old, and 18 month old is absolutely overwhelming, but it's an amazing experience. The downside, of course, is that I'm learning all too well how frighteningly quickly time passes, and that while I may be nearly 30, I don't FEEL like I'm a day over 20. I know one day it'll hit me and I'll suddenly feel absolutely ancient, but until then I keep telling myself I'm still very young. That I'm not likely just under halfway through my life. That the next ten years won't zip by, that I won't be watching G graduate from school when I'm 40. I try not to think about the fact that every moment we're given is a blessing, because if I do, I'll be reminded that nothing is guaranteed and we never know what will happen next in our lives. I try not to remember that I live in an area prone to dangerous thunderstorms, that cars go fast and things fall from the sky sometime and occasionally buildings collapse and that there are deranged idiots in the world who seek only to hurt others or take lives for the sake of having something to do. I have to try not to think about the fact that someday someone may, intentionally or otherwise, seriously hurt or kill one of my children, and I may never know why, or understand the rationale behind their decision. I have to forget about diseases and infections and complications and problems that could arise at any point in time, things I can only do so much (if anything) to protect my children against - and even then there are things like heartache or mental illnesses that I can't predict or foresee. I have to put out of my mind, at least for now, that I cannot control everything and simply hope that I am a part of the lives of my children for as long as humanly possible, and that during that time, nothing hurts them.

I don't want to imply that my children are not intelligent, or aren't capable of taking care of themselves or that they can't adapt and learn to cope with whatever situation presents itself. I don't want to imply that they have especially compromised immune systems or underdeveloped emotional responses. My boys are brilliant, though I'll be the first to admit a certain familial bias toward that opinion, and they are relatively healthy and competent. They have learned thus far to cope with the childhood complications that develop our emotions and have shown themselves able to contend with the stages of grief and to reason through situations and thought processes that are a bit above that which I might equate with a child of their age. They're good kids (though I don't think there's such a thing as a BAD kid) and I adore them.

Honestly, I'm being selfish here, and I'll be the first to admit it: I'm worried about how I'LL react. Not to say that I don't think my children deserve to have long, healthy, fruitful lives - they do! - but I know in my heart that regardless of the situation or diagnosis or complication, they will handle themselves with dignity, honor, and reason. I think they're old souls, that they've been around this life thing once or twice already. I think that when their time comes, as much as I don't want to think about it, that their age won't matter to them so much - they'll know that they lived amazing lives and that they were fantastic people. I'm not sure, however, how I'll do when it comes to that transition (though I hope it doesn't happen while I'm around to see it). I already don't cope well with the issues outside of our direct family when it comes to illness and life transitions, and the idea of something like that occurring within our little family is overwhelming. If thinking about it alone is enough to drive a shiver down my spine, what will happen when it actually occurs? Will I be prepared? Will I be able to be strong for everybody else? Will I be able to coordinate whatever efforts are necessary, make the best decisions, honor my child's wants or legacy appropriately and with a modicum of respect? Will I be able to avoid collapsing into a mess of emotion so that I can continue to be an adult in an otherwise challenging situation? Will I be able to get up the next morning, and continue my life, for the sake of my family?

I have so many questions - all that doubt my capability while espousing the candor of my kids. I don't doubt them at all. I can't bring myself to. But me? I know that, no matter what happens, I'll be continuing to look to them to make me a better person - whether or not they realize that's what's going on.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

On Stupidity

I saw an article shared by several Facebook friends today, entitled, "A Christian 'Defense' of Josh Duggar" (you can read it here) and I made the HUGE mistake of going to actually go read it. I'd make a comment about how you can go read the full text of it yourself, but the article is so absolutely godforsakenly HORRIBLE that I feel the need to actually go through the entire damn thing and respond bit by bit to the drivel I've read. And I'm not holding back punches, either. So here goes. The article is in black; my responses are in red.
You were probably as shocked as I was to learn earlier this week that Josh Duggar had been accused of child molestation as a teenager. Shocked? Well, I was surprised that something had FINALLY come to light. To be honest, I wasn't shocked that someone in the household had done something completely deplorable, given that they are a very closed-off family that doesn't provide their children with a well-rounded secular education that includes comprehensive health and reasonable sex ed courses. Since this news became public, Josh has resigned as executive director of the Family Research Council.

Josh’s actions as a 14-year-old boy were inexcusable and wrong. I should hope they're wrong. He was fourteen - not two, not six, not even eight or ten. HE WAS FOURTEEN YEARS OLD. At fourteen a kid is already experiencing sexual awakening, is aware of masturbation and knows its purpose and likely how to do it (although in the Duggar household this is arguable at best; god only knows what awful things they told their children would happen if they touched themselves). A fourteen year old also understands the difference between right and wrong when it comes to touching the bodies of others, and SHOULD have a semblance of knowledge of the concepts of personal space and of consent. Josh knows that. Does he? Because up until today there has been absolutely no real backlash for his actions, no repercussions whatsoever. He and his father reported the incidents to the police over a year after the events occurred, and that officer was a family friend who also happened to be a state trooper, who failed to file an appropriate report or start an investigation, and who was then later convicted on several counts of child abuse, served prison time, then REOFFENDED and was RECONVICTED so I'm pretty sure that he was not the most reliable person to be reporting this information to, Josh and his victims received counseling Jim Bob admitted that the only "counseling" that Josh received was spending the summer one year with a family friend to help remodel houses, and absolutely NOBODY has stepped forward to give any information on exactly what counseling the victims received, who provided it, and whether or not that person was a licensed counselor who could provide adequate non-faith services, and Josh admits and accepts the consequences for his actions. And those consequences, up until now, have been NIL.

Once again, before we go any further, let us repeat: Josh was wrong. He was more than wrong.

For a third time, just to clear up any confusion, all together now: JOSH DUGGAR WAS WRONG. Okay? Okay. No, not okay, and oversimplifying this situation with a blasé "he was wrong" is EXACTLY WHY more sexual assaults aren't reported.

Josh was also 14 years old. Is there a point where we say, “You messed up. You were a stupid kid. But you corrected your behavior, turned your life around, and we forgive you. Let’s move on?” Yes. It's the point at which a child goes from an unassuming minor who is either pushing their limits or is experimenting for the sake of learning about life to a sexually awakened and aware adolescent/teenager who is purposefully and knowingly doing something inarguably WRONG to his SISTERS. If this was ANY OTHER FAMILY people would be outraged. But it's okay for the Duggars. Right.

Dare I say it? Very few in the mainstream media – very few – talked about Lena Dunham’s documented molestation of her younger sister. Even less called for any type of repercussions for her actions. I had to look into this because before tonight I had honestly never heard of Lena Dunham nor what she was accused of. I found that when she was younger, under the age of ten, she admits to have on occasion looked at, even touched, her significantly younger sister's genitals. I'm not saying that's okay, but I WILL say that my five year old and eight year old still try to poke one another's penises, and that child psychiatrists the world over agree and acknowledge that part of growing up is learning the differences about each other's bodies, finding similarities, and that while it may make adults uncomfortable it is perfectly developmentally normal for YOUNGER CHILDREN to touch each other or themselves in what is perceived as a "sexual manner" even if it is not done with the intention of initiating sex or sexual acts. Look it the fuck up.

Dunham was wrong, but she too was a stupid kid doing stupid, wrong things. The glaring difference between her and Duggar? Dunham laughs about her childhood incidents and shows zero remorse for them whatsoever. And that’s that. The majority of society wrote off Dunham’s incident as childhood stupidity, though it was very, very wrong. Because it WAS childhood stupidity. That's one of the big things here. CHILDHOOD. STUPIDITY. Kids doing kid things. Yes, you're right. I should go turn in my eight year old now. Jesus christ, seriously? 

So it would seem forgiveness for childhood failures is completely possible in today’s society. Nope, childhood failures are completely forgivable as long as they aren't to the degree of abuse or murder. Unfortunately, Josh wasn't a child when he abused his sisters. Unless, of course, you’re from a Christian conservative family. I don't care if the family was a left wing Libertarian family. It isn't okay. Christian conservatives aren’t allowed to fail. Sure they are. We all are. But sexually molesting your younger sisters, who are as young as four, when you are FOURTEEN and are in a position of power over them, is not okay. Not at 14. Not ever.

Earlier today, I tweeted this:

Oh, good, you outed yourself as a disgusting apologist right away, great.
I received many responses along these lines:

That's the most common sense I've seen so far from this article and it wasn't from the author.
The thing is, you guys, they do. By 17-years-old, 48% of teenagers have had sex. And for the vast majority of those teenagers it was consensual sex with another teenager no more than two years older or younger than them. One out of every three teenage girls gets pregnant before the age of 20. Of course, this number fluxuates depending on the area of the country you're referring to; southern states, ironically enough, tend to have a higher teen pregnancy rate than EVERY OTHER STATE. And it doesn’t count as consent just because you’re both under 18. No, but the majority of kids under 18 who are having sex don't end up prosecuted for it because their parents or other caregivers understand that they are old enough to make decisions for themselves regarding their sexuality and that said "kid" doesn't magically become more responsible or more able to make wise decisions just because their 18th birthday rolls around. Never mind that most kids don't tell their parents, whether or not we want them to, that they're sexually active. So this is not relevant. You're basically saying that it's okay if you're under 18 and don't consent because pretty much half of everybody else you know has already fucked around, so you should just go along with it. Twenty-six and a half percent of 15-19-year-old girls are giving birth to kids which is a regionally specific number, so I'd love to know where in the nation this information is from – and those are just the ones that aren’t having abortions. Abortions aren't even relevant in this discussion. And 17% of those births are to unwed mothers who already have at least one other child! 1) I'd love to know where in the nation her numbers are from. Again. Also, so? Unwed does not mean unsupported, does not mean that they are not in a long-term relationship with a loving partner. This "15-19" arbitrary range is also pretty damn convenient because, even assuming only people 18 and up are getting married and having babies, that's two whole years of extra inclusion in which people are legal adults in ANY state but are still being lumped into this age range like somehow it's relevant. It isn't.

Yes, Josh Duggar was wrong. Stupid, dead wrong. Wrong. Josh admits his wrong. He and the young girls affected by his actions will live with the repercussions from those incidents for the rest of their lives. It’s an incredibly sad story that unfolds far too often in today’s society. Does it? Because I am not specifically aware of the number of sheltered 14 year olds who go around sexually molesting their SIGNIFICANTLY younger SISTERS on NUMEROUS OCCASIONS. No, I actually don't think this specific occasion happens often.

So what do we do now – 15 years later? Everything we legally can, right? That's the right answer? Now that all this time has passed and these girls have been completely let down by their families, clergy, and the law, we use our newfound information to help bring them justice. That's what you're going to say, right?

Is the answer to teenage failure, “OFF WITH THEIR HEAD!” because of something someone did when they were 14-years-old? Kids are stupid. They’re sinful. They do bad things. Criminal things, perverse things even. Yup. Sometimes kids steal some gum from the store or even some shoes, or punch someone that makes them really angry, or lose their handle on their emotions and say some pretty hurtful, dumb things. Sometimes kids make mistakes. Stealing is criminal. Threatening someone is perverse. But none of those things are.. Dammit, I'm going to have to repeat myself, aren't I.

How do we handle childhood sin? First, I need to get over the fact that you're lumping sexual molestation in with telling a lie. Yes, they should know better, but kids mess up. If we discipline them, they suffer consequences, repent, and turn their life around… What then? WHAT FUCKING CONSEQUENCES DID HE SUFFER?! How the fuck do we KNOW he has turned his life around, when his ENTIRE FUCKING FAMILY went so far out of their way to ensure that the undoubtedly NUMEROUS times he SEXUALLY MOLESTED HIS SISTERS were covered up until this happened to come to light NOW, over a decade later?! Do we show them grace and give them another shot at life? Or do we simply throw stones from our glass houses? Not much of a glass house when I don't fucking molest kids.

Could it be that pointing at someone else’s sin – especially if it’s someone from a family with *gasp* standards! – makes us feel better about our own? I'm pretty damn proud that my family doesn't allow an older child in a position of authority over their siblings to molest said siblings knowingly and repeatedly and then cover it up for years after not providing any counseling for anyone involved or any legal repercussions for the offender.

I also tweeted this today:

If I prayed, I'd sooner pray for his sisters, that they will find peace even with the knowledge that every single fucking person who was supposed to protect and shield them did the exact fucking opposite.
And got lots of this in return:

Do we not understand what was happening in the “first stone” story? A woman was caught in the very act of adultery – which in Jesus’ culture was justifiably punishable by stoning. Jesus didn’t say, “If you’ve never committed adultery, pelt her now, as hard as you can!” Nope. It was if you’re without sin. Without any sin. I can't.. I can't even.

Sin is sin is sin. If it’s wrong, it’s wrong. No argument there. Wrong is wrong. Consequences are a different ball game. For example, the consequences for lying are quite different than those for murder. Josh Duggar’s sin will have a lifetime of consequences. FOR HIS SISTERS. For those who were molested by this man. THEY WILL SUFFER THE CONSEQUENCES of not being provided a loving atmosphere in which they were acknowledged as the victims and provided ample and adequate counseling from a trained counselor who can.. Goddammit.

I’ve never molested children or shot anyone or done drugs, but guess what? I’m still a fallible human being. I’ve messed up. A lot. I, too, am imperfect and need forgiveness. I can’t throw that “without sin” stone. Can you? No, but I can still throw the "I never molested anybody" stone and you can bet your ass I will.