Thursday, October 30, 2014

A Mother's Vow, A Guest Post from Jennifer Steuer

Up today is the second guest post in our new series. This is a beautiful testament to what parenting is really like, brought to you today by Jennifer. She can also be found writing over at CD Parent Pages.

To get married you need a license. To own a dog (legally) you need
a license. When you get married you make vows and promises 
to one another...for example, in sickness and in health. To have 
a child most people can just get pregnant and have a baby. This 
child that is brought in to the world is not promised anything. Some
pet owners have their pets lo-jacked so that if the pet gets lost the 
owners can find them. A child is told to hold your hand.

Harlan and I chose to have children. It was a process because 
we knew that the ‘old fashioned’ way just wasn’t possible due to 
having a tubal ligation many years ago. To get pregnant we had to 
have tests, go through procedures and submit to the possibility that 
we may never be able to have children. Because we wanted the 
child(ren) and were really looking forward to being a family we had 
to pay quite a bit of money. 

A parent doesn’t need to make promises and vows to their child. A 
parent doesn’t need to cater to the needs of the child. Children just 
come to some families whether they are really wanted or not. When 
you have a child you don’t even have to keep the baby. You don’t 
have to take care of the baby in a way that would put you on the 
cover of Parents magazine. 

I have a child whose needs are more intense than other children. 
I have a child who has needs that are not visible physically. 
Benjamin’s neurological needs can make any day stressful and some 
days everything is fine. Benjamin has epilepsy, sensory integration 
disorder, ADHD and has recently been diagnosed with depression 
and anxiety. Because his disabilities are not apparent, caring for him 
and showing everyone how he suffers is difficult. You can’t see the 
part of his body that is betraying him.

Even though a vow is not necessarily made when a child is born I 
have made vows to each of my children. I have vowed to take care 
of them when times are good and when times just plain suck. My 
children know (I hope) that I don’t get mad when they are sick or 
hurt. I hope they know that I will do everything in my power to 
make sure that life is fair to them. I will do what ever I can to heal 
them, to create a sense of well being that they will remember for the 
rest of their lives. 

Benjamin is a child. He cannot care for himself. I am his mother. 
I carried him for 31 weeks inside me, praying every single day that 
he would be healthy and happy. Right now he is not happy. He is 
healthy...physically...mentally? Not so much. He is in need of help 
that I cannot give him. Ben needs to be able to express himself 
without fear of hurting someone or reprisal. Benjamin needs help. 

As his mom I vow to get it for him.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday - the all things Halloween edition (well, mostly all things...)

It's Halloween week, or basically the best week of the year. I've explained my deep and long standing love of this holiday before, mostly stemming from the fact that there isn't any emotional bullshit baggage that comes with it. Unlike most of the other major holidays, there are almost no expectations about Halloween. No dinners, no gifts, no you-have-to-be-here-at-this-times, none of that.

It's just fun.

Plus, every year I think that the kids are going to be done humoring their mother with the family themed costumes that we do. I am waiting for the rebellion, for them to refuse to go along with it, for them to stop agreeing on what we should be. I know that I am living on borrowed time with it all, and I'm enjoying every second we have left with them this way.

This year, we are the characters from Harry Potter.
Dumbledore and Professor McGonagall

Hermione and Hagrid



Anyway, since it is Halloween week and all, I'm in a pretty good mood. I love Halloween.

It's also Mr. Hive's birthday and I'm taking him out to lunch in a little while since his evening will be filled with a cub scout meeting and a school presentation. The joys of parenting.

What do you want for your birthday, Daddy???

I want to sit on the floor of the gym and watch squaredancing! (said no parent ever)

Now that I've written a very long winded intro, let's get to the things that are pissing me off this week. I'm only talking about the Halloween related stuff for a few reasons, not the least of which is that I haven't really watched or read the news in weeks. I know. I KNOW.

Off we go. Finally.

You know how NIMBY stands for not in my backyard and refers to people who don't want objectionable things to be done in their neighborhoods for whatever reason? Usually, it refers to zoning issues and where sewage treatment facilities and dumps are placed.

Well, there's a new thing now, and I'm calling it NIMFY. Not in my front yard. I like this acronym better because it sounds kinda dirty (I'm really a 14 year old boy, I tell you).

If you haven't heard about this story, I'm sure that you'll understand why it chaps my ass. Basically, some well-to-do woman wrote a note to Prudence whining about how she just can't stand it when poor kids trick or treat in her neighborhood. It's not her job to hand out welfare candy.

The funny part is that in her letter she clearly knows that she is just being an asshole, because "obviously this makes me feel like a terrible person."

Well, duh.

Because you are a terrible person.

Either buy candy and hand it out or don't. No one is forcing you to hand out candy. No one is burdening the poor downtrodden rich homeowners here. Jesus.

Stop for a hot second and think about the fact that the kids coming in to your neighborhood from other, less wealthy areas might actually be doing it because it's safe to go door to door in your neighborhood but isn't in theirs. Nah, in her head those kids are clearly just there for the full sized candy bars.

Seriously. What the fuck is wrong with people???

Scandalous Costumes
Hi. What I'm about to say will probably ruffle some feathers. Ready?

There is a time and place for sexy costumes. At adult parties. Or at the afterparty. (clears throat) There is a market for them, though it used to be that you had to go to an adult bookstore (ahem, you know...for the books) to find them. Now, the racks of the regular Halloween stores are full of costumes that barely cover anything and try to turn things that clearly aren't sexy into sexy costumes. It's almost comical.

Like the sexy Ebola nurse.

Too soon?


And sexy Ebola nurse? Really? Just no. LOL

I hear parents complain more and more every year about how hard it is to find appropriate costumes for their daughters, particularly the tween and teen ones. And it is true that the vast majority of the ready-to-buy costumes are questionable at best when it comes to whether they are appropriate or not.

Here's the thing, parents. You don't have to buy them. Just like the whiny rich lady no one is forcing to hand out candy, no one is forcing you to buy skirts that barely cover your daughter's ass. Just don't buy them. If you can't find a costume that you feel is age appropriate, then get creative. Make one. Hit thrift stores and put something together. Grab a cardboard box and some markers. Raid closets at home.

Tell the costume manufacturers that no one is going to buy this shit and you know what??? They'll stop making it.

Supply and demand, baby.

Hey, maybe your kid could dress up as an economics professor. Heh heh.

Seriously though, I get that looking for costumes sucks with tween girls especially, but as parents the best way we can fight this trend is with our wallets. Just don't buy them. Figure something else out.

Speaking of Inappropriate...
Don't dress your kid up as Ray Rice. I feel like this should be obvious, but apparently it isn't.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Voicemail Time Travel

Last week, I was chatting with a friend online about voicemail of all things. Sharing a date full of memories, her and I, we talked about how voicemail can hold reminders of the past. In our particular cases, we were talking about the messages left by those who aren't here any more.

For me, it was the outgoing message on my Dad's cell phone. 

I have to admit that I called it more than a few times in the first weeks and months after he passed. I just wanted to hear his voice again and I knew that once the service was disconnected, that message would be gone. 

There aren't many recordings of my father's voice. I have a few home movies that we took when our kids were young, but Dad wasn't really a talker. He was more of the sit on the couch in the corner and observe kind of guy. 

I come by that part of my personality honestly. 

These days, years after his death now, I have to go looking for his voice. Fortunately, I know exactly where to find it. 

He recorded some books for the kids. I know that he hated doing it at the time, that my Mom totally made him do it, but I am ever so grateful that he did. I keep them on a particular shelf in a particular cabinet and the kids all know that they are special books. 

Whenever one of them wants to listen/read those ones, hearing his voice stops me in my tracks. It's like he was just here all over again. 

We take pictures, us humans, believing that they are the best way to capture memories. Those of us who've lost the ones we love though, we know that pictures aren't the best medium to conserve those memories, just the easiest. Smell and sound, now that's where the good stuff is. 

I've smelled my Dad's scent exactly once since he died. I was in a grocery store a few months later when a man walked past me with the same combination of aerosol hair spray, Brut aftershave and Stetson cologne that he wore. Damn near brought me to my knees. I don't even know how long I was standing there, unmoved in the same spot, when this man passed by me. A store employee had come over to ask if I was okay, bringing me back to reality again. 

For that moment though, it was like my father was just here again. 

Pictures are good. 

Smells are better.

And voices. Oh, the voices.

It's funny that my friend and I were just talking about this issue so recently, though we were doing so in a reflective place of grief. It's funny because only a few days later, I had occasion to revisit the past again thanks to voicemail, albeit in a different way.

Earlier this week, on an afternoon that ended up not going according to plan, I was trying to get a hold of my older kids after school. They all have cell phones, so this shouldn't be so difficult, at least in theory. Of course that would require them to charge their phones, remember to turn them back on after the bell rings at the end of the day and actually answer them...a series of events that clearly is impossible to expect. 

Anyway, I had called each of them more than once, never reaching any of them. I called Mini-Me's phone again. Usually she is the most likely to answer. 

She still didn't answer and it went to voicemail. The outgoing message played and something registered in my head. 

She said her brother's name. 

Why would she say her brother's name?

It didn't make sense, so I called it back, this time out of curiosity about the message as much as out of the need to talk to her. 

The line rang and rang, then the voicemail picked up. I listened intently this time.

The message wasn't one she had recorded at all.

It was him, The Oldest. It was the message he had recorded years ago when that number was still his. It was his voice. His 10 year old, pre-pubescent voice. His tiny little boy voice.

I don't even really remember him sounding like that.

These days, his voice is low and booming. The squeaks lessen with each passing day as his transition from boy to young man progresses. He's over a foot taller than he was when he recorded that message. 

I have pictures of what he looked like, certainly. I can recall the subtle changes in his face as he's aged. 

His voice, though, I'd forgotten. 

When my husband came home from work, I told him he needed to hear something. He asked what. I told him just to listen as I dialed his youngest daughter's phone number and handed him my phone, the dial tone running in the earpiece. He was confused.

Then he heard it and the smile spread across his face, the smile that told me that he'd recognized whose voice that really was and what it really said. 

We can't keep our children young, we can't stop them from growing up, and we certainly can't go back in time, but sometimes moments like this one come along unexpectedly and remind us of who they used to be. Sometimes the past can be revisited just for a little while.

When she realized what was going on, Mini Me asked if she should change the outgoing message. 

Not yet, honey...not yet. Let me listen a few more times first.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday - the sleep deprivation Ebola czar edition

Yawn. Hi.

It's after 3 p.m. and I just opened the computer for the first time, if that's any indication of how today is going so far.

I haven't been getting much sleep lately, not that I'd necessarily have expected that I should be at this point with a five week old. In the last week or so, though, it seems like he has developed reflux. And when I say it seems like he has developed reflux, what I really mean is that he's a barf machine. A cranky barf machine. He smells, I smell, all the clothes and sheets and blankets and burp cloths are getting barfed on.

If you happen to see us out in public somewhere and I resemble a zombie, appear covered in curdled milk...that's why.

Seriously though, I just hope that he's still gaining weight with the amount that he's not keeping down.

I'm not watching much news at this point, mostly because almost all of the news cycle seems to be dedicated to Ebola fear mongering, and that's not my thing. The schools closing and putting employees on leave are making me crazy. I saw an article today that a college is actually refusing admission to students from Nigeria over this whole thing.

In a lot of ways, this irrational fear isn't a whole lot different than in the early portion of the AIDS crisis. Except that back then, the President was in denial that the disease even existed, people assumed they couldn't get it if they weren't gay.

These days, the President isn't in denial at all. The whole situation hasn't been handled splendidly, but it's certainly not elevated to the level of full blown denial like Reagan did. There isn't enough funding for disease research, but that isn't a new problem and it isn't something Obama has anything to do with. We still don't have a Surgeon General, and this "crisis" hasn't lit a fire under the Senate's ass to get on with the confirmation hearings.

The reason Dr. Murthy hasn't been confirmed, and likely won't be any time soon, has nothing to do with Ebola or any disease for that matter. It has to do with the fact that he believes that guns and the deaths caused by guns in this country are a public health problem.

And he's right.

Over 30,000 people were killed by guns last year. 

Ebola has killed one person here in the United States so far.

So, let's just get this straight. Because this doctor believes that something directly involved in the deaths of thousands of people every year is a legitimate public health issue, he hasn't been confirmed, leaving a vacancy in the office. As a result, since we don't have a sitting Surgeon General, we've now invented the position of Ebola czar to deal with a "crisis" that thus far extends to three diagnosed cases.

The guy tagged, Ron Klain? Yeah, he doesn't have a health care background at all. 

Someone want to explain this to me?

Never mind.


I got this far before the baby decided I was done writing for the day. So, that's all I'm going to have time to be pissed off about today. What about you? What's pissing you off this week?

Friday, October 17, 2014

On This Side

When I walked into the orthodontist's office for an unscheduled appointment with my oldest son yesterday, an older gentleman followed me in the door. He was alone and looked a little bit lost. The receptionist asked him if he needed help.

He told her that he was waiting for his daughter and grandchildren. The kids had a consult and he was there to help his daughter make the decisions about their treatment plans. He said something about being in the industry.

The lump in my throat had already formed.

She walked in a few moments later with her children. She was frazzled in a way all too familiar to me as the mother of children that age at nine in the morning. She seemed annoyed with her father when he asked questions. Were the xrays really necessary, he wondered? That was a lot of radiation that might not be needed if there were films from the dentist available. He cautioned her about making decisions about treatment, particularly if the recommendations were aggressive ones.

I understand where the annoyance comes in, really I do. I know how frustrating it is to have a parent hovering over you, questioning every single choice you make about parenting.

And yet, there was a huge part of me that wanted to sit down beside her, this frazzled mother and frustrated daughter. I wanted to hold her hand and look into her eyes and tell her to be grateful that she has this moment. To be grateful not just that her father is still here, but that he cares enough to show up at an orthodontist's office at nine in the morning. To be grateful that her son and he had such an effortless banter about them, one that hurt me to watch because it is something that my own children will never have with my father. I wanted to tell her that I was so grateful for the wisdom my father shared with me when it came to these decisions about the kids and their teeth, and that even though he's been gone over three years now, his words are still guiding my choices.

I wanted to.

I didn't, of course.

I didn't because I know why I feel this way and I know why she felt the way it seemed she felt.

I know that the longing in my heart to be frustrated and annoyed with my parents exists only because I am on this side of it all now, in this life without either of them. What I wouldn't give to just share a waiting room with my father again, to see the sparkle in his eye when his grandkids walked into the room just one more time.

That was all yesterday.

Today, even harder. A year ago, my mother took her last breath, far away from all of us.

I don't write about how she died. I don't write about why she died. I don't write about why she was there and I wasn't. I don't write about the things that happened. I don't write about how I found out she was gone.

Maybe someday I will tell those stories. Maybe, but I know that I am no closer to being ready to tell them now than I was 365 days ago.

There is a part of me, a growing part of me, that longs for resolution. Not with her because it is an impossibility, but with the others left behind. The family that I haven't spoken to since then. I want to pick up the phone, and there are times that I have even started scrolling through my contacts in a half hearted attempt to dial a number. I want to, but I pause every time.

I pause because I know they won't answer.

The damage done is too great, and I was the fall guy.

The funny thing is that I understand. I get it. I know why they all needed to blame me, and I don't blame them for the way they feel. They certainly feel justified. The part they never understood is that there was another side to it all. Mine.

I didn't matter then, and I don't matter now. And I understand. It just hurts.

I didn't just lose her, I lost them.

Without paying attention to the date, I scheduled an appointment for the baby to have an ultrasound of his hips today. At the hospital. They hospital that she spent so much time at while she was here. The one where so much changed. The one that they wheeled her out of and into a helicopter when it threatened again. The one she went to time and again.

Oh, the things those halls have seen.

It was about the last place I should have been today.

Or maybe it was exactly where I needed to be.

Who knows. I've given up trying to figure it out anymore.

All I do know is that my mother and I, we had our share of problems. There were things about her that I am relieved that I never have to deal with again. There are other pieces of who she was that I miss every single day.

A few weeks ago, I came across the memorial piece the Robert Downey Jr. had written about his mother upon her death. I didn't have occasion to write anything for my mother because there were never any services. Even if there had been, I likely wouldn't have been given that opportunity.

What I did write here made me a marked woman for a while. So I stopped.

His words resonated so deeply with me, they were so simple and yet so profound. Although his experience with his mother was necessarily different than mine, the circumstances of her life and death and the circumstances of his were dissimilar to mine and hers, it was all so deeply relevant.

She had much in common with my mother.

I've told you all for years that RDJ is basically my spirit animal.

Here is a portion of what he wrote. You can read the entire post on his Facebook page here. 

Her doctors basically titled her a "Medical Incredible," said there was little they could do, and were frankly amazed she was up and walking....

Many fond memories of her in the last few years...holidays, kid-stuff, her strutting around with a walking stick. I knew it was difficult, and understood as the visits got shorter.

In March, she suffered another cardiac arrest and was put on life support.

Her wishes were to be left to die if there wasn't a reasonable chance of recovery, which for some time there was.

I returned from filming the "Avengers" sequel in June, went straight to see her.

To my amazement, she was completely lucid, interactive, mugging + pulling faces.

We couldn't speak 'cause she had a tracheal tube. I wondered if she might just beat the odds once more.

Another set of seizures answered that, and we brought her home for hospice.

She died @ 11 p.m., September 22nd, survived by her extremely loving and tolerant partner of 37 years, Jonas Kerr.

She was my role model as an actor, and as a woman who got sober and stayed that way.

She was also reclusive, self-deprecating, a stoic Scotch-German rural Pennsylvanian, a ball buster, stubborn, and happy to hold a grudge.

My ambition, tenacity, loyalty, "moods," grandiosity, occasional passive aggression, and my faith....

That's all her...and I wouldn't have it any other way.

If anyone out there has a mother, and she's not perfect, please call her and say you love her anyway...

Elsie Ann Downey. 1934-2014

My mother wasn't perfect. I loved her anyway.

If you have a mother and she's not perfect, please call her. There will come a time when you won't have the chance anymore.

Being on this side is hard.

I miss you, Mom. 

I love you.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

In Defense of Dads

This post right's something that I have been thinking about writing for a long time. I've put it off for a few reasons, not the least of which is the fact that it will almost certainly generate some controversy. I'm sure that I will get yelled at for what I am going to write, I am sure that there are people who will tell me that I am wrong. I'm even more certain that there are people out there who will use their particular situations to try and generalize about all men, all fathers, and so on.

I'm going to do it anyway because I am sick and tired of not saying anything.

You guys know that I don't do meek and quiet well.

So, here we are.

Defending Dads.

Not that they actually need my defense, incidentally.

There is this thing in society where men are bashed almost as routine, where fathers are belittled by television, by movies, and most frequently, by commercials.

I mean, seriously....commercials are almost always insulting to fathers. They are trying to sell whatever their product is, and they're trying to pander to a mostly female audience because they know that women do most of the grocery shopping. Apparently, they think that if they make men seem like bumbling idiots when it comes to all things parental that we'll somehow feel more motivated to buy their widgets.

I don't understand it.


Are there guys out there who don't have a vested interest in parenting? Sure.

There are women like that too.

Are there men out there who are totally clueless about how to raise a child/mop a floor/make a sandwich/change a diaper? Absolutely.

There are women like that too.

Are there men who bail on their responsibilities, who leave, who run away from being a grown up, who refuse to step up and be the parent they need to be? Of course.

There are women who do the same thing.

It's socially acceptable to slam men as a whole in ways that we would never tolerate of women. There are blog post after blog post after blog post dedicated to making fun of fathers. Can you imagine the backlash if there was this level of finger pointing at mothers? If there were this many socially acceptable assumptions made about the ability of women to properly parent their children?

While this generation of men is, in general, far more involved in fatherhood than prior generations have been, they are also probably the most made fun of.

They are hands on parents now, they are involved from the earliest parts of pregnancy through the delivery. They baby wear, they are informed decision makers, they are room parents and stay at home fathers. They do a hell of a lot more than most of our fathers ever did, and they still can't catch a break.


I don't understand it honestly. I know men, many men, who are the primary parent. The one home almost all the time, the go-to parent, the one dealing with juggling all the kids and a job and making it all work somehow. I know fathers who have quit their jobs entirely to stay home. I know dads who permanently alter their work schedules to walk their kids to class and make sure they are home when the bell rings at the end of the day.

I know some amazing fathers.

Even still, they have to deal with the snide remarks, the jokes, the ribbing from others. These guys probably deal with it more than anyone else, because in addition to all the people who assume they aren't adequately prepared to actually parent, they have to deal with the people who harass them for actually being good fathers. The ones who question their choices to put their families before their careers, who tease them for staying home, who call them Mr. Mom or imply that they are somehow less of a man because they are an involved parent.

When we mock fathers, whether we are doing it for their perceived failings or for the things they are good at, we are doing a great disservice. The fathers of this generation are in a place of damned if you do, damned if you don't.

If you're not a good enough father, society is going to call you on it.
If you're too good of a father, society is going to make fun of you for it.

What the hell?

Fatherhood is important. It is something we should be encouraging, not mocking.

Let dads do their thing the way they do it.

Sure, they might parent differently than we do, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

We should stop acting like it is. I know my husband is better at many aspects of parenting than I am.

We should stop making fun of them online.

We should stop complaining about what we think they do wrong.

We should stop acting like it's a miracle that they are capable.

We should start treating them as the equal parents they are.

We should be teaching our children that parenting is a partnership, not a competition.

And this?

This is sexy.

High fives to all the good fathers out there.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Body Image, Booty, Music and Missing the Point

I've seen more than a few articles in the last week declaring that 2014 is the year of the booty.

Which seems strange to me. I grew up in the 80s. I came of age during a time when Baby Got Back stood on its own merits without being relegated to a sampled line from a Nicki Minaj song.

Come on. You remember this album cover...of him
standing on these gigantic magnificent fake ass cheeks?
Incidentally, if you're referring to your man parts as an anaconda in a song, I'm just going to assume you're taking a bit of creative license. Perhaps stretching the truth. Ahem.

Anyhow, it seems silly to me that 2014 would be declared the year of the booty since clearly we've already enjoyed the year of the booty. Or years.


As always happens these days, though, once the declaration was made, the articles challenging said declaration were written too. For the most part, I agree with the response pieces because they point out the history and relevance of the booty in prior decades, and get into the whole issue of why anyone is going about declaring 2014 the year of the booty...which has to do with the fact that white girls are the ones singing about the size of their asses now, when before it wasn't the white girls.

The points are valid ones, truly.

The song that seems to have triggered the most conversation about this is All About That Bass by Meghan Trainor.

You know, this one. The one that you can't avoid on the radio no matter what you do.

Sorry, I don't love it. I'm not one for bubblegum pop as it is, and this song annoys me more than normal. I'll tell you why.

(Of course I'm going to tell you why...that's why we are here, right?)

It bugs me because this song, the one that is being held up as the body love anthem of the year of the booty, is just as destructive as all the other songs that objectify women.

Just because the women are the ones doing the objectifying doesn't make it better.

Just because the song celebrates the virtues of a curvy figure doesn't make it okay.

Here's the thing.

There are lines in the song that I take issue with, big time. Assumptions made about women and girls who are naturally thin. Assumptions made about any female human who has undergone plastic surgery, or just looks like she has.

Why is it okay to sing about "stick figure silicone Barbie dolls" or "skinny bitches"?

It's not.

It's not okay and it's just as degrading as anything slamming women for being overweight. Or thick. Or basic. Or whatever it is that they are being slammed for.

You can rant all you want about the overuse of photoshop and the damage it does to women.

You can celebrate the body you have without putting other people down.

What you can't do, though, is declare that a song that celebrates one group of women at the expense of another is about body love. It's just another song pitting women against each other, where one group of women is standing on the shoulders of another to make themselves feel better.

Why can't we, why can't women, just celebrate who we are without resorting to insulting others?


Also. The song seems to imply that she has value as a person because the boys like a little more booty to hold at night. Um. Meghan, your value isn't determined by how many men want to grab your ass. Please don't teach my daughters to think that way. Lord knows I'm working hard enough as it is to teach them otherwise.

A song like this isn't about empowerment nearly as much as we want it to be.

It's just another song talking about the size of a woman's ass as though that is all that matters.

Every inch of you IS perfect from the bottom to the top, regardless of what the woman beside you looks like, and regardless of what the boys like.

Now go ahead, and move along.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday - the leave that girl alone edition

I haven't written a good rant in a while now, and it's long overdue.

Of course, I haven't exactly had the energy to devote to being pissed off lately either. I haven't had the energy to devote to much if I am being honest.

You forget how little sleep you get, just like you forget how tiny babies are when they are born.

Parental amnesia.

It's a thing. we go.

Being Residually Pissed
You guys know that I'm still residually pissed off about the whole c-section thing and that my being residually pissed off won't be going away any time soon. That's well established.

Right now, today, I'm more annoyed at the crooked scar on my abdomen. Seriously. How hard is it to make it straight? You can't take a person with high anxiety levels, with long standing body image issues, with a tendency towards OCD-like behaviors anyway and give them something permanently asymmetrical. Not cool, you guys. I'm also pissed at the fact that my elbow is just starting to heal from being rubbed raw back when I could hardly get in and out of the hospital bed without a huge production.

I made an appointment with my regular obgyn, the one that I didn't see during the pregnancy for insurance reasons. I'm just not going back to the other office. Nope. If I ever had to step foot in there again, I'd probably have an overwhelming urge to start throwing things, and that's generally frowned upon.

Ebola 24/7
Do you ever feel compelled to take the entire news media and just shake them?!?!?!  I do. Like all the time. It's bad enough generally, but right now with the Ebola virus it has become so far beyond ridiculous and irresponsible.

They rush to hit the airwaves first with any information, regardless of whether it's factually accurate or not. They spout off opinions as though they are facts. They pass off misinformation as though it's something that can be relied upon.

This virus, it's something that we should all be aware of. Those exposed need to follow quarantine measures. Health care workers need to follow protocols. Screening needs to be happening.

Speculation about the disease, fear mongering in the press, irresponsible behavior by those who flipping know better (I'm so looking at you, Nancy Snyderman), none of that is going to make anything better.

Half truths, lies and assholery
It's election season, you guys. That means that all the air time on the television and radio has been bought and paid for by someone with a dog in the fight.

Someone who wants to manipulate you. Someone who doesn't seem to mind dropping millions of dollars to affect the outcome of an election with an expected turnout rate of about 3-4%.

These ads are full of lies. They are spun, they are misleading, they are overly generalized. They feed on your fears and insecurities and they do it because it works. 

Three weeks left. Tick tock.

Then it's back to commercials full of bathtubs pushing wiener pills.

Personally, I miss the wiener pills.

Leave her alone
Amanda Bynes is in the news again, and not for a good reason. I mean, it's not like she has been in the news for a good reason in a while now.

She's mentally unstable, that much should be painfully obvious...and yet she is the punchline of a million cruel jokes being told.

What the hell, world???

She needs help. Mental illness isn't funny. It is so far beyond frustrating to live with it, to love someone who is in such a bad place. The shittiest thing about mental illness that gets lost in all these conversations about how messed up her life is the fact that the hands of her friends and family are, for the most part, tied.

They can't really do much to help her because of how fucked up our system is.

We talk and talk and talk about patient rights and autonomy, which are hugely important and necessary. Most of the time. When you are dealing with a person who either can't or won't admit there is something wrong, who refuses to see that they need can't do anything. Your hands are tied.

Unless they are enough of a physical threat to their own safety or that of someone else, enough to have them involuntarily committed for 72 whole hours, there's not a goddamn thing you can do. You can't make them see a doctor. You can't make them go to a therapist. You can't make them take meds. You can't do anything.

The idea of having the life of someone you love played out through the lens of a paparazzi's camera....awful.

Leave her alone.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Day That I Threw Away My Birth Plan

I know that I need to write this all out in order to really process it all, mostly because that is just how I operate. I know that I still haven't dealt with everything that happened and that it isn't something that I will "get over" any time soon.

There is a part of me that will probably always hold a grudge. I know that.

I know that it probably isn't the healthiest thing in the world to stay bitter about how it all played out, but I also know that my role as a doula and as an advocate for women, for maternal/child health, for patient autonomy in general means that I have to hang on to that bitterness just a little bit so that I will tell this story.

I had a c-section that I probably didn't need to have.

That I'm almost certain that I didn't need to have.

That I received confirmation about the fact that it was indeed probably unnecessary.

Of course, I don't possess a crystal ball or the ability to travel through time. I don't know with any degree of certainty what would have happened if I had been permitted to deliver my son vaginally. I can't say that there wouldn't have been complications that might have necessitated surgery anyway. I can't.

Even if I could, that whole not having the ability to time travel thing gets in the way. I can't go back in time and do things differently.

I'm here, on this side of it all, with a scar cut across my abdomen that itches whenever I think about it.

There are plenty of people who have tried to convince me to focus on the positives. You know, the fact that I'm healthy and the baby is healthy and that's all that matters.

It is the most important thing, but it's not the only thing.

Unfortunately, though, we live in a society where medicine functions this way. We are supposed to celebrate the fact that we made it out alive and willingly overlook all the shitty things that happened in the intervening period.

It's bullshit.

When did we allow our standards about one of the biggest events in life to drop so low that we only look for survival as a marker of success, anyway?

Birth isn't supposed to be like this. It doesn't need to be like this.

And as a mother who had this experience taken from me, I get to be pissed.

It wasn't just me that it was all taken from, either.

My older kids were all supposed to be there with me when the baby was born. They weren't even allowed to see him for three days.

I don't honestly know how my husband feels about everything that happened because I haven't asked. I've been so preoccupied with trying to keep my emotions under control about it all that I haven't asked him. I think he saw the surgery as a shitty, but necessary evil, not because of actual necessity, but because of the situation.

That situation? The baby was breech.

He wouldn't turn. We tried everything. I tried everything. Then the fluid levels started to drop and he engaged in my pelvis and there was no chance he was going to budge. I ended up in labor a couple of days after the attempted version failed.

Before we left for the hospital, I held back tears and told my husband to throw away the birth plan that I had tucked into my bag. We wouldn't be needing it, and I didn't want to see it again.


I had to have a c-section.

I was too early for a scheduled c-section, so I had no choice but to wait until I was in active labor for them to decide it was time.

Naturally that meant that I went into labor on a Sunday night. When no one wanted to come to the hospital.

After 5 hours of contractions, hooked up to the monitors the entire time (because I needed to "prove" I was in labor), stuck in bed, I waited.

By the time the doctor on call finally decided that I was indeed in labor and that the contractions weren't magically going to disappear, it was the middle of the night. By the time I was wheeled into the OR, I was probably 6 or 7 cm.  Given my history, I would have been pushing within a few more contractions.

I wasn't allowed.

The practice I was a patient of sections all breeches.

Even the patients like me. I have had four prior vaginal deliveries, all easy and without birth complications. I pushed twice every time, even with my first, and even with the baby that weighed 8 pounds. No birth trauma, no episiotomies, no tears, no assistance required with the births.

I have what's considered a "roomy" pelvis. I give birth without pain medications. I have easy labors.

I am pretty much the ideal candidate for a vaginal breech delivery.

Which I knew.

It didn't matter.

Having the obgyn confirm the fact that I would have been an ideal patient for a vaginal delivery the following day, as I was laying in a hospital bed in complete agony after surgery...rubbing salt in a very raw wound.

Yes, she actually said that to me.

Doctors section breeches because of liability issues. They do it out of habit or fear or whatever. As a result, fewer and fewer of them are experienced doing vaginal deliveries of breech babies. The less experience, the riskier it becomes.

It's basically a self-fulfilling prophecy.

If we make vaginal birth more dangerous, we can justify doing the surgeries, and so we have.

Regardless of the fact that a vaginal breech delivery with a well trained attendant is still safer than a c-section.

Regardless of the fact that a c-section is major abdominal surgery that carries a ton of risks with it.

Regardless of the fact that there are all kinds of other reasons for the baby to be delivered vaginally.

Regardless of what the mother wants.

I never once doubted my body's ability to birth my child.

It didn't matter.

Yes, he is here. Yes, he is healthy. Yes, I am alive.

That's not enough and no one will ever convince me that it is.


If anyone out there wants to lecture me, please don't bother. This is my experience, these are my emotions, this is my life, and it is not a judgment about anything that anyone else has ever experienced. As a doula, I honor the experiences of all women and I ask the same courtesy to be extended to me now. 

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