IUD Inside

Last month’s Hobby Lobby ruling by the Supreme Court filled me with such blinding rage that I have been unable to write about it (or even think about it) in a reasonable manner. And railing at the universe with vitriol and bitterness is useless. It turns into preaching to the choir. If any of us hope to effect change that is one lousy way to do it.

So let me get this off my chest and I’ll be able to move on.

Ugh, I can’t do it. I can’t curse out the members of SCOTUS who formed the majority of the ruling or Hobby Lobby in writing. It would be irresponsible because it would basically invalidate everything else I say.

But I AM DOING IT IN MY MIND.

Okey doke. I do feel a tiny bit better. You know what else has made me feel better? Buying this T-shirt.

Why am I so upset? Obviously, an employer rather than a medical professional making health care decisions that only affect women is a big problem for me. But leaving that for a moment, what scares the living shit out of me is how this court values the rights of the few over the many. Business owners are not a majority in our country. They tend to be more powerful and wealthy than the general population. And in this ruling their wants were given more weight.

The ruling is un-American.

Imagine for a moment that Christian business owners were not the ones who brought the law suit, rather a group of Muslim business owners who disliked birth control being a component of the company healthcare plan. Do you believe for a second the ruling would have been the same?

Certain business owners do not want to pay for birth control, either all of it or some of it. But you know what? They aren’t paying for it at all. Health care is not some benevolent gift granted to workers by a company. It is compensation for services rendered. The idea that a company can dictate how any part of a compensation package is spent, especially based on religious ideology, is mind boggling. Could a closely held company run by a devout Jew ban employees from purchasing pork with money they earned in his or her employ? Could LBGT community members be denied jobs based on sexual orientation?

Those examples seem extreme, but no more extreme than the ruling handed down on June 30th. My shock that day was complete. I did not believe for a moment that the ruling could possible go the way that it did.

Fifty years from now when this court is considered by historians the majority opinion will be judged harshly.

Would you like to know why I choose an IUD as birth control?

Because my husband and I enjoy having sex and we cannot afford another baby. Because I have been on hormonal birth control to manage severe menstrual cramps since before I was sexually active. Because I had a D&C five days postpartum after delivering our first son to stem the horrifying bleeding caused by a piece of left behind placenta and I hemorrhaged six hours after the birth of our second son and menstrual bleeding now scares the hell out of me and exacerbates my anxiety disorder. The tiniest blood clot makes me seize up with terror. What does that have to do with anything? A side effect of the Mirena IUD is a much lighter flow. My reasons are complex and simple, much like the choices any woman makes about her reproductive health and life.

To have that choice compromised by an employer is unconscionable. The women who work for Hobby Lobby are hourly and low wage employees. They cannot just get another job. Low wage retail is a shitty existence. They would get out if they could. The women with the least power are the ones getting screwed. Un-American. Shameful. Frightening.

So what does an outraged feminist do? This one makes a t-shirt. And wears it in pubic with pride. My tiny action might not make any difference at all. I usually wouldn’t advertise my private choices on my t-shirt. But this one matters. I am not ashamed of my IUD. I’m grateful for it. And I’m pissed that I need to be grateful to my husband’s employer for not objecting to it.

photo (45)

Bam. The IUD is right in there doing its thing. Hope the folks I passed by at Target and at the Children’s Science Museum yesterday enjoyed it as much as I do.

 

Running While Female

Today was the first long run of the first week of my first training for a half marathon. Five easy miles. Although five miles are never easy for me.

About 4 blocks from my house a guy on a bike wearing hard core racing spandex passed me. I smiled and gave a little wave. Because I smile and wave at everyone I pass, it just seems to be good exercising manners. His face lit up, he flashed me a huge grin. A couple of blocks later I’d forgotten about it.

Just gone the mile mark and I was trying to tell myself four more wouldn’t be so bad. A movement on my right caught my eye. I looked over into the smiling face of the guy from the bike suddenly running beside me. I did not smile back. It was around 9:45 am on a Sunday morning. There were plenty of people around, kids and parents on the playground at the top of the park, a young man taking shots at the basketball court, people walking dogs. And I was scared.

The guy was very fit, not struggling with the slow 11 minute pace the way I was. He stayed beside me or a few steps back. At the corner I sped up and made a right around him. For a little while I though he’d stopped following me. But he had not. Sometimes he was 30 feet behind, sometimes he was right next to me. I have no idea where he left the bike. As we circled around the park again he come up on my left, putting me between him and the curb and making me feel even more boxed in.

I wanted to tell him he was scaring me. I wanted to not give a shit that he was following me. I wanted to be brave. I wanted to call my husband. I wanted my wedding ring to increase in size, protecting me from…what? A guy taking a jog? I wanted to ignore the voice in my head saying my safety was threatened. I mean what was the guy really doing? Maybe he was just out for slow run. I wanted to not wonder if my smile and wave were too friendly back while he was on his bike.

But I did. I worried I had been flirting with him. Even though I knew I had not. I worried that my biker shorts and tank top were inappropriate. Even though they were not. I worried that I was being a weak, shrill woman who was making it all up. Even though I was not.

Who knew what his intentions were? I do not think he was going to hurt me. But he was making me uncomfortable and my reaction of tension and discomfort were clear.

Halfway along the side of the park there is a fire hydrant. I usually circle around it and return to the intersection where I hit two miles. I slowed until he was right next to me. And I quickly made the turn. About three quarters of a mile after he first pulled next to me he left me alone. I scanned my surroundings obsessively for another three quarters of a mile until I couldn’t help myself. I stopped with my back to a couple of trees in some shade and called my husband.

I felt like an idiot. A hysterical idiot. My husband and the boys were at a flea market and he asked if he should come pick me up. I didn’t know. I was scared to go home, scared he was still watching me. Scared in broad daylight surrounded by people. I decided to keep on going.

At four miles my husband called to tell me he was there in the car and he’d drive beside me home. I thanked him and waved him off. I finished the five miles. I did not see the man again.

About a month ago, after the Washington Post op-ed by George Will decrying sexual violence against women on college campuses as overblown, creating an atmosphere of victimhood as a prized and privileged status, the internet blew up with reactions that were all over the place. The ones that stuck with me were those written by women who agreed with Will.  I read responses from women who questioned why college girls always thought they were going to be raped. Women asked why did those girls think they would be so special that someone would want to sexually assault them. Women asked why other women were so hysterical.

The 2012 CDC finding that nearly one in five women will be raped in her lifetime? The statistic is nearly the same as a study commissioned by the Justice Department* in 2007 during the Bush administration. It is not a statistic conjured by a liberal administration or harpy feminists to further their agenda. It is real.

Women fear rape for many reasons. I do not  fear assault because I think I am special or desirable or that every guy is  inherently bad and a potential rapist. Sexual assault is a crime of violence and control, not desire. I have been taught for most of my life that women ask for it through their every action. I have been taught that if I am assaulted no one will believe me. The comments by women in response to Will’s article support that. When someone larger and stronger than me gets in my personal space I get scared.

So what the hell happened this morning?

I don’t think I was ever in real danger. Still, I changed my plans to run along the partially secluded path around a stream across from the park after the second mile. I don’t think the man’s intentions were bad. But he surely knew he was making me uncomfortable and he did not stop.

The bottom line is I am ashamed. For not telling him he was scaring me. For not demanding that he leave me alone. For letting my worry that I would offend him get in the way. For even questioning if I’d been flirting or if I was dressed wrong or if I was asking for it in any way. For feeling small and worthless. For still having dread in the pit of my stomach hours later. For already fearing Tuesday’s run.

I’m ashamed for feeling ashamed.

I expect more from myself. But I also expect more from that man, from any man.

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I was not doing anything wrong this morning.

 *Study found through this Slate article.

Say Anything

You guys know  Say Anything? Man, that is one of my favorite movies of all time. Lloyd Dobler. Crush of my life, John Cusack. I love One Crazy Summer, Better Off Dead, Stand By Me, Grosse Pointe Blank. But Lloyd Dobler, he is the king of them all. As Cory says, “You’re not a guy” Lloyd: “I am” Cory: “No. The world is full of guys. Be a man. Don’t be a guy.”

Cory (Lili Taylor) is Lloyd’s best friend. She’s also obsessed with a dude named Joe.

Lloyd: “Joe. Joe. She’s written sixty-five songs. They’re all about you. They’re all about pain.” Joe: “So what’s up?” Lloyd: “Stop freaking with her head man. Just stop playing with her mind, you know? She’s a human being. She’s a person. She’s very talented, you know.”

Cory is Lloyd’s best friend. She’s also a bit of a punchline. The not-conventionally-beautiful girl who is obsessed with the-very-conventionally-attractive guy. Obsessed. Sixty-five songs written obsessed.

Listen, I love this movie. Hell, in the late 90s I fell deeply in love with the band The Bouncing Souls who put out an amazing song called Joe Lies.

But here’s the thing about Cory. Here’s the thing about how Hollywood represents female obsessive love. She turns any violence inward. She tried to kill herself over him.

Mystic Pizza is another one of my all time favorites. Lili Taylor’s in that one as well. She plays a feisty Portuguese gal who doesn’t want to marry her long time boyfriend. Her gorgeous boyfriend (a young Vincent D’Onofrio) who worships the ground she walks on. The take away is what the fuck is wrong with her? And of course she acquiesces and marries him in the end.

I’m not trying to rag on Lili Taylor here. I actually love watching her act. And those two movies are honestly in my top 10 best list. I want to talk about how our society pigeonholes women. It’s been almost two weeks since the shooting in Isla Vista, CA. So many have written much more eloquently and intelligently than I ever could on the subject. But here I am thinking about Say Anything and Mystic Pizza and what our society expects from women. I’ve been thinking about it since the shooting. And if I don’t write it down I feel like I’ll explode.

If we are rejected we turn our anger and violence inward. If we reject a “good man” there is something wrong with us and we will be worn down in the end.

(Um, what about Better Off Dead, Karen? He tried to kill himself over and over in that one. Yes, he did. But in the end Beth came grovelling to him to take her back. And he got the cathartic opportunity to reject her so he could move on to another women)

According to a Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University study that examined the 100 top grossing films in America 30% of speaking parts were filled by women. Major speaking roles were 29% female, and the percentage of female leads was 15. In 2013. IN 2013. A year in which 51% (ok, according to the US Census website 50.8% of Americans were women in 2012) of the population was female.

When you live life seeing only one woman in a group of superheros or office environments or high schools that are represented in film or television you start to believe only one woman should be in those spaces. I now know that was part of the reason I used to proclaim I’m not friends with a lot of women. Or I don’t like hanging out with women because they annoy me. Or that my best friends are all guys. Yeah, those statements are utter horse shit. What I was trying to say to men is “I”m not like those other girls! I won’t annoy you or put you out! I should be your token woman! Pick me! Pick me!”

Thankfully I grew the hell up.

There is room for women. We need to do the hard work of demanding it. I will not apologize for being a woman. I will not put up with being treated like a token female. I will not excuse men who treat women like objects. I will not believe that women are there to fulfill the sexual urges of men. We have our own sexual urges, damn it. And they do not make us “easy” or “sluts” and most of all they do not mean “we were asking for it”.

I do believe that everyone should be treated equally. I am a feminist. And that is not a dirty word.

snack mom

A feminist (and snack mom) who is raising two future feminists.

Who You Are

“So how do you feel?”

“Better. Good. I mean, I still cry a half dozen times a day…”

“What makes you cry?”

“Oh, you know. News stories. Stuff I read on the web. Every single time I watch Frozen.”

“But that is just who you are.”

It was a throwaway comment on the part of my therapist. At the moment I didn’t realize how much it would affect me. “That is just who you are.” The new medication is going well. And yet I am still who I am. What a tremendous relief.

One of the reasons the mentally ill are loathe to try drugs is because they don’t want to become someone else. They don’t avoid drugs because they think that their crazy defines them, or makes them unique, or gets them attention which are the reasons a lot of people assume are behind drug reticence. It is because they don’t want to lose who they have been at their core for their entire lives. I don’t want to lose who I am. It’s not like I’m so fabulous. But I’ve been me for 37 years. I’m used to myself.

With the right drug/s (and yes, finding the right drug/s can be a mighty struggle) you are still yourself. Just a functioning version of yourself.

Yesterday this post about a mother’s internal struggle with medicating her 10 year old who needed help showed up in my facebook feed. My heart ached for the anonymous author and for her son. As someone who needs drugs to function and sometimes to survive, as someone who worries I have passed my anxiety along to one of my sweet sons, I viscerally empathize with her.

At the same time I felt sick to my stomach by the time I finished the piece. I felt embarrassed and defensive and angry and hurt.

How do you give your child a controlled substance, addictive drugs, and act like it’s a normal thing to do?” she asks. She writes with brutal honesty about her struggle and I admire the hell out of her for it. But that question made me feel small and broken. I take an addictive controlled substance. I have every day for over a year. It is normal for me. I mean, what the fuck is normal anyway?

This mother. She is thoughtful, she is doing whatever needs to be done. “But on the other hand, how do you not try everything in your power to help your child who struggles every day of his life with demons you cannot beat down through sheer force of will and all the therapy money can buy?

Part of what hurts so deeply about the piece is she nailed it. All of it. How frightening and awful mental disorders can be. The fact that resorting to drugs makes you feel like a failure.

Psychotropic medication is a land mine of a topic. Controversy surrounding the over medication and diagnosis of kids with ADHD or adults with depression is well documented. And anecdotally who among those of us who went to college in the 90s or 00s didn’t know a dozen people who were given prozac at health services? The issue is real and a concern, but that isn’t what I’m talking about here.

I have mild asthma. When I occasionally have an asthma attack I use my inhaler and my attack stops. Every night I take a pill for my asthma/allergies. It effectively prevents attacks from happening the vast majority of the time. In fact, it is so effective that I started to believe I was taking it unnecessarily and let my prescription lapse. Two nights later I woke gasping for breath in the middle of an attack.

Brain drugs don’t work that way. Each brain responds differently to the type of drug, the amount, the time of day taken. And many drugs are prescribed off label, which means not for the use they were approved for originally. We just don’t know as much about the brain as we know about asthma.

Beyond the clusterfuck of finding the right drug is the fact that even if you have struggled with mental illness for years you have the nagging thought that you aren’t really unwell. You are just lazy and a coward. Progress is being made, but the idea that you should pull yourself up by your bootstraps and simply stop being sad or anxious or manic is prevalent in our society. Self loathing goes right along with many mental illnesses and it is hard not to buy into that, hard not to believe that you are making it all up.

And then there is the “what did I do wrong?” or “this is my fault” component.

During my lifetime I hope we get to the point where being treated with drugs for a mental illness is destigmatized and perceived as “normal” as using an inhaler for asthma. I hope it for the mother who wrote about her son, I hope it for that boy who is struggling, I hope it for myself.

mothers day

My sweet T and me on Mother’s Day.

c cow

Z took the boys to a big truck event at a local park yesterday.

t truck

T looks like a different kid with his short hair.

2 and 4

Two and Four for a little while longer. 2 wouldn’t look at the camera and 4 is doing all sorts of poses for the camera these days.

 

I Checked My Privilege…It’s Pretty Staggering

You and I have a lot in common, Tal Fortgang. My parents also belonged to the first generation of college graduates in their families. My father worked hard and from humble beginnings went on to become a wealthy man. I too worked hard in school and while I didn’t attend an Ivy, I did graduate from one of the Seven Sisters. Ok, so you have a penis and I (as my four year old son likes to say) have a vagina for a penis. And I’m nearly twice your age. But when I was 19 I would have agreed with your op-ed completely.

I’m pretty ashamed of that.

When I was 19 I was proud and humbled by my grandfather’s youth. He was the son of an Italian immigrant who came to this country legally. Because it was easy to come to this country legally at that time. And I’ll bet you a lot of dough he would have come whether it was legal or not. My grandfather left school and a terrible home at age 12. He rented a room and got a job. He worked hard in grocery stores for his entire career. It was my father who achieved the American dream of wealth through hard work. My grandfather performed the hard work part of that equation, he just never was lucky enough with the wealth part. As my dad likes to say, it’s better to be lucky than to be smart. And he is one of the smartest men I’ve ever met.

Your grandparents’ history is horrific. In no way do I wish to diminish their suffering. But the evil visited upon your family several generations ago does not somehow lessen your privilege as a while male at an Ivy League school today.

Your hard work and your privilege and your family history are three separate entities. Your privilege does not negate your hard work or family hardship just as your hard work and family hardship do not negate your privilege.

I don’t know anything about your particular circumstances, so I’ll share how my privilege positively influenced my life. I worked my ass off to get into an elite college. With my parent’s full support. I never had to get a job in high school. I was free to concentrate on academics and extra curricular activities that colleges so prize. I never had to worry about student loans or a job while in college. I got one so I could have some spending money, but I didn’t need one. If I had gotten an internship once I’d finished school instead of a job my parents would have continued to bankroll me as I would have been resume building for my career. Yes, I worked very hard. But I received priceless support along the way.

At some point during my college years I started to pay a little attention to the people around me. I attended the most expensive college in the country at that time. Many of the students were on financial aid and the amount of debt they were amassing was a constant worry. They had jobs to pay for their books. I had an account at the bookstore and didn’t even look at the prices. After my junior year I moved to Manhattan and commuted to school. I lived in a neighborhood filled with recent immigrants. It still feels obscene to compare my privilege to theirs.

One of my closest friends at college had been in foster care. His family lived paycheck to paycheck, one emergency away from disaster. I remember lamenting to him, in the kind of shameful and tone deaf way only a 20 year old can manage, about my guilt at how I’d been given so much in life. He told me to shut the fuck up. He was poor. It sucked. He would do anything for a rich dad and he’d enjoy the hell out of it.

It was one of the most important conversations I’ve ever had in my life. Complaining about my privilege was not a mistake I’d make again. Instead I would remember to be grateful and aware. I would never miss an opportunity to speak with my vote, supporting candidates who were concerned with income inequality and discrimination.

I’ve spent my life trying to be a decent contributing member of society. There have been good years and bad years. You are right, everyone has their own story. Mine is suffering from a pretty severe mental illness. My 20s were ugly. I like to think I’m a hard worker. I’m proud of a lot of what I’ve done. My husband is one of the hardest working people I’ve ever known. He is a college professor at an excellent private university. He is a fierce feminist and I could not be more proud of him. His research is heavy on community activism and engagement. He teaches in the design school and I’ll be honest, his paycheck is decidedly middle class. I’m currently a stay at home mom to our two sons, a choice my 19 year old self would have scoffed at. Turns out that living an affluent lifestyle isn’t that important to us.

Here’s the thing, though. Our privilege colors every choice we make. The financially responsible decision would be for me to get a job. But having a parent at home with our boys before they enter kindergarden is of the utmost importance to us. We are squeaking by, but the reality is we have a safety net the size of Texas. We will never be one emergency away from financial catastrophe. I get the feeling that you never will be either. I recognize how that reality influences my choices and give me freedom, how incredibly lucky I am, how few other people have the same luxury. And I am grateful. Because it would be disingenuous and frankly offensive not to be.

I’m also mad as hell that my circumstances are those of the few. That people who are every bit as smart and hardworking as I am are in much more precarious situations because they don’t have a wealthy parent. That safety net you and I have? It should extend to everyone.

Listen, your hard work should be lauded. Full stop. End of thought.

Let’s move on. Also? You should be grateful for your privilege.

You need to recognize the difference between the two. And when you do perhaps you can be part of the solution.

Sincerely,

Karen Cordano

 

Flu

Tuesday morning I went to the doctor’s hoping I had caught strep from the boys. Why was I hoping for strep? It is treatable. I’d be back on my feet pretty quickly. Nope, not strep. Not an ear infection. Not the common cod. She told me I had the flu and that I needed to go to bed for the week. She offered to write me a note for work. I laughed before I started crying. “I’m a stay at home Mom! Sick days aren’t part of the benefit package!”

“Oh, so you won’t need a note.” She was missing the point.

“I cannot stay in bed for a week.”

“You’ll just have to let them watch a lot of movies. How old are they?”

“Four and a half and two and a half.”

“Oh…..well…….good luck.”

Before you go feeling too sorry for me you should know that Z went into full-on Super Dad mode, getting the boys from school, putting C down for nap, all that jazz. We started to line up sitters for the rest of the week. And then my Parents called. Mom would arrive at 10:15pm that night.

I might have the flu, but I’m beyond lucky.

Yesterday I felt so much better. If I stayed still. The minute I started moving around the coughing that makes my lungs feel bruised and my head ache started. The fever and chills seemed more pronounced. The soreness that enveloped my skin returned. But my Mommy was here. Taking care of the boys, making dinner, checking on me.

The truth is I thought I’d wake up this morning feeling better still. How long could I really feel extremely bad? I was probably overreacting to this whole thing, after all overreacting is what I do best. Mom probably didn’t need to rush up here after all.

I feel awful.

Clearly the high of knowing I get to rest for several days has dissipated. I am not going to magically be better tomorrow. The flu sucks. Having C sidle up to me and tug on my blanket while saying, ” Mama! Cuddle me! Please!” sucks balls big time. Z sleeping on the sofa sucks and makes me feel lonely. I don’t want him to get this. And I’m glad that my wheezing and snoring and hacking is not keeping him awake. But I hate reaching out with my leg in the middle of the night only to connect with nothing rather than the reassuring bulk of my husband.

And yes. I did get the flu shoot. We all did.

And yes. I still think it was the right choice. Am I pissed I got the flu anyway? Sure. It impacts the whole family negatively and frankly it feels terrible. But I am not shocked. (Ok, I am feeling too shitty to verify at the moment, so this is from memory and I might get some stuff wrong-let me know in the comments and I apologize in advance for bad info) The flu vaccine varies in efficacy from year to year. This year’s shot was a pretty good match to the strains out there right now-think it was about 70%. Which means there is a 30% chance the recipient of the shot will catch the flu. Decent odds, but not fantastic.

Why am I not angry the vaccine didn’t protect me?

Who says it didn’t protect me? Who knows how many time I or a member of my family has been exposed to the flu this season and didn’t get sick? Also, having the vaccine might protect my family even though I am contagious. It might shorten the duration of the virus for me.

I’m sick. I’m pissed. I’m exhausted and need to wrap this thing up so I can rest. But the flu has not changed my mind about vaccinations. Z and I got educated before we got vaccinated. We understood the risks and benefits. I believe we made the right choice for our family.

someone found his halloween costume

T found his Halloween costume the other day. He’s been wearing it a lot.

love his sweet face

This kid’s sweet face melts me. So hard not to cuddle with him. Not touching my family is definitely the worst part of being contagious.

flu no filter

This is what the flu looks like. Scary. I know.

Risk

Early this week a friend from high school posted this status update on facebook: “Friends who are parents, especially parents of children still in car seats: Would you leave your toddler, strapped into their seat while you ran into the post office? Car is turned off and your quick dash is at least 4 minutes long. It’s 55 degrees and you’re in a suburban/city area very close to a major highway. I’m especially interested in (names removed for privacy) thoughts as they live in very similar areas.”

Eventually 40 responses were typed. I’ve read them all and haven’t been able to get the thread out of my mind. In fact, my thoughts are so scattered that this is my third go-round in trying to write a post about it. The responses were given with an assumption of some sort of privacy, so I’m not going to name or quote anyone.

Two parents copped to doing it. Most everyone else said no. What surprised me was the number of people who cited their parental love or the preciousness of their children as motivation to not leave them for several minutes. The implication was those who made the choice to run into the store loved their kids less, were inferior parents, were exposing their child to a catastrophic risk.

A staggering 258,000 children were kidnapped in a single year according to an oft cited report issued in 2002. The vast majority of those children, 200,000 of them, were abducted by family members. 58,000 were taken by people they knew or strangers, but according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children non family member abductions were least common. Of the 258,000 kidnappings in the report 115 were “stereotypical” kidnappings, which means “the child was held overnight, transported 50 miles or more, killed, ransomed or held with the intent to keep the child permanently“.

I am not trying to make light of kidnapping. As a parent the idea that someone would take my child from me is my absolute worst nightmare. It does happen, it is real. In 2002, the year the kidnapping report was released, there were 72.9 million children in the United States. Less than 115 of them were killed by a kidnapper.

In 2010 approximately 171,000 kids were injured in car accidents and more than 1,200 were killed.

Yet, I don’t break out in a sweat when I’m strapping my kids into the car seat.

Fear distorts risk.

Do you guys know about the blog Red Wine and Applesauce? The author is a mother and a journalist who specializes in vaccines, parenting, and prenatal and child health. Last week she wrote a post about the flu vaccine in pregnant women. According to the latest peer reviewed scientific studies health benefits for mother and child were found when the mother was vaccinated against the flu. She also included an anecdotal account of a friend who lost one of the twins she was carrying after contracting the flu. I had never commented on her blog before, but the inclusion of an anecdote bothered me enough to voice my opinion.

I am pro vaccine. Even after C experienced an adverse reaction to the chickenpox vaccine that eventually snowballed with other illnesses to land him in the hospital I am pro vaccine. Based on the results of varied research studies conducted within the academy and published in peer reviewed journals I believe the risk of disease is greater than the risk of the vaccine itself. I believe in herd immunity. I believe that it is my responsibility as a member of this society to vaccinate myself and my children in order to help protect the vulnerable who are unable to be vaccinated due to health or age.

The anti vaccine movement often relies on anecdotal evidence to prey upon the fear of parents. The “studies” produced by the movement are not published in peer reviewed journals, which require adherence to scientific method and ethical data collection and use. It bothered me that a writer that I respect would also use anecdotal evidence to bolster her point.

I’ve been to the anti vaccine sites. Not going to link to them here, but you could find them with a simple google search. I’ve read the heartbreaking stories of families affected by adverse reactions to vaccines. Those reactions can’t always be conclusively linked to vaccines, but sometimes they can. They are not to be dismissed. They are tragedies and my heart aches for the families. Still, I vaccinate my children. Because the risk of disease is higher than the risk of injury. Because although I fall prey to fear on a regular basis in this case the science and statistics speak louder than the anecdotes.

Back to the kid left in the car. Would I do it? No. But I’m sort of envious of the person who did do it. I honestly don’t think it is a big deal. My parents did it with us as kids. My Mom tells a story about running into the dry cleaners with a baby me in the car in which I stole her fries from the bag of fast food and chowed down.

I wouldn’t do it mostly because I know you can get in trouble for doing it. And do you know what I do fear disproportionately? Authority.

***Kidnapping, vaccines, issues that get us hot under the collar as parents…if you disagree with me I do welcome your comments, if you agree with me I welcome your comments. I am going to ask if anyone decides to comment that that we all keep it respectful. It doesn’t do a lick of good to name call or act superior. Whether you agree with me or not.

overalls

There should be a law that two year olds are required to wear overalls.

new slippers

Amazing alpaca slippers from Uncle A and Aunt B! Perfect for Syracuse winters.

Twelve Years Later Learning To Let Go

Three years ago I wrote about my September 11th. This anniversary is still fraught for me. I am still angry and confused and bereft. At 7am this morning I snapped on the radio in our bathroom just as the headlines were beginning. The lead story was the one year anniversary of the Benghazi attacks with no mention of the attacks in 2001 that served as inspiration. In fact, September 11th, 2001 was the 5th or 6th story of the day. I stood in the shower and wept, filled with rage that the twelfth anniversary of the attacks didn’t even make the equivalent of the front page of Morning Edition. My in-laws are visiting and brought home the New York Times. The attacks didn’t make it to the actual front page either.

If I’m honest my own experience of the day is different than it used to be. For the last several days I haven’t been filled with dread, the day has not been playing on a loop in my mind non-stop like it used to as a buildup to the anniversary. I am so far from the 24 year old girl who walked through September 11th that I can barely recognize her.

Time relentlessly and heartlessly marches on. One of the central events of my life is becoming a national footnote. Should it? Does it make more sense to concentrate on the tragedy in Benghazi last year? Or the crisis with Syria? Or the struggling economy? What should we be remembering on September 11th?

Maybe it is time for me to let go of the anger and fear that define this day for me. I had a front seat to an attack on our nation. Maybe it is time to feel proud that my beliefs in America were not shaken.

I still believe we are a great nation some days and we have the potential to be much greater. I believe that the Constitution is an extraordinary and beautiful and sophisticated document that has matured alongside the nation. I believe in freedom and self determination and representative democracy (or a constitutional republic if you are getting all technical). I believe that the founding fathers would be outraged to learn that the American Government engaged in torture because then ends do not justify the means. We are better than than! We must be better than that! I believe that freedom comes at a cost, that sometimes we will be attacked in terrible ways, but our response must never be internment camps or racial profiling or attacks on religions that scare us because we cannot see through our ignorance and fear to the difference between extremists and god fearing people who are different from us.

Over the last twelve years I have been terribly disappointed in America. Some of the reactions of hatred and vengeance have made me wonder if Osama bin Laden did win that day, if he did show that we are less than we claim to be. But I still have hope. I hope that we can do better as a country and show the world that freedom and equality and compassion are the right way to live.

We have a long way to go at home-with rights for minorities, the LGBT community, pay equality for women. We need to care for our own by making health insurance available, by raising the minimum wage, by making sure that the disenfranchised are able to participate in our political system by voting.

In this one area of my life I choose to be an optimist. I believe America has been great, occasionally still is great, and will be great. After living through September 11th in 2001 I could have let the grief make me small. But guess what terrorists? Fuck you. You lose. Because I believe in my country. And you know what? So many of the New Yorkers I know who also lived through that day do as well. And as an added bonus we are smart enough to understand that Muslim does not equal terrorist. We will not fear someone based on the color of their skin. And we will try to convince our fellow countrymen that freedom is the goal. That indulging our fear equals defeat.

So fuck you. Fuck. You. You haven’t defeated me and millions of people like me.

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And friends, remember to vote. That is where we can make a difference.

morning on the porch

None of us knows what is going to happen tomorrow or next week or next year. The best we can do is love what we have now. This morning I loved my three guys in this unseasonably hot weather as we took a couple of minutes to spend together before embarking on our day.

voltron

We were safe because Voltron was there to protect us.

“I was not expecting her to be putting her butt that close to my son.”

In the past I’ve made the cowardly admission that I’m relieved not to be the Mother of girls. Why? Because it is so much easier to raise men that respect women than it is to raise women who respect themselves. Not to say it is easy to raise men to respect women, not by a long shot. 

I wasn’t interested in writing about the Miley Cyrus VMA performance. I had my opinions-about a wealthy white young woman appropriating the physical representations of “ratchet culture”, about the painfulness of a young woman trying desperately to break away from the perception of who she was as an adolescent, about living in the public eye, about assuming that her endgame was to be seen as sexual and yet personally finding nothing sexy about her performance, about the body shaming surrounding the unflattering still photographs of Cyrus’s ass mid dance, about the Blurred Lines song and video being breathtakingly misogynistic.  All that stuff has been thoroughly covered in online media and I didn’t feel like I had much to add.

This morning as I partook of my ritual of scrolling through Dirtbag on Jezebel while drinking my coffee (I’m not even going to get all defensive–yes, I read shitty gossip and yes, I read Jezebel.) I came across a link to video of Robin Thicke’s Mom reacting to the VMA performance.

I was not expecting her to be putting her butt that close to my son.”

“Him? Loved it. I loved that suit.”

“I don’t understand what Miley Cyrus is trying to do.”

Suddenly I was furious. Listen, I try really hard not to be unkind or judgmental of other’s parenting. Parenting is so hard, we never know the whole story, we should try to be supportive of one another. I am sure that Gloria Loring is a decent human being and obviously she loves her son very much. But love isn’t enough-she failed her son as a Mother in this video. She failed her son, and she failed all women.

One of my biggest fears as a Mother is that my overwhelming love for my boys will cloud any ability to see them clearly and hold them responsible for their actions. The love I have for my boys, it chokes me sometimes. I can barely breath I am so full of the desire to protect and care for them. Loving a child is frightening and exhilarating and personally it has been one of the best parts of my entire life. But it is blinding.

Gloria Loring is blind to the role her son had in his performance. He’s 36 years old with a wife and a son. He is my age. Miley Cyrus isn’t old enough to buy a beer. He is a grown man who had a much clearer sense of what he was getting himself into with the performance that Cyrus probably did. Her costume was reminiscent of what the women wore in his unrated video for the same song-nude underwear and sneakers, surely that detail was decided upon by both camps.He did not flinch when she ground her ass into him or touched his dick. He was an equal participant in the performance.

He must be included in any critique of her performance. To absolve him of responsibility perpetuates the lack of equality women experience in this country. It sets up the Madonna/whore dichotomy-that is all Cyrus has the chance to be. Sadly, it would appear that she believes those are her only options. But the idea that Cyrus’ performance happened in a bubble and isn’t a reflection on him is ludicrous and lazy.

Robin Thicke has been let off the hook by the media and by his own Mother. The same media and woman who have no problem raking Cyrus over the coals for her actions. I call bullshit. For the sake of my nieces and the girls that my friends are raising. For the sake of my sons and nephews and all children being raised right now.

When men participate in sexualized behavior they are just being guys. When women do it they are behaving shamefully. In 2013. In America. What the fuck? We need to expect more from our sons. We need to have one set of values for men and women. We need to not let our love for our kids get in the way of holding them responsible for their actions.

And those of you doing the imperative work of raising the next generation of women? I admire the hell out of you. I want the very best for those girls. I want them to own their sexuality. I want them to understand with every fiber of their being that they are equal to men. I want them to love themselves. And you guys are making that happen. You are the fucking rockstars.

t runs ellie photo

Photos by Ellie Leonardsmith, photographer and kick ass Mom.

beautiful C ellie photo

And these boys? They will respect women, or help me god, I will die trying.

World Breastfeeding Week: What Support?

In conjunction with World Breastfeeding Week three bloggers have launched I Support You, an online initiative to destigmatize how any mother chooses to feed her child. The mission statement is one of acceptance and kindness and it cuts through the cruelty and bullshit of the “Mommy Wars”. I fully support a woman’s right to choose how to feed her child. So why does this initiative make me uneasy? Yes, we should support a woman’s right to choose. But why are we not addressing that so many women want to breastfeed yet are unable to do it? Why aren’t we outraged on their behalf? Why isn’t more being done to help women nurse successfully? We should be able to explore these questions without alienating women who formula fed.

I’ve done a lot of thinking about breastfeeding over the last several months. Hell, I wrote a 20 page paper titled “The Human Right to Food Applied to the Problem of United States Breastfeeding Rates”. In addition, the reality that my own breastfeeding days are nearing their end is weighing heavily on me. I plan on weaning C shortly after his second birthday at the end of the month. It is the right choice for our family.

During the first several months I nursed T I struggled through nipple pain, a wicked case of thrush, and the removal of a precancerous lesion that abutted my areola. I was shocked by how hard nursing was. The first few months were brutal, but after we figured it out the year plus that followed was magical. As much as I reveled in nursing T, as much as I grew to love it I also felt incredibly angry. I was able to make nursing work because I am privileged enough to choose to be a SAHM. I was lucky enough to have a Mom who was able to buy me a medical grade pump I couldn’t afford on my own. I saw multiple lactation consultants. My doctor and T’s pediatrician were cheerleaders on the breastfeeding front. Z supported me every step of the way. All that fantastic support, which again I received because of my socio-economic position, all that support was enough to get me through the terrible times-the lactation consultant who told me it wouldn’t hurt if I was doing it right, the feeling like glass was tearing through my nipples when the thrush set in, the constant worry that my guy wasn’t gaining weight fast enough.

But what about women who don’t receive that kind of support? Women who are suffering from low supply, women who need to go back to work immediately, women that don’t receive information about the benefits of breastfeeding. Shortly after giving birth to T I had two friends attend two different childbirth sessions at Women and Infants, an excellent hospital for labor and delivery. In both classes the participants were told breast is best without being given any information on how to successfully nurse.

Guess what? Breastfeeding isn’t intuitive. You don’t just stick a baby onto your boob and have everything work out. Guess what else? Sometimes it does hurt when you are doing it right. Some ladies have super sensitive nipples. Some ladies don’t. Guess what else? Because breastfeeding rates are so low in this country there isn’t a built in support system of Mothers and Grandmothers and friends who have an intimate understanding of how breastfeeding works and who can help new Moms troubleshoot. Guess what else? Sometimes two lactation consultants in the same hospital will give you conflicting information and leave you more confused than before you talked to them. Yes, I’m speaking from experience.

My OB told me that in countries where there is no access to formula the rates of Mothers with low milk supply are very low. In developed countries the rates of low milk supply are much higher (I haven’t researched this myself, am planning to in conjunction with a project this fall and will definitely write about what I find out). His analysis is that women are forced to figure out nursing when there is no other alternative. I am not saying that women who suffer from low supply in this country are crying wolf. Not at all. It has to be a terrifying thing to go through. If my infant was losing weight you better bet I would feel him formula immediately. I feel frustrated on the behalf of women who have supply issues. Why aren’t they getting effective help? Currently there are 70 federally funded studies on erectile dysfunction and 10 on breastfeeding dysfunction. To anyone who says breastfeeding is a naturally occurring bodily function I’d remind them that boners are naturally occurring as well. And yet, viagra and cialis are not only covered by health insurance, they are huge money makers. Nature clearly isn’t working for a lot of guys.

Over the last month or so another idea has been bouncing around my head. The United States Government through the CDC recommends exclusively breastfeeding for 6 months. After delivering that message the government sets up new Mothers to fail. How are you supposed to exclusively breastfeed if you do not have adequate maternity leave? If you are working a minimum wage job how are you supposed to afford a breast pump? How are you supposed to express milk if your boss won’t give you time on the clock and a clean and safe place to do it?

The responsibility to nurse is placed on the shoulders of women. They are told it is natural, they just need to try harder, it is their failure if they can’t figure it out. Well, bullshit. Pardon me for being a hysterical feminist, but if that doesn’t smack of misogyny I don’t know what does. It’s like telling a bunch of sixth graders that they need to pass a math test in order to go to 7th grade, yet not teaching them what is on the exam.

I wholeheartedly agree that we should support choices each Mother makes about how to feed their baby. But forcing the message down women’s throats that breast is best while not being able to follow through with support is an issue that is not talked about. It seems breastfeeding is a vocal issue for two groups, those who only see boobs as a sexual objects, who insist women nursing in public are offensive or by those who expect women to achieve the impossible with no help and who shame those who fail.

During World Breastfeeding Week I propose we advocate for change:

  • If the government advises babies should be exclusively breastfeed for 6 months than women should receive paid maternity leave for that period.
  • The CDC estimates that 2.2 billion dollars a year would be saved on medical costs if higher breastfeeding rates were achieved. The numbers are not going to increase through education alone-extensive research needs to be conducted concerning breastfeeding failure. At least as much research that is devoted to erectile disfunction.
  • The United States committed to following The International Code of Marketing of Breastfeeding Substitutes in the early 90s, yet nothing has been done to enforce The Code. It is time to halt predatory marketing campaigns by formula companies.

And listen, us Moms out there aren’t always helping. I’ve seen comments online by breastfeeding Moms who self righteously proclaim if they were unable to nurse they would secure expressed milk. The Human Milk Bank Association of North America, a nonprofit, charges between $3 to $5. An ounce. Give me a fucking break self righteous breastfeeding Moms. Then there are comments by Mothers who were unable to nurse-they are hell-bent on proving that breastfeeding does not provide any advantage to newborns. It enrages me that Moms who choose to formula feed, or who are unable to nurse are made to feel less because of it. But it also enrages me that they would try to undermine the science behind the benefits of breastfeeding.  Advocating for breastfeeding should not to be synonymous with denigrating choices made by formula feeders. Defending formula feeding should not be synonymous with trying to disprove the upsides of nursing. We are all better than that nonsense.

hugging boys

T was nursed until he was 20 months. I was entering the second trimester of pregnancy and my milk dried up. Neither of us were ready to stop, honestly I still feel terribly guilty about letting him down. C will be 2 on August 31st. He took to nursing immediately and we are still going strong. I might feel like the I Support You campaign misses out on the systemic lack of support in this country, but the truth is, from the bottom of my heart, I do support you and whatever choice you and your family make to feed your child.