Loving your c-section, embracing the bottle, and resenting your baby

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Loving your c-section, embracing the bottle, and resenting your baby (courtesy of Jezebel, The Washington Post, and Salon, respectively)

Let me get this out of the way first: I am not a mother. Also, I love the idea of natural childbirth, breastfeeding, wearing your baby, and making your own baby food from your vegetable garden. These are all valid goals and life choices. But they are also a symbol of privilege. They indicate you probably have good health, enough money to decide if or when to go back to work, not to mention help at home, giving you time to devote to additional tasks. So let’s acknowledge that.

Laura Jane of Jezebel had this to say of her cesarean section:

“The point is, very few people choose to have a C-section (I suspect partly because they’re incredibly expensive if not medically necessary) but many do. And despite the huge amount of babies born this way, and with the best intentions possible, this ‘birthing experience’ is seen as somehow unfortunate, a last resort, which you’ll have feel regret for in the months to come.

But it’s not. It is scary and weird to experience no pain in childbirth, but the fact that there is no pain doesn’t make it a lesser experience. It’s just a different one.

It’s taken these months to figure out how I feel about people unintentionally making me feel like I’ve missed out on something with my lame, over-medicalized birthing scene. But I’ve never had any confusion about the experience itself: it was great. It was an awesome day all around and I wouldn’t change a thing. The baby (who was both upside down and backwards in there) was calling the shots, so why wring my hands and wish it could have been another way?”

Am I all for minimizing unnecessary c-sections? Absolutely. Do I think giving birth has become overly medicalized, sterilized, and industrialized? You bet. Should we be shaming women who for one reason or another end up having a c-section? No. Guess what? They got a healthy baby. When that happens, all the rest falls by the wayside.

When strangers, nurses, acquaintances, and friends judged Emily Wax-Thibodeaux for formula feeding her baby, she couldn’t decide if it was worth it to go into her entire medical history to explain why she wasn’t. Since, you know, she’d had a double mastectomy and was in remission for breast cancer.

“So holding my day-old newborn on what was one of the most blissful days of my life, I had to tell the aggressive band of well-intentioned strangers my whole cancer saga.

It felt particularly exhausting because this was the first time in nearly a decade that I could forget about cancer and enjoy having had a fairly easy pregnancy and giving birth to a healthy child.”

Dr. Shawna C. Willey, Emily’s breast surgeon at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, said it best:

“I think that women who have made the difficult decision to have bilateral mastectomies have already grieved the loss of not being able to breastfeed. No group should make a woman feel guilty about the decisions she made . . . or make her feel inadequate about not being able to lactate.”

Women, why are we shaming each other? Parenting is hard enough. New motherhood was especially hard on Charlotte Hsu. She wrote, “I cried all the time. I missed the life that my husband and I once had. My friends tried to console me: It will get better, they said. But for me, in the months ahead, it only got worse.” And eventually, her quality of life did improve. But she didn’t experience that perfect bliss of new motherhood we’ve been told we must be feeling. Jessica Valenti addressed this as well in her fantastic book, Why Have Kids?: A New Mom Explores the Truth About Parenting and Happiness. She didn’t feel that immediate bond, either, because her child had so many medical issues that attachment didn’t come as easily as expected.

Fads come and go. Today it’s all natural attachment parenting, but inevitably the pendulum will begin to swing the other way. Babies are supposed to sleep on their backs now; they used to sleep on their stomachs. The absolute right thing to do becomes the absolute wrong thing to do. Maybe we (and I’m including myself here) should stop worrying about what everyone else is doing wrong, and instead be a support system to one another. Let’s be sounding boards, shoulders to cry on, and most importantly, open to the possibility that there is more than one right way to properly procreate.

The racial parenting divide: What Adrian Peterson reveals about black vs. white child-rearing

The racial parenting divide: What Adrian Peterson reveals about black vs. white child-rearing (Salon)

“In college, I once found myself on the D.C. metro with one of my favorite professors. As we were riding, a young white child began to climb on the seats and hang from the bars of the train. His mother never moved to restrain him. But I began to see the very familiar, strained looks of disdain and dismay on the countenances of the mostly black passengers. They exchanged eye contact with one another, dispositions tight with annoyance at the audacity of this white child, but mostly at the refusal of his mother to act as a disciplinarian. I, too, was appalled. I thought, if that were my child, I would snatch him down and tell him to sit his little behind in a seat immediately. My professor took the opportunity to teach: ‘Do you see how this child feels the prerogative to roam freely in this train, unhindered by rules or regulations or propriety?’

‘Yes,’ I nodded. ‘What kinds of messages do you think are being communicated to him right now about how he should move through the world?’

And I began to understand, quite starkly, in that moment, the freedom that white children have to see the world as a place that they can explore, a place in which they can sit, or stand, or climb at will. The world, they are learning, is theirs for the taking.

Then I thought about what it means to parent a black child, any black child, in similar circumstances. I think of the swiftness with which a black mother would have ushered her child into a seat, with firm looks and not a little a scolding, the implied if unspoken threat of either a grounding or a whupping, if her request were not immediately met with compliance. So much is wrapped up in that moment: a desire to demonstrate that one’s black child is well-behaved, non-threatening, well-trained. Disciplined. I think of the centuries of imminent fear that have shaped and contoured African-American working-class cultures of discipline, the sternness of our mothers’ and grandmothers’ looks, the firmness of the belts and switches applied to our hind parts, the rhythmic, loving, painful scoldings accompanying spankings as if the messages could be imprinted on our bodies with a sure and swift and repetitive show of force.”

This essay reveals uncomfortable truths about our culture that we don’t like to acknowledge, making her words all the more powerful and thought-provoking.

How my armpits inspired me to make conscious choices

How my armpits inspired me to make conscious choices (Offbeat Home & Life)

“Who says that hairy pits on women are gross, and why? Because prior to that being said, hairy pits were just exactly what they were. Hairy pits. I have seen the damage that is done to a woman’s feelings of self-worth when held to a standard of beauty. And it is not pretty.

Programmed prejudice, babes. Judgments we unconsciously make by following the pack mentality without the awareness of our own personal choice in the matter. Like that time in middle school where everyone picked on that one girl and no one knew why but they kept doing it because they thought they had to because everyone else did it. Our culture is littered with these sorts of prejudices and we get to choose to support them or not.

Our beauty dogma as women in American culture is dictated by programmed prejudice. We leave choices regarding our bodies up to someone else’s ideas of what is right and wrong. We shirk our own social responsibility as women by not making choices in line with our own values, following the belief that our beauty is unattainable without paying the price of judging ourselves, our worth, and our beauty through someone else’s lens. And then on top of that, we literally pay the price by buying our own beauty and supporting these standards. Because business is business, and business must grow, regardless of hair in my armpits, you know?

Programmed prejudice is all around us. Try and notice it when you can. And when you do, just remember that you get to choose to agree or not. We live in a consumer culture that is hugely driven by the big industry. We all know this by now. Millions of dollars are made every day by striking fear of our inadequacies and insecurities about how we measure up to others’ standards.”

This is the article I wish I had written about my own body hair. I stopped shaving my legs 3 years ago, as a personal experiment/challenge, and I haven’t shaved them since. I didn’t shave my legs for my wedding day. I don’t shave my legs when I wear shorts, or a dress, or a bathing suit. I rock my armpit hair pretty regularly, but I do trim it (with a mustache trimmer!) when I get dressed up.

I was terrified to go out in public with my body hair in the beginning. For at least the first year, every time I went to the gym in a tank top, I felt extra self-conscious. I avoided sleeveless shirts outside of the house. I avoided showing off my legs. I had to learn to get comfortable with my body, and even as a hardcore feminist with a very supportive partner (he loves my body hair almost more than I do), it was not easy.

Even after all this time, I still feel self-conscious sometimes. But honestly, even though I am much more comfortable with my body now than when I was a teenager, I still feel self-conscious about my weight, my breasts, and my clothes. My body hair is really just one more thing. As women, we have been told that we must look a certain way to be beautiful, but our beauty comes from our individuality and in our spirits, not some beauty “ritual” that we we need to follow.

(For more of my feminist ranting, check out What Happened When We Gave Our Daughter My Last Name.)

#whyistayed “I Can Handle It”: On Relationship Violence, Independence, and Capability

#whyistayed (trending on Twitter) // Why Janay Rice stayed (Feministe) 

I didn’t want to have a failed marriage at 25 I didn’t want my daughter to think this was ok and normal

I didn’t want to be alone again I didn’t want to be alone in a casket

: Kept telling myself if he didn’t hit me, it wasn’t abuse : Learned I didn’t have to get beaten to fear for my life.

“If you think about what keeps you in a relationship people to your life that are healthy relationships: your friends, your family, your coworkers, all of those components whether it’s money, love, history, you’re related to this person, you have kids with this person because you live together, because they care about you, because they were there for you, etc, etc. All those things are the very same reasons why women in those situations won’t leave. The good things can also be the reasons why you stay in a bad relationships. So it’s not about, ‘Well, she should’ve just left.’ It’s never that simple or that easy if they have children together, if he’s the only source of income in the family, if she has strong religious beliefs about marriage or what it means to be a good girlfriend or wife, all these things, which you can’t really separate out from the others, play a role.”

The Disposable Woman (The New York Times, March 2011)

“It’s these sorts of explicit and implicit value judgments that underscore our contempt for women who are assumed to be trading on their sexuality. A woman’s active embrace of the fame monster or participation in the sex industry, we seem to say, means that she compromises her right not to be assaulted, let alone humiliated, insulted or degraded; it’s part of the deal. The promise of a modern Cinderella ending — attention, fame, the love and savings account of a rich man — is always the assumed goal. Objectification and abuse, it follows, is not only an accepted occupational hazard for certain women, but something that men like Mr. Sheen have earned the right to indulge in.”

“I Can Handle It”: On Relationship Violence, Independence, and Capability (Feministe, August 2011)

“When we imagine abuse, we envision the act of abusing: the woman crouching on the floor, a flying fist, a sailing kick. Perhaps my remembrance of that time would be different if my abuse had been more prolonged, or more severe, but what I recall from that era of my life is not moments of violence but feeling as though I were separated from the world, swaddled in a thick layer of invisible cloth that I couldn’t ever swat away. I was in a fog.

Which is to say: I was in many ways incapable of helping myself—which, even years later, pains me to say. But there it is: The fog of abuse ensured that my emotions, instincts, and principles were muted; every ounce of energy I had went into my relationship and keeping up the general appearance of sanity. Had you somehow been able to land my healthy, normal status-quo self smack-dab into the worst of my relationship, I’d have gotten out immediately. That’s not how abuse works, of course. Abuse is gradual; abuse is systemic. Abuse changes you; abuse reduces you. Abuse took the me out of me.”

Ray Rice Video Sets Off Barrage of Conversations (audio from NPR’s Morning Edition)

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the ongoing national conversation on domestic violence that was spurred on by the Ray Rice video, I would encourage you to read the above essays, articles & tweets. Listen to the audio. Take the time to analyze your own reactions. Keep in mind,

“More than one in three women have experienced sexual assault, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner during their lifetime, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey.” (CNN)

So when we ask ourselves, “why did she stay?” remember that we’re asking on behalf of our friends, family, and co-workers. These are not “those” women. These are our loved ones.

To The Women Who Choose Not To Have Kids

Thought Catalog

To the women who choose not to have kids, I have one thing to say: thank you.

You probably don’t hear it enough. In fact, you probably don’t hear it at all. What youdo hear is an array of pro-childbearing responses, such as, “You’ll change your mind someday,” or, “Doesn’t your mother want grandkids?” or, “You’ll never find a husband if you never want to have kids.”

All things considered, “thank you” is probably on the opposite end of what you hear.

But seriously: thank you. Thank you for recognizing that childrearing isn’t for you and being true to who you are. It doesn’t mean you hate kids. It just means that raising one is not part of your path in life.

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Thank you for not succumbing to the societal pressures. I’ve known far too many parents who had kids because that’s what was…

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I Liked Everything I Saw on Facebook for Two Days. Here’s What It Did to Me.

I Liked Everything I Saw on Facebook for Two Days. Here’s What It Did to Me.

“I like everything. Or at least I did, for 48 hours. Literally everything Facebook sent my way, I liked—even if I hated it. I decided to embark on a campaign of conscious liking, to see how it would affect what Facebook showed me. I know this sounds like a stunt (and it was) but it was also genuinely just an open-ended experiment. I wasn’t sure how long I’d keep it up (48 hours was all I could stand) or what I’d learn (possibly nothing.)

See, Facebook uses algorithms to decide what shows up in your feed. It isn’t just a parade of sequential updates from your friends and the things you’ve expressed an interest in. In 2014 the News Feed is a highly-curated presentation, delivered to you by a complicated formula based on the actions you take on the site, and across the web. I wanted to see how my Facebook experience would change if I constantly rewarded the robots making these decisions for me, if I continually said, ‘good job, robot, I like this.’ I also decided I’d only do this on Facebook itself—trying to hit every Like button I came across on the open web would just be too daunting. But even when I kept the experiment to the site itself, the results were dramatic.”

This article really made me laugh, even as I was cringing. A fascinating, thought-provoking, and somewhat disturbing read.

On Naming Women and Mountains

image courtesy of Lonely Planet

On Naming Women and Mountains

“The truth was more complicated. In my mind, Lucy Rebecca Bryan and Lucy Bryan Green represented two disparate identities. Lucy Rebecca Bryan was the girl who once argued that everything in the world was either black or white, right or wrong—self-righteous enough to think that she knew the difference. She was the teenager who sustained a series of flirtations in hopes of converting her crushes to Christianity. She held the incongruous (and equally offensive) beliefs that she deserved all the good things in her life—loving parents, a college education, thick hair and long legs, intelligence, sorority membership—and that God had given them to her. It took my husband to drag me out of that box of my own making.

It was Lucy Bryan Green, not Lucy Rebecca Bryan, who learned to embrace feminism, pacifism, and non-consumerism; who dared to befriend gays and liberals and atheists. She was the one who wrote a novel, who learned to garden by trial and error, who trekked all 212 miles of the John Muir Trail. The man whose name I took played a fundamental role in me becoming that person. I didn’t want to go back. I wanted to move forward.

I also wanted to take responsibility for my contributions to the mess that my marriage had become. Anger that would boil into door-slamming, hair-pulling, glass-shattering rage; my need to control everything, down to what time my husband woke up in the morning and the clothes he wore; my anxiety, which made basic tasks like doing the dishes or shopping for groceries seem insurmountable—I wanted to work on those problems as Lucy Bryan Green.

And I still liked my name. It didn’t seem fair that he could take it from me. He’d already taken the canoe, a whole bookcase’s worth of books (along with the bookcase), half the set of glass nesting bowls, our nicest chef’s knife, two watercolors I’d painted, our cast iron patio furniture, our Honda CRV, the pine bedframe we’d stained by hand, all of the power tools, and most of the money in our bank account. Those were just the things. When he left, so did his family, many of our friends, my sense of security, the belief that I was unconditionally loved, my trust in God, my identity as a married woman, my plans to have children, and my sense of self-worth. I wouldn’t let him have my name. He’d taken enough.”

Another wonderful essay about the power and privilege of names. I love the metaphor of women and mountains; the lyricism and imagery are especially moving.

(See also: What Happened When We Gave Our Daughter My Last Name)