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.

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Why Mississippi’s Black Democrats Saved an Elderly White Republican

Why Mississippi’s Black Democrats Saved an Elderly White Republican

On Tuesday, black Democrats saved an elderly white Republican from political oblivion in the nation’s most racially polarized state. That’s not an exaggeration. On June 3, six-term Sen. Thad Cochran lost Mississippi’s Republican Senate primary to Chris McDaniel, a talk radio host and Tea Party–backed state senator with a long history of divisive and extreme rhetoric. But because of their vote totals—neither candidate broke 50 percent—the race went into a runoff. And the assumption from then until Tuesday was that Cochran would lose. After all, if there’s a rule in American elections, it’s that turnout goes down in a small, obscure contest like a Senate runoff. With his intense grass-roots support and wide backing from national Tea Party groups, McDaniel was the favorite.

Cochran had a choice: He could play the game the way its always been played and lose his seat, or he could bend the rules to his favor. He went with the latter. “His campaign,” wrote the New York Times last week, “is taking the unlikely step of trying to entice black voters to help decide the most high-profile Republican contest in the country.”

Some days – more days lately – I hate politics as much as the next American. But then stories like this appear, and I remember why I love politics so much. This is a genuinely fascinating tale, and I can’t help but wonder what’s next for Senator Thad Cochran. Will he make any changes to his policies or his priorities? What will other politicians learn from this? WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?!

ETA:

“For blacks, it is imperative that we look at the process and try to maximize our efforts by utilizing our voting power as best we can,” he said.

As a practical matter, that could mean pushing Mississippi officials for expanded black voting rights or more access to affordable health care, black leaders here said. After all, in defending his outreach, Mr. Cochran himself said: “I think it’s important for everybody to participate. Voting rights has been an issue of great importance in Mississippi.”

Others said blacks would have new leverage with Mr. Cochran. “He owes them an ear,” Mr. Simmons said. “He owes them an opportunity to sit and engage with him just like any other group. Senator Cochran could have a very different opinion about some of these things and vote a different way after this experience.” [New York Times]

Powerful Images That Shatter the Stereotype of the Absent Black Father

Powerful Images That Shatter the Stereotype of the Absent Black Father

Zun Lee said he is not only trying to shatter the stereotype of black men not being good fathers, but also the idea that black men are people to fear, something Lee said is obviously connected to racial profiling.

“Basically, the statement I’m making is the reasons people assume black fathers are absent are the same reasons people assume black men are threatening,” Lee said. “People say [when looking at his work] ‘These are not the men I thought would be affectionate,’ and it confuses them to see these men with tattoos and muscles as being nonmenacing.”

“I wanted to invite people in, to get curious about what’s going on and not hit them over the head with something overly political,” he added about his work. “At the same time, the very fact that I’m photographing black fathers in this manner is by its nature very political.”

Photography is such an amazing tool, as I’ve posted before. It breaks down barriers and forces people to see past preconceived notions. I was incredibly moved by these images, and I am so pleased to share them with you.

The Secret Life of a Food Stamp

The Secret Life of a Food Stamp [via Marketplace]

In politics and in the news, a lot of focus is put on the many Yolanda Ballards of America. Whether they deserve the food stamp money they get. What they spend it on. Whether they abuse the system. Those were the kinds of questions clinging to recent debates in Congress over funding for food stamps. But throughout those debates, which resulted in more than $8 billion in cuts to the program over the next decade, one subject got relatively little attention: what happens to those food stamp dollars after people like Yolanda Ballard swipe their EBT cards and the money becomes store revenue.

Last year $76 billion flowed from the U.S. Treasury to people’s food stamp cards. That money then flowed into the revenue streams of about 240,000 stores across the country, all of which have been approved by the federal government to accept food stamps, officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. You can look at SNAP as a government subsidy with two lives. First, low-income people enrolled in the program get financial help to buy food. Then, when they swipe their EBT cards at the checkout counters, the government pays those stores for that food—which is, of course, being sold at a profit.

So it seems worthwhile to pay attention to how this “second life” of a food stamp subsidy works. There’s just one problem: A lot of the information about how stores benefit from food stamps is confidential.

SO FASCINATING. However you feel about food stamps and government aid, you should read this article. I learned a lot listening to the segments on NPR and I’m so glad I am able to share them to you via Slate.

You can – and should! – also read (or listen to) Part 2, “Save Money. Live Better.” Part 3 is yet to come.

A Peaceful Death

Aborting my son was not about when life begins, but how to end it humanely.

“Because of the choice we made to end his life, our son never got the chance to gaze up at his parents, to see who it was that had been talking and singing to him all along. He never got the chance to fall asleep in our arms, bundled and cozy, pink lips and fuzzy hair like a duckling, smelling of milk and baby, the very best smell in the world. Neither, however, did he have to suffocate to death at birth, his small body gasping to fill his woefully hypoplastic lungs. He did not have to feel pain shooting throughout his abdomen, grossly distended with urinary ascites. He did not have to experience one minute away from the warmth and love of my body. We chose, instead, for him to be born straight into peace.”

Heart wrenching read.

Portraits of One Person as Two Genders

Portraits of One Person as Two Genders

These portraits really speak for themselves. In case you need more convincing:

“For the series ‘Alone Time,’ Levine recreated and photographed typical domestic environments that play with gender stereotypes. As a twist, he used only one model to play both the male and female characters in the image. The result, Levine said, ‘challenges the normative idea that gender presentation is stable or constant. Rather, gender expression can be fluid and multiple.'”