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It will happen again

In light of domestic violence awareness month (that’s October if you weren’t aware) and in facing a newly reopened wound (or possibly one that never completely healed) here’s a poem from an adult survivor & witness of multiple types of abuse during childhood as I sit here in the aftermath of yet another nightmare. I don’t write poetry as much as I once did but I believe there is a connection between my poetry and my pain. When it’s bearable the words don’t flow; when it’s not, like this morning, it sometimes writes itself.

what i knew
that i could trust no one
that it would happen again
that i could do nothing right
that i didn’t want to hurt anymore
that i was terrified
that it would happen again

what i feared
that it would happen again
that someone might find out
that he would kill me if they did
that they would not believe me
that they would not help me
that it would happen again

what i believed
that if i left they would all be safe
that i was the reason it happened
that somehow i deserved it
that no one could help me
that no one wanted to
that it would happen again

what i felt
scared it would happen again
depressed that i was helpless
terrified that it would happen again

what i learned
that i’d gain strength in leaving
that i could be loved
that love doesn’t hurt
that it wasn’t my fault
that it really did happen
that it would happen again

what i feel now
that i’m still scared
that i have to protect my daughter
that i am still helpless to protect my siblings
that it can happen again

what i know
that i still have nightmares
that i’m still afraid to sleep alone
that the fear is still fresh
that my mother was a victim too
that he can’t hurt me now
that he can hurt others
that i am safe
that others aren’t
that it will happen again

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For Mothers With Children

August 25, 2010 2 comments
Reserved for Mothers w/Children

This is the spot next to the handicapped spot at my daughter's pediatricians office.

Today was Keni’s 1 year checkup and my loving partner who hates to park more than a stones throw from anyplace was stalking a space close to the door of Keni’s doctor office. There was an empty space next to the handicapped spaces and we thought: SCORE! As we pulled in, O’Neil reads this sign: RESERVED PARKING FOR MOTHERS WITH CHILDREN. He responded with something to the effect of “Father’s have children too. They can’t do anything about that!” As he was pulled closer, I notice a little black scribble (thank’s to my contacts that I was very happily wearing for a change!) above the words “for mothers.”

Reserved for Mother's w/Children close up
Someone scratched in “and fathers!” to the sign in what I’d like to call a protest of the feminization of parenthood. Father’s bring their children to the doctor too!

This is just another example of the feminization of parenthood. Is it implying that father’s with children cannot park in this space? Probably not, no one would fault a man with a child for parking there. What it is implying is that a father would not be taking his child to the doctor. It’s implying that only mother’s take their children to the doctor AND that they do so alone. I would reach and say it is also implies that they do so while the father is at work or doing some other “more important” business than parenting.

 
Not all parents are mothers, nor are they all fathers. Some parents are grandparents, aunts, uncles, guardians of no blood relation.. So how come it doesn’t just say “For Parents with Children” or “For Patients with Children” or “For Adult’s Accompanying Children”?
 
Why am I all worked up over one little sign at the pediatrician’s office? Because it is the collective impact of millions of small messages like this that perpetuate stereotypes that are poisonous and constricting. We have to stop feminizing parenthood. Women are not the only one’s who parent nor should they be. It is restricting to men or masculine persons who parent that parenting be considered an exclusively feminine or female responsibility. And I’m not talking about the EASY stuff: playing ball in the yard, showing up at their soccer games and handing out punishments. I’m talking about the hard stuff: dealing with a sick kid when you’re sick too, helping with homework while your cooking dinner AND doing laundry, teaching the alphabet, kissing boo-boos. You know the HARD stuff. Classifying parenting as feminine restricts someone who identifies as masculine from participating in parenting. Why shouldn’t a man rock a child to sleep or kiss a boo-boo or give reassurance and emotion support? Why are these considered feminine behaviors? Why is it assumed that only Mother’s take their children to the doctor? What are we gaining by accepting these seemingly small suggestions about the gender of parenting? What are we loosing by not challenging them? These are all questions that need to be asked. Feel free to discuss in the comments.

Feminist Parenting Collective

I must apologize for the long delay in posting. I had a very exahsting experience preparing for and taking the LSAT in combination with some trying financial issues that have kept me from having the mental capacity or time to write a blog post. However, I’m back. I’m going to try to post more regularly again. Please. please forgive my absence. You forgive me don’t you?

I have however taken this time to jot down ideas that I have finally compiled into something that is (somewhat) coherent. After reading it please don’t hesitate to comment or ask for clarity about things. I’m all for revision and it is currently after midnight so I’m sure there is need.

Anywho, since I found out I was preggers I thought of creating a collective. At first it was a childcare collective that I was thinking of but the more research I did on feminist parenting the more I though of creating this collective statement about what 4th wave feminist parenting is. I just started to realize all of the changes necessary both in society and within the feminist movement in order to support feminist parenting and change from this idea of mothering dominating all discussions of parenting. The more I read about feminism and childrearing the more I realized that feminist literature did nothing but talk about mothers and mothering. It rarely, if ever, spoke of fathers except to critique traditional roles of the male parent. Literature was almost exclusive to parents that were heterosexual and married. There just isn’t any practical information on parenting at all. You can find a ton of “What to Expect” type parenting books (that are almost exclusively geared toward women as parents) that guide you through the various stages of your child’s life but NONE that provide similar practical knowledge from a feminist perspective.

This bothers me. How on earth is one supposed to learn how to parent as a feminist if we are only reading non-feminist how-to books? How do you perform the acts of feminist parenting? And what the heck is feminist parenting?

Well those thoughts (coupled with some experiences) led to bigger thoughts. Why can’t O’Neil get more than 2 weeks off from work to stay home with the baby? Why am I only getting paid 60% of 5 weeks pay when I was out for 9 weeks? What the hell cost $12,000 when I didn’t even have an IV!? Why is every-damn-thing in the girls department PINK?! Why do I have to pay to ask a question about proper latching (breastfeeding)? And most recently, can someone else watch this child and not charge me more than I make in a day so I can remember who the heck I am? Or, at least, so I can gain at least a bit of my sanity back?

So, it’s late and I’m tired but you can read more about my brilliant idea here. Please comment and discuss. I’m really interesting in what everyone thinks. Good night all!

My Natural Birth Story

I know this is long but it’s the story of how my little one came into the world drug and intervention free. I will be posting this on a permanent page under the About Me & a link to it from the Natural Birth page in the Parenting section. Please leave comments/questions below.

Early 1st Stage Labor

On Saturday, August 22, 2009 I woke up at about 8am with contractions. These contractions weren’t strong at all and they felt a lot more like period cramps than contractions, which was a little different from the normal Braxton Hicks I’d been getting. Besides, who goes into labor ON their due date? I had this crampy feeling before and been told it wasn’t anything to be concerned about so I didn’t think it was labor. The biggest difference was that the contractions were coming at regular half hour intervals. Again, I thought too far apart to be labor and really not hurting, so I can’t be in labor right?

Well, I text messaged O’Neil anyway just to give him a heads up if it did turn into something. I also text messaged Yazi, my assistant coach, as had been the routine anytime I had contractions. I had a little bloody show when I went to the bathroom but this also had not been the first time I’d seen it so I wasn’t really alarmed and I was trying not to get my hopes up because the past couple weeks were full of false hopes. Each time I’d think it was THE time and it wasn’t, I’d get even more depressed. The last few weeks of pregnancy were really taking their toll on me.

This particular day was my neighbor’s (who was pregnant with twins) baby shower. O’Neil was going to be coming home after work to do some cooking for them. I decided to make macaroni salad because they love my macaroni salad and it would keep me occupied. I also started the beans for O’Neil’s rice and peas and took out the chicken he’d been marinating for Jerk. I also asked them if they needed any help setting up. I was completely convinced I was not in labor despite the fact that the contractions kept coming pretty regularly.

O’Neil came home about noon and I was still having contractions about 25-30 minutes apart, but we kept making preparations for the Tiffany’s baby shower. At about 1pm I decided to try to time the contractions using Contraction Master and they had begun to get a little closer about 20 minutes apart. My neighbor was telling me I was in labor but I just said I don’t think so but I sure do hope so. I kept doing things around the house until the shower began. The contractions got closer about 10 minutes about and I was pretty exhausted so I decided around 4pm to take a nap and asked O’Neil to wake me in an hour.

Active Labor – 1st Stage

While I’m sleeping, the contractions start to come a little stronger; strong enough to wake me at each contraction. O’Neil comes in to wake me just as a contraction comes and I’m already awake. I tell him that the contractions are so strong I can’t sleep through them. He says he thinks Kenisha will be coming tonight. I’m hungry so I go up to the shower and have something to eat. I’m pretty sure I’m in labor at this point and everyone at the shower is teasing me because I’m still moving around, still at home and just climbed the stairs to get food. While I’m up there, the contractions really start to take their toll, but I’m not sure how far apart they are so I tell everyone goodbye and go downstairs to start timing the contractions again.

O’Neil helps me time them with Contraction Master because I can no longer make it to the computer to hit the space bar when the contraction starts. They are really demanding my attention, but I can still talk, although not walk, through them. I’m also really tired but I’ve missed my window of opportunity for sleeping because I was in denial. After timing a few contractions we realize they are about 5-7 minutes apart and lasting about 30 seconds. I text Yazi at this point and tell her that this is really “it” but that she can wait until after she breaks her fast with her family (it’s the first day of Ramadan for her). This is at about 6:30pm or so.

O’Neil and I time contractions for another couple of hours. Yazi arrives at about 9pm. The contractions are 4-6 minutes apart and lasting between 30 and 45 seconds. O’Neil is exhausted because he’s been up since 4:30am has went to work then done some catering for the neighbors and has coached me through contractions for the rest of the evening. I tell him that Yazi can take over and he can get a nap. Yazi helps me to get through the next couple hours of contractions.

Late 1st Stage Labor

While he sleeps the contractions get stronger and it is getting much harder to concentrate on anything else while having one. Yazi and I try different positions until I’m finally sitting on a pile of pillows in front of a chair in the living room and when the contractions come I lean forward and let my belly hang as I breathe deeply. This works for a while. I get up to go to the bathroom and a contraction brings me to my knees in the bathroom. I decide it’s time to wake O’Neil but he gets up and walks into the living room just as I’m about to send Yazi in to wake him. I guess 12 weeks of Bradley classes really helped us get in sync.

We get into the car and then everything starts to get fuzzy during contractions. I’m concentrating on them very hard and I can’t pay attention to anything else. I just know that the bumps in the road and O’Neil’s fast driving are causing the contractions to get worse. When we get to the hospital, I have about 3 contractions on my way to the birthing room. I’m offered a wheelchair but opt to walk since it hurts to sit at this point. It’s about 12:30AM.

I was unfortunate to have gotten the ONLY midwife in the practice that I did not like or get along with because she was not supportive (and was down right condescending) of my birthing choices. Having her as my birth attendant made me uneasy and made handling the contractions when she was in the room A LOT more difficult.

I changed into my nightgown and O’Neil and I walked the hallway once and the contractions are now right on top of each other. I am exhausted and my legs are weak so we go back in the room and try different positions but the pain is nearly unbearable and my legs are like putty. I am 7 or 8 cm. My midwife keeps trying to check the baby’s heart rate and the monitor is painful from her pressing so hard. She keeps telling me she thinks the baby’s heart rate is dropping but she does not have the monitor on the side where the baby actually is and she refuses to listen to me when I tell her the same.

Transition

The midwife tells me to try getting in the shower and O’Neil helps me get in and stays with me and the water is soothing but I have to stand and I feel like I’m going to fall because my legs are shaking. The contractions are very strong and on top of one another. I get out of the shower and get back in the bed. I was not allowed to drink orange juice as I had intended and I was trying to drink water but it was making me feel sick. The midwife/nurse tells me I can have apple juice (which I am allergic to) or cranberry juice. Normally, I would have read the ingredients of the cranberry juice but, given the situation, didn’t think of it. I drink a little of the cranberry juice and suffer through the contractions. The midwife comes back in and she keeps making me try different positions and I just want to stay still. She’s annoying the hell out of me and I’ve lost all concentration on the contractions. I can’t breathe well and I feel like I’m fighting for air. My legs are trembling. O’Neil and Yazi are trying to coach me through breathing and running cool rags over me and giving me water/juice (not sure). I have reached a level of pain that I can’t even explain. I’m moaning and yelling pretty loudly.

Until this point I have no IV and pain medication has not crossed my mind (it must be after 3am or so now). The midwife comes back in the room and against my birth plan offers me 3 options: 1) to break my water, 2) an IV because she says I’m dehydrated and 3) “something” to “relax” me. One and two were easy to turn down because I knew that breaking my water would cause the contractions to strengthen and I was in enough pain that I felt adding to it was not a great plan of action. Yazi and O’Neil are reminding me of the other reasons not to break my water but at this point avoiding more pain is the only one I need. The IV was out too. I hate needs and with the pain I was in already there is no way I was going to allow anyone to stick me with a need. The 3rd one: here’s where I lose it. I just want this pain to stop or at least ease up a bit. I’m at the “I can’t do this” point of labor.

This is where my support people were absolutely mandatory. They did their best to shield me from her continual pushing for me to do things that were not in my birth plan and out right unnecessary. I was begging and pleading and screaming for O’Neil to stop the pain and he just kept telling me I was doing well and that it was almost over. Yazi kept reminding me of all the benefits to me and the baby if I could just hold out a little longer without drugs. As absorbed as I was in my own pain, I remember they both looked as if they weren’t thoroughly convinced in what they were saying. I know they didn’t want me to hurt but I had instructed them not to let me cave in.

I turn on my knees in the bed and I’m trying hard to breathe deeply and concentrate but it’s still hard to breathe. The midwife-from-hell is constantly telling me what to do and her voice irritates me. She keeps trying to scare me into submission by telling me my baby’s heart rate is dropping but I can feel her moving from time to time. My body has started involuntarily pushing. I have absolutely no control over it so I don’t fight it but instead give in. I have to use the bathroom so I struggle, with the help of O’Neil, to the bathroom and just as I’m over the toilet my water breaks! (I find this absolutely hilarious because I later found out that while I was in the bathroom the midwife was telling Yazi she was going to have to break my water but Yazi wasn’t trying to hear it. HAHA jokes on her! We were thoroughly educated on the birth process and none of us cared that she wanted to go home!)

Second Stage

When I get back to the bed I try to use the squatting bar but my legs are way too wobbly. As I’m trying to change positions from squatting I have to push a bit and I can’t explain this feeling well but I just KNEW Keni was coming. I could feel her way down low and I know that it’s time to push her out. The midwife makes a snide remark about the position she’s going to put me in not being a Bradley position (she apparently doesn’t know anything about Bradley because sitting at a 45 degree angle IS a Bradley position). This is where things get a bit fuzzy. I know that I’m not push right and I’m having trouble figuring out the right way to do it. Then I get a cramp in my upper thigh and butt! Yazi let’s me stretch my leg out against her hand and it goes away (and I had to push while attempting to stretch out that cramp). I know that O’Neil is there but I honestly can’t remember what he was saying except “you can do it.” But the nurse! Yes, I remember that nurse because she was speaking almost in a whisper and telling me what to do. Something about her calmed me. I think she made me feel like I had an ally on the hospital staff. She told me to get mad, keep my chin down and push and that’s just what I did! I got to reach down and feel all of Keni’s wet curls as she crowned! It was so amazing. In another couple of pushes she was out and on the breast!

**Remember how I kept saying it was hard to breathe? The “cranberry” juice had apple juice in it (a common practice to add sweetness). I guess all of the action averted any serious allergic reaction but I know this is why it felt like I was breathing molasses. But of course, according to the midwife, OJ would have been bad.**

A Feminist’s First Mother’s Day

Later on today I’ll be posting my story about Keni’s birth. I’ll also be posting in the coming weeks the same story from the perspectives of my partner (coach), O’Neil, and friend (assistant coach), Yazi, who were present at Keni’s birth to support me. So, keep an eye out for those post.

This post however is more of a Thank You post to all those who were involved in my becoming a mother. As I think back over the years leading up to Keni’s birth, there have been so many people who have supported, inspired, and motived me along this journey.

First, of course, are O’Neil and Keni. O’Neil came along during a time when my life seemed to have been falling apart at the seams. He’s far from that knight in shining armor that young girls are taught to wait for to come in and save them but he has been a constant presence in my life since we met. He didn’t sweep in and save me or solve all my problem, nor did I solve his but he is a terrific source of strength, support and compassion when I really need it. He is truly my friend and partner in life. He sat through 12 weeks of Bradley classes in order to prepare for our little one’s birth (and actually enjoyed them). We didn’t think we’d have the opportunity to be parents due to infertility but we were blessed with Kenisha right when we’d given up.

Kenisha is the most amazing child that a mother could have. Even though she is only 8 months old, I see in her so much compassion, intelligence and determination. She has not stopped challenging me since the day I started having morning sickness! But, I appreciate her ability to keep me constantly aware and  critical of my thoughts, rational and approach not only to parenting but to life itself. She is the reason I am a mother and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

To Kenisha’s aunt, for who she is named: You gave O’Neil a piece of your body so that he could live and be healthy. There are no words that can express my thanks that you saved his life and allowed him to be here so that we could meet and have this wonderful little person in our lives. I’ll make sure he takes great care of that kidney. I love you!

Next, there are a few people that have supported me through years of infertility and the end of a marriage. Kelly, Tasha, Christine, and Bobbie you ladies were there with me every step of the way and every complaint, cry,  and false positive. You were there when I finally got that BFP (big fat positive for those not fluent in TTC (trying to conceive) talk) even though I was the absolute last one to get pregnant. Thank you all 100 times over for not leaving me behind when it didn’t look like it would ever happen. I can’t tell you how much your love and support got me through when I thought I’d never be a mom. I truly love you all (even if we’ve only known each other through the internet).

Along the journey of pregnancy I took a birthing class in the Bradley Method and my instructor Laura was the greatest source of “real” pregnancy information. She taught us the truth about pregnancy, delivery and the capabilities of the female body. She also taught us the importance of support during the whole process of creating a human and showed us how to support each other through it all. Thank you Laura for you support and knowledge! We could not have had the wonderful natural birth without your tireless preparation!

In that class we made friends with two couples: Randi & Mike who now have Eli and Lisa & Eugene who now have Caitlyn. These two families were a sense of support and co-misery throughout my pregnancy. It was great to have other male partners for O’Neil to relate to and realize that he wasn’t the alone. These three guys have such great senses of humor and when they are together, as they were in our classes, they are hilarious (or at least they thought they were 😀 ). Lisa & Randi it was wonderful having you two strong women there to listen to me and to hear your stories, worries and concerns. Thanks to you all! You will forever be friends and I love you all dearly.

To Yazi, thanks so much for being at Keni’s birth. Thanks for begin there when I was having a feminist crisis (or two or five) and for having such thoughtful input or just an open ear when need. Thanks for studying the Bradley Method with me and really taking the time to be so well-informed about the birth process. Thanks for being my source of reason and knowing how to appeal to my logical feminist mind in the midst of the excruciating pain of transitional labor. Oh, and thanks for helping me stretch my leg out when I go that cramp in my leg while I was pushing! Love ya, girl! Could never replace you!

To Ingrid, you might not realize that you were a part of the process that was Kenisha’s birth but you were a pretty big one. You gave me the arena to intellectually process and examine the ways that feminism and parenting intersect. You gave me the opportunity to really understand my apprehensions to parenting and the ways in which parenting would be the next level of activism and NOT a submission to traditional sexist ideas of what a mother should be. Thank you for being a mentor to me and for always having time to listen (even though you are always busy educating  students and eradicating social injustices).

This is not exhaustive of course there are many more people who deserve thanks in the process of making me a mother but these are those that have played huge parts in making me the mother that I am.

——

There are a few more people I’d like to thank quickly.

My “gramma” Mary Elizabeth Mitchell for being the first person to really accept me as I was without fail. I miss you and I love you and I think of you daily. I gave Keni your middle name so I could never forget you.

To my own mother, who gave birth to me even though she didn’t really want to and who taught me exactly the opposite of what a mother should be. This is not sarcasm but an honest thank you. I would not have the perspective I have with out her. I finally understand what she was facing although I’ll never understand why she handled things the way she did. I hope someday she’ll understand what happened to me as a result. But mostly I just hope someday she finds peace. Thanks Umi, I love you. Maybe someday we’ll meet again.