Steubenville, and the conviction of two young men for the rape of Jane Doe, has been weighing heavily on my mind, as it has many peoples. I am grateful to see so much introspection at a time when our communities, and culture, really need it. It’s been some time since I have written, but I am called to add my own thoughts on the subject.
I am the mother of two beautiful little boys. Jack is 5 1/2, full of love and curiosity. Max is 4 1/2 months old, all smiles and trust. I am positive that, at some point in their lives, Ma’lik’s and Trent’s moms said or thought the same thing about their boys. Where did everything go so wrong?
We live in a culture that is drowning in misogynistic messages . We participate in a culture that actively treats women as sexual objects, objects for men to gaze at and use to prove their prowess on. I highlighted “participate” because every single one of us, whether we like to admit it or not, continuously participates in this culture. I do. Through the TV shows I watch, the music I listen to, and the messages I internalize and repeat everyday inside my head. When you are assaulted by these messages from birth, as a woman, it is very difficult not to internalize them. Acting out against them, re-claiming the word “slut,” loving your body as it is– these are truly acts of heroic rebellion. It goes against the norm. It goes against what our culture tells us is “right.” And our culture is defined by what is good, appealing, beneficiary to (white, heterosexual) men.
And now, as a result, we constantly and consistently blame the victim in a rape*. It must have been something she did, she wore, she said, she drank, she she she….. Because it is easier for us as a culture to believe that a woman must’ve done something to bring a man to commit such a heinous act. That is how little we think of women.
And men. All of our children deserve more.
It has become increasingly clear to me that my most important job on this planet is to raise my two boys with values that encompass this large, overarching ideal: WOMEN ARE YOUR EQUAL. Bottom line. End of story. Because when the message is anything but, cracks are left behind and filled (easily) with the opposite message: women are not important, certainly not your equal, which means they are there to be used as men see fit.
I am so grateful for all of the articles that are circulating about how to raise boys to not rape. Does this seem ridiculous to you? I hope not. It is not our job, as parents, to teach girls how not to get raped. It is our job to teach our boys to not rape. It is an active attempt to take the focus off of the victim and instead, address the root of the problem: our distorted legacy of masculinity, passed down through active or passive means to our boys. I believe my sons can do so much better then having to define their masculinity in opposition to femininity. I believe my sons capable of complex introspection, complete emotional range, and their own confidence in who they are as a person, not as a sex. I will teach my sons that being “soft” in delicate situations is strong. That crying, for whatever reason, is their right and a 100% totally normal reaction to emotions and situations.
And that all girls and women are their equal in ALL pursuits.
To embrace our humanity.
I’ve already started this. I believe that I am a good mother, especially in this regard. However, this is brought into sharp focus a new area I need to turn to: tickling.
Tickling?! YES. An activity so simple, so innocuous. An activity that lends itself beautifully to teaching and reinforcing respect for another person and that STOP or NO means just that. Jack LOVES to tickle. And I really mean it. It is his favorite thing to do. The phrase “Tickle me! Tickle me!” is often heard throughout the house. And so we do. We love to tickle. It’s fun! It’s cute! Jack just loves to laugh so tickle me! And, inevitably, there comes the moment in the laughter where he manages to squeak out “OK stop! Stop!” Do I stop? No. Definitely not right away. Because it is fun! It’s cute! He wanted me to tickle him! I see now how this is so wrong. We’ve already learned about boundaries, personal space, touching other bodies is not OK if the other person doesn’t want you to. But how then, can all those things be true when in a game of tickle I don’t follow through and respect his “Stop!” This is so clear to me now.
Many of you may be saying– c’mon, it’s just tickling. It’s just fun. It’s just a game. But I guarantee this– Ma’lik and Trent thought they were just having fun. It was just a game to them.
*Women can be rapists, too. Let’s not forget that. Let’s also not forget that this is a very gendered crime about power, control and dominance.
It’s here again, Roe V. Wade day, and women and men all over the country give a nod to the day that abortion was made legal throughout the United States. To celebrate today, NARAL Pro-Choice America is again encouraging bloggers to Blog for Choice, and reflect in the question:
I think it is safe to say that there had never not been a time when I wasn’t concerned about choice. In an increasingly hostile and violent political environment, discussing health care is no longer safe it seems. And since our politicians still see fit to separate abortion from health care– how can we feel safe speaking up about abortion? Domestic terrorism has existed in this country for decades, and abortion providers know intimately the fear of being targeted, and I mean that quite literally. The new Republican majority in Congress certainly won’t help protect choice, and as activists and rabble-rousers we need to be diligent and never give up. Speaking out about abortion is difficult, however, it has never been more important.
I believe that in 2010 we saw the beginnings of a beautiful movement. More and more women began to speak out about their abortions, sharing their stories with women and men all over the country. It is my hope that this trend will continue, and become a much more powerful force nationally. It is my passionate belief that telling stories is the way that the pro-choice movement will reach those who may feel differently about abortion. One-on-one, community by community, a national dialogue needs to begin. This belief is what underlies an organization like 45 Million Voices, which collects abortion stories from women, men, partners and significant others. What we need is to continue to point out to those who would fight against abortion is this: Everyone has an abortion story. Everyone has been touched by a women who has had to face a decision: what is best for her, what is best for her family. By reaching out, touching a person and revealing what is in your heart we can build bridges of compassion, understanding and community.
So, in 2011, let us continue to speak, to organize, to reach out to those who disagree with us. Let us make plain that reproductive rights is not about the right to choose abortion, it is about the fundamental belief that women are entitled to the same opportunities in life as men; that women’s agency, contribution and involvement improves our families, our communities, and our nation. Show this by using personal example. Come out, speak about your abortion, and if you are an abortion provider speak about where you work. There has never been a more important time.
In the days following the horrific shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 19 others (resulting in 6 dead), much of the focus has been on Sarah Palin’s cross-hair map (on which Rep. Giffords’ district was targeted) and the violent rhetoric Palin and the tea party use on a regular basis in order to “ignite” their base of supporters. In response to this focus, many in the Republican party are quick to take the focus off of Palin, stating that it is “silly” to blame her for the tragedy, and to use this event for political gain.
And I completely agree. I am not into blaming someone for the actions of another. It doesn’t make any sense, and it’s a dangerous practice. Any politician, be they left, right, or independent, who attempts to use the shooting to gain some kind of advantage for whatever reason should be ashamed of themselves.
What I don’t agree with, however, is the absolute lack of any semblance of personal responsibility for the very dangerous political environment we find ourselves in. Palin’s language and imagery has been the focal point of this discussion because of it’s focus on Rep. Giffords’ district (and others, to be sure). Did Sarah Palin put the gun in Loughner’s hands? No. Were Loughner’s actions inspired by some kind of political agenda? Who knows? I actually doubt it. Regardless, every single politician who embraces, promotes, and uses this kind of language when speaking about politics in America ought to step back and take a very long look at themselves. Violent rhetoric, “second amendment rights,” “reloading,” and yes– bringing a gun to a knife fight, is language that has absolutely no place in political discourse. Last I checked, this is America.
“Our democracy is a light—a beacon, really—around the world because we affect change at the ballot box and not because of these outbursts of violence.” – Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, March 25, 2010
When you serve this country, in whatever capacity– be it Representative, military serviceperson, Senator, President, or intern at the Department of Health and Human Services, you have elected to serve this country, its citizens and its principles. You are a public servant. And in that role, it is absolutely your job and duty to hold the bar a little higher than the rest of us. We look to you for inspiration, cues and signals about where this country is going, and what is acceptable. The world looks to you for guidance and assurance. And this is the kind of language, the kind of environment you have embraced for those leading this country? What an embarrassment. What a joke.
What a tragedy.
Take responsibility for your part in the creation of this culture of gun-swinging, trash-talking and life-taking electorate. All of you. Guns DO NOT belong at a political rally. EVER. I don’t give a good goddamn about your “second amendment rights.”
This is the same situation as Dr. Tiller’s assassination. No, Operation Rescue (and others), maybe you didn’t pull the trigger. But your words set it into motion.
Below is a post I wrote December 22, 2009, after I myself became the target of hate and death speech. It seems more than appropriate to re-post that essay, “Weight of Words”:
“A lot has happened in the recent past that has really made me think about the weight of words, and the affect words have on the universe.
Words, whether written, spoken or thought, carry with them enormous consequences, responsibilities, and weight. It is my personal belief that when you say something, write something, or think something you are irreversibly setting in motion actions in the universe. It is something you probably are not even aware of. Maybe you are never consciously aware of what your words have set into motion. But once something is said, it is very hard to take it back.
I know this isn’t a new way of thinking, however it seems to me that people forget this. It is my feeling that maybe some people just need to be reminded about this.
People throw around words like they don’t mean anything. ”Bitch” “I hate you” “I don’t care if you die” “Take a shotgun and blow your head off.”
Do these seem like extreme examples? Well, let me say that I have been the subject of these very words recently.
I have also been the subject of these words. ”Mama” “I love you” “I am so proud of all you do” “I count my lucky stars to have you in my life.”
Words are accumulated in the collective consciousness and result in universal actions. It is my belief that words of love and courage, hope and strength, and truth are more powerful then hateful words, words that promote violence and deception.
This is just my way of putting that back out there. Letting the universe soak up my love and hope and spread it through the world.
Maybe you can help to raise their state by setting an example with your words. Or your lack of words. Sometimes silence is even more powerful.”
I spent nine years of my life working inside an abortion clinic. I lived and breathed reproductive freedom and rights, women’s abortion stories and threats of violence. It was never just a job to me; it was a calling and a way of life. Going home and forgetting about it was not an option. Trust me, there were many times when I wanted to release my day and the memory of those women that I helped into the universe. But I couldn’t. This was my burden to bear. It was what I was called to do.
I would listen to women tell me about their decision to have an abortion, hold women during their abortion surgery, cry with women when the pain was too much, and hug them when they left the clinic, grateful to have their life back, and to have shared their story with at least one more person. The women who walked through the doors of that clinic were never alone. They had us, if no one else.
I knew motherhood was also my calling. For as long as I can remember, I have wanted children. When I got pregnant at 19, having an abortion, I felt, was both inevitable and crushing. It was absolutely the right decision, and yet I cried and cried for what could have been and what was not yet meant to be. Make no mistake: during this short period of pregnancy I felt myself to be a mother. And I spoke to the being in my womb and told him “Not yet, sweet star. Not yet.” I was being a good mother by releasing him, and waiting for the time to be right for both of us.
My second pregnancy, almost 10 years later, was by design. The patients I counseled at the abortion clinic embraced my pregnancy more than I ever could imagine. My ever-growing belly drew the women to me, wanting to touch it and talk about it. Knowing they were there to avoid what I was walking around creating, they seemed to orbit me, looking for what? My approval? My understanding? No. I don’t think so. I think it was simply a comfort to see someone embracing the creation of life, when they could not. Women who choose abortion are not soulless, emotionless, deviant beings. They, too, are mothers, comforters, creators and lovers.
During that pregnancy grown in an abortion clinic, I became even more vehemently “pro-choice.” My son, developing in my belly, taught me things I would not have known if it weren’t for him. The most important of them being that no woman should be forced to carry a pregnancy she chooses not to. No woman, anywhere, should be forced through lack of choice, lack of support, lack of education, lack of empowerment, to carry a pregnancy to term if it is not what she chooses with all her heart and soul. ALL her heart and soul. Being pregnant changes you; it changes the composition of your soul-body and your heart. Don’t for one minute believe a woman doesn’t know what a pregnancy means. It can’t be avoided. But do not, for one minute, think that a woman makes an abortion decision regardless of that meaning. These were things I knew mentally, but my growing son taught me to know these things at a cellular, heart level. I felt those lessons.
After my son was born, I didn’t know how to balance my biological desire to be with him 24 hours a day and my commitment to my work. “Work” meaning more then just the fact that I had a job, but my soul-work of being there for women. I had a total of six weeks off. Going back to work after six weeks was a personal trauma. I questioned my ability to make room in my being for that work, when the moment I pushed him out of my body my old commitments went with, and he filled the new space entirely. I am not sure I have an answer to this yet, and he is now three years old…
But I did see, and feel, that working on abortion rights could not just be forgotten. Going back to work, listening to women tell me their stories, and knowing what was waiting for me at home again reinforced my belief that abortion is the fundamental right of women and humans. Abortion is a human right: it is not simply a woman’s issue. Abortion allows families of all kinds to stay afloat, survive and be what they are meant to be. In a country where “family values” is touted as a high priority in words, actions clearly tell a different story.
Dr. Tiller was assassinated when my son was 21 months old. At the time I was going in to work at 7 a.m., by myself (my own choice). I was terrified and, frankly, pissed as hell. Action was necessary. Not only because Dr. Tiller, an undeniable hero in countless ways, was murdered in his church, but also because I could not stand by and let this go unnoticed, unrecognized, and unanswered in my community. The mother in me demanded action. These things could not be happening in a world where my son existed. And since they very plainly were, I felt it was my job as his mother to stand up for what is right, show him what is right, and make others take notice.
No organization in Michigan felt it was necessary to organize any kind of event honoring Dr. Tiller’s life. So I did it myself. With the help of a feminist group on campus, I organized a Vigil for Dr. Tiller, at which I came out about my own abortion. Dr. Tiller’s murder drew into sharp focus the absolute necessity for women who have had abortions to speak out about them. Providers, like Dr. Tiller and myself, were always protecting women. It was time for women to stand up and protect us. So I told the crowd that gathered “I had an abortion, and I am not ashamed of my decision?and I will always protect the rights of women to choose.” How scared was I? Like I said: terrified. I couldn’t help but think about things like what if anti’s show up? What if someone is waiting for me after I speak, to harm me? To kill me because of what I said? Sound extreme? It wasn’t. We were all terrified, whether we said so or not. A man, just weeks before, had walked into Dr. Tiller’s church lobby and shot him point blank.
However, I felt it was necessary: to live what I preach, to show my son by example to not fear the intimidators who would shoot you down, and always always be honest to yourself and others.
The following year, I appeared in a web-based video, wherein I told women this very important point: Good women have abortions. When you choose abortion, you do so from a place of courage, honesty and goodness. Radical ideas for most, but not for me. I had considered, briefly, the response it would receive from anti-abortion factions. And yet, I had worked too hard on it and knew it was much too important to not be created. Women needed to hear these words, and they would.
I was wholly unprepared for the hate that would pour out as a result of this video. At first, I tried to avoid reading the hate-filled comments that were traversing the conservative blogging world, but I couldn’t resist. People I worked with kept apologizing, asking if I was okay. So, I had to know what was prompting all the concern and calls.
While I was reading these words, these words of hate, death, evil, I found myself having a physical, as well as an emotional response. I was in shock. I could not believe that people out there would even think to write these words about another of whom they knew NOTHING about. Some things that were said:
?It?s like there is no end to the lowness the baby killers will sink.?
And, the most horrifying for me to read:
“The world would be a better place if she shot her head off.”
I grew fearful for my safety, my husband’s safety, and my son.
While I was sitting on the couch, obsessively reading these comments, my son began to cry in his room. The moment I walked in there, the words I had just read still screaming in my mind, and looked down upon his sweet sweet face, him full of nothing but love and trust, I had an overwhelming physical feeling of absolute fear, emotional disgust and utter amazement. How is it that such blind hatred could exist in the same world where he did? How could it be that strangers would look at my face on a computer screen and assume that the world would be better without me? How could they say that all I was good for was sexual abuse and that I was *quite literally* the portal through which the devil himself chose to appear??
When I left his room, I went back to my computer, shut down all of the sites I had been reading, and opened a new document, wherein which I chose to respond, to stand up against these people. And stand up, I did. The piece was published, the support was empowering, needed, felt and appreciated.
I continue to stand up. Although I no longer work in direct abortion care, I continue my work on behalf of women and reproductive rights through the non-profit I founded. Doing this took great courage– I knew I would be putting myself out there, on the front lines for continued target and harassment. Where was my son in this decision?
This is the root of my own “radical mothering.” To show my son what is good, just, and honest through the examples I set for him. To be willing to risk so much in order to speak my words, so he will speak his words, without fear of reproach. I strive to be honest with my son and not to hide my beliefs, but to express them to him with an open heart and mind. I am not going to hide him from the world in which I live, for it is the world in which he lives too. I will teach him, show him, answer his questions, and be open to his own ideas and insights.
Without my son, I am not sure what decisions I would have made. I have already learned so much from him. I have learned what is important, what my priorities are, how strong I can be, and how strong he is already. Sitting back and allowing others to do the difficult work, the work of speaking out, would have been the easy way to go. Yet, if we are to change this world, we need to be the change. My son has been my own bridge into truly finding my own radical voice, and speaking my own radical truth.
I will be the change. And so will he.
Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance: in that order. According, at least, to Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. These are the five stages that a grieving person will find themselves traversing. Since my grandmother?s death, I have been vacillating back and forth– denial here, anger there, anger and denial together in a mixing pot, oh here comes depression. And back again. My stages have not been in a neat, straight line, and I have a feeling no one?s really are….. you go to where you need to go in the moment. At least, I do.
The week following my grandmother?s death I was CONSUMED with anger and denial. Denial, because I just don?t understand how this is possible. I still go there. How is it that my grandma is not in this world anymore? I don?t get it. It didn?t help that all I was receiving during this time period were phone calls from Washington State, my mom, telling me what was happening. While my mom was in Seattle making arrangements, going through Grandma?s belongings, and grieving deeply with her brothers and sister, her cousins and aunts and uncles, I was left back here in Michigan– alone, lonely, confused, not understanding truly what the phone calls meant. I had to call my brother one night, literally to make sure ?This is still happening, right? Grandma is dead?? We were not doing the communal grieving that I so desperately needed. I was given the most devastating news to date, and yet the world just kept on keeping on around me, no one stopping to say ?Take this time, grieve and immerse yourself in memories.? Everyone I needed to do that with was in Seattle.
I was terrified that when my mother came back, she wouldn?t want to do grieving with me. I told her as much, ?I am worried when you get back you will be so tired and sick of crying and talking and that is what I crave right now.? Of course, I was wrong, but I was so afraid that I was going to have to make sense of this ALL BY MYSELF. And that was not a task I was ready for. At all.
Angry. Oh wee, angry angry angry. Not at my grandma. But Who? What? I don?t know. Let me say this: I had a plan in my mind, a course of events that I was sure would take place, in that order. And all I will say is this: my grandmother was not to be the first to die. I was counting on, no– EXPECTING at least another 15 years out of that woman. 15 GOOD years. MINIMUM. And so now what? I am very much a person who believes events happening for a reason, things happen the way they are supposed to, but: this is NOT HOW THIS WAS SUPPOSED TO BE. This flies in the face of everything I believe and I don?t get it. My grandmother was NOT SUPPOSED to endure all the pain and suffering that she did. She died much much too young.
How do I make sense of this? I have no clue. I feel like I am untethered, floating around in the world with nothing to keep me grounded.
You know what else I am angry at? This culture. We do not talk about death and dying. We avoid it at all costs. Guess what?! It doesn?t do anyone any favors to not talk about death. I am not prepared for this. At all.
When my great-grandma died, when Walter, my grandfather, died. I didn?t feel this way. I felt sadness, yes. But I also felt a peace. I felt them in me. This is a wholly new experience, and I do NOT like it. All I can think is ?Wait a minute, wait a minute!!! This ACTUALLY happens. People we love actually die??! WHOA. I am NOT OK with this course of events. Stop. Nope. No one else is allowed to die. That is yet, that is all you get.?
Ridiculous? Of course. But this has brought me too close to death. And no one prepared me for this. I am not ready for this to happen to anyone. Of course, this has made me think about my mom, dad, my husband, my brothers, MY SON, my best friends—- No no no no no no. NO. All I want to do is stomp my feet at death and say ?Listen here. You can?t have ANY OF THESE PEOPLE. You already have one. NO MORE.?
What do I do now? Where does this leave me?
This poem was written for me by my husband. The loss of my grandmother has hurt him, too. For both of us, my grandma was there for us, a friend, the closest person either of us has lost. He wrote this poem in my voice, hoping it would help me find the words I was struggling with, and hoping it would help me to heal a bit. It has succeeded in doing both, not only for me but also my family.
It?s not the sound of music playing
It?s not the sun that slips in rays
It?s not the wind that whistles through
I wish today was tomorrow
When I feel the last tear has flowed
There are so many questions
In my soul I hold your spirit
I wish today was tomorrow
Forever in our hearts and soul.
People like to ask about influences in your life. I often get that question simply because, at first glance, there is no other person in my family who is as active as I am in feminist/family/women?s issues. But I have always been very clear on the people who have shaped my life, who have helped me become the woman I am. And I narrow it down to 4 specific women: my great-grandmother, my grandmother, my mother and my aunt.
My great-grandmother and grandmother are on my mom?s side. I was a very lucky woman to have my great-grandma (from here on out known by her name, Nana), until I was 26 years old. Pretty amazing. Nana often babysat for me and my brothers. She was about, oh, five feet tall, if that, but full of life and vigor. We had a very special relationship. She loved to tease, have fun, and DANCE. Oh did she love to dance. I sat down with her when I was about 17 and had her tell me her life story, essentially. Amazing. She and my great grandfather had a true love affair. There was so much love between the two of them. She was head-over-heels in love with him her whole life, and that?s the truth. She told me about their first date, about how her family (they lived on a farm) owned a roller rink (!) and she worked there when she was older. Nana was adopted and she always maintained that her adoptive family was her real family. There was some bitterness there. Her birthday was celebrated on Christmas Day because they never really knew her exact date of birth. I always hoped that she would be able to attend my wedding. And while she missed it, physically, I know without a doubt she was there, dancing. She has been my guardian angel ever since.
My grandmother grew up during the time of bobby socks and poodle skirts, which brings a huge smile to my face. For my grandma, family was number one. And this you knew without a doubt. Everything she did was for her family. Her sacrifices were many, but never did she harbor resentment or guilt. If you needed help, you could go to her and not worry about being judged or turned away. Unfortunately, some took advantage of this. Which made me (and others in my family) angry. Because, you see, you didn?t have to be blood family for her to help you. If she loved you (and she loved a lot of people) she would be there for you: you could count on that.
My grandma was a constant fixture in my life. When I was young, I would have sleepovers with her. I was her ?night owl.? We both loved to stay up late. But I loved to sleep in– she got up with the birds. I remember one time when I spent the night, I woke up and forgot where I was! I was crying, and she came in and got into bed with me, to help me feel safe and secure.
I will never forget when I was in second grade, and I used to walk home for lunch. There was a safety guard, who was a 5th grader, that always picked on me. He wrote me up for walking behind a dumpster because he was convinced I was skipping back there (ahhh the trials of childhood…). When I got home, I was crying like a baby because of the ?ticket.? My grandma was there, waiting for me, and we sat on the living room floor and she hugged and rocked me, telling me everything would be OK.
Grandma was fun. My brothers and I used to fight over who got to sit next to her on roller coaster rides at Cedar Point. And she used to pick me up from school (when I was in 5th grade) in her FIERO. That?s right: her Fiero.
As I grew up, into a young adult, and a woman, my grandma became my friend. She was so easy to talk to, about anything. We would have conversations about God, Jesus, belief, life after death, politics, the state of the world, everything and anything. Literally.
After Nana died, we were in her basement (the house I live in now) looking for some of Nana?s things. We had an experience I will never forget, when Nana?s spirit literally moved an object to help us find what we had been searching for for an hour. My grandma looked up at me and said ?Thanks, Nana.?
The last 4 years of her life, my grandma lived in Washington State. This was VERY difficult for my entire family, as she was really the glue that held a lot of us together. As time passed, we ?got used? to her not being in our everyday life. I moved into her house back in Michigan. What would end up being her last visit to us was in 2008. And it was a great visit. I got to spend so much time with her, and she was able to meet Jack. My whole family took a trip together, to Chicago, so I could share with her my favorite parts of the city. She hadn?t been there in decades.
If someone had said that visit would be her last, I probably would?ve slapped them across the face. But it was. I began writing this piece while sitting in my grandmother?s hospital room in Seattle. I had to stop writing it because, well…… I needed to be with her, but also because I couldn?t let the idea that she might not make it even enter my mind.
I needed to finish it. Because she is gone, now. I still don?t believe it.
?No crying mama.?
?Mama has a booboo on her heart, Jack. She could probably go outside and flood that lake with her tears.?
?Then GO Mama! You go outside and flood the lake with tears!?
My son is the best therapy.
The BIrd is Born:
On August 11, at around 10:00 p.m. my labor started. We waited for about an hour, then I saw bleeding so I called the nurse, who told me to go to the hospital. When we got there we did the usual checking in stuff, and they brought me to a tiny room, strapped a monitor to my belly, and we waited. When finally the nurse came in, I was checked and told I was dilated to 2 cm and needed to go home. I was so bummed!!! I couldn?t believe I was being sent home, but oh well.
We got home at about 2:00 am. There was no way I was going to sleep through the contractions I was having, but I did try. Sleep was not in the stars for me, so I got up and took a bath. After that, Dan suggested we go for a walk around the block.
At this point it was probably about 5:00 am. The walk around the block, looking back on it now, was HILARIOUS. At the time, it was very very very painful. But when I look back on it now I can just imagine how we must have looked walking around the block. I was wearing a very comfy cami, with these huge wonderful gray sweatpants. Dan was actually dressed in normal clothes. With us, as always, was our trusty cocker spaniel, Karma. So here we are, looking like quite the goof troop, taking a walk around the neighborhood at 5 in the morning. The contractions were close at this point, I swear to you I had to stop every 2 minutes to let the pain pass. There was one point, when we were furthest away from our house, where I had a bit of an anxiety attack. I said to Dan ?What the hell are we doing out here! I don?t think I can make it home! I can?t walk much longer, you are going to have to go get the car and pick me up, but you can?t leave me!? Somehow I made it back– by the time we got home the sun was rising. It was a very very very very long walk. Thinking about it makes me laugh.
As soon as we got home we got in the car to go back to the hospital. Many 4-letter words were uttered by me in regards to things like ?they better keep me this time? and ?this is incredible pain.? Through the pain, on the way there, I made all my required phone calls. Which were probably pretty funny. Of course I insisted on calling people, because Dan was driving and I wanted him to be focused on the road!
We got to the hospital at around 7, and of course they kept me. I was dilated to 4 cm when we arrived. By about 10 am I was settled into a really big, nice room. My nurse was soooooo nice. I will never ever forget her. She was an absolute sweetheart, and funny too. I had my husband, mom, aunt, dad, and a bunch of other people there with me. What a joy and pleasure it was to be surrounded by people I loved, and people who loved me. Everyone was talking, and focusing on me, making sure I felt ok, was comfortable, and making me laugh. My doctor visited me, and we discussed an epidural. I was in a lot of pain at that point, but wasn?t sure I needed it yet. She gave me a bit of pain medicine and said she would check back in with me in a half hour.
About 45 minutes later I decided to go ahead and get the epidural. I have to be honest: this was probably the scariest part for me. When the doctor arrived to actually administer the epidural, I was told that everyone had to leave the room. Oh man. Oh man. My nurse stayed with me, though, and held my hand throughout the process. I can?t express how grateful I was for that simple act. Because I was scared shitless to get that epidural. I wanted it, for sure, but I was terrified.
By about 12:30 p.m., I was comfortable and I faded in and out of sleep to the voices of loved ones. I would hear someone say something about me and would groggily answer in my usual smart-ass fashion. I remember feeling like I was having an out-of-body experience, looking down on me and my family. I couldn?t believe I was about to have a baby.
At 2:40 p.m. (I REMEMBER), I called my mom and nurse over to the bed and told them I felt like I had to push. I was having a lot of pressure in my back and I knew it was time. The nurse called the doctor, and she came up to check me. Indeed, I was fully dilated and Jack was ready to make his appearance. Everyone was cleared out of the room except for my mom and husband. By 3:00 p.m., we were all ready.
When I started to push, I remember being worried that I wasn?t doing it right. But then, in an instant, it was like something from somewhere was guiding me and telling me what to do. Yes, of course my doctor was telling me, my mom was telling me, and my husband was telling me. But it was a distinct, clear inner voice that I heard. You can do this. YOU CAN DO THIS. Soon after I started to push, my doctor asked me if I wanted mirrors set up so I could see myself giving birth. YES was my immediate and enthusiastic answer.
As soon as those mirrors were set up, I felt an inner power release and any lingering doubts I had left about my ability to bring this child into the world vanished. Watching myself give birth to my son was the single most amazing experience I have ever had. With my final push, at 3:25 p.m., my beautiful baby boy slipped out into this wild world with a scream.
I gave way to the rivers of tears that had pooled inside me. Dan cut the cord, and my boy was handed to me. There was no way I could control those emotions, not that I wanted to or that anyone asked me to. My husband was crying, my mother was crying, I was sobbing and Jack was screaming. It was so amazing. So real. So authentic.
There really aren?t words to describe this experience. This account feels lacking to me, and I don?t know how to adequately put into writing how this made me feel. I felt this same loss for words then, too. After all of the excitement, and everyone met my baby boy, and finally it was time to move me into my room, I was trying to verbalize to my husband how I felt. He was pushing me in the wheelchair through the hallways of the hospital and I looked up to him.
?Did you see that??
And now, three years later… I still feel the same way. All women should when they give birth, no matter how they give birth. Your power is overwhelming, beautiful, raw, and real. Do not ever forget that.
*The above conversation is verbatim, because I wrote the conversation down in my journal when we reached the room. I also have witnesses
When I had Jack, everyone but everyone wanted to hear about him. How is he, how was he, how much did he weigh, what time was he born, what is his feeding like, how are his night habits and on and on and on. Understandably so; I had just given birth to a new being, a brand new human for my family to love, coo over, cuddle with and count on.
But, the key here is that I had just given birth to him. Me. And don?t you want to hear my story? Don?t you want to hear about me? Sure, everyone also asked if I was ok, how was I doing? But only one person asked me to share my birth story. And when she did, my spirit soared and my heart ached a bit because it was what I had been waiting for. I was busting at the seams and chomping at the bit to tell someone about what birth had been like for me. It was only the most significant, important and meaningful event in my life– and yet only one person asked me to share my tale.
I think that not asking women about our birth stories is tied up with taking birthing away from women. Look at the situation: we do not give birth the way we did. I am not talking about technology, either. I am talking about the culture surrounding birth and birth experience. Unless you are extremely aware of how the medical establishment works, and you seek out what is termed an ?alternative birthing experience? you do what practically every woman does: find a doctor and go to a hospital– without questions or thought. Do not get me wrong– I am definitely not saying that giving birth in a hospital (with a lot of drugs to make you as comfortable as you want to be) is not a valid choice. It wrinkles my feathers when I read some articles about natural birthing because there is a tendency to be so condescending and dismissive of women who choose to give birth in a hospital with an epidural. We need to embrace all choices of birthing style.
More then that, we need to change the climate and culture within which women give birth. We need to take this back. The first step in this process must be education. Women need to be aware of all their choices in giving birth. The medical establishment has taken birth from women, turned it into something we couldn?t possibly understand or know about; moreover, know what is best for ourselves.
Let me say this: it is my contention that women know, from the very depths of their souls, how to birth, how to bring that new, slippery wet life into this world. This is what we know deeply and innately. Without question. And if you are pregnant, reading this, scared shitless and shaking your head no, no, no, no I don?t know how to do this and I am scared out of my mind, I say that I was there. And let me tell you: it came. The knowledge came, from a place that I know intuitively was always there and will always be there. And so for you, too.
So, I will regal you with the story of the birth of Bird, and the birth of me as a mother, in my next post. Know this, women: birthing is yours, and you choose who you share it with and how.
An added note: ?This applies to cesarean births as well. ?Cesareans save lives, and you know when things are not going right and you must have a c-section. ?I will admit, up front, my own feelings regarding scheduled c-sections because your doctor has a ski weekend in Aspen scheduled, or a c-section pressured on a woman when she knows it’s not time yet. ?This last situations go back to the culture of birth the medical establishment has created. ?When women are pressured to have a c-section simply because their doctor is inconvenienced, an irreversible injustice has been done to that woman, and shame on you, Doctor.