Posted by: emjb | February 15, 2008

Been a while


…and I’ve been the bad absent blogger. I think it’s just that a lot of what’s in my head hasn’t been post-able. We’ve been sick, we’ve been busy, blah blah boring cakes. February is like that though…a long blah month with Valentine’s Day a sort of forced-happy-but-not-really holiday in the middle. Never cared for Valentine’s all that much; I like chocolate, but not creme-filled, and I’m not a huge fan of roses, and pink and lacy isn’t ever me. So we mostly didn’t do much, except Matt did make me a hysterically funny homemade card, which helped.

Nathan is out of all things 2T entirely, and a lot of the 3T shirts. At 27 months old. Yikes. But he is still so cute, as you can see from his photo above. (No, I didn’t take that, wish I did; we hired a professional.) I’ve taught him how to do some dancing, or at least rapid stomping to music, which is of course adorable. Then tonight I grabbed his hands to make him dance *with* me, and he just thought that was hilarious. Two people dancing! Holding hands! Whatever will she think of next, that wacky mama! He laughed so hard he stopped dancing and fell to the floor, hanging from my arms, and of course, that was funny too.

As for me, I’m busy at work and still talking to my therapist, and that’s all I know. I’m pretty depressed at the moment for reasons too complicated to describe, but at least I know I’m trying. For February, that’s usually the best I can do.

Posted by: emjb | February 6, 2008

When purity is not enough

Are women insane?

I ask because if you think about the question of abortion, eventually you have to confront this question too. You have to confront the inexplicable, overwhelmingly documented willingness of women to hurt themselves to escape an unwanted pregnancy.

At least you do if you are privileged or naive enough to not be able to imagine the fear and desperation that led to this:

The first month of my internship was spent on Ward 41, the septic obstetrics ward. Yes, it’s hard to believe now, but in those days, they had one ward dedicated exclusively to septic complications of pregnancy.

About 90% of the patients were there with complications of septic abortion. The ward had about 40 beds, in addition to extra beds which lined the halls. Each day we admitted between 10-30 septic abortion patients. We had about one death a month, usually from septic shock associated with hemorrhage.

I will never forget the 17-year-old girl lying on a stretcher with 6 feet of small bowel protruding from her vagina. She survived.

I will never forget the jaundiced woman in liver and kidney failure, in septic shock, with very severe anemia, whose life we were unable to save.

This is an account by a man who became, and remains, a Canadian abortion provider. He saw this nightmare of suffering and decided to do what he could to make it stop. Those who disagree with him have twice made violent attempts on his life, and yet he continues to provide abortions.

Is he a monster? I can’t believe so. Do I want the septic obstetrics ward to exist again? No. If we ban abortion, will it? I think the answer is pretty unequivocally yes.

Do I still feel uneasy about abortion? Yes.

Which is why I’m pro-choice.

When I was vehemntly (though never violently) anti-abortion/pro-life (pick your tag), I could not understand the women in those wards, or the ones who used bleach and coathangers and mangled themselves so horribly. Why not just have the baby? Give it up for adoption?

But then, I have never lived in a family that believed in honor killings. I was not alive at a time when women who were labeled “promiscuous” were sometimes locked up in asylums. Even if I had gotten pregnant, there was little risk of my being shipped off to a “home” to give birth among strangers and then give up my child forever, no matter what I wanted. I was not a woman who already had other children and who worried about feeding another. I am white; if I wanted to give up a baby, it would probably find a home, so long as it was healthy. Were I black or hispanic, it could be trickier. Were my child disabled, trickier still.

Do you know that in an abusive relationship, one of the most common precipitating events for a man to murder a woman is her pregnancy? Or that conversely, surveys of teenage girls in relationships found that some of their boyfriends attempted to control and impregnate them by throwing away their birth control pills?

When I was younger, I did not think about the fact that the history of our civilization is one in which women have mostly been property, not people. And so women’s bodies, even now, remain a battleground. The ability to reproduce is power, and there are still those who think it’s a power women cannot be trusted to administer properly.

And so the battle over abortion is really about power, down at the root, not about stopping a practice that may be inhumane to later-term fetuses. Even I got sucked in to the idea that “conception=person” an idea that does not survive even the smallest bit of thought. An 8-cell blastocyst is genetically unique, yes, but it’s not a person. A woman’s own body rejects multiple embryos before and after implantation, often before she knows she is pregnant. That does not make her body a murderer. That doesn’t make every period a crime scene.

Later-term abortions are more troubling, because we don’t really know where or how to draw the line. They are also more rare (about 1.4% per the CDC), and much more likely to be the result of actual medical problems with the fetus.

I know from my own experience talking to other women that most women seeking abortions want to do so as soon as possible, before they show, before they begin feeling any investment in the fetus. Third trimester women are not lining up for the procedure willy-nilly, if for no other reason than that if you’ve gone through the first two trimesters, you’ve already suffered whatever backlash you’re going to suffer, and giving birth in itself is probably small potatoes. Even if you have a medical emergency, you’re much more likely to get a c/section than any kind of termination at that stage.

I am troubled by the idea of an abortion that takes place when a fetus might feel pain. As of now, the American Medical Association maintains that the nerve and brain structure to feel pain is not in place until the 39th week, which is at term. But still, like a lot of people, I don’t want to be party to any kind of inhumane death of another person.

And so, I’m pro-choice.

But wait!

Oh yes. Because the supreme ironic failure of the pro-life movement is this; countries with easy access to abortion do not have higher rates of abortion than those where it is illegal. What does go down, dramatically, when abortion is outlawed? Women’s safety. Illegal abortions are incredibly dangerous. But women seek them out anyway. Are they insane? Or perhaps, are they driven by the need to save their own life or their children’s lives, or simply to exercise some control over their own bodies?

I don’t believe the organized pro-life forces actually care about real women and children. Otherwise, why would they have also been anti-contraception, anti-pro-child legislation (medical care, daycare, aid for the poor) that enables women to raise children? They cannot even support treatments like Plan B (which prevents an embryo from implanting) or RU-486 (which facilitate very early non-surgical abortion), despite the fact that they are much less ethically dicey than surgical abortions. Because that would mean returning to women some form of control over their own sexual and reproductive decisions. It would mean trusting women, even supporting them, even valuing them. And the pro-life movement doesn’t value them. It doesn’t care if they end up back in the septic ward, if their already-born kids end up orphaned on the street. It doesn’t care. Its attitudes are shaped by ancient religious hangups that have no more relevance for American government than rules about meat on Fridays, no matter how many nicey-nice words it uses. And women die as a result.

To the younger me, the pro-life position (minus the anti-contraception bit) was more “pure” more clear-cut, and therefore better. But human life is none of those things. An ideological purity that causes massive suffering, abortion septic wards, and more abortions is not a better system than a realistic, nuanced, approach that reduces suffering, reduces the need for abortions, and gives women the dignity and power over their own bodies that they deserve.

Posted by: emjb | January 26, 2008

Toddler vocabulary update


Courtesy chippenziedeutch via Flickr Creative Commons license. Not our baby, but cute, no?

Colors: lello, red, boo, geen.

Food: onj, cacker, nomnom* (any tasty food), meeyuk (milk), momaar (more milk, or just more), shee-shee (cheese)

Things: buk (book), pane or ehpane (airplane), fy (fly), A-A-A (ABCs), moon, star, bat (bath), dog or wuff wuff, sock, shoo shoo (shoes), zzzzz (zipper)

Cuteness set to: MAXIMUM

*yes we use too much LOLspeak around the house.

Posted by: emjb | January 17, 2008

I like my therapist

…and think it’s hilarious that I can say “my therapist.” So very not me, as I usually think of myself. But you know, the crazy comes to us all, eventually.

I can see that I have a lot of work ahead, but while scared at having to face unflattering truths about myself, I am also ready to try this new psychotherapy whatsit out.

Anyway, my therapist is an older Jewish lady, not From Here, but been here a while. I don’t know much of her story (that would require her getting a word in edgewise) but that’s fine. She and I are good, after one visit. Ask me again in three months, and we’ll see.

I had a lot of other stuff I was going to say, but you know…I’ll save it for the lady who’s paid to listen to it. My little favor to the Internets. Plus, I have a feeling anything I think I know now about my True Self will look stupid after a while, so…it’ll keep.

The rest of my life is bad and good. My stepfather is back in the hospital after his heart surgery; heart is fine, lungs are acting up and he’s not doing so hot. Good thoughts are welcome. He’s a sweet, loving husband to my mom, and I’d really like him to stick around and be well.

Nathan continues to be hella cute, but also hella two, and it’s like having a tiny semi-mute teenager in the house. You never know what mood you’re going to get. His smiles still make you forgive him, though. And he is actually pretty sweet-tempered compared to a lot of the little monsters I see out there. So far.

Posted by: emjb | January 9, 2008

The hot button


image courtesy Feministe

What is it? No really, what IS it that freaks people out about Hillary Clinton? I have yet to hear a coherent explanation that makes the outsize fear she causes among certain people understandable. Except for the most obvious one.

Other bloggers have covered this thoroughly, and I have to say, I hope the next time some douche pinches a woman’s cheek or rubs her shoulders in a pathetic ape-man dominance display, she punches him on his stupid smirky mouth. Enough of this bullshit.

Whatever it is that makes Chris Matthews and his ilk lose their marbles in the presence (or at the mere mention) of a woman with any power whatsoever, it also seems to have infected a few posters in this Metafilter thread. A relatively mundane post about a new magazine for Canadian teens that proudly proclaims feminism, acceptance for LGBT teens and people of color, among others, brought out some astonishing responses:

I looked briefly. It seems to be a tool for turning teenage girls into feminists. There is a proper place for self-empowerment and gender equality, but the world already has far too many feminists…

I find the site to be pretty disappointing. A typical inbred cookie-cutter liberal/feminist blog, with no indication of any appeal to real living teen girls as opposed to ideological fantasy teen girls. They should focus less on The Message and more on presentation.

my use of feminist is as follows: A female who believes that an imbalance exists in every area of life between men and women. Never content with any concession from any male, she believes fairness means imparting special priveleges to women to decide what is or is not proper, regardless of circumstances. She will accuse essentially any man who challenges this belief of being sexist, pedophilia inclined, porn addicted, power hungry, or some combination thereof without ever allowing herself the realization that such a worldview is essentially sexist in the opposite direction.

I’m sure yours differs. I no longer care. I’ve defined my terms.

Yeah. In their concern-trolly attempt to tell girls how to be feminist, so long as “feminist” is defined as “not too uppity”, such posters emphasize just why teenage girls might need a magazine that isn’t about clothes, shoes, and man-pleasin’. Sheesh.

Shameless does look like a good magazine, by the way. I may order a subscription. First the Canucks give us Degrassi, now this! Bless ’em.

Posted by: emjb | January 5, 2008

What’s your sign, baby?

It is the 21st century, right? Because I just had to comment on an (otherwise level-headed) parenting blog about the fact that worrying about what astrological sign your child is born under is bunk. People were all concerned! “Oh yeah, if he’s a Leo, you’re in for a rough go. My little Virgo is an easy kid.”

Bha-wha? Now I understand astrology-as-parlor-game, trying to see if you can make yourself fit into it and reading your horoscope. Using it to decide when to buy a lottery ticket (it’s as good an indicator as anything else for that, which is to say, your odds are the same either way). But actually being worried about your unborn kid’s future personality because they’ll be born under a day associated with a certain constellation?

Pregnancy has many things to worry about–maybe the kid will get your dad’s huge schnozz, or your spouse’s annoying habit of sucking his teeth, or your horrible teenage acne. Or more serious inheritable traits like heart problems and depression. All of these worries are connected to actual reality in some way.

As opposed to worrying if your child will be too prone to folding their socks precisely, or stealing cars, because they were born on the wrong day.

Like I said, superstitions can be fun, especially when you’re a kid and you actually make up your own (step on a crack, break your momma’s back; yelling “Jinx!”, etc.) Wearing your lucky shirt to job interviews may give you more confidence, even if you know deep down that there’s no magic. It’s generally a good idea not to walk under ladders anyway. Using little mental games and tricks can be one way of dealing with the randomness of life, provided you don’t take it too seriously.

But if I were someone on a major parenting blog, posting about actually being worried that my kid would be born under the wrong sign…that’s just sad.

Posted by: emjb | January 1, 2008

Ritual of relinquishment

By chance, I ended up visiting the Unitarian church I sometimes go to on Sunday–mostly to get Nathan out of the house and to let Matt sleep in. And maybe because I was feeling a little spiritually battered.

Since it was the last Sunday of 2007, they had a little pseudo-Oriental ritual of writing whatever you wanted to reliquish for the next year on a slip of paper and burning it in a big dish. Kind of cheesy, but what I like about Unitarians is that they never try to put any more meaning on a given act than they should. No one claimed burning a piece of paper was going to make your life magically better, but at the same time, there was value in stopping to think about what you needed to let go of. And stepping out of your everday business to consider your life and what you truly need is what ritual is really for anyway.

New years are such hopeful things, if you have the courage to have any hope–and I haven’t always. I recently saw some video of me taken last Christmas, it was sad to see how tired and ill I still looked. And I’m not really all the way well yet, just better. It’s been a hard haul, physically and emotionally, and I’m starting to understand that many of the difficulties I’m in now predate Nathan’s birth and my PPD. They are the things that made me more vulnerable to those who hurt me, the things that kept me from defending or believing in myself.

I’ve got a lot of anger. Not just about stuff I blog here, like Nathan’s birth, but in general. There are a lot of things I resent or feel helpless about, in the past, and recently. And I’ve started to feel that I’m losing my ability to keep them nicely stowed away in the Big Closet of my subconscious.

I started thinking about all this yesterday, which was a rough day that just suddenly became too much, and I fell apart. Outwardly I’m the calmest person you may know, 99% of the time, but all that means is when I do fall to pieces, it’s a lot more devastating.

Ironically, I have the control that I do because my natural state is Extreme Drama. When I was little, before I learned how to deal with my outsize emotions, I cried. All the time. About everything. Or yelled. Or fought, or screamed, or roared. I was not calm, unless I’d just had an outburst. But I was also super-sensitive to what other people thought or told me, and so I developed a paranoia about infringing on others, learning to be super calm, super considerate, super thoughtful instead. But it’s a strain. My particular emotional volume was always turned up to 11–the persona I have now is largely a way of channelling and suppressing that noise.

And it’s worked, really well. I like who I am, in a lot of ways, and I’m not sorry to be considered calm, or reliable, or thoughtful. Those are good things to be. I don’t want to go back to bursting into tears every five minutes, or screaming in rage. I can’t live like that.

But it’s not working as well as it should. Maybe it’s the equivalent of needing an emotional tuneup; maybe I’m not seeing a better way to function. Maybe I need meds, though I still tend to think, if so many of us need meds to function in our society…maybe we should be taking a harder look at how we set up our society. But since that revolution won’t happen in my lifetime, I’ll try meds if that’s the only thing that works.

I don’t want to go to a therapist, in the most basic sense. Do not. Want. To go. I don’t like talking about my problems, maybe because whenever I have, people tend to get wide-eyed and back away. Which I know therapists don’t do, but still. I don’t want to go in the same way I don’t want to clean the cat’s litter box–it takes too long, it’s unpleasant, and I have to deal with a lot of shit. I resent my psyche failing me in this way, and wish it would simply do what I think it should, which is keep me happy and healthy without requiring outside assistance.

At church, the word I wrote on my slip of paper was “fear.” And there isn’t much I could fear more than asking a stranger to help me sort out my soul.

Posted by: emjb | December 24, 2007

Circum matrem et puerum

Children thrive with schedules, but not with your schedules. With theirs. And so our lovely happy bouncy child enjoyed a day of Christmas fun, but began to fret and shriek and growl about 5pm, and passed out entirely on the way to Christmas Eve at his great-gran’s. His bedtime is normally 7 or so and I just didn’t have the heart–or let’s face it, the guts–to wake him.

Instead, I dropped Matt off to be our family representative and then to sleep over at his folks, while I drove the desolate Christmas highway back home with our exhausted manger-baby (though you would need an extra-large manger for this one). I was greeted by a house that indeed smelled a little like a stable, since the cat missed the litter box again, but little lord Nathan neither awaked nor made crying, flopping instead into his manger like the passed-out partier that he was. The cattle didn’t low, but the cat meowed frantically for love and food.

It’s one of my stranger Christmas Eves–in fact, I don’t know that I’ve ever been alone on this particular day before. After settling Nathan I brought in the day’s haul of gifts, fed and petted the cat, and watched Antiques Roadshow a little while eating my Christmas bowl of cereal. Just me and Nathan and the cat, alone but warm and fed and relatively ok with the way things are. I’ve had worse.

Posted by: emjb | December 23, 2007

Fa la la la (hargh) la la la (SNRCKK)

We are recovering; so much so that Matt can go back to his SecondLife singing gigs, and I am not feeling like Hot Aching Death. I have felt that way for what must be only 10 days or so but feels like 100 years.

I can deal with coughing/sniffing/etc. etc. but this cold came with body aches that felt like I’d been beaten with a sack of hot nickels and extreme sinus headaches. The Tylenol could not really cope as every day, two metric tons of blockage would shift to press against a new place–my lower left temple, my freaking JAWline, the BACK of my head, and various other places where a headache Shouldn’t Be. As the last of these (I hope) lifted this morning on the way to Family Christmas 1 (of 3), the sun came out, the birds sang, and I could have skipped across six or eight daisy-covered meadows in joy. The state of non-pain, after weeks of pain, is the best state of all.

So we never got our Christmas tree up. Exra gifts that we wanted to get were not gotten. Lights purchased in November went un-strung in December, and so while our neighbors put up happy festive displays of animatronic reindeer and seizure-inducing marquee lights, our house was the dark, gloomy one that makes the children cry. Considering that we did decorate a little for Halloween, I’m now worried as to what the neighbors think of our spiritual inclinations.

We’ve had Bare Minimum Christmas many times, but mostly due to cash-free-ness or being out of town. I had so many plans this year now that neither applied, but our Walking Death Cold put a kibosh on doing anything extra that didn’t involve blowing amazing amounts of goo out of our heads. Thankfully, Nathan is still too young to notice and feel ashamed. Plenty of time for that next year.

Posted by: emjb | December 21, 2007

Sex ed in school doesn’t make kids have sex

…in fact, it makes them delay it. And I don’t mean strict “abstinence ed” either. Via Feministing, news of a CDC study that shows:

…teenage boys who had sex education in school were 71 percent less likely to have intercourse before age 15, and teen girls who had sex education were 59 percent less likely to have sex before age 15.

Sex education also increased the likelihood that teen boys would use contraceptives the first time they had sex. . . But sex education appeared to have no effect on whether teen girls used birth control, the researchers found.

Additionally, black teenage girls who received sex ed in school were 91 percent less likely to have sex before age 15.

That 91% figures is pretty amazing.

Now for those who have always opposed sex ed* on the principle that sex magically won’t happen if you don’t talk about it, this poses a dilemma. Do you change your tactics to do something that actually helps teenagers postpone sex? Or do you go “lalalalalalala” and pretend that abstinence-only programs work, despite lots and lots of evidence to the contrary? In other words, what’s more important: being anti-sex-ed, or helping kids?

When kids are ignorant about sex, or only get told weird, negative, one-sided and inaccurate things about it (the way most abstinence-only programs do), bad things happen. Pregnancy rates go up, STD rates go up, and an awful lot of lives get affected.

This is a big issue with me, because what I see is adults letting kids down in a monumental way, because they are uncomfortable with the knowlege that their kids will one day have sex. Being so squeamish or scared to tell your kid about sex or let someone else do so that you keep them in ignorance is BAD PARENTING. Because what your kids don’t know can really hurt them. They need knowledge to protect themselves, because ignorance surely won’t. It’s like putting them behind the wheel without teaching them to drive. Irresponsible.

It’s about control, too. By the time sex becomes an issue, your kid is not under your direct supervision 24/7 anymore. They are at friends’ houses, at school, at parties, on band trips. They are going to have to make decisions about sex without you around to make them be responsible–so if you don’t teach them how to think for themselves and how to protect themselves beforehand, you’ve missed your chance. And you can tell them your preferences for what they do, but ultimately, you can’t make them adhere to those preferences, and as a parent, you have to accept that. Once your teenage son and his girlfriend announce a pregnancy, punishment is a moot point. The best you can do is try to teach him beforehand why he should try to stay out of that situation, for his sake and hers. And then, you have to let them go, and hope for the best. Which is terrifying. But that’s parenting. And for me, if some other adult is able to back up what I teach my son about respect and responsibility, that’s even better.

*All comprehensive sex ed programs I’ve ever heard about, by the way, do tell you that abstinence is in fact the best way to avoid pregnancy, disease, and other complications. Telling someone how condoms work does not equal telling them that they need to have lots and lots of sex, right now.

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