Piece of cake

I want to talk about parenting and food, because goodness do I have no idea what I am doing. I am frustrated with myself by the things I say to my daughter:

“Finish that or no treat for dessert…finish that or we won’t go…eat that or I’ll take away this…three more bites…you have to eat…ok let’s just go straight to bed…you should have eaten at dinner, I’m sorry you’re still hungry…etc”

So many messages in there, most of which I don’t want to pass on. Here are the messages I unintentionally provide daily:

– You must always eat all that’s on your plate.

– Food is a privilege, it can be taken away. I can take it away.

– Sweets are a goal to get to.

– I don’t care that you’re full, eat more.

– I will punish you if you don’t eat what I decide is best for your growing body.

– You only get to eat when I say you eat.

Meanwhile I eat what I want when I want and so does my partner. I nurse the baby at their request. They eat as much as they want when they want. She’s the odd one out, surrounded by unfairness, no control of her body or her nourishment. Why do I get to be the authoritarian? When will I let this go?

Here’s what I want her to know.

– Food nourishes your body, keeps you alive, helps you live, gives you love and energy from the earth.

-Your body tells you what it wants, how much it wants, when it’s hungry and when it’s full.

-Food is not a privilege, it’s a right.

– There are people everywhere stripped of this resource, so what resources we choose are important because it impacts others. This includes working to not waste them and giving care to our food.

Here’s an idea we are going to try with her. I will write more as we explore this. I see there being three major changes to our approach to food.

1) She can have one treat per day if she wants to. And whenever she wants it. This does not include a treat we decide to gift to her. The treat is always her choice and our gift does not replace this choice.

We started this already, the first day she ate it before dinner. Since then she has nearly forgotten about treats. I’d like to think this may be because they are no longer incentives. We’ll see where this goes next.

2) She does not have to finish her food. She’s done when she’s done. We still push a time limit because I’d like her to treat food with care rather than eating while distracted. Any leftover food gets put away for a future meal.

With some unpacking, I went deep into why I cared about this so much. As a kid, I watched my dad get so upset when we wasted food. So upset that he’d just consume the leftovers. As an adult, I get it. I type this shortly after eating a watermelon airhead (which I’m pretty sure isn’t really food) because she didn’t like it and wanted to toss it. Food not only costs money but there are people with no food and what a jerk move to just waste it because we can. So instead of making her feel bad about it, we are working to remind her of her leftovers for snacks and simply serving them with her next meal. So far, most leftovers are getting eaten.

3) This one we’ve only started to explore, but here is the concept. Meals are broken into four groups and are currently titled: proteins, grains, fruits, and vegetables. For this, she gets three options in each category to choose from. The key is that all four categories get some coverage in a meal.

In my head, I envision a magnetized board where I can put the day’s choices, but my time is limited for such a craft project at the moment. So instead, I’m laying the groundwork by offering her choices in threes. Rather than saying “what do you want?,” I’m going with “here are your choices, what do you want?” In full five year old style, when I ask her simply what she wants, she always says “I don’t know, you pick.” Of no surprise, she says no to all of my picks. She has also given push-back on the three choices when I offer this model, saying that she wants none of them. But when I’m patient and let her think for herself, she almost always chooses one of them. She’s still at that age where everything needs to be her ultimate choice so it’s a balance of autonomy and direction.

Here’s what I don’t know yet: what to do with meals I cook. She currently rarely eats them. I need to move beyond my own hurt feelings when no one eats what I’ve made because it’s not about me or my cooking. In reality, I cook what I want, what my body asks for. Or I cook what I think they need or want. This is mostly because I live with two eaters who don’t decide what they want until they want it. This brings me right back to me deciding what nourishment goes into their bodies, when I have no knowledge of what their bodies are asking for. I need to figure our how to help her learn what her body is telling her.

I have two other ideas to help balance this…two dinner nights that are standard. The first is try something new night. We make a new dish that we haven’t all had before and we all try it. The second is whatever you want night. On this night, we all fend for ourselves and eat whatever we want to eat. Even ice cream…which will likely be my choice.

I figure this will set the stage for being explorative and curious with new tastes and foods, while also opening up space to explore your wants, desires, and hunger. For all of us.

There is still so much to learn and unpack in my relationship with food, both for myself and as a parent. But I am growing and exploring how to give my kids more autonomy, more ownership of their bodies, as I seek to find a better relationship with mine. I desperately want to lay the groundwork for them, in the hopes of preventing the same misunderstandings I’ve had along the way. To prevent any socialized shame, guilt, or misinformation the world tells us about nutrition

I’ll admit this all came to head when we were attending a birthday party a few weekends back. We had a two hour food disagreement where my socialization overtook my heart, and I heard my words in a deeply troubling way.

She wouldn’t eat her lunch so I threatened to take away cake at the party. She had that look that told me she doubted I’d actually do that, so she held her ground and “lost the privilege.” Guilt consumed me so I made my partner come up with a compromise so she could “earn” it back. He made peanut butter crackers for her and she had to finish them to get cake. There were three. In the car on the way to the party, she ate two. We ended up granting cake if she took one more bite of a cracker. She did.

Participating in and leading this two hour long ordeal, and hearing what we said to her along the way, felt so wrong. It felt like we had to win. And it felt like she had had enough of our authority.

In the end, she had the cake and my partner and I came up with this plan.

Ready, set, here we go.

Giving and receiving love

I have been called a (r)evolutionary parent. It’s quite the compliment and I’m struggling with embracing it. It’s made me think about how we accept love and kindness from others. Whether or not we fully accept gratitude.

Recently my family was in town and at dinner we were having a fun time when my dad all of a sudden took the moment to share words of love. He told me how great of a parent I am, how much he loved me and how incredibly proud he was. I looked into his loving face, tears in the corner of his eyes and I minimized it. In complete discomfort, I threw it back, saying I learned from the best, waved away his words, shrugged them off. Why couldn’t I just sit there, feel the love, and embrace the kind and loving words given to me? Do I not believe it? Perhaps it was my own insecurities? Or maybe just the martini I knew he had..see I did it again…as if alcohol would create a false sense of pride in me.

Last spring, I went on a leadership retreat in a pristine place in Canada. The group leader did an activity where we had to accept love and praise. First, we stood in front of the group and shared our vision. Then the group would erupt in praise. We hooted, hollered, whistled, yelled, cheered, clapped, stomped, you name it. To say it was overwhelming doesn’t speak enough to the feeling of this love. And here was the key part, we weren’t able to leave the front of the room until we fully accepted the love. We weren’t allowed to brush it off, roll our eyes, or use whatever social cue we knew to ask the praiser to quit it…like we didn’t want to burden them to have to offer more…when really we were uncomfortable receiving.

It took me several seconds but then I felt it. And I burst into tears.

I’m told all the time I’m good at things, that I’m a leader, that I’m liked, even that I’m looked up to. But rarely do I feel these laced with pure love. Revolutionary love at that.

I tell my kids all the time how amazing they are. That I think they’re brilliant, brave, beautiful, a gift to me, a gift to us, a gift from this world.

It’s time I showed them how to receive it. That I speak highly of myself in tough moments, that in these moments I am doing my best. And that that is enough right now. That when my father tells me I’m an amazing mom, I hear it because I believe it. That when my partner tells me I am exactly as I should be, I know he’s right.

I need them to hear all of the amazing things, for them to believe it, and for them to receive this love. Sure I want them to be humble, to learn humility. But this doesn’t mean you don’t believe it. It simply means we own it and decide how to use it.

Recently, I watched a Ted Talks with Valarie Kaur called “3 lessons of revolutionary love in a time of rage“. She defines revolutionary love as made up of three things: the first being that we love ourselves, the second being that we love others, and the third being that we love our enemies.

https://www.ted.com/talks/valarie_kaur_3_lessons_of_revolutionary_love_in_a_time_of_rage?utm_campaign=tedspread&utm_medium=referral&utm_source=tedcomshare

We are terrible at self love. For some reason, we push the notion that we should love others yet we don’t even know how to love ourselves. It’s no wonder we are all so sick in this country. I do imagine that if we all loved ourselves more fully then maybe we wouldn’t focus so much on what we want to take or dismiss from others.

If cismen loved themselves deeply, would this remove the drive, the need to strip power from other genders? If white people embraced their own race with love and forgiveness, would we be more inclined to not hesitate in making reparations? If one religion believed that their beliefs rooted them in their wholeness, would it matter that other beliefs were held differently? If the U.S. loved itself enough to see its failures, would we stop claiming we are the best while simultaneously militarizing not just other countries but our own home?

If we love ourselves fully and are willing to receive love from others, then it must make it that much easier to love them back. And this includes those that may have harmed us or others. Valarie shares an example of this, forgiveness rooted in love. It’s amazing strength. It’s amazing humanity.

For my children, I will practice self love and accepting love. For me, I will work at receiving it, feeling it, embracing that I deserve all of it for simply being me. I will remind them of all of this, hoping they do the same as they continue to grow into this magical chaotic world. Today too, you should as well.

Here us an offering. Many of you I don’t know well, some I have never met. But this is no less true. Today I offer my love to you.

You are amazing. You are a gift from this earth. Perfectly created into every tiny cell. Perfectly created to thrive, excel, love, offer. You are brilliant, given the exact right body and mind to participate in this world exactly as you are meant to. You are one of earth’s greatest creations. You are love, are loved, and deserve all of the greatness that you are.

“If, then” podcast

This is a great podcast and I recommend it for a listen. One of the speakers, Eroc, is a friend and a (r)evolutionary parent.

In this podcast, he is unpacking the complicated components of punishment with two other men. It is three men talking honestly about how they want to step towards the world they envision as parents.

I’ll let you listen. But I want to speak to one part that struck me so importantly. That our parents are three dimensional. That they parented with what they knew, then learned and strived for better in their parenting. That now we get to take their gifts of experience and build on that in our own parenting, moving even closer to the world we want to see for our children.

And most importantly, this means that we are three dimensional too. That we are also learners, teachers, legacy.

I would love to chat with any and all who listen and want to talk more. Feel free to comment below or send me a message here.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

It was the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. And, it was finally time to talk in depth about him and the civil rights movement with her as she’s finally starting to connect with things that happen in the past.

I started by showing her a picture of him and simply stated, “This is Dr. Martin Luther King and he was killed because he was fighting for black people to have equal rights.”

Then, we watched and listened to a couple of his speeches, talking about what he was saying and also pointing out who was in the audience including only a small sprinkling of white folks. She wanted to know who killed him and why. I explained that it was a white man who thought that Dr. King shouldn’t be speaking, someone who believed that black people didn’t deserve what they were fighting for. I explained that back in this time, most white people believed this. That there were some who were fighting alongside Dr. King, but not many. That this isn’t so different than what we see today among so many white folks who don’t agree with today’s activists, both in their message and in their delivery. I shared that some of our family has fought for Dr. King’s legacy and that it’s our job as ancestors in training to carry forward this solidarity, but with more intensity. To take the legacy of our ancestors, both the harm and the activism, and to fight towards a better world.

She wanted to see more pictures of him and in the process of looking them up, we saw many other images that shared additional stories. She saw the police officers in the faces of marchers in Selma. She saw the fire hoses pummeling and dogs attacking activists in Birmingham. She saw the puddle of blood pooling around Dr. King’s body 50 years ago.

She asked if she could watch a video of his death. I said that one didn’t exist. She is constantly grappling with death and wanting to understand it, this is not the first time she has asked to see such pain. Since I said there wasn’t one, she asked if she could see a picture of a gun. I told her not right now. I explained that people have many different views on guns. That some people believe that we should have less of them, some believe that we should have none, and some believe that guns are important to have. I shared that I envision a world without guns one day. That maybe no one will find the need for them. I shared that I think too many people are dying from guns. That Dr. King wasn’t the only black man killed for his pursuit of freedom. And, I told her that one day we’d talk more about Malcolm X and Medgar Evers. I reminded her that I have trouble wanting people to have guns because people are getting them and killing themselves or others, including teenagers killing other teenagers.

I look forward to when she’s bigger and we can talk more beyond the facts and instead explore the reasoning. When we can talk about white supremacy, toxic masculinity, and the depth of structural racism. When we can talk about the whitewashing of Dr. King’s legacy and draw parallels to Black Lives Matter.

For now, she understands that things are not fair, that people don’t like others for reasons like the color of their skin. She and I again talked about race and what it means because she corrected me when I said that Dr. King was a black man. “But he’s brown,” she said. I told her that she is not wrong, that race is confusing and this is because white people made up race a long time ago in order to keep things in the hands of white people. I could see continued confusion on her face, as she doesn’t understand why any of this was done or how race really even works. It’s been hard teaching her the distinction of color versus race while also talking about how it’s all made up. And, also being sure that she knows that right now we need to talk about race so we can see the unfairness. Most of the time, she has trouble identifying race, but of no surprise, she can always tell who is white.

I could tell she was done talking, but as she walked away she said, “But it’s a good thing what those teenagers did the other day.”

She was talking about the March for Lives.

Every day I get to see the legacy of our ancestors grow.

Beautiful chaos – the transition to a family of four

Now that we are a family of four, I am realizing two very important things:

  1. My love is abundant. It really is possible to love another baby as much as your first, without sacrificing an ounce of what you already give.
  2. That no matter how much you prepare, the transition to a larger family is just that…a transition that comes with a full range of feelings and emotions that you could never have practiced enough for.

Our daughter is nearly five years old. She is brilliant, funny, joyful and perfect in every way. And when I say perfect, she is perfectly human including emotions, love, silliness, and intelligence. But these past 5 weeks have resulted in a change for her and we are struggling. She yells, argues, interrupts, stomps, scolds, pouts, cries, screams, and just in general is pushing buttons whenever she can.

When I was pregnant, she was often asked if she was excited to be a big sister. She would say yes, even with little concept of knowing what it meant, simply upholding the social standard. Of course she was excited to have a baby to play with and call her own. But all of the changes that come with a growing family were impossible for her to fathom or understand in advance. I was worried that setting up her excitement would ultimately result in confusion and disappointment as the reality of our expanding family set in. At the advice of a friend who shared her own conflict with that question, I gave pushback to those who asked. Our daughter can be non-responsive to new people, so I often would respond to them if she wasn’t willing, stating that she will be excited when the baby comes to learn all about being a big sister. I was hoping to give her an out in answering and to reframe the excitement.

Then this baby came, and entered the world in a way that took her mom away for five days in a hospital. And took away my ability to hold her for several weeks. She knew that I was sick and hurt, but didn’t understand why. I couldn’t bring myself to tell her the full details. It’s not just scary to hear, but also so hard to say. I know that eventually we will talk about it. First, it feels important to me that I am able to hold my own grief when I share with her. This way she can hear the words and not feel like she needs to hold me, and can instead explore her own feelings and responses.

But, it’s very clear that she already has a response. And, it’s no secret that a perfect little human is not immune to jealously, trauma, and sadness. I can see all of this in her. And she is taking it out on us. She is loving and doting to the baby, jumping at the chance to help them when they cry, acting as our assistant in diaper changing, and asking to hold him all the time. When you think about it, there is no reason to place these feelings on the baby, as they have no reaction to her. But my partner and I do have response, and thus we are getting the brunt of it. We are frustrated, overwhelmed, and sad. It’s hard re-adjusting to a lack of sleep again, crying demands of a newborn, plus the new voice of our daughter which is turned up in volume. That plus a barking dog, it’s pure chaos. We are consumed by this beautiful, joyful, overwhelming, frustrating chaos.

Bedtime is the hardest as this is when she expresses the majority of her emotions. All of the pent up energy from the day, the feelings she has, come out in full force. My partner and I go to bed some nights feeling sad and selfish for even getting mad about it. And I’m sure she goes to bed confused as to her own anger and upset by our responses.

The other day, I read an article called “3 Ways to Avoid a Power Struggle With Your Kids” by Christina Clemer. It suggests three things: 1) not backing them into a corner, 2) not trying to reason, and 3) don’t give the behavior power. We’ve tried this since then and it’s helping, well it helping us to avoid too much conflict. My partner and I have been going to bed more calm and a bit less guilty. In fact, I’d recommend this article to other parents as a place to find some peace and patience as you take on frustrations with our kids. So far, it’s really helping this for us.

But, today I am breaking down the idea of a “power struggle.” Recently, I have begun a personal journey to both understand and enact the vision I hold for power in the world – one with a community of shared power. When it comes to power – as a woman, I am stripped of power; as a white woman, I yield it; as a white woman parent, I enact it daily; and as a 4 year old, my daughter desperately desires it. Instead, I envision a world where we all contribute as humans in our awesomeness, but without any sole source of power. Instead, I wonder if we as humans can live in shared power, uplifting one another’s contributions, voices, life force, while also combining our powers towards a sustainable, thriving, loving world. So the question came to me, can I create this with my daughter?

First, I have been thinking about our current parenting tactics, as they have all been pretty useless during this time of transition…timeouts just lead to a laughing child, taking away things results in her gleefully handing them over, saying no results in a louder no yelled back, and an ask for our personal space results in her physical invasion of it. We’re clearly missing something. So, the other night, I tried something new – working to teach her to speak more to her feelings. In a past exploration of my own anger, I learned that anger is most often a mask for sadness, and often deep sadness. Thus, I asked her why she was mad and she replied, “I don’t know.” So I asked her why she was sad and she said, “I wish it was just the three of us.”

I was both surprised and not by her answer. To date, I’ll admit that I haven’t done much to explore these deep feelings with her. The data in my head about egocentrism and empathy as part of the growth process of kids has had me skip over it. This is simply based on the assumption I made that her brain can’t do all of this yet. But this is not true, her brain takes in all of this. It just can’t process it back out yet. I have been overlooking a key piece of her development. Luckily, parenting has taught me to have humility and to not be afraid to admit when you mess up. As a friend reminded me just yesterday, you can always go back to a conversation by bringing it up again. Kids are forgiving.

Another friend offered some additional insight to this contradiction – what my daughter might be feeling deep in her heart – that there is likely trauma coursing through her body in addition to this sadness. My daughter knew that a baby was coming and was hopeful to participate in the birth process. Instead, she had to stay in a waiting room while we birthed her sibling in an operating room. Then, we were taken from her for 5 days. We were in the hospital, only seeing her during daily visits. I assumed she would ask any questions that came up for her. I assumed that she ignored me because jealously was seeping in. But I didn’t assume that her body and heart inherently knew that we just went through something big and it must have been scary. I didn’t assume that when she looked at me, she saw sickness and weakness when she’s used to seeing strength. I didn’t assume that as I explained that my body needed some healing that she might see me as broken. I didn’t assume that when she looked at my partner, she saw fear and concern in his eyes. As my friend so clearly caused me to see, perhaps, just perhaps, she is mad because we are the adults. We are the ones who keep her safe, teach her strength, and cushion her sadness. And now we are tired, overwhelmed, and filled with our own trauma. As adults, how could we do this to her when she needed us? With the birth of her sibling, her life as she knew it was turning upside down, and she was all alone.

I don’t even know where to start with this new understanding of what she might be going through. And it makes it even harder that we are in a place of transition ourselves.

For right now, we are just focusing on what’s in front of us and working through our interactions as they come. Other parents have shared with us what has worked for them: 1) to set aside intentional one on one time with her, 2) to make sure our time is evenly spent between her and baby, 3) to not judge how she helps with baby, giving encouraging words, and 4) to maintain as much patience as we can muster.

My hope is that we can get to a place where we can start to face healing together. To me that would be shared power. And, if I want to live in a world with shared power, then I need to achieve this in my own home.

In our interactions, I see myself strip her of power, taking all of it. How do I release this notion of taking power? How do I release this notion of needing this power? Who does she really harm when she yells no, or jumps on her bed, or throws her toys? Actually no one, but it’s incredibly frustrating. I am finding myself so annoyed with the little human who brings me life and joy. So among this imbalance, where does the true power lie? Why does it feel like it’s in the center of the room and she and I are clawing at it, trying to keep it for ourselves?

While we continue to battle, we fail to heal. I am not setting the best example by not showing her how to heal and how to face her own sadness. Perhaps, the answer is that we all need to feel together in this house. We joke, but with much truth, that the dog seems to be the only one keeping it together. I look at my partner and I see the grief in his eyes, surrounded by the fatigue. As he hides himself in his coping, I feel disconnected. We haven’t grieved the change to our relationship. I look at my daughter and am ready to pounce on whatever misbehaving comes next. I am sad that our relationship has changed, that I’ve had to make room in our space for another, yet we haven’t grieved. I look at this new baby and I feel sad because I can’t hold them all the time, having to put them down when I eat, feed the dog, or make time with my daughter. Here I was worried about being able to love them both, but instead I am feeling the disconnect in how to consistently share that love. The love is abundant, bountiful, but as a human I am finding more and more that I am unsure of how to consistently express it.

Today I received a message from an old friend reminding me that I showed her what it felt like to be loved. This was so grounding, reminding me that I am centered in love. That inherently, I just know how to do it and others will feel it. That I don’t need to overthink it. This is power, a type of power I hope to hold tight. But this communication also reminded me of the loneliness of new motherhood. This loneliness stems from not talking about all of the emotions of motherhood out loud. In this country, we celebrate new babies – their conception, their growth, their birth, their sex even. I am seeing more and more the loneliness in this approach, this missed chance to celebrate motherhood, parenthood, expansion of the human species. We miss celebration of the beautiful chaos that is parenting.

It makes me think about my survival in this chaos. Why do we not uplift the family journey? Why do we not uplift the power of motherhood, fatherhood, parenthood, siblinghood? It seeps into me that capitalism has hold of us here too, in dressing up our babies in cute clothes, while mom wears the same pair of pants for the 3rd day in a row, skips lunch and breakfast, and then scolds herself for not doing the dishes. As new mothers, we’re expected to be consumed with joy. If we admitted we were sad, overwhelmed, or even angry, we’re set up to look like bad parents, incapable, neglectful even. How can we possibly grieve as a family, when we’re socially expected to be present in joy for all to see? And how can we possibly experience support from our loved ones when it feels inappropriate to share that we’re struggling?

The largest sense of relief I have experienced in the past month and a half is when I admitted to my doula that I was struggling. Just to have her bear witness to this pain lifted a burden. When I reached out to my family of friends to ask for help and advice, another one was lifted. I reached out to folks who I knew didn’t feel the need to “handle” it. They simply let the emotions sit in front of us, acknowledged their presence, and made an offer of support or advice if I invited it. They reminded me of my own capacity, my own wholeness, my courage. They gifted me with their love and support through simply being. They reminded me of my motherhood, that I am a lifegiver, and that all of me is enough.

Some time soon, I am going to explore expressing grief with my daughter. I am realizing that she needs to see mine to know she should make space for her own. I want her to see that grief does not replace joy or love, but simply compliments us as humans to feel a range of emotions. That these emotions are powerful, and that maybe by sharing all of ourselves, we’ll find our way to shared power, both in our hearts and in our home.

*One friend gave the advice to build my village. My village helped me find this voice, to deepen my parenting, and they have held me tight. I feel so grateful to feel so loved and so welcome to be my whole self.

#metoo

Note: I wrote this post back in November and haven’t been able to bring myself to share it. Through self-exploration and intentional work, I am beginning to find my voice without fear of hurting others with this pain, and in feeling validity in the importance of sharing the hard stuff. Thank you for reading. In full disclosure and warning, this post mentions trauma and abuse.

A couple of months ago, I received a message from LinkedIn. It was a request to connect and when I saw the name, I was taken back. Back to a place I hate to go back to. When I was in 4th and 5th grade, myself and some friends were sexually assaulted by three classmates. It was one of these three classmates that was reaching out to connect.

And I hesitated, starting to question a denial of their request. I hesitated because I was not sure if I should have moved on by now. Should I have forgiven this person who too was also a kid nearly 25 years ago? Am I being too harsh in wanting to erase this from my life? Shouldn’t I recognize the influence of the world on this person, the toxicity that must have radiated in their life to make them treat me like they did?

Suddenly, my gut kicked in and I clicked no. This is my life, my body, this person violated that and they have no right to access me again, in any way.

The #metoo hashtag came forward not too soon after this event. I have to admit it was completely overwhelming because I was brought to many places I didn’t want to be. To be on social media meant seeing over and over the people in my life who listed #metoo. I even took a moment to consider where #metoo happened for me. I could think of 12 instances and that was too much. So, I never posted #metoo. In fact, this is the first public forum I am deciding to take that step for myself. And this is because I see my daughter’s face and I want desperately for her not to be a #metoo.

But inevitably she will be.

Thus, I am choosing to focus my parenting on the trust in our relationship. I want her to know that no matter what, she can talk to me. That she should talk through these things when they happen if that helps her process it or to take care of herself. Or if even to remind herself that when your gut tells you that something isn’t right but the world around you insists that it’s normal, that it’s never normal or right.

My elementary school experience was held as mine alone for many years which is incredibly odd when I share the details. Myself and a couple of friends experienced daily harassment and assault in a variety of forms. Two friends in particular experienced it worse than me. I have used this as an excuse for years to not make a big deal of all of it. For whatever reason, these three young boys listened to me when I said I was going to tell. So they left me alone more often than they did not. This was not the case for the two other friends who experienced daily violation of their bodies.

As part of my 5th grade class, I participated in a media club. I was putting together a piece on recess games. One of the young boys was a guest. The adult advisor was walking me through what to say and reminded me to thank this other student. I looked right at this adult and finally said “I don’t want to thank him.” He pressed and eventually got out of me that this person was hurting my friend. I did not reveal that he also hurt me. Things moved quickly after that. My friend didn’t come to school the next day and I felt horrible. I had finally told when she made me swear not to. She came back the next day and I apologized on the playground. She didn’t say much, I still felt horrible.

Next, they had myself and about six other young girls pulled into a classroom with a teacher. She asked us what happened. No one wanted to say anything. I was the only one who spoke up. I first said that these kids would grab our bodies. I used the word “breast” and got an icy stare from a friend. I looked at the one friend who suffered the most and couldn’t believe she wasn’t saying anything. I shared only a couple pieces in this space, what one might consider to be the least amount of harm that we experienced. I did not share it all. I could not possibly say it in front of these friends or this teacher. I was silenced.

Afterwards, my friends came up to me and couldn’t believe I said anything. I was even teased for using the word “breast.” Nothing else happened next, but I do remember my classroom teacher apologizing to my friend, saying she was so sorry she didn’t know. She couldn’t have. This always happened when she left the room, during recess, or when we were in line far behind her view.

But here’s the part that still baffles me. The young boys had in-school suspension and disappeared for a few days. They did stop after that. At least, they stopped hurting me. My mother never said anything to me about it and I remembered wondering why. I just assumed that it was not a big deal, or maybe she felt it was handled. I admit it did make me consider that maybe I made a big deal of something that wasn’t so big. Maybe my friends were right.

I brought this up to her again about 7 years ago, at the advice of a therapist. She quickly became incredibly angry and explained that she knew nothing of this. They never called her, no one ever told her. Not the guidance teacher I told, the teacher in my classroom, the science teacher who I shared details with, the mother of the friend on whom I told about, not me. No one told my mom.

I quickly realized that all of my thinking, twisting, justifying was all wasted. It was clear that she thought this was very wrong and she was so upset that she didn’t know. That she wasn’t able to help and that this was kept secretly from her.

The irony for this, is that my mother taught me very early that my body is mine. She even shared instances of her own #metoo and regularly told me that I could tell her anything, not matter what. In my heart, I knew I had to be right, that she’d be upset too. But I still never told her. I had opportunity after opportunity and I never did. But I also know that she never explicitly asked if someone had ever hurt me. At least, I don’t remember if she did. I can only assume she thought I would tell her, after she told me over and over that I could tell her anything.

I look at my 4 year old and I worry all the time about who might hurt her, or who already has. I decided early on that I would just ask her, and to do so explicitly. In the work I do, I know that people don’t always disclose on the first ask. But if you keep asking, they will tell you when they’re ready. So I am going to keep asking. And I am going to keep reminding her what is okay touch and what is not okay touch. The amount of relief I experience when she looks at me and says “no, Mommy,” as if I just asked her a silly question, is abundant.

I know I can’t protect her from abuse, an all too common experience for most of us. The purpose of #metoo is it’s pretty much #allofus. If I could keep her from being a #metoo, I’d do anything for that. But in the meantime, I have to shift my parenting to focus on the reality of the world we live in, and instead continue to build trust between her and I. To teach her about consent, self-protection, and survival.

Because all I want to believe is #neverhertoo.

*I want to uplift Tarana Burke, the founder of MeToo. She is a Black woman seeking justice for herself and our people. She set the ball in motion and I cannot post this without honoring that history, her voice as the catapult for finding my own.

My Birth Story

Several days ago, I gave birth to a perfect little human. It was a whirlwind full of joy, fear, love, confusion, and blessings. As a result, I feel compelled to share my birth story, and to do so from two different perspectives – first, from a place of fear and second, from a place of joy. As fair warning, there is trauma in this post and there are some medical details. I believe this story is important to share because it highlights what birth can look like in our country, a country who has some of the worst health outcomes for birth mothers and infants. I also believe it can show how we can change that narrative.

In the United States, we put an astronomical amount of resources into healthcare – time, people, money. We spend more than any other country in the world. In fact, we spend more than most other countries combined. I live in the greater Boston area with some of the most superb medical care in this country. So, it’s incredibly surprising to know that our statistics for birth outcomes are so poor. On a list of the wealthiest countries in the world, the United States is often last or second to last for infant mortality (infant mortality is the probability of death to an infant from birth to one year of age). The same is true of maternal mortality. Many argue that this data is skewed from the overwhelming health inequities in our country with much higher rates among people of color. This is not untrue. However, if we break down this data by race, and look at rates for just white people, we only go up one spot. We still rank far worse than other countries. Yes, let me say that again, we white folks are very sick too. Our healthcare system isn’t serving us either.

I share all this, because my birth experiences have not been trauma free. In fact, both have included complications. Some minor, some more serious. But my story is not uncommon and I wonder how to get away from this typical narrative of childbirth. How do we move away from fear and embrace the love of birth? We can’t change our healthcare system today, we can’t remove oppression tomorrow, we can’t release the anxiety and stress that persists in our worsening sickness in this country by the end of the week. But as we work towards systemic change, how do we change our narrative today? How do I walk forward from last week and embrace the birth story that I want to carry with me?

For my first birth, nearly 5 years ago, my recollection of events…or really what I have embraced as my birth story…is quite different than others who may have experienced it or read about it in my medical chart. This time I want to do the same. Thus, I want to share both – the medical story as well as my story of love. They tell the exact same narrative, but they feel so different.

Thank you for walking this journey of healing with me. To move past the medicalization of my experience I need to share it. And sharing it with my voice over and over at this point feels really hard. Writing feels fulfilling, and is moving me through my grief. Thank you for grieving with me.

My birth story – from a place of fear

This is what you’ll find in my medical chart. The fear is what I am actively trying to flush from my body.

This pregnancy I knew two things: 1) I would likely grow another big baby as my first was 10lbs, and 2) as much as I was desperate for an uneventful vaginal delivery, I knew that this was the slimmest possible outcome for this birth.

It took 14 months to get pregnant. I even joke that a sure way to get pregnant is to make an appointment with an infertility specialist as it worked for us. I immediately experienced morning sickness and felt so sick until I was 20 weeks pregnant. It was bad enough that I chose to take daily medication to function throughout the day. My belly grew quickly which made others quick to comment, to even guess when I was ready even though they were off by months. In the 6th month, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes and started daily sugar testing. Even though my sugars never spiked and it was incredibly under control, provider after provider referred to this baby as a “diabetes baby.” Thirty-seven weeks in, my midwife finally said, “This is not a ‘diabetes baby’ but a ‘genetically big baby.'” After nearly 9 months, I finally felt justified after sharing week after week that my partner was a 10lb baby and I was 9 lbs.

This baby sat breech much of the pregnancy, so I had an ECV to turn them, with success. My midwife decided to do one last ultrasound at 38 weeks and 6 days and the estimated fetal weight was up to 10lbs 13oz. I was called upstairs to consult with the midwife and doctor and they had surprising news.

The amount of amniotic fluid I had was too high. This likely meant that there was stress on the baby and that they weren’t either peeing or swallowing enough. They would not let me go to term. I had to decide on an induction or schedule a cesarean section. The doctor, midwife and nurse said induction could be a great choice here. I already delivered one big baby, thus it was highly likely my body could do it again. We decided to schedule the induction for the next morning, as the fear that something was wrong was too high for me to wait any longer. And if my water broke at home, there was a chance that the cord could prolapse (come out with the water and get squished cutting off oxygen to the baby) creating an emergency.

My parents flew in to help and we wrapped up all the chores around the house. We even got some sleep, although anxious to get it all started. The plan was still a vaginal birth but I could choose a c-section at any time.

I spent the day starting at 3cm dilated, 30% effaced and +3. This meant that my body still had a long way to go and at +3, the baby’s head had not really engaged in my pelvis in preparation. After about 12 hours of pitocin (the induction medication), active labor had not started and there were no changes to my body. Up next was some medication to take overnight to try to soften the cervix and make some subtle change. It was also an opportunity to see where my body was at in regard to being asked to go into labor.

The next morning, I was almost 4cm, 40% effaced and +2.5ish, a little bit of improvement. The provider thought she might be able to break my water during a contraction safely and she believed that this is what I needed to get labor going since the medicine was having little effect. But, I’d first have to have at least 4 hours of pitocin as I needed 4 hours of penicillin in me to combat the strep B in my vagina that put the baby at risk (this is a common thing among many women as vaginas are filled with bacteria to keep them healthy and thriving; strep B can be passed to a baby during birth and can cause unfortunate outcomes if not treated preventively).

With these next steps established, I took a shower and had breakfast in preparation. But I was really nervous. This meant I was going to do this. Before they started any medications, the team turned over and I met the new doctor.

He was direct and specific in how he would deliver this baby – with an epidural and in an operating room. He had success in delivering babies with shoulder dystocia before but was taking no risk. I haven’t mentioned this earlier because it wasn’t the leading concern until this moment. In my first pregnancy, my daughter got stuck during labor and I needed extra help to get her out. Shoulder dystocia is where the baby’s shoulder gets stuck behind your pelvic bone. Some women can maneuver and get the baby out by changing positions, some with some help from the providers, and others by an emergency c-section. Time is of the essence here because there is a chance that the cord is being compressed, etc. The longer a baby is stuck, the higher the risk for serious outcomes. In my first pregnancy, with some help from the midwife and doctor, we got my daughter out quickly and we both did very well.

Until this moment, we had looked back at this as a factor to consider, but were not leading with the notion that it was guaranteed to happen again. The risk of a repeat shoulder dystocia is between 12 to 17%. Most providers talked about how my pelvis is much softer now and I had a much better chance of avoiding it. We also had spoken about paying close attention to my body, looking for prolonged pushing, failure to progress, etc.

When this doctor came in and said these words, both leading and ending with fearful statistics, I was absolutely crushed. He walked out and I burst into tears, in witness of the nurse and midwife. I shared how scary that was and how confused I was because his take was so much more extreme that what others had presented. His plan also took away any chance to listen to my body, which I was relying on. This was how I knew I was going to be able to do this, because I could listen and know what I needed in that moment. This is what I wanted my labor to be. No matter how this baby came into our world, I knew I needed my body to lead this path, my choices.

Ten minutes later, it got worse. The plan had changed again. They spoke to the pediatrician who was on for the delivery. They basically refused the option of a vaginal delivery at this hospital because they wanted the baby to have direct access to a NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) in case something happened (my daughter was transferred to a NICU after delivery not because of complications of the delivery but because she breath held – holding her breath until she turned blue…breath holding is common among toddlers but less among babies, and at the time they didn’t know why she was doing it). My remaining choices were now 1) I could choose a c-section at this hospital or 2) try to deliver vaginally at a larger hospital with a NICU on site in case if emergency.

I cried…a lot. I told the midwife how disappointed I was in how the doctor presented the options and in the team for not consulting the pediatrician the day before. My body was tired, and I spent a day trying to go into labor when I likely didn’t have to.

I was also so baffled. Everything that had happened to date was slight and they were treating the combination of these factors as making me incredibly high risk for the extreme outcomes. I was diagnosed with diabetes, but barely and my sugars never spiked. The amount of excess fluid was just over the threshold. The ultrasound showed a bigger baby but the margin of error was huge. My last pregnancy happened 5 years ago and even the complications there were well treated and minor.

They explained to me that they were coming into this with baggage. That they knew these outcomes and had witnessed them. That a stuck baby is their biggest fear as providers, that they must be ready for all of it.

Well, I came in with my baggage too, one I had contended with. But my body, my baggage was overridden by their fear. They did not open themselves to the possibility that my body might just lead us to the best possible outcome. That if we all paid attention, my body would say that the baby was too big, or that induction was not going to work, or that small signals along the way would guide our path to a healthy baby. This birth experience was no longer my own. It was rooted in their fear, their experiences, even though my body, my experiences were actually what was sitting on the table in front of them.

We were cornered and had little options. Going home could be too risky because of the potential for a cord prolapse and I was not in this to increase possibility for harm. So, my partner and I talked comprehensively and choose the c-section. This was the hospital I knew, the people I trusted (yes even though they were failing me here) and I couldn’t bear the thought of going to the bigger hospital where the outcome could be much the same and I didn’t know anyone or anything.

At 5:46pm I delivered our baby via c-section. They were 10lbs 5oz and their head was big. It was apparent I likely would not have had a successful vaginal delivery and certainly not under an epidural on an operating table resisting the natural movement of my body.

At about 7:30pm, I said goodbye to my family and was wheeled over to maternity. Within the hour, a nurse checked me and all I heard was “that’s too much blood.” A team of several folks came in and dosed me with pitocin and some other drug they gave in my thigh, but the bleeding wouldn’t stop. I took a third medication and it started to slow down. My blood pressure had plummeted and my heart rate was up. I began to shake uncontrollably as the medications raced through my system.

On one side of the room, my partner sat and held the baby. Somehow, he stayed calm. All I thought was “I am going to leave them; my husband and baby are going to watch me die.”

The bleeding persisted for much of the night but was much slower. The providers kept telling me to get some rest but I couldn’t bring myself to close my eyes in case they never opened again. It wasn’t until another late-night request from them, I said to one provider that I was too scared to rest. It was then that I was reassured that I was safe.

The next day it was determined that I lost too much blood and had two blood transfusions. I had trouble nursing as I barely had enough fluids for myself let alone my new baby. He dropped more than 10% of his weight in less than 4 days. We stayed five days total and all recovered together. His weight steadied, my milk came in and slowly my cheeks pinked up.

I have only shared this story with my parents, two of my friends, and my doula. I am not ready to share it verbally out loud just yet. The fear is still too strong. Plus, this brings into existence why my eyes are still slightly sunken, my skin is pale, and I am still quite weak. It also invites all the questions and comments that keep me rooted in this pain. Many tend to offer words of support such as “well it all worked out for the better” or “I know someone that this happened to” or even “God has his own path.” Right now, I just need my experience to sit with me. There is nothing anyone can say that erases this memory or the fear attached to it. I told these few people just to have others bear witness to this pain, telling just those who I knew could hold it and therefore hold me in their living silence.

We are all now home and doing much better. We are all safe. But I feel so much grief and sadness. All I wanted was an experience to be in my own body, but I feel betrayed. No one let me listen to my body, interventions led the way, and I experienced the narrative of birth in the United States.

My birth story – from a place of love

This is the story you’ll find in my body. This is what I am actively injecting into my heart.

Getting pregnant this time took longer than I had hoped or anticipated. It was so quick with my first pregnancy that we were beginning to think that maybe the first one was pure luck. But then I traveled to a magical place in western Canada where I focused on me, my body, my heart, my connection to this earth. In this place, mothering spoke to me so loudly. It was in my heart, in my words, in my visioning of the world I wanted to live in. One day during a daily meditation, we were thanking the earth for things like nourishment, life, water, etc. The word “fertility” bubbled out of me loudly and with conviction. When having my tarot cards read, I was told that my only assignment for this month was that of the Empress, to embrace my connection to the earth, my own mothering.

It was here in this magical place that the tiny zygote did most of its work, finally implanting in my womb. Shortly after being home we celebrated with tears and joy, simply elated that we were on our way. I couldn’t help but to feel that this baby was a gift from this great earth, from the ocean I bathed in, and from the overwhelming love that consumed me and my family this month.

Early on I was in touch with this pregnancy. I sensed male body parts only a few weeks in. For whatever reason I was sure that this baby would have white blonde hair just like my partner did as a child. This baby rarely interacted with others in the world, going quiet when foreign hands touched my belly but talking back to my own as daily conversation.

I was much sicker this time but I knew that every wave of nausea meant growth, it meant life. I envisioned the experience like the ocean with waves that were bigger and smaller, but persistent. Persistent with power, with momentum, all working towards the shore.

My belly grew quickly which meant everyone knew but I was okay because people shared their joy in this with me. People told me how beautiful I was, how miraculous I looked. They shared their amazement in the capacity of my body to hold and show such growth.

My daughter was a big baby and I knew I’d grow another big one. Genetically I was destined to. Being diagnosed with gestational diabetes was a hiccup but it was clear from the start that my diet was solid, that the sugars were not contributing to growth as they were already managed by my diet and lifestyle.

I envisioned a vaginal delivery, really hoping for a birth experience with less intervention this time. But as I got bigger, I settled into all the possibilities for birth including a cesarean section. I knew that my body was and is strong and wise and it would guide me to the outcome it needed to bring this child into this world. So, I took things one day at a time, making decisions as they came up, staying calm and in touch with me. I knew that if I did this, my body would tell me what I needed, it would lead the way.

I was also blessed to have met my doula through a shared cohort of people. At a book club session, I met her for the first time in person and I immediately felt deep connection to her. She shares so much love, wisdom, generosity, motherhood through her eyes. I wavered as to whether or not to ask her to stand with me, as we had only just met. But I just couldn’t ignore how much I wanted her there. We spoke occasionally and she guided me by deep listening as decision after decision came up. She spoke wise words that stuck with me throughout the experience, that the people who would help me deliver this baby would be the best team for me. They would be exactly who they should be, centered in their medicine.

A few weeks from full term, we went through with an ECV when my body and the baby were clear they needed some help to prepare for birth. This little body inside of me preferred seeing the world sitting in my lap, looking outwards towards the light (which has been incredibly reinforced by their love of light in the outside world already). But it was a surprise when I was told soon after that I had slightly too much amniotic fluid. My body typically likes a challenge, as I often have some random events that are minor but telling in what I need. An option for an induction was introduced and I was actually relieved. Before this, I was told that they wouldn’t induce due to the size of the baby alone, so maybe this meant a vaginal delivery could happen since baby would arrive slightly early. I was beginning to believe that I could deliver this baby on my own, that it was a possibility to have a medically uneventful vaginal birth.

The next day, we started the induction and I listened closely to my body. It was not progressing. We had a plan to try again the next day, but I was feeling not so sure. His head was high and I was beginning to think he was telling me he couldn’t do it, that we couldn’t do this safely or uneventfully, that he was too big. They next wanted to break my water to get things going, but hesitations became profound in my heart as the idea of breaking my water came with the risk of intervening too far, and moving forward without trusting my body. It was moving away from the plan to listen again and again.

Then I had a visitor. A night nurse from the birth center came to say hi. It was the midwife who delivered my daughter. She had retired a while back but was doing some nursing hours here or there. It was a beautiful surprise and I felt grateful to see her again as I had not seen her in nearly 4 years. When she left, I felt tears of familiarity, of safety, of reassurance. After my last birth, I remember her coming to see me afterwards and her telling me how powerful and strong I was. She even said that she believed one more push from me and I would have had the baby out on my own. I will never forget those words from her.

Feeling motivated to get back into the game of listening and considering options, I showered, had breakfast and felt renewed. My partner and I decided that we’d do four hours of pitocin as the next step and then decide what my body told us and how I felt about breaking my water. We had to wait that long anyhow so it gave some time to listen.

Then we got the news from the providers and pediatrician that they wanted either a c-section or a delivery elsewhere to ensure access to a NICU. They were concerned about the safety of the baby in case this baby got stuck like in my last pregnancy. They were working from a place of protection and I could hear that in their voices. But I felt disappointment and sadness in their distrust of me, in my capabilities to also participate in this birth process. Regardless, they were the deciding providers, this was their territory and I knew that I could not force them into a birth that they were not comfortable with, which in turn that I would not be comfortable with. Sorting through the options, I shared my disappointment with the team, their communication with me, and their lack of trust in my body and my history. Supported by a loving nurse and midwife, they offered listening ears and reassurance that any decision would be mine to make. But we were at a standstill. For myself, I knew immediately that a new hospital did not guarantee a different outcome but instead a new environment, new stresses and a complete lack of familiarity. So, we leaned towards the c-section.

Our decision was finalized when I heard which provider would lead it. He was coming on at 5pm – the same man who co-delivered my daughter 5 years ago. He retired a couple years back and very recently came back to help occasionally when they were short staffed. This was Friday morning and I had only heard of his return three days earlier. One of my colleagues shared of his return and I remembered feeling a 50% reduction in my anxiety knowing that he was nearby. I even reached out via email, making a joke that if I was having a hard time, I’d be hollering his name down the hallway. I gave him an update on my daughter and shared a recent picture of her twirling in joy.

Five years ago, I had a dream during my first pregnancy that my daughter got stuck. In the dream, I yelled for this provider. I knew him through work, both as a person and as a skilled provider. When he walked in to deliver my daughter I knew that we’d be okay. Hearing his name this time again, did just the same – I was going to be okay.

Two connections to the two providers who delivered my first felt profound. The world felt circular and I knew we made the right decision putting this delivery into his hands.

He walked in shortly after 5pm and immediately went up to my daughter and made a joke about how she was just slightly bigger than when he saw her last. He made us all laugh and I felt at ease. It was time for round #2 and he was ready.

During the surgery he was his sarcastic self, working with another provider on delivering my beautiful baby who he referred to as a linebacker. He asked me if I knew the “flavor” of the baby and how big I thought this baby was, etc. I was never scared, just anxious to hold my baby and see my family.

In the operating room, I got to experience tears of joy when my partner and I heard his cry for the first time. The baby knew my voice immediately and I held him close cheek to cheek while he settled his cries. When we got back to the room, he latched right away, feeding voraciously. I got to see my daughter’s face when she came in and saw him for the first time. I got to announce his name to all this time without frantic intervention getting in the way. I got to have both of my parents, my doula, my partner, my daughter all participate in this overwhelming joy and love.

After saying goodnight to my family and doula, I held him close as we went to our next room. I handed him to my partner, watching him hold him close, breath in the scent of his hair, and I just reveled in their beauty.

Shortly after, things got a bit scary as I lost a lot of blood. A team worked quickly to stop it, in unison in their approach. It was incredibly overwhelming but I just kept looking over at my partner who was holding our new baby. Neither made a sound during the whole ordeal. Somehow, they both stayed calm. I tried to stay present in that. I knew my body and he knew his. The sense of impending doom was my side effect, not his. There was no way I could possibly leave either of them.

The provider team never panicked but simply worked with urgency. Their confidence in the result was evident as they came in to check less and less frequently and even encouraged me to get some rest. After some reassurance I obliged.

The next morning the provider who delivered my kids came in and explained that carrying a big baby with extra fluid can make it more difficult for the uterus to contract as strongly or as quickly after the surgery, but that it was doing its job now. I remember first wishing he told me about this increased risk, but then shortly after realizing that he likely hoped it was wasn’t a possibility.

He made a joke about me starting the zombie apocalypse with my paleness from the loss of blood, and then said he wanted to give me a transfusion. It was for my benefit and would ramp up my mothering in the days to come or I might be looking at a long, tough recovery. He reassured me in my recovery by sharing his own story of surgery and needing a transfusion earlier in his life.

Two transfusions later, I felt like a new person. And every day since I get that feeling again and again as my body fights its way back to itself. It’s incredibly hard to watch my daughter and see fear in her eyes and confusion as to why this recovery is so hard. But we decided the new blood has given me superpowers and were just waiting to see what they are.

Over the days following, many of the provider team along the way came in to visit. Some even apologized for the fear that was created in pushing me to make a decision about this delivery. I was grateful to be in a place with such honesty and humility in treating their patients.

My parents stayed with my daughter through it all, keeping her busy, informed, and they visited daily. My doula brought me delicious healing soup and tea. She held my words of fear and reality with a simple soft cushion of love. No one felt the need to commiserate, or offer advice, or tell me it was okay. Instead, they sat, they loved, they told me I was beautiful and we all healed together.

I now sit here with a sore scar reminding me of my baby’s journey into our lives, a body flowing with the loving gift of a donor who is giving me my strength back, and surrounded by a group of people who tell me how much healthier I look, how strong I am. I feel the aches with every movement in my body, see my sunken eyes, and feel the grief in my heart when I have to remind my daughter that I cannot hold her yet. But I know this is only days away as I am only getting stronger. A few missed days of this are painful, but the feeling I’ll have when I get to pick her up again will be so overwhelming, it will erase most of this.

This birth didn’t go as “planned,” not that it really ever is. But the plan for a family of four securely led by love and support never wavered. This is my birth story. Running my fingers through my newborn baby’s hair. Meeting my partner’s tired eyes in the middle of the night while we’re relearning night feedings. Watching my daughter adore and dote on her new sibling. Feeling bliss from the loving foot soaks made by my doula who is forever my family. Watching the overwhelming love pour from my parents’ hearts and eyes as their hold their grandbaby. Reveling in the circular nodes of life in having a birth provider team who was exactly meant to be there. Receiving an abundance of prayers, love, and messages from the second I went in to be induced and continuing through each morning since. Remembering that this baby is a gift from the earth, named for the earth, and a connection to our ancestors.

This, folks, is my birth story. Everyone wants to know the details of the first, but I choose the second. I do not dismiss the reality of the first, both stories are true. But I choose to inherit the beauty of it all, the love, the strength in my own body to grow a human, to survive. This second story gives me growth, hope, joy and love. It puts power to my truth, my voice. It does not strip me of my choices, my body’s brilliance, my life. It works to highlight that every birth is a journey and this journey was mine.

Maternity photo by Crabapple Photography.

Birth update

Hey folks – thank you all for liking and reading this blog. I wanted to give an update that I expect to slow down a bit these next few weeks. 6 days ago I gave birth to a gorgeous little human. We are all doing well and I look forward to sharing more through writing when this beautiful chaos settles a bit. xo

“But I’m a good white person, right?”

“But I’m a good white person, right?” my kid asked me the other night. As we were sitting in her bed, I wanted to show her a video of a chicken greeting its owner at a school bus stop because I knew it would make her laugh. In the process of scrolling through my social media feed, it was inevitable that his face would show up. She always says his name the same way, with a scrunched up face and a grunt, “Donald Trump.” She also asks what each picture is about and in this case it was about his comments on “shithole” countries. I explained that he said something racist and upsetting, referring to places where many black and brown people live as bad places to live.

She wanted to know why, so I shared that he believes that how white people live is better than how other races live. I also shard the irony in this belief as here where we live, it’s the white people that make it not such a nice place to live and especially not for black and brown people.

This is then when she said, “But I’m a good white person, right?” She has said this before, and I am quickly realizing the conflict she experiences. As a white family, with many white friends and white people in our lives, she is struggling with the little kid notion of “good people” and “bad people.” At this age, she is not in a place to understand that the system we live in is the problem, not an entire race of people, and certainly not herself.

My answer to this question has remained the same: “Remember, there are no good people and bad people, but instead just people who can do good or bad things. We and our family are working to make good choices to try to get rid of the bad things people are doing.”

This time I went a little further to test her understanding, “The place where we live, this country, has made it so white people get more things than black and brown people. And it’s unfair because we as white people didn’t do anything to deserve it. Imagine if you went to a school where all of the white kids got cookies every day just because they were white, but none of the black or brown kids ever got them. That’s wouldn’t be fair right?”

“Right,” she said, “but that would only happen to **** in my school.” I hesitated in response, as what was interesting about her awareness is that the kid she mentioned  presents as white, meaning I believe society reads their body as a white. In full honesty, I do not know their race or their ethnicity, and I named this for her and she was confused. I explained race a little further saying that we don’t know anything about this kid’s ancestors or what stories were passed along to them from their parents (we explain DNA as stories, from the book “What Makes a Baby” by Corey Silverberg) and that most of the time we can’t know unless they tell us. But it was so interesting to me, that she, even at 4 1/2 years old, has picked up on the possible differences in ethnicity among her classmates. I suppose I should feel good that she is being racially explicit, but my inner white socialization feels some disappointment in how she already has categorized her friends. I am doing some personal work to push myself beyond this statement to remember that I need her to see race and differences, or she will never see the differences in treatment or inequities within our world.

It also spoke to me clearly of the lack of representation in her school. I too have mixed feelings on this. I do wish that her school was more diverse, but I also recognize that it’s in a district where mostly white folks live. We as parents have made a conscious decision to expose her to other races of people through our friends and family, TV, books, toys, etc. We have no intention of enrolling her in a school simply for diversity. We recognize the inherent harm that already exists with her whiteness and that we are not in this to create “exposure” to other people’s lives to learn. We have the tools and methods to teach her and besides, the core work for us is with other white folks to change the system. On her own, she will develop deep relationships with people of color, I have not doubt in that.

Next year, she will go to kindergarten which will shift her experience on race. Here are a few things I have already learned about this town I live in. The school she is districted in, is mostly kids of color, more than half in fact. Every other elementary school, all 5 of them, are majority white kids, with some as high as 80% white. I also learned that to be in all day kindergarten, the fee is $3,500 for the year. If you live within two miles of the school, the bus is not free and costs $235 a year. More than 37% of the kids in her soon to be school have more than 9 unexcused absences in a year. Remember, I am talking about 5-10 year olds here. I live in a town that is racially segregated. Most of the kids of color live within her school district and within 2 miles of her school. Clearly, I have a lot to work with as an invested parent in pushing the school system to do better.

As she preps for kindergarten, she is so excited to go. I know she will find so much joy, but will also have so many questions as she will see some of these inequities. She already points things out regularly to me when she sees them. It’s also going to be a new challenge as a parent to explain how these inequities also impact her. This will open the opportunity to really talk about structural racism and how it impacts all of us. I know she will go to school next year with love and intention. And I have no doubt she will make change with every step she takes. So no, we’re not “good white people.” But I know she is a good human who wants this world to be good for everyone. If I can continue to uplift that inner desire in her heart as she grows and learns, that’s a win for me. It’s also a win for our future.

Is pregnancy a diagnosis?

I just spent two days feeling like a medical experiment. “Raising Justice” is about parenting, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t include what it’s like to parent while your kid is in the womb. We already make decisions for them before they can even survive on their own, breath in air, or open their eyes to the world. And we have to do this within a healthcare system that is a mess, and completely overwhelming.

My approach to pregnancy and birth has been to focus on as much strength as I have and to feel the beauty of it. My pregnancy is not a diagnosis, it is a part of life that has been in existence well before any medical model came into play. It’s a part of our humanity. Today I feel tired of being treated like an experiment, like I am hosting an unpredictable virus, and that it’s up to me to ensure the life of this baby by making the “right” decisions for care.

This baby has sat breech in my uterus since early on. They have chosen to pretty much sit in my lap, facing forward experiencing the world through the light and colors coming through the stretched belly skin creating his home. The whole time, I just thought how amazing, them sitting on my lap, seeing the world through my womb, literally. This baby has always liked it this way, wanting to participate and experience…waking up to music, new foods, new sounds, and new people. But two days ago, I was told that all of a sudden this is unacceptable anymore for him to be in this position. I knew in my heart that this baby would turn at some point if they could, that so many babies turn last second and that it’s completely normal. But I grow big babies, so the fear was this one couldn’t do it because of their size.

This came up when I met a new provider who decided this couldn’t wait. There was too much risk for baby to run out of room. So she scheduled me for an ECV (external cephalic version) procedure which is where they manually turn the baby with their hands on your belly. No big deal, until randomly she mentioned, “Oh and don’t eat or drink after midnight as there is a chance for an emergency cesarean section.” My anxiety spiked immediately.

I spent all day conflicted, trying to figure out what was best and decided I’d feel out where I was at in the morning when I got there…as this was scheduled to happen the very next day. I spent the evening before doing some gymnastic-like moves, putting music between my legs, and placing ice packs on my belly to try to get baby to flip on their own. I could feel him trying, he even got pretty sideways, but he never went the whole way. “She might be right,” I thought. So the next morning we were off. Walking to the car, I heard a hawk shout out. Oddly, this immediately created a sense of calm and I said to myself, “This is all going to be okay.”

I was set up for hours, with an IV, being monitored etc. Everyone was nice, but I was in a place that reminded me of all I hate that we’ve turned pregnancy into. I was asked over and over if it was a boy or a girl, if we had chosen a name, etc. Normally, I say it’s a surprise, but my medical chart would confirm my lie. I felt too focused on the nerves in my body to ask people to stop, or to even talk about why we are not gendering this baby. Everyone had advice on a baby with male parts, that they’re more trouble, etc. I was already exhausted by this chatter, but it got really hard when several providers harped on a past pregnancy complication, shoulder dystocia. To date, my midwife had mentioned it once or twice, but without fear or intention, and simply to answer questions about any concerns. So I was quite surprised when it was mentioned by all of the providers and nurses as if it was the present diagnosis we were dealing with.

My first pregnancy for my daughter was five years ago and I was put on bed rest as a precaution to suspected preterm labor. I ended up delivering her at 41 weeks, and she was 10 pounds. Upon her exit, she got stuck, for about 1 minute. Her status wasn’t so great, but they fixed her right up and me too.

Yesterday, they harped on this shoulder issue, and many asked me if she’s developmentally ok. I was even reassured that they “always catch up.” Ironically, I gave birth to her in this same hospital with the same provider system. I couldn’t help but wonder if they actually doubted the skills of their providers to handle this not so uncommon emergency? My provider team was brilliant in their response and got her out quick with little complication, because they were a well trained team to handle it. So my confidence is a bit diminished 5 years later. The provider who saw me yesterday basically told me that I am guaranteed a repeat situation and I should consider a C-section (statistics show a chance of about 17% for repeat should dystocia). This organization prides themselves on one of the lowest C-section rates in the state and even nationally. This was so counter-intuitive to what I knew. I kindly declined the offer to make a decision right then and said we’d take it one day at a time. *Please note that I have nothing against C-sections, but I felt incredibly confused by being talked into one all of sudden. Having one does not scare me, in fact I embrace whatever brings this baby into the world. But being talked into a decision I was not ready for is scary.

Needless to say the procedure went fine. As I knew already, this organization has a brilliant team of providers who are incredibly skilled in their work. They were quickly able to rotate the baby with little to no stress on anyone or anything except my own nerves. This and I talked to him for a while in the hospital bathroom asking him to trust me, that we needed to flip to be sure we can do this together. (I still believe his lack of struggle was this trust in me – he didn’t move a muscle but completely relaxed as they turned him). Additional note: I was told later that this was one of the easiest version procedures they have every done; this connection between me and this baby is profound and I wish more providers recognized this capability.

I knew that I’d be sore the next day and I was, but I didn’t expect the cloud of doom I’d feel in my heart. I have been working towards a birth experience that is mine to own. And when I say this, I mean that this is my body and I am going to love what it is capable of. This includes all ways this baby can emerge into this world. I have been embracing all options, but holding out hope that this time, I might get to experience birth without being a diagnosis, without intense socialization and expectations of childbirth. The type of delivery does not define this, the experience of care is what does.

I’d be lying if I didn’t admit feeling defeated. Throughout this experience, I did not feel I was trusted as a parent. I did not feel that this system is justice, that this system exists to bring me into motherhood. Instead, I felt like this system exists to distance me from my body, to diagnose, to promote medical intervention as the “smart choice.” I even felt that I was scolded, that I must be an idiot for not considering that if I “risk” another vaginal delivery, my child could be harmed for life. It would be all my fault. I would have done this to him. I can’t even get into my feelings on this in one post alone – the assumption of blame on the birth parent, and the otherness of any person with a mental or physical ability difference.

I have been teaching my daughter about childbirth, about our bodies, their capabilities, their strength, resilience, power. Thanks goodness she wasn’t there to experience this. It was the opposite of what she believes of her own body, what she believes in mine. I just imagined her face, crushed as she realized that maybe I ever put her in jeopardy as a baby. Or that I would even make a decision selfishly instead of considering other people involved, like this baby.

I have great people in my life who I know will help me get back to a settled mindset before this baby comes. The love and power and energy from others is hard to miss. But I can’t get over why anyone would ever want to strip me of that. This system is a mess, this system is rigged, this system is injustice. This is my experience as a white cis straight woman who works in the organization I am seeking services in. I can’t even imagine the experience of others.

This is why I write, this is why I do this work, this is why I teach her. If she ever chooses to take a pregnancy to term, this darn well better be different.

To all of the people who have ever had a pregnancy, are pregnant, want a pregnancy, or know someone with a pregnancy, I am turning this frustration into love for you all. For a better system, for better care, for better trust in us as parents and caregivers. Pregnancy is life, I am life, we are life.

Maternity photo by Crabapple Photography.