Right off the bat, I must confess that I am writing this at 37 weeks pregnant and racked in pain. I had every intention of writing an eloquent reflection on mothers, as we have just celebrated Mother’s Day, and add my knowledge to my experience and pull it together to witness to the great power that resonates from every mother.
However, I have no intellect left. I have no knowledge beyond the present; I am a wash of tiredness, pain and a feeling of a crumpled, unredeemable mess. Yet, as I pondered how to write an eloquent post on mothers in such a state, I realized that perhaps I am best fit for the task. No, it might not be eloquent, but it would be real, true, and utterly woman.
In addition to the pregnancy I have the joy of rheumatoid arthritis to throw into the mix. I cannot stand before you very long; nor can I sit for very long; in fact, I am not comfortable anywhere. I need to keep moving to avoid the extra pain and yet all I want to do is to stop and rest. I know I am not alone; I know that many other mothers have far more trying pregnancies and complications than I have ever experienced, but when you are in the moment it is real to you. When the baby settles down into your pelvis and you feel your hips are about to break in pieces, it is real to you. At that moment, you cannot think beyond it, reason out of it or look past it. Your pain permeates everything.
Some people look to this sacrifice and call it insane. (In fact, in those moments I might join them.) Yet, does it gain us anything to stay perfectly clean? What life can we live if we never stretch ourselves? We may remain unstretched, untouched, unblemished, but a far worse cruelty awaits the pristine. It is a lack of life, a lack of love, a lack of being emptied and renewed.
Human beings must be emptied before any new life or love can flow into their souls. They must lay it all down, go out on a limb, live life to the brim, take the chances, stretch until it hurts and then continue anyway and go the extra mile. No one gained extraordinary feats in life by playing it safe, staying secure, keeping themselves unbothered and pain free. It is in her greatest pain, that woman finds her greatest triumph.
When all intellect shuts down and one is merely breathing through the next pain, she can stretch with her heart. She can reach a place of comfort and understanding that is a connection of the heart not the head, which is often fogged and disoriented anyway. She can feel the presence of the eternal – the life that makes her belly shake and kick, endowed with a spirit, a soul that will now last for all eternity. She is mother nature housing the infinite nature of life; she is a co-creator connecting with the Divine; she is carrying of the future of humanity.
How dare we have anything but respect for her. If the mother did not empty herself, allow herself to be crumpled, demolished, stretched, torn, broken, there would be no more humanity.
Sometimes it seems there is nothing left to give and yet life keeps demanding more. Life demands sacrifice. Love demands sacrifice. Our humanity demands sacrifice and giving of yourself to others. We are not autonomous beings, but we are meant to be in relation with one another. Indeed, it is only in giving ourselves away that we truly find ourselves. Women find their greatest triumph, their most spectacular success of life, when they give over everything they have, everything they knew to be their reality, and take a chance on new life.
Thank God mothers have been willing to take that chance.
For further reading on the greatness of womanhood, please check out my book “Woman, How Great Thou Art.”
This theme has been cropping up since we first heard the devastating news from the ultrasound technician, ”The baby’s heart isn’t beating.” At that moment I would have traded my own heart if it meant my baby’s might begin to beat again. But that was not to happen. As the tears rolled down my face I couldn’t help but think that in that very same hospital there might be a woman equally as scared and uncertain as I was at that moment, but her baby’s heart WAS beating – and she was about to ask the doctors to make it stop. This diabolical dichotomy plays out every day in hospitals all over this country. Women learn that the children they longed to hold won’t be born, or if they are born, they are still – the life already gone from their perfect little bodies. At the same time there are women who are waiting to rid themselves of what this society has termed ‘a problem.’ Women who are scared, who don’t know or wont admit the Truth about the life they carry – and are about to destroy. This duality has reaches that go beyond the political issue of abortion.
As I waited for my baby’s body to be born I went to work gathering information and making arrangements so that we could have a proper burial for our daughter. As I went about this task I made some startling and dismaying discoveries.
I learned just how fortunate I was to have a hospital that would honor our request to bury our daughter by releasing her remains to a funeral home. I also learned how incredibly fortunate I was to have contacted a compassionate funeral director who would do whatever he had to in order to obtain the very important Certificate of Fetal Death (also known as Certificate of Fetal Demise).
You see, in most states, unless you are at a private hospital (and even then it might not matter), babies still-born under 20 weeks of gestation, or any fetal remains of a miscarriage or D & C must be treated as medical waste. Yes that’s right, if I had been in some other hospital when I delivered Claire’s beautiful, intact body, she would have been discarded as medical waste. In many places it is next to impossible for parents to obtain the remains of their babies or have them released to a funeral home for a proper burial. Since Life Insurance Policies do not cover Miscarried or Stillborn children the costs of a funeral and all the necessities are often too high for a family who wasn’t expecting to have to bury a baby. (Granted, there are Churches like mine who have Cemeteries and who offer discounts for situations like ours. Likewise, the Funeral Home offered its services free of charge, and only asked that we pay for the Vaulted Coffin – which is required by law – and the headstone.) This leaves women the option of miscarrying at home, which is often what happens before 12 weeks anyway, but in cases like mine there are greater risks of complications. Actually two different people – one a physician, and another a nurse – remarked that I risked my life by waiting to deliver my baby!
Claire was around 15 or 16 weeks old when her heart stopped beating. I was over 18 weeks when I finally checked into the hospital to be induced. Why did I wait? The advice I got at the first ER visit was to have a D & C (Dilation and Curettage – which usually ends up being a Dilation and Suction). The doctor warned me of some of the risks of waiting ‘too long’ – the risk of infection and hemorrhaging (which I have a history of when it comes to delivering full term babies). Then I saw the ultrasound picture. There was my baby. She was perfect. Her body was perfectly formed and totally intact. (Sometimes the body begins to break down.) In my heart I knew there was no way I could do a D & C. I had absolutely no peace with that idea. I saw my daughter. She deserved to be treated with dignity. Her beautiful little body deserved to be buried, just like any other person’s. I would do everything I could to treat her body with the respect she, as a child of God, deserved. The ER doctor told me I could try to wait it out and prescribed some uber-pain killers if I went that route. Just getting handed a prescription paper for Vicodin and Percocet made me shudder. This was going to hurt.
Two days later I ended up back in the ER because I felt like I was in labor and I had other ‘symptoms’ on the “Come Back to the ER If…” list they had given me the first time I had been there. I sat in the waiting room for 5 hours – all the while my labor like pains were intensifying. By the time I was taken into an exam room I couldn’t talk through contractions and I felt just like I did every other time I’d given birth – intense pain that made me pretty much wish for death. The nurse tried to help as best she could. She was just out of nursing school and had no children of her own. She looked at me mid-contraction (they were 2-3 minutes apart lasting 90+ seconds, and were of course, in my back. Back labor is a specialty of mine…) ”So how bad are your cramps?” I tried to stay relaxed and whispered, “its not a cramp. Its back labor.” Breathe, I reminded myself. ”Ok, um..” she tried again, “so on the pain scale would you say you’re at a 5 yet?” That actually got me to open my eyes. I looked at her and tried my best to not cop an attitude. ”No, I answered, I’d say I’m at about a 12.” ”Oh. And where exactly do you feel the cramping?” I exhaled as another one geared up. ”I do not feel cramping,” I tried to explain. ”I feel like 2 giant knives are being stabbed into my lower back and slowly dragged around my sides towards my belly button. Then the knives get mashed around my abdomen, and down towards my legs.” ”Oh” she said with wide eyes, “Is that what back labor feels like?” I tried not to look like I felt at that moment – like a giant science experiment. ”It does for me,” I answered. ”Well,” she said uncertainly, ‘the doctor will be in soon.” Half an hour later the doctor waltzed in. ”You’re not in labor. You’re cramping. You only go into labor with real babies.” Thankfully for him I was in the middle of a particularly painful contraction, otherwise I think I would have kicked him. That was when the chills and nausea started. I secretly hoped that I WOULD puke and in my mind, I aimed it right at him. How dare he say that my baby wasn’t real! ”My baby is real!” I hissed. ”She isn’t alive anymore, but that doesnt make her any less real or less loved.” He scribbled away on his notepad and ordered some kind of medication be given to me. He said once the meds kicked in he’d do an exam. Well, those meds, whatever they were, made me higher than a kite, and they also stopped the contractions. His exam proved disappointing to him, because he “couldn’t easily grab anything out.” Boy did THAT comment make me want to run for the hills! He eventually handed me a cup and baggie. ”I’m sure this will all be over by tomorrow. Just catch as much as you can and put anything resembling a fetus in the cup. Make sure the lids on tight and bring it back after you’re done.” He tried to insist one more time that “it wasn’t a real baby.” Lucky for him I was still a little loopy from the drugs.
We headed home dazed and infuriated. I knew one thing for sure, there was no way I’d put my baby in a cup and no way I’d ever give the body of my baby to that man. So we hunkered down at home, scared out of our wits because of my history of bleeding too much. I found a beautiful wooden box and took out my wedding handkerchief. I readied some other items. Then it was time to pray and wait. ”Baby Claire,” I would pray, “just let me be able to honor your body and bury you.”
During the next week we waited and prayed. I worked with the Funeral Home and they talked me through some of the finer points of my situation. I spent hours upon hours on the phone with various departments of the hospital trying to obtain a Certificate of Fetal Death so I wouldn’t have to go back or bring Claire’s body into the hospital to be “officially declared dead.” After two days of maddeningly fruitless phone calls – no one seemed to know what to tell me or who I should talk to, I called the Funeral Home in tears, terrified I wouldn’t be able to bury my baby after all. The extremely kind gentleman assured me to not worry and said that he would take care of obtaining the all-important certificate. What a blessing to have that weight off my shoulders. That was when I learned that it is actually Abortion Law that makes it illegal in so many places to obtain the remains of a miscarried or still-born baby under 20 weeks for burial. The Abortion Laws have decided that under 20 weeks, a baby isn’t a “real baby.” The Abortion Laws make it necessary for a Funeral Home to file a Certificate of Fetal Death if you want to bury your child in a Cemetery, and they are hard to get if the baby is less than 20 weeks. The sheer lunacy of these ‘laws’ made my head spin. I was terrified that I would have to fight to be able to bury my baby, or worse yet, not be able to. I was even more scared of experiencing complications at home.
I was stuck in an extremely uncomfortable, crampy, latent labor-like state and was beginning to get concerned about infection and sepsis (of which I only later learned I was at extreme risk). I finally made an appointment with the OB listed on the ER discharge papers. He was the first medical professional who actually listened to me long enough to understand my situation, my concerns, and my desires. He did his own exams and ultrasound and pretty much discounted what both ER docs had said. He immediately recommended an induction. Thank God for this man who worked out the details and got me on the hospital schedule.
That was how I ended up in Labor and Delivery holding my tiny baby after 7 hours of labor. The Funeral Director came personally to the L & D floor and I was able to give my baby, perfectly formed, wrapped in the handkerchief and laid in the wooden box to the extremely compassionate nurse, who in turn gave her directly to the Funeral Director. At that moment, I felt more peace than I had in weeks. A few days later we had a burial service for our daughter Claire. A small group of family and friends gathered at the cemetery for the burial service for our dear little baby. As we drove home, I felt extremely sad, but I had an even deeper inner peace.
Now that I’ve had a few weeks to digest and ponder all that has happened I can’t shake the idea that some of the frustrations I encountered are because our society, and most notably the medical community is not encouraged to be Pro-Life. I actually had a doctor tell me that I wasn’t carrying a “real baby!” I mean, how can you even say that, unless you have skewed understanding of what Life is?
I think what makes me furious is that my story is far from unique. I’ve had a couple of people tell me I am brave for “risking my life” so that I could bury my baby. It sounds like I should feel like some sort of hero. I mean heroes risk their lives, me? I’m just a mother who desperately wanted to do right by her child. I felt like the only thing I could do for her was bury her. I’m no hero, I’m not brave. I’m furious! If I had been 14 weeks pregnant and walked into a Planned Parenthood Office asking for an Abortion would I have been treated the way I was in the ER? Would I have been given the brush off? No. I would have been swept into an office and “cared for.” (At least that’s the way they try to make the women who come into their offices feel.)
What if I had been in labor with a full term, healthy baby? Would I have been forced to wait in a waiting room for 5 hours? Would nurses have tried to convince me that I wasn’t in labor? Would my baby have been dismissed as being “not real?” Of course not!
What if I had delivered an extremely premature baby? Wouldn’t the doctors have done everything they could to save him or her? Wouldn’t that baby be given special care until he or she was healthy and strong? Would any doctor say that a tiny prematurely born baby, fighting for life wasn’t a “real baby?” No way!
Why then, did I have the experience that I did? Why do women all across our country have similar, or worse experiences, when all they want is medical care during a scary, uncertain, extremely sad time. Why are their babies dismissed and discarded as “medical waste?” Why is it so hard for parents to simply bury their children?
We need to be more Pro-Life, and truly Pro-Woman. The biggest deception that the pro-abortion lobby has forced upon us is that they truly care about women. Women have a “right to choose” they like to tout. They like to float these phrases “women deserve access to quality medical care.” Yeah that sounds reasonable, but all they really mean is “access to abortion.” When it comes to truly receiving medical care – do you think we get it? You know what? WE DON’T. We don’t have the “right to choose” to bury our babies if they die in the womb before 20 weeks. Women often do not have the right to quality medical care and supervision during a miscarriage – not if they want to be able to bury their child or their child’s remains. Do you call being dismissed and handed a cup “quality medical care?” I was appalled to learn just how at risk I was of some severe and life-threatening complications. Is that quality care? How is forcing women to choose between receiving medical care and being able to bury their babies an advancement for women? How is that protecting a woman’s right to choose? Why can’t women choose to receive quality care AND be able to bury the remains of their babies?
This is a Pro-Life Issue, because it is abortion that has muddied the waters of medicine. Abortion, which is supposed to be so freeing and liberating to women, is tying the hands of the women who just want to honor the babies that they will never hold.
It is abortion that has perpetrated this fraud upon us – telling us that if your baby dies in the womb “Its not a real baby.” How else could abortion survive? The minute the medical community admits that “it IS a real baby,” abortions’ days are numbered. When the medical community finally gets its act together and treats all babies with respect – born, pre-born, still-born, or deceased in the womb – abortion is finished.
This is perhaps an untapped portion of the Fight to be Pro-Life. We (and rightly so) concentrate so much on abortion that we, as a Pro-Life people, often overlook the smaller battles of the same war. Until I lived through the nightmare of losing a baby I had no idea that women and parents all over the country were silently suffering because they were denied the right they have as parents to properly mourn and bury and their children. In a country that likes to brag about how tolerant and accepting it is, this is a travesty that simply cannot be excused. In this “great and progressive country of ours” you have the right to murder your child. But not to bury your child.
Yes my friends, its about being Pro-Life. Perhaps as a Pro-Life people we should seek to correct this egregious wrong. In doing so we will be advancing the Pro-Life cause, securing the right of parents to bury their babies’ remains, regardless of gestational age, and therefore witnessing to the fact that the babies themselves have a Right to Life, and they also have the right to be buried – to be treated as the beautiful tiny persons that they are.
**A Special Note from the Author**
I wrote this piece several years ago for my personal blog when we lost our daughter, Claire. Since that time I have become part of the Guiding Star Project. Guiding Star was the very first organization I found that seeks to offer women that “quality care” I discussed above. Including peri-natal hospice care as an part of Guiding Star’s services made my heart sing! Finally! An organization that understands that building a Culture of Life means treating ALL life – born and pre-born – with dignity! Finally! An organization that would empower and support grieving parents! Finally! A place where women could go to be presented with REAL options and REAL care, REAL support, and REAL life-affirming, woman-affirming services! I continue to be so honored to be part of the Guiding Star Project and working to “Light the Way to a Culture of Life!”
“No one here is going to tell you that you can’t breastfeed your baby, but here are your daughter’s test results,” the doctor told me as I looked longingly at my four week old daughter. She had an IV on the top of her head, was just taken off of oxygen support, and was being nourished by a feeding tube through her nose. We had been in the NICU nearly a week, and without anything by mouth the whole time there, my daughter was sucking furiously on her pacifier, a weak substitution for the satiety that comes from suckling.
There was a diagnosed problem with the way my daughter was eating, and couldn’t be discharged until she demonstrated she could eat safely. I went back and forth with the doctor as we discussed a feeding plan. The ones that worked weren’t what I wanted, and what I wanted just wasn’t safe. At the end of a circle of questions, there were only two safe options that would help prevent another hospitalization. My child was unable to drink breastmilk. If I wanted to take her home, she would either need a feeding tube, or a special formula.
Having a fourth baby is daunting when the other three are still quite young, however, the fourth time around I had a comfort level with the demands of caring for a baby. “I’ve changed lots of diapers, lost lots of sleep,and nursed for hours on end. It’s going to be hard for awhile, but I’ve got this,” I thought to myself.
And then, something wasn’t quite right. It happened so gradually that I wasn’t immediately alarmed; a different child meant different challenges, or so I thought. It was finally the fresh eyes of my mother who urgently told me, “She needs to see a doctor right now.” Then began a whirlwind week that started with a hospital admission, then an ambulance run to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
Finding a new groove with making , feeding, and washing bottles at home now, the impact of how mothers feed their babies has hit me square in the face. You see, I’m a breastfeeding mother. I nursed my three sons on demand for as long as they allowed me. I nursed anywhere, anytime. Truck stops, restaurants and a baseball stadium have all been accompanied by me, my nursing baby, and the telltale blanket to cover us. Breastfeeding my children is so much of how I mother that it is who I am as a mother.
I’m not nursing this baby. I know how to nurse and I make enough milk. I’ve persevered through mastitis, thrush, engorgement, and all sorts of other breastfeeding nightmares that can accompany nursing mothers at one point or another. But this time I can’t, and not for lack of desire or convenience. When drinking breastmilk, instead of my daughter sucking and swallowing like my other babies did, she inhales, or aspirates it, which then causes pneumonia and respiratory problems. Before her, I hadn’t heard of this problem. And, while it can occur in isolation, it can also be a symptom of many underlying, more serious conditions, which, we discovered, is the case for my child.
It’s heartbreaking not to nurse my baby, and the views on breastfeeding have shifted so much in our generation that to mix and bottle feed in public can seem embarrassing. How odd, I’ve thought, that I can confidently expose my breasts while nursing in public, but bottle feeding is what causes me to blush. Mothers have been told, and rightly believe that “Breast is Best,” and support for breastfeeding is practically public policy. I agree. However, feeding my baby formula has changed my own preconceived notions, and forced me to take a honest look at judgments I had about bottle feeding.
First, the way we feed our children has nothing to do with how much we love them. We hear a lot about bonding and attachment, and how breastfeeding encourages it. Because breastfeeding requires so much personal contact, I believe that a breastfeeding mother is often naturally attached to her child. However, that doesn’t correlate to a bottle-feeding mother being less attached. Each of my four children have been deeply attached and loved by both their mother and father. My love for my daughter is no less diminished because she is not breastfed.
Secondly, breast or bottle-feeding doesn’t make a mother “good” or “bad.” While the qualities of a good mother are difficult to define, we often know her when we see her. Breastfeeding is a sacrificial act. Mothers use their bodies to carry, birth and then nourish their child. This is natural and beautiful, even though it requires the mother to give, seemingly, all of herself to her child. Where I think many women have gone astray though, is the perception that they are only as a good as the degree to which they sacrifice themselves. Labeling a mother as “good” or, “not quite as good” on the basis of how much they martyr themselves is a very sad societal pendulum swing.
Third and finally, is that bottle-feeding mothers, just like breastfeeding ones, need support and encouragement. If a mother is not breastfeeding, she shouldn’t need to answer to the public for it. The last thing a mother of an infant needs is to defend the way she feeds her child. Before my situation, I was admittedly biased against women who didn’t breastfeed. I was unaware there was any such thing as a “medical” reason women, or babies, were unable to breastfeed. I was, in a sense, judgmental toward bottle-feeding mothers, subconsciously thinking they had chosen an easier, less-ideal road. Since that time, I have heard from many mothers who because of mechanics or circumstance haven’t been able to breastfeed. They often feel diminished and isolated.
I’m thankful for my situation in many ways. I have a safe way that my child can be fed. But also, because I was humbly proven wrong in my own assumptions and can, hopefully, be a support to both breastfeeding and bottle-feeding mothers.
Breastfeeding is beautiful. It’s natural, bonding, and healthy for both mother and baby. I can’t help but smile at mothers while they nurse. I’ve grieved to an extent that I’m not able to provide this to my daughter, but then she smiles and I snuggle her close. I smell her head and smother her with kisses. She is loved. When it comes down to it, I’ll do whatever I need to do to feed a child. Anything we might lose from not breastfeeding can be made up for with love.
When I was in my second year of teaching, I had a co-worker come up to me in the hallway and inform me that she had had a dream that I was pregnant, that she was “usually pretty good about knowing these things,” and that I should probably take a test. I laughed, and told her that I actually was on day 32 or something of my cycle, which was usually a solid 28 days. Her face lit up, and she asked what on earth I was waiting for. Laughing again, I said it honestly hadn’t occurred to me, having only been married and doing NFP for three months, coupled with a busy beginning of the school year. Of course, I stopped by Target that very day and picked up a pregnancy test, which, to my shock, was positive. Despite our charting and having a pretty good grasp on what we were doing (read: there are no “taking chances” with NFP!), my husband was even more shocked. It was as though we were surprised that it had really worked.
After the initial shock had worn off, we were of course delighted and eagerly looked forward to my 12-week appointment, when we would get to hear the baby’s heartbeat for the first time. My husband had just started a new job and wasn’t able to come with to that initial appointment. We weren’t overly concerned, knowing he’d be able to come to future ones and obviously, the 20-week ultrasound. So, on December 4th, I headed to the doctor’s office alone after school. After a few minutes of attempting to find the heartbeat, my doctor said they weren’t able to find it, and they were going to send me to the hospital by my house to have an ultrasound. In my naivety, I was delighted at the idea of getting an early sneak peek at our little baby.
My husband, who was home from work by this time, said he would meet me at the hospital. As the ultrasound tech ran the wand over my belly, we noticed a tiny little baby on the screen. She shut off the machine, told us our doctor would call us momentarily, and started to leave the room. For the first time, it occurred to me that something might be wrong. I asked her if there was indeed anything wrong with our sweet little baby, but she only repeated that she would be right back with our doctor on the line. Moments later, our doctor explained that the baby had stopped growing between eight and ten weeks and that there was no heartbeat. He went on to explain that I would likely miscarry naturally within the next week but to call the clinic if I didn’t. I can remember thinking he may as well have been speaking Russian- nothing he was saying made sense, and I was so dumbstruck I could hardly reply. As I hung up, the tech teared up and expressed how sorry she was for our loss. We made it as far as the hallway before the reality of what my doctor had said started to hit home. By the time we made it to our cars, I was inconsolable and near hysterical. We left one of our cars there for our friend to pick up later and headed home to grieve our sweet little one.
The week that followed was one of the longest of my life; telling people that we had lost the baby and worrying that we might not ever be able to have kids. My doctor assured us that it was not uncommon for a woman to lose her first baby, but we still wondered. I returned to school a few days later, which turned out to be incredibly therapeutic. Kids have a way of knowing just what to say or not to say, and my fifth graders were the most helpful during this time. I was also utterly amazed at the number of people who approached me or wrote cards with condolences, telling me that they too had lost a baby, often their first. Being one of the first in my circle of friends to start having kids, the very concept of miscarriage had honestly never even crossed my mind, let alone the idea that I myself might experience one. It was so reassuring to hear from so many people their own stories of loss. And equally as touching were the people who told us that they didn’t know what to say to express how sorry they were, but that they were praying for us.
Through prayer, we named our little one Aloysius John, and refer to him as Alex. We were able to bury him in a special area of our church’s cemetery for miscarried babies in a beautiful ceremony with our family priest, my parents, brother and future sister-in-law, and my grandmother, which was also a very healing experience.
Within two months, we were pregnant with our daughter, Mary, and today are days away from having our fourth child. However, it never ceases to amaze me how present Alex is in our family. Our kids all know about their brother, and we speak of him regularly, often bringing flowers to his gravesite. My husband and I have often commented that when we’re gathering up the kids or even just watching them play, we notice that someone is missing. His absence is tangible, and there isn’t a day that goes by without thinking of him.
Not coincidentally, the class I had that year was one of my favorites, and I know that their experiencing our loss with me added to the bond I had with them. It is always my hope that as they go through life, they’ll remember not only their fifth grade teacher, but also her sweet little boy, Alex. It is my hope that his life, which has impacted so many people despite its brevity, will remind them of just how precious life is.
Iread it and I was laughing at the outrageous and broad brush strokes that the author uses in her writing. In short, this is an advertising campaign for Dove products, aimed at boosting women’s self esteem rather than her sex appeal.
Based on this advertisement and the over sexualization of media, I would dare ask the author, what is wrong with this ad? How is it not feminist?
I am a fan of classical art and have noticed how the conception of beauty has changed. The woman that Johannes Vermeer painted above is a healthy, active woman who would have been thought very attractive in his day. Today she would be overweight or obese and unfashionable. But how is she different from the modern everyday woman who Dove chooses to showcase in their advertising? This milkmaid is going about her daily work for her home and family or her local dairy farm and not needing to care if she fits the right image of how people perceive her.
I work with many young women who have an outstanding perspective of their self image. I have worked with other young women who try to change themselves for the chance that the “right person” will notice them. I find this ad an affirmation that all women are more beautiful than they perceive themselves to be.
As for myself, I’m not the over 35 woman with a library card that the article’s author describes, (I’m 27 with a library card) but success and determination should be determined by each woman. The stay at home mom has the same level of equality as the high level CEO. A struggling single mother has the same rights and equality as the woman whose income with her husband allows her Gucci and Prada merchandise. The beauty of this ad shows that although it’s true that many women have self-esteem issues, the image that a woman sees of herself can be vastly different than how someone else sees her. That sometimes the biggest struggle for equality comes from within herself.
When I first got married I remember several women, both of my own age and that of my mother’s, warning to me to be careful of those “mom groups”, or “wife’s night out gatherings.” They gave a cautionary tale of the tendency many women have when in groups to uncharitably gossip and more specifically to talk poorly about their husbands. I quickly noticed their warnings to be quite accurate both in small gatherings as well as on TV and within the media itself. And it wasn’t just the slightly cutting jokes made with well intentioned humor, it seemed to be an almost borderline, habitual discussion that was the default to most interactions.
I think most women still want to be with their knight, that man who will protect them and care for them and love them in good times and in bad. But all you need to do is turn on the TV to see men being portrayed as stupid, unfit, childish creatures who can’t possibly survive on their own much less be an active and competent part of raising their children. While bits and pieces of truth are often present even within the most exaggerated humor, it’s a dangerous game to play within our relationships and marriages. Men and women are made to complement one another, to work in a way that one’s strengths make up for the other’s weaknesses, and for the end result to be a deeply committed team that functions best when doing so in concert.
But there is the good kind of “gossip” too. The kind that is real and honest (though not untruthfully boastful) and works to encourage one another and build one another up. It’s good for us as women to remind one another, and more-so ourselves, of the qualities in our men that we love so much and take for granted too easily. Even when we are in our small groups having discussions our husbands will never hear, what we say matters. And in today’s technological world, what we say online often means just as much as what we say in-person.
I’m honored to be a part of an online forum, surrounded by a strong number of like minded women who share my convictions in this matter. They are real, they are honest, they don’t sugar coat the tough times, but they also know the vital need to focus on the good and the healthy and the honorable. When I logged-on this past January to check-in I was greeted with a new thread called: “Why my husband is awesome today.” Some of the responses:
Because he says “I love you” in his sleep and always helps me pack my lunch.
Because he washed all the piles and piles of dishes I made, even though the only thing I did all day was gestate (and make a huge mess in the kitchen!)
Because even though we overslept, he was out the door on time for work. Just like everyday. He is a great provider for our family and I appreciate his discipline.
Because even though he’s been very busy at work, he’s made time to text me multiple times a day to tell me he loves me (and to let me know he’s busy, which is why he didn’t call.)
Because he looked up indoor dryer vents after listening to me whine about how much I hate our apartment’s venting system.
Because he makes me feel good about myself by telling me “you’re such a good mom” at random times.
Because he emptied the dishwasher before leaving for work, and set my favorite mug by the coffee maker. And, even though he’s had a LONG day on very little sleep, he is still attentive enough to notice I’m rather drained too, and took the time to actively listen to me. :insert lovey emoticon:
Because even though he is not having any better of an evening than I am, he is totally focused on making my crankies go away.
Because even though I was in pajamas all day and hadn’t showered, he kept telling me I was beautiful.
Because he’s coming home any minute!!
This has grown into one of the more popular threads on the forum. It makes my heart smile every time I see another post go up and it reminds me to thank my husband again, for the way he always has one more minute to play on the floor with two boys who just can’t help but want to wrestle with daddy every second of every day, or the little girl who never tires of one more piggy back ride; for the way he never stops wanting to hold my hand and for the way he loves trying to make the kids giggle by kissing me when he comes in the room.
Growing up in today’s culture, our men are fighting an uphill battle before they even reach puberty. The more we can encourage and support their honorable, respectable, and loving decisions, the more armor we give them with which to walk through this world, protecting and defending the women and children they love.
Have any good gossip about the man in your life to share? Let’s help each other recognize how men can make our lives so much better by their thoughtful presence!
I love breastfeeding. It might be one of my favorite wonders of the female body. Being able to nourish my baby, with my body, even though she is on the outside, is awesome. I love the bonding that I get to have with her. And I’m sure you’ve heard all the arguments on how breastfeeding is healthy for both mother and baby. But breastfeeding has some other perks. Here are a few of my favorites:
Lasagna–Call me Garfield. I really like lasagna. I also really like that I can eat lasagna for an afternoon snack. After all, I’m eating for two. And not the type of “eating for two” that adds to your hips. Guilt free lasagna eating. And if I happen to skip my daily snack, I like to think of that as my daily workout. Yep, I sat in my rocking chair with my baby and didn’t eat a piece of lasagna.
No late-night tampon runs–Have you ever needed to make a run to the store for tampons? And, all you need is tampons but there is a poor teenage boy running the register. He says “how are you?” and then notices that all you have is feminine products and regrets his question. So, in order to not create an (even more) awkward situation for the poor fella you grab a candy bar. Then you realize that tampons and a candy bar might not look great either. The kid now thinks you are a raging hormonal maniac who needs that candy bar and he is afraid to handle it, just in case it might melt. Yeah, well when I’m breastfeeding, I don’t have to deal with those situations. I could always send my husband, but then you get a panicked call from tampon aisle. What sort of absorption do you need?
Awkward situation out–I’m not shy about nursing in public. If my baby is hungry in the grocery checkout line, I’ll feed her. I have no issues with it. But have you ever been in at a gathering or some sort of situation with your baby where you just need an out? Well, I’ve got one! Breastfeeding is the perfect excuse to excuse yourself for a little bit (or a lot) of time. “Oh, she’s hungry. I’m just going to go on over there and feed her”.
Take along milk–I’m not going to pretend that I’ve got it all together. When going on outings with kids in tow, I’ve forgotten to bring diapers or wipes with me on occasions. You know the feeling. You go into a public bathroom and pray that they have paper towels and not the air dryers, because trying to wipe a baby’s butt with public restroom toilet paper is just…messy. At least a makeshift diaper can be made out of one of the million sweatshirts or other clothing items strewn around my car. While I’m willing to go to great lengths to diaper my kid, I’m not really willing to create a make shift meal out of the leftovers in my car. Which is why it’s so awesome to have portable feeding apparatuses. And they have free refills! I can drink that sippy cup of leftover juice if I’m thirsty but I don‘t think I‘ll be feeding it to the baby.
No spilling bottles in diaper bag–You might have picked up on a little secret. I’m not organized. And not having to cart bottles around, saves space in my already overflowing diaper bag and saves my poor van from getting even messier than it already is. With as much stuff as I have in my diaper bag, you would think that one of those spill proof cups might just stay upright and in place because it really shouldn’t have room to move. But it doesn’t and it spills. And I just don’t think I could handle spilled milk.
More room in my kitchen–When you are breastfeeding, you don’t need a bunch of bottles around. This saves room in my kitchen. The cupboards are already pretty full I’d have to put my wine glasses in storage. It’s just not the same drinking wine out of a Buzz Lightyear cup. I’d do it, but my son tends to be territorial about those sorts of things and this just saves me a tantrum
Now, you know why I love breastfeeding so much. What are some of your “favorite reasons” to nurse your baby?
The topic of Natural Family Planning is a complex one that is as unique as the couples who choose to use it. For some it’s very simple, straightforward, and easy. For others it’s a challenge, needing detailed counseling from a trained professional. Regardless, we support and value those who put the time in to educate and care for one another in the NFP world. Not only is it an option for tending to ones family size while upholding the value and dignity of each and every human life but it can be an immensely valuable tool in the diagnosis and treatment of a variety of medical conditions. This includes users of all types and needs ranging from the single woman with painful, irregular cycles, to the couple struggling with infertility and/or loss.
If you’ve ever been curious about Natural Family Planning, Fertility Awareness, Natural Birth Control etc, there is an upcoming event we hope you’ll check out.
On April 17th at 7pm CST Love Naturally NFP (@learnnfponline), IuseNFP (@iusenfp) and Living The Sacrament (@lvgthesacrament) will team up to answer questions and chat about all things NFP. Join in this twitter conversation by tweeting with the hashtag #nfpFAQ
This is also a great opportunity to share with your friends about NFP!
Participants will range from the just curious to our seasoned pros! Are you skeptical of NFP? Confused about the different methods? Lovin’ every minute and wanting to share the good news? All are welcome!
If you have never participated in a twitter party before here’s a little “how to” for you!
And if you are not a twitter savvy individual, don’t despair! Post your questions in the combox below! We’ll share your comments or questions with the panel and report back!
(To read Part One: please click here!)
From the moment sexual assault becomes a part of your life, the process of healing begins. Often, a survivor finds the process similar to grieving a loved one: in the same way that the loss of someone close to you causes you to mourn while life moves on, surviving an act of sexual violence calls for mourning while finding a way to heal from the experience.
According to RAINN.org, young women ages 12-34 are the population at highest risk of becoming victims of sexual assault. What does this statistic tell us? It tells us that rape often occurs during a young woman’s formative years, and that there are a great deal of sexual assault survivors that grow up to be mothers.
What do mothering and parenting look like when one out of six women will experience sexual assault in their lifetime? How do these survivors seek a way to heal and how does it influence the way they parent their own children? In this post, you will hear from five women that are survivors of sexual assault, and how that experience plays a role in their parenting. You will hear from*:
Dana: A childhood sexual abuse and rape survivor
Amy: A sexual assault survivor
Sara: Raped by her long-term boyfriend
Joan: A childhood sexual abuse and sexual assault survivor
Linda: A childhood sexual abuse survivor
Sexual assault affects survivors in many ways, beginning with their own views of themselves.
“The experience made me completely paranoid about personal safety. I hate being out after dark and being home alone and those things never used to bother me.” –Amy
“(It) influenced EVERYTHING about me, and still does. I have never felt as though I was really good enough for anyone…damaged goods. I don’t trust anyone, not totally, and I keep most people I know at arm’s length. And if someone does me wrong, I shut the door on them. I have a hard time with forgiveness.” –Dana
“As time goes on and you experience more and more interactions, even very obscure ones, you start to blur the line between who is at fault, most especially in our culture of victim-blaming. I began to feel uncomfortable about my introverted personality and even uncomfortable about my body size and things such as my gait.” -Joan
“I felt an immense amount of guilt and shame.” – Sara
If survivors question their own self-worth and identity, it follows that the experience also can affect their views of themselves as mothers.
“Being a survivor of child sexual abuse makes me a bit different as a mom. Working with survivors on a daily basis changes the way I parent as well. Unlike some, I cannot pretend that the person who poses the greatest danger to my child is the stranger, the new neighbor, and creepy kid down the street. I know that the people I love the most pose the greatest danger.” –Linda
“I was pretty scared to be a mother, because my own mother never taught me what that means. She was on the cold side of things, and didn’t really care much what was going on in her household, as long as she wasn’t affected. So, I didn’t really know HOW to be a mother. After I became a mother, I was blown away by how vulnerable children are, and I think it made the anger I had in me come out a little more.”- Dana
Healing from sexual assault can take a lifetime. Every survivor experiences the healing process differently, and the way it may or may not influence a survivor’s relationship with their children can vary.
“I think the sexual assault has made me more paranoid. I worry obsessively about my baby daughter’s safety and well-being. I’m concerned that because I was sexually assaulted I will be overprotective of my daughter when she’s older.”- Amy
“My daughter is only 8 and I haven’t really seen much of an interest from her in boys yet. I do know, though, that it will affect how I parent her as I get older. I grew up in a staunchly Catholic household, and my boyfriend was Catholic as well. In fact, we were on Diocesan youth boards, active in youth ministry, etc. One youth minister actually called us a “perfect model of a faith-filled teen couple.” But we were given too much freedom. I will definitely be more in touch with how my daughter’s dating life progresses.” –Sara
“Experiencing sexual assault has given me a deeper perspective about the serious failing of punitive parenting and the inappropriate emphasis our society has on forcing children to obey authority. Forcing a child to ignore his own feelings or bodily signs to obey an authority figure is exactly how early abuse begins and exactly how cycles of abuse continue throughout a person’s life… So my parenting method is something I commit to not only b/c I want to avoid disrespectful parenting behaviors, but also b/c I want to encourage my children to have a strong self-will, confidence about their bodily/mental signs and the courage to follow those cues in the face of danger.” –Joan
When mothers are also survivors, often times they are faced with the decision of whether or not to disclose their assault to their children. There can be many reasons to disclose or not to disclose, and it is never a decision that is taken lightly. There is not a true right or wrong decision: there are many factors to consider, and every survivor chooses to handle it differently.
“I did discuss with my children that I had been hurt by my father. My daughter knew the most, because she was older at the time my father was put on trial. And since she was highly intelligent, she was very aware of what was going on. I realized much later that while she figured most of it out on her own, she was still not prepared for that burden… I do think that children should know about this type of thing, especially if it’s a family member that they could come in contact with. It should be age appropriate, but they should not be shut out of why mom acts sad, or angry at, or scared of a relative.” –Dana
“I will admit right now that I am not sure if I will disclose it. There are times when I think, yes, I want her to know. But there are times when I think, it’s better left where it is–in the past.” –Sara
“Right now, (my oldest) knows that mommy works with people who have been hurt by others. Someday I will share my story with my daughter. I am not sure when that story will be—or if it will be in bits and pieces. I will share my story because if my daughter is ever hurt, if someone she loves is ever hurt, I want to make sure I’ve shown her that it is okay to talk about it. That shame belongs on the perpetrator.”- Linda
To conclude, the women you have heard from have some thoughts for those that are struggling to heal from sexual assault.
“I do wish (even for myself) that women trying to heal from this would know it was not their fault… And if you do feel as though you need to talk to someone, do it. Even if everyone around you thinks it is embarrassing to the family. It’s not about them, it’s about YOUR mental health and wellbeing.” –Dana
“I would tell someone else who experienced sexual assault that they should not think of themselves as less pure or valuable than other women. My husband still thinks I am wonderful despite what happened to me!”-Amy
“I’ve learned that it can take a very, very long time to heal. Sometimes you can go weeks without thinking about it and then there are times when it’s on the forefront of your mind. It’s going to be with you forever, so you have to find a way to make peace with it.” –Sara
“The hardest part is perhaps learning to place full and open responsibility on the perpetrator. It’s very easy for a survivor to take on the burden of blame in our culture, and that is a very impairing experience that will halt deep healing. Although it can be extremely painful at first to acknowledge that another person openly and deliberately chose to harm you (and perhaps this was someone close to you or someone who was supposed to protect you) in the end, this clarity opens a path to true healing where you can put the issue to rest, find forgiveness for yourself and begin to move forward.”- Joan
If you or someone you know has experienced sexual assault, www.rainn.org can connect you with local hotlines to begin the healing process. The site also has an informative guide on survivor self-care that can be seen here.
For more information on parenting as a survivor of sexual assault, there is an incredibly informative post that can be viewed here. While the post focuses on attachment parenting boundaries, it is a useful resource for all survivors that are parents and striving to create a loving and appropriate relationship with their children, but experience some anxiety over boundaries.
Interested in the complete interviews with the survivors that contributed to this post? You can view the interview questions and the full text at Cathofeminism.
* Names have been changed.
This article was originally posted on the New Feminism Rising blog by Theresa Martin. With her permission we have reprinted it here:
Theresa is one of our contributing bloggers here on the Guiding Star Project Website and the author of a new book Woman How Great Thou Art! Order on amazon today! (If it does say out of stock, order anyway, they are getting more in soon! )