There will be backlash

Remember how three weeks ago your social media and news feeds were littered with stories about Aziz Ansari and that babe article? Remember how on January 13th I wrote a post and said I predicted there would be backlash to the metoo movement? And then the NEXT DAY the story about Ansari broke and both widened the conversation on consent and opened a can of worms (aka backlash) about whether the “me too” movement had gone too far.

So I’m a bit behind on writing this. That’s because it often takes me several hours to write just one of these posts. Because I’m a perfectionist. Well that crossed out part is true but I like to back up what I write as much as possible and find articles that exemplify my points. I also take pride in my writing and no matter how few people these words reach, I want these words to be real, useful, powerful and proofread. And that takes time. And attention. As such, my focus drifts from my basic needs. I tend to not go to the bathroom or eat as I write these posts. So when I finally finish I really have to pee and I’m starving. It takes a lot out of me so it takes a lot of motivation to do them, even though I also enjoy (for the most part) writing these posts. And… I could probably set better boundaries with myself. In fact, I’m hungry now. I’m gonna take a lunch break. Just, y’know, FYI.

Okay I’m back, 1 hour and 21 minutes later. And no, I wasn’t eating lunch that whole time.

I’m actually glad I’m a bit behind on writing on this topic. Why? Because our culture (and probably most of the world) has such a short, reactive attention span. So we start these meaningful dialogues and then things come up, like the government shuts down and then there’s a memo released by Devin Nunes not to mention a plethora of inane, but dangerous, tweets by he-who-shall-not-be-named.

And while the halt in conversation on Ansari has halted the backlash (for now), it has also halted the conversation on why this seemingly common, “no big deal” experience is exactly the kind of experience we need to discuss. So I’m picking the conversation back up.

On January 15th, I first caught wind of this article, though I believe it hit the interwebs on January 14th. I am a fan of Master of None and Aziz Ansari so my stomach dropped when I saw the headline. Ansari was the first one to be named who made me think with much dismay, ‘No, not him too!’ I read articles about the babe article but they all discussed the accusations in a vague way that left me skeptical of any wrongdoing on Ansari’s part. So I went straight to the source and then it became clear to me that his behavior was definitely harassing and coercive, even if not assault.

Many people have criticized the woman who came forward and some of this criticism has been downright hostile. The biggest gripe seems to be this is a bad date and saying that it was anything more is an attempt to sabotage Ansari.

A bad date? Really? To me, a bad date is one in which you show up and find you have nothing in common with your date. There’s awkward silence and you can’t wait to leave because you’re bored and also disappointed/embarrassed by the lack of chemistry. A bad date is one in which the other person chews with their mouth open and/or doesn’t cover their cough or sneeze. A bad date is when the other person won’t stop talking about themselves or starts crying over an ex. A bad date is an experience where you are so not into the other person and they try to kiss you at the end and you have to dodge them but they respect that you’ve declined them and don’t push the issue. In my opinion, these are bad dates.

Contrast this with what the woman in babe reported; her date went from 0-100 in terms of physical intimacy and when she told him she was not comfortable, he said okay and then, per her account, immediately began the exact same behavior she just asked him to stop. She even told him she did not want to feel forced into anything and he continued to physically come on to her. If he had stopped when she told him to stop this wouldn’t have been an issue. But he didn’t. He kept pushing and pushing. Fortunately when she said she wanted to leave, he respected this. But why didn’t he chose to respect her before when she said she didn’t want to do something and he continued to push for it anyways?

Now it gets complicated because what happened probably wasn’t illegal, though I do wonder about the continued touching after she told him to stop. That could potentially fall under assault. But I’m not a legal professional so at the end of the day the legality of it is not my call. However, it’s everyone’s call to decide whether or not this behavior is acceptable. So, are Ansari’s actions truly ones with which we are okay? Are we willing to accept that any date we go on could end as such with us saying “stop,” “don’t” or “no” only to have the undesired behavior continue?

I’m not okay with that and I hope you aren’t either. Because none of us should go through that. I think it’s been hard for people, especially women (cisgender or trans), to see parallels between their own experiences and the one told in the babe article. It is disturbing to look back on an experience and suddenly wonder if you were coerced or degraded in some way. And with all this talk about how the woman in this article “let” it happen up until she left, you may start to wonder too if you “let” this happen to you. Perhaps you then even jump on the bandwagon of dismissing this woman because if you say you’re okay with what happened to you, that it was your choice, then you didn’t “let” it happen to you and you can stay on the strong side of a dichotomy where women are strong or weak, good or bad and smart or stupid.

But the truth is, if such an experience has happened to you, you are strong. What happens to you doesn’t shape who you are. The people responsible for harassment, coercion or bad behavior are the ones carrying it out, not the ones being made to endure it. That said, society has an obligation to have conversations that dig deeper on social justice issues. We must acknowledge that a lot of consent is not as black and white as “yes” or “no.” These are messages which people of all genders need to learn. I know that when I was younger, I figured a man could not be assaulted by a woman because he was physically stronger and could always get away if need be. It embarrasses me to admit that now because that assumption is so lacking on the nuances of coercion. It also places overemphasis on physical strength (specifically upper body strength) when in reality physicality is only one mechanism for carrying out assault. Entitlement, beliefs and manipulation are other mechanisms and perhaps even more dangerous. Not to mention, that no one of any gender, should have to get to the point where they are physically pushing someone off them.

Still there are differences in the ways that straight, cisgender men are socialized and the ways straight, cisgender women are socialized. And these differences are dangerous and can lead men to believe they have the right to sex and women to believe their needs are less important than men’s when it comes to intimacy. So while we all need better education on consent, our current gender norms for straight, cisgender men and straight, cisgender women can be much more severe and damaging for women (and probably for people who fall outside the gender binary and/or are not heterosexual).

To illustrate this, I’ll give some examples from my own life. As soon as I was old enough to watch TV or understand songs on the radio, it became pretty clear to me that intimacy was not for me. Even as a child, I understood that intimate relationships were defined by men for men. Women were props that men used to gratify themselves and to bolster their own bragging rights with other men. I cannot speak to the experience of other girls. But I think it’s pretty telling that even in elementary school, even before I really knew what sex was, I understood that when I got older, relationships would be defined from the guy’s perspective and it wouldn’t be about what I wanted or what we together wanted but about what he wanted. I don’t know if I’m explaining this well. All I know is that as a straight, white, cisgender girl the male gaze and narrative on sex was apparent to me from a very young age.

So I’d imagine that most straight, cisgender boys receive this same message and as they grow into men, these messages will become internalized and lead to entitlement with women. And straight, cisgender men really have to work to undo these beliefs.

That takes us back to Ansari. In Master of None, he appears pretty aware of these dynamics. It seems he has done a lot of work to re-frame his beliefs on gender norms in dating. And there are plenty of straight, cisgender men who would have responded much differently to this woman’s request to stop, as in they would have respected it right from the beginning. So why didn’t Ansari do what so many other men would have done? Why didn’t he stop? And since he didn’t stop, does that make him a sexual assailant? From the woman’s account, probably not. But it does mean that as much work as he has already done, he has a lot more work to do.

I think a lot about how to hold people accountable without demonizing them. What would that look like in a situation such as this? Should Ansari lose his show? My gut says no because that may be falling more into the demonizing of someone. Though there are many cases where employment loss or even incarceration may be necessary, I think in many other situations these are not appropriate consequences. But there should be repercussions nonetheless. And that’s where it gets more nebulous because what that looks like for any given person will depend. I can’t say what meaningful commitment to further undoing male entitlement regarding sex would look like for Aziz Ansari. He is the one who has to make that decision and then follow through. But as a society, our response can be to push for him to do this. And to recognize there is no quick fix. We must acknowledge that undoing entitlement based on the oppression of others takes time and commitment. Most people have at least some privilege-based entitlement to undo and when we harm someone else because of this entitlement, we must take real, long-lasting steps to change our ways. The responsibility falls on each of us alone for own actions. And as a society we can encourage and promote these changes on a larger level. At the very least we should not be dismissing such harmful behaviors as “a bad date.”

There will likely be more backlash. So get ready. And trust your gut.

And by the way, it took me 1 hour, 46 minutes to write this. Minus my lunch break, that is. Not too bad. But once again, I’m hungry. And I have to pee.

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Dear Paul Ryan, we have some requests

About a month ago, Paul Ryan made some comments about the declining birth rate in the US. And I have some comments back.

Now this may sound strange coming from a woman who just announced her pregnancy. However, this is my first baby. I’m in my mid-30s. I’m not sure I am going to have another baby. There are lots of reasons for why I may not. But certainly the way the US treats families is going to be at least part of the deciding factor for me. So I say if Paul Ryan is going to make such demands of us then I have some demands for him and his colleagues. Here they are:

#1. First and most importantly, unconditional policies that protect low-income families. Lest we forget that in 2014, Paul Ryan suggested we cut free school lunch programs so poor children would know they are cared for (?!). In 2016, he admitted he used to think of impoverished, single mothers as “takers.” And while he claims that he now understands the cycle of poverty, he continues to rail against people on welfare, seeming to imply that they choose to be on welfare because it’s easier than getting a job. All while telling us to make more babies.

But first, I’d like to see our minimum wage change to a living wage, varying depending upon where someone lives and the cost of living in any given place. A living wage that ensures people do not need to supplement their income with cash assistance and SNAP (foodstamps). The answer is not to cut benefits so that people no longer make more on welfare than they do at some job paying abysmal wages. The answer is to ensure there are no abysmal wages.

I’d like to see recognition that welfare to work doesn’t work. While having a higher minimum wage is necessary, sometimes people need welfare benefits, sometimes for a long time and for a variety of reasons. The notion that any able-bodied person can and should work is ableist and ignores invisible disabilities, including debilitating mental health and neurological conditions. Trust me, I know firsthand that someone can look well on the surface but be anything but well. The most important thing is that individuals and families are able to get their basic needs met whether through full-time work or through benefits. All the time and energy we put into interrogating and judging poor people about how they earn money and live their lives is not helping anyone. Especially not their children – those very people who Ryan would like to see “living their full potential.”

We need universal daycare and preschool. If both parents need or want to work then we need a system that supports working families. And, well let’s face it if we’re all going to be shouldering the cost of baby boomers’ (and future generations’) retirements then both parents probably need to work regardless of their household income. These benefits would also provide benefits for children. Beyond the obvious that less stressed parents are good for children, pre-school is excellent for young children’s development. And despite this, there is no guarantee young children can have access to this resource. We need to shift away from poor-birth mentalities and be focusing on pro-family, pro-woman and pro-child policies, which unconditionally accept all the forms families can come in. We also need policies that maintain and increase access to reproductive health care, recognizing this is necessary for well families and a well society.

And… we need to hear more from poor people themselves. I can only make so many recommendations without inevitably overlooking many of their needs. If Ryan thinks he knows what is best for the poor, I’d like to see where his commitment to listening to them has been and if he can be willing to hear them.

#2: Policies that end disparities. This one builds off number one but expands inclusion to other marginalized groups such as people of color, LGBTQ folks, people with disabilities, people facing intersectional oppression and so on.

This would include improving maternal well-being across all races. While there is disparity in maternal health outcomes in the US depending upon which region you live in and I’d guess which class you belong to, it is well-documented that black women are more likely to die during and after childbirth than white women. The recent story Serena Williams shared illustrates that a black woman’s wealth and status do not exempt her from this increased risk. While many sources say there is no single explanation for this, it is undoubtedly NOT a coincidence that this racial disparity occurs in a country that built itself on the enslavement, breeding, segregation and mass incarceration of black people. If this is a problem society created then society can certainly end it too. I’m looking at you, Paul Ryan and the rest of congress. Do the right thing and ensure our health care systems are providing better and equal care to all people.

Part of increasing black mother’s well-being would be to listen to and follow the recommendations of the Black Lives Matter movement. Founded by mothers, the group can speak to their needs and what must change to ensure black families are safe and, among other things, black parents are not disproportionately affected by child loss and the murder of their children.

In addition, we need to ensure same-sex parents and their children are treated with respect and given the same opportunities as children of heterosexual parents. This includes protecting equal access to marriage but also expanding rights to people who have long-term domestic partnerships. We must ensure recognition and policies that include pregnant people who are not cis-women. There are people who have a uterus and perhaps are expecting but do not identify as female and their voices and experiences must be included in our public discussions and policies.

There needs to be better care and education given to children with disabilities. This means upholding FAPE and only granting positions of power to people who understand IDEA (cough, Betsy DeVos, cough – you shouldn’t have the job you do!). It also means continuing to hear from individuals with disabilities and parents of children with disabilities about their experiences and their needs.

Our policies must be inclusive and reflective of the realities and complexities of the human experience. The rest of these recommendations build off this staple that policies and social norms must be inclusive to low-income folks and other marginalized groups. With that focus, the following, hopefully, will benefit everyone.

#3: Paid family and medical leave for all workers. This could cover a variety of things including caring for a sick relative or time needed for surgery or other medical care. It would also include paid parental leave for all parents whether they are expecting a biological or adopted child. In heterosexual couples (where there’s no DV, that is) paid parental leave can decrease defaulting into restrictive, traditional gender roles. Not to mention that caring for a child on your own is challenging, even if it is just for part of the time. If there is a single parent, perhaps a loved one of this person could also use this benefit to assist them in caring for a new baby. It takes a village, dammit, and we need to have policy that supports this reality.

At the job my husband had two years ago (before the first lay-off), he was guaranteed six weeks paid parental leave. While I was psyched he got that, knowing it would make a big difference for us, I also was resentful. We plan to have a biological child (or children) and as we all know, childbirth takes some time to recover from. Not to mention, what if I require a c-section? That complicates and lengthens the needed recovery time. And then there’s breastfeeding. As much as I want to breastfeed, I’ll be honest and admit there’s a part of me that doesn’t feel like I have a choice. There is so much pressure to breastfeed that I know I’d feel so guilty if I didn’t try it. And if for some reason I can’t breastfeed, I’ll feel awful because society makes you feel like you’re basically poisoning your child if you give them formula. Newsflash – there are times new parents can’t breastfeed and their babies turn out fine! In any case, I plan to breastfeed so between pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding, it did not seem at all right that my husband got paid leave and I did not. Of course in his new job he doesn’t get any paid leave. So now neither of us do. C’est la current vie in the USA.

Paid family leave needs to be longer than twelve weeks. If I take the standard twelve weeks, my baby will not even be three months old when I go back to work. And I’m “supposed” to breastfeed for the first year of his life! Not to mention sleep deprivation and physical recovery. Or the fact that our baby will only be a baby once and I don’t know, it might be nice if both my husband and I were able to be there for those early months without having to plan to go back to work prematurely. And let’s face it, I’m one of the “lucky” ones if I get to take the full twelve weeks. I’ve seen colleagues come back to work after eight weeks because they could not afford longer. Eight weeks! A report from a few years back found that in the US, 25% of moms return to work within two weeks of having a baby. That just seems punitive and if you read the accounts of these new moms, it’s downright nauseating. And Paul Ryan wants us to work and have more babies! Paul Ryan, give both parents the PAID time they need so we can keep working. Don’t subject families to inhumane conditions by forcing one in four of us back to work two weeks after bringing a baby into the world. You say you did your part. I say you did your part for your family. Now in your position of power, truly do your part and enact policies that support working parents. It is truly disgraceful to see the contrast between the rest of the world, industrialized nation or not, and the United States in terms of paid parental leave. The contrast makes clear we are, in fact, a nation of takers and makers but contrary to what Ryan once believed, the makers are the majority of us while the takers are those at the top. But he and his colleagues can and should change this. And they should remember that paid leave means continuance of paychecks, which means more paying into our social security and medicare systems.

4. Single payer health care. All people deserve quality healthcare. I’ve heard people complain that public health insurance benefits are better than private health insurance benefits. And, in my experience, these people often aren’t wrong. Private health insurance companies, in general, are profit-driven, not person-driven. Some people think we need to do away with public health insurance programs but the ramifications of that would be horrible for poor people but also for people with complex medical needs. I think public healthcare should be the option available to all. Countries that have single-payer healthcare tend to score better in terms of health and well-being. And while, as I mentioned before, certain groups are disproportionately affected by maternal death in the US, our country has a shockingly high rate of this across the spectrum. I don’t think it takes much effort to make the case that the US needs better health care.

One might argue that government healthcare would increase taxes. But it’s important to consider how much of your current paycheck goes towards buying insurance through your work and then having to cough up money for co-pays and deductibles.

Not to mention, it is just not any of my work’s damn business. My work is pretty progressive but I hate that something so personal is tied to my employer. When I went through all I did with my miscarriage, questions came up about my deductible and HRA. Granted, I didn’t need to tell my employer exactly what happened. But I didn’t want to be speaking about it all with the HR person at my work. Even if I just said, “oh yeah I had surgery” or “I had to have a procedure done” – I was still having to bring up topics related to something very painful in my life. And I suppose this would still happen even with single payer care. If you need leave, you’ll have to give some explanation. Still. Why increase the amount of overlap between personal and professional life? It truly adds insult to injury.

Speaking of insult to injury, let’s talk about how I felt when I got a bill in mid-December for over $600 to cover the anesthesia for the D&E I’d had for my miscarriage seven months before. It would have been nice to have a heads up that I would be getting this large bill and right during the holidays, nonetheless. Better yet, it would have been nice to have all aspects of this painful part of my life covered and to know that no one out there had to chose between their physical health and their financial well-being. The trauma of many health concerns is difficult enough without factoring in stress related to a bill. We need better, compassionate and unconditional care. And we need it now.

This may be just a start but this is what I’d like to see change. And whether or not I have a second child may just depend on Paul Ryan. Anyone else feel the same?

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Pre-motherhood musings

Hello all! Happy New Year! May 2018 be a year full of happiness, health, compassion and love for you, yours and everyone.

For my little family, I am hoping 2018 will be a year far different (in a positive way) than the past two years were. My little family so far includes my husband, me and our two cats (of course, the past two years were fine for our kitties minus some stressed, grieving humans). Within the next six months, we should have one more human among us – a very tiny one at that. We are expecting a healthy, baby boy in summer 2018.

After everything we went through with a previous pregnancy, this new pregnancy has been overwhelming on so many levels. I feel joy and love so much more strongly this time. And… I am still grieving and traumatized from everything that happened last spring and summer. It was only a few months after I’d been at an oncology hospital because of my miscarriage that I learned I was pregnant again. It all happened so quickly.

The first trimester was particularly difficult. I still missed my other baby-to-be, which made me feel guilty as I thought of the new life developing in me. I still experienced an emotional earthquake when I saw women who were further along in their pregnancy. I continued to think ‘That is supposed to be me now!’ But also knew I wanted nothing more than this new baby. The nausea was constant and I wondered if I was going through it all just to be heart-broken and traumatized again. And yet my heart swelled with happiness when I thought of my new pregnancy.

As the pregnancy went on and I got past the eleven weeks of pregnancy I’d done last time, I started to feel a weight lifting off me. Because I’m an elderly pregnant lady, we were able to do the NIPT and learn the gender of our baby and that he had no syndromes while we were still in the first trimester. That was amazing and so surreal.

There are still hurdles. It feels more real now but I’m still so scared of something going wrong. I know most expectant parents are but, for me, there’s been a real shift in how I view pregnancy. The trauma of the last experience brings with it a shattering of security and innocence that I wouldn’t have had if not for the miscarriage. I was scared last time but assured by the fact that more often than not, things go well with any given pregnancy. Now I expect everything to go to hell at any moment. That’s the impact of the trauma and over time, it will lose its acuity and I will keep healing.

We have the 20-week fetal scan coming up in a few weeks. We know the baby doesn’t have any syndromes but the scan will check that his organs are developing well. I’m so scared. Yet, I know that with each bridge we cross, I do feel better and I also know that for all parents, there will always be something to fear. We can never know what the future will bring, both in terms of joy and pain. It’s hard when you’ve been so hurt before to accept the uncertainty and yet when you want something, the only way to get it – really get it – is to feel the fear and go forward.

So I am letting this baby in and when the surge of love comes in, I feel it, scary as it is. As I let in the reality of bringing a child into this world, I also start to feel the importance of setting a precedent of boundaries and self-care.

I’ve always been a HUGE proponent of maternal well-being and self-care. And now that I am embarking on this journey, I am trying to practice what I preach. The further we get into this pregnancy, the more pressure I feel to start “readying” myself (whatever that means!). I feel guilty when I sleep in (or sleep at all) because I’m going to lose that “luxury” over the next year. I feel like I should get used to it now. I feel like I should be setting up the nursery and reading baby books and… well it doesn’t really end. And the baby isn’t even here yet!

In December, I realized that I was doing my usual thing of getting WAY ahead of myself. I thought about the past two years, of my husband getting laid off twice in 2016, of a shithole president taking office and of a pregnancy-loss-turned-cancer-scare in 2017. To say it has been a journey is to make an understatement of epic proportions. So I took a moment and thought, ‘What do I need right now?’ The answer was certainly NOT to rush into things I could be doing several months from now. Instead, I decided the best thing to do for myself, and for this baby, was to take January as a time to rest. To do whatever the f- I feel like (I mean within reason – I am still pregnant, after all!). But if I want to binge-watch a show or binge-read, I am going to do that. I am going to sleep and sit with the feelings of guilt instead of succumbing to them or fighting them off. I am going to reflect and process and maybe, just maybe, continue to heal.

As soon as I made that decision, I started to feel anxiety creeping in again. I read that a developing fetus can hear the voice of the parent carrying it starting at 16 weeks. So pregnant parents can start talking to their baby as a way to bond and foster language development. I started to succumb to that guilt, thinking ‘I can’t just sit around reading and journaling and BLOGGING, I need to be talking to this lil guy! I need to foster his language development… I need to, I need to, I should, I should…’ At the root of all this was a belief that I was a selfish mom, a bad mom if I took time for myself… when pregnant. And while I recognize that I have extreme perfectionist tendencies and am exceptionally hard on myself, I also exist within a larger society that monitors and judges women’s decisions around parenting – from if a woman becomes a parent and if so, absolutely every little thing she does once she starts trying or learns she is pregnant.

As I realized this, I realized that my belief I should be talking to my baby was no different than my belief I should be setting up the nursery yesterday. The tasks were different but their meaning to me was the same – I am not good enough. So I took off the should. And when I did, an amazing thing happened. I started to want to talk to my baby. So in the mornings as I get ready, I speak en espanol to my little one and tell him about what I’m doing. “Pongo mi pan en este plato y pongo crema de mani por encima del pan. Oh, y aqui hay uno de nuestros gatos…” And I enjoy it. I don’t tell myself I have to. But if I think to do it as I’m getting ready or driving in the car then I will do it.

I know that in six months when the baby is here, I will have to shift even more. Many things won’t just be “if I think of it.” Feedings will need to happen, attachment developed and diapers changed. And yet, there is always something you have control of, some way you can set boundaries with your family, with society and with yourself.

This is something I learned in doing DV work. Not that I’m saying having a baby is the same thing as experiencing domestic violence. I just mean that the empowerment aspect of DV work can be applied to other areas of life. Part of the empowerment model is to encourage survivors to consider what they do still have control over and how they can capitalize on that. As many survivors have children with an abusive partner, I learned a lot about the ways society is really not supportive to parents – especially to moms (or parents who aren’t cis, straight men). To women and folks outside the gender binary, society is downright degrading and oppressive in its treatment of them as parents. The experience of a survivor parenting is one of the more extreme examples, as their partner (current or former) not only does not help but typically just makes everything worse and also dangerous. And yet this experience is far too common, especially for people who are not cis, straight men. And while looking at the extremes intensively, I came to see the way this plays out in average relationships where there is no abuse. Even in these relationships, one partner still tends to do the lion’s share of the work and, you guessed it, in straight relationships that person is typically the mother.

At first, I felt guilty when I thought of how much I was prioritizing my own self-care right from the start. As though self-care should be an after-thought, something attended to after absolutely everything else has been taken care of. What a set-up that thought process is though, huh?! And I realized that after all the work I’d done for women’s empowerment and rights, it made sense – and is a POSITIVE thing – that self-care is one of the first things I’d think of. It’s important to do this for myself and to support other parents, especially parents living in the intersection of oppressions, to be able to do the same.

This means that YOU also need to do this. I’m not going to say should – cuz I don’t think that’s helpful. But you probably do need to. And I say that because our culture is not good at self-care overall and makes it particularly hard for women and much harder for moms to focus on self-care. So for me, reminders are helpful. Hopefully they are for you too. You probably have your own internal struggle, whether like mine of perfectionism and anxiety, or something else. And this will make it hard to do. But you can do it. I believe in you.

It is interesting to see what happens when women start to acknowledge the hardships of parenting. I came across this post last night about women who regret motherhood. What is interesting is that most of them do not regret their children or parenting in and of itself. But rather, they regret becoming moms given the restrictions, judgment and oppression society continues to place on moms. And with every advancement of women’s rights, there is backlash and more pressure added on moms to fit into an increasingly glossy and rigid definition of motherhood. I am starting to think that it may not be a coincidence that there became such a cult around breastfeeding after the 80s, powersuit-wearing, formula-feeding (granted, typically white) mom had her heyday. I plan/hope to breastfeed and I do not mean it has no benefits (obviously, it does). But it does seem we have hit a point in our culture where we are extremist about it. I’m going to do some research on this trend and perhaps will have another post on it soon.

On a tangent, I also predict there will be backlash to the #metoo movement. It should not happen and we shouldn’t have to be two steps ahead of our oppressors and at the same point, if we are, we will be better prepared when it does come. So get fired up. And ready to go. More on that later.

The final thing I want to say in this rambling post is that as I start to acknowledge the challenges of pregnancy and upcoming parenthood, I have to grapple these too with the feelings of anguish I experienced after my miscarriage. In the weeks after I lost my first pregnancy, I would have given ANYTHING to still be experiencing nausea and exhaustion if it meant my baby would have been born alive and healthy. I knew then like I’d never known before that I would be able to cope with sleepless nights because almost anything was better than what I was going through then. It’s not like I was sleeping then anyways, the grief keeping me up at night.

But I want to be careful there, too. Because if I go too far in that direction, I may feel like I can never acknowledge the challenges. But that’s not true. I can speak my truth, which is that after having gone through TWO first trimesters and nausea within a six month period, I would DEFINITELY rather go through that and have a healthy baby then go through it and lose a pregnancy. And while my nausea has dissipated only to be replaced by rib pain as my little one has decided my left side is the cool side to hang out on, I also know there are worse things in life than pregnancy aches and pains. AND. It is okay to acknowledge that I don’t feel physically comfortable right now. It’s okay to look forward to sushi and a glass of wine when I’m again able to enjoy those things. What I went through before was extreme, or as a good friend said “just so unnecessary.” And it’s valid it’s changed my perspective and it’s okay to talk about that. And it’s valid to talk about the difficulties, that I wish my baby would move to the right, to the right so I can get some relief – and more than that, I wish and hope that he is healthy and well.

In inclusive solidarity,



Why yes, this is a stick I peed on. And yes, getting a positive test twice in one year was more than I planned on. But I was so happy both times, especially the second time – which is when this one is from 🙂 #tmi


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When a friend finds hope to be a 4-letter word, here’s how you can help

Disclaimer – I’m not a doctor nor am I writing this as a healthcare provider. I am writing this based upon my understanding of information I’ve received over the past few months.

Second disclaimer- this post focuses specifically on miscarriage. But some of the take-aways could be applied to other situations in which a loved one is in despair.

If you read my post from June, you’ll know things got pretty rough for me this spring. I had a miscarriage at eleven weeks pregnant. I had to have surgery because the fetal heart stopped but my body continued to carry the pregnancy. It was grueling.

Unfortunately things with my miscarriage only got more complicated and challenging. I was diagnosed with a Partial Molar Pregnancy. This happens due to an abnormality during the fertilization process and the embryo-later fetus ends up with 69 chromosomes instead of 46. A fetus will not make it to birth with this condition. And the rotten icing on this moldy cake is that the placenta has abnormal cells so a tumor develops alongside the fetus. If you think this sounds like the premise of some weird sci-fi thriller, I can tell you that yes, it sure does but yes this has been my real-life experience for almost three months now. Anyways, typically the surgery following the miscarriage is all that is needed to remove the tumor. BUT people who get this diagnosis must spend months being screened following the miscarriage to ensure the tumor was entirely removed during the surgery. The screening involves weekly blood draws to measure the pregnancy hormone level and to make sure it decreases. Once it gets to a certain level, doctors will move people to monthly draws and after a certain period of time (seems different depending upon the doctor) – people are considered to be in the clear, both in terms of the tumor and in terms of trying to conceive again. And most people go on to have healthy pregnancies the next time. BUT… if the pregnancy hormone level doesn’t go down, there could be what is called persistent Gestational Trophoblastic Disease (GTD) and chemo may be needed.

So for me, for two months, all seemed to be progressing along. My levels were dropping slowly but surely… until they weren’t. A few weeks ago, my doctor called me to tell me that my level was the same for the past two weeks. She was going to need to do more research to determine if I was still in the normal range or if I had persistent GTD and needed chemo. Lovely. I hauled ass to a specialist and got the VERY reassuring news that I seemed to be progressing quite well, he wasn’t worried and as long as my levels didn’t rise the next week, I could be moved to monthly blood draws. He talked to my doctor and one week later, I was moved to monthly draws.

I am struggling to find the words to adequately describe this experience. It is grief and trauma and nightmares and disempowerment. It’s so scary in general and that the United States is in a particularly perilous state for reproductive health makes the experience terrifying. I need so much support these days. I know it’s hard to know what to say or do so I’m giving you some ideas. And perhaps, if you’re one of the few people who read my blog without knowing me personally, if you know someone going through some type of extreme pregnancy loss or who is in some other very tough life experience, some of this advice might be helpful for them too. That said, my first piece of advice is…

Ask. When someone is going through an extremely challenging time, ask them how they are doing, what they need. So to my friends and family, please ask me! Ask me what I need. I know you probably don’t know what to say. I don’t even know what to say myself. But don’t avoid me just because you don’t know what to say. Don’t talk to others about how you don’t know what to say or do. Please don’t speculate with each other about how I am or how I seem. Ask me, talk to me, tell me. This experience is painful – and lonely– enough. I don’t want to feel like people are then tiptoeing around me or talking about me when I’m not there. Just be genuine and be real. If you say the wrong thing, we’ll talk about it. But I’d rather you say the wrong thing than say nothing or say little.

But first.. Listen. I need to be heard and I need validation. The best way to offer me this much needed support is to listen and hear me out.

Be patient. My mood and outlook on life is all over the place. One moment I am so proud of how strong I’ve been and how rock solid my marriage is. I get filled with this strange energy that makes me giddy. I’m grateful for the love, comfort and resources in my life. Then in the next moment, I hate everything. I want to shut everyone out and hide in my room, specifically under my bed. Those moments pass and chances are, you won’t catch me in one. But you may see me when I’m off or overly sensitive or insecure. I’m going through one of the hardest things I’ve ever gone through right now. It is lonely and terrifying and sorrowful and despairing. Those feelings are always there even during the better moments. And when my outlook on life is bad, please know that I am still considering and acknowledging my privilege and the amount of good luck I typically have. Everyday I think of how much harder this miscarriage would be if my life were different. I think of women who experience a molar pregnancy and are also refugees or are in abusive relationships or are refugees and in abusive relationships. They’re out there as we speak and I cannot imagine the horror. I try to keep my privilege front and center as best I can. And… I am overwhelmed by the events of the past two years. I’m able to appreciate my privilege and be angry and sad about my recent misfortune. In fact, I worry that if I only focus on my privilege and overall good luck I will, in some capacity, neglect the pain of this time, which will only make things worse.

Hope has become a four-letter word to me. More often than I’d like to admit, I’m out of optimism and out of luck. What is the point of faith? Where is hope getting me? Once I got pregnant in the midst of a tumultuous change in my cycle, I hoped for a healthy pregnancy. I hoped to not miscarry. Then I miscarried and I hoped I could recover and be back to family planning quickly. My husband and I initially thought the miscarriage was over and we could resume our baby-making plans in July. But the miscarriage was far from over. It came back with a vengeance and bringing with it more fear and uncertainty. At first we thought by September we would be in the clear. . Then I hoped my pregnancy hormone levels would go down by September… by October… then I feared I’d have to have chemo (Thank goodness, I didn’t!). But what is the point of being hopeful when everything just gets thrown back in my face? Where were silver linings and hope when I was registering to be an oncology patient? I don’t need answers to these questions. I just need a good friend to listen and then maybe say, “I can’t really imagine what this experience is like. But I do know I’m hopeful for you. I’m sorry hope feels like a terrible joke to you right now and I can understand why it does. But that doesn’t mean it no longer exists for you and it doesn’t mean you’ll always feel this way.”

Remember that my experience is quite different than yours.  Recognize that comparing your experience to mine is not helpful, however well-intended. This is always true, isn’t it? When my husband and I were still dating and about to move in together, people had all sorts of opinions and advice. And most of it was totally irrelevant. Our relationship is ours alone. My experience with pregnancy and parenting will not be anyone else’s but mine and it’s aggravating and sometimes hurtful when it is treated otherwise. I know this is something everyone deals with at times. People in our lives (sometimes people we don’t even know) offer unsolicited advice and though they often mean well, it comes off as condescending. In addition, I try hard not to do this to others, though I’m sure I have at times and for that I really apologize.

Understand that this type of miscarriage is especially horrendous. I won’t truly enjoy not being pregnant again until after I’ve delivered a healthy baby into this world. I’ve been consuming alcohol and foods that are pregnancy no-no’s and yeah it’s enjoyable but it’s also sad. Still. Three months later. Everyday I feel empty. Everyday it feels like something is missing from my life. I feel devastated when I see that my stomach is the same size it usually is. I know that sounds weird, especially in a culture so focused on women’s appearance but it’s true. I don’t want my quasi-flat stomach right now. I want to have the big belly I was supposed to have at this time. I want a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. All that other stuff just doesn’t matter as much to me anymore.

If you have had a miscarriage, I immensely appreciate what you’ve shared with me. But also know that I can’t even fully relate to most women who have had a miscarriage anymore. I just keep becoming more and more isolated in this experience. A molar pregnancy is a hell that drags on and on. I am a strong person and, privileged as I am, I’ve also gone through a lot and handled a lot on my own from a very young age. I have experienced a lot of pain and at my core, there is much sorrow. In my life, this isn’t even the most emotionally horrific experience. There is one other experience that was more of an emotional nightmare than this and I live to tell the tale. Know that I will get through this but not because anyone else did but because will. Only I can know my life and my experience and in the future, how pregnancy and parenting will be for me in the aftermath of this experience.

Also even though this experience is so unique, personal and individual, I don’t want to be treated as “an other.” I still want to connect and be connected. I find it to be a tough balance. In trying to achieve this balance, it is helpful for me to have people who will listen without judgment and without feeling the need to say the right thing. As I move through this experience and into the future, it will be helpful to be asked how I’m doing and what I need. I hope my next pregnancy is healthy and successful. I will likely be excited but terrified through all of the next first trimester and perhaps some of the second (perhaps all of it). And even if it is a healthy pregnancy that results in a healthy baby, even then it is going to be a challenge. I will be so happy but I will not have forgotten or gotten over this experience. I imagine things will feel different for me – in ways both good and bad. I think there will be some deeper levels of appreciation – at least for me and compared to where I personally was before (I am not saying I will appreciate my child more than people who have not had a molar pregnancy. I doubt that’s true and I have no way of knowing what the good and bad feel like for other people! And we all have something right?!). I just know that my next time will probably be more special for me. That said, there will be things that will be even harder. Parenting, so I hear, can be pretty isolating and I’m worried I’ll feel more isolated because of this experience. I’m worried I won’t be able to relate to other parents, at least not initially, because my initial experience was so surreal in a terrible way. It may be hard for me to hear what other people find challenging. Thus next time I’m pregnant, if people are saying things like “oh well just wait til you’re in the second trimester” or asking how much the symptoms are bothering me, I may find it very frustrating. I didn’t make it to the second trimester the last time and I would take nausea over a molar pregnancy ANY day (and remember the nausea associated with a molar pregnancy is typically more severe than average pregnancy nausea). Then again maybe it won’t bother me after all. So it will be more helpful if you ask me, “How is it for you this time around?” Please remember that my next pregnancy will not be my first. I will never again experience the excitement of a first positive pregnancy test, a first ultrasound and the experience of my body changing as it starts to grow another human. Those experiences have all already happened for me and they did not have the outcome I’d anticipated.

Not that I think any of my friends would say this but just to put it out there, I doubt I will want to hear things like “They’re so much easier to take care of now.” This is something I’ve seen posted on friends’ Facebook pages as they approach their due date. Think about how that feels for anyone who’s experienced a pregnancy loss. I know people mean well but sometimes it’s not about what you meant. Try not to tell me to enjoy things while I can. I know parenting is going to be harder than I ever could imagine. I’ve been aware of that for quite some time. But you know what? So was losing a pregnancy. I never knew before that a miscarriage could lead to cancer. What I’ve learned these past few months is that the road to parenthood can be much harder and much sadder and much scarier than most people realize. So it’s just going to feel dismissive to hear “sleep while you can” or “enjoy your free time now.” Believe me, I sleep a lot and I enjoy it and I appreciate my free time. And I can finally say I’m ready for something else. Not to mention I’d rather lose my sleep and my free time if it meant my baby and I were healthy than ever be in this situation again. So I imagine I will often think ‘I’m healthy, my baby is healthy, this sure beats a traumatic miscarriage followed by a chemo scare!’ You probably will hear me say that. And like I said, it’s a tough balance because I don’t want you to treat me differently. I don’t want to be tiptoed around. I don’t want the isolation I already feel to be compounded. So again, I just ask you to be open, be curious and don’t make assumptions. I ask that you stay as hopeful for me as you were before this happened, though recognize that I will feel different. I’ve joined discussion boards for women who have a molar pregnancy and for those who have been medically cleared and tried again, they nearly all have healthy pregnancies the next time. I have to remind myself of this over and over as each month drags on and on and hope feels further and further away. It is important that those around me also remind me of this and reflect hope back to me.

None of my friends or family have asked but co-workers have asked if I’ll still be able to have children after all this. I don’t want to be asked questions about my fertility. I most likely will go on to have a healthy pregnancy next go round. The specialist I spoke to said that if women have more than one molar pregnancy that there is a chance their eggs are more susceptible to this type of pregnancy. However, even then, he told me, not every pregnancy they have will turn out this way. Though of course there are things that can come up other than molar pregnancies, but even so, it is still most likely that my next pregnancy will be healthy. And I’m getting way ahead of myself. Because right now, all indicators look good. My overall fertility is not in question right now. And being asked such questions does not help with my whole current lack of optimism.

All this said, I’d still rather you say one of these things I don’t want to hear than you hold back. If something comes up, just hear me out. You all are good friends. We’ll work though it. And all my friends have said or done things that are really helpful to me throughout this. Some of the things that stand out are-

“You are a strong woman.”

“You’ve already gone through a lot, that’s how I know you’ll get through this.”

“Well you have to have the most wonderful baby now. After all, you’ve already been through hell.” (This was a silly comment from my hair stylist but it felt like a caring acknowledgment of how much I’ve gone through).

In talking with a friend about all the rare pregnancy complications I’d heard of before but had never heard of a molar pregnancy, she jokingly said “Well you just had to go and outdo everyone, didn’t you? Like you think you’ve heard of bad pregnancy outcomes – but have you heard about this? Top that.” (Again this was silly but also validating).

The times when people just listened, heard what I had to say and provided validation and compassion. The times when people acknowledged they just didn’t know what to say and sometimes there are no words. The times when people both listened to me talk about this but let us also move on to other topics because there is more to life than pregnancy and parenting.

These are the kinds of things I have found helpful. Like I said, listening and asking is essential. And perhaps being told that all this makes me stronger.

Perhaps there can still be silver linings.

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I could start this post by asking, why do liberal white women ignore white supremacy? But the answer lies in the question. It’s because of white supremacy. White supremacy breeds arrogance and entitlement in us too.

Case in point is the new Freeform show, The Bold Type. Guilty admission – I’m watching it. Guiltier admission – I’m watching it because I saw ads for it while watching the end of Pretty Little Liars. And I decided I must DVR it. Anyways, while some of the show is contrived, a lot of it is spot-on in terms of the ramifications of misogyny. At least the ramifications of misogyny for white, (upper?) middle class, college-educated, straight, cisgender, able-bodied, American white women. And I don’t want to belittle the experience of misogyny for any woman because it’s always terrible. And yet… when we (white ciswomen) blatantly ignore and deny systemic intersections of oppression, it can make our efforts to fight misogyny seem, well, at best belittling to others, if not downright supremacist to others.

I just watched the third episode so I’m still one behind. But to date, the show has yet to bring up the R word (race). Seemingly liberal shows should bring up race in general. And in this show’s case one of the protagonist’s is a young woman of color named Kat. And one of the main supporting characters is a young black male. Well I guess race came up a little in one of the episodes featuring Adena, a supporting character who is Muslim. But even then, it seemed more focus was paid to her sexual orientation. AND the person who asked an ignorant question about her hijab was Kat. Duuudddeee, it is so much more likely a white girl would ask that question. At least I think so. And maybe race came up once with the black male character but I can’t remember, which means it probably wasn’t meaningful.

So in the last episode I watched, Kat is the target of internet trolling. All of the trolling is sexist, some of it includes rape threats and revenge porn. These are forms of internet misogyny that all women experience, especially if they stand up to sexism. However if the woman is a woman of color, her race will also be used against her. None of the trolling referenced Kat’s race and the show missed a huge opportunity to raise awareness of the intersection of sexism and racism.

Just last year, Leslie Jones had to flee the internet after Ghostbusters came out. All of the female stars of that film were harassed online but none of them experienced it to the extent that Jones did. The other three stars, Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy and Kate McKinnon are all white. In an effort to increase empathy for Jones (which I shouldn’t have to do but because of white supremacy I have to), let’s take a moment to consider this. All of the main actresses did an awesome job in this female-lead film that was funny (it made me lol!). All of them should have been able to celebrate after its release and remember it as a happy time. By all accounts it seems all of them were able to, except Jones. The exhilaration of accomplishment was stolen from her. Everyday she has to live with the oppression of sexism and racism and those systemic injustices further terrorized her when she experienced success. Have you any idea what it’s like to be forced off social media? While that may sound like a first world problem, think about it. In developed countries, the internet has become a means of community, connection and livelihood (and this is true in at least some communities of many, perhaps all, developing countries too). If you can’t be on the internet, consider the enormity of what you miss out on. You are denied all sorts of opportunities to socialize, network and access to all sorts of opportunities. Indeed being made to fear being online is a twenty-first century tool of oppression. One that, like all tools of oppression have always been, stalks and corners us at all times but this one feels even more insidious because it occurs on so many platforms simultaneously often from unidentifiable but all too real sources.

This shouldn’t have happened to Jones. And it shouldn’t happen to anyone.

So it should not be ignored. Opportunities to shed light on experiences of oppression, especially intersections of oppression should not be overlooked. I commend The Bold Type for showing how women are humiliated and threatened online. But the experience, IRL, would have been even more complicated and terrifying for Kat. And that should have been accounted for.

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Mis. Miss. Missed.

CN (Content Note): This post discusses miscarriage, pregnancy loss, trauma and depression.

I was on our couch, sobbing so hard I couldn’t breathe. Tissues were scattered around.

“I want the baby back,” I said to my husband.

“I know. Me too,” He said.

“The baby was real. It was there. I saw it,” And just like that, I dissolved further into tears.

Two weeks ago, I was eleven weeks pregnant. I was almost to the magic fourteen week marker and I was feeling pretty good. I mean, feeling confident that the pregnancy would stay. Physically, I felt like garbage. I was tired, dizzy and nauseous. Which, truthfully, is not all that different from how I have spent much of the past fourteen years feeling. Trauma and stress have taken a toll on my emotional and physical well-being. But with regular exercise, regular visits to the chiropractor and the removal of gluten from my diet, I had been feeling better for about six months. Then pregnancy happened and I felt sick again and pretty much constantly.

I was nervous. I was terrified. How would I manage without sleep? I’m exhausted even when I get eight, nine hours of sleep. How would I survive off patched together short stretches of sleep? How the hell would I get out the door in the morning while tending to an infant? I struggle to get out the door when I’m only caring for myself. How will I get to the gym? I thought of all the things in my life that I already find challenging (and can’t help but think they come so easily to others) and I was overwhelmed.

I was also really excited. My biological clock has (finally) started to kick in and I want a little, beautiful baby of my own. I want to see the world through some little person’s eyes. I want to nurture and support them and see who they turn out to be. What interests they will have, what paths in life they will take, what their personality will be like.

In terms of parenthood, I am a late bloomer. I never thought babies were cute until I was 26 years old. Then they became adorable. I never had an urge to have a baby of my own until I was thirty-one. And I never tried to have a baby until I was in my mid-thirties.

This past fall, my husband and I decided to take the plunge and try for a family. My cycle runs on the long side (typically 32-37 days). Then the election happened and Trump was elected. I was terrified, depressed and devastated. And suddenly my cycle became extra long. Between November and December, I went 49 days without my period. Then I didn’t get it all in January and waited 53 days until my next period arrived on February 11th. I figured it was probably stress from the election – I mean I was really stressed, thoughts of suicide even crossed my mind. (And to be honest, he is still stressing me out and I’m still very scared and…. my privilege is sheltering me from quite a bit). Anyways, I figured it was stress that was impacting my cycle but I went to the midwife I’d seen for a preconception consultation last spring. I went just in case something was physically wrong. Maybe I was in peri-menopause. That was not likely to be the case in my mid-thirties but some women experience early menopause. So I figured it couldn’t hurt to check-in. The midwife didn’t seem too worried (she did, however, seem a bit surprised that I attributed substantial stress to the election – but really, I experienced incredible despair this past November, December and January).  She offered for me to come in during my next period and take Clomid. I agreed to try this.

But then before my next period came, I got a positive pregnancy test. I gasped with excitement when I read “Pregnant” on the stick. With all the stress and menstrual cycle confusion, I was beginning to wonder if I was ever going to get pregnant. Then I realized that even though we’d started trying six months before, I’d only had three periods during that time. So it had only taken me a few cycles to get pregnant. Woohoo! Maybe I was more fertile than I’d thought.

The first month, I was happy but cautious. I have plenty of friends and family who have had miscarriages. Many of them lost their pregnancies in the typical way we think of; with sudden bleeding and the pregnancy miscarries on its own, but I’d also had a colleague who went for an OB appointment to hear the heartbeat and there wasn’t one. I knew miscarriage was common and there’s often no rhyme or reason for it. Family asked if I was working on the nursery yet and I thought, ‘No way! We don’t know what is going to happen yet.’

So I waited for the first OB appointment. I wanted to know there really was a little embryo in there. I wanted to know there was a heartbeat. They had me come in for my eleven week appointment and based that on the date of my last period. During the appointment, I explained there is no way I’m eleven weeks, my cycle got long and blah, blah, blah… So they did a mini-ultrasound and saw the pregnancy was more like 6.5 weeks. But they saw the pregnancy! There was an embryo there! And a heartbeat was seen! My husband and I looked at the ultrasound with wide-eyes. It was so exciting and so surreal.

I went back a week later to date the pregnancy since we couldn’t figure out how far along I was based on my last period date. I’d had some spotting after the first visit, which I figured was because of the physical but I was still nervous. The ultrasound revealed the baby was still there, heart beating and I was about 8.5 weeks along. My due date was December 14! I told the ultrasound tech that I’d had some spotting and asked if everything looked okay. She said “yup!” and I felt so much better. My husband and I were sent home with four photos from the ultrasound, which we happily displayed on our mantel.

At that point, I started to believe that I was really going to have this baby! I’d seen it twice now. I had plenty of pregnancy symptoms. I read online about all the milestones that make it more and more likely your pregnancy will last. If you make it to eight weeks, you’re much less likely to miscarry. If you see a heartbeat, there’s only a 10% chance you will lose the pregnancy – I mean, with odds like that how could I not feel confident? I made it to 10 weeks and the odds of miscarriage dwindled further and my baby was graduating from embryo-hood to fetal-hood. It was real. It was very likely that I was really going to be a mom and my husband was really going to be a dad.

Then on May 25, I went in to meet the OB for the first time. I was about eleven weeks along and was told I’d likely hear the heartbeat at this visit (we’d seen it before but had never heard it because the baby was so small prior to this visit). I was excited but also a little sad because this was the first visit my husband had had to miss. I didn’t want him to miss hearing the heartbeat for the first time! Of course, more than that, I wanted there to be a heartbeat…

Honestly, it didn’t even cross my mind that there would not be a heartbeat. I knew I could still lose the pregnancy but I thought if I were to, it would happen in the usual way. There would be blood and I’d know right away. But the heartbeat wouldn’t just stop, that’s not the way it works, once it’s there, it’s there (this was my non-medical logic). If I lost the pregnancy, I’d lose it heartbeat and all. I was waiting for the next three weeks to pass so I could finally be done the first trimester (I felt like I’d been in it forever).

The doctor came in and she was very nice. She said “We’ll start with the fun part first.” She got out the fetal Doppler. She put the cold jelly on me and started moving the fetal Doppler around. There were all sorts of weird noises and I thought how weird that these sounds are always going on inside me. Then there was a fast pitter-pat and I inhaled.

“That’s you,” She said and kept moving the fetal Doppler. Another heartbeat. “That’s you again,” She said. She tried a bit more and nothing else was detected.

“Okay let’s do an ultrasound,” she said, “Sometimes you can’t hear the heartbeat at this point because they’re so small-” the size of a kumquat, I knew from reading – “and they swim.”

That made me smile a little, to think of this tiny, playful being swimming around inside me.

“Let’s do the ultrasound so you don’t worry,” She said. I wasn’t worried. Like I said, I fully expected there to be a heartbeat. If something had happened, I would have known.

So I went back to the ultrasound room. On the screen, I noticed it said “viability test” and that was the first time I hesitated and wondered if something might be wrong. We weren’t supposed to be questioning viability at this point. We’d seen the heartbeat, the pregnancy was viable unless I started bleeding. Which I hadn’t. (Again, this was just my thinking and not based on any sort of medical experience).

Still I wasn’t that worried. This whole process of getting and being pregnant had been confusing between my suddenly super long cycles and the uncertainty of how far along I was. It made sense we couldn’t hear the heartbeat, this baby was a little rascal already, keeping us all in suspense.

The ultrasound tech had me lie down and she also put more jelly on me and began the ultrasound. We were quiet for a moment and I was looking at the screen. Then I looked at her face and noticed she was frowning. More silence. Then she looked at me and said, “I’m not seeing a heartbeat, I’m so sorry.”

I was confused. Why was she sorry? If she couldn’t see the heartbeat, she just needed to look again, to look harder. I mean, it could not have just gone away… right? Didn’t she know how weird this pregnancy had been? Nothing was happening as it should have but it had always been okay. So it had to be okay now too. But suddenly… I wasn’t so sure.

“What does that mean?” I asked, sitting up.

“Let me get the doctor,” was her answer.

I sat there for a few minutes, still not that worried that anything was actually wrong. They’d look again. They’d find it. All was well, as it had been all along.

Then the doctor came in and came close to me. “So there is no heartbeat,” She said and pointed to the screen, “It looks like the baby stopped growing at ten weeks.”

I looked at the screen and saw the outline of the fetus. It was all dark and gray inside. Gone was the bright spot of light where the heartbeat had been. She started explaining to me what would happen next. I was actually able to take in a lot of what she said, despite being completely shocked. I would have to have surgery. This was not my fault. These things happen sometimes, usually because something wasn’t developing quite right with the fetus.

Then I started to cry, hard. She hugged me. I was worried maybe I’d never have children. That was my first thought. Not that I’d lost the baby. I don’t know if that’s normal. I don’t know if anything that has to do with a pregnancy loss can be “normal.” You do what you do. I know that. And still I worry that maybe I’m selfish because that was my first thought. I asked the doctor if it meant I would never have a baby. She said no. She said this does not have to do with me. She said she herself has four children but has been pregnant nine times. Miscarriages happen and they can happen to anyone.

Logically, I’d known this and in ways, I’d been preparing myself for this very situation. But I also had grown confident over the past two weeks and grown attached to the baby.

I left the doctor’s office. I drove home. I just wanted to be home. I got home. Nothing about being home made me feel better. It was just slightly less bad to be in private and to be able to cry and cry and cry. Which I did.

I called my husband. He wasn’t answering. I cried. I called my sister and I called two friends. Then I called my husband again. He answered, he was at work and all was still well in his world. I had to give him this terrible news. I did.

“No,” I heard him gasp with an inhale and a stifled sob. Hearing him so sad broke my heart more than anything. I wanted him to be happy. He’d been so happy. And now…

He got home. We cried and lay in bed. I thought being home, being with him would make things less bad. It took every ounce of strength to not fall apart while walking out of that doctor’s office, getting into my car and driving home. But being home and falling apart with the person I loved more than anyone, didn’t really make much difference. I was still in this situation. It was still awful.

I called out of work for the next several days. I still had to have this surgery and since it was Thursday before a holiday weekend, I had to wait until Tuesday. I had already told my colleagues. I didn’t tell anyone except my two office-mates for the first month but then after the second ultrasound, I made the decision to tell the others. Even though I knew I could still miscarry. And I don’t regret that decision. Because I probably would have told them anyways since I’ve taken quite a bit of time off. For me, it feels better to be open about why I’m sad and why I’m not at work.

The days between the news and the surgery were weird. I was technically still pregnant. I still felt nauseous and still burped a ridiculous amount but I noticed my boobs weren’t as tender. I was scared for the surgery. I kept hoping maybe I would start bleeding but I also knew that that might actually be worse.

I felt like I was walking with a ghost. There was this little shell of a person in me. I’m pro-choice and I do not believe life begins at conception. And yet when you get pregnant, your life changes. As soon as you get that positive pregnancy test, someone else, some future someone else, comes into your life and they never go away. I’d felt this budding life in me, not yet a life itself, but a growing and blossoming one. There was this little creature in me who was going to be our baby. And then suddenly there was still this tiny being in me, it’s just that it would never actually be.

I cried a lot. I took down the picture of the ultrasound. I kissed the picture and I put it in a box where I keep other items that are special to me. (Of course I still look at the ultrasound and I tell the now-gone baby, “I love you”). I listened to a song by Beyoncé that she wrote after she also experienced a miscarriage – and like me, a missed miscarriage where she didn’t know she’d lost the pregnancy until she went to her doctor and there was no more heartbeat. I didn’t get out of bed often. I stayed in my pajamas. I cuddled with my cats. I thought of other women I knew who had gone through this, some of them multiple times, and I wondered how they were so strong. It felt impossible.

Then I had the surgery done. My husband was with me and held my hand as I waited to be put under and wheeled away. I had been so scared for it but physically it was not bad. Emotionally, that’s another story. I just wanted it over with. And at the same time, once it was over then our future baby was really gone. I felt so empty. Where my uterus had been full and growing life, there was suddenly nothing there and there was no baby to show for it. It was empty and that was so very sad.

Two days after the surgery on May 30, I went back to work for four days. It was not easy. I was sore from the anesthesia. My throat hurt and was scratchy because they’d put a breathing tube down it. And I felt horribly alone.

Now I’m off until next Tuesday. I was supposed to have this whole week off anyways. I went in on Monday and Tuesday to conserve some of my paid time off. I had already felt so burnt out and in need of a break from work before this. Now I need a break from everything.

I wanted to share this story because I think it’s important to talk about these things. I also want to let people know what has been helpful, where I’m at these days and what I need. Remember this is just what I myself need. Other people in this situation may need something else. For instance, for me, it is helpful to hear about other people who have gone through this and now have children or are pregnant. I’ve heard that for some women, this is not helpful to hear. But for me it is…

So well, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me first explain where I am now:

My feelings are all over the place. Mostly I’m terribly sad. But I’m also hopeful and future-oriented. I’m mourning this baby but also dreaming of who our next baby will be. Sometimes I feel totally normal. Last night, I got my hair highlighted and trimmed. I felt like myself then. This morning I woke up and felt some dread because I’m still stuck at this point in my life.

I’m terrified. I think everyone who goes through a miscarriage is. There is a lot of uncertainty and perhaps especially if you’ve never been had a baby before. You can’t help but wonder if you’re actually able to carry a pregnancy to term and deliver a baby into this world. Even though it is well-documented that most women who have one, or more, miscarriages go on to have healthy, successful pregnancies. It still is hard to not doubt yourself. And I think that maybe for me, it is even harder to cope with the doubts and uncertainty. I live with immense anxiety and some depression. It is all too easy for me to fall into pits of despair and feel like nothing will be okay. Logically I know this is just who I am, this is how I react to stress and that I’ve gotten through very difficult times before. Emotionally though, it’s hard to truly feel and understand that. It is easy for me to go to the worst case scenario and feel stuck there.

Every time I talk about or even think about the next pregnancy, I feel my stomach to churn and my heart skip a beat. This is because I know I will be anxious for at least the first trimester of the next pregnancy. This is because I am terrified that this will happen again. Because I’m really scared that maybe I’ll never get pregnant again. This is probably normal for anyone who goes through a miscarriage but again, I can’t help but think it is even more pronounced for me because of my tendencies towards extreme anxiety. I’m so scared of not being able to conceive again or losing the pregnancy again that it pains me to acknowledge the possibility of pregnancy again. I’m terrified because I feel like I’m jinxing myself to even think about being pregnant again.

I know it is very likely that the miscarriage was an unfortunate instance, that it happened because there was a chromosomal abnormality. I know this is unlikely to happen again. And… I’m scared that it will. I’m scared there is something “wrong” with me. I’m scared I have a hormonal issue or a luteal phase defect or some other condition. I’m scared I’m actually starting menopause and that is why my cycle became so long. I’m praying to a god I don’t even believe in that I’m not going through menopause. I’m praying I will never have to go through this again.

I know I need to be present and take it day by day. My mind races and spirals and that just makes it all worse. And at the same time, it is really hard to be in this moment. My current day-to-day reality is a nightmare and I don’t want to be here. I’m not suicidal, I don’t want to be dead. But I also don’t want to be living this part of my life. I want it to be over with. I can’t help but look to the future because even though there are uncertainties and what-ifs in the future, there is also hope and there is the possibility of a pregnancy with a much happier outcome. And I need to believe in that, as hard and as scary as it is.

I also want to share the perspective that I have on this. The way that I am looking at miscarriages right now is that they are just as much a part of parenthood as anything else. Miscarriage is so common and it can happen to anyone. I don’t say that to scare anyone but to normalize and universalize this very painful experience that can feel so isolating. The unfortunate reality is that when we make the decision to get pregnant or to keep a pregnancy, we risk this. We, especially the ones who are pregnant, sacrifice a lot of ourselves while not knowing the outcome, if we’ll feel joy or grief. And isn’t that what parenting is? Sacrifice without knowing what, if anything, you’ll get in return. Isn’t it putting yourself out there repeatedly knowing you could get hurt over and over, whether by lack of societal support or by something going wrong or not the way you’d hoped?

Lastly, it is hard for me to be around pregnant people, babies and toddlers right now. At this point in my life, these are reminders of my grief. This is especially hard because two of my closest friends are pregnant and one is due in October and the other in November. Then I was supposed to be due in December. I felt so, so lucky to be pregnant at the same time as them. As much as I was excited to be pregnant, it was also lonely and kind of an isolating experience. You feel different than you normally feel. You can’t do a lot of the things you normally do. You can feel left out when your friends or co-workers go out for drinks. You’re happy to be pregnant and you know you won’t be in this phase forever and there are a lot of cool aspects of growing another human being. And yet, it can still leave you feeling apart from others and even from yourself. So to have two of my closest friends going through it with me was such a gift. It made me less lonely and I felt a connection to them.

To my friends who are pregnant, I write this just to put it out there. Believe me when I say I am so happy for you. And I desperately want and need you in my life right now. I want to hear from you and see you and hang out with you. And of course, I still feel connected to you in other ways. You’ve been my friends for decades. And… the loss of the pregnancy also means the loss of something special we were all experiencing together and it makes me very sad. I’m really anxious to go to baby showers. But I am absolutely going to go because you’re so important to me and I never want you to feel like you’re not. I love you all, pregnant and not, so much. (Side note- As I’m writing this, I’m listening to 4 am by Our Lady Peace which hopefully for some of you brings you right back to tenth grade and makes you feel all the feels, because it sure is making me feel all the feels).

So what do I need right now?

I need to know you still believe in me. Condolences are helpful and needed. But more than that, I need to feel hope. No, none of us can know what the future holds and maybe I never will have a baby. Maybe my husband and I will adopt. But right now there is no reason to think I won’t be able to have a successful pregnancy in the future. Even if a miscarriage happens again (and I so hope it does not!), it is still likely I will eventually carry a pregnancy to term and have a baby. I need to hear that you know that. Because I am so prone to hopelessness, it is essential I hear from others that they believe in me and are hopeful for me. Hearing you say you’re hopeful doesn’t mean I think you have some crystal ball and can see into the future. But it does reassure me that you don’t think of me differently and that you are optimistic. When I feel this, slowly some hope starts to fill me. And I need that now.

It is helpful to hear I am strong and brave. I do not feel that way right now. I feel gutted. Hearing that others see me this way makes me feel less depleted.

Texts and emails are appreciated. Even if I don’t respond right away, please know it means a lot to me. I feel so alone right now and hearing from loved ones chips away at the isolation.

There are silver linings. I hope you don’t think I’m some monster for thinking of these things. It’s just that if it has to be this way then at least there’s this…

I hope our next baby will be born in a month that is not December. I never wanted a December baby. I mean, believe me, I’d rather have a December baby than be in this situation. But birthdays are really important to me (as many of you know) and I would love to have a spring or summer baby. Maybe now I will.

I want to be pregnant during Christmas. It just seems cozy to me. And during the winter. Also cozy. And then I can get out of shoveling.

I think I will appreciate the next baby even more so. Don’t get me wrong, I was so grateful for the little life growing in me. But I was so scared and dreading sleep deprivation. And I’m sure I still will and it will suck. And I think that the next time I will be more focused on finding a way to hang in there through it rather than just dreading it will happen. Because now I know that once you’re pregnant, there is, unfortunately, an alternative. And I’m much rather find a way to deal with sleep deprivation and lack of down time than go through this ever again.

I now really, really know that my husband and my marriage are amazing. It’s not that I didn’t know this before. But the past year and a half has presented us with several challenges. We experienced TWO layoffs last year, which was a special kind of hell. And we got through it and supported each other tremendously through it. Now we’re going through this. And my husband has been phenomenal. When I was with him after receiving the terrible news, I asked him if our life would still be good, even if we never have children. Without missing a beat, he said, “Yes it will be the best.” And that was exactly what I needed to hear then.

Also, my husband and I get to take one last trip together. We’d really wanted to go on a big adventure last year but for a couple of reasons, including the layoffs, we were unable to. We thought about taking a babymoon but I wasn’t super comfortable with the idea of traveling while pregnant. I’ve always wanted to go to South America. And now we’re going to go (not to a country where there is Zika!). Now we get to have one last hurrah before we buckle down and have this baby.

I guess that’s about it. This was a long post. If you made it this far, thank you for reading it. Thank you to all of you who have reached out, who have emailed or texted, who have sent cards and/or gifts, who have brought us food and cleaned our house. And thank you to all of you just for being in my life and bringing me happiness. Know you’re appreciated. And know that I’m sad but hanging in there. The other night, I dreamed of rainbows. Bright, brilliant rainbows. Single rainbows, double rainbows even triple rainbows. I’m just waiting for this storm to pass…


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On having mixed feelings for Ivanka

My ideas here may not be well-received. I get it. Ivanka Trump is a woman who grew up with more than just your average white girl privilege (which in and of itself is more than enough). She was (and is) rich AF, richer than rich. While there are some things I actually sorta admire about her, my blood boils more often than not when it comes to her. Her public image is often that of an entitled and extremely privileged woman who is disconnected from the average American woman. Worse still, she often appears completely uninterested in even considering what life is like for most women.

Growing up, I was vaguely aware of her. Hell, I was vaguely aware of one Donald J Trump until The Apprentice aired and subsequently took off in popularity. I knew of this absurdly (perhaps allegedly??) wealthy family with a daughter about my age. Like many Americans, I can fall into the trap of being intrigued by the uber rich and on rare occasions, I was fascinated by this girl and wondering what her life must be like. Mostly though, I had little knowledge of the family and rarely did I care.

Still. We don’t need to speculate that her dad is a creeper. He painted himself that way, with all the yucky things he’s said about his daughter – in public, mind you. Who the hell knows what happens behind closed doors?! Furthermore, when Ivanka is portrayed or called the new FLOTUS, it is, to me, creepy and (to go off on a tangent for a moment) reminds me of Geli Raubal, Hitler’s niece. There are many public images of Ms. Raubal with her uncle that make it look as though she is totally at ease in his presence but articles about her paint another picture entirely. If we are confused by the counter images of her, we can consider the impact of complex trauma on survivors’ seemingly contradictory behavior. History has not been kind to Ms. Raubal either. Even attempts to uncover “mysteries” surrounding her life and death call her “an enchantress” or reference quotes that she was “an empty-headed little slut who manipulated her uncle.” And while I don’t mean to say that every time a woman with power or privilege commits an atrocity she is actually a victim because that is simply not true. And yet society is quick to universally paint women as “evil” and simply using their “feminine wiles” to one-up the men in their lives, as if the women are the ones with all the control. That is also simply not true. When it comes to the interplay of privilege and oppression, there have been instances of both free will and coercion throughout history. Final thought on this matter; there are many times when privileged women make bad choices and need to be held accountable.

Anyways, the point I was making is that we don’t know all that much about DJT’s relationship with his eldest daughter. What we do know is enough to label his beliefs and behaviors towards his daughter as creepy. He has made some pretty awful choices in his public treatment of his daughter. That’s why I’m not super comfortable with the boycotting of Ivanka’s products. It’s true Donald Trump’s reactive behavior to the perhaps subsequent dropping of his daughter’s brand has been unethical perhaps illegal. It’s also true I’m not planning to buy her products. On the one hand, I think of the choices and messages she puts out, many of which, I’m guessing, are not coerced but rather are of her own free will. And I just can’t stomach buying her brand. I also shudder at the idea of having her name on anything I have bought. And yet, a nagging thought keeps surfacing in my head. It’s that this woman has already had to bear the brunt of many of her father’s bad decisions, so now she must endure further consequences of her father’s wretched behaviors? Or is it really that she is spoiled and has chosen to continue to use her birth right to accrue wealth of her own?

There’s no way to know for sure. And perhaps a bit of both possibilities is true. There is so much more I could say on this matter too, like that he has said awful things about his own daughter but then said he hopes she would quit if she were sexually harassed not to mention the victim should never be the one who has to quit (or be fired).

While I will not buy her products, I can’t help but feel bad for her too. Still. The loss of sales at Nordstrom and many others is hardly going to hurt her. I’m sure many of the wealthy white women who backed her father will back her now, because it wasn’t just working class whites who supported Trump. Ivanka Trump will still be richer than the astounding majority of women. And no amount of money will ever protect her from her father… as we’ve seen there hasn’t been much in the way of accountability for his creepy public treatment of her and we can only speculate what happens behind closed doors….

Also despite this little excursion, don’t caught up too much in all the smoke and mirrors. There will be many.

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