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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BoldeR

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 babycenter.com – “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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Wise Mind for a Chaotic World

Disclaimer: This post is written by a straight, white, cis, able-bodied, American-born, middle class woman who has a lot of privilege. I am hoping there is a little something for everyone in this post but I also know that much of it may be most relevant for people, who like me, want to be better allies.

The United States was built on racism. We uphold and rely on systems of oppression. We are always in chaos and always in crisis. Do not forget this. And now we are at a moment in time when crisis is impacting those who typically live comfortably amidst the chaos. In other words, we feel the chaos more than we usually do, especially those of us who have a lot of privilege.

When I was in grad school, a professor said that when the middle class gets uncomfortable, social justice movements really take off. And I think what she, a woman of color, meant but perhaps felt unable to say is that when white, liberal, middle class people (aka her students) get uncomfortable that is when change happens. And not because we’re better at social change than people of color or poor folks are – puh-lease, we are so not. But because we’re privileged, we do have more resources and power at our disposal. It is an embarrassment and injustice that we wait until we’re uncomfortable to join movements but that’s a whole other blog post. The only other thing I’ll say on that is DO NOT CO-OPT the work of people with less privilege than you. We didn’t start the work – they did. If not for them, we would not know where to start. I am eternally grateful to so many people who have been doing this work all along. My advice to you; Listen to them and join them. Follow their lead for a change (pun intended). Believe me, they have everyone’s best interests at heart whereas we, often, only have our own best interests at heart.

When the 2008 recession struck, I thought that disaster was going to be what catapulted us into action. I thought then ‘oh this is what my professor meant!’ And in small ways it did. Obama was elected. The Occupy movements rose up. Those were big moments and movements and there was discomfort but not enough of it, apparently.

So here we are more than eight years later. And I think THIS might be it. There is a lot I have to say now that the privileged folks are committed to change too. But the first I will address is self-care and coping. These, as Audre Lorde points out, are survival skills.

Self-care to me is all about being self-aware and it is about balance. I use DBT skills, and find that the concept of Wise Mind is particularly useful. That link has more of an official definition/explanation. But the best way I can explain it is that when a crisis or trauma occurs, we go into fight, flight or freeze mode. Everything is all or nothing in an emergency. We have to react. That is essential for our survival. But when we have been through a particularly hideous trauma, we begin to live the entirety of our lives in survival mode. The same is true when we’ve gone through or are going through chronic stress or trauma. The next four years will likely be a state of constant stress, chaos and crisis. But we cannot live in survival mode for four years. Spoiler alert; that is neither good nor helpful for us or anyone or anything. Wise Mind brings us back to a place of balance where people, events and life are as they truly are; neither all good nor all bad.

And hey, it is okay to react in stressful situations. In fact in true emergencies it is necessary. And when there is or has been chronic stress it is normal to start living in constant survival mode. After all, you are human and this is what humans do. But humans  are also resilient AF and they adapt. As humans we have the ability (and gift) to reflect on how we feel and how to best support ourselves. So when shit gets real, ask yourself, what do I need right now?

I always need balance. I need downtime. I need moments to reflect on what I’m going through, how I’m feeling and why. I need peaceful moments. I feel better when I remember there are peaceful moments even during chaotic times and that you can be peaceful even during chaos. Incorporating these beliefs into my day-to-day helps me to be able to respond more than I react.

The oppressor will demand urgency, the oppressor will provoke reaction, the oppressor will often be reactive while also being calculated, the oppressor will thrive off extremes, the oppressor will split us. And we stay whole, we find balance and we respond. And we forgive ourselves. If we react and in hindsight think we didn’t need to, we be gentle with ourselves. It is absolutely normal to feel intense emotions when everything around you is so intense. What is happening is not okay but you, wonderful, kind and flawed human that you are, are okay.

If you have privilege, it can be easy to feel guilty. It is easy to feel like you have to always be working because other people don’t get breaks, they don’t get breaks from their oppression. And that is true. Unfortunately there is no break from racism, sexism, homophobia etc. And people who live with more than one oppression are working overtime without breaks. Still, it is essential for all of us to be balanced. This article talks about it and I can give an example from my own life. I did not choose to be born female and thus be a gender that is disproportionately impacted by intimate partner abuse and sexual assault, among other things. But I chose to work in Domestic Violence for a loonnnggggg time. I had no choice but to be impacted more by these issues than a straight, cis man is impacted by them. But in doing DV work, I became aware of just how prevalent this violence is. Despite my own personal experiences with it, I was exposed to it significantly more than I would have been had I not done that work. I learned even more about the ways sexism impacts all women. And I learned about the ways my white privilege minimizes some of the impacts of sexism. I learned that women and people living with multiple forms of oppression are even further harmed by misogyny. As Gloria Steinem (who is perhaps more woke than she used to be) said recently “Sexism is always made worse by racism — and vice versa.”

In short, I became more aware of my experience of oppression because of sexism but even more so, I became more aware of my privilege. Because I am white, I could have chosen a more comfortable job. Dare I say even as a social worker, there are many more comfortable jobs than doing domestic violence work. Because I am white, I could have ignored the intersection of racism and sexism. Because I am white, I could have lived very comfortably even with all the sexism I experience (granted many white women have been significantly more impacted by misogyny than me. Still they will fare far less uncomfortably in the aftermath than women of color, especially middle class white women).

While I did DV work, I chose to take breaks. I did not spend every waking second thinking about DV. I took breaks and tried to do fun things in my spare time as much as possible. True, my privilege made it easier for me to do this. It is important to recognize that so I don’t lose sight of all the advocacy that must be done for others to have the same privileges I have. And I am certain that I could not have done the work for as long as I did without engaging in essential self-care. Even now as I work a non-DV job, I am still doing DV work. By that I mean that I still attend to DV; I, among other actions, ensure my office is DV and trauma-informed and responsive. If I didn’t care for myself, I could not do that. So I think that when you take breaks from the resistance, it does not mean you’ve stopped doing the work. On the contrary, you are further committing yourself to doing the work.

The only other thing I’ll say is that if, like me, you have far more privilege than you don’t, please attend to those with less privilege. Offer them unconditional support. Don’t use them to get your needs met. Be mindful of the emotional labor that people of privilege ask of people with less privilege. Achieving a just, balanced society will only be possible after privileged folks have committed to giving more than taking. Because we already have more than enough.

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Full of ire, don’t lose your fire

CN (Content Note): This post talks about suicide and forms of oppression. Please consider this and the impact it may have on you. If you are feeling very depressed or suicidal, please seek help. This is a personal blog only, not a resource for professional mental health support.

In the wee hours of November 9th, I put myself to bed, full of despair. The election was not yet called but it looked bad. Really bad. I’d been there before, I could see the writing on the (electoral college) wall. In the early morning hours of November 3, 2004, the election was too close to call but it seemed likely that W would be re-elected. So in 2004 and with a heavy heart, I tried to go to sleep and come morning, I’d faced the dawn and reality that there would be four. more. years. So just a few weeks ago, I climbed into bed, knowing that when my alarm rang on 11/9/16, I’d wake to doomsday – to find that Trump had, in fact, won the election.

In those dark, early hours, I thought about throwing myself out of my second floor bedroom window. It was a passing thought but still as I thought of having to look at that nasty man’s face for the next four years, I panicked. I wasn’t sure I wanted to live under the rule of someone who so outwardly supports rape culture, who rape apologizes like no other. But the acute, life-threatening despair passed. I didn’t really want to die, though I was overwhelmed past the point of knowing how to cope. And I knew that I needed to stick around and hope and fight for things to get better.

No doubt the brevity of this suicidal ideation was a combined function of my privilege and mild depression. I’ve, fortunately, never been actively suicidal, I’ve never had more than passive, passing thoughts of suicide. And I don’t mean to minimize that experience, it’s still real and still painful. But it’s also different than someone who lives with severe depression and actively plans their death.

Still it was an additional punch to the gut when I saw a headline that white supremacists are promoting online harassment of Clinton-supporters in hopes they will kill themselves. The pain I’d experienced and still experience, the heightened depression, it’s real. To be so raw and to know people were delighting in my anguish was, and is, a terrifyingly painful and isolating place to be.

But the thing is, my isolation in that moment was an illusion. More people than not wanted Clinton to be president and even more people did not actively support either candidate. I know people who didn’t vote and were devastated that Trump won. The people I know who elected (wordplay intended) not to vote are people of color who don’t see this system as made for them nor valuing them nor actively promoting their participation in it. And they’re right. And they also know that Trump will exponentially maintain the system as one relevant to only white people, especially white, straight, able-bodied cis men. And they’re right.

So my point is many people are unhappy. More of us are dismayed than not. We are not alone.

The fact that white supremacists are actually hoping we’ll kill ourselves, disturbing as that is, means we’re doing something right. It means they have contempt for us yes, but it also means they feel threatened by us. We’ve barely even gotten started with a progressive, inclusive agenda. But we have made some gains and those gains have clearly scared the alt-right.

Don’t forget your power. Their backlash, their violence is to be condemned but it also shows the importance of you. If you didn’t matter, if you didn’t have strength, if you didn’t have something in you that challenges their power and their dominance then they would ignore you. They want you to be obsolete, to not matter, to not exist or rather to exist only in a way that justifies their superiority and ensures they always get their way.

But you do matter. And they know that. And it scares them. So they try to make you question your significance, your value. They make you feel like an outlier or isolated in your beliefs. But you are not.

So keep fighting. Because it’s working. Keep fighting because we still have a very long way to go. When they retaliate, feel the pain, feel the fear but never forget to feel the gain. Because backlash only occurs when progress has been made. And that is something that is worth fighting for.

And of course, people who engage in violent behavior must be held accountable. But accountability is different than retaliation or vengeance. And you know that. So be proud. Feel the power and compassion within you that lets you face horrifying contempt without succumbing to it. You know how to disapprove of someone’s actions and condemn their behaviors without demonizing or dehumanizing them. That is a powerful skill. So keep it, hone it and improve upon it. Be strong, be unwavering, be pragmatic, be kind but be no-nonsense about the BS. Be gentle but firm.

Recognize that your experience, what you offer to the fight and the boundaries you must set will depend on a multitude of things including the current quality of your mental health and the amount of privilege you have (or don’t have). Remember that if you have privilege and non-debilitating mental health then you have an obligation to get out there and use your resources to fight and you have a responsibility to not monopolize the fight nor take credit for the work of those with fewer resources and less privilege.

And again if you are considering suicide, please seek help. You matter.

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Dear White Ladies, let’s talk.

Dear White Ladies,

I write to you as one of your own as I, too, am a white lady. I know the sting of sexism and misogyny but I also am (at least somewhat) aware of my own privilege. It seems many of you are not.

In the aftermath of the 2016 POTUS election, I’ve been thinking a lot about you all, about us; the white, American woman. On the one hand, I’m (unfortunately) not that surprised that so many white  people, including white women, voted for Trump. I know white people and I know how we can be, including us liberal ones, who often deny our own racism and white supremacy and become defensive and dismissive when people of color point this out to us – not to mention it shouldn’t be on people of color to point this out to us. We should be holding ourselves and each other accountable. Still. On the other hand, I am still deeply ashamed, disappointed and horrified by how many of us voted for Trump. And I’ve been trying to discern why this happened. I recognized and feared this could happen and yet I was too wrapped up in my own privilege before to really think of why…So let’s talk. Let me ask some questions and try to figure this out. I’m going to try to understand where you were coming from and then I’m going to help you understand that you need to cut the crap.

Just to put one thing out there…. However mind-boggling it is that any group of women voted against their own rights, I also think that significant focus on any one group of women detracts from the responsibility of those at the tippy-top; the straight, white, able-bodied, American cis men. Still as a white woman, I feel it is imperative to acknowledge the privilege white women do have and to ask those in my cohort why on earth they’d vote for one Donald John Trump. Also I think that, as a white woman, I have at least a little credibility when it comes to our experience.

So what the fuck happened last week? For what are we so willing to overlook society’s hatred of us? Is it white supremacy? Does white supremacy have such a hold on us that we’re willing to overlook blatant violence against women? I ask that rhetorically as it’s clear that it does. So I’m going to be blunt and say the ugly and awful truth… We are willing to look the other way and normalize sexual violence if it means our race stays at the top. We really are such xenophobes that we’ll brush off threats of sexual violence if it means we get to keep “those people” out. No matter what socioeconomic class we’re in, we know that our neighborhoods will always be safer and more desirable than the of color neighborhood in our class bracket (not that these class differences should exist, but that’s an issue for another post). And we, apparently, plan to keep it that way. At all costs. We want the guarantee that we will have – that our children will have – full access to better schools and healthcare than people of color and their children. If white supremacy’s existence is perpetuated then we are guaranteed comfort for ourselves and loved ones and we so uncompromisingly want that, want to be at the top, that we’ll risk our own degradation. Hey, we may not be safe or equal in our own homes but at least we are safe and superior outside them – better that than what women of color and non-cisgender folks of color experience, which is danger everywhere, always.

But here’s the thing, women of color and all people of color aren’t asking us to switch places with them. They’re just asking for equal access to the things we have. They’re asking for good schools, healthcare, ubiquitous safety and so much more. They want those things to be seen as they are; rights everyone should have rather than privileges afforded only to some. It is complete BS that some people have to be sacrificed for the sake of others and we white women know this. We know this but we make other choices because of our xenophobia and because we, as a group, apparently can’t stand the thought of people of color having what we have. Do I hear some of you saying ‘No that’s not how we are’? Well now that it’s post-election, it’s clear we are that way; that the majority of white women range from apathy towards people of color to contempt for people of color. And that is completely unacceptable. We need to hold each other and ourselves accountable for these harmful beliefs and behaviors.

I want to spend a moment acknowledging our own internalization of misogyny and how that plays out for us versus how it plays out for women of color. All women, including white women, internalize misogyny. After all I’ve heard liberal, supposedly empowered white women say their husbands are more rational and calm than they are because they (the ladies) have those pesky female hormones. Never mind the fact that women tend to still carry more of the home-life burdens and responsibilities, do all kinds of emotional labor and be exposed at higher rates to violence by someones they know and its subsequent trauma. Perhaps those reasons understandably make us more emotional. And seriously, does the ability to feel our feelings really make us less rational? Isn’t the belief that women are emotional and therefore less rational one of the root beliefs of patriarchy? Isn’t it the patriarchy that  validates men’s anger and dismisses women’s sadness and distress (and anger)? Isn’t a systemically oppressive belief that you can only be one way or the other; stern, measured, rational and in control (male) or overwhelmed, hysterical, out of control and irrational (female). And yes that’s an over-simplified breakdown that’s strictly focusing on gender and not the many ways that people of color of all genders are labeled as too emotional.

And all this came up for me after a conversation with more progressive (white) women. So what do these beliefs look like for more conservative, “traditional” white women? Perhaps they look like this or this. So what happens when those white ladies are married and hitting the polls? Not to mention that far too many- though certainly not all or even most – straight, white women experience intimate partner abuse and can feel flat-out brainwashed by their abusive partners. If their partners are overt white supremacists then they likely internalize those beliefs even more so. I say even more so because all white women have internalized white supremacy. But chances are that a woman who marries a higher-up in the KKK (who, let’s face it, is probably a batterer) likely entered that relationship, at least initially, willingly and therefore was either pretty damn racist herself or pretty damn indifferent. Either one is unacceptable.

But lest we forget women of color experience all that same misogyny. They even further downplay their own needs because of the intersection of white supremacy and misogyny (not to mention any other oppression many of them also experience, i.e., homophobia, ableism). Also women of color are even further impacted by intimate partner abuse. But they didn’t vote for Trump at nearly the same rates. So what gives white ladies? Were we more apt to vote for Trump simply because the men in our lives, the overwhelming majority of whom are white, were voting for Trump?

Even though that may be part of the truth, the reality is not that simple. And none of this excuses white women’s white supremacy. However dominated by our male counterparts, we do still have agency and certainly have societal power and we need to make better choices. We can be both privileged and oppressed at the same time. Responsibility for our privilege and internalized supremacy is not minimized by our oppression. So why did I even bring it up? To provide context. And to alleviate confusion (feigned or real) about where we stand and why we must hold ourselves accountable.

All of the things I have mentioned are true; white women experience oppression by men and they also are so racist that they’ll sacrifice their rights in order to maintain white supremacy. So let me break it down for you. White ladies, this isn’t about you. On many levels, it is not about you. The world makes us feel less-than as women but that’s not because we are, it’s because men created a gendered hierarchy wherein any gender that is not cis male is inferior. Society’s disdain for us is not our fault and it’s not because of anything wrong with us but rather something wrong with society. And if your partner puts you down and assaults you verbally, emotionally, sexually, financially and/or physically, it is not your fault and it is not about you. It is about your partner’s beliefs and bad decision to abuse you. So white ladies this is not about you and this is not just about us. We aren’t the only people oppressed by cis men. Women of color and non-cisgender folks of color also experience misogyny as well as racism. Perhaps we white ladies didn’t initiate white supremacy but we certainly participated in its creation and perpetuation. It’s not just about us. Think what it’s like for people of color, all people of color and then think what it’s like for people of color who aren’t cis men. We have to think of others. It’s not just about us. So even if you prefer a more traditional marriage, remember it’s not only your preferences that matter. If Clinton were president, you could keep your traditional marriage but with Trump as president many people fear they will lose their lives or their loved ones.

And this isn’t just for Trump voting white ladies. I was shaken to my core by the recordings of Trump in 2005 talking about assaulting women. It dredged up bad experiences and memories for me, both personally and through my work. Those tapes left me reeling for the last month of the election and this past week. And while I donated to Hillary and posted in support of her, I was still so content in my white comfort that I took little meaningful action. Even though I feared and dreaded there was a good chance Trump could win, which he did, I wasn’t driven to action. I know people who voted for Trump and I did little to reach out to them and talk about this. I didn’t join BLM marches and actively support women of color. I hardly acknowledged that Hillary called children of color “super predators.” I mean, I could have supported her and asked her to provide restitution to people harmed by such beliefs. Why didn’t I? What unchecked privilege and supremacy led me to be relatively passive in the face of such violent talk towards women and about people of color?

And now I have to dig deep in myself and realize what a hold white supremacy has on me and just how much of myself I’ve been willing to give up because it keeps me overall comfortable.

Well I’m not comfortable now. And you shouldn’t be either. I’m keeping front and center in my mind that it’s not just about me. And I’m going to do better and I’m not going to stop. And I urge those in my privileged white lady cohort to do the same.

Sincerely,

Izzy

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