Friday, October 21, 2016

Necessary Choices

I wasn't going to say anything. There are other stories that are heartbreaking and realer than real. I don't feel like I have anything significant to add to the conversation. But other people are talking. And they're talking without having the proper information. Words like "murder" and "selfish" are being thrown around so I'm going to share my story. Take from it what you will.

I was 25 when I got pregnant. I was married. My pregnancy was planned and very much wanted. I was so excited and so elated that I broke the three-month rule. I told my friends, my mom, I called my grandparents. When I gloated to my doctor that I got pregnant the first month after I was off the pill, she gave me a blank look. I assumed she wasn't as impressed with my fertility as I was.

The first few weeks were uneventful. I had a checkup or two, the regular kind where my blood pressure was checked. I noticed other pregnant women and felt a kinship with them. I noticed tiny babies and started to dream about what mine would look like.

At 12 weeks we expected to hear the heartbeat. I went in on a Friday. There was no heartbeat. I was reassured that often the baby is positioned in such a way that the heartbeat can't be heard, but I saw the concern in my nurse's eyes. My doctor scheduled an ultrasound for the following Monday.

I spent that weekend praying and hoping and convincing myself that everything was okay. I ate a whole pizza. I slept a lot. I went to church and begged through the entire service that my baby be okay. That it be allowed to live.

During the ultrasound, the technician frowned. She rolled the wand across my belly and stared silently at the screen. She left to get the radiologist, a man I didn't know. He pressed the wand into my stomach, looked at the screen, stood up, and backed up to the door. "I can tell you now or I can let your doctor tell you," he said. Tell me what?? I looked at my then-husband for help. I knew it was bad and I didn't want this stranger to tell me, but I had to know.

The baby was dead. It had died at around nine weeks but wasn't expelled. It died and I didn't know. I didn't feel it. I never felt it.

I was sent to my doctor's office. They were ready for me, they took me back right away rather than having me sit in the waiting room next to pregnant women. Actively pregnant women with babies they could feel kicking. Babies that would be carried to term.

My doctor told me she was sorry. My nurse hugged me. They explained to me what would happen next. Laminaria was inserted; it's a type of seaweed product that causes contractions, which would make the next day's procedure easier. It would prep my body for what was to come. It hurt. I was also still in shock from the news and I couldn't process it all at the same time. I was sent home with extra-strength ibuprofen.

That night I laid on the couch and cried. My doctor said it wasn't my fault, but it felt like it. To the core of my being, I felt like I had failed. And not just me, not just my baby, but everyone around me.

The next day, the dilation and curettage, D & C for short, was performed by my doctor in the ER at our local hospital. It's one of the same procedures used during an early-term abortion. My mom and dad met me there, also heartbroken. I only know of two other times that my dad took time from work for anything I did, if that tells you how much this meant to us. Mom sat by me while I filled out insurance and consent forms. Her words, though well-meaning, cut into my heart. "You'll get pregnant again. I knew a woman when I was growing up who had five miscarriages in a row and then just as many children." I listened numbly as she cheerfully chattered on.

I cried throughout the procedure. I wasn't supposed to remember anything because of the anesthesia, but I do. I remember how kind my doctor was. How she told me she'd been through the same thing. How she put me first and only allowed my then-husband to stay in the room when he promised he wouldn't faint.

When it was over, the remains were sent to the lab and I was sent home. My parents walked with me to the car. I felt indescribably empty.

In the days and weeks after, I avoided everyone. This was in the days when the only contact I could have with the outside world in my house was the phone. I'm so glad social media didn't exist. I unplugged the phone and spent the long hours of each day in my bed, getting up and showering just before my husband got home. I talked to nobody. I slept and stared at the walls.

While my baby had no name, no sex, no recognizable form, and I never felt even a flutter, in those days I felt enormously lonely. In the weeks before I had imagined carrying this tiny person around with me. I loved that tiny, unknown person. And then it was gone. I was alone. I hated my body for betraying me. I hated the unfairness. The depth of my sorrow was lost on everyone around me because it just hadn't been tangible. At least it happened early, they said. At least.

That loss still lingers. It always will. I will forget it for months at a time and I can talk about it openly now. But there are unexpected moments - a song lyric, a scene in a movie, a line in a book - that will bring me nearly to my knees with the memory of that grief, that life that could have been.

Why tell you this? It was, after all, over 21 years ago.

I tell you because I want you to know what it was like to not have a choice. The decision was made for me and had been weeks before anything had to be done. We talk about choice like it's a good thing. And it is, but I'm grateful I didn't have a choice to make. I can't even fathom having to make a choice about a life in later stages of pregnancy. Having to make the choice between my life and my child's.

There are women who are asked to make that choice. They are kind, loving women who want to be and who are mothers. Who would do everything in their power to ensure the safety and health of their infant. There are fathers who are asked to participate in this choice. There are doctors who must knowingly end a life that is wanted. Nurses who assist and hold hands and treat everyone with all of the kindness they have.

I wish that these choices didn't have to be made. I wish that with all of my heart. But that doesn't change the fact that they do. I can't imagine being any of those people in that situation. I never want my own daughter to go through that kind of heartbreak.

But what I want even less is for anyone in any of these scenarios to be shamed by their choices. I don't want that choice to be taken away from anyone. These choices aren't made lightly. It's not folly, it's not freedom from an undesirable situation. The choice to end a wanted pregnancy where something goes horribly wrong is heart-wrenching. Let's not add to that pain. Let's not judge women who have to make decisions that we are so fortunate to not have to make.

Let's not take that choice away, hard as it is. Sometimes the alternative is so much worse and it's not for me to decide which side that weight falls on. It's not for our neighbors to decide and it's not for our government to decide.

I got sympathy because I had no choice. I wasn't anymore deserving of it than anyone with a choice. Let's honor that choice and love these women, these mothers and fathers. Let's help them through their heartbreak and their grief rather than condemning it.

And let's be so grateful every day that we aren't asked to make that choice.

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Truth Is Ugly and It Hurts

Before I lose you in what I'm about to say, I want to make one thing very clear. Donald Trump should not be president. There is no way that I can support him, anything he has said, or his past behavior, and I can't imagine doing so in the future. If he fell off the face of the earth, I would heave a "yuge" sigh of relief and move along without looking back. 

The Republican party has been blamed for creating this monster. There are the jokes about the decision they have made and how they have to carry it to term. There is some irony in this situation and there is truth in the theories. Members of this party have so staunchly defended anyone in their ranks that they have backed themselves into a corner with this one. And, while a lot of this is satisfying to members of other parties, and it's somewhat fascinating to watch a faction of the political system disintegrate before our eyes, the rest of us have to admit our own culpability. 

Yep, I'm saying it. We are all responsible for this mess. We, the collective "we." We, as an American society. We have contributed to the nastiness, the name-calling, the blaming, the inappropriate language and behavior. We sensationalized the death of a tiny pageant contestant and then we mourned when a princess was killed and thought that was the pinnacle, that we would change. We urged each other to change. To stop buying the gossip rags and watching the shows that titillated us with all things that were None of Our Business. But then we watched a "celebrity" sex tape and now we greedily await the next one. And the next. We made a celebrity out of a burping, farting family whose central star was named Honey Boo Boo. We watch eligible bachelors and bachelorettes choose among multiple suitors and judge their choices like Monday morning quarterbacks. We read gossip blogs and pick apart the choices people make while hiding behind our keyboards. We feel safe being harsh and mean to those we don't even know when using the mask of anonymity. 

We may not audibly and intentionally support Donald Trump, but we have condoned his gross behavior in a hundred other separate, seemingly innocent acts. The behaviors we have rewarded with our interest have culminated into the Pile of Yuck that is Donald Trump. 

Over the weekend I attended a book festival and got to introduce a couple of the authors during one of the sessions. Both authors had written women as the heroes of their novels and, maybe because of our current political and social climate, I asked if it is necessary that there be a Bad Man in a story in order to juxtapose the woman as the Good Heroine. Both authors, both female, said no, that the impetus for the heroines in their stories were other women and that women can be just as evil. Which brings me to another point. 

So many of us, including myself, wonder how on earth a woman can support Trump. Especially after the things we've heard him say again and again. I have wondered if their self-esteem is so low that they truly believe only a man can be president. However, like my authors said, women can be just as evil and even more so towards other women. I've heard women say out of one side of their mouths how they support their sisterhood while in the next breath they spew unwarranted and unnecessary criticism. I have, in an effort to pretend that rape couldn't happen to ME, questioned what a victim wore. As long as I didn't dress a certain way, or go to certain bars, or leave my house on a Tuesday at 9:17 p.m., the same thing couldn't happen to me. None of which really matters and only serves to distance myself from a woman who really needs help. 

As moms, we constantly vilify other moms for their choices. If she works too much, who is taking care of her children? Why is she so "cold" towards them? Won't they feel abandoned and why doesn't she understand how important her Role As a Woman is?? If she chooses to stay home with her children, she is flat and one-dimensional and should have other interests because her children won't be around forever and then she won't even know who she is. Don't her daughters deserve a better role model and how will her sons learn to respect women? 

Yes, we are all guilty. We have all had the same thoughts and said the same things as Trump. But now, when the sum total of all of this ugliness is held up to us in mirror-form, we recoil, we feel disgust, we feel shame. He says not only what he thinks, but what we have thought at one time or another. Part of why we hate him is because we hate that part of ourselves. 

So maybe this is a time for self-reflection. If we don't like what we see in the proverbial mirror, then maybe we change it. Maybe we say yes, I am guilty. Yes, I have said that and done that and wanted the wrong thing. We recognize those parts of ourselves and make a conscious decision to change. Instead of giving in to the baser parts of humanity, we take out the damaged parts and rebuild ourselves as something better. We stop feeding the beast with gossip and pre-judgments and criticism and hate. When we, all of us, or at the very minimum the majority of us, act from compassion and kindness and truth and careful thought, people like Donald Trump aren't allowed to exist. He isn't nourished by fairness and knowledge but lies and marginalization. 

I think, or rather strongly hope, that most of us are aware of just how dangerous it would be to elect Trump as our president. But I think it's just as dangerous to continue on as we have. Unless we take a real inventory of ourselves as a society and as individuals, this will just be a trial run. The next time we might not be so lucky. If we are, indeed, lucky now. 

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Dressing My Emotions

The muggle company I work for gave us all purple shirts a couple of months ago so that we could have a Purple Shirt Day. (I'd like to interject here that mine was HUGE on me, despite being a size medium, because it was a man's size medium. All shirts given at any job have been based on both men's sizing and men's styling. Sexism at work. At its finest. I have kept none of these shirts; this latest joined its brothers in the garbage.)

Anyhoo. Yesterday, several of the men in the office wore their manly purple shirts. I asked one co-worker if I missed another Purple Shirt Day (not that I even participated in the first one) and he replied, "No. This one was just next up in the rotation."

"Excuse me? Rotation? Like your shirts have a cycle?"

He said, yes. He does his laundry, then hangs up his clothes and chooses the one at the end each morning.

Of course I was like, "What the fuck?"  How is that even possible? What if you feel fat that day? He shrugged. What if you hate that color that day? He just looked at me. What if you have to go somewhere after work?? What if you haven't worn that shirt in two years and you realize how much weight you've gained and then you throw it on the floor because you hate it and you never want to look at it again??? What if your butt looks lumpy?! What if your butt looks too flat!!? What if you realize your blacks are completely different blacks and you look stupid? What if the right underwear isn't clean? What if you wake up and you're on your period??!!? Okay, so that probably doesn't happen to him. Probably. I wonder about some men. He just calmly replied that he doesn't have those problems.

I truly, sincerely wish that I could go through shirts in a rotation. I wish it were that simple, but my mind and my body make decisions on their own, on complete opposite ends of the Spectrum of the Day and it's up to me to come up with a truce and most days I'm just not capable of making those kinds of decisions. I'm lucky if I can find clean underwear and brush my teeth. Compromises are made on a daily basis. Major sacrifices pretty much weekly.

So, guys, count your lucky fucking stars and, girls - you know what?  I got nothing on this one.
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