Monday, August 18, 2014

Let's Hear it for the Boy!

We live in a world where many of the uplifting messages of self worth are directed to women. Over the last few years companies have reached out to women with a voice that says "you are special! You are beautiful!" like this add from Dove where an artist sketches a woman how she describes herself and then how another person describes her, the result being that she is a lot more beautiful than she gives herself credit for. Another one is this add by Always where they ask women how to do things like a girl and explore how the term "like a girl" has come to mean an insulting thing sometimes, but that being like a girl is a wonderful beautiful thing.

I never thought much of it before. Occasionally I would be deeply touched by messages like these and I would be moved to ensure that my two daughters grow up knowing exactly how special they are as human beings and as girls. I loved such messages as they build me up as well and make me feel more capable of accomplishing whatever I set my mind to, and being happy with myself the way I am. However, five months ago I had a son, and I began to wonder, "what kind of help is out there to build up our boys".

In the media men are often portrayed as helpless, hopeless, and/or immature. They drink, watch football and grill. They are useless with children and household messes. They live to sleep, play and dodge any and all responsibility. It isn't a picture that I find very comforting as a mother looking to raise a son in this country. Occasionally masculinity is played as a joke like this ad by Old Spice. My current favorite is this one by Cheerios which I actually find to be a breath of fresh air as far as a portrayal of men in the media. That commercial actually brought out the question to me, What do real people think of masculinity and manhood. So I posed the question on a few chat pages on Facebook . "What makes a man manly or masculine?"

     Of the fifty or so women who answered twelve of them described masculinity as the physical trait of being a man. Most of these strictly mentioned his private parts as his defining feature "How about, do you have a penis? Yes? You are masculine. The end "
    Some women answered the question like a joke, and answered with things like " A man who tells me I need to be in the kitchen." 
  Several people answered the question with the retort that women can do anything that men can do and the focus should be on what makes a good person. Some seemed to consider the question a little sexist "I honestly think there is no way to describe "manliness" as women can have all the same characteristics, without reducing women to a sexist standard. A good person can have the same descriptors as a "gentleman" or "manliness" without the sexism."

     The vast majority of the ladies who responded to my question may have listed physical traits like strength but mostly talked about deeper qualities. These included confidence, taking personal responsibility seriously, loyalty, respectful, passionate, protector, provider, humility, and selflessness.
Before I continue I want to thank all those ladies (and the couple of guys who chimed in through their wives) all your answers were correct and appreciated.
Now on to my personal view.
   First I have to say that I believe that gender is an essential characteristic of ourselves. Part of what makes me me is that I am a woman. Part of what makes my husband who he is is that he is a man.However, those qualities that I just listed, the deeper ones, can be applied to men and women alike. I am fully aware of this, and I hope that someday all my children have those qualities in abundance. I want my girls to believe they are capable of absolutely anything, but I also want my son to have the same. Constantly we are bombarded by the message that to be a woman makes you beautiful and special and capable. I hope that as we continue on we will continue to build each other up, but let us not forget the boys. Let us not keep the hope and joy we have for their potential trapped inside us because we are afraid of offending someone by letting it out. We need to tell them IT'S AWESOME TO BE A BOY!
   My husband is sweet and kind. He is loyal and loving. He is a provider and protector for our family. He is a nerd and a band geek. He is intelligent and thoughtful. He is aware of his own failings, and strives to overcome them. He wrestles the kids and changes diapers. He cooks meals and takes out the trash. He is a worthy leader in our household, and together we are working to build a strong upright family.  If my son grows up just like him he will be a very good man. My son is lucky to have him as a father.

   We need to teach our sons that it is okay to take charge and be a leader. We need to teach them that it is okay to be rough around the edges and soft in the middle. We need to teach our sons to become , the kind of men who do not objectify women,but respect them as equals. We need to teach them to be the kind of men who take responsibility for their lives, all of their lives, the good choices and the bad. We need men who are kind and considerate and caring, and who don't feel that their masculinity is contingent upon the size of their grill. We need to teach that besides physical strength what makes a man is strength of character. To do that boys must be treated as equally special and equally important and equally qualified. Let's start putting that message out their that boys are beautiful and special and capable. Let's refuse to let our sons and daughters get away with anything less than their best selves. Let us refuse the messages out their that drag us down.
I believe that men and women are different. Their differences are not all quantifiable but they are important. I believe that all people are capable of many things. As I have studied the opinions of others and given it some serious thought myself I have come to the conclusion that a man working to be his best self will be considered masculine. A woman working to be her best self will be feminine. We just need to make sure that the messages our boys see are not the ones that promote eternal immaturity.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Parallels ( a post about illegal immigration)

While talking with my husband on the subject of illegal immigration I told him about a story I had read recently online.
 1,500 people were shipped to New York by the government. The government requested that these 1,500 people be given food and lodging, and that all expenses be paid for by the local government. New York utterly refused, and the 1,500 were left on their vehicles. Now this may feel vaguely familiar to anyone who is up to date on our current dilemmas with our southern border, but it should feel very familiar to anyone who is familiar with the history of  our nation.
In this story the 1,500 people were British soldiers. The government was parliament and the British King, and the vehicles were ships.
The fact then is they were soldiers. I think any person would start feeling a little prickly if their government started to station troops around their homes and places of employment. The fact now is that with so many of these people coming across being children it makes the matter feel far more complicated. A soldier is intimidating a child usually is not. It makes it harder to say no. No sane person wants any child to suffer. It breaks my heart that these children and their families are finding themselves in such a desperate situation, but the fact of the matter is that I will choose to take care of my children and my family first over taking care of someone else. My family is my responsibility, just as the citizens of the United States fall under the responsibility of the United states government. I am not encouraging everyone to be living on government welfare, our current system of government is not built to support us (or anyone else ) in this manner, but there are a lot of US citizens that would be benefited by the money that is being squandered to take care of these people.

Another fact of the matter is that in 1765 the British soldiers being pushed upon the colonists were British citizens. While the colonies were extremely uncomfortable with their presence and all but one colony (Pennsylvania) refused to comply with the Quartering Act, the soldiers did have a right to be there. These illegal immigrants do not have the right to be here. They attack our people on Border Patrol (who by the way do not get enough credit or support for all they do) They damage property. They take jobs that our citizens should have rights to. They pull money out of circulation in our economy to get more illegal immigrants here. Illegal immigration is a very large source of income for countries south of the border. These countries are the ones who should be responsible for the care of these people. Going back to the comparison of families I don't expect my children to be taken care of by someone other than my husband and myself. I also expect that if my children break the rules in my home, or in someone else's home, or even the law that they will be held responsible for their actions. If they are not old enough or otherwise incapable of being held responsible I as the person in authority over them must do what I can to make things right. The first thing an illegal immigrant does in this country is break the law, they need to be held accountable for their actions. The accountability should be falling to the countries that these children are from for their illegal actions, as well as for their welfare.
Those who come into this country through the legal way are and should be welcome here. It is not fair to those people who commit their own time, resources, and funds to do things the right way when anyone can just cross the border illegally and find themselves supported by our government. There are people who sacrifice to get here the right way; In many cases they wait for years, they leave family and loved ones behind, and some are in situations no more desperate than the ones of illegal immigrants. These are strong people. They deserve our admiration and respect for doing things the right way, and valuing our laws.

The party charged for paying is the same now as it was then, the citizens. In 1765 it was immediately obvious as to who was carrying the fiscal load. Parliament very clearly said that the colonies were required to provide for these soldiers. The food and housing for them was to be contributed by local authority. The burden was shouldered by the citizens of the colonies in their local communities. Now it doesn't feel quite so obvious. Billions of dollars have been requested from congress for the support of thousands of people. If this money is granted we may not feel the pinch  immediately, after all we will never see that kind of money coming from our own pockets, but the money has to come from somewhere. This money will be going to people who have broken the laws and can do nothing to contribute to our communities. For a nation with a very high national debt this would be a financially irresponsible decision.

I can't pretend that this situation has an easy fix, it doesn't, and I won't pretend to know what the  big solution is for this crisis. There are things that we as individuals can do. We have to take a stand to support our own laws, and to remove anyone from office who does not. If we just allow the lawbreaking this time we will soon be overwhelmed by a lot more people coming illegally through our borders. We have already seen this.  Giving one group of illegal immigrants a free pass will basically be a signal that we don't care about our own immigration laws or our borders. We have already seen this with how poorly the borders have been managed in recent years. Stand up, support our Border Patrol and elect leaders who will do something about keeping our borders protected.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

So You Don't Agree, Be Kind Anyway

There is a lot of hubbub about Kate Kelly and her ordain women group that has now led her to be excommunicated from the church of Jesus Christ of latter day saints. While I absolutely do not agree with her or the very public actions she has taken, I feel sorrow for what she must be feeling right now. I love the church and I can not imagine what she is going through.  This post is less about how I feel about the ordain women issue and more about the attitudes surrounding it. I feel like in the online world at the very least these issues have raised up a lot of opinions, many of which have been expressed in a very unkind, and even cruel,  way.

On the one side are those who are against Ms. Kelly. I have seen people post things like "serves her right" or "kick her out" and other worse things I will not list here. These things are so un-Christ-like. If you are a member of the church, and you believe her actions to be wrong then simply live your life in accordance with your beliefs. It is fine to disagree with the actions someone takes, but it is certainly not your responsibility nor your right to judge. If you have faith in the teachings of the church of Jesus Christ of latter-day-saints I would ask you to remember that every soul on this earth is a child of God, and treat them as such.

On the other hand many people are using this as a chance to take pot shots at the church and it's members. On one site alone I saw members of the church describes as "sheep" and "cultists". The church itself I have seen described as "power hungry" , "greedy" and "bigoted". All of these things are extremely hurtful. I would cite the golden rule on this one "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." If you have sincere questions about the gospel phrase them in a respectful way and try not to hurt feelings. Most members of the church are more than willing to share their understanding of the gospel. If your aim is to hurt feelings please take note of the golden rule as stated above, turn off your computer, walk away and find something to uplift you right now; Go for a walk or read a good book.

One thing I have seen in my life is that you are never going to persuade someone about religious matters by attacking them. You who are not members of the church are not going to persuade us that it is not true by telling us that what we believe and hold dear to our hearts is a complete lie. Members of the church, you will never be able to convince anyone of your convictions by being hurtful and self-righteous. I guess it boils down to this, so you don't agree, be kind anyway. Kindness is not a trait that belongs solely to one party or another. Be the best human being YOU can be and you may find that you improve the lives of those around you and maybe even your own.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The following is what I wrote while waiting for my son to come home from the NICU. I decided to post it hoping that it might help someone who may be going through the same thing. Please forgive the definite feeling of negativity coming from the first part. I was in a very low place when I wrote it, but on reflection I feel it might be good for me too, to get it out there.

Elliot and his Daddy in the Hospital

April 2, 2014

As I am writing this, I'm not sure if I will have the courage to actually post it.  The things I have been going through over the past couple of months have just been so hard and overwhelming that I feel like if I don't get these feelings down I may explode.

At thirty weeks pregnant my water broke. I was home alone with my kids, and I had no car. Fortunately I was able to get hold of one of my good friends on the phone. She took me to the hospital and took my kids out to breakfast. I walked into the hospital alone hoping no one would notice that my pants were slowly getting soaked underneath the sweater I had tied around my waist. It was very quickly determined that although I wasn't in labor my water was in fact broken and that they were going to have to  move me to another hospital with a better NICU (Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit). They pumped me full of baby cooking drugs; a steroid to help baby's lungs develop faster,an antibiotic to keep away infection, and Magnesium Sulfate to prevent labor and help baby develop neurologically. I instantly felt nauseated and far too hot. The ride in the ambulance was a hazy nauseating experience. I was unable to keep track of where they were taking me. They brought me to a tiny observation room, and I spent the next 48 hours dealing with the effects of the drugs including being to shaky to make it to the bathroom on my own. The doctors then told me the plan. The baby and I would be monitored everyday until I either went into labor naturally or 34 weeks at which time they would induce labor. With water broken the risks of infection for both of us were pretty high and higher after 34 weeks. When it was apparent that my condition was stable they moved me to the Mother and Infant Unit, and the waiting began...

The days were all very similar. Nurses and CNAs would monitor my blood pressure, temperature and blood oxygen levels. Once or twice a day a Nurse from labor and delivery would strap me to a monitor that checked to make sure the baby's heart beat was steady, that he was moving enough, and that I was not having contractions. I ate three meals a day and did a lot of waiting. My sweetheart brought me my art supplies as well as several movies and I did my best to occupy the long empty hours between seeing Nurses. they  were all really wonderful people. They always tried not to "bother" me. They always told me that I didn't have to pause my music or my movie when they came in, but for me the interruption (and the conversation) was welcome. I spent hours and hours watching stupid TV shows, drawing, reading, and singing to the baby. I talked to him a lot as he was the only one who never left the room. I missed cooking my own meals and eating what I want. I missed going outside and feeling the sun on my skin. Mostly I waited. I waited and waited and waited, and I tried really hard not to think.

When I thought too hard I felt intense loneliness and frustration. I worried about labor and delivery, how intense the pain would be and how long it might last. While delivery is usually the end of the journey to get baby home it was made clear to me that he would probably have problems, and that I would at some point be forced to go home without him. I tried really hard not to think to much about that last one because it made me feel despair that was hard to pull myself out of. On top of it all I missed my girls. Early into my hospital stay my husband and I made a decision to send them out of state with their grandmother to give them a little more of a stable situation.

Once a day a doctor would come in to check on me. He or she (there were several different ones) would go over the plan, to induce me at 34 weeks. By the end of my month long stay I found I had very little to say to the doctors.

There were a few times of "excitement" things that made them send me over to labor and delivery to be monitored more closely. Those times made me long for the room in the mother and infant unit, mostly because labor and delivery beds are really only meant for one thing, and it is not sleeping.

I made it to 34 weeks. They took me in a wheelchair to an actual delivery room instead of the tiny cupboard like space they used to monitor me earlier. They started the induction at 9:30 AM. Several hours later I was REALLY feeling the contractions. Feeling them to the point of tears. I asked for an epidural. Soon after receiving it I realized that for me having an epidural was trading one feeling of vulnerability for another. The pain was terrible and made me feel very emotionally vulnerable, the epidural made me feel more physically vulnerable as I could not move hardly at all anything below my mid-back. At least I could sleep a little. I had the epidural for over 24 hours. It made me grateful that I listened to the nurses instead of just trying to tough it out.
At almost 11:30 the next  night from when they started the induction I started to feel the urge to push, and ,sure enough, it was time. A small army marched through the door. In addition to myself and my husband there was the doctor and a student doctor, the nurse, a couple of student nurses as well as a team of four or five waiting to check on the baby the instant he arrived. He came quickly. Just one and a half pushes and I heard his cries. They placed him on my belly, cut the cord, and before I could see his face he was whisked across the room. I asked to see his face. I don't know if they didn't hear me or chose to ignore me. After they wiped him down and bundled him up they brought him back for me to hold him. After about 30 seconds of that he was once again taken away, this time out of the room and down the hall to the NICU. my husband went with them. The doctors left and the nurse left to get some things. I found myself entirely alone for the first time. Really truly alone because I didn't have my little man to talk to anymore. For the better part of two hours I sat and waited for the feeling to return to my legs so that I could clean up and go see my baby. Finally the Nurse wheeled me down to the NICU and I watched them work on my son from a distance. He wasn't breathing very well and they had to put medication down directly into his lungs. I wasn't able to hold him again that first night. They brought me to a different room in the mother and infant unit. A rush of mommies having babies necessitated them putting me in a two person room with another mother. At three o'clock in the morning I found my self laying on a hospital bed, no longer pregnant, no babe in arms, listening to the cries of a perfectly healthy child on the other side of a curtain, and it hurt. I cried as quietly as a could so I wouldn't disturb my room mate. I talked on the phone to my mom for a little bit and then tried to doze.

The next day they moved me to a private room and I spent my hours walking to the NICU for his feedings and walking back to my room to try to sleep between feedings. I learned how to use an electric breast pump, as it became clear that he was not going to be able to eat right away. Meanwhile my girls and mother-in-law came back, it was nice to see them. Less than 48 hours after giving birth I was discharged from the hospital. At the hospital there is a boarding room for NICU parents. I stayed that first night I was discharged waking every few hours to go be a part of his feedings. I quickly discovered that my needs as a postpartum mother were not going to mesh very well with staying in the boarding room and being there for my new son. The boarding room is virtually a tiny closet with no bathroom. I spent the night caring for my needs in a public bathroom.

The next day was extremely emotional. On top of leaving my son in a hospital 40 minutes away from my house, I discovered that my insurance was going to be a pain to get me an electric breast pump for home, and my husband got into a fender bender in the parking lot and I had to deal with the car insurance. I didn't know how the day could get any worse and then it came time to leave. I clutched my husbands arm as we walked together down to the parking lot. I kept feeling this mad desire to turn and run back to the NICU. I don't know what I would have done if I had given into that temptation. I felt it again when my sweetheart asked me to drive. I was amazed when I actually made it out of the parking lot. I spent the next several days fighting the insurance to get a breast pump, and driving back and forth mostly with my husband (who was on paternity leave), leaving my girls in the care of my mother-in-law. Eventually she had to go home and my husband had to go back to work.

My son Elliot is two weeks old now. He is on day 16 of his stay in the NICU. I keep expecting it to get easier to deal with. But every time I get out there my heart breaks. It is hard to leave him EVERY time I have to leave him. He is no longer on oxygen, he doesn't have an IV anymore, right now we are waiting for him to be awake and eat all his feedings. He is currently getting most of his nutrition through a tube that takes my breast milk through his nose directly to his stomach. It is a rare moment when I actually get to see his eyes. I feel like maybe I should be more grateful that he has made some progress, but I have found myself in a very negative place. The other day I couldn't stop crying because I had a normal day. I didn't go see Elliot so it was kind of like a day I may have had before I was pregnant. The normalcy just felt so wrong. When you have a baby things don't just go back to normal, they are supposed to change. You find a new normal. There are many times I don't feel like I have even have a son. Right now I have to share him with all the nurses and doctors at the NICU. They are the ones that soothe him when he cries. They are the ones that change his diapers and feed him. I just visit. An hour or two a day is all I can manage between the needs of my two girls and the needs of my baby. I am a visitor in my own child's life.
 I know this won't last forever. That is something that everybody likes to tell me "It is just going to be a short time and then he will be home". Maybe I should be able to take comfort in that, but I just don't feel it. These last couple of months have been one huge emotional slog and I am weary. I still get up every few hours at night so that I can pump, and keep my milk supply high. I still have the tender breasts and other things that come along with being a brand new mom. Everything but the baby. I spend my nights looking at an empty cradle while I pump instead of the sweet face of my new-born son.

I don't know what I need at this point. People keep asking me "what do you need? Can I help" and while I am exceedingly grateful for the offers I am not even sure what to say. I don't know if I need to talk it out or just a really big hug. I have spent more time crying than not the last few days and I just don't know what to do. I feel like I have been robbed of the joy of having my new baby. I just want to celebrate his birth, it's an amazing and wonderful thing to have him in our lives, and I just want to celebrate.

May 8, 2014

Elliot got to come home after 28 days in the NICU. It was the day of my baby shower. I was on the stairs  when I got the call and I started crying so hard with gratitude, relief, and happiness that I sat down right where I was, said a brief prayer of thanks and then called my sweetheart to let him know the good news.
Elliot in his coming home outfit

We went to the shower, bought a car seat and went to finally pick bring him home..
My one piece of advice to anyone who ever has to have a child in the hospital for any length of time is to lean on people. Accept help from friends and family, and most importantly keep in touch with your father in heaven. The word of God was what finally pulled me out of the dark and negative place I was in. About three weeks into his stay as I drove to and from the hospital I started to listen to talks from the general conference of the church of Jesus Christ of latter-day saints, of which I am a member, and for the first time since he went in I finally felt comfort.


  It hasn't been the completely blissful existence I dreamed of since we got home. I have been thrust into the life of new parent (again) with all the lack of sleep that comes with it. I have entered into the new mother-of-three phase, and it is hard, but I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. I know I have a lot of learning and growing and healing to do. I am so grateful for my husband that I have to lean on. I am grateful for my children Lucy, Emmy and Elliot. I am grateful for all the support from friends and family that I had as our family went through this. I am most grateful too my Heavenly Father, for all the support that he has given me. Even on the hardest days (especially since bringing Elliot home) I have found solace and peace.