Monday, April 30, 2007

Lucy's talking!

We're so proud! I mean, we knew she was super-advanced, but talking at eight months?

She has three words.
1. Bub. She calls me this a lot. I mean, I'd prefer "mama", but if she's talking, who am I to complain?
2. Baba. This means bottle, I think. Why she's asking for bottles when she's exclusively breastfed makes little sense, but again, she's talking!
3. Baaa. She likes sheep a lot, for some reason.

We'll keep you posted on new words.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

equal vs. difference

I just finished reading a not-so-great autobiography, called Not One of the Boys by Brenda Feigen. It was made more entertaining by the notes my friend Michelle wrote in the margins in red. At one point, Feigan meets Madeleine Albright and says, "I was impressed by [Albright's] command of foreign policy." Michelle observed, "I'll bet Madeleine was gratified."
Anyway, as many books do, it started out fine, chronicling Feigan's time in law school, suffering under blatant sexism. Then it sort of got less interesting as the book went on (lots of name-dropping, less personal connection, I think). What made me think, though, was one of the final chapters, where she discusses two types of feminism: difference and equality feminism.
Feigan is definitely an equality feminist. I think I'm a difference feminist.
She discusses pregnancy leave and various Supreme Court cases and their effects on women. Apparently, some people (difference feminists) advocate for specific pregnancy leave, while others (equality feminists) want pregnancy to be covered by disability leave (those of you who know more about this than me, forgive me if I'm getting it wrong). By making a special case of women and pregnancy, equality feminists argue, you make it easier to discriminate against women. Better to treat women absolutely equal--no special priviledges or categories--and avoid that.
While to some extent I understand the rationale behind this argument, it is one of the reasons I've decided not to be a feminist all of these years. And after actually being pregnant and nursing, I have even more of a problem with it. Here's why.
1) Why categorize pregnancy as sickness or disability? This is a perfectly normal state of humanity. Perhaps it's just semantic; pregnancy certainly disables women in that while pregnancy we aren't able to do certain things, like drink, or lift heavy objects, or ride mechanical bulls. But on the other hand, it kind of rubs me the wrong way, like having to be a "patient" at a doctor's office for prenatal visits (when you're not sick at all). Our whole society--doctors, employers--feminists--seem to view pregnancy as a problem, a disease, something out of the ordinary. But what could be more normal than procreation?
2) Don't a lot of European countries (which are arguably more progressive on womens rights issues than ours) offer specifically maternity leave? I could be wrong, but it doesn't seem that offering this keeps women down.
3) It seems fictitious to say that women aren't different. Faigen argues that expecting women to do the nurturing of the child (by offering maternity leave) keeps men from having to commit to their share of the parenting. I'm all for men doing their part (in fact, some paternity leave would be nice) but in reality, women's burden of childcare is biologically heavier. We're the ones who are pregnant, we're the ones that nurse. Faigan's answer to this is that "nursing mothers might be an exception: perhaps the breast pump is the answer". Again, nothing against pumping (for other people, anyway), but pumping is sort of a fiction, too. Does that mean that we need technology to make our society equal? That unless women use some sort of technological intervention, there's no way to make their burden less onerous? The reality is that women have a 10-12 hour a day burden after their child is born for the first few months. A pump helps, but only somewhat: it means you don't have to be physically there for all the feedings, but you still have to 'nurse' the machine. So is that really the answer? And what about those women (myself included) that don't want to leave their children?
4) This is kind of related. It strikes me that the 'equality' answer is to neuter everyone and treat everyone as kind of replacable cogs. Or, really, to neuter women and make them into pretend men. We aren't pretend men. Our reproductive systems are far more complicated, and the full range of our bodies' possibility far wider. Not that you must be a mom to be a 'real' woman (no sirree!) but the possibility of it is only ours. So to say that you have to treat everyone the same: as if there was no pregnancy, no breastfeeding, is to strip us of part of our humanity. Why must we pretend that part of ourselves doesn't exist in order to get equal treatment?

Okay, that's enough ranting for the day. Dyami wants to go to bed, and I should probably talk to him some before we close our eyes.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


So after writing about how annoyed I was with EC and how I was pretty much giving up, Lucy decided that she doesn't mind the potty so much any more. And has actually been going some inside the potty (numbers one and two, for those of you who are interested). Today she was dry (on the same diaper) for half the morning. That hasn't happened in a long time.
It's funny how this parenting thing goes. Just when you think you've figured it out, everything changes. And just when you've just about given up, they get better. Hmmm. Coincidence?

In other news, I visited Hack Mommy and her brood of charming kids. Master Owen was in rare form. Usually Owen seems to like Lucy and I (when we arrived, he played leapfrog ecstatically to entertain Lucy) but about 20 minutes before we were ready to leave, he came in and announced, "I want Heather and Lucy to leave!" Reason: he wanted to put on his mouse costume, and apparently, he couldn't do this with us watching.
Also, his chin was stained yellow. Hmmmm. Coincidence?
You decide.

Monday, April 23, 2007

the rules

I realized last night that I navigate a set of rules as complex and exacting as the tax code.
They are the rules to get Lucy to sleep.
I'm not nearly as ritualistic about it as I used to be, but I am, well, just a tad legalistic. For example

1) I must wait approximately 4 hours after her last nap before putting her to sleep.
2) I must wait approximately 12 hours after she woke up in the morning before putting her to sleep.

Rules 1 and 2 mean that bedtime is as precisely timed as, say, the Space Shuttle launch. (5...4...3...2..1... bedtime!) It has been a little tricky lately, because she sometimes doesn't get the memo about when her bedtime is, and takes a third nap at 6:30, when we put her down. Do the math people. This means a late bedtime for Lucy. And no Adult Time for mom and dad. Boooooo.

3) I must nurse until her breathing slows and the gulping stops and the gaps between sucking grow longer and longer.
At some points, I have actually counted the spaces. I had to have longer spaces in between sucking than when she was actually sucking. (one, one-thousand. Two, one-thousand). Or counting breaths in between sucking. Or counting the number of times (generally three) she sucks without swallowing. There are many metrics I can use. Note: I'm not obsessive compulsive. Really, I'm not. Really.

4) I must nurse her on both sides.
This means I sometimes switch mid-bedtime nursing to go to the other side. I'm not one of those handy moms that figured out how to nurse on both sides without turning over (how do they do that? It seems so uncomfortable to me--I can never figure out what to do with my top arm) so I do the Chinese fire drill and run around the bed with pillows.

5) If she's hopelessly overtired, I have to get up and rock her to sleep with a little step, dip, step routine, until she's drowsy enough to get back down on the bed. Don't ask how I manage to lower us down onto the mattress with her still attached to my boob. I don't quite know myself.

6) Once I nurse her to sleep, she will sleep approximately an hour before she wakes up again. Then I nurse her to sleep, and usually (thank God) she's down for a while, sometimes even till morning.
Let's take a moment and savor that last sentence.

And I always find myself planning. If she wakes up, do I try the other side? Rock her? Let her get up? Take her to the bathroom?

Nursing requires such...attention. Especially to sleep. I have to gauge her leg movement and thrashing (just leg movement usually means she's not tired enough; back arching means she has to poop or she's over tired). I have to decipher her breathing (mostly asleep versus comatose). I have to distinguish between swallows (brisk and measured and slowing down). I have to gauge whether she needs to switch sides (unlatch + cry).

Basically, I should get a medal for every successful night-time nurse-down.
That's a lot of medals, people. Let's start 'em comin'.

Friday, April 20, 2007

china and india

So those of you die-hard fans might remember how we take our child to the bathroom rather than having her pee or poop in her diaper, just like how they do in China and India. And we're all environmental and green and such, and have a super-advanced baby, and we tend to just be better--more enlightened, really--than all of you "diaper users" out there.

Except we've kind of left China and India. We've headed back to Diaperville.

See, I've already written about the pros and cons of Elimination Communication (EC for short), but recently, the cons have started taking over the boat. And sailing us to frustration.

It started when Lucy started standing up. She is extremely excited about standing. She ignores her favorite toys and heads to the coffee table, where she pulls herself up to standing, and bounces up and down, sure that she's solving global warming and the federal prosecutor scandal.
So when I took her to the bathroom, she would try to stand up over the potty (almost putting her foot inside of it) and then would get super upset. She would not eliminate, but the communication was clear. GET ME OUT OF HERE!
Then I would let her go stand by the coffee table again, and she'd smile, and squat, and poop in her pants.
After a few days, I decided that taking her to the bathroom when she didn't eliminate and didn't want to be there was just clearly not worth it (note: I'm a little stubborn, because it took a while for me to admit it wasn't worth it).
I still take her when she wakes up, because that's super clear: she needs to pee, and is almost always happy to go. She even poops in there sometimes.

Now for the news that is going to make all of you naysayers roll your eyes.
I kind of like not having to worry about it.

Revise that statement. I really like not having to worry about it. I feel freed! And relaxed! Not jumpy, wondering: does my child need to go? Have I missed a pee? Is that a signal? Where am I going to take her? Will she go in the potty? Will she go while out?

I think our EC situation was complicated by several factors.
1) Lucy never signalled reliably (that I could tell). For a while she'd cry if she'd have to go, but she'd also cry for other things.
2) She didn't respond to the pee cue (ssssss).
3) Unless she's just woken up, she kind of takes a long time to pee. Ever since she was a newborn. So without a clear signal and a clear cue, I spent a lot of time over the potty.
4) She often takes even longer to poop. I'll be counting, trying to be patient, and just about to give up and....pbbbth. You get the picture.
5) She would only go reliably in our sink for a while. (About six months). Which got a little tiring on the arms, considering how long she took to go. And caused a bit of anxiety when the sink was unavailable, such as any time we went out of our house.
6) I'm just the teensiest bit of a control freak. And stubborn. So while my super-chill sister in law was okay with getting some baby pee on her, I wasn't so much. So we did diapers as back up, which meant we also had to deal with diapers, not just pottying. And I get frustrated easier than her, probably.
7) I'm also sort of results-oriented, and am not really that touchy-feely. I don't get ecstatic about having my baby naked, or communicating with her non-verbally and such. I mean, I think it's cool if it happens, but I'm also fine with diapers. Just fine. Extremely fine, as it turns out.

SO I had the probably bad idea of going to an EC support group the week I was deciding I was ready to not do EC so seriously anymore. I thought it would make me feel better or something.

I know, I know. I'm a crazy person.

The women running the group are super-cool, and have really made EC work for them. They are also much closer to Nirvana/God/Enlightenment than I am. The only other person there actually doing EC was me. And about five women that were considering doing EC with their babies.
I think I should have been smoking under the bleachers or graffiti-ing the meeting room. I felt like yelling, Don't beleive them! Run away while you still can! You'll go crazy doing this!!!!

I refrained. I've been praying lot lately. I am a Big Person.

After the meeting, I decided to just chill for a while. Just not try. And have discovered that parenting has gotten a lot easier.

Mind you, I don't like cleaning up poopy diapers. It was much easier when she'd just go in the potty. When her signals were clear, I almost never had to clean poopy diapers. I'd do that again.
And I'd try again with another baby; maybe they wouldn't be so choosy about their elimination. And SO SLOW! But I don't think I'd take so long to decide I was going crazy.
But I have invested in some nicer, fitted cloth diapers so that diapering gets easier than it is right now (it seemed silly to invest in nice diapers if we were just using them as backup).
And I'm backing away from my smug feelings of superiority. Quickly.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


My friend Hack Mommy was kind enough to name me a Thinking Blogger. Her blog is literate and funny and a little sassy, so I was Quite Pleased by the accolade.
Except Melissa wants me to tag other people. But I only know two bloggers personally. I will admit that I've started following some links to blogs and being entertained by them (Dear Lord! More reading to distract me, along with Dear Abby?) but I feel embarrassed tagging people I've not been formally introduced to, and who have been blogging for years, and have actual readers and such.
But I like The Lactivist. She's thoughtful, and sassy about being a brave breastfeeder, and she doesn't take any crap! If you're reading this, Lactivist, you are nominated! Congratulations! Think!
Melissa threatened to post a book review for her 'thinking nomination' post, but didn't actually do it, so I will do it for her.

I read The Feminine Mystique last week, and was quite influenced. A few notes:
  • My mom was a home economics major when the book came out, and it was required for a class. She said she and her classmates thought the book was radical. (When I read it, most of it seemed pretty straight-forward to me, like "well, of course."). This is one generation, people.
  • Though I found most of the book compelling some of it seemed like overkill. Friedan goes into a lot of (fairly ridiculous) examples of how women are exploited or pandered to by magazines, "experts", advertising, etc. When I say ridiculous, I mean it's incredible that they're real. However, the amount of change in our culture means that they seemed kind of removed from reality for me, (for example: it's no longer okay to assert that women can get over their husband's affairs by dying their hair blonde). After the shock wore off, I couldn't identify with most of the examples. Happily, this means things have gotten better.
  • Friedan asserts that children of working women do better (less neuroses, for example) than kids of traditional, mystique-style homemakers. While I don't completely disagree with her, (fulfilled moms are certainly better than bitter, bored ones), I think kids can lose out big-time if parents are more invested in careers than home. (This is equally true for men and women). I think my generation has gone more 'traditional' in their parenting choices because we lived through the surge of moms working, and realized that sometimes, it can really suck to have both parents plugged in to American corporate culture.
  • To go along with that observation, I don't want to live a frantic, scheduled-to-the-max life. Two parents working forty hours a week seems too frantic to me. (Of course, I'm blessed to have the luxury of choosing). Not that that is what Friedan calls us to do, but I think it's what a lot of professional women live with.
  • I read another book a while ago called The Two Income Trap. The authors point out that when families depend on two incomes to make car and mortgage payments, there's no way out of the hole if one spouse loses a job or becomes ill. And with so many families now having two incomes, our suburbs with good schools have experienced bidding wars on houses. So now even if you only wanted to live on one salary, it is increasingly hard to do so if you want your kids in a decent school.
So though I liked Friedan's book, it was frustrating to realize that though our culture has come leaps and bounds from the ridiculousness of the fifties, women still have a really hard time having both family and career--and the expectation that women should work means that families are even more precariously situated than before. Not that I'd go back to having to dye my hair blonde. I guess it just goes to show that our society continues to be broken, and answers are never easy.

Okay, hope I've made you all think today. Now I've got to go read Dear Abby. And some blogs.

carnival time!

I'm joining in a fun carnival of breastfeeding "expectation vs. reality" stories. Here's my take. Join in the carnival through the links at the bottom of this post.

In the days where I had a gigantic belly and lots of spare time, I had already become insistent about my right to breastfeed in public. “I don’t want to be isolated,” I said. So along with the Lasinoh and a How-to book, I bought a Hooter Hider in a garish print (so garish my husband called it “clown-like”). I’m not hiding behind basic black, I told myself. No one’s going to keep this nursing momma at home.

What I didn’t realize is that breastfeeding can be isolating, even in the best of circumstances. Perhaps the closeness nursing creates with your baby is the fact that it’s so hard to get close to anyone else.

Even physically. After about the first week of Lucy’s life, I realized no one had touched me. Because no one could get close enough. I was surrounded by pillows. Besides a Boppy, I needed about three other pillows to nurse comfortably sitting up on the couch. That number increased to six in bed, and ten lying down. I’m down to three pillows on the couch, and three in bed, but still. No one’s snuggling while Lucy’s latched on.

And despite my chutzpah, it took me weeks--well, months--to get used to nursing in public. It didn’t help that my husband was just the tiniest bit squeamish. Or that I wasn’t quite dexterous enough to lift up my shirt, help Lucy latch on, and keep the Hooter Hider from billowing like a garish kite. And that was when she wasn’t upset, arching her back, and unlatching unexpectedly.

And until I mastered nursing in a sling, I just couldn’t find comfortable places to sit. On our first outing, (to Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf), I brought the Boppy. It seemed perfectly normal after a few weeks of sleeplessness, but I wonder what people were thinking when they saw me march by with baby, diaper bag, and U-shaped pillow. Maybe they thought it was for some serious hemorrhoids.

For at least the first eight weeks, there wasn’t the possibility of going someplace and not nursing. We went out to dinner, and I nursed. I nursed in church. I nursed in the bathroom, on a walk, at my in-laws. In the library. At the park. In the car. Whether or not I had comfortable seating, or my arms were tired, or I had privacy, we nursed. Because that was our life.

And then we started recognizing that our daughter was sensitive to certain foods. Milk was obvious; I don’t usually eat it, but when I did after she was born, we were up all night. That’s easy, I thought. No more milk.

But her digestive system still seemed sensitive: I would describe the poops, but since this is for new moms, I’ll spare you the TMI details. I tried no wheat. This seemed to help. Then it was wine. Then soy.

If you don’t eat milk, wheat or soy, there’s not a lot you can eat. Actually, there’s plenty. There’s just not a lot of processesed food, restaurant food or other people’s food you can eat.

So now that our daughter stays up late enough for us to go out, and is mobile enough that we could eat at other people’s houses, we stay home. Oh, sure, I invite people over. And luckily, I get enough sleep these days that I have the energy to cook. I even like to cook.

But I miss dinners after church, or getting take-out when I’m too tired to cook. I miss not having to give people detailed instructions about what to bring over--scratch that; I miss telling people not to bother bringing anything, because it’s likely either they or I will miss something I can’t eat.

And yet--and yet, it isn’t all so bad as it sounds. My daughter smiles now; she plays games with us. She has started standing with support; we’re hoping she will crawl before she walks. She shakes her head back and forth when she’s delighted; she smiles at strangers, even when she’s tired. She crows when I tickle her ribs.

Social? No--breastfeeding isn’t exactly social. Yet it’s connective, like nothing else in the world.

Check out these other carnival rides:
Motherwear Blog - What I Didn't Expect When I Was Expecting
Breastfeeding Mums - What I Wish I'd Known About Breastfeeding
Mama Knows Breast - Top Ten Things I Didn't Expect About Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding 1-2-3 - What I Didn't Expect When I Was Expecting
The Lactivist - Nursing Isn't Quite What I Expected...
Spit Up On My Shoulder - Education is Key
Adventures of a Breastfeeding Mother - what she didn’t expect about breastfeeding
New Mama's Next - The Surprises of Breastfeeding an "Early Bird"
The True Face of Birth - What I Didn't Expect While Pregnant
Down With the Kids - Goodbye Booby

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

straw poll

So I've been doing an informal straw poll of friends to see if they think I'm crazy. Results are still pending, but no one has suggested stoning.
I'm heartened!

I'm sure some of you more independent thinkers find it amusing that I survey friends to see if it's okay if I think differently. Whatever. It helps me sleep better.

Yesterday, we had dinner with my old roomie and her husband. Shoshana challenged God to find her a husband that was a charismatic and a feminist; she was a little taken aback when she met James. (She forgot to specify that he be taller than her. So she went barefoot at her wedding. Problem solved.) When they watch moves (Shosh prefers buddy comedies or action flicks) James is always appalled at the objectification of women that Shosh doesn't notice.

Anyway, I explained to them how I've arrived at thinking more about feminism and God and all those issues, and thought I'd share my explanation with you all. (The three of you! Huzzah!)

See, being a mom really made me realize for the first time that I'm a woman. That my life will be limited by being a mom for the next few years. (Sure, expanded in some ways, but also limited, as in: I want to go to the bathroom/eat/hang out with friends now. Whoops! The baby needs me!) And a lot of this is pure biology: ie; my body produces milk. Dyami's does not. End of story.

And because of some patriarchal experiences in college, I had this sneaking suspicion that God was male. Or at least very, very masculine. CS. Lewis' essay about how women can't image God like men didn't help.

And through all of this, motherhood has been the most intense spiritual discipline I've ever undertaken. And I've understood God's kind creative powers and sustaining power more than ever because I, myself, birthed a person and sustain her.
And I've been praying more (partially out of desperation, partially out of boredom, and partially out of a sincere desire to know God more--hey, one of three ain't bad).
So why, in the midst of a spiritual rebirth, did I feel less and less like God understood me? That I was included in His image? That he valued what I was going through?

That pesky masculinity thing. If God is more accurately imaged my men, then where am I? Does that mean men are godlike? If so, then aren't women inferior by definition?
I didn't want to think any of these things, but my brain kept going over them.

Now that I've researched these issues more (I'll give a full reading list soon) I don't feel so shut out from the Trinity. And I am reminded how much Jesus shattered the patriarchal assumptions of his age. And that God created me in His image, too. So take that, CS Lewis!

In some ways, I'm comforted. But in some ways, I'm profoundly uncomfortable. I liked my not-so-thought-out images of God that didn't challenge conventional wisdom (or my husband's opinion). I'm still searching, and know that I'm not likely to find definitive answers until I meet this God of mine when He comes again or I go to meet Him face to face. Then shall we know, even as we are known.

Friday, April 13, 2007

the wrestler

So I don't really like seeing God in a different, scary way. I would kind of prefer to go back to the easy comfortable, "God is my BarcaLounger*"

Today I went to hang out with some cool women to pray, and I asked for prayer about how I've been thinking about God. I'm pretty good friends with some of these women, and I still couldn't come out and directly say, "So I called God She the other day. Still want to pray with me?"
They seemed pretty unfazed by my honest, if not completely all-inclusive description of what I've been thinking. I think I said something about "considering the feminine aspects of God".

To make things worse, Dyami isn't super excited about my (admittedly) unorthodox thinking. We've agreed to disagree for now, but we're both pretty bummed out to not be on the same page about something we both care about. And I respect this guy's opinion more than practically anyone's in the world, so it hurts my brain not to be able to come to agreement.

Two thoughts comfort me.
1) God is big enough that even if I'm calling him or her the wrong thing, he will forgive me. I'm truly seeking His will, His image here. Her image. Whatever. I'm sick of second guessing pronouns, people!
2) God honors a wrestling match. Jacob (hardly the poster child for the goody two-shoes set) wrestled with Him and received His blessing. I'm allowed to think unconventional thoughts in a sincere desire to know God better. I'm allowed to wrestle with who I think God is.

I made some apple crisp. Apple crisp helps everything, including existential wrestling matches with the divine. Excuse me while I go try to make weight.

*What the heck is a BarcaLounger, anyway? Look here. Motto: "Because you're comfortable with the best."

Thursday, April 12, 2007


So last night I prayed to Mother God in my head.
Actually, I called Her (gulp) Mommy.
To be honest, it felt awfully, awfully good. Like, suddenly, this light turned on in my head. I could look to God to tell me how to be a mother.
Not that a masculine pronoun should have stood in the way of God teaching me to parent. But to be honest, it kind of did, conceptually. And not that I wasn't asking God for help. But He didn't seem--available, somehow. Or (this is going to sound really bad) qualified.

So, I've been thinking a lot about heresy. I mean, if you're edging on the border of it, you think about it some.

Mostly, for me, heresy means What People Will Think. I have lots of little conversations in my head about WPWT. Especially when I'm putting my private thoughts out on a publicblog. (What a great idea, Heather!)
Ms. A stands in for all my non-Christian friends. She's wondering: what's the big deal, anyway? Why shouldn't you call God Mom? And why the heck would you stay in a faith that has problems with it?
Miss B. stands in for all of my more conservative Christian friends. She thinks it's a little suspect that I go to a church that not only ordains women, but used to have a woman as a head pastor. She has been worried about me, but never so much until now. The Bible never uses a feminine pronoun for God. Jesus doesn't call God Mother. So how can I? The Bible is the basis for our faith. If we don't take it seriously, we'll all end up shaving our heads and wearing purple robes. Or worse, spandex!

And sometimes I myself am Ms. A or Miss B. And to be honest, Dyami falls more in the Miss B category. (Though he's fine with ordained women).

When I was little, taking dance, I took both jazz and ballet. For years, I liked jazz best, but at about 12, I started taking ballet more seriously, and got really into it. So much so that in later years, when I tried taking jazz classes, I no longer could get the hang of the steps.
Bear with me: this actually relates.
See, ballet is codified. It's a dance that relies heavily on tradition. So the steps in ballet aren't really much different then the ones performed in the 18th century, in Russia. They even have the same names.
Whereas jazz kind of morphs. It owes a lot to ballet, but more to musical theater and Bob Fosse. And nowadays, probably even more to hip-hop. So the jazz I danced to Paula Abdul (so nasty) in the eighties would look kind of ridiculous now. (So would some of my costumes: bright orange taffeta with polka dots!)

Christianity is like ballet. It relies on authority. The Bible, of course. But also tradition, to help us interpret documents that stand at a cultural, temporal, and lingual remove of thousands of years. And the authority of our church leaders. And also social authority--the authority and opinions of our friends and families (and the inner voices that stand in for them).

In American culture, authority is made to be questioned (or sued). Not so much in Christianity. See, none of us wants to question so much that the dance we're doing bears no relation to the one danced by Jesus. Or Paul. (Or Aquinas or Luther or Wesley)

It's a fine line.

Now, the next issue all this raises (I'm already far out on a limb here, so I might as well inch further over and really risk pissing everyone off) is homosexuality. What gives with Christians getting so worked up about it? And if you start questioning the treatment or place of women, questioning the place of gays follows not too long after.
'Cause a lot of me really agrees with current popular opionion: it really sucks that gays seen as sinful for something that they don't choose (I don't think they do) and is such an integral part of their identity. And to not be accepted in church? To be told you are sinful just for being something?
See, this is where the Bible really gets us into trouble, because unlike with women, there isn't a lot of wiggle room. No depictions of gays that are positive. No gray areas, or problems with translations. No interpretive loopholes.
I heard a pastor of a Presbyterian church in San Francisco speak about this topic. His church has a lot of gay members (big surprise), and he embraces them, and respects them, and I believe they serve in leadership, but he tells them that, much as he'd like to think differently, he does not think it's a lifestyle condoned by God. Because it just ain't in the Bible.

This pains me, too. Because if this whole femininity problem bothers me, being gay and trying to find your place in the church must just be unbearable.
But what are the alternatives? Chuck the Bible and not be Christians anymore? Chuck our (admittedly nuanced) dependence on its authority?
Oh, dear Lord. Help us to understand.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

a study: homebirth

Just found a study published in the British Medical Journal regarding the safety of home birth here in the US. It was on The Lactivist a while ago.
Main points:
1) Women with low-risk pregnancies choosing to birth at home had "was 1.7 (child) deaths per 1000 planned home births, similar to risks in other studies of low risk home and hospital births in North America. No mothers died."
2) These women had much lower interventions. For example, instead of an estimated 30% rate of caesarian with most hospitals, home births that ended up transferring to the hospital had a 3.7% caesarian rate.
Home Birth: Just as safe, without the surgery!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


So my friend Hack Mommy is pregnant with her fourth child. I think she's trying to prove something.
Anyway, today she posted about why she births her children at home, and invited me to comment. Since I'm notoriously verbose, I decided not to put my comments in her comment section, but to let the logorrhea spill forth here.

For my first trimester, I had all intentions of birthing at the hospital down the street, Scripps Encinitas, which by all accounts is a great, natural-friendly hospital They even have midwives there if you choose to do your care with one. I was considering a midwife, but I started out with an OB-Gyn and everything. And I knew what I didn't want to happen: my mom had a C-section after being induced because I was "late", and I wanted to avoid her very traumatic birth experience. So I read (me, read? Big surprise, right?) a lot about birth. I read "Journey Into Motherhood" which is a charmingly granola book, and "The Pregnancy Book" by the Sears' (much less crunchy, but very informative), and "Birthing From Within". And "(Mis)Conceptions by Naomi Wolff, which was quite eye opening.
From said books, had a laundry list of interventions I wanted to avoid. (Besides a caesarian).

Here's the short list:
1. Being induced because I was "late" (I put "late" in quotes since the definition varies--in Europe you have two more weeks than in the US). I asked my fairly crunchy (big on natural birth) OB-Gyn if she routinely induced because of 'lateness'. Answer: yes.
2. An epidural unless I absolutely had to have one. I have nothing against drugs, per-se, but if you take them, you increase the likelihood of caesarian.
3. Timetables. Hospitals are notorious for telling you you need to have the baby "in the next x hours". Guys, the human body doesn't really work that way.
4. Electronic Fetal Monitoring (EFT). Studies agree this technology doesn't help the mom, or the baby. Who does it help? The malpractice lawyers when they're trying to show that the hospital did 'everything possible' to avoid negative outcomes.
5. An episiotomy. Probably my Ob-gyn wouldn't have done one as a matter of course, but what if I got the doctor on call? This procedure is also often unnecessary.
6. Not being able to move around to help me deal with the discomfort of labor. (#4 doesn't help with this)

Anyway, with list in hand, Dyami and I went to go visit Scripps. When I was four months pregnant, with no discernible bump.
It was a little awkward walking up to the group for the tour. I was the least pregnant by at least 5 months. Everyone there was clearly days or weeks from birth. I had assumed people would be 'shopping around' for their hospital--but for everyone there, the decision had clearly already been made.
And the tour guide definitely noticed how little pregnant I was. (She was super nice, by the way) I almost felt like I was faking pregnancy just to have a chance to see the maternity ward. (That would be a good date night for couples, don't you think?)
So the group of us got buzzed into the ward and made our way through the halls. I had expected something kind of, well, homey. But the maternity ward looked like a hospital ward. I focused mostly on the tiled floors. What if I want to be on the floor? I thought. I don't want to be on cold tile.
The tour guide led us into one of the labor and delivery rooms. She showed us how the bed could morph into different positions, the warmer that might be used for the baby in some circumstances.
Everyone was nodding and looking around. I raised my hand. "Do you have to be hooked up to an EFT?"
She looked a little surprised to get a question, but smiled to respond. First she explained what an EFT was. Then she said if we'd only absolutely have to have monitoring every fifteen minutes.
That sounded like a lot to me. "Do you have mobile units that we can take with us while we walk?"
They did not. So it would be back to bed every fifteen minutes for the duration of my labor.
I raised my hand again. "Do the midwives work in this ward, or is there a separate birth center?"
She looked confused. "We don't have midwives here."
"Really?" I said. "I'd heard you did."
"Nope," she smiled.
"Do most women here have birth plan?" I asked. A birth plan is a written explanation that the mother and father create, specifying what they would like to happen--and not to happen--during labor. Sort of like my laundry list.
"Ah," she said. "If you do write a birth plan, make it short--a page or less--because the nurses and doctors weren't likely to read it otherwise. And remember that the shifts change, and that the staff is busy, so not everyone may be familiar with the plan."
To my ears, this sounded sort of like "Feel free to write a birth plan--but we may not have time to read it."
"All right, everyone. Let's go out to the recovery rooms."
Did I mention that I was the only one that asked any questions?

We saw the rooms, which looked fine, except for the fact that there's often no bed for the dads. And most of the rooms are shared, (though they aren't always at capacity) At Scripps, they let you keep your baby with you, which is nice. And they encourage breastfeeding--not all hospitals do for some reason.
She went through all of the security procedures: everyone gets a wristband, and if Dad goes home, he must not take it off, because then he won't be let back into the ward. How not to leave your baby alone. How you couldn't have smelly foods (like bananas). Or latex balloons. Or if people brought flowers, they also needed to bring vases because the ward didn't supply them.

None of it was horrible. But the general impression was that this was their show, and we were merely participants, subject to their rules and regulations. If we wanted to run the show differently, we'd have to do a lot of work to swim upstream. And again--this was in a natural-childbirth-friendly hospital.

When we finally got back to the lobby, the tour guide stopped us all before we left. "I checked with one of the nurses in the ward, and it turns out Heather was right--we do have nurse-midwives here. Apparently half of the births use nurse-midwives instead of OB-Gyns."
That the tour guide for the ward didn't know that fact kind of bothered me; it might be a wrong impression, but it seemed like the hospital didn't take the midwives seriously. Or, at the very least, they were considered 'alternative', even though they did half the work.

Again, nothing about the tour or the hospital was bad, but I was just underwhelmed. And when we got home, and I had a few days to think about it, I realized I was thinking about entering the hospital like entering hostile territory. I felt as though I would have to defend myself once I got there to keep the situation from rapidly becoming one I didn't want.

Defending oneself in labor isn't usually too easy. As I later learned, you don't have energy to do much of anything but be in labor, in labor.

So suddenly homebirth, which still seemed kind of radical, also seemed less scary than the alternative. I knew I could get completely competent care, close to home, and close to a hospital if I were to transfer. I knew I could count on the experience being in my hands, rather than in a strangers'. I knew labor wouldn't be in my control, but it wouldn't be in the control of hospital regulations, either. And I knew if I did have a caesarian, it would have been necessary, not inadvertent.
So I have to agree with Melissa--homebirth wasn't the brave option for me. It was the cowardly, safe one. And I also agree that I don't have much invested in where other women choose to labor. If a hospital makes them feel most safe, most secure, then they should be there! Birth is about the woman, not about what other people think is best for the woman.
For me, though, that meant home birth. And having done one, I'm not going to a hospital for my kids any time soon.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

mother God

So this book. (Is it Okay to Call God Mother, for those of you slackers who haven't been avidly reading)
As I've told a few people, I turned the book over and noticed that one of the blurbs was from the former head pastor at our church, Roberta Hestenes. So obviously, the book isn't quite as radical as I might have thought. And reading it, I'm heartened: I don't think I need to start calling God "Mom" all the time--but I think I needed serious correction from my unspoken feeling that God was, in fact, male. Not true! As it's written, "In his image he created them, male and female he created them." His image=male+female. It's so easy to get tripped up with gender-specific language that obscures truth. But to call God "it" doesn't exactly solve the problem either. And there is beauty and poetry in older translations that occurred before gender inclusion was a concern. Sooo, I'm not sure I want to throw the baby (the rhythm and poetry and tradition) out with the bathwater.
But I haven't gotten very far into the book; we'll see what I think once I get all the way through. With all the reading I'm doing (this book, Feminine Mystique, and this week's New Yorker, along with my daily dose of blogs and Dear Abby), it could take a while.

I've been thinking about some of the roots of my discomfort over this issue, and I think they stem from my time in Texas.
I know, so many of our country's problems stem from Texas, no? (Sorry, those of you who I just offended. I'm kidding! Texas is great! And things/people that come from there! Not that I was thinking of anyone in particular!)

Anyway, I went to school in Houston, at Rice University. And got very involved in two organizations--an on-campus ministry group, Campus Crusade, and a church a few miles away, Bethel Independent Presbyterian.
Mostly, I went to those groups because friends of mine did. And stayed because I liked the people. And both groups had a lot going for them: interesting speakers, good programs, etc. Plus there were some cute guys in the church's small group for people my age (let's be completely honest).
It wasn't until I had kind of thrown my lot in with these two places that I noticed the radical differences from my church back home.

In Crusade, in the spring, we had a "Freshmen Night" where our year ran the meeting. We met to plan, and one guy showed up, and about ten girls. So we put two women in charge of MCing the meeting.
A few days later, one of the seniors told us we had to have the guy lead the meeting, because women weren't allowed to.
I was so surprised--all of us were--it hadn't occurred to us to nominate the (rather quiet) guy for being MC. And he hadn't volunteered.
Other women there quit Crusade completely. I'm not quite sure why I stayed. I think it goes back to me being a good girl, and also being desperate for fellowship.
(To be fair to Crusade, by my senior year, this policy had changed--one of my friends helped MC the meeting every week (they had two: one guy, one girl). I have no idea if this was a national policy or just common in the Bible belt.

But Bethel was the same way--except I didn't notice for a long time, because the women in the small group were so smart and active and opinionated it didn't really stand out. But the speaker was always a man. When I asked why one of the group sponsors, a feisty mom, didn't lead, someone told me why.
That's when I noticed that all the ushers were men. All the elders. All the pastors. All the deacons. The only women in leadership ran the Sunday school for kids.
And I realized why the church was "Independent Presbyterian" (which, by the way, is an oxymoron). They left the Presbyterian Church USA when the denomination started ordaining women.

By then, I felt like I had put down roots in the church. My best friend went there, my best guy friend. My roommate. Several other close friends. I enjoyed the fellowship. I told myself that it didn't matter if women didn't lead, that I came from California, and my church was great back home--and that it was plenty orthodox, with ordained women pastors and plenty of women in leadership. I told myself that this church was as good as I was going to do in Texas. And I might have been right--the Bible Belt is super conservative.
Except I think I didn't leave because a seed of doubt was planted in my brain. That maybe my old church wasn't up to snuff. Maybe it was ungodly to have women in leadership. Maybe all those liberal Californians were unbiblical, somehow. I told people Texas was the biggest culture clash I'd ever experienced (including my year abroad). But that I could understand why the church and fellowship didn't have women in leadership (the verses in the Bible certainly seem clear, if you don't desire to probe deeper).

Part of me wishes, now I had made more of a fuss. Looked for a new church. Joined a different campus fellowship (there were two other options). I know my friends wouldn't have disowned me--they weren't and aren't that conservative--but not going to the same church/fellowship would have prevented us from becoming as close, that early in our friendships. And these are still some of my closest friends.

But maybe it wasn't so bad to have my faith shaken up. To have a seed of doubt for a few years. Because the longer it set, the more I felt uncomfortable. And I'm glad I've had to think hard about my real feelings about this issue. That I've not been able to be comfortable, in the easy atmosphere of the church I grew up in. Because I didn't think it mattered that much, back in college, and I don't think there was any other way to learn I was wrong.

Friday, April 6, 2007


So my friend Amy sent me this article after reading my last post:
Just when I think I can't get more depressed about the state of our society, I read something new!
But it's good to be aware. And active.
I started thinking (worrying, actually) that I hadn't opted out--I'd been pushed. Or, that worse, like the women Betty Friedan describes, I never opted in in the first place. That I'd put all my eggs in the basket of getting married and having kids and didn't work on making a career for myself, and only got an Mrs. degree, and that I secretly fantasized about washing machines while at Rice University. I'm an un-emancipated woman! Ahhhhhh!

I tend to go to extremes in my thinking fairly quickly.

The truth is somewhere in between all of these things. True: I had a hard time imagining a career for myself during college. But that had a lot to do with the fact that I wanted to write and people don't tend to hand out the big bucks or the neat career trajectories for writers, especially if they're too introverted to be journalists.
But I will admit that I always wanted my family to come first. My mom was able to stay home with us when we were young; I wanted to give my kids that gift. And I knew that would likely be very interruptive to any career path. One does not take 8-10 year absences easily from career paths. One starts over, after your kids are older. I saw my mom do it twice, and it was frustrating for her, to say the least.
And part of why I didn't want to be a journalist is because you have to put in your dues at small papers somewhere other than you want to finally work. I didn't want to travel the US in pursuit of a career. We did that enough growing up. I wanted to live where my family was.
And to be honest, once I found a career that was a pretty good fit, I still wasn't completely enamored of it. I was a technical writer, which was fun when I was working on a complicated piece of equipment that I could learn all the ins and outs of, and use equally cool software to make a nice-looking book to help people use the said piece of equipment without pulling their hair out. But not so fun when I invested months of hard work on a project and it got cancelled, or the funding got cancelled, or my manual never got used. Which happened, oh, about 40% of the time. (With one client we worked with frequently, it happened every time. Every time!!! It was a major corporation that will go unnamed*).
And I didn't like sitting in cold, windowless, gray corporate offices in somewhat uncomfortable clothing with not enough to do. Which also happened fairly frequently. (It seems like in corporate America, you either have entirely too much to do, or not nearly enough.)
So when I quit to go back to grad school, I wasn't really sorry.
And I went to grad school! Which was exciting. (And still is, since I have one more class to finish my degree! It will happen, people!) But my degree doesn't exactly translate into a neat career path, either. If I wanted to teach actual creative writing, I'd probably have to move to Podunk, Wyoming to find a teaching position at a university. Travelling the country again!
And if I tried to get any kind of teaching position here in San Diego, it would probably be at a community college, teaching remedial writing, part-time, for peanuts. Which I'm not so interested in.
So I'm thinking about starting my own business. At some point. (Actually, I'm researching it, and will talk about it more in a post that's not already ridiculously long).

All this meandering to say: I had choices, and I don't regret the ones I made, but I still feel under-challenged by being a full-time, no other job/responsibility mom. I think as I have more brain power, I will create new challenges. Like activism. Or a business. But it's hard to get those things off the ground.

One more thing. Corporate America is ridiculously inflexible. For both men and women. Dyami's job used to be super-flexible. He worked from home regularly several days a week. But as the company has grown, and new management came in, he has worked from home less and less. (What's ridiculous is that he probably works more from home than while in the office.) And his boss told him that working from home is a privilege, not a right.
With a different boss, Dyami asked if he could work a 4-day week for a pay cut. And they said no.
And another old boss used to get mad at other employees for leaving the office earlier than he did, even if they'd worked a full 8-hour day and would just be sitting idly at their desks.
And most software jobs are probably worse than the one he has: 80 hour weeks expected, along with work-through-the-night marathons. Usually to meet unreasonable or arbitrary deadlines that the engineers had no say in.
And he's lucky to have a job in an industry that keeps outsourcing to India and Argentina.
And he makes a great salary. What about those at Wal-mart who have to be available nights and weekends at the drop of a hat--for 8 bucks an hour?
Or moms who would like to work--but end up paying for the privilege because childcare costs are so high?

Why, why is this all normal? Why do we all put up with it?

The problem is that the options--for most of us--suck. So opting in seems kind of like a sucker's deal.

*Shhh: it was Sony.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

being woman

So I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about feminism. And God, and how he created me, and my body, and the capabilities and limitations of femaleness, and the state of our society, and what my identity is.
Also why Lucy keeps pooping in her diaper instead of in the potty. So it's a mixed bag around here.

It started out with me meditating on God, and His creative powers. Participating in creation, and actually sustaining another life gives me greater appreciation and awe of how He does it for billions of creatures and gazillions of stars.
So why do we call Him He? What does that mean, exactly?

I'm sort of a reluctant feminist. I've always been kind of a 'don't rock the boat' sort of person, and the circles I run in (relatively conservative Christian) feminism definitely rocks the boat. I have a lot of Christian feminist friends, and I've always liked their chutzpah, but have sort of hesitated to jump onto that particular boat myself.
But then I experienced motherhood, and breastfeeding, and full-time baby care.
It makes me feel a lot more enmeshed in womens' lot. And while I still question a lot of the feminist movements pet tropes, the difficulty of how constrained womanhood can be seems a lot mroe real to me.

So I have been talking to friends about it, and I borrowed books from friends to start sort of a reading journey. I got the Feminine Mystique (I mean, it is a classic) and a feminist theology reader, and have ordered a book called "Is it okay to Call God Mother". Gosh, that one makes me nervous! I think it makes Dyami a little nervous, too.

Reading the Feminine Mystique (I'm on chapter three), I'm both shocked at how much things have changed, and shocked at how much I identify with the problems Friedan describes. A mother's identity crisis? Feeling trapped by the realities of suburban stay-at-home momdom? Worrying that I might never do any thing more interesting than change poopy diapers again?

No, I have no idea what she's talking about. Hahahahahaha. Except I wish it were funny.

There's something that is a problem, though. She talks a lot about how women aren't determined by their biology; they are more than their sexual roles and bodies. And agree, to some extent, but well, one thing I've really noticed about motherhood is that our bodies pretty powerfully determine that we're mothers. No way to really share pregnancy with your spouse; you carry the child on your own. A pump is a great equalizer, but in the natural state of things, it's me who breastfeeds, and thus wakes up in the middle of the night to tend to my baby's stomach. And as a result of those things, Lucy is more wedded to me; she looks to me when she needs comfort. And I married a sensitive, 'liberated' man who does things like vacuum and wash dishes and change diapers (and even be super on-board with being crunchy EC nutheads).

So much as I'd love to go out and change the world right now--or serve in a larger sphere than our home, I can't. Lucy limits me. And to some extent that's a function of our fragmented suburban capatilist society, but to some extent this is just how God made me.

Oh, see, we got back to God again.
I think I need to do more reading.
Perhaps. I think I'm going to continue making Dyami (and myself) nervous for a while.

Monday, April 2, 2007


so day two of the milk-induced weirdness continues. Lucy was slightly fussy until about 5 pm, at which point she became really unhappy. She seemed in pain, and was inconsolable. At about 6, I decided the only thing left to do was put her to bed. Since she'd gotten up from her nap at 5, I didn't think it would work. Boy, was I wrong.
She fell asleep, and slept pretty soundly until 9. Then she woke up. I tried nursing her back to sleep, but when she heard Dyami's voice she woke up completely and was suddenly extremely happy and playful.

It is nearly an hour later, and she has shown some signs of tiredness, but the frenetic happiness is the prevailing theme. Oh, dear child, you are cute, but I want to go to bed!!! Be tired, like a normal baby!
Now she's farting. Perhaps she has some, ahem, other issues to work out.

it's official!

Lucy is allergic to milk! As evidenced by the congestion, the bellyache, and the three total hours of sleep I got last night!
It really makes me laugh to remember the handout I got from my pediatrician asserting that mother's food does not pass into breastmilk. What are they smoking????
Well. I'm glad that's settled.

Sunday, April 1, 2007


So I decided to throw caution to the wind and test whether Lucy does in fact have a milk allergy.

I went to Trader Joes and bought cheese, milk, yogurt (drinkable and greek) and....
Gelato. Mmmmm. Gelato!
Then the gelato wasn't very good, so I sent Dyami out for Chunky Monkey. Mmmmmm. I had about half of a pint last night. I hadn't had ice cream since before Lucy was born, seven months ago.
Dairy Fest started yesterday at noon, and today at noon I had a smaller bowl of Chunky Monkey and concluded the festivities. Then I waited for the other shoe to drop.

And, shockingly, everything seemed fine. Lucy's poop seemed normal, if slightly more green, but nothing really awful-looking like we've seen before. Nothing terribly diarrhea-like.
I was dreaming about Cold Stone. If I could have dairy, there are actually places I could eat out! Maybe only dessert places, but still! I could have treats!

Then I tried to put her to bed tonight
Normal, for the first 20 minute nurse-to-sleep. Then the second one took an hour. And she kept waking up. Arching her back. Crying. She'd re-settle, and just when I thought she was out, she'd wake back up.
Then I noticed that her nose was running for the first time in months. Her breathing sounded like Darth Vader's. And I remembered how she kept coughing before bedtime--then, I had wondered if she'd gotten something past my vigilant choking-hazard watch.
Wait a second, I thought, nursing her to sleep. That was phlegm she was coughing up. Argh!

She's asleep now, in her bed.
Pray for us. I have a bad feeling tonight may not be super restful. I'm trying not to be too anxious. In my head I know I'll survive, but I just hate not getting decent sleep. (Decent meaning several hours in a row).
Oh, Chunky Monkey. How I loved thee.
It was good while it lasted.