Category Archives: women

An Open Letter to Senator John Kerry

In 1984, I took part in my first political campaign, and voted in my first election. I stood holding a “Kerry for Senate” banner on the side of the pond in the center of the UMass Campus, and I stood with John Kerry in his run.

Twenty years later, I took part in my first Presidential Caucus, in WA state. Although pregnant, I got up on a bench and gave an impassioned speech about the Democratic Party and supporting John Kerry in particular. In the face of Deaniac Washington, our town went Kerry, as eventually did our state. I was asked to take a place in the stands behind him (big, blue and pregnant made for good optics for a pro-choice candidate forbidden to receive communion by the bishops of his own faith), met him, thanked him for running and campaigned until the end.

I am profoundly disappointed in the Senator today. The only way that the mandatory contraceptive coverage component of the Affordable Health Care Act is about religious freedom is about the freedom of the EMPLOYEES, not the employer. It is about basic health care for women, and having to provide it EVEN IF the religious beliefs of the employer include the notion that women were from the beginning, made wholly from the rib of a man and unequal to him.

Catholic Charities would like us to think that their mission is about service, but really, when it comes to the status of women in their world, it is about SUBSERVICE. But Bishops are not the rulers of our land. They do not make the laws, even though the rate at which they break them, against the most vulnerable amongst us is despicable.

Women do not deserve second class status if they work for a Catholic institution such as a university or hospital, because the LAW, which governs us all says that Women and Men are due equal protection under LAW.

Put another way. If AIDS drugs are covered by ACHA, would you then say that covering men with HIV would be at the discretion of the Catholic Church because they condemn homosexual activity? If blood transfusions are covered, would it then be at the discretion of a Jehovah’s Witnesses based charity to disregard those? What about the Christian Science Monitor? Can they forget about prescription drug coverage in its entirety?

If you cannot find the words that express the supremacy of the rights of equal protection over any individual religion’s dictates, take mine. This is about HEALTH CARE, and the right of anyone who works for any employer to not have their employer’s religious whims, caprices or beliefs infringe on what is their legal right to receive.

Women will never get the chance to vote for Catholic bishops – hell, they can’t even have give a homily! – but they will vote for Congresspeople and President. And they will vote the same way they obey the edicts of the pope when it comes to birth control. Ignoring them when it makes no sense, with the full support of the law.

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Filed under health, healthcare, institutional misogyny, Uncategorized, women, women's health, women's rights

Welcome to the World, Nora

On 19 November, we drove to Evergreen Hospital to evict my beloved tenant. She made no sign of leaving on her own, having blocked the exit with her bottom and legs.

I walked unassisted but not unaccompanied to the delivery room, took my spinal like a woman (nearly soundlessly and according to my labor nurse, like “a very tough woman”) and within a few minutes became mother to a daughter. A daughter, in the words of the surprised OB, assisting and nurses, who was “a very big girl”. Baby was 8lbs, 8oz, 20.5 inches. Strong. Pink. And with the most beautiful thatch of blond hair, which after her first bath made a silvery blond cap on her little head, prompting lovely spontaneous expressions from her nurses.

Looking at her, all the names we preselected seemed wrong. And in fact, I thought she looked more like a Walter in those first hours. But with time, hospital discharges, and the 100,000 Baby Name book, we figured out her name by the 26th: Nora. Her full name is Eleanor, but when I looked into her dark eyes, I saw a determined, decidedly unfrivolous person, looking back at me. Nora. She cried only for food and cold – no sense in making a fuss otherwise – and was as content as could be once full and warm. Nora. And yet, such a delicate little face, a halo of silky filaments, a little beauty completely unaware of a world falling in love with her, and acting accordingly. My Nora. Welcome to the world, little one.

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Filed under children, daughter, Love, mother, Motherhood, women

39w1d, and the last of private time

If I’m lucky, I get about 2 hours a day now of private time – between 2 and 4 am, in the room that H and I share as an office. I sleep on the new raised air mattress I bought for H on election day, an investment in his circadian pattern and sanity, or so I thought.  (Family visitors will claim the spare bed for the next two months, depriving him of comfortable respite from my tossing, turning, and snoring.)

Two days in, the prince found a multitude of peas in his new sleeping quarters, and in an effort to preserve my own sanity, I gladly switched places with him. (In general, as long as I can lie down on something firm, I can sleep. I don’t know how it will go when little one arrives and we retake the bedroom/co-sleeper.)

So now I wake around 2, for a late-night constitutional, and then I find myself with my thoughts. The small footpath lights in the backyard caught every last, late gilded leaf from the japanese maple, whose branches arch from the back eastern fence to the glass doors that are now my “bedroom” wall. My first night, I could still see some green in the thatch of leaf cover – now, there are only the last of the hangers-on, clinging in daylight as squirrels ravage the slender branches for food and Ben’s entertainment. At this late hour, the branches are quiet.

The clock in the office with a face that reminds me of my elementary school, and a red second hand that moves in a way that I can only describe as simultaneously staccato and vibrato – that wonderful sound as it advances second by second, but a wavering hand that signals a constant need to be reined in.

The tock-tockle of the clock is not the only sound in the house. Ben, who has shared my internal clock since birth and co-sleeping, usually stirs with a string of undecipherables, telling urgent stories in his sleep, peppered with “MommyDaddy” – an all-purpose call to parent arousal from across the rambler.

But unlike the truly stolen moments I have now – rushing off alone in the car to a coffee shop or market, seeking the reassuring solitude of a public snack among kindly strangers – these are the only ones I’ll have for some time, or at least until the MD says I can get back behind the wheel.

Tonight, my thoughts are all over the place, from practicing positions in case of cord prolapse; figuring out if I can take Ben to the hospital for a tour before B-day; why it is that chocolate brown seems the worst possible color for a renovated bathroom, no matter what my smart neighbor the realtor is telling me; the 35% loss in our savings since January; the uneasiness I feel when considering prospects for employment; and ransacking my brain for techniques for being respectful and not angry/heartbroken when my mother’s age and inability as well as her innate timidity and fear of so much of the world is here, in my home. When I can get her an appointment at Seymours for a wash and set. Wondering when the contractor will finish the bathroom, and will little one be toilet-trained by then.

Then 2 becomes 3 and 4 slides into 5, and I know I need to do two things – take another slow-release iron pill, and find a way to slow my mind, squeezing in another 2 hours before Ben is at the head of the mattress, reminding me it’s a home day, and that means pancakes.

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Filed under "getting ready for baby", anxiety, children, families, family, Motherhood, women, worry

38w6d: long, closed, contemplative

Yesterday, at the OB’s office, there was a moment where I felt less like an expectant mother and more like my purse – the ob rummaging through me to find a cellphone, or in this case, a cervix. What she found was long, quiet and closed – not unlike my cellphone by the time I find it. No sign of labor, or of the tenant’s plans for moving day.

After some earlier emotional arguments at home, this news was a little less than welcome. I had whispered to her that this would be a great day to come out, that Mommy had already driven to the hospital, she had the keys and her baby bag in the back seat, and we could get this squared away in no time. Just mommy and baby.  But in a disturbingly familiar display of stubbornness (wow, does that spelling look wrong), she has decided to prove all qualified and certified medical professionals completely wrong. “I won’t make it to term? Well, induce THIS.”

Admittedly, the stress of my mother’s visit is a contributor to her reticence to exit. My mother came to “help”, but she is a rather frail 79 who has nearly lost her hearing completely and refuses to wear a hearing aid. Parenting issues and flashbacks abound. I had thought I was big enough to follow through on letting her come – she is doing this as much for herself as for me – but I’m faced with the ugly reality of my rather unforgivable smallness. (Don’t tell me I’m not. This is not false modesty.)

So self-directed trips alone to the hospital give me time to be with little one, and with my son, focused on things that matter to me. I can reassure myself that I won’t be in housewifery exile forever, though the economic conditions of this region may conspire to make that feel like the reality. I’m quietly excited both for her arrival, her growth, and a new real job. I’m better prepared for what will mostly be a solitary parenting experience, regardless of marriage license and/or marital status. I line up documents and questionnaires, prepare for sleeping places and nursing stations throughout the house, pry out of H whatever it was I last did to piss him off so he’ll drop the silent treatment, and get familiar with 42, mother of two.

The catch is how to get everything else done smoothly, incurring the fewest number of complaints, while allowing myself the space and brain function to imagine and execute the next steps so important to take. If I get 6 hours a night, I think I can pull it off.

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what is great about being pregnant, 30w+

This pregnancy has been full of uncertainty and worry; only recently have I been able to enjoy it more fully.

Even though I am having more trouble getting around (hah), it’s a pleasure to be out and about. Generally speaking, I think people treat pregnant women pretty well. Strangers smile, offer congratulations and well wishes. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like if that were standard operating procedure. My own social experiences are usually pretty positive, but it would be even better to have that sense of good will more often than the days I’m visibly pregnant.

But if I recall my own behavior, expectant moms get top of the list treatment. They’re brave, whether they know it yet or not. They are making a visible, good faith commitment to a world that has no explicit interest in their well-being, and offering the most precious and vulnerable effort they will likely ever make in their lives to that apathetic (at best) place. So who among us, especially parents, wouldn’t smile, with their hearts in their eyes, hoping that future mother wouldn’t find a better place than we may know to date. That maybe this time, with this mother, it will be different, better, the changing point.

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Filed under "getting ready for baby", children, mother, Motherhood, pregnancy, women

the no-fly list and a staycation

Every summer we test our collective patience with a 19h, door to door trip to Northern Denmark to visit with my in-laws. Weather permitting, it can work out as a pleasant vacation – not permitting, it can be a more challenging time, at least for the Danish illiterate of the family.

But this year was different. My OB put me on the no-fly list, with my complete cooperation, and I packed up H and Ben for a boys’ trip. I began preparing Ben for a mama-less trip as soon as I received the word, so we could minimize upset. We’d tell each other how we would miss each other on the trip, but that Ben would have a fantastic time – his grandparents, his cousins, and the sea was waiting for him, along with some hungry sheep and the cows in the pasture.

Of course, the flight would end up being the most eventful in our short history as a family – Ben diagnosed with a strep infection a few hours before the flight; an unrelated medical emergency forced them from the no-man’s land between northern Canada and Greenland, and three hours later put them on the tarmac at Montréal. Where they sat for 2 full hours while the flight crew tried to find a way to purchase more fuel. Then another 7 hours to CPH, and a scramble for the last flight to Alborg. When they arrived at my inlaws’, it was nearly 1am local time and Ben woke up, ready for action.
So, what would I do with all this time alone? MD appointments, ultrasound peeks at Little one, hosting friends from Spain, and sleep. A much more active social calendar, with dinner invitations and no curfew, save what my energy might permit. The photos of the perfect vacation only began trickling in yesterday, my little boy decorating a Danish kageman, climbing the dunes at Rubjerg Knude, and eating butter cookies with chocolate filling. H sounds soft and happy, tired, a little sad that we are apart on his birthday and our Danish wedding anniversary. (For the latter, it’s an echo chamber we made together.)

But in spite of all this, it’s been wonderful to make visits and share meals, just like in the old days, before motherhood, before west coast exile, when stories and laughter were the draw.

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Filed under autonomy, Friends, friendship, independence, Motherhood, women

“It’s a woman! It’s a baby woman!”

Many moons ago, the birth of Joanie Caucus’ newest child was greeted in this way in a Doonesbury strip. Our baby woman has yet to arrive, but the tech and the Ob explained the meaning of the three parallel dots/dashes – a kind of visual morse code communicating her emerging femaleness.

And unlike the feelings I had for my first born who happened to be a son, overwhelming love permeated with the sense of his vulnerability, I imagine my daughter coming out fully formed and upright, a smiling Athena without the gladiator sandals who would know how to request the things she couldn’t yet make. I reflect on this grueling first trimester, which resulted in my regular OB prescribing a migraine-preventative cup of coffee each morning, to be her request for the true mother’s milk for this would-be daughter of mine. I see her arranging her wisps of hair together with a pencil from my desk the way her mother did, a coiffure homage to Catharine Mackinnon and expediency, except she will be more accomplished and patient, less judgmental and furious.

All the things I can see for her, all that I wish for her, can’t begin to compare with what she will do once she is on her own. Still, I can’t help but think she’ll already have it done. After all, she’s a baby woman. She’ll decide what she wants, and then she’ll go get it. I wish I was like her already.

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Filed under children, daughter, Love, mother, Motherhood, women