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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Breastmilk: The Movie - A Review

I put off watching Breastmilk for some time, suspecting I would feel all the things I ultimately felt after watching it today. I knew it would stress me out, fire me up, break my heart, and get me doing that weird thing where I talk to the TV like those in it can hear me.  I wanted to be wrong.  Sadly, I was right.

The experts were fantastic. Ok, so there was one community health worker, Patrece Griffith-Murray, who bugged me when she spoke of those who breastfeed as needing to have fiercely competitive personalities in order to muddle through. That was crap and, while I know what she was trying to get at, I feel it did more harm than good. The rest of the experts, though, were super. I fell in love with Dr. Fiona Giles, author of Fresh Milk: The Secret Life of Breasts. That woman is a fearless, truth-speaking badass! I could've watched a whole movie with just her.

Some of the moms broke my heart. In particular, Colleen, who is a biologist along with her husband. She wanted it. She wanted it bad. She researched, she studied, she was (mostly) confident in her body's ability to do it. She fell into some typical "booby traps" and ended up not breastfeeding in the end. Her heart was broken over it and her husband had zero empathy. He was the one to whom I yelled. Telling her how she should feel was just more than I could bear. Turd burglar. Then, there was another dad who pressured the mom to formula feed, because he didn't like the time breastfeeding took. Screw him. I wanted someone to step in. I longed for the experts to at least address each of these behaviors (and take those dads down a peg or eight), but it never happened and there are all the more heartbroken moms and babes in the world because of it.

I cannot even tell you how much it irks me
that the nipple is blacked out.
I was thrilled to see the inclusion of a lesbian couple who both breastfed and a gay couple whose child subsisted on donor milk. What a boon on so many fronts! Well done, Dana.

Would I recommend it? That depends. If you are already well-researched and educated, confident in your body, and beyond the fears that society foists upon us then yes, I recommend it. Unfortunately, the film doesn't do a good enough job of debunking the myths that the women followed state repeatedly for me to recommend it to anyone else. Regardless of which category you fall into, I recommend reading The Politics of Breastfeeding instead.

Overall, it was a good start, but I was left wanting more.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Rethinking Friendships in Seven Sentences

Words matter. If you call me stupid, but you mean something I do with which you don't agree is stupid, I'm going to hear what you say, not what you mean. Then I'm going to feel hurt. And then I'm going to wonder why in the world you're friends with me if I'm so stupid. Is stupidity not a deal-breaker for you as it is with me? What is your criteria for friendship? What is it about me that overrides my stupidity for you?

Vaccines: The Gray Area

"Black and white thinking comes with the assumption that we always know where to 'draw lines in the sand.' But the truth is we don’t. Sometimes new information and new experiences tell us we need to adjust those lines we draw. And without this open-mindedness, we will always be trapped within those same limitations." ~Steven Handel

My personal Facebook newsfeed is filled with two kinds of posts:

- vaccines are Satanic, evil, horrible inventions and should be avoided at all costs by all people
- vaccines are heaven-sent, miraculous, glorious inventions and should be mandatory for all people at all costs

I'm here to tell you that it's not as black and white as all that. I know. Shocking. There is a gray area. A HUGE gray area.

Not all people who vaccinate are uneducated sheeple.

Not all people who do not vaccinate are uneducated sheeple.

I mean, that is the argument both sides use.

Not all people who selectively vaccinate or do so on a delayed schedule are uneducated and unnecessarily afraid.

So. Much. Gray.

There are pros and cons to every which way you go on this issue. There is no one right answer.

We don't vaccinate. Based on our circumstances and our research to this point, we've decided against it. We started off vaccinating selectively. We researched more and changed our minds. Should circumstances and research dictate, we're open to changing our minds again. And again and again, as changes arise.

Before we even got pregnant, we were pro-vax. I mean, science! I was also all about that hospital birth. Science, I tell you! And circumcision and covering for breastfeeding and never cosleeping. This is just the way you do it. There were no questions. I'm a smart woman. I'm a teacher and in the middle of two graduate degrees, for blog's sake. I'm not risking the health of my child like some crazed hippie. Then, we got to thinking about balance. We found a midwife and in her office we took a class on vaccines, which was our introduction to understanding alternatives. From there, we cross-checked the prevalence of each disease with the ramifications of getting it. Low prevalence and few ramifications meant that vaccine got crossed off our list of what we'd give our child. Again, this was based on our circumstances at the moment. We lived in a place where disease risk was low and medical care was high. Those are still our circumstances. Should those circumstances change, our minds would certainly be open to changing. Also, the amounts and mixes of all of those vaccinations at one time have potentially irreversible and egregious side effects that have not yet been studied long enough (because the schedule hasn't been around long enough and is ever-changing). Again, we did a cost-benefit analysis. That was and is our constant state when it comes to vaccinations. What are the costs vs. benefits? What happens if we wait? What happens if we do nothing right now? Tetanus, for example, is one that seems silly to us. Get the shot to be supposedly immunized, but what's the first thing they'll do if you run a nail through your foot? Give you a tetanus shot. Regardless of whether or not your shots are up to date, they're still going to give you that shot just in case. I'll wait. If we had formula fed, we would've done things much differently. If we lived in a third-world country, we would've done things much differently. I am not anti-vax. We are simply, at this juncture, non-vax. There is a subtle but real difference.*

I've yet to meet someone who chose not to vaccinate who could be called uneducated or under-researched. They may not have PhDs in epidemiology, but they usually have their noses stuck in several books from several sources making sure they're doing what's right for their families.

I have met many who choose to vaccinate who have never researched anything about vaccines. They just do it, because "that's what you do."

Certainly, the two aforementioned scenarios do not apply to everyone. I have no doubt there are those who do not vaccinate just because their friend told them once that they shouldn't and I know for sure there are those who do choose to vaccinate who have their noses in just as many books as their counterparts.

You know who doesn't do research? Those who are just so damn sure they're right. I mean, what do they have to research? They already know it all. I'll take open over arrogant any day.

I grow weary of both sides spouting off about the other, like those who don't do as they do in this regard are just the biggest ignoramuses one could imagine. Why can't we all be open? Why can't we all open ourselves to the very real possibility that both sides have valid points? Most importantly, why can't we open ourselves and remain open to continued research and reflection and the possibility of changing our minds in either direction based on new information? Is that too scary?

*This is by no means an all-inclusive list of why we've chosen what we've chosen up to this point, nor should it be seen as speaking for others who have made similar choices.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

You Are Not Bipolar*

Only 2-3% of the world population is bipolar. You're probably not.

I was once engaged to a man who happened to be bipolar. We met online. We had an immediate connection and fell in love very quickly after our first date. He was a pharmacist. He had a wonderful sense of humor, a lovely musical aptitude, and treated me like both royalty and his equal companion all at the same time. It wasn't long before he told me that he was bipolar and a recovering alcoholic (what I have since learned is not an uncommon combination, as attempts to self-medicate are typical). I didn't know at the time what being bipolar really meant. I loved him desperately and didn't see any need to research beyond basic questioning.

I didn't recognize the cycles. I didn't know when he was experiencing a manic episode. When he'd go on a spending spree, I just thought he was being spontaneous and generous. When he was up all night composing and recording a lullaby for me, I just thought he felt too inspired to sleep. I thought I was the one who sent him into depressive episodes. I recall that I once set us up on the floor in the living room with all the Harry Potter movies (up to that point) with a little picnic, so we could just vegetate and enjoy a little downtime. The downward spin that followed was epic and I thought for sure I had caused it by not indulging in a day of manic behavior instead. I didn't know.

He was very secretive about his diagnosis. His employer didn't know, not that they needed to, but it certainly could've helped them understand some of his behaviors and scheduling needs. Most of his friends didn't know. Those at his AA meetings didn't know. We once went to see a therapist together and she asked him the question maybe two minutes after talking to him, "Are you bipolar?" His defensive, angry response was alarming. That she recognized it so immediately was confounding to me. Of course, nobody is required to dispense that information to anyone else. We're not owed that conversation, in most cases. The stigma of mental illnesses is overwhelming. Most consider someone with bipolar disorder to be tainted, stained, and pitiable. Who would want to come out of that closet?

There are so many stories I could share with you, both truly lovely and disturbing, to draw a picture of what it was to live with and deeply love someone who had bipolar disorder, but that is not actually the point of this blog, it's only background. So tragically often, I see my friends post or hear them say something to the effect of "I changed my mind a lot. I'm so bipolar!" or "I'm feeling so many opposite things at once. I'm bipolar!" My heart hurts for my ex every time I see or hear it. You, my friends, are not bipolar. You're just indecisive or emotional and kind of an insensitive, ignorant jackass, truth be told. Stop minimizing what it is to actually be bipolar by co-opting the word to serve your own trivial issues. You don't get to self-diagnose just because you had an off day, because you're feeling sad, or because you're feeling ecstatic. You are not bipolar.

I recommend to you, all of you, the following:

  • learn more about what it is to really live with bipolar disorder (click HERE for a rudimentary understanding),
  • read An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison (and sob through the whole thing as the clouds of understanding part, if you're me),
  • then make amends to all you've hurt by minimizing the reality of this mental illness and never, NEVER again use that term for your own selfish and inconsiderate purposes again.
Think on it.

*Unless you are, in which case, this does not apply to you, but to those in your lives, so you might want to pass it along.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Today in Seven Sentences

White, male privilege abounds.

Subtle intimations of harming my child.

Passive-aggressive posts to those who parent differently.

Complete lack of awareness of how our actions affect our children infinitely more than our words.

An overwhelming sense of never being able to keep up with the messes.

Blindly following religious leaders in the attempt to be "good."

I'm betting on PMS-induced hypersensitivity as opposed to the above being more prevalent than usual, but my son did add "give Dada a wedgie" to our to-do list, so the day isn't a total wash.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

My Unapology

The hot topics in my Facebook and Twitter feeds continue to be #blacklivesmatter and #bluelivesmatter. I understand. Dip into my background, my varied interests, and you will, too. Coming from a law enforcement family, having worked in it for several years, I obviously have many law enforcement friends and family still. Having moved from it into high school teaching (an arguably more liberal profession) and then into full on hippie-hood, I obviously have many liberal friends and, ok, no family, just friends. I went from leaning right as a youngster to standing upright at the left as an adult. These perspectives have made me who I am today, taught me much, and conflict often with the black and white opinions offered by those I care about.

Many feel I've sold out, forgotten my roots, turned my back on my past by not staunchly supporting #bluelivesmatter, Ferguson PD, and the NYPD's handling of Eric Garner. Where is my loyalty? How dare I question the righteousness of what has been done in these and so many similar situations? Benedict Arnold! Wait. I recall vividly that when I had to turn in my own boyfriend, a deputy in my own department, at my own station, for statutory rape, I was shunned, alienated, and told outright that I shouldn't have "ratted him out" since they didn't when they suspected the same was going on. That's the type of loyalty I'm expected to display for all officers of the law, because that's what it truly means to be a brother or a sister. Well, I can't. I won't. I'm the first to say that the overwhelming majority of those in law enforcement are amazing souls with unmatched bravery and caring. I'm also the first to say that the few that are bad are BAD and should be sussed out and exiled from the profession immediately, so as not to sully the reputations of the many and bring harm to those who should be able to trust them. I haven't forgotten anything. Anything. I just don't think it's as black and white as I'm told it is.

Others feel I'm blind to the bigger picture by supporting National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day, that I don't understand the issues facing the black community today, that I need to just pick a side already. How can I support the big, bad po-po? How dare I offer up anecdotes to shine light on the good that officers do, the pressures and ugliness they face every day? If you really cared about our society, you'd open your mind to the fact that the 5-0 are nothing but egotistical, power-mad, racists with happy trigger fingers! Wait. I recall vividly the times when my brothers and sisters in uniform have been faced with potentially deadly situations and have successfully walked away sans serious injury to any party or have been in therapy, forever changed and heartbroken by the life they've had to take when left with no other option. I've known more than my fair share of officers killed in the line of duty. I'm supposed to put that understanding away for the sake of taking a side? I won't. It's not as black and white as I'm told it is.

Situations, individual situations, require deep thought, exhaustive questioning, and a wide open mind. Those things require us to let go of our fear of potentially having to change our minds, being wrong, and facing an angry majority alone. That's scary. I get that. What is scarier to me is seeing things as so cut and dried, refusing to broaden ourselves, passing those traits onto our children, so that we find ourselves with yet another generation of folk who think there are only two sides to every story.

By all, I'm asked to apologize for my perspective. Whatever that perspective may be, it's never far enough on their side for them. I won't. I refuse to apologize for my broadened perspective. I revel in it. I appreciate that my life experiences have brought me to this point. This doesn't mean I don't ever see things as right and wrong. I surely do. I'm not a fence-sitter. It just means that, thankfully, I have surrounded myself with different people and walked such different paths so that I am quite comfortable being unapologetic for a wider view. My goals for myself are to continue to broaden my views, allow for my mistakes in thought and action, be open to change and, I think most importantly, pass that onto my son. It is for him that I have made all these uncomfortable transitions and for him that I will continue to do so.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Secret to Being Good

"The greatest mistake a man can make is to be afraid of making one." ~Elbert Hubbard

My husband regularly marvels at my ability to fix things, create things, just do things. He is forever of the mistaken belief that I have some innate ability to accomplish all things. He could not be more wrong. I didn't climb out of the womb knowing how to refinish a hope chest, sew a quilt, crochet a rug, or assemble some crazy piece of Ikea furniture. The knowledge of how to redo the floors, fix the drip system, and change the oil in my car. So, what the hell? Why can I do these things and he can't?

Want to know the secret? Failure. Well, failure, my lack of fear of it, and a good attitude with which I choose to at once laugh at my foul-ups and learn from them. I screw up more often than I do a good job. So? So what? I mean, what is the real consequence? I can tell you that in my experience, the consequences of not trying at all or of giving up after failing once are far greater than are the consequences of committing blunder after blunder until finding my stride and moving through.

I encourage you to screw up. I encourage you to fight through your fear of failure and allow yourself to really and royally make a mess of things. I encourage you to let go of your unrealistic need for perfection. You're never going to learn that way, you're never going to grow. Practice doesn't make perfect. I want to flick whoever said that and spread it around in the forehead. Practice makes progress.

All that being said, no, I don't take everything lightly as I jump into doing things myself. I won't attempt to fix the clutch on my car. I leave that to the professionals. I will, however, observe and ask questions. I just like the learning process. I'm not going to lay my own carpet. I will help my dad do it, though. I like that stuff. I like knowing how to do things, I like having a variety of skills, and, mostly, I like the feeling of independence when I don't have to ask someone else to take care of a problem for me.

As for me, I enjoy seeing my bloopers. Looking through the things I've done is like reading my own story. I can see how I started, where I was then, and how far I've come since. That's cool to me. Those mistakes aren't ugly to me. Besides, even if they are, by making them, I can better do over what I once fouled up.

Why am I writing this on my parenting blog? Because my son has the same tendencies as my husband. He expects to be good at things right away and tends to freak out and come down hard on himself when he's not. It is one of my primary goals to continue to show him by example not that practice makes perfect, but that it makes progress and that only by not being good right away can we be great later.

"There is no greater bore than perfection." ~Richard Connell

Monday, January 5, 2015

2015 Has to Get Better

We're on the fifth day into the new year. Thus far, we've had a pipe burst in our front yard, a bout with roseola, an ear infection, a broken heater that the person swore he fixed and is now coming back out to "fix" for the second day in a row, a car payment that was sent and deducted but cannot seem to be found by anyone, and a charge of $50 shipping on a $3 purchase that the company says is not their problem. I'm ready for a nap. I'll just nap right through until this gets fixed up. Yep. Problems solved. Oh wait...