A Grown-up Job

This week, I got an email from my favorite group of online Mormon gals, at www.foodstoragemadeeasy.net .  Their mission is to fulfill a tenent of the Latter Day Saints church teachings to have a year’s supply of food and supplies on hand to provide for your family and be a blessing to your neighbors.  My mission, however, is to be a bad mamba jamba survivalist mother.  I am a very ecumenical Catholic, after all.

One of the many things my husband and I do for our kids is provide for their bodily well-being.  We have made this commitment to our children by bringing them into this world.  Our obligation does not end because of a power outage or massive crop failure.  It does not cease to be if the municipal water supply becomes undrinkable or, worse, shut off.  So, after listening to Glenn Beck (also a LDSer) talk about food storage as food insurance, I had a few moments of panic, seeing my children standing in our kitchen asking for food that I couldn’t provide.  Watching mothers just like me on the other side of the world live through this today has encouraged me to give more aggressively to end their suffering.  More on this in a future blog post.

But, in order for any of this to make sense, we need to briefly touch on a few scenarios that might lead to a need for a relatively large amount of supplies on hand.  There’s a blizzard that knocks the power out for days (fine, get in your car and drive to an unaffected area-costly, but appropriate).  Flooding at the wastewater treatment facility leads to contaminated drinking water (go to the store and buy all of your water-moderately costly).  You or your husband are laid off, or need to stay home to tend to a terminally ill child (dip into retirement fund, go on welfare-hugely costly).

But, what if the stores were out of water?  What if your car wouldn’t start?  What if you couldn’t access your money or didn’t qualify for welfare?  What if it all happened at once?  Is your house liveable without electricity, gas, and water?  How would you meet your family’s basic needs?  Your pets’?

Well, these things just won’t happen all at once, short of the Apocalypse…and that’s just going to be so bad, all the efforts to prepare are futile.  That was my take on it.  And then, I started reading.  The apocalypse described above, where every modern convenience (and now necessity) goes away can be caused by one of our enemies detonating a nuclear bomb over our airspace.  The huge energy from that event would send a “front loaded” surge through every conductive material in its range (the entire continental US).  Because it’s front loaded, there’s no small fore-wave to warn your circut breakers and surge protectors to cut the power.  Instead, every piece of wiring, including “grounded” wires act as massive antennas to amplify the surge.

In an instant, every piece of electronics, every car, every computer plugged in or not, has been fried.  9 out of 10 Americans are dead in the first year.

I won’t go into more details here, but this link and book are great resources: www.onesecondafter.com .   All I know is that such a thing can happen.  I have the opportunity to prepare for the worst of the worst, and in the process, every little temporary emergency is covered in full.

So, I have a few weeks of supplies on hand.  Rinsing out juice bottles and filling them with water.  I am learning more about how to use my stored food.  I am locating all of my important documents.  I am learning how to make a manual washing machine: http://dirtydiaperlaundry.com/flatschallenge-how-to-make-a-camp-style-washer-instructional-video/ .  My husband is going all techie and learning about radios and making an alluminum-foil faraday cage (ooo, and some helmets for the space alien invasion, too!).

The most important thing, however, is that our children know Mommy and Daddy will fight for them.  When monsters have occassionally poked their heads out from under beds, we don’t tell the kids “There, there, it’s ok, I’ve got you.”  We tell them, sometimes forcefully “Do you think Mommy and Daddy would ever allow a monster into this house?  Never.  If anyone ever tries to hurt you or takes you away, we will look for you, and we will always come find you.  That’s a grown-up’s job.  Mommy and Daddy will always take care of you.”  And we will.

If you’d like to know more about some emergency scenarios, visit http://foodstoragemadeeasy.net/7day/ to view the 2009 and 2010 challenge and sign up for the challenge this week.

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Fighting for Truth

I am a weird person.  I swear to you, no one hates conflict more than I do.  At the same time, I have the misfortune of inspiring many people to unload the supressed vitriol of their lives onto my doorstep.  Seriously, meek and mild-mannered people become nasty east-coasters and let me have it if we have conflicting viewpoints.

My mother (in total exasperation) has ended many of our heated discussions with “Have you ever considered law school?”  I always reply the same way: “No.  I hate to fight.”  I truly do.  I get sick to my stomach.  I raise my voice and speak slowly when my evidence is ignored.  I spend hours researching on a computer.  I replay conversations over and over in my head.  I drive people to drink…or at least stop talking to me.

I can’t help it.  I was born this way.

Here’s the problem: I believe, 100% of the time, in truth.  I believe women were made to birth.  I believe baby boys should be left whole.  I believe taking care of the poor is an individual responsibility.  I believe in the Constitution.  I believe in the faith of the Catholic Church.  I believe in three meals a day.  I believe children are better parented by their parents almost all of the time.  I believe adopted babies are equal to biological children.  I believe dogs should come from shelters.  I believe in the promise of forgiveness.  I believe death will be painless and without fear.  I believe family comes first.  I believe in God.

Most times, I can’t say if it’s a curse or a blessing, but it’s who I am.

But, worst of all, I believe that everyone else wants to know the truth, too.  So, when I get attacked, I am incredulous, to my own peril.  “If you could only see the evidence, you would change your mind!”  Then, when that’s unsuccessful, “Just look at this evidence and at least admit I’m not crazy!” Then, “Well, it looks like we can’t talk about this anymore.  You do your thing; I’ll do mine.”

Most of the conversations that end like this feed directly into my one true fear of being misunderstood.  I think people can sense it, and it drives them to take bigger chances, make bolder statements, hold on to their positions a little more fiercely.

And, for the record, I have changed my mind plenty of times when I realized my firmly-held belief was counter to best evidence.  Some people like me can’t admit when they’re wrong.  I don’t enjoy it, for sure, but, not a single one of my beliefs is based on feelings alone.  If you have the evidence, I will change my mind.  I have done it several times.  I will do it again.  But, as a mature adult, I no longer speak on topics I don’t have an understanding of.  I listen.  Then I research.  I have a fairly decent BS radar.

In fairness, I don’t try to avoid fights, I just would prefer not to get in them.  If someone broadcasts for input, I put mine out there.  If I know the truth, and didn’t say it, what kind of person would I be?  I make great effort to debate only the issue and not the person.  I know this is my most improved area of debate.  It’s just tough, because I now truly believe challenging people is how I love people.

Sick?  Maybe.  Hyper-inflated ego?  Possibly.  But, I feel like this is my fate…my strength…my exhausting curse.  Call it what you will.  I just wish I didn’t piss people off so much when I did it.

Because mostly, I just want them to agree with me.  And even if they don’t, at least te seeds have been left behind.

Kindred Spirits

Ever since I was a little kid, I have had very strong opinions.  I picked them up from talk radio my mom had on every afternoon (yes, I am a “Rush Baby,” and so are my kids), and overheard conversations by my parents in the car.  They mainly talked politics, and rude people, and employees who couldn’t do a job right.  I learned how to formulate a strong argument and have the facts to back it up.

When I became a mother, with only a bachelor’s degree under my belt, I was hardly reaching my full academic potential.  I had dumped grad school, botched a vet school application, and was pretty much the academic failure of the family, excepting, of course, my younger sister who, in the third grade, tried to make a pretty picture with the bubbles in her placement scantron, and showed up in the 13th percentile.

So, at the age of 24, before the birth of our Cal, I started reading.  I had a horrifying image of my planned unmedicated childbirth involving stirrups, beeping machines, and evil plump nurses named Wanda shouting “Push!” at me before rolling my kid away.  So, I started reading.  I took out 8 books-the entirety of our semi-rural library’s childbirth collection, and read them all in three days.  I signed us up for Bradley childbirth classes, and learned how to fight in the hospital.  I read more books.  It was a great hospital birth, if relatively light on actual Bradley techniques.

Childbirth, along with other functions of the body and medicine, is surprisingly objective.  Find the study, change the practice.  I have research that shows a woman is less at risk for postpartum hemorrhage and placental retention when she is undisturbed after the baby is born.  I can show you the journal articles that show a first time mom has a 50% c-section rate when her labor is induced.  Research demonstrates time and again that the art of midwifery is based on better science than vaginal childbirth in modern obstetrics.  I love the underdog, and I’ll put my money on the best science any day.

But, today, I am not going to talk about how I cannot convince anybody to look at my research.  That’s an old, dead horse that is getting rancid in my life.  Instead, I wanted to tell you about the beautiful gift I have received many times in the past year.  Instead of taking this information to the people who it offends, I have been quietly approached by women and friends who are thirsty for what I have.  Sometimes once a week, or maybe once a month, I’ll find a message from an old friend in my inbox, wondering if she’s making the best choice for her birth (I have found most OB’s place the full burden of informed consent on the woman).

Some days, it’s a conversation with a mom whose heart is still bruised and aching from trying to find what went wrong in her last birth.  The questions I get, time and again, are “Am I crazy?” (no) followed by “Can the next time be different?”  The answer, so far, has always been yes.

After walking on eggshells around mothers damaged by birth, we have multiplied the wrongs done to them by dismissively creating a case of real danger and bad luck.  We have deemed her trauma as “just one of those things,” instead of saying what we all know, deep down.  Yes, some of the things that were done to/for you were against best practice and did lead to a negative outcome.  It’s hard to think about, but when she knows that, she can heal.  We can research together whether or not those things can/will happen again.

I’m being intentionally vague here about specific examples, because these women have trusted their stories to me.  I don’t have a degree in midwifery, but I can do research.  I haven’t been trained in psychiatry, but I can help someone heal.  I’m not pregnant, but I can keep up with the birth community.  I try not to tick people off, but I can swat at the bees so someone else doesn’t have to.  I don’t judge any woman for her birth decisions, but I can help her make informed choices.

You see, many, many women, deep down, know that successful birth is more than bringing a living child into his living mother’s arms.  The world denies these women the space and faith in their bodies they would need to birth in a strong way.  Then, the shell shock of the event goes trivialized, even in a birth that was just what she wanted…mostly.  I won’t go into the obvious abuse of birth rape, but just the every day, intervention-/complication- heavy birth the majority of women experience.  Sometimes, when no one else will listen, these women talk to me.

I have encouraged mothers having incredible scheduled c-sections, postponing non-medically indicated inductions, and planning their first VBAC.  Sometimes, I’ll send them a note on my own, but more often, they see my random posts about placentas and delayed cord clamping, and know they’ve found a kindred spirit.

I know these births don’t affect me directly, but indirectly, they are.  The more women who demand empowering births now, the greater chance my children won’t be fighting the same fight in 25 years.  And, in the here and now, this is a blissfully rewarding pursuit in my life.  Friends and strangers have affirmed that my passion is not paranoia; my work is not worthless.

I may be just a stay-at-home mom, but I am a scholar, too.  When anyone questions my statements, I disappoint them, because my research is solid.  I can’t be in school right now, and I don’t even know if I’ll want to be in school ever again.  But, I am still learning.  Every day.  And listening.  And waiting.  And talking.  And watching birth unfold in its own God-given time.  Because, right now, talking with a woman pursuing her body’s full potential, in many ways, is the best I can do.

Thank you to all of the women who have given me this chance.

ps: Before you get your grumpy pants on, I don’t give medical advice or encourage anyone to recklessly ignore true problems.  I do, however, support any woman who questions her treatment plan, and needs references to make a good choice for her and her baby.  The general theme is always, however biased in favor of protecting the mother/baby dyad’s natural safeguards.

Wiggly

Today Cal is sitting in her first day of first grade.  She did so well, but thought she wouldn’t be able to go after feeling sick this morning.  Apparently it was just the excitement of it all, as 40 minutes before we had to be at school she declared herself to be feeling “100% better!”  She got dressed and her lunch bag was packed just in the nick of time to snap a quick picture and walk her there while Andy stayed home with the little kids.

We found her locker, found her desk, met her teacher, and she did a connect-the-dots.  Noticing the obvious lack of coloring implements, Cal promptly grabbed a red pen to start coloring the picture.  She gave me a kiss, probably more because I needed it than her, then said goodbye.  I picked up a packet of papers, debated whether I would be allowed to sign up for room mother (with all these kids, no), then walked home.

And then, I thought again about her tooth.  Unlike most just-turned-six first graders, but just like her mommy, Cal has not lost her first tooth yet.  When my sister, her dentist, declared it loose two months ago, I could barely discern a wiggle.  We talked about new, grown-up teeth coming in and pushing all the baby ones out to make room.

I was sure it would fall out by her birthday.  Maybe when her Amma was visiting.  Nope.  Maybe when A. Jay made her surprise visit!  Nope.  Well, maybe in August on our family vacation to Tennessee.  Nope.  Maybe when she spent the week with Amma alone.  Maybe while we were hanging out our last week of summer.  Nope and nope.

You see, Cal has an incredible amount of patience.  She won’t wiggle the tooth except to show an equally revolted and fascinated adult audience.  She is happy to forgo corn on the cob and whole apples until that little white tooth swan dives out of her mouth on its own accord.  That’s just her.  She doesn’t care if mom isn’t there when her tooth falls out; actually, she might prefer it.

A couple of weeks ago, for the first time, I thought about homeschooling for real, without a problem prompting the option.  I am totally responsible for my children’s education, even if I hire it out to the public schools.  In reality, I have very little idea of what went on in her Kindergarten classroom, as siblings were not allowed.

How will I know if she spends her whole day filling time while the other kids are being disciplined?  How will I know if she’s in the green turtle reading group instead of the blue birds?  How will I know if her tooth falls out while I am changing diapers and making lunch a 1/4 mile down the road?  Am I supposed to miss it?

Am I supposed to only get 59% of her waking hours?

She just seems awfully young to be losing a tooth without her mom there to see it, that’s all.  I don’t feel like she owes it to me, just that she’s mine to take care of, and maybe she’ll feel lost or forgotten at school.  That she’ll lose her tooth, and quietly put it in her pocket, and go on with her day.  That would break my heart.  She’s bold and outgoing in so many ways, but also needs to be quietly listened to when she’s worried or sad.  That can’t wait 8 hours.  Will her teacher notice if she’s too quiet?  She’s really quite a remarkable kid, after all.

Maybe because she doesn’t push me away, and beg to do things on her own (but just with me, instead-Special Girl Time) I feel like this is happening sooner than I’m ready for.

I know I’m supposed to sign off on this post with a greater understanding of my six-year-old’s independence and need for autonomy, blah de blah blah, but I don’t.  I feel bummed that Cal is there, and I’m here, intentionally letting her go.

My heart is a little wiggly, too.  I’m not going to touch it, either.  Maybe a big grown-up, stronger one is coming in.  When it’s ready.