My son was born four years ago, just a few weeks after Trump’s inauguration. My life turned both inside-out and upside-down. Inside-out, as I struggled once again with bringing the life inside me into the outer world. Upside-down, as events that would once grab headlines for days, if not weeks, were now coming every few hours. The It’s-Not-a-Muslim-Ban Travel Ban. Michael Flynn. Betsy DeVos. I would put my son down for a nap, fall into a half-sleep for an hour, and then wake up to a new horrible reality of Things that Were Now Possible in the U.S..
I knew there was a reason that when I entered my classroom on the day after the 2016 election that I could barely keep from crying in front of my international students. My heart knew what was coming, even if they didn’t know it yet. I felt somewhere deep in my heart that the life that I had built teaching English and fostering intercultural understanding was now dangerously at risk of disappearing altogether.
It turns out my worry was completely founded and warranted. Because two years later, international student enrollment plummeted where I was teaching, just as it was everywhere else in the United States. I grieved the fact that I needed to seriously reconsider my career choice. It was a path that I pursued tirelessly just to be employed full-time.
Now here we are, four years later. I have left teaching, but I have managed to stay in the field of education. There are things that I miss about teaching (advising students, talking with families, joking before class, sharing snippets of American culture) and things I’m wholeheartedly grateful that I never have to do again (grade essays, sit in a faculty meeting that could have been an email, eat like a wolf at my desk while answering emails, just to name a few).
And miracle of miracles, we are saying good-bye to legitimately the Worst President in American History. I don’t feel that those words are too strong to use. And because I believe in supporting my opinions with reasons, here are just a few:
“They’re rapists. They’re murders. And some, I assume, are good people.” On the campaign trail, 2015
“There were fine people on both sides.” About the Charlottesville white supremacist rally, 2017
Separating children from their parents at the border. 2018.
“I would like you to do us a favor.” Asking the Ukrainian president for non-existent incriminating information about Biden, 2019
“No one saw this coming.” About the COVID-19 pandemic, March 2020.
Suggesting that “disinfecting” the lungs by injection may help with treating coronavirus, 2020
There is so, so, so much more.
Before the pandemic, at some point in 2019, I remember talking with friends about how concerned I was about the end of this presidency. I believed that if Trump lost in 2020 and we were following his playbook, he would say the elected was rigged, that voting fraud was rampant, and he would refuse to concede. I really wondered if he would have to be dragged from the White House. We talked about at length about the limitations of what Trump could do to hold onto power. My friends reassured me that the military swears an oath to the Constitution, not to the President.
Some of those words were comforting.
And then January 6th came.
Just. What. The. Fuck.
I’m not exuberant about Biden being sworn into office. I’m hopeful. But honestly, at this point, I’m drained. Not only by the division between Americans that is visible at the national level, but also by the division between Americans in my own community.
One of our neighbors STILL has a yard full of Trump-related campaign signs decorating her lawn. All Lives Matter. Back the Blue. Lock Her Up (a fav from 2016). God Bless America. And then to string the whole mess together in a frightening display of cognitive dissonance, a “patriotic” Christian cross, lit with red, white, and blue lights.
In January, the Trump flags are still flying.
This is deeply unsettling to me.
I drove through a middle-class neighborhood a few weeks ago and everything about it felt familiar and cozy. American flags hung from the porch or next to the mailbox or from the awning of the house.
Then I saw something new.
How can I explain to you how this made me feel? To see this bizarre twist on an American flag, flying as high and next to American flags?
I had a stone in my stomach just looking at it.
I felt disbelief, anger, and frustration.
I felt cold.
What are we? What is the United States when we cannot even agree about which flag deserves to represent what we hold most dear? Are we really so divided that we’re putting aside the flag that brings us together and pledging allegiance to something else?
It’s not just a flag. People fly flags to identify themselves. And if you choose to fly a Blue Lives Matter flag in your front yard–especially when it’s the ONLY flag in your yard–you are making a bold statement about what principles you follow and what values you hold.
That thin blue line on that flag is a clear divider.
The question stands: Who does it divide?
Who is on either side of that line? Is it police on one side? Community on the other? If it is, then I really don’t understand. Because I thought that the jobs of police officers were facilitated by working with the community, not fighting against it.
Or perhaps the flag is finally saying what we’ve all known to be true for a long time. I grew up on Cops. The theme of the show is very hard to miss. Poor people–almost always black–are criminals. Police keep us safe from them. I don’t recall a single episode where a tax evader or embezzler was dragged from his corporate office for defrauding a company for millions. But a coked-out dude running from the police? Every episode.
But we now live in a world where militarizing police departments is common in the U.S., so perhaps I shouldn’t be so shocked that this is where we are, debating on the meaning of flying the Blue Lives Matter flag in your front yard. My reflective self wonders if we are just on a slow slide into a police state. My gloom-and-doom self cries out that we’re already there. But my hopeful self remembers that we are not there. Yet.
I mean, honestly, what bizarre disaster movie are we living in?
From what I recall, even Hollywood couldn’t conceive of the current crisis. In all the apocalyptic movies that I can recall (Deep Impact, Armageddon, 2012, The Day After Tomorrow, Independence Day), the fictionalized president of the United States displayed a measure of calmness and wisdom that the balanced the public frenzy.
We don’t have the opposite of a calm and wise leader.
What we have is actually much worse.
We have a delusional, narcissistic, inattentive compulsive liar. In addition to his irredeemable character flaws, throughout the duration of his time in office, he has managed to drive away all of the last bastions of intelligence and competence from the White House so that he is now solely surrounded by sycophants and butt-kissers that hold onto their jobs by constantly showering him with unearned and exaggerated praise for even the smallest achievement while covering up his most egregious errors, which he makes based on his personal intuition (“That’s my metrics.”) which has always been and will always be directed by his own self-preservation.
Could we ever have imagined that a President would suggest that healthcare workers are either “squandering” or stealing masks? Or who would stand by the statement that the National Stockpile doesn’t belong to the States? Or who would encourage the general public to buy drugs that haven’t been properly vetted for fighting coronavirus? Or who would push conspiracy theories that the media is purposefully overhyping the coronavirus because they want to hurt his chances of re-election?
WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?
NOBODY IS THINKING ABOUT THE ELECTION.
At least nobody who’s immediate livelihood is dependent on whether or not they are able to keep their jobs three weeks from now.
Just when you think our President cannot possibly make us feel worse about having him as a leader…
He rises to the challenge.
I just cannot.
This is literally the worst time to have this man in office.
I would take so many other politicians in his place right now.
Mike Pence, whom I despise for his “spiritual” quest to rid the country of birth control and abortion? Yup. Approved.
Mitch McConnell? Put in him.
Lindsey Graham? In this pandemic, I LOVE Lindsey Graham.
Mike DeWine, the governor of my home state of Ohio, whom I didn’t vote for in the last election? I kiss his feet.
I would literally take just about anyone in this entire country who has the ability to apply reason to situations, seek advice from experts, and speak in a calm manner.
My six-year-old is a better choice.
My three-year-old is a better choice.
(Although, admittedly, he’s at his best first thing in the morning or after a nap. Even then… He’d probably be less dangerous to the American people because he would be distracted enough to let others do his job. As long as tiny Oreos are involved.)
So that’s the exasperated part of me, lately.
But I want to clarify that it’s not my only mode right now. Because at the height of my exasperation, when I feel that I cannot possibly take another day’s news, my rational brain kicks in and I remember gratitude.
Despite the madness that continues to swirl around my house, we’ve managed to create a zone of (mostly) peace and normalcy within these walls.
It involves more teleconferences, Zoom meetings, and screen time than I’d like to admit.
But it also involves being in the yard and the garden a lot. And taking walks. And having the kids around as we prepare dinner. And reading books together. And listening to audio books as I fold laundry, do dishes, change sheets, and vacuum.
We took our kids to fly kites. They loved it.
It doesn’t leave much time for us (parents) to be alone.
Being a parent during a pandemic without any tangible social support networks turns out to be hard.
It’s hard if you’re still lucky enough to have a job that you’re trying to do while the kids are awake. It’s hard if you’ve just been laid off and are looking for work when all the jobs that are hiring require you to put your health and safety at risk. It’s hard if you have a job–but you’re wondering for how long.
But who am I kidding? It’s hard for just about everyone in different ways.
We have jobs.
Getting into the field of e-learning last year turned out to be the absolute best decision I could have made at this point in my life. I recently took on a short-term contract as an independent consultant to advise and collaborate with faculty at a small, private university who are moving their traditional face-to-face summer courses into the online format.
We have a home. We have a yard where the kids can play.
We have food. More than enough food, honestly.
We have education. And friendship. And camaraderie (even if only online right now).
We have love. And laughter. And a sense of humor.
And these days, we **do** have something that we didn’t have two months ago.
A reason to look beyond the frustration and stress that we’re experiencing and look for those whom we can help.
For there is always someone who needs more help than you do.
And here’s where the emotional dizziness comes in. Because if I think about it long enough, my mind swings back to the realization that…
Wait… I cannot stop at gratitude.
If all I do is focus on what I’m grateful for and not be concerned about how others are suffering, nothing changes.
The cracks in our systems that are opening and swallowing so many people, they will remain.
Just because I have what I need does not, and SHOULD NOT, make me stop noticing and raising issue that the systems that are supposed to support and protect Americans are broken.
It does make me wonder though…
…will Americans finally put their collective foot down?
Will they push for the urgency of providing health care to all Americans?
Not a stop-gap. But real, actual, tangible access to health care that anyone–working, unemployed, full-time, part-time, retired, disabled, even (gasp!) non-citizens–can receive health care at a low cost?
What about sick leave?
What about family leave?
What about universal child care and preschool?
What about humane systems of incarceration?
What about preserving the human rights of anyone who is in this country, not just those who are citizens?
After this last month of news that American women have had, I think I can safely say…
Take me away in your spaceship to the stars.
I haven’t always been interested in space travel.
Truth be told, I’ve only recently found the idea very appealing.
I’m pretty sure the strong desire to leave this planet is emanating from a deep sense of doubt in humanity’s ability to overturn–or at the very least disrupt–rampant systems of oppression.
Women continue to not be believed when they are sexually assaulted. Or if they are believed, their pain isn’t important enough to actually change political will.
Wall Street continues to do its ludicrous work even though it robbed American taxpayers out of trillions of dollars.
Gerrymandering continues to silence and marginalize the most vulnerable.
Refugees and immigrants continue to be the scapegoats for every imaginable social ill.
Trump. Trump. And Trump.
I could go on. I won’t. I’m sure you’re familiar with the issues.
And so. Here we are. Women are told to vote (assuming our vote makes a difference–it doesn’t always). We are told to run for office (assuming we have the means and support to do so).
Sure, I’ll vote. I always do.
But in the meantime, if I’m really being serious, I have more faith that you can get us off this planet than I do in the American electorate’s ability to consistently move our country forward. Climate change is happening fast and if we’re still having arguments about whether or not it exists…
Is that sad or cynical? Maybe.
Or it could just be a logical estimation of the possibility that enoughpeople who disagreewith the direction of the country will actually be motivatedenough to travel to a polling place and cast a ballot.
Societies are slow to change.
For most of human existence, patriarchy has been systemically and structurally embedded in society after society. (Precious few have managed to organize society differently.) Now that many of the factors that originally led to the necessity of patriarchal societies have been altered (division of labor, access to education, etc.), those same underlying assumptions that supported patriarchy are being either called into question or actively fought against.
Yes, societies are so, so slow to change.
Unless, that is, the people in those societies are taken out of their cultural context–and planted somewhere else.
This is one of the reasons why New Zealand and Australia were the first nations in which women gained the right to vote (1893 and 1902, respectively). European settlers (or invaders, from the indigenous people’s perspective), removed from their previous cultural context and banding together to build a life in a new land, were suddenly very flexible on the issue of women’s rights.
Women were, in fact, key to building these societies.
The same happened in the United States.
Women in the U.S. first gained the right to vote in…Wyoming.
And so, Elon, it’s not so crazy to believe that hitching my wagon to your star is, ultimately, quite feminist.
Might I suggest that our new civilization have some political structure where 50% of positions of power are necessarily occupied by women?
Just a thought.
I know people have called you erratic for smoking pot on Joe Rogan’s show…
Really? That was the main takeaway?
You talked about so many more interesting topics than that, like your vision that AI could be used as a tertiary level of cognition. And the fact that everything we put on the Internet is “a projection of our limbic system.” (Mind. Blown.)
I watched the whole thing (in 10-20 minute snippets over the period of a whole week while I folded laundry, graded papers, and ate lunch at my desk while simultaneously answering emails…).
I think you’re magical.
PayPal wasn’t your passion. It was just a $100 million thing you did so you could sink money into what really interested you: developing real plans for getting humanity off this planet (since we haven’t mustered enough political will to seriously try to figure out how to stop completely trashing it.)
Let’s leave behind a world that makes fun of science and learning and instead, embraces curiosity, courage, and the path less traveled (or never traveled, as the case may be).
Let’s try once more to make a different world where systems of oppression don’t emerge because of our lack of resources, tribalism, and ingrained patriarchy.
Let’s colonize, Elon. (#commassavelives)
Maybe you can’t tell, but I have a celebrity-crush on you. One of those crushes that you have for famous people that you’ll never meet in real life, but somehow you still think that maybe there’s the very minuscule possibility that our paths could cross… And if they did…
You probably have a girlfriend. That’s cool.
I’m married. To a very great man, at that. He is extremely smart, too. He had me at his tattoo of the Golden Ratio.
(Can he come, too? Oh, and maybe my two kids? I swear I’m raising them to be decent human beings.)
Your achievements have come up in conversations among our friends, many of whom are engineers. I’m pretty sure my husband’s words were, That dude doesn’t care about money and he’s just crazy enough that he might actually succeed.
Admittedly, I am not a scientist or engineer. I did well in high school biology, physics, and chemistry (I excelled at balancing formulas.) I struggled in algebra, but I loved geometry (Proofs were fun.) But science and math were really not my thing although I have tons of respect for those who live and breathe those fields.
But your new world is going to need more than scientists and engineers who can help take us into the future.
It’s also going to need people who can make sense of our past.
We need stories to help us understand who we are and where we’re going. I am quite certain that without stories, humanity is lost. Human beings need storytellers.
I have other qualities that make me a good addition to your “space-bearing civilization.”
I am curious and I love to learn. I changed my major in college to linguistics because concepts like a universal grammar and the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis fascinated me. (Arrival was an amazing movie on several different levels.) Also, I loved the rule-governed nature of phonology, morphology, and syntax.
I’m down-to-earth (merely a figure of speech, I assure you), persistent, and hard-working.
I balance life between being driven by outcomes and diving into creativity for creativity’s sake.
gestating life well past 40 weeks (for a few more years)
giving birth with no drugs
Thanks for giving me hope that as a species, we may not be doomed to a future in which misogynistic, narcissistic, entitled men are necessarily destined to rule this planet indefinitely, to the detriment of the vulnerable and voiceless.
People like you make me remember that there are many people in the world who are trying to improve the planet and preserve the longevity of our kind.
I kind of ramble in this post. Forgive me for that. It’s very hard to create any coherent stream of thought in regard to this thick web of issues that have become impossible to disentangle as we talk about today’s current events.
If you prefer not to read a woman writing in an “unladylike” manner, now’s the time to close this page.
Call me bitchy. Or unladylike. Whatever.
Like many other women my age, you can’t shame me for not being ladylike.
Because we have seen that being the good girl often doesn’t get you ahead and it sure as hell doesn’t get you heard.
So if you’re still here, allow me to bitch away.
You’ve got a problem. With women, specifically.
You do realize that 50% of this country is women right? You do realize that women vote, don’t you? You do realize that younger women (a.k.a. the future electorate) are more likely to believe that women are not to blame for their own sexual assaults, right?
I don’t think you do. I think you’re still banking on the idea that there are enough people in this country that aren’t completely offended by your support, nay, your approval, of a man who has been accused of sexual assault by three different women.
But why should it matter to you?
After all, 19 women accused Trump of sexual assault and harassment, and “the American people” still elected him.
Your political calculation is pretty clear to me.
You have been so, so very eager to get to the godly business of making sure that women can’t have abortions. Ever, if possible.
(At least, that’s the cover story. I’m fairly certain your fervent support of Kavanaugh has more to do with your expectations about how he’ll rule on matters of political finance and other much more boring, but far more pernicious, topics that don’t captivate the attention and ire of millions of Americans.)
No. You are very eager to “protect the unborn.”
That’s still what all of this is about, right?
Protecting unborn life is the reason that you’re willing to promote a man who is accused of sexual assault by three women to the Supreme Court.
(Excuse me for a moment: My brain just threw up…)
That’s why millions of us watched Christine Blasey-Ford’s worst nightmare come true on live TV. That’s why we all tuned in to see what Brett Kavanaugh had to say about the accusations.
We’re in this political maelstrom because Judge Kavanaugh may be the deciding vote on future court cases that may overturn or severely chip away the protections of Roe v. Wade.
In short, what you, Republicans, are saying is that the rights of the unborn are decidedly much more sympathetic compared to the rights of women who have been sexually assaulted.
But today, many young women see attacks on Roe v. Wade as what they really are: attempts to control women’s sexuality and their bodies.
Maybe you’ve noticed lately that women in their 20s and 30s and 40s are not so easily shamed anymore by the old, “You don’t want to be a bad girl, do you?” playbook.
That has to be hard: to know that the women are becoming more impervious to the blows that knocked previous generations down far quicker and for far longer.
Today’s women get up much faster. They speak out much more.
And we aren’t going away.
Let me lay it out for you in the simplest terms possible (because I assume you are skimming. You’re busy. I get it. #MomLife)
You suck at making policies that help women.
(Probably because so many of you are Men-Who-Cannot-Imagine-the-World-Through-the-Eyes-of-Women.)
This is what is so frustrating about the Republican platform. Your campaign messages champion upholding family values, strengthening the economy, and keeping government small, but your political actions aim to create a very different reality for all of us.
Republicans, your track record is awful. Let me count the ways.
You hurt women by admitting that Blasey-Ford’s testimony was heart-wrenching and credible… but she still must be mistaken about who her attacker was.
You hurt girls by insisting that sexual assault committed by teenage boys is just “horseplay” or “roughhousing” and that men shouldn’t be accountable for the actions that they commit in high school.
You hurt families by cutting Medicaid even though most of your constituents depend on it.
You hurt families by cutting food stamps or raising the work requirements for those receiving welfare.
(Haven’t you heard unemployment is at an all-time low? What’s wrong with you? Go get an $8 an hour job to support your four kids, you Low Life! In fact, go get three of those jobs just so you can make ends meet and never see your kids. What? You can’t get enough hours in one place to qualify for health insurance? Guess you should have thought about that before you had four kids! Why didn’t you use birth control? Well, whose fault is it that you can’t afford it? It’s not the government’s responsibility to make it affordable for you to have birth control. Just stop sleeping with your husband or make him wrap it up. That shouldn’t be too hard, right? Take some responsibility for your reproductive powers!)
…is the message that seems to come together in a person’s brain when they consider the barrage of “typical conservative things to say in an argument.”
You hurt families by saying nothing when the leader of your party allowed children, toddlers, and babies to be taken from their parents’ arms when they came to the border seeking asylum from violence, blamed Democrats for the problem, backtracked, refused to accept responsibility for his actions (does he ever?), and then left our government bureaucracy to clean up his mess. (Oh, right. Sorry. Immigrants don’t count as “real families,” right? Feel free to disregard this point.)
Women who spend half of their salary on DAYCARE just so they can go to work. (Citation: Me).
Women who raise kids by themselves, with their with a partner, with cobbled-together daycare and babysitting, with parents, with friends when the sitter is sick.
Women who are routinely passed over for promotions based on the assumption that, because they’re mothers, they’re probably “more family-focused” at this point in their careers. (Never considering that those same families would probably benefit greatly from their mother’s promotion.)
We’re women who run PTOs.
And women who run for political office.
Women who do the grocery shopping, the oil changes, the doctor’s appointments, the RVSPs, the thank you cards, the school pictures, the flu shots, the pharmacy pick-ups, the fundraisers, the endless permission slips and photo releases and medical forms.
We’re almost always the ones that get called at work when a child is sick. And we’re often the ones who end up staying home with them.
Republicans, you’re the first to talk about how expensive universal preschool would be or how un-American subsidized daycare would be, or how much guaranteed paid parental leave would hurt business…
In short, you sure know how to make women feel unusual, unwelcome, and burdensome.
But you’re welcome–for giving birth to your future tax-paying citizens.
(Can we please not pretend that our birthing and raising of children has no economic value? Since, apparently, that’s all you seem to care about. Oh right. No. You also care about “protecting unborn life.” And “born life?” That’s my responsibility. I’ve got it. Thanks for the clarification.)
I watched both of their testimonies.
And I believe her.
I. Believe. Her.
I think it’s clear that Ford is not some manufactured pawn in a widespread liberal conspiracy.
I also believe that Kavanaugh is furious that his family and his credibility are being raked through the mud now. (Maybe he grew up over the years? Maybe he’s different? Maybe he’s the same aggressive drunk that he was in high school? Hard to say. Maybe the hard-won FBI investigation will help clarify?)
And I believe that Kavanaugh is furious that Christine Blasey Ford is so credible and that his big chance of having his greatest dreams realized is coming crashing down all because he acted like a giant douche in high school.
Is that really so hard to believe that Brett Kavanaugh may have done these horrible things to girls and women?
Not for me, it isn’t. And I don’t think it’s hard for many women. We all remember guys just like him in our high schools. We remember similar jokes circulating in school about boys who joined the “Name of Girl” club, as a way to mark their sexual conquests.
We remember the college parties where some entitled, rich White guy drank way too much and thought shoving his penis in women’s faces was funny.
The more we’ve heard about Kavanaugh’s yearbook and the nicknames, the more we remember how small and dirty we felt when we received the jokes, the taunts, the “innocent” slaps or pinches, the touches.
And for some of us, we remember the groping. The assault. The rape.
All of us remember the shame, the shame, the shame.
I hope it’s all worth it to you, Republicans: the loss of confidence, indeed, the complete betrayal that women all over this country are feeling right now.
(And the women who don’t feel betrayed are still playing by your Good Girl playbook.)
But that’s not what angers me the most.
What angers me the most is that you hurt of all these people…
Because, apparently, they believe that everything else is secondary to the primary goal of…
…protecting unborn life.
God works in mysterious ways…Who’s to say that Donald Trump isn’t a vessel that God is using to accomplish his purpose of ending abortion in this country?
… is a maddening rationalization of every abhorrent thing that our president has ever done and will do.
As a former evangelical Christian, this reasoning doesn’t surprise me.
But as a progressive Christian now, this logic absolutely disgusts me.
When you write policy against and vote against the poor and the vulnerable and the voiceless, you don’t represent the God’s love.
And it’s embarrassing for you to claim that you do.
But what do you care?
You’ll still be able to pay for an underground abortion if your wife finds out at 16 weeks that her baby has anencephaly and she’s already grieving for her child and you don’t want her to continue to carry the pregnancy, give birth, and watch her child die in her arms.
You’ll still be able to secure an abortion if, one day, your daughter really needs one–because she doesn’t want to raise a child with her prom date just because he didn’t have a condom and you thought she wasn’t old enough for the pill yet. (And the whole experience puzzles you because, it’s weird. Your daughter isn’t usually the kind of girl that gets in trouble like this. It’s not like she’s a slut, like the girls that this usually happens to. Right?)
But for me, you have crossed the point of no return on this.
You will never win my vote back. Ever.
Oh, it’s true, I was pretty sure that I’d never, ever vote Republican again after Trump was elected even though the entire country heard his raspy, old codger’s voice saying, grab ’em by the pussy.
But presidents aren’t elected for life.
So, never again.
You will never win my vote back. All because of your lack of empathy and foresight.
Because for you, the possibility of overturning Roe v. Wade was such a juicy prize that you were willing to steamroll right over the bodies of dozens of women and their claims of sexual assault.
But I wish you had courage to say what you really mean.
(Courage: Maybe you are familiar with the concept? It’s what Blasey-Ford demonstrated when she talked about her trauma, live, in front of a national audience.)
So, yes, I wish you had the courage to say what you really mean:
You don’t trust women.
Deep down, maybe you think women are conniving, manipulative, back-stabbing, selfish, and left unrestrained, whorish.
(Not the ones that you know, of course, but other women, definitely. You see it happen all the time.)
Deep down, maybe you think women need these laws to stay in place. To keep them from sleeping around and being sluts. Deep down, maybe you think that these laws will actually stop abortions from happening. Deep down, maybe you think that these laws will actually stop women from having sex with men with whom they don’t intend to have a family. (Or being raped by men with whom they don’t intend to start a family.)
Outlawing abortions won’t stop them from happening. Did Prohibition work? Nope. Instead, we got mafia and bootleggers. Did making marijuana illegal work? Nope. Just ask Jeff Sessions.
Or let’s turn to guns, your other favorite issue. Did making the AR-15 illegal work?
Oh, right. Just kidding. We would never dream of making a semi-automatic rifle illegal. That’s our constitutional American right. Right, Brett Kavanaugh?
But the right for women to control what happens to their bodies?
Nah, that’s not theirs to decide.
What happens in a woman’s body is no one’s business but the government’s.
Unless she’s assaulted by a future Supreme Court nominee.
Then what happened to her body is the business of the entire country.
It’s our right to be able to judge for ourselves how traumatized she really is.
It’s our right to be able to compare ourselves to Blasey-Ford and insist that we would definitely report a real sexual assault and speculate about the gaps in her testimony.
It’s our right to be able to hear all the details of the assault from both sides and decide that, ultimately, we’ll never know who’s telling the truth (and an FBI investigation would just take too much time and the Blue Wave is coming…), so let’s just quickly vote on this guy (even though we blocked Obama from having his SCOTUS nominee) so we don’t lose our chance to…
…protect unborn life.
I think I’ve got it now. Thanks for listening.
It all makes so much more sense now that I’ve written it out.
On Mondays, I “stay up” until 9:00 so I can have dinner with my friends for our weekly Monday Night Dinner.
I don’t have much of a social life anymore, beyond MND and the soul-cleansing Saturday breakfasts that happen at my house when our friends come over and help me remember a time in my life before children.
Lately, my “downtime” takes place during the commute and between 7:00 and 7:30 p.m. when the baby is finally asleep and I can get ready for bed **by myself.** Bonus if I’m able to read five or six pages of a book before I’m nodding off.
I’m not complaining that we have children. It’s a decision that we made with eyes wide open–and we took plenty of time to ourselves before we made that decision.
But it’s still hard.
We fight hard every day to discipline with purpose and meaning instead of flying off the handle. We fight hard to “balance” work and home life. I hate that word: balance. It always makes me think of that slowly moving two-sided scale that takes forever to equalize.
There’s no time to wait around for that kind of balance when you have two kids under the age of five. Somehow, their needs manage to vacuum all the bits of your time that you didn’t realize were squirreled away in your day.
You’re carving out 2.5 hours of your day to drive from work to daycare to pediatrician to daycare to work for a well-child visit, only to find out, actually he tested positive for RSV, so here’s a prescription for steroids and nebulizer treatments. Administer twice daily and four times daily, respectively. And he can’t go to daycare tomorrow, so figure that out. And come back next week for the 12-month shots. And also take him to a lab to have a blood screening done for lead exposure and iron deficiencies.
And then you’re behind at work because you took off half a day and when you return, you realize 10 minutes before class starts that, oh no, I have absolutely nothing planned for the second hour of class. But you’re a pro. You can wing it. As long as your boss doesn’t decide to drop in unannounced to review your teaching performance (true story several times over, but not recently). And no big deal, you can finalize those three final exams before their deadline in two days and create three more original tests because you really can’t reuse the same tests from the last two terms, while you’re grading the most recent writing assignment that you’ve collected and planning lessons for tomorrow and the day after that…
And then it’s Ash Wednesday, a day when you remember that dust we are and dust we shall return.
And 17 more kids die in a mass shooting at school.
And instead of feeling sorrow, which is a far, far more appropriate reaction, I feel exasperation.
Because HERE WE GO AGAIN.
Listening to the snippets of the unfolding story on NPR is all I can take. I stay the hell away from Facebook this time around. I simply cannot stand to read a feed filled with posts about pro-gun and anti-gun again.
As much as I am pro-common-sense-gun-control, I cannot stomach another round of posts and comments and threads with people so blatantly and carelessly disrespecting each other on a topic that we so desperately need to figure out.
Unh-uh. Not this time.
Because at the end of the day, what are we all working so hard for if we can’t even keep them safe when we send them to school?
“Man, that was tragic. Some people are just crazy. But look how people are responding. The victims were so brave. First responders are our heroes. So tragic. Some people are just crazy. Guess there’s nothing you can do about it. Hope it doesn’t happen here.”
This same ol’ shit will happen again.
And we’ll keep reacting the same way again.
Sandy Hook happened. And we still couldn’t get out shit together.
I’m so tired of trying to explain to my international students why we have mass shootings in the United States.
They think it’s crazy.
(It IS crazy).
Why do Americans need guns? They want to know. Do they just love guns? Why do they love guns? Why don’t you change your laws? I read that most Americans want to change gun laws. Is that true? It’s illegal to own a gun in my country. Do you think there will be a shooting here?
I wish I could say no.
But schools and universities are favorite places to open fire.
Sorry, but I don’t want to be part of a tragic story. I don’t want to be a hero teacher who throws herself in front of her students to protect them (unsuccessfully, of course) from an assailant, armed to the teeth with guns that can mow down hundreds.
I have two kids. I want to go home to them at the end of the day.
If you’re a politician who says, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims…”
That is not fucking enough.
Do your job and pass legislation to stop this shit from happening anymore.
Unkind comments on this post will be immediately deleted.
One of the major talking points of Republicans about their plans for replacing the Affordable Care Act is that…
“It will encourage Americans to shop around for their health care.”
To which I say…
“Shopping around” for health care isn’t a thing in the United States.
You cannot shop around when you don’t know the prices ahead of time.
I mean… Duh.
(You also cannot shop around if there is only one hospital in your area, as is true for all Americans who live far from larger cities.)
If we’re “consumers” of health care, shouldn’t we have the same amount of information that we have when we are consumers of cars or computers, or even breakfast cereal?
But we don’t.
We often don’t know how much our health care costs until we tear open the bill that finally comes to our mailbox weeks later.
Before we had this baby, I tried to figure out about how much it was going to cost us out-of-pocket.
You know. For budgeting.
For planning our Flexible Spending Accounts.
You know. Because we want to be responsible. Because we want to make sure we’ve saved enough money to cover our health care costs.
We’re not in poor health. We don’t have pre-existing conditions. We’re fairly young. We’re gainfully employed.
Republicans should love us. Any plan put forth by them should definitely benefit us right? We’re kind of what they had in mind for good American health care “consumers.”
But the truth is you can’t blame “consumers” for the complicated mess that is the health insurance industry, nor can you blame them for the high costs of health care. You can’t tell Americans to just save their money and choose wisely.
I tried that approach and it didn’t work. Not because I didn’t try hard enough, but because the system is not designed to be transparent to patients.
The patients are an afterthought.
Our health insurance provider had some estimates for the costs of giving birth in the two main hospitals where I live. These costs were based on their negotiated rates for medical procedures with those hospitals.
But they were just estimates.
So I called the hospital’s pricing line, staffed by the billing department, for a more precise answer.
First, no one picked up the line. It went straight to voicemail. Over and over again.
So I left a message.
Someone called me back the next day.
When I asked the billing department’s representative about specific prices for having a baby at their hospital, he said that he couldn’t give me any prices.
The pricing line. Couldn’t give me any prices.
So I got specific. I told him that I would be giving birth in the birthing center that is attached to the hospital, where I would be rooming in with my baby 24/7. So we wouldn’t be using the nursery. Would we be charged a fee for the nursery? I asked.
“Yes,” he said.
“Why?” I asked.
“Because it’s available to you.”
“So how much will the nursery cost us?”
“I can’t quote you a price on that. It all depends on your insurance and how long you stay.”
“But don’t you have average prices for average stays? Anything?”
“We have a price sheet you can look at, but it’s not going to be inclusive of all of your expenses.”
“I’ll take whatever you have,” I said.
So he referred me to this pricing list, published on the hospital’s website. Why he didn’t give this to me at the beginning of the phone call, I’ll never know.
Indeed, these charges showed up on my insurance claim for the birth.
But so did this mysterious $3500 charge. And a boatload of other charges that are all labeled “Ancillaries” and have no identifying characteristics other than a medical code that only medical transcribers can interpret.
I mean, really. Don’t I deserve a little more information than this? If we’re going to pay $1800, I’d kind of like to know what it pays for.
So I wait for the hospital bill to show up. Maybe they have more information than my health insurance company.
From this bill, I can see that the ambiguous $1850 charge on my insurance claim is actually for the “Recovery Room.” But the other charges?
Who can tell?
The underlying message here is,
Please just accept this price. Your insurance company and the hospital have already decided on a negotiated rate and it’s really just best that you accept this price, pay it, and move on. See how expensive this birth was? You’re lucky that your insurance company is paying so much. So just suck it up and pay. There’s no free lunch, Friend.
I’m not the only one who has a problem with this.
“Childbirth is the number one reason why people go to the hospital,” reports Vox’s Johnny Harris in this well-researched video on this very topic. He finds that prices for uncomplicated deliveries in the United States vary from $1189 to $11,986.
I have to admit, I am slightly jealous that their out-of-pocket expenses were only $841.
But who am I kidding? Many, many Americans now have deductibles as high as $6000 now, making my $1000 deductible seem enviable.
The truth is that knowing the costs of this birth would have been helpful for me and my husband, but it didn’t break our bank. We earn enough money jointly that we can absorb a financial blow like this.
But what about the millions of Americans who can’t save $5000 to have a baby in a hospital?
What about those Americans who are “too rich” to qualify for Medicaid, but not rich enough to afford any kind of useful health insurance plan? One that doesn’t deter people from seeing the doctor simply because of the cost?
So politicians, quit telling people that they should learn how to make wise choices so they can save for their health care costs.
And quit telling people that they should “shop around” for their health care costs.
Not only is it demeaning, but often it is completely impossible.
Betsy DeVos. The refugee travel ban. The Syrian War. Trump/Bannon. Alternative facts. The war with the press.
It’s just so much that it nearly paralyzes you.
Then part of you thinks, Hey, it will be okay. Things will work out. They always do. Let’s just see what happens.
To that voice in your mind, I say this:
Fight like hell.
Fight for your life.
Fight for the future of this country.
Don’t listen to that voice. Don’t be lulled into thinking that things will take care of themselves.
This country is bleeding. We are bleeding.
It’s true that if we’re healthy, the bleeding will stop on its own. But does it seem like we’re healthy? And if you feel like things are okay, are you blind to the signs that you see from everyone else?
Do you see the pain of others or do you blame them for their pain? Or worse, do you belittle their pain?
Do you realize that you are bleeding? Or will you allow yourself to bleed until you’re too weak to fight anymore?
I’ve been thinking a lot about blood loss in the past few days.
Just a week ago, I suffered from a postpartum hemorrhage.
I was afraid something like this would happen. I even wrote about it in my book, Becoming Mother. Dissatisfied with the difficulty of having an unmedicated labor in a traditional hospital setting, I decided to give birth in a natural birthing center attached to a hospital for my second birth.
Sometimes, people would ask me if I would ever be interested in a home birth.
Here’s what I wrote:
To lose that much blood moves your mind into a place of limbo, caught somewhere between reality and dreams. Awareness and unawareness. The physical and the spiritual. You become light. Hazy. Detached. Almost as if you’re drifting off into sleep.
But it doesn’t feel quite right.
It feels like you’re leaving something behind.
Let me take you into those moments just after it happened to me.
At first, it’s uncontrollable shaking. I’m so, so cold. Nurses cover me with heated blankets upon heated blankets, but still I shake and shake. Then, the weakness. I can barely lift my head from the pillow. The nurses won’t let me walk to the bathroom, so it’s the bedpan for me. Once. Twice. Three times. Four times. With all my strength I push my hips up so the bedpan can slide underneath me.
When they finally let me stand, each of them takes an arm and helps me to my feet. They tell me to look up, not down. They ask me if I’m ready and I say yes.
“Actually, let’s wait on that,” one of them says. “Your lips are blue.”
Then, the fogginess. I can see my husband talking to the nurse, but I don’t immediately understand their words. My understanding is on a several-second delay. The nurse tells me to drink the entire contents of a giant plastic cup of water. I don’t know what to do with it until she puts it in my hands. Using both sight and touch, my thoughts finally click into place. I should drink this.
My husband asks me if I want to eat. I say yes and he hands me the menu. I hold it for a moment, my eyes seeing words that I know are food, but that I don’t understand. Turkey hot shot? What is that? Salmon… is a fish. Salad… Vegetables. Side items are… oh, like fries. Dressings… are for salad.
The menu falls against my face and I doze off.
But when the food arrives, I eat like a mo-fo.
My husband feeds me bits of burgers, fries, carrot cake, cheesecake, salad, juice, more juice, water, soda, salmon, broccoli, pizza, waffles, sausage, fruit cups, and more. I eat it all and with each bite, a breath of life comes back to me. My mind opens and clears. Voices make more sense.
I feel myself coming back.
The next day is deceptively good. The happiness of new life and the excitement of going home overshadow how hard it is to walk and move from one place to another. I tell myself that I’m already doing better than after my first birth. Look at you move! I praise myself. I didn’t tear this time, so I can sit (mostly) comfortably.
I continue to eat and eat and eat. Chicken, kale smoothies, lamb, mushrooms, baked potatoes covered in butter and salt, granola bars, bananas, apples, thick peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, spoons of peanut butter straight from the jar.
It makes sense later on, this hunger. For fun, I check my Fitbit stats during labor. Look at this.
I know what you’re thinking. The peak must have been during the pushing phase.
You. Are. Wrong.
That period of peak heart rate happened when I started to hemorrhage. As blood poured out of me, my heart pumped more and more blood to keep delivering oxygen to the tissues and cells that were under attack.
It began after I delivered the placenta. My midwife noticed the bleeding wasn’t slowing. She massaged my uterus. A nurse gave me a shot of Pitocin in my right thigh. Another nurse was prodding my left arm, trying to get an IV started as my tiny veins rolled and rolled. I apologized to her as she stuck me and dug and dug and dug for the vein. Stick after stick.
When the Pitocin didn’t work, the midwife gave me Cytotec.
But I kept bleeding.
The nurse finally got my IV threaded. Pitocin and fluids entered my veins.
But warm blood kept flowing out of me.
If you’re cringing in pain, don’t. All that bleeding was completely painless. My body sent me no signals that I should fear it.
What my body did feel were all the people trying to save me. The nurses, poking and prodding me with needles and IVs. The midwife grinding and massaging my uterus to help it contract. It was those who were working to keep me here that I protested against. My body didn’t understand that those pains were signals of my salvation.
I asked my midwife how much I had lost so far.
“500 ccs is what we usually want to see… You’re probably at 1,000 right now.”
And I kept bleeding.
More uterine massage. I groaned. I moaned. I looked for my baby, but I couldn’t see him. I heard my husband talking and figured that he was the one holding the baby.
I must assure you that I wasn’t afraid when any of this was happening.
I just had a baby.
I had climbed the highest mountain I had ever attempted in my life and I had pulled both of us up by fingernails of sheer will and grit. This birth was nothing like my first, which had been a thirty-six hour humbling of body and soul that felt more like spiritual possession.
No, this birth was a struggle. From beginning to end. This birth was a seemingly impossible task that required me to engage and confront over and over again. (Don’t worry: I will write more about this later.)
So as I lay there on the bed, painlessly bleeding life out of me, I was not afraid.
What I was feeling was relief. Peace. Profound gratitude. Love. All covered with the surprise that I had just given birth to a boy.
Then, finally, the drug that works: methergine.
The seriousness of what had happened to me did not fully set in until the next day. My husband told me that he could tell from the expressions on the nurses’ faces that the situation was getting tense. That we were probably only minutes from a true emergency.
But hey, I had come through and I was fine. Right?
All’s well that ends well. Time to move on and forget about the whole thing.
After all, I had another hurdle to overcome: establishing breastfeeding.
But just like the last time, inverted nipples and poor milk production have their way with me. Every few hours, I try something new. In the beginning, I use a nipple shield while my husband drops formula from a syringe onto the shield to encourage our baby to not get frustrated and continue to feed. Sometimes, my husband feeds him with a bottle while I pump. Sometimes, I just pump between feedings. Then, I try to get him to latch without the shield.
I don’t realize it at first, but I’ve started to lag behind in my eating and resting.
It’s not something I do on purpose. It happens naturally as my mind focuses on what we can try next to continue breastfeeding.
Then comes the Dreadful Day Four Postpartum. The day when my body starts to register the absence of my placenta, which just days ago was flooding my body with estrogen and progesterone. But now, like a baby rooting for nourishment, my body cries out for that hormonal lifeline that is no longer there and will never return.
This is when the shit hits the fan for me.
At first, I’m doing okay. Marveling that I’m not the sobbing, crying mess that I was with my daughter. After my first birth, I would be tearful and weepy all day long. But it’s different this time. I tear up every now and then, but I’m mostly composed and collected. Is it because of some different hormonal cocktail that I’m experiencing because I had a boy instead of a girl?
But at the end of the Day Four Postpartum, I’ve decided to stop breastfeeding. I climb the stairs to where my baby boy is sleeping in the bouncer, and I have to stop to catch my breath. My Fitbit reads 116, 115, 117, 114, a fat-burning heartrate. I hold onto the walls and allow my breathing to slow.
Then I see his face and it’s over.
The crying starts. The choking sobs build and I don’t make an effort to push them down. I close the door and let it out. All of it. I let all of the thoughts surface. All of the memories of when I stopped breastfeeding my daughter come forth, as clear as the day they happened three years ago. I let them come and talk to me. I let every doubt and fear and reassurance express its voice.
I don’t deny myself the right to feel any of it.
These are my emotions and I’ve learned that I need to let them out.
One voice says:
You shouldn’t give up yet. We have so much breastfeeding stuff! Pillows and the pump, nursing pads and bottles, lanolin lotion and nipple shields. Your milk is coming in this time. Give it a chance!
Another voice says:
You did all you could. It’s okay. You know he’s going to be fine. You know it. And fuck anyone who even subtly holds this over your head. They don’t understand.
But the loudest voice of all says:
Sharon, seriously. You cannot do this again. Your body cannot go through that hell again. This is the last baby you will give birth to and hold and care for. Don’t you dare rob yourself of the joy of enjoying your child.
That final voice is right. I know it.
But, God, it still hurts.
I call for Doug and he holds me while I cry. But now the afterbirth pains have skyrocketed because of the weeping and I’m moaning in pain. Doug leaves for a moment and I’m in the bathroom, feeling a tiny stream of blood falling from me. And when I stand, a golf ball sized clot falls into my hand.
That blob of jet black jelly now stains my skin blood red.
I call for Doug.
But it gets better.
The next day, I’m relieved that the weaning has begun.
But then the tiredness has returned. At the baby’s first doctor’s appointment, the pediatrician comments that I look really pale.
In the car on the way home, I review my hospital bloodwork that was drawn on the day after the birth by accessing my on-line records. My hemoglobin and hemocrit are way down. I read a brochure about life after a postpartum hemorrhage and I understand that I need to take this more seriously.
I need iron. I need to eat and eat and eat. And rest and rest and rest.
So I do. Eating and resting is what I do.
After I make breakfast, I’m completely spent. So I eat and sleep. Then I rise and I shower. I sleep again. I get up and eat lunch. I rest on the couch and talk with my mother. I sleep some more. I eat a huge snack and I sleep again. I let my friends bring food and I eat and eat more. I sleep.
I do not do the dishes.
I do not do laundry or even pick up my clothes.
I don’t take out the garbage or get the mail.
I forget about any plans to go on a walk anytime soon.
Instead, I conserve and gather my strength.
Every time I eat, I feel life coming back into me. I feel my body swallowing life whole and absorbing it.
I feel reconnected. I feel my mind hook into awareness and reality.
I start to crawl back to the living.
This is what I want you to understand about blood loss: it doesn’t just get better on its own.
You have to know that you are not okay. But to know that you’re not okay, you have to rely on more than just your instinct to respond to pain.
Bleeding is painless. It’s the wound that hurts. It’s the attempts to stop the bleeding that hurt. And once the bleeding is over, you can still be slaughtered by it if you don’t equip yourself with enough armor for the battle. If you spend too much of your energy preoccupied with things that don’t ultimately matter, you have halfway lost that battle. And once you realize that you are too weak to fight, it will be too late.
Right now, I am tired. I am weak. I am worn.
Right now, I’m fighting to bring myself back to independence. Part of it is because I didn’t appreciate my own condition. Part of it is because I neglected to understand my own limitations. That instead of pouring energy into nursing, I should have been strictly eating and resting.
Right now, I fight for myself and for my son and we are slowly winning. I look down at his face.
And I think, we are going to be okay.
But not because things naturally become okay.
Far from it.
We will be okay because I’m recognizing and engaging this weakness and tiredness. I’m conquering it with food, food, more food, and rest.
I am not sitting back and assuming that my body will naturally take care of itself.
This is a struggle.
The same is true of our country. If we sit back and assume that our county will be okay because God blesses the USA and screw everyone else in the world, we are in for destruction.
Things don’t naturally become okay. We need to work for it.
But when I read the news, do you know what I see?
That’s right. Hope.
I see so many of you fighting. Protesting. Calling our senators and representatives. Even my husband now has Senators Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown on his speed dial and is planning a group meeting to sit down to talk with our U.S. House representative.
Many of you are responding to the pain of watching your rights and freedoms threatened. The right for every child to access good public education. Freedom of speech. Freedom of the press. The right for every American to have health care.
These battles are good and just.
But we need to vigilantly search for the ways that we are painlessly bleeding.
Where is our attention and what are we missing?
Men, do you fight for women’s equal pay?
White Americans, do you speak out against racial profiling?
Cis-gender Americans, do you squash the laughter when someone points at a transgender person?
U.S. citizens, do you fight to create a welcoming environment for those who are fleeing war and systematic killings on par with the Holocaust?
Christians, do you seek to understand your Muslim brothers and sisters? Or do you paint them all with the same broad brush of suspicion?
Which wounds do we not feel or see yet?
When you can’t see your own wounds, you need to be willing to hear when others tell you that you need help.
Because we need you. We cannot afford to blind ourselves from the truth of what is happening.
Because we are fighting for this future.
We are fighting for this planet because, in the end, this is what we truly leave behind for our children and grandchildren.
We are fighting against insatiable greed for power and the deceit that feeds it.
We are fighting because we see ourselves in those who are fleeing war and displacement and fear.
We are fighting because we understand that it’s not such a crazy reality to imagine that we could be the ones who are fleeing next.
We are fighting for the future.
This world still smells like everything I hate
But I’m learning to love, ’til that’s just not the case
And all my friends, they feel the same way too
We look inside the mirror, and all we see is you.
The water’s still rushing and the blood is still gushing
You met your husband in your 30s. It took a while for you to find the right one, but you did. You waited a few years before thinking about having kids. Then, you started trying. Everyone else was getting pregnant so easily, so you thought it would happen without much effort.
Six months go by.
Then a year.
You start visiting the experts. You take medications and injections. You and your husband are put through the wringer. You spend $20,000 of your own money.
But it works.
The two lines on the test confirm it.
You are pregnant.
But now, the anxiety sets in. You want to know that everything is okay. You wonder why doctors haven’t invented some special at-home ultrasound for you to check out your uterus everyday. Your bloodwork is normal. The genetic tests have come back normal, but you ask them not to tell you the baby’s gender. Not just yet. You want to have that moment at your 20-week ultrasound.
When you’re 18 weeks pregnant, you finally feel it.
The baby moves. It kicks you. You rush to your husband so he can feel it too, but it’s still too early for him to feel anything.
You relax a little.
When the day of the 20-week ultrasound comes, you are more excited than nervous. You both stare at the ultrasound screen, not quite sure what you’re seeing. You’re smiling. You’re ecstatic even. Waiting for the technician to tell you if it’s a boy or a girl.
But she is quiet as she moves the wand on your belly. You see feet and legs, kicking and squirming. You see hands and a chest.
“So, you’ve got a little girl,” she tells you.
You cry. Because you were hoping for a girl.
But the technician is still quiet.
“I need to run some measurements by the doctor,” she says as she places the wand in its cradle. “Just one second.”
Your heart bottoms out.
The doctor says a word that you’ve never heard before.
…baby has no brain… incompatible with life… cannot survive…
But you’re not listening anymore.
Your thoughts are running wild.
You know it’s your fault. You should have gotten pregnant earlier. Why did you selfishly wait to try?
You should have taken more folic acid. That’s what causes brain defects like this.
And then there was that time that you went through those full-body scanners at the airport when you flew home to see your parents for Christmas. All that radiation couldn’t have been good.
And didn’t you have a spicy tuna roll in those first few days of pregnancy, before the test came back positive? That was careless.
You don’t deserve to be a mom.
Get a clue. Spend your energy elsewhere because you’re not cut out for this.
When can we try again? Maybe it will be better next time. Next time, I’ll be more careful. Next time, I won’t take any risks, no matter how small they seem. I swear.
Somehow, you manage to ask the question. You’re not crying. You’re completely numb. As the words come out of your mouth, it doesn’t even sound like you saying them.
“Do you know when we can try again? Because… I’m going to be 36 soon. It took us a few years to get pregnant… and I just…” You can’t finish your sentence.
He tells you that you can start trying again when you’re ready. After you deliver this baby.
Right, you think. I still have a baby in me.
You spend the evening sobbing, your thoughts still running wild. You google anencephaly and you almost throw up. You google pictures of babies that have it. Actual babies who are born with it. You read miracle stories of babies surviving anencephaly.
Your husband holds you, but he has nothing to offer except his own tears.
Your head is throbbing, but you don’t want to take any medication because… Then you realize that you no longer have a reason to be careful anymore.
You toss back some Excedrin. You think about having some wine, but you can’t bring yourself to do it.
When you wake up the next day, you lie there in the morning light, your hand on your still-so-small belly. You talk to your baby.
You tell your husband, “I cannot do this. I want this to be over.”
You call the doctor. You talk about abortion. You want to know whether they use anesthetics so the baby won’t feel any pain.
And that is when you find out.
You don’t have a choice.
You will have to give birth to this child–because in the state of Ohio, it is now illegal to end the pregnancy.
You cannot believe it. Your child won’t live. You are suffering. You cannot do another day of this. And now you might be carrying this pregnancy for another 20 weeks.
But that’s not what happens.
That would have been much more merciful.
At 23 weeks, your water breaks.
You give birth.
Your baby tries to breathe, but she turns blue. Her lungs are underdeveloped. She makes a horrible noise that no mother should have to hear.
But she keeps trying.
It takes your little girl three hours to die.
In your arms.
On its face, this is a fictional story. But it is made up of a collection of stories that I have heard and read from other women who have walked this terrible path. A story like this can, and probably will, happen in the state of Ohio next year.
Twenty-week abortion bans have become more and more common. Seventeen states now have similar 20-week abortion bans.
I know, I know. Some of you are thinking, Please. This emotional, fictional story that you just told doesn’t represent all 20-week abortions. I know a lot of those babies didn’t have any problems at all.
So, let’s look at some facts.
How many women would the state of Ohio stop from having abortions after 20 weeks?
In 2014, it was 510 women (Ohio Department of Health’s 2014 report on induced abortions, p. 9).
That was 2% of all abortions performed in that year.
Out of those 510 abortions, how many do you think were performed on viable fetuses?
The other 509 abortions were performed on non-viable fetuses.
One of the main reasons that women have abortions after 20 weeks is because they have just learned that their child has a terminal diagnosis. And carrying these pregnancies can put the mother’s life at risk.
This is Mindy Swank. Here, she talks about how she was forced to carry a non-viable pregnancy because her Catholic hospital wouldn’t perform an abortion.
“…he tried to breathe, he was turning blue… he wasn’t conscious. It wasn’t a magical time, like people think.”
Or the women mentioned in NARAL’s 2016 report entitled “Abortion Bans at 20 Weeks: A Dangerous Restriction for Women”?
These are just a few women who have had to face the reality of how 20-week abortion bans affect women’s physical and emotional health.
But let me be pro-life for a moment.
Let me acknowledge that some of you are reading this and thinking, Okay, fine, but I’ve read articles that have talked about women who get third-trimester abortions on perfectly healthy babies! And I won’t stand for that! It’s not right! If those women weren’t so selfish, someone could adopt that baby, someone who could give it a wonderful life!
Let’s assume you are right. Let’s assume there are women who are ending viable pregnancies after 20 weeks.
You know what?
That woman’s right to end her viable pregnancy is intertwined with another woman’ right to end her non-viable pregnancy.
I recently wrote you in regard to the Heartbeat Bill, which was part of HB 493. I’m so very glad that you line-item vetoed it. I understand that you had different reasons than me for disapproving of it. Your rationale for your veto was based on the likelihood that the law would be struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court, as was the case in laws passed in North Dakota and Arkansas.
But, as you wrote in your statement, you have “a deep respect for the pro-life community and their ongoing efforts in the defense of unborn life.”
You presumably demonstrated this respect for unborn life by taking a different action.
You signed into law a 20-week abortion ban. With no exceptions for rape or incest. And very limited provisions for abortions that endanger the life of the mother.
On its face, this law can seem more reasonable than the Heartbeat Bill. After all, 20 weeks? That’s five months of pregnancy. What kind of woman waits that long to make the decision to have an abortion? And what about all those pictures of aborted 20-week-old babies? Awful. Just awful.
Certainly, such a ban stops the most atrocious acts of violence that are being committed against thousands of innocent, unborn children?
But this rationale is a myth.
It’s not grounded in reality.
I read the Ohio Department of Health’s 2014 report on induced abortions. If you pay attention, a quite different picture of a typical 20-week abortion emerges from this report. Here are some quick facts:
Only 510 of the 21,186 abortions that were performed in 2014 happened after 19 weeks of pregnancy. That is 2% of total abortions.
Of the 510 abortions after 19 weeks, only 1 was performed on a viable fetus.
509 abortions after 19 weeks were performed on non-viable fetuses.
Those are facts, collected and compiled from your own state agency.
In other words, only 1 abortion in the state of Ohio was performed on a fetus that could have survived outside of its mother’s womb.
Unfortunately, the exact reasons that women obtain abortions after 20 weeks has not been widely studied, possibly because they make up only 2% of total abortions in the United States. (Even though they garner the most public outcry.)
But let me point out one clear reason why some women have abortions at 20 weeks.
It is at this point that some women first find out that their child will not survive outside of the womb. They have anencephaly (no brain) or bilateral renal agenesis (no kidneys) or severe omphalocele (all organs are growing outside of the body).
This is the reality of the 20-week abortion ban: It means that next year women who would have chosen to end their pregnancies because their child was not going to survive, now have no choice about how to deal with their grief.
They must carry their dying babies as long as their bodies will allow and as long as their babies’ hearts continue to beat.
Yes, I know. Some women have told you remarkably moving stories about how they persevered through their grief and gave birth to their babies and held them for a few hours before they passed away in their arms. Their stories are regarded by many as both honorable and heroic. Even in the certainty of tragedy, these women pressed on and allowed their children the great blessing of being born into this world. Even though they died shortly afterward.
These experiences are beautiful stories. And for some women, these experiences are the major catalyst for their own healing.
But–and this is truly, truly important–not every woman grieves in the same way.
Grief is personal. It is highly dependent on our individual personalities and coping mechanisms.
What I am saying is this: We should not create one acceptable path for how women are allowed to process the grief that follows the devastating knowledge that their child will not survive after birth.
It is no less motherly to want to end your child’s suffering inside the womb so he will never know a life of pain. It is no more motherly to carry your child to term and hold him in your arms as he passes.
They are just different ways of grieving.
But this 20-week abortion ban takes away one of those options.
Now, women who are carrying babies with terminal diagnoses will have no choice about how to deal with their grief.
Can you imagine what it feels like to carry impending death with you? Everywhere you go? Every moment of your life?
Can you imagine just trying to live a normal life, without having to remember every moment of it that your child is dying? Even as your body continues to grow and grow?
Can you imagine trying to go about your day without bursting into tears when someone tells you “congratulations?”
Can you imagine all the strangers’ comments, every day, all day? How far along are you? What are you having? Is this your first? Are you excited? You look great! Do you have the baby’s room ready?
Can you imagine trying to get out of conversations about the pregnancy? Because you don’t really want to explain the whole situation to your mechanic. Or the cashier. Or the visitor at your church.
And every time, feeling that you are just betraying your child once again.
Can you imagine the tension of wanting your child’s life to end so you can finally move on?
Can you imagine the unspeakable guilt? Can you imagine these feelings that you don’t dare utter aloud because people will think that you don’t love your child?
Can you imagine your absolute rage that you have become a prisoner to your own body, stamped and approved by the country that you love, but whose laws you so passionately disagree with?
Can you imagine… reaching a point when you look for an alternative?
Maybe someone can help you out. Off the record. Maybe you could get this process going with some medications that you order on-line. Or maybe you could go to another state? Not Indiana. But maybe Pennsylvania?
That is how women find themselves looking at ways to have abortions at home. Without medical help.
That is how women die.
Governor Kasich, I don’t believe it is your intention to put women into such a situation. You seem to be a reasonable man, but perhaps a man who isn’t familiar with the perspective of pregnant women.
I am currently 34 weeks pregnant with my second child. At this stage, this pregnancy is consuming my life. I’m carrying around 35 extra pounds. I can’t breathe normally. I can’t eat a full meal. I can’t sleep comfortably. I pee about 18 times a day and constantly through the night. In every conversation that I have with strangers, they comment on my pregnancy. I cannot avoid it without being rude.
So I just take it.
As will these women who won’t be able to have abortions after 20 weeks.
To carry a pregnancy doesn’t just mean to keep living and breathing. It means that you slowly conform to the child. You let go and let go and let go. The child grows and grows and the only way to get through it is to surrender.
That is hard enough to do when you know your child is healthy and will very likely survive.
Can you imagine how hard that is to do for women who know their child is going to die?
Governor Kasich, I ask that you carefully consider the reality that this law will now have on women. We’re not talking about saving thousands of perfectly healthy babies from selfish, horrible mothers that want to kill them. We are talking about a group of women who are making the most incredibly difficult decision of their lives while immersed in grief.