Thursday, April 25, 2013

Tres is Here!

I am taking a quick break from the new baby bliss to let you all know Tres is here! I will write up a bit more later, but here are the important facts:



Name: Francis Aloysius (we call him Frank)
Weight: 8 lbs. 15 oz.
Length: 20.5 inches

Frank is a very healthy little boy. The delivery went very well! We even came home a day early. Big brother and big sister are fascinated and very happy to have him! Things really could not have gone better.

Thanks to everyone that has been praying and asking about us. We are well, and truly enjoying getting to know Baby Frank!

I'll be sure to write a bit more when things are a bit more calm, but for now we are enjoying having some grandparents visiting!

(For the record: Pope Francis totally stole his name off our baby name list!)

Sunday, April 14, 2013

An Open Letter of Gratitude for Pro Life Physicians

When our family moved to Florida, I was pregnant. Perhaps the scariest thing about moving across the country away from our friends and family, was that it meant leaving behind a trusted physician. I was nervous about leaving his practice because he gave me what I thought I did not have: hope for a family.

He listened to my concerns. He gave me bible verses and expressed genuine sorrow when I had a miscarriage. He stayed at the hospital long after my son was born and came by to express his regret that we ended more than a day's worth of labor in a c-section. He was kind and always had time for his patients.

When we moved, I did my due diligence to find a pro life physician, hoping that a doctor who cared enough about respecting human life would also treat his patients the same. I found a really wonderful practice that is a husband and wife team. It was a little outside of town, but they took me mid-pregnancy and again, listened to my concerns. Unfortunately, the hospital would not allow for a VBAC opportunity, but I delivered my daughter safely and had doctors that listened to me and that I trusted.

Before I became pregnant this time, I began to research my options in regards to a VBA2C. Not because I felt I was robbed of dignity or an opportunity with my previous birth experiences, but because I wanted to give myself and my body the chance to work the way it was made to work. I located the best facility for such an experience, and before long I was pregnant. I stayed with my physician through the first trimester as I have progesterone deficiencies while the placenta develops. Once I made it safely through the first trimester, I arranged to transfer to another group of physicians.

This practice was much larger, to say the least. While transferring was easy enough, I began to see that things were going to be quite different. To start, I never saw the same physician twice so every appointment was like starting over. Every doctor had a different "sticking" point: one appointment was focused on my VBA2C goal. The next would be focused on PCOS and how I should be high risk. Then my previous records were in and I was green lighted for a VBA2C attempt. Then I wasn't gaining weight slow enough. I needed more iron. I shouldn't be on metformin. Then I was gaining weight too slowly.  I passed the glucose testing, but high levels of amniotic fluid meant I needed to be treated as though I had GD. My blood sugars were on the high end of normal, so my metformin should double now. I needed ten ultrasounds. I was checked in as the wrong patient and marked as a no show. I went two weeks without a doctor ordering follow up appointments and was told it was my fault. Then I was told at 34 weeks that a VBA2C was never in the cards because my reports did not reflect the ideal situation they needed to, meaning no one had actually reviewed them when they were received and I was green lighted nearly four months prior. They performed studies during the ultrasounds but never gave me the results. I was ignored and treated like a standard operating procedure.

After a particularly horrid appointment, I had enough. I went to lobby and called my regular physician and begged his staff to have him call me. By the time I pulled into my driveway, he had returned my call. I unloaded the awfulness of the previous five months: every sordid detail. He told me to send him my records and that he would schedule a repeat c-section for me. I cannot describe the relief I felt! I still had a month or so of issues to deal with, but there was happiness at the end of it all, at last!

I am writing this out, because I am on the cusp of being a week away from my delivery date, and I do not want to have to remember or recall the last six months of this pregnancy. I do not mean to discredit the concerns of any of the physicians, but the constant run around and dishonesty caused many sleepless nights and stress-filled days that simply were not healthy for my pregnancy. I come across posts or stories of women that feel incomplete or as though a piece of their womanhood is missing because of c-sections. I read this piece this morning even. While I teared up when the author wrote about how her husband thanked her for the sacrifice, I will be going through this for the third time and I just can't say that I have any regrets besides transferring to the bigger, "VBAC-friendly" facility. My health and safety matters with my current physician, and so does the health and safety of every life that will potentially grow in my womb.

I am writing this now so that, in a little over a week, I can be free to experience the beginning of my child's life and put all of the turmoil behind me.

I am reminded once more at how incredibly grateful I am to have discovered the kind of care that pro life physicians have to offer. Maybe one has nothing to do with the other, but in my experience a doctor that cares about the life of the tiniest human, cares about the health and safety of the mother as well.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Full Text for The Guiding Star Project: A Sexual Assault Conversation (Part Two)

As some of you know, I also contribute posts over at The Guiding Star Project. To promote awareness for Sexual Assault Awareness Month, I have recently completed a series of posts related to Sexual Violence. This post will provide you with the links to those posts, as well as a complete transcript for the survivor interviews that contributed to the most recent post from yours truly. For the sake of editing, I took quotes from these women for the purposes of the GSP post but really they all gave such beautiful and complete answers to the questions asked of them, that I wanted to find a way to give them space to tell their stories in greater detail.

A Sexual Assault Conversation (Part One)

Our Call to Advocacy

A Sexual Assault Conversation (Part Two)




Interview Questions:


1. Briefly describe your experience with sexual assault. (You do not need to go into great detail. Ex: I am a childhood sexual abuse survivor. I was sexually assaulted in college.)

2. How did this experience influence how you felt about yourself? Did it influence the way you felt about motherhood or your abilities as a parent? (You can speak to how you felt before/after becoming a mother.)

3. How has your experience with sexual assault affected the way you interact with your children (if at all, positively or negatively)?

4. Have you (or do you plan) to disclose the experience with your children? Why or Why not?

5. What have you learned from your experience with sexual assault that you would pass on to someone struggling to heal from sexual assault? (Is there anything related to motherhood, parenting, disclosing, healing, etc. in particular that you would want to pass on?)


Survivor Responses:

Dana

1. I am a survivor of sexual abuse at the hands of my father. From about 9 or so until I was 18, and I was also assaulted by a man who was a “house parent” at (a teen home), while “interviewing” to be able to have visitation with a friend of mine who lived at (a teen home).

2. This influenced EVERYTHING about me, and still does. I have never felt as though I was really good enough for anyone…damaged goods. I don’t trust anyone, not totally, and I keep most people I know at arm’s length. And if someone does me wrong, I shut the door on them. I have a hard time with forgiveness. 

 I was pretty scared to be a mother, because my own mother never taught me what that means. She was on the cold side of things, and didn't really care much what was going on in her household, as long as she wasn't affected. So, I didn't really know HOW to be a mother. After I became a mother, I was blown away by how vulnerable children are, and I think it made the anger I had in me come out a little more. 

3. I was never taught boundaries as a child. The parent/child boundaries were non-existent in my household, so when I had my own children, I was really unsure of how to keep those lines from being crossed. I probably erred on the side of being stand-offish because I was afraid someone would think I was being overly affectionate with them. I was horrible when they were in diapers, because I didn't want anyone to ever think I spent too long on that area…so I wasn't very good at the cleaning of the diaper area. However, I did become much more assertive with my father…he tried to discipline my son once. ONCE. I took my children and left his home. He called me to berate me for “embarrassing him” by standing up and saying “do not touch my child” and I (for the first time ever) told him that if he ever touched my children again, he would never see them again. I realized, watching my children, that I was just as vulnerable at their ages as they were, and even though it was put upon me that all of what happened to me was my own fault, I was no more at fault than those small children God gave me. 

4. I did discuss with my children that I had been hurt by my father. My daughter knew the most, because she was older at the time my father was put on trial. And since she was highly intelligent, she was very aware of what was going on. I realized much later that while she figured most of it out on her own, she was still not prepared for that burden. I wish I had handled that better. I also discovered that I had not really told my sons very much, because my older son asked me for details when he was in his 20’s…because he said, “I know you were hurt a lot by your dad, but I just don’t know what he did. I would like to know this.” My youngest son maybe knew a little more, because (honestly) he paid more attention what went on around him than his older brother did.  I do think that children should know about this type of thing, especially if it’s a family member that they could come in contact with. It should be age appropriate, but they should not be shut out of why mom acts sad, or angry at, or scared of a relative. I just believe children should not be treated as though they were unable to handle truth. I worry for my nephews who have never been told about the abuse my sister suffered at our father’s hands, even though he has since passed away. What happens to their relationship the day they find out that the grandpa they were raised to respect and care about is the same man who abused their mother? I worry they will be angry at not being given the choice to be around him or not. They know he had a mean streak, and their mom would be highly angered by him a lot of the time, but they do not know why, so I worry they will feel she lied to them. 

5. I do wish (even for myself) that women trying to heal from this would know it was not their fault. I have always felt that somewhere in there, I did something to make it happen. And since nobody but my sisters have ever told me it wasn't my fault, it feels like it was. To the point that when someone “comes on to me” in a social setting, I feel maybe I did something to cause it, even if I had nothing to do with their actions. A “normal” woman would just feel “what a dirt bag…” and walk away. I would feel “what did I do to make him think that about me?” and worry about it. There are just people out there that are incapable of NOT inflicting some sort of pain on other people, it’s not that you invited them to hurt you.  I wish that part of me would go away, but it is there. And if you do feel as though you need to talk to someone, do it. Even if everyone around you thinks it is embarrassing to the family. It’s not about them, it’s about YOUR mental health and well-being.

Amy

1. I was sexually assaulted by my boyfriend's friend when I was 25.

2. The experience made me completely paranoid about personal safety. I hate being out after dark and being home alone and those things never used to bother me.

3. I think the sexual assault has made me more paranoid. I worry obsessively about my baby daughter's safety and well-being  I'm concerned that because I was sexually assaulted I will be overprotective of my daughter when she's older.

4. I do plan to tell my daughter when she gets older. I just want her to know that if anything ever happens to her, it is not her fault and I will be there to help her. I never told my mother what happened to me.

5. I would tell someone else who experienced sexual assault that they should not think of themselves as less pure or valuable than other women. My husband still thinks I am wonderful despite what happened to me!

Sara

1. What I experienced would best be called as "date rape" because, unfortunately, there really is no terminology for being raped by the boy you had been dating for 3 years.

2. The experience changed how I thought of myself. I felt an immense amount of guilt and shame.

3. I don't think it's affected me at all THUS FAR. My daughter is only 8 and I haven't really seen much of an interest from her in boys yet. I do know, though, that it will affect how I parent her as I get older. I grew up in a staunchly Catholic household, and my boyfriend was Catholic as well. In fact, we were on Diocesan youth boards, active in youth ministry, etc. One youth minister actually called us a "perfect model of a faith-filled teen couple." But we were given too much freedom. I will definitely be more in touch with how my daughter's dating life progresses.

4. I will admit right now that I am not sure if I will disclose it. There are times when I think, yes, I want her to know. But there are times when I think, it's better left where it is--in the past.

5. I've learned that it can take a very, very long time to heal. Sometimes you can go weeks without thinking about it and then there are times when it's on the forefront of your mind. It's going to be with you forever, so you have to find a way to make peace with it. For me, making peace meant saying, "Okay, it happened. I can't change that. But because it happened, XYZ happened. I don't regret XYZ, so therefore I am OK that it happened." Also, I'll share one of the things someone told me along my road to acceptance: "You are at your strongest when you feel as if you are at your weakest." So true.

Joan

1. I've experienced several types during various stages in my life and often wondered if the later assaults were made more possible by the initial one. (Childhood sexual molestation).

2. The initial experience didn't seem to imprint negatives about my self-image, but later ones over time made me feel insecure, or as other survivors might understand, as if I was defective or wearing a bulls eye  As time goes on and you experience more and more interactions, even very obscure ones, you start to blur the line between who is at fault, most especially in our culture of victim-blaming. I began to feel uncomfortable about my introverted personality and even uncomfortable about my body size and things such as my gait.

As a mother, I have the same concerns as any parent. I'm worried about bringing children into a society that protects the perpetrator, mocks or ignores the victim and generally promotes a hushed up environment about sexual assault. I worry that my children will experience what I did, or that I won't be able to encourage in them confidence and skills to avoid these situations.

3. Experiencing sexual assault has given me a deeper perspective about the serious failing of punitive parenting and the inappropriate emphasis our society has on forcing children to obey authority. Forcing a child to ignore his own feelings or bodily signs to obey an authority figure is exactly how early abuse begins and exactly how cycles of abuse continue throughout a person's life.

When we are taught to be "nice" to others even if our brains are screaming in fear, or taught to cover up violation so as not to bring embarrassment to the family, we place the dignity of children on a lower level than social image or reputation. In a different way, this is yet another violation against the victim.
So my parenting method is something I commit to not only b/c I want to avoid disrespectful parenting behaviors, but also b/c I want to encourage my children to have a strong self-will, confidence about their bodily/mental signs and the courage to follow those cues in the face of danger.

4. Yes, I have briefly, in a non-graphic way, informed my children. It's important of course to take care not to scare young children or break their innocence. I feel that my brief discussion with them while reading the body books I purchased was the right mix of information and tact.

For other parents wondering, I made statements such as, "When Mama was 4 years old, a grown up wanted to touch her body and she didn't want him to do it. If that ever happens to you, you can shout no and run to get me. I will always help you."

5. The hardest part is perhaps learning to place full and open responsibility on the perpetrator. It's very easy for a survivor to take on the burden of blame in our culture, and that is a very impairing experience that will halt deep healing. Although it can be extremely painful at first to acknowledge that another person openly and deliberately chose to harm you (and perhaps this was someone close to you or someone who was supposed to protect you) in the end, this clarity opens a path to true healing where you can put the issue to rest, find forgiveness for yourself and begin to move forward.

As parents, it becomes not just a healthy step to healing but a vital, necessary step to take. As long as the survivor holds responsibility and shame/guilt/blame, as a parent, the message passed to the child will be garbled. Hypocrisy is something children can pick up on very easily, even unspoken hypocrisy.
If we cannot face our own violators and accuse them justly and fully, how can we be guardians to our children and potentially do the same for them? Instead, we will only pass on the cycle of abuse to them and give them the continued role of taking on the blame and playing the unhealed victim.

Linda

Last year my oldest turned 6. Last year she started Kindergarten and I dealt with the anxiety of knowing she would be going to the bathroom at school on her own. The idea of my sweet little girl walking around unsupervised made me physically ill. As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, the fear that my child will end up being victimized is always with me. It is calculated into everything I do. I realize for some people this may seem an indicator of therapy needs. For those who experienced high levels of trauma, they know that the key is to manage these fears. My oldest has no idea that her first year of school brought an entire fleet of emotions up for me. When we talk about safety, we talk in general terms. She is friendly, kind, and full of zest for life. The way a small child should be.

Being a survivor of child sexual abuse makes me a bit different as a mom. Working with survivors on a daily basis changes the way I parent as well. Unlike some, I cannot pretend that the person who poses the greatest danger to my child is the stranger, the new neighbor, and creepy kid down the street. I know that the people I love the most pose the greatest danger. I have listened to far too many parents cry and ask how they didn't see it, how they didn't know, listened to them talk about how their best friend, their pastor, their favorite cousin hurt their child to pretend that danger isn't all around.

The thing is I also have to balance that information with the knowledge that there is plenty of good in the world. I must work just as hard to keep my child full of hope—as I do to keep her safe. She deserves to grow up knowing there is love, and beauty, and peace to be found in this world for those willing to seek it out. Right now, my little girl only knows that her mommy grew in another person’s tummy. Right now, she knows that mommy works with people who have been hurt by others. Someday I will share my story with my daughter. I am not sure when that story will be—or if it will be in bits and pieces. I will share my story because if my daughter is ever hurt, if someone she loves is ever hurt, I want to make sure I've shown her that it is okay to talk about it. That shame belongs on the perpetrator. I want her to know that no matter what has happened in my life, looking at her gives me everything I was always searching for.






   


Friday, April 5, 2013

7 Quick Takes: The Pregnancy Talk I Loathe Edition


This 7QT is themed. As I am coming closer and closer to the baby's date of arrival, I hear the same pregnancy talk more and more frequently. I am not typically a cutesy speak kind of person, so the pregnancy variety of cutesy speak is BY FAR my least favorite part of pregnancy. Seriously. Even worse than all the people that think they have a say in how many children my husband and I choose to have. Here is a countdown of the seven terms I have heard this week that made me cringe.

SEVEN
"Let me guess: It's a boy/girl!"  Every single person on the face of the planet seems to be obsessed with the genitalia of my child. Stop please. I am carrying a human, and you won't be able to tell what sex the baby is even after I give birth and tell you his/her name, so chill. You don't really care, and will forget you saw me the second I leave your line of sight unless one of my other children does something heinous while you are speaking to me.

SIX
"You look tired." I only hear this on days that I opt out of makeup. Well, how should I look? What can I do to my appearance that will make me more pleasing to you? I am at a point that rolling over in bed or getting up to go the restroom makes me hungry, so I just might look pregnant more than tired. See?


FIVE
"Baby bump" Cutesy. If this is a bump, I would hate to see what you would call a mountain. We have certainly passed the "bump" phase of this pregnancy.

FOUR
Preggers: Cutesy and it sounds stupid. Never say it to me, please!

THREE
"Any day now?" 18 days from now. I'll send you an announcement. As I have been hearing this from every last person that I see since I was about five months along, I am dying to give a scathing response  to the next person that says it. Charity, charity...

TWO
People pointing at me and talking about me as though I do not notice, or trying to touch my stomach. We went to the beach on Easter, and at least four different people decided to point and whisper. Yep. I know my clothes don't fit. Yep. you can see the belly because my maternity swim suit doesn't quite cover Tres. How about the string bikini you are wearing, can we chat about that? Maybe I should charge admission for those that want to stare or touch. Can I touch you? Oh, that is inappropriate? My apologies.

ONE
Nesting: Any time I mention cleaning or I purchase baby-related items, someone thinks it is wise to accuse me of nesting. Is it really that out of the ordinary to prepare for the birth of your child? I am not sure why, but the term just sounds derogatory to me at times. Who carries a baby and does not prepare for when said baby arrives? Nesting invokes an image of a bird frantically trying to weave a bunch of sticks together with spit and mud. I see the bird with sweat all over its brow and people gawking and laughing at the frantic pace, as though it is ludicrous to clean whilst expecting, or buy items you might need, like diapers. Maybe I am just trying not to fall asleep?

For more Quick Takes, visit conversiondiary.com!