Thursday, June 21, 2007

A word about staying at home

There have been a lot of conversations among feminists over the past several decades about how motherhood affects a woman's ability to participate in other spheres of society. The phrase "stay at home mother" has become the catch-all phrase for describing women who spend a great deal of their time being the primary care provider for their children. Truthfully, I don't quite hate the expression. But, I am getting closer every day.

Generally, SAHMotherhood is understood to be the state of having someone else, (probably the mother's partner, the child's other parent, etc) be the wage earner of the family. It is actually an arrangement that makes a great deal of sense. Except that we don't live in a world where people's work is paid with the assumption that they will be supporting an entire family. Certainly, a pretty solid portion of the population cannot support their family on a single income. A lot of people who are understood to be SAHMs are actually working weekends and evenings or from home, or in my case, some combination.

Many people think that I am a stay at home mother. Which makes sense because my partner works full time and my daughter does not go to day care. What boggles my mind is that when I am AT WORK at my coffee job, people ask me if I am a stay at home mother. I work on weekends and have friends watch my daughter on the one day each week when my partner can't. I am away from her about 20 hours each week. That doesn't even include the hours that I log each week doing development work for a small non-profit. During an average week, I work about 36 hours, (before we get into the several volunteer positions that I hold.) Most people would consider that employed.

Not to mention that caring for a little person is a lot of work. Although there are many benefits to spending so much time with my little one, a free and easy lifestyle is not among them. It is important to me that even women who are not working a 9-5 jobs be recognized for ALL that they contribute.

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

I have been called upon to respond to this news item: (as a vegan mother)
Parents Convicted in Baby's Death
ATLANTA (AP) A Superior Court jury in Atlanta convicted a vegan couple of murder and cruelty to children Wednesday in the death of their six-week old, who was fed a diet largely consisting of soy milk and apple juice.
27-year-old Jade Sanders and 31-year-old and Lamont Thomas will receive automatic life sentences for starving the boy, who weighed just 3.5 pounds when he died.

Defense lawyers said the first-time parents did the best they could while adhering to the lifestyle of vegans, who typically use no animal products. They said Sanders and Thomas did not realize the baby, who was born at home, was in danger until minutes before he died.

But prosecutor Mike Carlson told the jury yesterday during closing arguments that they are ``baby killers.''

The jury deliberated about seven hours before returning the guilty verdicts.

Firstly, this story has nothing to do with vegans.

It is a very sad story, and I feel moved to say a great deal about the incident. However, i feel completely unmoved to defend a vegan lifestyle. Anyone who reads this story and comes away hating or blaming vegans should look inside themselves and see whether they are swayed to hatred of entire groups based on the actions of individuals every time that s/he reads the news. The truth is that people with different identities do terrible things all the time. It would be a mistake to assume that any individual represents the entire group with whom they identify. There is no exception in this case.

This story is *actually* about parents who needed more support, connection and education (and possibly mental health services). I suspect that there was a great deal more to the story than the media covered. It could not possibly be the case that these parents were stable if they failed to notice their child wasting away. It is concerning that there was no one else in their lives who noticed either. It makes me wonder whether drugs or mental illness were also a factor.

This story is sad because this story could have ended quite differently. For many, early parenting is a time of extreme isolation. Newborns are a rare sight in this culture. What babies eat and how to care for them is a mystery to many. I do not mean to provide an excuse for the lak of care that the child in this story was given. However, It is unfortunate to me that that the spin of this story has largely been about the shocking crime committed by these parents. This story should be sparking conversations about how the community and the healthcare system failed this family and what can be done in the future to prevent such travesties. When things like this happen, it is a reflection of our culture and we should all take responsibility for learning the lesson within.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Blog for Choice Day - January 22, 2007

Blogging for Choice- Better Late Than Never

Yesterday was the 34th anniversary of Roe Vs. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision that grounded the right to a safe and legal abortion in the United States in our right to privacy. I received an e-mail that bloggers were being invited to 'blog for choice' and as a supporter of safe and legal abortions, I am participating in this action. The question to be answered is, why am I pro-choice? My answer cannot be simple. In fact, my first inclination is to deconstruct the question.

I am pro-choice, but I am more than that and I think we have to be so much more than that if we are going to ensure that women are able to be whole and autonomous people. The word choice, to me, sounds too casual. When we talk about abortions, we are not talking about picking something like when we pick what we would like for dinner off of a menu. We are talking about women's lives. We are talking about their ability to make family in whatever way they see fit. I am comforted in the knowing that abortion feels like a choice for some- may it always be. For many, abortion is about as much of a choice as the decision to use a parachute when you are on a plane that is about to crash.

Roe Vs. Wade is an important constitutional protection which ensures the rights of women. However, the fact that the Hyde ammendment came along three years after Roe Vs Wade, taking away federal funding for abortions, is very telling about whose privacy and rights were valued. Fortunately, where the government drops the ball, oftentimes others will pick it up. Check out the National Network of Abortion Funds if you need financial assistance to access an abortion OR if you are a person with the means to contribute. ( I also highly recommend contacting Backline if you are faced with a pregnancy and need support through your decision making process, (

Volumes have been written about visions of true reproductive justice, so I will stand down on that point for now.

All that remains to be stated is my answer to the initial question, why am I pro-choice? I believe that every woman who is faced with a pregnancy, when provided with information and support, will make the best decision for herself, her family and her community. Or more simply, I believe in women. No one cares more for that potential life than the mother and to stand in her way prevents her from doing what is best for the potential life and herself. I feel a deep frustration that those who oppose a women's right to live her life, of which her reproductive capacity is a major element, claim the name 'pro-life.' The truth is, people who oppose safe and legal abortions are anti-choice and anti-women.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Drinking for Two: putting the wine where your mouth is

Firstly, check out the full article at:
The article I am referencing here is entitled, 'The Weighty Responsibility of Drinking for Two'

In short, the article discusses the issue of consming alcohol during pregnancy. It's culturally taboo in the US, but common practice in other countries. Blah, blah, blah, the US is uptight. We know this. Moderation in all things. Permission to drink the occasional glass of wine during pregnancy is not what I took away from the article. The fact is, I already knew that drinking the occasional glass of wine during pregnancy is not dangerous. Did I drink during my (very) recent pregnancy though? Hell no.

And in the end, I needed this article and a wise friend to help me put it together. No matter how much of a free thinking person I think I am, I could not put my money where my mouth is on this one. I was too afraid I was wrong, (which I knew I wasn't,) and too afraid of what others would think, (which I never am.) So, although I allowed myself the occasional sip, it was always 'naughty' of me. I was made to feel shame about something I don't even believe in... and THAT is a first for me. After all of my sins, which at this point include a child out of wedlock (!) it took a sip of wine to make me feel shame.

The wise friend in question highlighted the following sentence from the article:
"And the public seems to seriously doubt whether pregnant women can be trusted to make responsible decisions on their own."

So, let me set the record straight... I am not ashamed about the wine anymore. I am ashamed that I was made to not trust myself, my instincts and my intellect. And so, I am pouring myself a glass of wine and making a toast to women- a promise to trust women, even when that woman is myself.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Preconception Care: A good idea that just keeps seeming worse

See below article from (once again) the Daily Women's Health Report from The Kaiser Family Foundation.
Pregnancy & Childbirth | Public Health Officials Emphasizing 'Preconception Care' Message for Women of Childbearing Age
[Nov 28, 2006]
Some public health officials are "recast[ing]" their message of prenatal care by adding what they call "preconception care," which urges all women of childbearing age to maintain physical and emotional health well in advance of pregnancy to reduce the risk of preventable birth defects and other complications, the New York Times reports (Rabin, New York Times, 11/28). CDC in the April 21 edition of its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report published preconception care recommendations. Preconception care, which takes place in multiple physician visits, involves "interventions that aim to identify and modify biomedical, behavioral and social risks to a woman's health or pregnancy outcome through prevention and management, emphasizing those factors which must be acted on before conception or early in pregnancy to have maximal impact," according to the recommendations (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 5/9). Although the recommendations were "criticized in some quarters for treating all women as though they were eternally 'prepregnant,'" some experts say that preparing for a healthy pregnancy can require behavioral changes that take months. Pregnant women usually do not have their first prenatal visit until 10 weeks to 12 weeks after conception, doctors say. "If a birth defect is going to happen, it's already happened," Peter Bernstein, a maternal fetal medicine specialist at Montefiore Medical Center who helped write the CDC recommendations said, adding, "The most important doctor's visit may be the one that takes place before a pregnancy is conceived." The recommendations highlight the importance of family planning and child spacing and encourage young people to develop a "reproductive life plan," the Times reports. According to the Times, physicians have been recommending preconception care for decades but "it has never really caught on." The issue has taken on "added urgency" because of higher rates of unplanned pregnancies and low birthweights, the Times reports. In addition, the U.S. obesity rate and number of women delaying pregnancy continues to rise, meaning that women are more likely to have high blood pressure, diabetes or prediabetes when they become pregnant, according to the Times. Some health providers say that pregnancy planning and contraceptive use are essential in preconception care and urge all doctors to counsel women of childbearing age about the possibility of pregnancy. "It's not like we have an injection we can give someone" to prepare her for pregnancy, Hani Atrash, associate director for program development at CDC's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, said. "Some of the interventions, like weight management, need time to happen," Atrash said, adding, "What we're actually talking about ... is women's health" (New York Times, 11/28).

First off, this whole concept of 'preconception care' initially turned me off because it seems to be designed exclusively for women with enough privilege to access health care.

Aside from that though, I think there is a larger issue here than access. Imagine, if you can, universal healthcare. And then, to make this fantasy world even more unrealistic, let's imagine most pregnancies are planned. There is still a problem with the concept of 'preconception care.'

Are doctors really prepared to deal with what they will uncover in these pre-pregnancy visits? Aside from sending a women away with some sort of awareness of her risk factors and suggested behavior modifications that will create an ideal internal environment for her future child, what interventions are doctors really prepared to implement? Will they be screening for domestic violence? And if so, are they getting adequately trained to do so? Are they prepared to offer helpful interventions for DV? Are they screening for drug abuse? And if so, are they prepared to offer treatment? There are endless risk-factors that one could uncover in such a visit, and I imagine that most of the ones I can think of are ones for which doctors couldn't or wouldn't help. Good health doesn't exist in a bubble separate from the stressors of an individual's life.

Additionally, it seems that we are setting mothers up to be criminalized further. What if at a preconception appointment, a women finds out that her unconceived child is at risk for 'life-threatening disease X' and upon actual conception or birth or at age 13, the child in fact is found to have 'life threatening disease X.' Was the mother criminally negligent? It sounds crazy, I admit, but this seems to be the direction that society is moving in with regards to pregnant women. What if she was found to be an addict at a preconception visit and conceived and gave birth to a child that was drug-impacted? That doesn't sound nearly as far-fetched, does it?

Don't get me wrong, I am strongly in favor of healthy pregnancies and better outcomes, but perhaps naively, I still believe we can acheive this end without implementing policies, laws and recommendations that privilege some while targeting others.

At risk of sounding anti-establishment, I simply don't trust it. If this were to become the new norm for medically or socially acceptable (or dare I say it, legal) conception, it would negatively impact AT LEAST as many women as it would positively impact. To me, it looks like a way for even more control of a person's reproductive autonomy to shift to health care providers.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

What do abortions have to do with immigration?

Below is a disturbing story as reported by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

State Politics & Policy | Legalization of Abortion Contributing Factor in Undocumented Immigration to U.S., Report Says
[Nov 15, 2006]
Abortion procedures have caused a decrease in the number of U.S. residents, leading to a shortage of workers in the country and an increase in immigration of undocumented immigrants, according to report drafted by the Missouri Special Committee on Immigration Reform and submitted last week to state House Majority Leader Rod Jetton (R), the AP/MyFox St. Louis reports. The report was dated Oct. 24 and signed by all 10 Republicans on the committee, but it was not signed by any of the six Democrats on the panel. It says that the "lack of traditional work ethic, combined with the effects of 30 years of abortion and expanding liberal social welfare policies have produced a shortage of workers and a lack of incentive for those who can work." The report estimates there are 80,000 fewer Missouri residents because of abortion and that many of those residents now would be in a "highly productive age group for workers." Democrats on the committee said text regarding abortion was neither discussed nor agreed to be included in the report. Committee chair state Rep. Ed Emery (R), who opposes abortion, said the committee heard some testimony about abortion during one of its hearings, adding, "I felt like [it] was significant enough and fundamental enough that it warranted addressing it in the report." Emery on Monday also said, "We heard a lot of arguments today that the reason that we can't get serious about our borders is that we are desperate for all these workers," adding, "You don't have to think too long. If you kill 44 million of your potential workers, it's not too surprising we would be desperate for workers." State Rep. Trent Skaggs (D) said the abortion assertions discredit the entire report, adding, "There's a lot of editorial comment there that I couldn't really stomach."

It goes on, but I will cut it short by a bit. I have to second Trent Skaggs and say that there is a lot here that I could not stomach. I have never seen such a ridiculous linkage of issues as abortion and immigration. I am being dead serious, I just took pause from my writing to make sure that I was not using hyperbole. I sometimes worry that I overuse hyperbole thus rendering it an ineffective tool when in my hands. But, it is in fact the most ridiculous linkage of issues I have encountered to date. There, I said it twice.

Immigration inspired by unbridled domestic abortion. That takes the issue of abortion so far away from women's right to self-determination and twists the matter to shed some pretty scary light on the issue for me. I have often naively wondered what real and true investment pro-lifers have in the fate of the fetuses inside of bodies of women they do not know. The explanation of moral outrage alone always left me feeling that I was not getting the full story. I mean, pro-lifers are frequently pro-death penalty, a contradiction that is so alarming it feels like a cliche. This proclaimed reverence for life is clearly not very deeply felt.

Perhaps everyone else already knows this, and I am a little slow on the uptake. Are pro-life politicians actually simply trying to ensure a growing labor force? That is sick. Sick, sick, sick. That makes the fight against immigration even more unsavory. I mean, it seems obvious to me that anti-immigration policy is driven in large part by racism. But, I thought it was at least partially related to concerns about limited resources for the people that already live in this country, (namely health care.) But, if they want the population to grow and grow does it honestly matter to 'them' whether the underpaid and exploited work force in this country came out of the wombs of poor americans or across the border?

There is something very creepy about the idea of linking reproductive decisions and the future of industry. We are not drones, there is a real person attached to that womb.

It doesn't take much reading between the lines to extract the message: do your duty patriotic American women, bear the future generation of exploited workers.