Archive | March, 2012

Let’s Talk About What Pro-Choice and Pro-Life Mean

I’m growing a little weary and frustrated at this perception by those who hold themselves out to be “pro-life” that those of us who are pro-choice are somehow morally inferior, and that “pro-choice” can pretty much be interchangeable with “pro-abortion.”

Being “pro-life” does not exist in a vacuum; being pro-choice certainly does not exclude choosing life.  There are many, many, many people who hold themselves out to be staunchly pro-choice (like me) who value life – yes, even life of the unborn – who might never choose abortion for themselves.  I don’t “choose choice over life”; it is entirely possible to be in favor of both choice and life.

It’s about believing in everyone’s fundamental right to choose for themselves.  It’s about believing that every woman deserves to have control over her body, over the decisions that concern her body.  Am I in favor of every choice people make?  No.  Some choices people make, and the reasons behind those choices, make me absolutely heartsick.

Being pro-choice means understanding that I don’t walk in anyone’s shoes but my own.  It means that I understand that I have no right to impose my beliefs on somebody else when I cannot possibly know their life circumstances, their values, their mental or emotional or financial state – and I have no right to hold my values out to be superior to theirs.

God is pro-choice, Baby.  If you’re inclined to believe in God, that is (and if you’re pro-life, I’m thinking this is a pretty good assumption).  That’s what the all-important free will is – choice.  Even God’s not willing to take that away.

All I can hope for as someone who is pro-choice is that people make their choices based on good information.

But they don’t always.  I know that.

If I can help to change misconceptions that often lead to choices that might have been different?  I’m all for that.  That’s advocacy.

As for being pro-life: it shouldn’t stop at being against abortion.  As one of my favorite bloggers wrote:

“To me, being prolife means you ‘do things to give a person all the life to which he or she is entitled.'”

It means supporting programs that will help all those babies you don’t want to see aborted actually live healthy, quality lives.  It means putting your money where your mouth is.  It might even mean considering adopting one of those babies you don’t want to see aborted.

Otherwise, it’s just lip service.

I Get Around

I am very honored that I have been asked to post as a guest blogger on two different blogs recently.

I was asked to share my experience breastfeeding a baby with Down syndrome over on Down Syndrome New Mama; last week I shared our story, and this week Part II has been posted which talks about tips and advice to deal with hurdles commonly associated with breastfeeding a baby with Down syndrome.  Down Syndrome New Mama is such a great resource of information for new parents of babies with Down syndrome, and it’s my hope that some expectant or new mom out there will find some encouragement in breastfeeding her little one.

***

With the recent introduction of new prenatal screenings aimed at detecting Down syndrome in the first trimester of pregnancy, a vital discussion is taking place online about the ethics of the testing and the potential implications for the Down syndrome community and society as a whole.  Patti at A Perfect Lily has been running a series of posts concerning this topic, and has asked several people to write guest posts for her readers.  So much of the discussion about prenatal testing that is taking place everywhere on the internet seems to revolve around the pro-life vs. pro-choice debate, and for many, the answers to the questions are found in their religious beliefs.  My feeling is that this issue has very little to do with religion – or, rather, centering it on “God’s laws” only serves to alienate an entire potential audience.  Today, I share my perspective on Patti’s blog; I hope you’ll read it, think about it, and share it:  It’s About Wanting a Baby.  It was brave of Patti to feature a Heathen like me on her blog – thank you, Patti!

Next week, I’m hoping to write here on my very own blog a little more about discussions that center around God that shouldn’t.  Stay tuned.

The Beast

So, yeah, I know that last post was pretty heavy.  I’m glad I wrote it, finally, though.  There is a healing quality to writing.  It kind of dispels the power of the event to some degree, if that makes sense.  I wrote it, and I’ve re-read it since then a number of times, and I feel more and more removed from it each time I read it.

Anyway, all the supportive comments are very much appreciated.  And really, it’s like, wow, was that really my life?  Because my life looks nothing like that nowadays.  Amazing how far a person can travel in a few years’ time.

On a lighter note . . .

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That eight-pound puppy we brought home not quite two and a half months ago?  As of this morning at the vet’s she tipped the scale at 33 and a half pounds!  And she’s only four months old!

She’s very much into little projects around the house.  Here, I’ll show you some of them:

She’s adding some decorative touches to the buffet –

 

Refinishing the piano bench (the one Michael’s had since childhood) –

 

Recarving the coffee table –

She’s a very talented woodworker, wouldn’t you say?

But she also likes to work with upholstery.  Apparently she’s decided that the underside of the sofa must go.

And to think I was trying very hard to talk Michael into getting TWO lab pups!  It’s kind of like wanting to have a baby  – you think, “Awww, a cute widdle baby!  Who doesn’t love a sweet baby?!  Huh?  Who?!”  At that point, you’re not thinking of the whiny toddler that follows the cute, sweet baby, or the demanding grade-schooler, or the snotty adolescent, or the surly teenager . . . oh, sorry, I got sidetracked there.  Where was I?

Oh yeah.  Puppies.  Scout.  She’s a creative one, too.  She likes different art mediums, but especially crayons.  She eats them by the dozens and finds that partially digested?  They add very interesting hues to her poop.  I’ll spare you pictures of that.  Unless you really want to see?

At the vet’s today, she got her first rabies shot.  The doc told me it will probably make her somewhat lethargic for the next day or so.  I said, “Thank you!”

She’s a beastie baby.

An Excerpt From the Life of a Battered Wife

About Just Write
“What ends up revealing itself when free writing is that everything has meaning. That is a magnificent gift of writing. If we write from a free heart-gut place, our souls start speaking.”

[I just recently discovered Just Write on Heather’s The Extraordinary Ordinary blog, and I love the idea of having something to motivate me to write – about anything – on a regular basis. For a week now, I’ve been contemplating what I might write about my first time participating in this endeavor, and what I came up with was a dark memory from a long time ago. It’s something I’ve held onto for a very long time, a traumatic event in a long string of traumatic events from my “former life,” that still festers inside me like a sore after all these years. The idea of “free writing,” however, is to write freely in the moment without overthinking it, so I confess that I’m not even sure if writing about such an old memory fits the bill here. That said, I did finally, after all these years, just write it out – something I’ve thought about doing for a long, long time, but something always stopped me (fear? Repulsion at the memory? I really can’t say) So, here it is. Take from the reading of it what you will, and I’ll take from the writing of it what I can.]

__________________________________________________________________________

More than 13 years later, I still look back on it as the worst night I’ve ever lived through.

It was the night of my dad’s funeral.  He had died very suddenly of a massive heart attack at the age of 51 after a brief, unrelated illness that had landed him in the hospital for about a week.  My big, burly, larger than life, seemingly invincible dad, taken down by a heart that finally stopped beating after a lifetime of hard living – the first person I was close to who I lost through death, and the last person in my family with whom I had a close relationship, so it was a double blow that left me feeling orphaned and so consumed by grief that I felt as if I were suffocating.

He lived with his wife in a house in the woods, up a steep, winding mountain road near the coast in Central California.  My husband and I made the five- or six-hour drive up, with Kevin strapped into his toddler car seat, arriving the night before the funeral.  Family I hadn’t seen in years gathered at the house from out of state.  We checked into a rustic motel/lodge a few miles away – so rustic that there were no phones or televisions in the rooms.  Several other family members were staying at the same motel.

The day of the funeral, a Saturday in December, dawned clear and bright.  Everyone gathered in a church, which felt wrong, as my dad was openly agnostic and definitely not a churchgoer.  He was to be cremated, so there was no graveside gathering, only a service in the chapel which I barely remember.  I know that people spoke.  I know that I got up on legs as weak as water to talk about my dad and how profoundly I felt his absence.  I remember Kevin getting antsy during the service and my husband putting him out in the truck and leaving him there by himself.  A red flag, to be sure – who locks a not-quite-two-year-old out in a car by himself for at least a half hour?  But there were lots of red flags that had, over the years of our marriage, become flaming banners announcing danger – banners I had learned to live with.

The rest of the day is hazy in my memory.  There was a reception after the service, and food was served, and we watched video clips of my dad over his lifetime.  I remember that seeing him up there on the screen intensified my feelings of loss so much that I didn’t know how I was going to survive it.  We visited with my dad’s parents and siblings, relatives I hadn’t seen in many years and barely knew.  Old friends of my dad’s were there.  People laughed and teared up and offered each other words of consolation.

Eventually my husband and I and Kevin made our way back to the motel in the woods.  Measurements of time have slipped away from me, but I know that at some point in the evening, my husband, Kelly, left the motel, leaving Kevin and me behind in the motel room.  I don’t even remember what he told me about his plans, where he was going.  His leaving was routine, and being out of town didn’t make a difference.  I crawled into bed with Kevin and my grief.

At some point in the night I woke up.  Kevin slept beside me.  It was very dark, and I sensed that some hours had passed.  Kelly still wasn’t back.  The hot stone of fear and panic began to settle in my stomach as I began filing through possibilities in my mind: car accident?  DUI? Neither of those would have been firsts.  He disappeared at home with some regularity, and I never knew where he went or when he would return.  Sometimes he would call me in the middle of the night with some tale of a car broken down or a friend in need – stories we both knew I didn’t believe – but more often than not, there would be no call; he would just show up when he was finished with whatever it was that enticed him away, looking and smelling road worn.

There was no phone in the room.  I did own a cell phone, but this was back in the days of having a cell phone only for emergencies.  I didn’t even carry it in my purse – I left it in my truck, and that’s where it was, out with Kelly wherever he was.  Who would I call, anyway?  I was in a strange place, alone with my toddler son in a sparsely furnished motel room in the mountains – utterly alone.  I sat with my growing panic for a long time.

Eventually he did make it back to the motel in the wee hours of the morning.  He was clearly drunk.  I was beside myself.  He had pulled this countless times before, but on this of all nights – the night of my dad’s funeral?  I probably should have just feigned sleep to avoid a scene, but my grief and rage completely took over, and I began screaming at him, demanding to know where he had been and how he could have left me all alone at a time when I most needed comfort and consolation.  He screamed back at me – I had no right to tell him what to do!  He had tracked down my brother (from whom I was mostly estranged) and they had gone to a bar to drink in my dad’s honor.  How dare I be so selfish as to deny them that!

The fight escalated.  By now Kevin was sitting up in bed crying.  I tried to console him.  Kelly went into the bathroom and I could hear the sharp cracking of porcelain as he slammed the lid of the toilet up and down, up and down, until suddenly with a shatter, it stopped – he had busted the toilet and now the bathroom was flooding.

It was inevitable that the motel management would get wind of the scene, as would probably most of the motel guests – relatives of mine among them.  The police were called, and we were told to leave.  To this day, it still boggles my mind that the police not only allowed, but demanded that a woman and small child leave with a belligerently inebriated man.

I could hardly breathe as I gathered Kevin’s and my things as quickly as I could, sobbing, in a state of utter panic.  How could we leave with this man who was so dangerous and out of control?  Where would we go?

I got Kevin strapped into the back seat in his little footie pajamas, crying and wide-eyed with fear.  Clearly Kelly was in no shape to drive (though he had driven from wherever it was he had gotten drunk back to the motel), so I got in the driver’s seat and gripped the steering wheel with white knuckles, tiny points of light flickering before my eyes with my rage.  I felt like I was going to throw up and pass out, simultaneously.  Somehow, I managed to pull the truck out onto the dark, winding mountain road, with Kelly next to me in the passenger seat, having absolutely no idea exactly where I was or where to go.  As I drove, Kelly alternately screamed obscenities at me, spit at me, and pummeled the right side of my body with slaps and punches.  “IF YOUR DAD WERE ALIVE, HE’D KICK YOUR FUCKING ASS FOR BEING SUCH A CUNT!” he screamed at me.

My dignity was gone.  Any sense of safety or security I might have had was gone.  My sense of my ability to protect my son was being frayed.  And now, I was being robbed of my right – my need – to grieve my dad – the one person who had seen the best in me.  I wanted to die, I truly wanted to die.  The pain was just too much.  I wanted to close my eyes and make this horrific nightmare end, and never wake up.

The towering pines of the forest whizzed by us as I drove with no destination in mind.  Should I just make the several-hour drive home?  I didn’t even know where we were or what direction we were heading in.  Eventually a small roadside motel revealed itself.  I pulled in and went inside.  No vacancies.  I was overcome by an impotence and hopelessness that threatened to take away the last shreds of self-preservation I had.  Crying, I got back in the truck and continued on down the road.

After awhile, we came upon another motel.  Yes, they had a room available.  Ignoring Kelly, I opened the back door to take Kevin out of his car seat.  Kelly was on me in a flash, trying to pull Kevin from my arms.  A physical struggle over the baby ensued, till I was knocked to the ground with Kevin in my arms.  I struggled to my feet and went to the motel office to check us in.  “Are you alright?” the woman at the desk asked me.  Clearly she had seen the physical altercation out in the parking lot. “Yes, I’m fine,” I struggled to say between sobs.  “My dad died, and my husband is very distraught.  We just need a room.”  There I was, making excuses for him, handing what should have been my right to grieve my father over to him.  Even now, all these years later, when I think back on that, I am filled with shame, and I have this wish so strong inside me that it’s a physical feeling, a wish that I could go back and ask that woman to call the police and have Kelly thrown in jail for battering me.

But that’s not what happened.  Who can blame the woman for not wanting to get involved?  Easier to ignore the red sting of palm prints on my face and accept the excuses I gave her.  We checked into a room where I curled myself around Kevin in one of the beds, wondering how I had ended up here and how I could possibly survive and make my way out of this Hell.

I woke up to sunlight streaming through the window.  Panicked, I realized Kevin was not in bed with me.  I sprung up and looked about the small, shabby motel room.  The door opened and Kelly walked in, announcing brusquely, “Kevin’s in the truck.  You have five minutes to get your ass out there or we’re leaving without you.”  Here came the tears again, and the quiet fury eating away at my insides.  What could I do?  He had my son.

We had left and I had not said goodbye to anyone.  Later I would give some vague story about an emergency at home, and when asked if I knew anything about the scene at the motel with the cops and people screaming and yelling, I would feign ignorance.  No, I didn’t hear anything.  I have no idea.  I wonder what it could have been.

The drive home was mostly silent, except for one gas/restroom stop during which Kelly laid into me and told me, “I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to forgive you for this.”

Mostly silent weeks followed, until I finally begged him to forgive me.  It was all my fault.  There was nothing wrong with him going out the night of my dad’s funeral to raise a few glasses in my dad’s honor.  What right did I have to try to deprive him of that?  I was just a bitch, a control freak.  It was all my fault, that whole terrible, terrible night.  I brought it all on myself.

Please forgive me.  I’m sorry, so sorry.  Please.

In the darkest part of my heart, I knew it wasn’t true, it wasn’t my fault, and hatred burned inside of me – hatred of him for making my life a living Hell, and hatred of myself for allowing him to.  Begging for forgiveness, however, was the only way I could hope he might stop punishing me.

Roughly six months later, Kelly would be dead from a drug overdose, and I would finally be free of him.

That’s not my life anymore.  But scraps of shame and bruises on my heart remain. The memories still haunt me.

Play Ball!

Little League Spring Season 2012 is officially in full swing as of yesterday.  Joey is thrilled to be back in the field.

This season he’s moved up to the Double A division, the first year in which standings matter – so it’s becoming more competitive.  Michael is managing/coaching his team, and I’m sharing team mom duties with another mom – which basically means I get to organize parties and send out harassing emails hitting families up for money.

Joey has come so far!  I remember like it was yesterday how much I sweated over his getting a hit when he played in the Rookie division a couple years ago, because I wanted him to taste success at something he cares so much about.  His confidence and skill level have both grown, and it’s just really wonderful to watch him doing something he has so much passion for.

Yes, it’s all about the kids having fun . . . but we kicked our opponents butts yesterday, 14 – 5.

It’s going to be a great season!

24 Weeks

I am now 24 weeks pregnant with this little chica.  How time flies.

 

I feel really good.  Tired, yes, but so far not overly so, and other than that, just really good.  I’ve always loved being pregnant (aside from the usual complaints of discomfort), and this time is no different.

It surprises even me.  I thought that at my advanced age, this would just be really hard.  But so far, it’s not.  And I thought I’d spend the entire time filled with worry and anxiety, but I actually feel pretty Zen about the whole thing.  I don’t know where this sense of peace comes from, since by nature I’m a worrier, a stress case. There are practical things to work out, and sometimes I worry about this little girl’s place in our family – the other three girls are all so close in age and such a unit; this one will be so much younger than them, so will she be left out?  And what will it be like for Finn to have a younger sibling who will (presumably) eventually pass him up developmentally? – but for the most part I feel really at peace with everything.  We will take it as it comes.

This is a gift, and I feel so lucky.

Not Taking It Back

Apparently, a few people who got their hands on my post from the other day, Better Off Dead, took it completely at face value and didn’t understand that I was using sarcasm and dark humor to get a point across.  As of this writing, that post has been viewed 964 times; it’s been linked to and shared on Facebook, which I think is super cool, because my intention was to make an impact.  I guess my oversight was in assuming that everyone who read it would get it (and the vast majority do appear to have gotten it, thank goodness).  I thought the juxtaposition of the photos, plainly showing how much Finn is valued by our family, with the stinging words I wrote would get across a certain point: that I am outraged and appalled that new prenatal tests are being developed and savvily marketed in order to boost the bottom line for the companies that develop and manufacture them – and at what cost?  The cost of humanity.  The cost of human life.

I tried to make this point by speaking from a point of view that I assume those companies would have me speak: I should have undergone prenatal screening; my son was a mistake; this all could have been avoided.  Isn’t that what these companies, and even the medical community who urge their pregnant patients to undergo these tests, want us to think?  Or do you think they’re acting out of some sense of compassion – that they just want to offer families a chance to be prepared, and to that end, they have every intention of providing accurate, well-rounded, up-to-date information about what it actually means to have Down syndrome?

I thought that by writing an outrageous post, people would get how outrageous the whole thing is, and how appalled we should all be at the way financial gain now trumps humanity.

I’ve written before about prenatal screenings, and abortion, and my feelings on those issues: I’m not against prenatal screenings per se, just the apparent intent behind them and the way they are generally handled.  I remain staunchly pro-choice, but I don’t believe a real choice is being made if full, accurate information isn’t being provided.  Time and time again I’ve read that somewhere in the neighborhood of 90% of prenatally diagnosed cases of Down syndrome end in termination of the pregnancy.  What does that mean?  It means that women and families are still being fed ugly, worst-case scenario, outdated information about Down syndrome.  That’s not providing an opportunity for real choice.

In hindsight, I can sort of see how if that post was the first and only glimpse someone got of me and my blog, it might not sit well with them.  I sort of get that.  I’m still taken aback that just a little bit deeper of a look wouldn’t reveal it for what it was.  And if you take even a short little trip around my blog, you can see that I am sarcastic.  I’m not your garden-variety Down syndrome blogger; I’m atheist, I use swear words, I use sarcasm, I rant, and I generally get my hands dirty.  Sometimes I talk about things that make some people uncomfortable.  I make no apologies.  Underneath it all, my son means everything to me, just as all of my children do.  And I will continue to fight tirelessly to have his place in the world respected.

Better Off Dead

It’s taken all this time, but I finally see the light – and I want to offer my deepest apologies to my family and society for allowing my head to be clouded by silly emotions like motherly love for so long, and my most heartfelt thanks to companies like Sequenom and Verinata Health for working so hard to stay on the cutting edge of technology and develop state of the art prenatal screenings that make it easier than ever to determine as soon as possible if a pregnant woman is carrying an imperfect fetus.  It was this article that finally got through to me how important it is for every woman – but especially those deemed high risk by their health care providers (even if that “high risk” is based only on statistics and not actual subjective information) – to take advantage of the advances in “preventative” medicine these companies have developed for us, and to find out if she’s carrying a baby with a chromosomal abnormality as soon as possible so that companies like Sequenom and Verinata Health can improve their profit margins, and the “economic impact” of allowing these defective babies to be born can be mitigated.  And we all know what I mean by “mitigate.”  Yes, abortion of a fetus with a “severe developmental disability” like Down syndrome is unpleasant to think about, so just try to go to your happy place.  Anyway, let’s face facts: better to do it early before the mother has a chance to get attached, and besides, what’s the alternative?  To allow the world to be overrun by a bunch of retards?

I know I never asked for better, earlier, more accurate prenatal tests to be developed, and as far as I know, none of the women I’ve ever known has demanded it either.  But these companies and the medical community are actually doing us a favor.  They know what’s best for us.  What are we but a bunch of incubators of potential problems, and filled with all kinds of frivolous emotions to boot?

I was being selfish when I declined prenatal screenings.  It was silly to see that tiny little heart winking away at me on the ultrasound screen at eight weeks pregnant and to think of that little creature as human, as my future son or daughter.  It was extremely shortsighted of me to decide that I would take and love whatever baby sprung from my womb, because if we were in a position to have a baby, then we were in a position to have any baby.

How was I to know I would end up with this?

And to think I could have avoided all those struggles with breastfeeding!  What was I thinking, that all that time and effort would pay off?  And for what?  A walking, breathing burden.  I didn’t realize he was a burden . . . if only this article had been published sooner!  If only these tests, these wonderful tests with their snazzy marketing campaigns, had been available four years ago!  Of course, even then there was amnio and CVS . . . what was I thinking?  Selfish.  And now I have to pay the price – my whole family has to pay the price.

Okay, so maybe our minds and hearts have been broadened by this little boy.  Maybe my other kids and my husband and I have gained compassion for all humankind and learned how to embrace diversity.  So what?  Such small potatoes compared to the profits companies like Sequenom and Verinata Health could have made off of us, and the immeasurable cost to society Finn will have over his pathetic lifetime.  I mean, gosh!  We all know how important it is to make a buck and save a buck – especially in today’s economy!  If we all dig down deep, we can all see that the bottom line really is more important than human life – especially imperfect human life.

Yeah, totally a life not worth living.