Babies are not owed

I am a part of a few parenting groups on FB, some of which are super drama and others which are full of thoughtful, kind and nuanced conversation. I enjoy them for a variety of reasons and have recently worked hard to set some limits with myself to ensure my participation and engagement are, you know, not rage inducing. I’ve been mostly successful.

This morning, a mom posted in one of these groups (my personal fave) about an issue she was experiencing. She is parenting two small children and her husband is un/under-employed and not super helpful with parenting or life-keeping. She is also pregnant again, unexpectedly, and was soliciting information and advice about termination of the pregnancy.

I want to say, first and foremost, that I was pleasantly shocked at how kind, supportive and generally not shitty the conversation was overall. I just want that out there, for the record.

But what I DID read was the occasional comment about how maybe she should consider adoption “because so many people struggle to have children.” One woman even talked about her personal struggles with IVF and why that experience made her feel strongly that there are so many people who WANT to be parents . . .

 

Which is true. It’s so true. There are SO many people who want to be parents and who are struggling mightily with the soul crushing grief that becoming a parent is not happening how or when they wanted, or sometimes at all. I am not talking to clueless people here, I know. Y’all know so deeply – to the core of who you are – how deep the ache to become a parent is, and the shocking number of us who struggle with this.

But that struggle – and the physical stress it caused, the lengths it led me to undergo in pursuit of a baby – all of that only reinforced for me that abortion should be legal, accessible, and not judged. It also did not make me feel like my infertility should be a reason to shame or persuade anyone to continue a pregnancy when that is not absolutely what they want to do.

I felt a lot of rage, reading these comments, because I felt weirdly implicated by them. Because there is a really strange feeling I get from these comments, which seem to be more about the feelings those of us who struggled to become parents get about those who DON’T struggle – the jealousy, the envy. And while I am of the personal opinion that feelings are things and all of them are legitimate, that doesn’t mean we get to always voice our opinions, or that other people can’t critique them.

So yes, it’s fair and ok to be jealous of other’s getting pregnant easily. What feels NOT RIGHT, in no uncertain terms to me, is to then project that envy on to someone who is considering termination, to remind them that so many people CAN’T get pregnant so maybe they should consider that when making a decision about themselves?

No one is owed children. It doesn’t matter how good or right, how loving and kind we would be. Children are not cookies given for good behavior, or gold star awards for the best people. The idea that someone would guilt another person into carrying a pregnancy just because they can’t makes me feel kind of ill.

This is all not to say that adoption isn’t an amazing, incredible thing, or that adoption shouldn’t be more talked about and less harshly judged. (I am fully aware that folks who place children for adoption are often shamed and judged by friends and family for making this decision) It just means that when someone is considering termination and asking for thoughts about termination, it’s not fair to remind them of how “lucky” they are to get to be pregnant and then ask them to consider doing something like placing a child for adoption – a beautiful gift and a terribly difficult decision to make.

We should all have access to whatever we need to make the best decisions about our own bodies and when, how and if we become parents. The things I need will differ from others, based on my desires, my body, my experience. What someone else needs shouldn’t be dictated by what I have or don’t have. If pregnancy was a sandwich – if I didn’t want my PBJ I could hand it over to you, who does – maybe this would be a different conversation. But knowing the intense experiences, physically, that I went through trying to get and then being pregnant, I find it vile that someone would effectively request that someone else have that experience against their will, simply because they cannot.

LGBT History Month – Featured Families: The Gayby Project.

I was so honored to be asked to Participate in LesBeMums LGBT History project! Thanks for including me, and for coming up with amazing ways to showcase and support one another! ❤

I have followed the ladies from The Gayby Project for a long time. They’re not only one of my favourite favourite bloggers, but we actually shared our bump time; with our beautiful sons only …

Source: LGBT History Month – Featured Families: The Gayby Project.

Ugh. I wrote a long,  eloquent post and then with the slip of a finger,  deleted it entirely.  I don’t have the energy to recreate it,  but here are the highlights:

*I have a second (third? ) interview with PP in Olympia next Monday,  so L, Ansel and I are headed to the great northwest to see what we think of the place.  I’m excited and also freaking the fuck out.  Um, we really might be moving? !?

*L won a super big deal award at the conference last week,  an innovative teaching award from the mother fucking Kennedy Center!  This + finding out that another school near olympia,  where the chair is buddies with one of L’s biggest fans is also hiring is really great news!!

*One if my best friends from HS was in town this weekend to celebrate his sons 1st birthday with family,  so we got to hang out. We’ve been friends for 20 years and have only lived in the same state for 5 of those,  but we continue to pick up right where we left off. Having babies around the same age feels so special to me.  He and his family live in Portland,  do that’s another vote for the PacNW.

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*I managed to give myself a second degree burn by resting my arm on the oven door and it hurts REALLY bad.

*Ansel said “bye bye” clear as day at least 3 times last week,  but it’s unpredictable in delivery which is awesome but means a lot of people don’t believe me.  He also stood unassisted for a full minute,  dances like crazy, shakes his head no,  and signs for milk.  All new and exciting skills mastered in the last week. I feel like his development just took off and he is acquiring new things daily.  Its so exciting. Oh yeah,  pointing. He just started pointing too!

*I tried to give up the snoogle, but I can’t.  Will I ever sleep without it?

*I am experimenting with ansel’s bedtime routine.  So far,  no big wins,  no huge failures.  He seems to kind of sleep the same,  regardless of what we put him in or lay him in.  He did nap for almost two hours,  alone in his crib,  today, allowing me to get so much work done. 

Ok,  those are your Cliff’s notes.  The first post was better but this will just have to do. 

Don’t let the metaphor become the narrative

So, as I mentioned, La is effectively off duty this week due to a work conference, leaving me to be a mostly solo parent (although, I should point out that I am grateful she is still here in some respects, as it’s saved me in a couple of respects) . . .I was going to write a post about how Monday night might have proven my assertion about wanting to be a SAHM incorrect, but then Tuesday happened and it was no longer a wry story rife with symbolism.

Sucks when life gets in the way of your cleverly crafted anecdotes.

But, still worth mentioning that Monday night was RUFF.

After picking A up from the sitter and driving him, crying, back home through traffic (he usually gets picked up earlier in the day even on days when he is at the sitter, so he was generally uphappy) I walked in the house to find that two of the three dogs had busted down the baby gate and found a box of donut holes left on the counter and, of course, had eaten them all. Since the donut holes had been a potluck contribution and not my personal stash, I tried to think through A) how many of them were chocolate B)how many, in total, had been left and C) what the possible impact on a 70 Lb bulldog and a 50 lb spaniel was likely to be in that scenario. I opted for ‘wait and see’ rather than immediate freak out.

I set A down to change my clothes and he immediately lost his shit. It was clear that whatever I did, I would be doing it with Ansel in my arms or strapped to me. I wanna give a shout out to my ring sling at this point, which allowed me to cook a meal not totally devoid of nutritional value – a real feat considering we hadn’t been grocery shopping in a week and a half – while wearing my wiggly 11 month old. Once dinner was ready, I put A in his seat and put some food in front of him, then got my plat ready.

The kid took 1 bite and then projectile vomited once . . .twice . . .three times, all over himself (of course), me (well, duh) and ALL THREE DOGS. Whatever else may be said of my son, it will not be that he doesn’t have great aim. I sat for a moment, trying to decide what to do first – wipe the puke off the bulldog’s back? Unbuckle Ansel from the high chair? Strip myself naked? But then he started wailing again, which forced the issue.

I took him into the bathroom to start getting his bath/shower (a large rubbermaid tub in the shower, since we have no bathtub in our house) ready, piling his pukey clothes in a corner, all the while knowing full well that the dogs were doing the clean up in the kitchen, if you know what I mean. I put him in his tub, and he cried more. So, I took my clothes off and got in the shower with him, trying to get us both clean while holding him. He wouldn’t even let me put him down to put my underwear on once out of the shower, so my look that night was a short robe and pukey half wet hair.

I was finally able to get him in his pajamas and, though it took a VERY long time, he did finally fall asleep. I went back for shower #2, to fully wash the puke out of my hair, and finally arrived back at the scene of the crime. I put the high chair cover, the clothes, and a rug in the washing machine, mopped the floor and wiped the table down. I looked over at my dinner, forgotten, and realized I had no desire to eat it. I opted for a half a pint of ice cream and a glass of reisling. And my own tears.

So, that was Monday.

Yesterday, I decided to take a comp day rather than even attempt to ‘work’, given my harrowing evening and knowing I wasn’t going to get any reprieve.

But, despite Monday feeling like a lesson from the Universe to be careful what you wish for, Tuesday was a pretty stellar stay at home mom day. We got up and made coffee, and played with some toys. We got dressed and did laundry, folded diapers and cleaned up the kitchen, went to the grocery store and the bank, came back home and did more laundry, reorganized some shelves in the bedroom to be more baby friendly/safe, vacuumed, dusted, and played some more. I enjoyed my day, got to dance with Ansel, and got some shit done.

And it wasn’t that yesterday proved that staying home would work/be awesome/not suck, or that it erased Monday night in all it’s vomit filled glory, it just reminded me that shit can be hard or good no matter what the logistics are.

I’m reminded of a really lovely thing that my best friend’s dad once told me: “Don’t let the metaphor become the narrative, Andie.” Don’t get so caught up in what it all means that you forget about the actual story. It doesn’t always mean something. In fact, it usually doesn’t.

Working Mama blues

It super sucked to go back to work in June, despite loving my job and my co workers and generally enjoying adulty type conversation. It got easier with each day, and now mostly, I take it as a matter of course and only feel the sting when something disrupts my regular schedule and time with Ansel.

I think part of what has cushioned the blow for me is knowing that La is with him much of the time when I’m not. Although this happens because of otherwise undesireable circumstances (see previous post) and is a bit of a wash when it comes to the paying for childcare issue, it definitely makes it a bit easier to know he’s with his other mom. (I’ll let La weigh in on her experience as a part time stay at home dandy, which is not her ideal employment scenario)

This week, La is hosting an academic conference at her school, so she’s working every day and Ansel is at the sitter more frequently than normal. Our sitter is a friend from my badass church, and is an incredible revolutionary latina, so . . .basically she’s amazing. I couldn’t have chosen a better person to watch my kid when I’m not around.

Lately, I’ve been missing Ansel HARD in the middle of the work day, thinking about how I only get an hour or so with him in the evening, and about an hour in the morning – and both times often involve other necessary things like making dinner or eating breakfast or getting ready for the day. I’m grateful to have Tuesdays, when I ‘work’ from home and get to spend some more quality time with him, and I can’t imagine giving it up (although I may very well have to, regardless of what happens with jobs and moving.)

A little while ago, our baby sitter sent me a text and told me Ansel waved and said “bye bye” – multiple times! And I got so excited I ran to the office next door to mine . . .and then a few minutes later I felt a heavy sadness in my heart. I guess  I’ve been lucky that most of his other milestones have happened on (or near) my watch, and I should’ve expected this earlier. But, it’s still a bummer. On the upside, I did work with him all weekend on waving, and I said “bye bye” (actually, buh bye!) every time, so it’s nice to know my hard work paid off?

The thing is, La hates being the (mostly) stay at home parent. I (think) I would love it. It’s tough to be in the situation of not having that choice available because of the circumstances of our jobs. And maybe I only think I would want to be a stay at home parent because its not my reality?

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P.S. – Ansel will be 11 months old on Wednesday. What?!?

 

Daydreaming

I got a call on Tuesday morning from the Planned Parenthood in Seattle/Olympia, and I have an interview (second? first? unclear.) next Friday afternoon. So I guess my direct statement about wanting more money didn’t automatically disqualify me from the running.

I half considered flying out there for the interview, but L is hosting a conference at her school this coming week and it would have been super complicated to drum up childcare AND she’s already going to be super exhausted and they offered to do it via go to meeting so . . . I guess I’m hoping for a third interview so I can go investigate Olympia before I am faced with possibly making a decision about moving to this place?

Another vote for a longer process is that L submitted an app for a full time theater faculty position to the community college there and they sent an e-mail letting her know she’d hear either way within a month. My priority remains finding her a great job, so it would be ideal to be able to hold off on any decisions until we know at least if she gets an interview at this school.

I am definitely letting my day dreams run a little wild though . . .so yes, I am looking at homes for sale in the area. And imagining not sitting in a pool of my own sweat in 100+ degree weather in the summer or unburying myself from feet of snow in the winter. (Save the lack of sunshine reminders for another day, ok?) I’m dreaming of living in the place where Sleater-Kinney was born, Kimya Dawson still lives, and Nikki McClure makes art.

So, I’m a little distracted, you know?

In other news, Ansel’s top teething are fully cut through now, so I am excited about his new smile getting very toothy in the near future. Sleep wise, it wavers between ok and fucking terrible, but I’m still in the wait it out phase. I’m feeling a little guilt (?) about this since so many of you are successfully using the Happy Sleeper or other techniques. I can’t say why exactly, but I’m just not in a place where that feels necessary for us . . .

This experience (my own weird guilt/shame about NOT doing any sleep training) makes me think a lot about how we all experience parenting and the ‘mommy wars’ and general parenting judgement. It seems like A) no matter where you land on any number of ‘controversial’ issues, you end up feeling like an odd duck out in some conversation or another and B) The whole ‘mommy wars’ thing is mostly just a function of sexism, keeping all of us angry at one another about stupid shit like breastfeeding vs. formula instead of real institutional crap like a lack of paid leave or high quality subsidized childcare. But I still feel it so deeply. Ugh. I mean, obviously you also have to factor in the presence of social media and how that makes us all hyper aware of one another’s choices, and the curating of our best selves on the internet and how that impacts our impressions about ourselves and others. But seriously, why do I feel like maybe y’all are judging me for NOT sleep training Ansel when I actually know that you are far too worried about being judged yourself to have any time to judge me? STUPID.

 

Here’s a cute picture of Ansel on a plastic moped to cleanse the palette:

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We are hard at work getting a cute but not overwhelmingly pinteresty first birthday party ready! We decided to rent a community room at a rec center, since our house is too small to host anything, and Ansel loooooves swimming. So, the room has been booked and we sent out e-vites (we’re springing for paper thank you cards instead of invites), I practiced my cake pop technique at our super bowl party (hellloooo World Champions!!) and we’ve decided on some low key decorations! This is a far cry from my cousin, who has historically rented cotton candy machines and employed clowns and basically created a small carnival out of her son’s birthday parties, but I’m happy with it.

That’s kind of the happs around here . . .it’s a very quiet day at work with very little on my to do list, and I’m considering skipping out early . . .it’s in the high 60’s here this week, which probably won’t last for long, so it seems like I ought to take advantage of it!

White People: Shut Up About Beyoncé

Brilliant.

Bitter Gertrude

After the release of her game-changing, brilliant video, Formation, and the stir her Superbowl halftime show caused with dancers dressed like Black Panthers, Beyoncé is blowing up everyone’s feeds everywhere. And one thing I am shocked/notshocked to see is white outrage about both.

Let me begin by saying that I’m not a Beyoncé fan. I’m not a fan of any of the pop divas. I don’t have anything against them; it’s just not music that interests me. So Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Madonna, Mariah, Adele, I apologize, but I’m sure you and your massive success could not possibly care less that I would rather be listening to punk or classical. The only reason I’m pointing this out is to make sure you know I’m not a Beyoncé fan. This is not about defending a beloved star.

Let me tell you what it IS about.

The vast majority of Black people…

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Uprooting

I have lived my entire life in a 50 mile radius.

Really.

I was born in a suburb of Denver (the same suburb where my mom was born and grew up), moved to Boulder for college, moved back to Denver afterwards, and have stayed put for the last 12 years.

I like Colorado. It’s beautiful here, and sunny more days than not. It can snow 2 feet and then get melted by 60 degree sunshine. People wear jeans everywhere. There are more microbreweries per capita than anywhere else in the world. And Denver is a medium sized city with art museums and theaters, good restaurants and coffee shops and bars, but it’s still small enough that you don’t get too lost in the bustle.

And I’ve never had a good reason to leave. I thought about going away for college, but the idea of amassing even more debt than I needed to just to leave a state I love didn’t make sense. And by the time college was over, I had a job and friends and nothing pulling me to leave.

But here we are, with the idea of moving becoming steadily more real with each passing day. I’m excited about the idea, and totally terrified. Things here feel stuck, but they are at the very least, predictable. And they are not, by any stretch, BAD. They just aren’t great.

The biggest issue is L’s job. She’s adjunct faculty at a community college here, where she teaches more than a full load, but makes about half the annual salary of a full time professor, which calculates to an hourly wage of less than minimum wage. There are additional fun perks like a lack of job security, no benefits, no pay over breaks, and a general lack of respect from the institution. She’s sunk 6+ years into a job she was told would eventually pay off and become full time. It hasn’t. She’s applied for so many full time faculty positions over the last 4 years – too many to count. But, as is the case in most fields, you usually need to know someone to stand out in a sea of resumes.

She’s decided that after this semester, she needs to be done. She needs to be done being mistreated, making a less than living wage, being at the whim of a full time faculty who hates teaching and is stepping on whoever he can to get to the next rung of academia. I support her in this, because while I think loving your job is more valuable than money, you have to love your job for that equation to make sense. Working somewhere you feel taken advantage of AND making a paltry wage isn’t ok (actually, neither are ‘ok’ but we all make choices and sometimes the system we live in forces us to do crappy things.)

But, what now?

I don’t make enough money for us to survive on my income alone, at least not with our current expenses. I make a decent salary for the field I’m in, but thanks to student loan debt and, most unfortunate, a fair amount of credit card debt, we don’t have a lot of wiggle room. So while I’d love to be able to tell L to just not worry and find something that’s a good fit, I can’t do that.

Moving feels like a possible solution. Why?

Well, thanks (no thanks?) to a very booming economy and what can only be called a ‘housing bubble’ in the Denver metro area (for real, our housing market is more expensive than almost anywhere in the country, with the exception of the bay area in California) the house we bought 3 1/2 years ago for $160K is now valued at close to $100 thousand more – but it’s not likely to STAY that way. This means that we could, potentially, sell the home we own in Denver, make enough money to pay off the credit card debt we have, and then be able to afford a bigger house in another part of the country. This doesn’t work, of course, if we stay in Colorado, since our home has increased in value but so has every other property.

And this may or may not be compelling enough reason on its own to leave, and while it isn’t the only reason, per se – it is the only tangible and clear one. The others are much more ephemeral – the idea that in a new place is a fresh start, maybe more opportunities for L, places she’s not burned out working. . . but there isn’t anything obvious.

It’s getting a little more REAL though, for a few reasons:

  1. As I’ve mentioned, one of our BFF’s (and Ansel’s god mother) is moving to Minneapolis because she was promoted to executive director of her organization. We adore her, Ansel adores her, an Minneapolis is super queer (also super cold but, ignoring that for now) and yes, we would totally follow her out there. But also, L just submitted an app for a dreamy job at a dreamy theater and one of her friends (who is legit a celeb in the theater world. Like, y’all might know who she is even if you aren’t in the theater world) and who is very much a BIG DEAL to this theater is putting in a good word and you know, it could totally happen. So, Minneapolis . . .
  2. The last week a colleague of mine posted a job on FB that is, for all intents and purposes, the exact job I have now (as in, same federal funding stream, just a different site) but in the Seattle/Olympia area. I applied because, why not? And this morning I had a phone screening for the job. I feel very clear that I nailed it (how could I not have?) but they did tell me the likely salary range for the position (and my experience) is $2-3K less per year than I currently make. That’s only about $150/month difference (our CC debt bills are higher than that) but it feels hard to justify moving across the country for the same job I do now and a (very small) pay cut. And of course, I do not have the job yet so I really shouldn’t start counting chickens just yet, but . . .In other good news, L is applying for a faculty position that is also in Olympia so maybe that will happen too?

 

It all just feels big. And confusing. And not at all what I am used to, which is consistency and safety and DENVER. So, I’m confused. And I think I am ready to take a leap into the unknown. Funny that I waited until the time when most people ‘settle down’ to start considering pulling up roots.

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Circa 2004 with one of my besties who now lives in Seattle. (this was my bike punk phase)