Sunday, November 16, 2014

Why Can't I Be a Feminist Too?

Let's do a little exercise. Just indulge me. Read the following word and phrases and ask yourself how each word makes you feel.

Feminism

The History of Feminism

The Modern Feminist Movement

Thanks readers. Now think about those feelings and keep them to yourself or comment below. The following are my own feelings.

Truth be told, the word "feminism" makes me kind of uncomfortable. Mostly because I don't know how to feel. My following feelings on the two phrases should help you understand why.

The History of Feminism: Well, this makes me feel pretty proud to be a woman. It makes me think of the suffragettes fighting for their right to vote and to have the same privileges as men. It makes me think of women throughout the 20th century who refused to be put in the category of "housewife" simply because of their gender. This phrase makes me feel like we've come a long way, and I'm so grateful. It's a pretty happy feeling.

The Modern Feminist Movement: Well, this one is not so happy. To be honest, it makes me think about angry women wanting to be treated like men. And I don't mean politically--I mean in almost every respect. It makes me think of women who say that they are proud of their female bodies, but don't want to take all the responsibilities of having them. The feeling is sad and frustrating because with these ideas of Modern Feminism, is a feeling of being left out.

I know many, of not most feminists aren't crazy, angry women... some are, but of course there were also plenty of those when the Western Feminist movement first started. I'm just telling you the picture that comes to my head.

I know, too, that pro-abortion and things like refusing to have men open doors for you is not all that modern feminism consists of. But, I feel like it is at least a fairly big part. Maybe I'm wrong, but let's say I'm right.

If I'm right, then that means I'm not a feminist. While I support women's rights for equal political and economic participation (among others), because of a few things I disagree on with modern feminists, I am kicked out of the club. Because I believe abortion is wrong. Because I like it when my husband opens the door for me. Because I don't think it makes sense for women to compete in most sports directly with men [Note: not the same as compete in the same sports as men do] because like it or not, our bodies ARE different. 

Can't a feminist like a little baking too? :)
And, what's more--and perhaps the most damaging to my feminist counterparts--I am a Stay At Home Mom (STAHM). That's right--I actually CHOOSE to stay home with my children every day. I clean the house and I cook dinners. I change diapers  and soothe two sometimes very fussy girls all day. There are weeks were I go days without leaving the house (okay...that's kind of embarrassing...don't judge!). I do the laundry--the closest my husband ever gets to helping is when I beg him to retrieve a load from the dryer. He works all day--achieving tangible goals--while I run around at home all day doing things like cooking meals and making up crafts and things for my two year old to entertain herself with.

I'm aware that according to the above description, I do not fit the "modern feminist" role. And that's why not being able to proudly call myself a "feminist" really bothers me sometimes.

Not because I want to go out picketing for my right to work because I'm oppressed by male authority figures, but because I am a strong woman too and I deserve just as much respect in my position as a woman who decides to work does. I may not work full-time, but I have a four-year degree and try to continue to educate myself. I am a 100% equal partner with my husband in all of our decisions. I'm just as smart and capable of critical thinking as most men and women with my same educational background are. Just because I choose to stay at home with my children doesn't mean I'm oppressed, brainwashed, or stupid. My husband has always said the choice to work outside the home is completely up to me. But staying home is a choice I made that is right for me and my family.

Now, all that said, I should acknowledge that in the past year or two I have seen some shifting in the modern feminist movement. Thanks to talks like Emma Watsons' at a HeForShe campaign event and really incredible mommy bloggers, we're making some progress. I guess I just wish it would move faster.

My daughter can be strong even in a pink leotard.
You see, this topic is especially important to me not just for myself, but for my daughters too. Despite whatever feminism turns into in the future, I want my daughters to know they can be whatever they want. If Eleanor wants to be an astronaut, or a stay at home mom, or ballerina, or a marketing professional my reaction will be the same: "You go girl. You be what you want to be.You do what you were meant to do. "

Because shouldn't that really be the message of feminism? We are capable of doing just about anything, so let's stand up for the right to do what we want--no matter what it is.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Memory: Eleanor walking

I found this old blog post that I never posted for some reason. It was fun reading though, and I figured it would make a good memory post :)

Ellie walked tonight. Before this we've seen her take a couple steps here and there when she didn't think we noticed. But tonight was the real deal. Full on walkage! It almost made me cry for a second. But mostly laugh and smile.

She's getting so big which makes me SO EXCITED but sad at the same time. I just want her to stay my little baby! She is my true joy, I can tell you that much. We are so lucky to have her--she brightens up our lives like no one else could.

Mark and I were arguing the other day about Eleanor's upcoming birthday. I wanted to have a big party, he wanted it to just be us three. I think that sounds boring, he thinks it sounds... well, cheaper. We later came to a good compromise, but that night while we were arguing is when Ellie decided to really walk. She's taken a couple of steps before (really it's been basically us pushing her across the floor to each other), but this time it was like five whole steps! Out of nowhere! It calmed us both down immediately and we were SO excited--as only her parents could be. The videos are up on facebook now and the funny thing is that ever since then she hasn't really wanted to walk again. I think it's because she's not around other kids her size walking enough. I don't know.

The point is, she's such a blessing to have. If ever things get a little tense, it's easy to look at her cute, squinty, smile and realize whatever it is isn't that important. Granted, sometimes her whines can heighten the tension, but for the most part she's brought a new peace and love and joy in our home that is totally irreplaceable.

video
Here is another video I found of Ellie trying peas for the first time... unrelated to her walking, but hilarious!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Crying Toddlers; A Thank You to Parents

I just feel like I need to say publicly (well, you know, as public as this blog is...which isn't all that public) that I really appreciate seeing other kids cry.

Yeah, let me explain:

As a mom, I guess I can be a little hard on myself at times. All mothers are. And, as much as I try to resist--I always end up playing the comparison game. Everyone hates that game, but no one seems to have figured out a way to stop playing.

So, when my two-year old starts screaming and crying in public, one of my first thoughts is usually, "No--really, she's not a brat! She's just a two year old! Don't judge my mothering!!"

I know, I know....pathetic. But, it's the truth.

So, when I see other kids scream and cry in public and I watch the mom and/or dad's face plummet with humiliation and frustration, I have to give a little smile their way. First of all, because I find that little, understanding smile encouraging. But mostly, I smile as a thank you. Thank you for making me feel normal. Thank you for helping me know that by nature toddlers are just fussy human beings. Their emotions are a roller coaster we can't get off of. It's not just my daughter that has the occasional desire to reek havoc on the ears of everyone in the grocery store--there are other toddlers with the same thing goin' on. I know, because I've heard them. Who hasn't?


So again, THANK YOU all you parents out there with sweet kids that just don't know how to control all their emotions yet. Thank you for dealing with their public bouts of rage and inconsolable sorrow--even though I know it can feel hard, humiliating, and sometimes like you want to punch a hole in the wall. Thank you, because I have a little one just like yours, and it's nice to know we're all in the same boat--trying as best we can to raise good kids. THANK YOU for making me feel better about myself....maybe that's not such a great comfort to you in the midst of the battle of tears, but I thank you all the same!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Birth Story, Sophie Marie

Finally ready to write out my birth story for baby #2--Sophie Marie Ackerman. Now, let's start from the beginning:

As a background, my first baby--Eleanor--was born 24 hours after reaching the hospital, and 5 hours after the epidural.

So, this time around we hadn't gotten insurance yet when I found out I was pregnant. Because we didn't know what kind of insurance we were going to get, I looked at going to a midwife and doing a natural water birth. I went there a few times before we got our insurance all straightened out.

Well, here's the truth--during my first trimester and slightly into my second, I had crazy hormonal issues I think. It was, for some reason or another, harder. Easier physically, but harder emotionally. I was SO scared of having two kids, and even more scared of going all natural. I read TONS of stuff online about all natural births--I did pre-natal yoga at least three times a week and kept as active as I could with how exhausted I always was. Still, I was terrified. I remember finally deciding to get the epidural with Ellie and how marvelous things were after that. It made me nervous for how going all-natural would be with the second.

Well, after we got really great insurance I was still so scared and unsure of everything, I opted for a hospital birth. My sisters have all had natural births, and I know doulas and I've read a lot of the material for going all-natural. I guess that for me, knowing the hard after, and during, births of some "naturalists," I couldn't get over the fear.

So, my decision was to go in just like I had gone in with my first--no expectations of how things would go down. If things went quickly enough, I would go all natural, if not, I would get the epidural.

So, My due date came and went, despite my being almost completely effaced for a whole week prior. But, June 14 (three days after my due date) I started having contractions. It started early in the morning, but I had been having so many braxton hicks, I pretty much ignored them. Until I went to the bathroom and realized my mucus plug come out. It got me excited, but I know it still takes a while for some people after that happens, so I kept chill and went back to lay down. Pretty soon though, I started leaking fluid--my water broke. With Ellie, the nurses broke my water for me, so it was a new experience. It didn't come out all at once, but was basically a steady stream for twenty minutes. I called one of my sweet friends from back home in Kansas to ask for advice. She's a doula and has helped my sisters with their births.

She was great to talk to. If nothing else than to help my confidence level so I could feel like I really did know what was going on with my body. So, because of how long I was in the hospital last time, this time I was determined to wait to go in. I still called the Dr. on call at the clinic I was going to so they would know what was going on, but he told me I could wait until my contractions where about 3-4 minutes apart since we lived so close.

So, from about 10am to 4pm I sat on our coach in a complete trance. I slept in between contractions while Mark occupied Ellie upstairs. The hours went by pretty quickly as I just sat there, completely calm and relaxed. I felt totally confident, familiar with these contractions from two years ago. In fact, these were much better since Ellie's were only 1-2 minutes apart for hours.

At around 3pm my contractions were basically 4 minutes apart. I wanted to wait, though. I was convinced this baby was not coming until 2 or 3 in the morning. Not sure why, I guess I just figured with how long I was in labor with Ellie, that had to be the case.

Then at about 4pm the contractions starting getting more painful than I had ever felt--these were not so familiar. Still I wanted to wait for some reason. But Mark came down to check on me at about 4:30 and it took me about ten minutes to realize my contractions had jumped to 1-2 minutes apart and we had to go to the hospital right away.

I was scared because in my mind I still had a while to go, yet these contractions were SO painful. We got in the car and I started screaming.

Yeah, screaming.

You know those movies with women that go crazy during birth? Suddenly, that was me.

I. Was. Crazy.

We got to the hospital and I held it together right up until we got to the doors to the birthing center. At Riverton Hospital you have to pick up a phone and tell them you're there in order to get in. That's when I started screaming again.

Here's a tip: If you ever really want attention in a hospital, just start screaming and you'll get tons of it. I imagine this rule is generally true in all places, but especially in a hospital.

We barely got in the room before I shouted I wanted an epidural. I had no idea how far along I was, I just knew I wanted the pain to stop.

They called the anesthesiologist while they checked how far along I was. I was an eight in full transition.

For some reason I was in a little shock--I was already that far along?! Then I thought to myself--I could do this. I could actually go all natural.

And then I had a contraction. My next thought was, "What's the POINT?!"

When I tell people my birth story, they're always amazed at the nurses allowing me to even get an epidural when I was so far along. Mark and I both attribute it to the screaming. We're about 98% sure it was because of the screaming.

The anesthesiologist came in and got everything ready waaay faster than my last one when did. Right before he was ready to put the needle in, he told me I would have to stop screaming. In fact, he even said--word for word, "If you scream one more time while I'm putting this in, I'm leaving and you won't get the epidural."

That shut me preeeeetty good.

Right after the epidural. I look horrible, but I felt great
 Actually, I think that was the best thing. If someone had told me I needed to shut up earlier it might have helped. I feel like all the screaming had started out as a way to somehow deal with this unfamiliar pain, and had turned into something that was psyching me out--I was so worked up I felt like I couldn't calm myself down.

So, then the epidural kicked in super fast and the entire room turned from a hurried craze of people running around and giving orders in between screams, to a clam peaceful place--you could almost hear the collective sigh of relief.

Well, about ten minutes after the epidural they told me I was ready to push but wanted me to wait for the Doctor. This is another reason why I wanted the epidural--I know how nervous nurses get delivering babies and how they want to make you wait to push until the Dr. shows up. But I really have no idea how I would have felt if the Dr. was there when I got to the hospital, so I can't say that's the whole reason.

Anyway, I couldn't feel pretty much anything (I told the anesthesiologist in my frenzied state to give me everything he's got!), so I was okay with waiting. I looked at Mark--his relieved face now that I was calm--and I felt so excited. Like I hadn't felt all day! The whole day was spent in deep concentration, and then a short while of freaked out pain. But at that moment I felt like I could actually enjoy what was about to happen--our baby was finally coming! And I felt 100% confident everything was going to go great. Mark and I got to just sit with each other for 10-15 minutes, enjoying this crazy excitement together.

Then the Dr. came in and told me to push. Unlike with Ellie where my epidural had started to ware off a little before I started pushing, this one was so potent I had next to no idea when my contractions were hitting. So, the first push was off, obviously.

So, then they told me when to push and out came her head and half her body. I have never had ANY desire to see my babys' heads crown, but I was actually for some reason so far forward that I could see the whole thing. I have to say, it was actually pretty cool.

By the end of the second--though first legit--push, she was half-way out. We had told the Dr. the gender was a surprise so at that point he looked at her and announced, "I think it looks like a boy!"

But, sure enough, the second push came and she was out....and was obviously a she.

With Eleanor I had spent 30 minutes pushing before she came out. This little one--about 5-10.

She was handed to me right away and I couldn't believe it. We had another girl! Mark and I both cried, of course, and felt like the happiest people on earth all over again.

I tried to nurse right away, but half my body was so numb I couldn't get a good hold on her very well. Still, it didn't matter. She was perfect.

I could go on about the after birth, but that's not near as interesting, and this is already insanely long. Here's one of the best parts I will share: NO STITCHES! None. After I could finally feel everything again, I felt AWESOME. Except for the extra baby skin hanging down (sorry if this is TMI, I just assume guys don't read these kinds of posts), I felt completely back to normal! No big amounts of bleeding, no stitches, and basically no soreness.

And there you have it--the birth story. Now, I have to have a small section in here devoted to my ranting. If you get offended easily, you probably shouldn't read on, because I think I come off kind of mean when I do this--which is why I've tried to cut down on my facebook rants lately, but sometimes I just can't help it.

RANT: I know a lot of people who are dedicated to the "all-natural" birthing methods. For the most part, these people drive me crazy. So many "naturalists" believe that because they go un-medicated, they're births are more beautiful than those who do the opposite. Well, here's what I have to say to that: CHILDBIRTH is beautiful you morons (yeah, I'm not even trying to hold back). And you can't ever tell me that my births were less beautiful than yours--because come on! They were plenty beautiful, alright?!
And a couple other myths I'd like to crush while I'm at it--"epidurals lead to not being able to push which leads to taring and/or other bad things." almost true, but WRONG. Okay, it's true, I couldn't feel when to push, I'll give you that one. But in NO WAY did that cause me any problems. No tares, no complications--and both kids were out SUPER quick. Then there's, "Epidurals stop the labor process and then Doctors make you get c-sections." Sometimes true, but mostly WRONG. If you get an epidural too soon when you're not far enough along in labor, this can happen. But don't get it too soon and chances are, you'll have a nice, peaceful birth with no other medical interventions. IN FACT, studies I've read say there is actually no evidence that people who get epidurals are more likely to get a c-section. It's just naturalist propaganda (Note: the word "propaganda" was meant mostly as a joke....don't take this too seriously).

I could go on and on dispelling all the stupid things I've heard about epidurals. But, I will say this. Going all-natural can be a great thing to do. I do understand some of the fears with getting medicated, but I also understand how MANY epidurals happen every year in the US and how few of them lead to anything bad. I mean, is it possible that I would have had the same peaceful results if I had prepared for a natural birth and gone through with it? Maybe, but maybe NOT. Could I have had no stitches at all this time around and an amazing recovery if I had gone all natural? Maybe, but maybe NOT (that's another myth--that recovery is always better when you go all natural. I've known plenty of women who've gone all natural whose recovery wasn't even close to as good as mine).

If you want to go all natural--good for you. In fact, to all those who have gone all natural, I have to say this: I APPLAUD YOU!!! I could not handle that pain. That is pretty awesome what you've done. But if you ever try to tell me that's the reason you're birth experience was better than mine, I might have to explode all kinds of crazy on you.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Why I won't teach my children to be different

It's okay to be the same--look how cute we are!
Okay, before you start freaking out, I won't teach my children to just "be the same" as everyone else either. At least never on purpose.But lately I think society has taken an interesting turn from valuing sameness to valuing contrast. Nowadays it's all about what you know that other people don't; what you wear that other people don't; what you say that you think other people won't; what you do that you think other people don't. It's like when we were all kids and we couldn't choose the same favorite color as any of our siblings--heaven forbid Clare and I both love the color pink! How will anyone ever see me as more than just Clare's sister if we BOTH like pink?!?! [Note: true story. That's why purple was officially my favorite color growing up. But you can't tell me I'm the only kid that went through that! Please tell me I'm not the only kid who went through that....].

My point is, it's all getting a little ridiculous. I had written various examples to describe just how ridiculous I think it is, but that made this post really long so I cut them out (you're welcome).

I definitely suffered from "gotta be different" syndrome through all my teenage years--basically right up until I turned 20 (I say suffered, but my symptoms were never that severe--at least not comparatively). For instance, I never wore make-up basically until I got married. I'll admit part of it was that after going so long without wearing make-up, the attention I got when I did wear it was embarrassing to me. But, I also liked that it made me different from my peers. It made me feel like I was better than other girls--like I was less vain (ironically enough). I felt like me not wearing make-up was cool because I was saying "no" to a popular trend.

We got engaged in China. Try to beat that hipster!
You see, that's just one of the problems with the different movement--putting yourself above your peers in one way or another. When I talked to others about not wearing make-up, it made me feel like all those other girls didn't even KNOW. The reason that being different feels so good and can be almost addicting, is because it feeds our vanity and pride into big enough traits to block out other big traits like self-doubt and insecurity. Unfortunately, the easiest way to deal with our own feelings of low self-esteem is to make ourselves feel superior to another person--either by putting them down, or raising ourselves above them, or both. Trying too hard to be different, does both. It puts a person up on a pedestal while making others look like idiots.

Now, this is not to say I think being different is bad--that is NOT my point! If someone is different without needing to show it off, they obviously don't fall into the same pitfalls as those trying so hard. It's the intense need to feel different that I think can be so damaging to people. So many people seem to be rejecting the idea of conformity (which I agree definitely has it's own problems) in order to value being different, but in fact both ideals have the SAME main problem: both require basing personality off of everyone BUT the person in question. In other words, whether I'm caught up in trying to fit in to what everyone else is doing, or whether I'm caught up in trying to not be like everyone else, all I'm really doing is giving the power of personal choice to everyone but myself.

I don't want to teach my kids to conform to whatever their peers are doing. But I also don't want to teach them to base their self-worth off of how much they stand out from the crowd. I just want to teach my kids to be themselves--no matter what anyone else is doing or being. Let me reiterate for emphasis:

Be yourself--even if that means being different and even if that means being the same.

Because that is the only way we can truly learn to love ourselves and love all those around us. And what is happiness but the giving and receiving of love? I want my children to live the happiest lives ever known to the human race! And that means teaching them to find out who they are by looking within, not without.

Loving this girl for everything she is
It's something we all struggle with--trying to find the balance of loving ourselves without falling into a false sense of superiority. But it can be done. I still sometimes fall into the trap of wanting to be different just to make myself fell better. But I have to remind myself that whether I'm different or the same doesn't matter--as long as I'm me.

So, let's not be afraid to like the color pink, too! And what's more, let's not even let it bother us. In the end, individuals are individuals--there will always be differences enough for real loved ones to treasure. Maybe we should take time to treasure the similarities, too.