Monday, September 9, 2013

Love The Skin You're In

Sitting on the beach last week, away from the din of city life, I reach a moment of intense clarity. In my little fold out chair and $10 thrift store sunglasses, I made my first steps at self actualization. Everywhere around me there were bodies. Tall bodies, petite bodies, old withered bodies, young gangly bodies. Bodies that rippled and bodies that were taut. And what's more, no one looked at another with contempt or disgust. Had I traveled that far from home? A mere two hours from the urban blight and constant barrage of body-shaming. As I looked down at my dimpled knees and pudgy toes I realized, I didn't care. I didn't care what strangers thought of my body. I didn't care that society thinks I should stay far from the beach or anywhere else I may be tempted to show skin.



Here was a whole beach full of people, showing their bodies in their most vulnerable of states and not giving a hoot what anyone thought. And no one gave me in my cleavage-baring tankini a second glance. At least not in a bad way. What a concept. Self-love and body acceptance, something I've been shouting from the rooftops for years, and yet battled with in private. It's easy to say and post and encourage others in their journeys to body acceptance, yet not so easy to look in the mirror everyday and not wince at the armfat or double chin.



For most of my life I hated myself. I tried to change who I was so people would like me, and so I would like myself. People will find a reason to dislike you no matter what you are. Some may not like your weight, or your complexion. Others may show contempt because you're a different religion or an anti-theist. It's exhausting trying to please everyone and near impossible. So I decided to please myself. I will walk into life, like the ocean, hesitant yet brave, unafraid and yet completely in awe of it's magnitude. There's nothing like the ocean to show you just how small you really are, and how free you can be.



So I will go to the beach, and the gym. Go on hikes and to ballgames and zoos. I need it just as much as other people need to see it. Normalization needs to happen. Bodies come in all shapes and sizes and just because you may not want to see fat people doesn't mean we don't exist. We do and we have a right to take up space. And get a tan. Don't like it, don't look. I will not be shamed.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Why I support your right to breastfeed even if could not

I am a mother whose plans for parenting a certain way were derailed by my daughter. I gave birth to Amethyst (Amy) naturally in a hospital with my hubby and our awesome doula. Having a natural birth and breastfeeding were important to me to give my daughter the very best start. Our hospital was fantastic, they just assumed you were breastfeeding and did not give babies formula unless otherwise instructed. We were required to have a consult  with the on-staff Lactation Consultant (LC) before being discharged.

Amy latched right away and seemed to be a pro. Over the course of our stay in the hospital it got more difficult to get my tiny babe to clamp on. Several times the LC or nurse had to come in position Amy or hold her onto me. They assured me it would get easier and sent us on our way. Cut to a week later and many crying fits from the both of us. She wasn't eating. She had such a tiny mouth and my very plus-sized body and it's large nipples (sorry for the TMI) were not helping. She just couldn't get enough areola in her mouth. We tried everything. Many calls to La Leche League (LLL) went unanswered. (I'm not downing LLL, just the ladies in the Philadelphia area that never bothered to get back to me.) My doula who was now doubling as my LC and I struggled to get her latched and then keep her that way.

Amy was loosing too much weight and not wetting enough diapers, so we started on formula. She had to eat. At this point I was pumping and still trying to breastfeed her before giving her bottles. Eventually she just flat out refused to come anywhere near my nipples. I didn't want to make her mother's breast a place of hostility, we were both miserable and defeated, so at some point I stopped giving her the breast and started pumping more. But without a baby to stimulate the hormones I barely got anything. Placenta pills, Mother's Milk Tea, fenugreek, none of it helped much. My supply dwindled and then faded away.

Despite everything, my daughter was being sustained on formula, and thanks to several very generous milky mamas via Human Milk 4 Human Babies / Eats on Feets, donated milk.

Now at 13-months old, my Amyface is off of her formula and drinking whole cow's milk and thriving. I always planned to breastfeed and it broke my heart that I failed so miserably. Many a night my hubby had to figuratively talk me off the ledge. Of course it wasn't until much after all of this that I learned that PCOS, of which I am afflicted, has adverse effects on milk production. Oh, that I would have known that before. I still plan to breastfeed my next child when they come. I have resolve.

I wish I had the opportunity to breastfeed my child exclusively and have her self-ween. That was not in the cards for us. Regardless, I support the right of all women to breastfeed their children in whatever setting they are in whatever way the deem best. Please sign the pledge to Support With Integrity a woman's right to feed her child without judgement.

Support with Integrity

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Keeping the Hip in Hypocrisy

Happy Holidays. Yep, I said Happy Holidays. Commence with the tirades about how I'm chafing your jingle bells by daring to acknowledge there are religious and/or cultural celebrations other than your own. The past few years certain people (read: bible-thumpers) yammer on and on about the Happy Holidays wishers waging a war against Christmas and the only way to regain the season is to renounce them publicly. Really guys? REALLY??



Last time I checked there was more than one holiday in December. Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Yule, Christmas, Boxing Day and New Year's Eve just off the top of my head. The word holiday comes from the notion of a "Holy Day". Every religion has holy days. I don't see how telling someone to have a happy holiday is offense. If anything people are upset because it's including non-Christians. "How dare people believe in something other that what I believe in!" The sentiment is sincere, whatever you celebrate this season, I hope it's joyful. How dare I!



Furthermore, historically Jesus Christ was not born on December 25th. More accurately he was probably born in the end of September during the annual Feast of Tabernacles. He may have been conceived in December though. The Romans decided to celebrate the Christ Mass to coincide with the Winter Solstice. The Church wanted to replace the Pagan festival with a Christian holy day.



Whatever reason we celebrate Christmas today, the season has become a time to spread cheer, joy and love. To hold your loved ones close and help those less fortunate. How wishing someone a Happy Holy Day is somehow going to cheapen that is beyond me. Christ, if you chose to believe in him, was the embodiment of all of those things and I'm sure he wouldn't be offended.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

What's hate got to do, got to do with it?

Hate is a very strong word. We try to teach our children not to hate, to open their hearts only to love. Tolerance and acceptance is key. But fuck if sometime you just need to get your hate on. So here's my list of hates.

Women in a public restrooms who complain about the smell. It's a freaking room full of toilets, what did you expect it to smell like, raindrops and lavender?

For that matter, people that pee all over the toilet seat in their attempt to hover over it. For the love of Pete, "If you sprinkle when you tinkle, please be sweet and WIPE THE SEAT!"



People that do not yield their seats on buses/trains to the elderly, disabled, people with small children. Have you no home training?

Speaking of public transit, is it really necessary that the whole bus hear your music blaring or you cackling at the top of your lungs on the phone? Invest in some good headphones, lower the volume a few decibels and try not to inform the entire bus of your baby daddy/mama drama.


Slow walkers! I know my chunky butt moves slowly, but come on people! When in a mall, on a major city street or in highly populated area, it is customary to walk on the left and allow people to pass you. You shouldn't just stop dead in the middle of a walkway to talk on the phone or tie your child's shoe. 'Pull over' to the side to let the people behind you pass.

Saying to a pregnant woman, "You still didn't have that baby yet?" No jackhole, she didn't. If she had she wouldn't be there listening to your inane questions. She'd be home with her baby. Sigh.



These are really all lack of tact and/or courtesy. Do parents not teach manners anymore? There are dozens more I'm forgetting, so please feel free to add your own hates.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Fuckin' Perfect

"Pretty, pretty please, don't you ever ever feel
Like you're less than fuckin' perfect.
Pretty, pretty please, if you ever ever feel, like you're nothing
You're fuckin' perfect to me!"

We've all had days, weeks, or in my case, years where we just felt like giving up. Wanting the teasing, judgement, harassment or pain to end. But those are the times that we need to be the most strong. For our families, for our friends, but most importantly for ourselves. We are all flawed and we are all perfect. And we all have worth.

This little reminder is just as much for you as it is for me. I was that girl in this video. And I want better for my child. I'm still a work in progress and I still get tempted to self-harm. But I have support and determination. And a daughter who's going to need a good role model. And I'm going to teach her about self-worth. It'll be a good refresher course for me as well.

Be advised, the following video contains some triggers for those dealing with self-harm. For the alternate version containing a bit more graphic a depiction, click here.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Born This Way

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about what kind of mother I am. I'm a full-time work out of the home mom. I don't breastfeed on demand. My daughter sleeps in a co-sleeper (read: bassinet attached to the side of our bed). It's hard letting someone else share in her smiles and giggles and drool bubbles while I'm at work. But we do the best we can, don't we?

"My mama told me when I was young
We're all born superstars"

I don't dress my daughter only in pink clothing (though she does have a lot of it thanks to generous family and friends). We make a conscious effort to not push gender roles on her or put her into any boxes. I fully expect her to learn to appreciate rugby and cooking from her daddy and show tunes and fishing from me. She has lots of gay uncles and aunties. And a bisexual mama.

For every time I tell her that she's a "pretty girl" I also tell her she's smart, funny, silly, etc. My daughter will know that she has many attributes including but not limited to her looks. She will be kind and accepting because those are the values we will instill upon her.

"Don't hide yourself in regret,
Just love yourself and you're set
I'm on the right track, baby
I was born this way"

I don't want my daughter to ever feel like who she is or what/who she desires is wrong. She will learn to value herself and her opinions. She was born to be exactly who she is and no one can ever take that birthright away from her. If you live your life scared of what others might say or worried what they might think of you, you'll drown in regret. And my baby's gonna know how to swim. I will always be her lifesaver.

So I guess I know what kind of mother I am. The best I can be. And no matter what she grows up to be, I know that Amy will be the best she can be.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

No one said it'd be easy.

I was the most miserable pregnant person you've probably ever met. No really, I acted like I was fine but everyday felt like it was put there just to torment me. Escalators were constantly out leaving only never-ending stairways. I only wanted to eat grilled cheeses (with tomato and bacon) and Ben & Jerry's and got cranky if I didn't have them. And don't get me started on the back/sciatic/pelvic pain. Really. Don't.

But I knew it was worth it every time I felt my baby kick. Every ultrasound showed a beautiful baby-shaped blob that was all mine and everything was right with the world for a little while. This was the miracle baby I thought my body would never let me have. Part me, part hubby, all perfect.

I worked right up until a week before my estimated due date of December 1st. November 30th I went to the hospital because my water had broken and it was discolored which meant that the baby had pooped in it. Not terribly uncommon, but still enough to warrant monitoring. The baby would need to be born within 24hrs they said. I had planned to labor at home until my contractions were close together in time and length. I didn't want to be limited in movement and knew that walking would help. But as I laid there waiting for my contractions that were barely noticeable at that point I knew that I would do the best for my baby with what I had to work with.

My mother, hubby and doula were all in attendance and I couldn't have done it with each one of them. I had made it clear that I wanted as little intervention as possible and no meds. I was going to will the baby out with positive thoughts, love and a whole lot of strength and resilience. It was hard. Really hard. But I had a goal and no amount of pain was going to keep me from having a healthy, med-free, alert baby.

Amethyst Rose was born on December 1st, 2010 at 1:49AM (that's right, on her due date) after 12 hours in the hospital, 7-8 hours of labor, 3 really intense pushes and many curse words. She had the cord wrapped around her neck once so the doctor eased her out in one pull as soon as her head was out. She was (and is) perfect. Ten fingers, ten toes and a good set of lungs to boot. She was wide awake and alert  right from the start and latched on to breastfeed like a pro. Mama (and Daddy) were proud... and exhausted.

And all was well. Well, almost.

You see, when we came home things became difficult. Breastfeeding proved difficult in the hospital between the largeness of my breasts/nipples and the tiny little bow mouth my daughter was blessed with. But the nurses and lactation consultant keep showing me and reshowing me how to hold her, make her latch, etc. But when we got home feeding just became hell for both of us. Amy would clamp on for a minute, suck, and then stop and scream. Which made me cry. I had milk to give but she couldn't get it. And at her 1st & 2nd pediatrician appointments it was clear she had lost too much weight. My baby was starving. We started her on supplemental formula with the hopes of weaning her off of it as soon as she reestablished breastfeeding. I tried everything, feeding her pumped milk, holding my nipple in her mouth while she screamed hoping she'd clamp down. She wanted no part of my breasts and I felt like a failure as a mother.

I always knew I was going to breastfeed. That was that. But it wasn't. At the end of the day we were both so miserable that I decided not to  make my breast a battle zone. So I pumped and fed her. And pumped and fed her. Herbal supplements, special teas, lactation consultants, anything to keep my supply up - you name it I tried it. But it dwindled. With no baby triggering the hormonal letdown of the milk my pump just couldn't make the milk amount to much. Again I had failed. So I made a decision. I would stop hating myself and just feed my baby. The most important thing was that Amy was fed and happy, and if that meant exclusive formula, so be it.

I'm not one of those mothers that think formula is the devil. Of course breastfeeding is best, but formula serves it's purpose and is there for those that need it. And then I found Eats on Feets, an organization that matches mothers that can't breastfeed with mothers that have an overabundance. Think of wet nursing. You make a connection with a mother in your region and after being satisfied that she is healthy (up to you, not Eats) you receive donated pumped milk. Full of nutrients and antibodies and love from another mother that just wants your child to experience the benefits her child has. Truly a gift from the heart.

Amy is now three and a half moths old and thriving. She's had milk from two very generous milky mamas. Yes, she does get formula sometimes to supplement, but I no longer worry about her not getting the good stuff. Some of you may find it odd or may downright oppose milk-sharing, but I'm here to tell you once you have a child you'd do almost anything to give them the best.

I'll leave you with an anecdote about my mother. When I was 17 and I had made myself so physically sick over a breakup that I thought I was pregnant my mother bought me a pregnancy test and never breathed a word of it to my father. At 22 when I told my mother I was bisexual she didn't even flinch. When at 24 I was the best man at my good friend's lesbian commitment ceremony my mother said, "That's great! I don't understand what the big deal is. Love is love." And at 27 when I cried to my mother about not being able breastfeed and using donated milk my mother showed nothing but support and thought it was amazing of another mother to give of herself like that.

That's the kind of mother I want to be.