An Atheist Mother’s Positive Message for Kids (My response to Ken Ham)

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I personally don’t follow Ken Ham on twitter, so I thank Luciano Gonzales for drawing attention to this ignorance and issuing the challenge for bloggers to reply. It’s funny that Ken Ham would question what type of positive message an Atheist could pass on to their children, because unlike religion a secular life is limitless. No one aspect is held back because of what someone else says is true. Every opportunity is available, and no God can tell you that you don’t have the right to learn. Living a secular lifestyle gives us the opportunity to show our child that there is a big world outside of our little community, and she should embrace every chance she gets to create a new experience.

We are not forced to teach our children that those that disagree with our beliefs are not as good as we are. That their lives are not worth as much because they do not follow the same path. No, instead we get to teach our children that it is these different paths that make it possible to embrace our differences and use them to expand our minds. We can teach them that by engaging someone new you open yourself to a chance to gain knowledge you may otherwise have never encountered. When you teach your child to have an open mind when meeting someone new they allow themselves the opportunity to have a wide range of people to influence their journey.  Unlike a believer that must engage, proselytize and if unsuccessful, move on. Atheists can choose who they want in their life without restriction and I can’t imagine anything more positive than that.

The positive message doesn’t just stop with one-on-one contact.  This freedom that we receive as Atheists allows us to teach our children that there is no limit on how much they can learn. When they go to school they learn facts, not falsehoods. We can let our children know that while they are exploring the world of science they are not confined to only those things that do not conflict with their religion. Secular children can research cancer treatments, rates of success, how treatment has evolved and what is to come without having to believe that Jane Doe was saved by a miracle of God and John Doe died because it was part of God’s plan. What is more positive than teaching our children that there is always a chance that things in life will change. You never have to give up because advancements in science and technology are constantly bringing in new information … it’s up to us as a society, not God, to find the answers.

A positive, secular message is also quite prevalent in politics. As soon as we can begin to teach our children about the legal system in our country we can teach them about justice and equality.  Instead of sending the message that people who hold different beliefs are automatically wrong and undeserving of the same rights as everyone else, we can teach them the truth. The truth is that it doesn’t matter how much money you make, the color of your skin, the gender you identify with, who you choose to love or your faith (or lack thereof). You are still an American and still deserve all of the freedoms are country was founded on. If we allow believers to use their faith to make our laws, we lose everything that this country is supposed to stand for. You may have the right to worship as you please, but you do not have the right to make it public policy and that is a positive message I will absolutely pass onto my child.

So if Mr. Ham really believes that a positive message is one that is built on discrimination, ostracization and dehumanization, I am proud to say that we disagree. The fact he thinks pushing this onto children before they are even able to question it, I cannot even comprehend. I will never teach my child to hate, teach her that there are limits to what she can do in her life and that she shouldn’t respect those that are different than she is. I will make sure to teach her that reason and critical thinking will get you much farther than blind faith. I will make sure she knows that she is responsible for the choices she makes and that the impact she makes on the world will be there long after she is gone… so she should try her best to make it a positive one.

 

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Antwon Rose did not deserve die

This week another unarmed  black man was killed by a police officer, this time right here in my home town of Pittsburgh. From the massive protests taking over our city and the response on social media, it is clear that people are outraged. However, there are also some people that seem apathetic to it all, perhaps because it has become so common in the past few years. We can only hope this death will not be in vain if we make the demand change and don’t let this get brushed under the rug like so many other crimes committed by cops have been.

I cannot imagine the fear that is experienced when you fit into a demographic that is constantly being targeted. A friend of mine from high school made a powerful statement comparing the cops behavior to them trying to receive a prize “What’s on my mind? Being a black man in America!!! Why do I say this? The reason is because black woman men and children are being slain left and right and treated like we’re the biggest prize too shoot.” I had never really thought about it like that but he does make a point. The bigoted, irrational, emotion driven officers do seem to treat human life as the newest form of trophy hunting. In another group I saw a woman say   “as a white woman I wouldn’t run”. Well big fucking surprise there. White woman don’t have to run because the odds of them meeting a fate like Philando Castile did when he stayed in his car and was killed in front of his child are virtually zero. Anyone who wants to try to argue that young black men are not targeted is clearly ignorant to the world and needs to educate themselves before speaking out again.

I cannot even imagine the pain Antwon’s mother must be feeling. The thought of losing one of my stepsons is incomprehensible. A few years ago it was around midnight when we received a knock on the front door. There were several cops and my stepson standing on the front porch. It turns out that my 16 year old stepson decided to take a walk in the middle of the night and it just so happened that at the same time there were reports of people breaking into cars. We were living in Arlington at the time, anyone who knows the city of Pittsburgh will know that it is not the best neighborhood. Well the cops saw my stepson and ordered him to stop. He ran. Was he shot? No. Tased? No. Chased and tackled? Yes.  He was also not arrested, cuffed or seriously injured… he was returned to us safe. Don’t get me wrong, even as an Atheist I wanted to thank God that he was brought home to us without more than being a little sore and incredibly scared. Had an officer like Michael Rosfeld been on duty that night it could easily have turned out much differently.

I keep seeing people saying this is “anti-police” and this is just ridiculous. No rational person believes that all cops are bad. What people do see is that cops need to be held accountable. They cannot be judge, jury and executioner (dear lord, stop being the executioner). What we need is for it to be clear that a cop cannot break the law , just as a civilian can’t. If a cop commits a crime, he is held accountable, period. The type of officer who reacts this way is certainly not the majority. There are good officers out there and I am thankful that they want to protect the citizens. In my life I have had officers help me and was so grateful that I took the time to call the commander and make a statement as to how much their compassion meant to me. That being said, we cannot keep letting the bad cops tarnish the reputations of the rest of the force. The new recruits coming in year after year are seeing that they are not just enforcing the law, but are above it, and this will only make things worse. We need to find a way  to ensure that all officers are  mentally and emotionally capable, educated and equipped with not just a gun, but with cameras, audio and respect for human life. In this case the officer was a veteran. There were a bunch of headlines declaring that he had only been sworn in hours before this homicide took place- and while true, it is misleading. He had just been sworn in as an East Pittsburgh Police Officer but he had worked at other departments, including the University of Pittsburgh, for over  7 years. So this was not some freak rookie accident, he should have known how to conduct himself.

The protesting in Pittsburgh has been intense. It has gone on every single day since Antwon died. I have seen people complaining online that these protests are an inconvenience to them. That people blocking a road lengthens their commute. Well too damn bad for you. One of the most ridiculous things I witnessed was someone saying that we should wait until all the evidence is in before protesting… um…. there is a video of an unarmed kid getting shot in the back, what more do you need? Honestly, had a civilian not been filming the slaying of Antwon Rose all we would hear is that it was a car stop gone wrong and another trouble maker is off the street. Considering that the cars were not equipped with cameras and the officer wasn’t  wearing a body camera it would have just been his word. Even with the video we have people saying that we don’t know what happened before that video but guess what IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT HAPPENED BECAUSE HE NEVER SHOULD HAVE SHOT AT HIM. One of the most disgraceful things that happened was when one of the major Pittsburgh news stations decided to make headlines with a false narrative that there was a video of Antwon Rose committing a drive-by shooting and that gun powder residue was found on his hands. The Allegheny County homicide team had to speak out to say that all of that is false… but the damage has been done. Everyone reads the headline but almost no one sees the retraction. What was really pathetic was how many people seemed to be disappointed that it wasn’t true. It is like they just wanted it to be over, no justice necessary… but that is not how it works.

I don’t even know how to end this except to say that Antwon’s loved ones are in my thoughts and that I will continue to spread the word in hopes that it will bring justice. Keep exorcising your right to peaceful protest and know that there are lots of people supporting you. R.I.P. Antwon Rose.

 

A Chrysalis Instead of a Crucifix…

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The other day I snapped a picture of my three year old daughter Arabella sitting in our office. It has been a joke between me and my husband that his little collection of  Freethought Today newspapers makes it look like our office is actually an FFRF waiting room. Well I tweeted out the picture and the description and one comment I received really stood out to me.

“Hmmm. Something the religious might do; expose their children to only one way of thinking & the literature supporting that. Sounds like indoctrination, to me.”

I was surprised to see this response because I felt that it was clear my post was meant as a joke. Then I started thinking about  the idea that simply exposing Arabella to non-religious texts would be the same as indoctrination through daily teachings from a holy book. Even if Arabella was able to fully understand the content I hardly think “FFRF defeats Gov. Abbott over Capitol nativity display” compares to “I am the Lord your God, you shall have no other Gods before me”.  If anything the FFRF text would be beneficial as it provided insight into the legal system and the constitution of the United States. Even taking Arabella to an FFRF convention or making her a “member” wouldn’t compare to the relationship between a church and it’s followers. Clearly the comment was non-sense and yet the concept is something non-believers are often confronted with when the topic of secular parenting comes up.

Our society assumes that since many people were/are raised with religion that a lack of religion leaves a void to be filled. I simply don’t see it this way. People have asked me many times how I will raise Arabella in an Atheist family and I find the question to be ridiculous. I just don’t believe that someone is taught to be an Atheist, but more that they are taught to follow God. People are not born with knowledge of a higher power so there isn’t anything to undo. Just like a Christian family would grow up skipping over all of history and traditions of Muslims, our secular family functions each day just like everyone else, except no restrictions from God.

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Instead of nightly prayers we have nightly books, right now we read and discuss bugs, planets, maps and dinosaurs. Instead of a crucifix she is learning about a chrysalis… and guess what, she sleeps soundly through the night. As the twitter post above shows it was suggested that as Atheists we could be exposing our daughter to just one way of thinking, but that isn’t the case in our household. Rich and I have a huge library of books covering nearly every perspective you could want. Though she may be years away from comparing the Purpose Driven Life and The Life Driven Purpose we also have a range of children’s books. Right there on her bedroom bookshelf sit I Found a Dead Bird, The Book of Myths and The Golden Book of God and I am happy to read all of them to her.

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See unlike children raised in religious families Arabella will have the chance to openly explore what various belief systems exist and why people find them to be true. We can hope that by teaching her critical thinking skills she will be able to understand the flaws that come with organized religions. At the same time I will not ever fault her for exploring and will gladly help her research any topic she finds interesting. I have no doubt that if she has a bunch of Christian friends that she will eventually ask if she can go to a youth group meeting. The answer will be yes as I do not believe in sheltering children from religion. I would simply use it as a chance to discuss the logic behind why we do not believe in God so that she can approach it knowing it is based on theory and not fact.

One of my favorite things about living a secular life is there are no limitations on what interests I can hold and what activities I can enjoy. I am thankful to be able to speak for myself, to treat people as I wish to be treated and to learn the natural consequence of life choices.  As Arabella gets older I look forward to watching her enjoy this freedom as well. I believe that secular parenting has an extra level of responsibility because unlike believers that can write everything off as “God’s word” or “God’s will”, you are the one that is providing the knowledge as well as the skills to use it.  Having the opportunity to teach my child kindness, love, dignity and respect without adding in God’s piece of the pie is a true honor for this mom.

What Haunts Me About the Religious Response to the Humboldt Bus Disaster

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April 6, 2018, a bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team is hit by a semi truck and countless lives are forever changed. Chaos was the word I saw used most to describe the accident scene. The mangled remains of the vehicles, the overturned load of peat moss and the bodies of the twenty-nine passengers scattered across the highway. From first responders to hospital staff and people across the world that were learning details as they became available… it was pure chaos. Fourteen passengers died instantly, two others in the following days. Injuries ranged from a few bruises to paralysis and only time will tell the level of mental anguish that is experienced by those involved.

The worldwide response to this tragedy has been overwhelming. A gofundme page that originally listed a goal of ten thousand dollars has, as of this post, reached nearly twelve million. Part of that likely comes from the fact that the hockey community is a tight knit group. Everyone from peewee leagues to the NHL were quick to spread the word that these families were going to need our help. I have asked myself what it is about the Humboldt Broncos tragedy that hit so close to home for me. Perhaps it is that I have always been a fan of the sport or maybe it is that I have two stepsons in the same age range of those boys who were on the bus… whatever the reason I have found myself compelled to spread the word on the Humboldt tragedy. I have my stick on the porch for solidarity and have kept up with each story as the details unfold. I have read dozens and dozens of articles in the past ten days and though most were optimistic and educational, there were a few people using the tragedy as a chance to push their own agenda and I find that to be very disheartening. One that was particularly difficult to stomach was written by Tim Challies. It was the epitome of everything I find wrong with this predatory behavior and so I had to respond.

Anytime there is a tragic event resulting in mass casualties you can rest assured that the mass proselytization will follow. People love to use loss of life as an opportunity to try to scare the vulnerable survivors into joining their cult. And I assure you, it is a completely different level as instead of telling people how amazing life is when you have Jesus they try to instill fear by insisting that death without God will be torturous. I cannot comprehend what type of person can look a grieving mother in the eye and imply that their child is now in hell because they just didn’t choose God in time. Many times I am able to simply brush off the absurdities of the radicals but when it comes to the death of a child the predatory behavior haunts me.

It haunts me that there are people out there just waiting to use a tragic event as a chance to scare people into religion. Young people doing the responsible thing and exploring all the different perspectives that the world has to offer are being pressured to chose blindly. Rather than being encouraged to educate themselves they are being threatened with a life, and after-life, of pain and punishment.

It is my hope that people both young and old will use a tragedy like that in Humboldt as a wake-up call that life is fragile. That they will take it as a reminder to spend time with your loved ones and appreciate the beauty of each day. It is my hope that people will see that every moment we have on this beautiful earth is an opportunity to gain knowledge and teach others. I hope that they will see that we are only allowed this one life and we need to make the most of our time. The things we do, the relationships we make and the impact we have on the planet is what creates the memory that will let us live on. I hope they are able to find pleasure in making the most of what time they do have, as we never know which day will be our last.

I just want to stop the bleeding…

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Several seizures, a few trips to the ER, numerous conversations with my OB/GYN, ultrasounds, medications… but no matter what I do the bleeding just won’t stop. I haven’t even had the chance to deal with my feelings because of how severe my physical symptoms have been. When I lost Lily I had a D&C with almost no complications but with Riley it seems that everything that can go wrong is going wrong.

People keep telling me God has a plan for me, that all of this is part of that plan and eventually I will understand… hearing this makes me want to scream. What the hell did I do to deserve the loss of two beautiful babies? What did I do to have to feel like I lose Riley over and over every time I experience one of the horrific events I mentioned above? I cannot comprehend loving a God, and putting all your faith in it and being okay with this type of pain being something you need to experience. No one should have to experience this and any God that believes babies need to die in order teach adults a lesson can go straight to hell.

Losing two babies in less than a year has made me reflect on a lot of things in my life and of course religion/faith is one of them. I know it would all be easier if I could just blame God and resign to the idea that  it was for the best, but I don’t see it that way. I have been putting my faith in science and have been hopeful that the medical community could give me some answers but unfortunately it isnt as easy as it sounds. All of the tests and procedures are expensive. The only thing my genetic testing showed was that I have two copies of the MTHFR gene mutation which turns folic acid toxic when you are pregnant… so that might be the cause of the miscarriages… but as is often the case with science we can’t prove it so we can’t declare it the answer. And my doctors can’t explain why I am still bleeding and suffering the blood clots… all they can say is that they must not have removed everything during the first D&C and that unless they go in and look again they can’t say for sure what is going on… unfortunately I dont have the funds for another procedure so I wont find out any time soon.

On top of the cramping, bleeding and clots I am also experiencing some very unpleasant side effects. I know most people don’t want to hear about this but honestly, it is a horrific fact of life that this is what happens when a baby dies while still inside the womb. I will try not to get too graphic because the situation, especially when you see it with your own eyes day after day is incredibly traumatic… For instance, the other day while at work I passed a mass that was about the size of a golf ball. It was so traumatic that I actually took a photo of it and texted Rich with a message of “OMG what is this?”. I ran downstairs to the ER (one benefit of working in a hospital) the doctor said it appeared to be a combination of tissue and clotted blood… but they couldn’t say for sure without tests, which I had to decline because that would have been insanely expensive and really what difference does it make? It would just break my heart more to know I was holdinh products of conception in my hand… and it certainly wouldn’t help me to move forward.

On top of everything else I am dealing with the fact that we don’t live in a perfect world and that health care in the US kinda sucks. Each D&C is over 8,000 and my out of pocket expense is roughly 1,500 per procedure. This is on top of all of the ultrasounds, ER visits, and the 1,000 ambulance ride that occurred when I recently suffered a grand-mal seizure. It isn’t just the financial strain it puts on our family that ticks me off, it is that every time I receive an email that a new bill is in I have to cringe because it is just another reminder that my beautiful babies are gone. We currently have a go fund me set up because, as embarrassing as it is, we cannot handle all of these bills. I have actually told my doctor that I cannot make any more appointments because we are not able to afford it. In addition, Rich and I have canceled our wedding because all the money has to go straight to the insurance company.

I really just need all of this bleeding to stop and I mean that in the literal and metaphorical sense. I know eventually the physical symptoms will end and someday the bills will be paid off… but when will I start to feel like me again?  I just don’t think I will truly heal until I can tackle the emotions I am experiencing and I don’t think I can delve into that until the external issues have been addressed. I appreciate everyone who has taken the time to follow my journey, sad as it may be, knowing that there are people that care helps me more than you know.

 

*please feel free to share our link if you know anyone who might be able to relate to our struggle and would be interested in helping out

 https://www.gofundme.com/LilyandRiley/

hugs, blood and gene mutations…

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A month has passed since we lost our baby. I am still heartbroken and still bleeding. I received test results that show I have an MTHFR gene mutation which likely contributed to the miscarriage, I also received a hospital bill for 1020.93… that’s really about it as far as updates.

I sort of feel like I am drowning. Every day there is something else piling on top of me. Another piece of bad news… something else to try to handle so that I can keep things stable. I barely have any free time right now because I have been trying to work overtime to pay off all of the bills associated with the pregnancy and miscarriage. The only time I get with Arabella during the week is a few hours in the early afternoon when we are getting ready for the 30min ride to my dad’s house so he can watch her while I go to work… then I get home at 11:45pm and that is when I get to tuck her into bed. This is my favorite time of the day. Arabella gives me the biggest smile when I come in the door. She makes the most of those few minutes before bed time, showing me toys and chattering away. Then I hear “love you mama” as I squeeze her tight. Honestly, the hugs she gives me at night before she goes to sleep are truly the reason I wake up the next day.

When I read the test results on the MTHFR gene mutation I cried. It is so terrible to feel like you failed your baby. My rational mind knows that it was nothing I did and that there was no way for me to know about it and that even knowing it is still possible that I could have had a normal pregnancy and all of the other things people are saying. However in my heart, when I sit alone at night in the dark, it feels like it was my fault. I was able to keep Arabella safe for those amazing nine months that she spent in my tummy… why did I fail Lily and Riley? I have been feeling physical pain thinking about it. I get this sharp burning pain up my neck as all of my muscles tense up as I realize I will never again birth a child.

I know that writing all of this will cause me to be flooded with information on how MTHFR is very common and that I can absolutely have a successful pregnancy. I know that physically it is possible, but at this point I cannot take the risk. Emotionally I am strained. The loss of Lily broke my heart, losing Riley broke my spirit… I cannot even imagine what would be left of me with another loss. A lot of people have told me that now is not the time to make the decision to be finished… but the decision has been made. One of my dearest friends told me that “he” (pointing to the sky) will decide when/if I am done… I told her that if “he” can get past the vasectomy we are planning. plus regular birth control, she might make a believer out of me. Until then I am going to stick with science. Clearly the odds are not in my favor to have a healthy pregnancy. There are ways to treat all of the things that are wrong and I believe that moving forward and enjoying all that I do have is going to be the first step in conquering this anxiety and depression that are plaguing me day and night. The bleeding has to stop eventually… right?

this is my blood, it is shed for you…

“for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul” Leviticus 17:11

I could feel it in my gut… the ultrasound wasn’t going to go well. I kept a smile on my face in the waiting room as a woman 3 weeks from her due date compared notes on what it was like to spend the summer in your third trimester (Arabella was born 7/21/14) I didn’t want to bring down the mood in a room full of joy. Inside I was petrified. When the ultrasound tech called me back I went into the tiny room and let her know that things hadn’t been going well. She said that she read the previous notes and she was aware… she then asked if I wanted her to tell me straight what she was seeing… I said of course. As I watched the screen I saw her measure my uterus, the gestational sac and that is when the fetus came into view. It looked almost identical to the ultrasound 10 days prior… the only thing missing was the flicker of a heartbeat. She didn’t need to say the words, I  already knew the truth, our baby had died. I started to have a panic attack and rushed to get dressed. When the doctor came in I was crying uncontrollably and dry heaving while sitting on the floor of the examination room. I couldn’t control my emotions. Even as they escorted me to the surgery scheduling area and I passed by the young woman with whom I had been chatting just 30 minutes before… she smiled at me and I could not help my response… I just kept crying. The doctor said the baby was going to start to pass soon and so she wanted to do a D&C the following morning. I vaguely remember signing the papers and being handed a stack of pamphlets. I called Rich from the parking lot and he immediately left work so he could meet me at the house. The drive I made from the doctor’s office to my home is a complete blur… I know there was an intense rainstorm and it made focusing on the road that much more difficult. I felt destroyed by the news. I felt like ripping my skin off. I felt like a failure as a woman and as a mother. Somehow I made it home safely but I didn’t sleep much that night.

The next day the procedure was fine. It was quick and relatively painless. The next two days of physical recovery were pretty easy so I was dealing mostly with my emotions. Then while sitting at my computer I felt a warm sensation in my abdomen and the feeling that something was falling out of my body. I ran into the bathroom and passed a blood clot that was just about the size of a plum… and unfortunately this was not a one time incident. Since my procedure on the 7th I have had 3 weeks of bleeding, clotting, tests, pain and general frustration. This time around the physical pain has been overwhelming. With my loss last fall it was mainly emotional pain but the physical side is really coming into play now. It might sound strange but the fact that I cannot get past the physical symptoms is making it nearly impossible to face this depression. People don’t really talk about the things that happen to your body when you lose a child but they are truly traumatic. When I was in the 10 day waiting period in-between ultrasounds I remember fearing the site of blood every time I entered a bathroom…. now with my baby gone the blood is all that is left.  Every single time I pass a clot it is as if the baby is dying all over again. No doctor can seem to tell me how long I will experience this constant reminder that my body failed to protect my baby…but I would give anything to have the bleeding stop.

The bleeding is something that no one else sees… but they do see my tears. I have been an emotional wreck over the loss of my baby. I have cried at work, the grocery store, in the car… with friends, with Rich and especially alone at night, when I think about it the most. Hell I am even crying right now while I sit in the dark typing this out. The crying isnt always for the same reason. Sometimes it is sadness, thinking about the fact that my daughter isn’t going to be a big sister… thinking that I am never going to hold an infant to my breast cherishing a life created with the man I love. Other times it is out of shame. Something about admitting aloud that once again I failed my child, that just 9 months . after the death of our 2nd child my body proved incapable of caring for our 3rd. Then there are the times that I cry out of anger. I get this feeling of rage because I just want to understand why it keeps happening. When you lose a child everyone wants to tell you how common it is. Well I am sorry, but that does not comfort me one bit. It floods my body with a combination of anger and sadness that is indescribable. These are the moments that I start to wish I had some type of deity to blame it all one. Some higher power who could take credit for the entire ordeal so that I could move forward… no need to cry… i’d be able to feel confident that there was a purpose to it all and that I was blessed to have God looking over me. Unfortunately my brain is not capable of accepting nonsensical bullshit so I will have to work it out on my own and damn-it there may never be a reason. That is the worst part for me, the not knowing. My doctor took tissue samples to check for chromosome abnormality and has also ordered a slew of tests to look for genetic disorders that may be causing my losses. I know though that all the tests in the world may never tell me why my baby is gone.

I have had several people “remind” me that I did have 1 successful pregnancy and that I should be thankful that I have my daughter. If you ever think of saying this to a mother that has just suffered the loss of a baby, please stop yourself. Not only does it imply that the mother doesn’t appreciate her living child but it also implies that the grief the mother is feeling is not justified. I won’t try to speak for any other grieving mothers but in my case the love I feel for my daughter has never been in question. Arabella means everything to me… she is a reason to wake up every morning, to go to work and to push through even when it hurts just to move. That being said, the love I feel for Lily and Riley (baby 2 and baby 3 respectively ) is also real and my grief is valid. The love I feel for one doesn’t take away from the other and if anything losing these two babies has made me appreciate Arabella even more.

Rich and I have decided that we can not risk this happening again. We will be taking action to make sure that I do not get pregnant again.  It isnt that I don’t want another baby but that I cannot handle another loss. The first one broke my heart and the second broke my spirit. In order to be the best mother I can be I need to focus all of my energy on raising Arabella. I feel fortunate that she is young enough that she didn’t even know I was pregnant let alone that the babies died. Of course one day I will tell her. I remember knowing from a young age that my own mother lost two babies and actually that knowledge was helpful during this difficult time. I was able to go to my mother for help in dealing with my feelings, because I knew she’s been there too. At one point I said ” I know it has been a few weeks but I can’t stop thinking about it” to which she replied “Allison, I am 62 years old and I still think about the babies I lost, it’s okay to be sad.” . Those words meant more than anything my mother has ever said to me, I will hold them in my heart always.

So now I am left to deal with all of these emotions…. still mourning the loss of Lily last fall and now trying to accept that Riley is gone as well. I am thankful for all of the people in my life that have offered love and support. Unfortunately I know that it is something that is going to take a long time to heal… I just hope I can make it through…God knows I am trying my best.

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Not in God’s hands… but also not in mine…

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The past month has been tough on me. It started on June 4th when I left work, went to the store and had a grand-mal seizure. An ambulance took me to the hospital where nothing happened because, well, I have Epilepsy and seizures are just part of it… or are they? I knew something was different about this one. On the 5th after much sleep and no longer in a post-ictal state I decided to take a pregnancy test and despite the fact that my period wasnt due for several more days I was treated to the sight of a blue line… once again, I am pregnant.

My last pregnancy started with a seizure and as you may know from reading previous posts, it ended in a miscarriage. Right from the start I was petrified of this pregnancy. I contacted my OB immediately. She ordered blood work which seemed to go well, my HCG was definitely rising but not at the rate they’d like. So on the 16th I had my first ultrasound. Keep in mind that before this my last ultrasound ended with the words “I’m sorry but I don’t see a heartbeat” so going in I was experiencing anxiety like none i’d felt before. When the tech started looking she saw a gestational sac, a yolk sac but no fetal pole. I wept right there. My doctor said that my ovulation dates might just be off and that we needed to start a course of progesterone and wait 10 days to have another ultrasound before we could know what was really happening, but all hope was not lost.

Those 10 days felt like eternity. I used my progesterone each night and read up on any and all tips to help a pregnancy “stick”. One mistake I made was asking the great minds of the internet if anyone else has experienced this. I did receive some positive words, some anecdotal evidence that it could turn out alright… but one woman really stood out. She was insistent that at my stage of pregnancy there should have been a fetal pole and if there wasn’t at that ultrasound there wasn’t going to be one on the 26th. It was sickening how badly she wanted to be right about something so grim, but i suppose you find that type  n every circle.

Luckily for me she was wrong. As I held Rich’s hand and looked at him rather than the screen I heard the ultrasound tech say “and there is the fetus”. I turned my head to see this tiny jelly bean with a little flickering heart and once again, I wept. I was so happy to see that the baby was there but that was when I was hit with the downside. Even though we could see the fetus and a heartbeat, the fetus was measuring roughly a week behind and the heartbeat wasn’t strong enough to measure. That is when I was told that we needed to wait another 10 days before we would really know if this was a viable pregnancy.

I started to panic at the thought of losing another baby. My doctor made me promise not to over analyze every ache or pain. She said that unless I saw blood I should assume that my baby was safe in my womb, alive with a beating heart, as that was what we saw and what we knew to be fact at that moment. I asked for advice. Is there anything that I might be doing wrong that will cause a miscarriage. Is there anything thing that I need to do to prevent a miscarriage. She stopped me and said that by watching my diet, taking prenatal vitamins, extra folic acid and using progesterone each night I was doing everything I could. She told me that what was going to happen was already in motion and that it was “in God’s hands now”.

I left the office feeling severe anxiety and every day since has been more of the same. I have been randomly crying. I have been constantly asking Rich for reassurance that everything will be okay. I have had difficult sleeping and when I finally do drift off I have been having nightmares so vivid that I woke in a cold sweat. Everyone in my life is so sure that it is going to be fine. I want to believe them so badly. I would give anything to just relax and feel confident that my body is protecting the baby but I am not sure that after losing my baby in October 2016 I will ever feel confidence like I did with my first pregnancy.

So now it is 2:14 am on July 6 and by the end of the day I will know if my baby is growing properly, measuring to match my dates and most importantly, alive. I certainly don’t believe that the life of my baby is in God’s hands… but I think that concept might be easier to accept than the reality that it also is not in mine. This helpless feeling that there isn’t anything left for me to do except wait is pure torture. All I want is a healthy pregnancy like I had with Arabella. The chance to enjoy all of those special moments that lead up to bringing a beautiful life into the world. Will I get that chance or will I suffer another loss. For the past 10 days all I have felt is my heart pounding in my chest and now all I want to hear is the beating heart of my baby.

Christmas after death…

Typically at Christmas I write a post about the “war on Christmas” or why I choose to celebrate despite being an Atheist… I will write about traditions and how important they are to me. This year I can’t seem to do it. This year was different. This year I lost my baby.

I have had no motivation to celebrate since the loss of my pregnancy. Four holidays that I enjoyed each year for 32 years didn’t make it to 33… not Halloween, not my birthday, not Thanksgiving and now not even Christmas.

I watch friends that have suffered loss finding comfort in their religion and just for a moment I wish I could also believe that everything was okay. They are confident their child is in a better place. They know the plan God had was for their child to sit beside him, to watch over them, to help others get through life. Their child was actually divine and therefore they are blessed to have received this gift.

 

As a nonbeliever I don’t have that. I know that what happened was inevitable, not because God needed my child but because genetics failed me. A chromosome abnormality made it so my child was never going to survive, even if I had carried to term. I know my child is gone and I will never see them again.  So what now?

I have actually had someone question if this is really that upsetting. It is. I have had people say it gets easier. I am sure it does… but not this Christmas. Something about the holiday season seems to make people more sentimental. Personally I find myself reminiscing of a simpler time. A time of innocence. When the older generations shouldered the stress and the burden and everything looked just fine to me. Maybe ignorance really is bliss… that would certainly explain the comfort my friends are able to feel. Due to their religion they are trapped in the mindset of a child. Instead of growing to shoulder the burden that was once held by older generations they can circumvent it by passing the buck to God. Sometimes I have to wonder which of us is the lucky one. A line from the dreadful remake of “Miracle on 34th street” springs to mind… “What’s better? A lie that draws a smile or the truth that draws a tear?”. In my heart I know that for better or worse it is always best face reality and find a rational way to deal with the situation… but that doesn’t mean it is easy to do.

The first Christmas without my pappy broke my heart, the first without my grandma felt that much worse but somehow this one tops them all. I don’t care if anyone understands my pain, I felt my baby inside me, I saw the life we created and that life was lost. I wish there was an easy explanation of how to handle Christmas after a death but there isn’t. For now I will continue to lean on those that love me and look towards the future. I will focus on the positive aspects of my life, for in the grand scheme of things I am incredibly fortunate. This particular year was quite trying, but  it has to get better at some point… right?

 

Abortion may not be what you think it is…

 

It is election day in the United States. For the record, I am voting for Hillary Clinton. I could go on and on about the plethora of reasons why… but I am not going to. One issue and one issue alone is enough to keep my vote strong and that issue is abortion.

Donald Trump has spent much of his campaign using scare tactics such as graphic descriptions of 3rd trimester abortions, making up scenarios that do not exist in the ob/gyn field, threatening to overturn Roe v. Wade and of course spewing inflated statistics to make it seem that getting an abortion is just a walk in the park.

While I have always been pro-choice, I never realized what it would feel like to have to say goodbye to the baby inside you and sign the papers authorizing an abortion. Now to be clear, as was described in a previous post, I did not voluntarily get an abortion, I miscarried at 12 weeks. However, due to a technicality in our ever so flawed health care system, in order for my insurance to pay for the procedure I had to sign papers authorizing an abortion. I was already weeping from learning there was no heartbeat so to go from that to scheduling my surgery and signing the papers in just a matter of moments was overwhelming to say the least. When they asked me to sign and I saw the word “abortion” on the consent I stared up at the nurse and exclaimed “I don’t want an abortion, I want my baby!!” and she went into damage control saying “no no it’s just what the papers say, you aren’t having an “abortion”, your baby is already gone but this is how we word it.” talk about adding insult to injury.

So now I am part of the overly inflated statistics for first trimester abortions. My tragedy can now be used against me. People won’t know why I had an “abortion” and guess what? They won’t care. Just like me, they are focused on the fact that a baby has died, the difference is that I now know first hand that it isn’t something anyone would want to do… it would only be done if it was in the best interest of mother and baby… and whether it happens naturally (miscarriage) or with help from a compassionate doctor, it is still painful and not something that needs to be thrown in the faces of all of the women who go through it. My doctor told me that 20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, so if you take the number of those that need a D&C (the procedure which I had to sign off as an “abortion” and is used for abortions) with the number of women who have to make the impossible choice to abort and you are going to have what looks like an epidemic… but you are wrong… you are so wrong and you don’t even know it.

People have this image of a promiscuous girl who uses abortion as her primary form of birth control… and if they are as stupid as Donald Trump they envision a girl who waits until her third trimester and then decides “eh, I don’t think I want this baby afterall, I am going to go get an abortion”… it just does not work that way. I am not saying that every woman who has a miscarriage or an abortion feels the same way, there is certainly a broad spectrum of reactions… and that is okay. I am also not saying that the person who is lax about it doesn’t exist, but they aren’t the majority like pro-lifers would make you think. The “magic pill” that pro-lifers always describe still makes a woman deal with the choice of passing naturally or possibly ending up with a D&C… and either way it goes… natural or surgery, miscarriage or abortion… there will be pain emotional and physical and I would not wish it on anyone.

Sure, you could say that if I was pro-life or if signing the papers for my “abortion” really bothered me that much I could have let my baby pass through my body naturally… I could have sat there at home wondering when the baby would come out of my body… but I wasn’t able to handle that. The change in hormones had already caused one grand-mal seizure and my doctor feared more. Also, the choice to even see the baby after it is passed is incredibly personal and passing the baby at home takes away the option. I know people delivered in the hospital, who spent time with the fetus, took photos and had a funeral… I know people who wanted to see the fetus after their D&C but only after waking from anesthesia did they learn that they could not see the baby because it did not make it out in one piece… I know women who passed at home and then had to take the fetus to the hospital for genetic testing, an event that turned out much more traumatic than they ever imagined. From the moment I found out on Friday, October 28th to the moment I went in for my D&C on November 1  I was an emotional mess. It felt like my heart stopped every time I stepped in the bathroom, changed my clothes, took a shower… I was already bleeding so much, passing clots and much more… I was so frightened that my fetus would pass and I would be alone… so I am thankful that there were options like the one I chose… it could have been weeks and weeks of waiting and I have no idea what that would have done to me… and I would never judge any other woman who had to go through what I did for choosing the way that worked best for them… you have to do whatever you can to get through it.

You cannot imagine the pain of losing a child if you have never lost one. Some of the most courageous women I know have been through this in one form or another. I know women who aborted because it was the right choice for them, the brave choice to say they were not ready for a baby. I know women who lost their child through miscarriage in all different stages of pregnancy that had to be strong enough to make the best choice for their health now that baby was gone. I know women who had to abort based upon fetal/genetic abnormalities… these women knew their child would not survive outside of the womb and new that for themselves as well as their family it was better to end it before things got any worse. I even know a woman who was told by every doctor that the child was suffering genetic abnormalities that made life outside the womb impossible and yet she continued on with her pregnancy. She  wanted a miracle and she believed that it was possible and that everyone was wrong. When her baby was born it was extremely disfigured, internal parts on the outside and as predicted was born sleeping… the laboring and the reality had a detrimental effect upon her livelihood from that point forward. Of course with every tragedy there are times when it turns out alright, or that the choice to continue on even with the sad reality that baby wouldn’t survive was therapeutic and best for their particular situation. But no matter if you choose to terminate or decide to see it through it should be your decision because you are the one who must live with it… and it is not something that just goes away… just like a healthy pregnancy, one that ends tragically makes a lasting impact on your life. That baby was and is a part of you, no matter how short of a time you were together.

So when you cast your vote for a politician, if anti-abortion laws are high on your priority list I hope that you will take a moment to stop and think about what banning abortion could do. Any women who can get pregnant could end up with an “abortion” and not only is that a choice no one wants to make, it is sometimes the result of a choice we didn’t make.

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