Still proud

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Every year I march in the PRIDE parade with my local atheist group which to believers is probably the worst imaginable scenario. Just like I have believers scold me for pushing an atheist agenda onto my child I have also had people imply that attending PRIDE is promoting a gay lifestyle. Well first of all I don’t know what a gay lifestyle is. People are who they are and they live their life just like everyone else. Second, if they mean that I am promoting acceptance of the LGBT community, how exactly is that a bad thing? I want Arabella to be open-minded and supportive of people. I want her to see that we go to events such a PRIDE not just because we identify but also as allies. Rich is heterosexual and still attends PRIDE every year to support me and the rest of the LGBT community. I cannot imagine how people find something negative about this.

I believe it is never too early to start promoting love and acceptance of others. I am often asked if Arabella knows that I am bisexual and to that the answer is no, but only because she is four years old and the topic hasn’t come up. When she does show an interest I will gladly discuss it with her, though the level of detail I go in to will depend upon her age and maturity at the time of the discussion. I really don’t see how explaining that bi-sexual means that mommy has had relationships with both men and women could be interpreted as a negative thing, but then again I don’t comprehend irrational concepts.

I feel that being open with Arabella about who I am and what I have experienced will help us to start an open line of communication. I never want her to be afraid to tell me things about herself. As a teenager I wasn’t afraid of my sexuality but I also didn’t sit down and have a heart-to-heart with my parents about it. I have casually mentioned it to them as an adult but they seem pretty indifferent to it. I suppose the fact that I am not actively in a homosexual relationship, but instead in a heterosexual marriage has something to do with it. Though I will say that I 100% believe that my parents would have supported me had it been a woman that I decided to marry. They have supported me through every other choice I have made and have loved me unconditionally my entire life so I would expect nothing else.

I’m sure that people see me in my hetero-sexual marriage and wonder why I care so much about expressing my sexuality. Well for as long as I can remember I have identified as bi-sexual. Yes, I am in a hetero, monogamous marriage, but that does not change my sexuality. For some reason there is this concept that as soon as you are in a relationship with a man or woman you become gay or straight, but as is the case with most things in life- it isn’t black and white. Try to imagine if you entered into a marriage and suddenly you couldn’t identify as gay or straight you had to choose a new group because this one relationship was to define your entire being, that is how I feel when people say that being with Rich makes me straight, not bi. People do not stop feeling attraction just because they are in a relationship, the relationship just provides guidelines as to if you will or will not act on the attraction.

If I was to do a top 5 break ups (High Fidelity, get it?) I think that likely the number one break up would be the first woman I ever dated, and mainly because of the repressive, religious based fear that caused it to end. It took place in college. We’d know each other for a long time but were nothing more than friends until sophomore year. I won’t go into the mushy and eventually heartbreaking details other than to say that religion and politics were what inevitably ended our relationship. She was closeted due to religion and her family was incredibly conservative. She chose to not rock the bigoted boat that had been set to complete her life journey. Because of this reasoning, because it is too risky for it to even come out now, she doesn’t acknowledge me this day. We went our separate ways and moved on, met our husbands, started families- she went on to join a group of extreme religious radicals and I became part of “Couple of Atheists” so we couldn’t really be further apart in our lives. It is a shame that denying who you are has to be a contingent part of some religions. I am not saying that we were meant to be together or that things didn’t turn out for the best (at least here) but it saddens me to think that there is a part of her she can never express. Hopefully one day believers will accept that people are people. We exist on a spectrum and there is nothing wrong with living a life true to who you are. If your God doesn’t love you as you are, out and expressing yourself, well he doesn’t deserve your undying devotion. To hide your own truth just in case a myth turns out to be true is no way to live and I feel so sad for those that do.

So as another PRIDE month comes to an end I have to reflect on how lucky I am. Lucky that I am able to participate in PRIDE events as a bisexual, female, atheist without ridicule. Lucky that I am raising my daughter in a society that is finally beginning to understand LGBT. Lucky that I have been able to express my sexuality my entire life and grow from each experience. This is all part of what makes me who I am and the fact that I don’t have to hide those qualities is amazing. So many people are still repressed but hopefully acceptance will continue to grow and equality will be come the norm. Until then, let’s stay strong and keep marching.

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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.

 

Separating the Wheat from the Chaff

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” – Aristotle[1]

Atheists cannot entertain deep intellectual thought exercises because they are close-minded.”[2] This is basically the charge I’ve been confronted with recently in several discussions. So I think I’ll take a moment to argue not only that it’s unwarranted, but that the opposite is indeed the case.

There is nothing about atheism that suggests one has to avoid thinking about such topics as gods. It just means that we’ve come to a conclusion about certain claims being made regarding a particular beings existence and (as in my case) the attributes typically ascribed to them. Take studying philosophy and science, their respective histories contain various concepts of God(s) dating back to the ancient Greeks. Many of the most influential early scientific works, such as Isaac Newton, contain mentions of a god(s)[3]. So to heed the words of Bertrand Russell, one must be willing to confront the absurd[4]. These are concepts that atheists have been exposed to and, more times than not, have thought about. Many have even accepted one concept of god or another at some point in their life. It’s not that atheists haven’t entertained such thoughts, it’s that most atheists have. We are not close-minded to new or extraordinary ideas and concepts, or even counter-intuitive ones. But that doesn’t mean that we should not separate the wheat from the chaff in the arena of ideas. Especially with respect to intellectual development and scientific progress. This is a necessary process for moving out of ignorance and not some dogmatic adherence to an ideology.

We see that given the dogmatic assumptions that typically accompany theism, it is actually the atheist that is open to new discoveries, and following the new evidence extrapolated from them, to where it leads. However, we recognize that there is no need to open the flood gates so wide as to lose our grounding in reality. We needn’t abandon our faculties to reason in this way. Nor do atheists need to shoehorn the whole of reality into a belief around one particular deity, as theists (of any particular faith) do. We needn’t abandon our intellectual honesty in this way. That is the epitome of the very thing the atheist is being charged with. I can think of little more close-minded than to start all scientific inquiries and philosophical investigations from the presupposition that one particular deity, with a particular set of attributes, conveniently the same one that the theist already believes in, is the creator and ruler of all. Also it just so happens that this particular deities divine instructions for living in this world comes from their particular holy book (again convenient).

It must be addressed that there is a bit of hypocrisy being exposed here within the theists camp. Does the Christian actively think that it is possible that his god doesn’t exist? Does the Muslim actively think that she may be wrong and Hinduism could be right? Are we supposed to allow for equal possibility for all god concepts to exist? To accept this nigh impossible. At least to anyone who has a basic understanding of the differences and similarities of the concepts of deities and the theologies that give them life.

What about just some vague, undefined “something”, as in, I assume, a powerful supreme intelligence that got it all started? Well, even with that, one must take on a lot of unjustifiable baggage. Assumptions about intelligence and consciousness become a problem as contemporary science and philosophy have a few things to say about the matter. Physics and cosmology have quite a bit to say about the universe and how it came about. Then there’s the problems of temporality and spatiality and the nature of what it means to “exist”. These matters are clearly not settled, but it shows that the conversations are moving further and further away from god talk. Could there be some as of yet undiscovered “something out there”? I don’t know because I don’t know what that “concept” (if we can allow the term) would entail. But I could conceive of there being something more in principle, whereas the believer cannot do so outside of their concept of god. And their god not existing is unthinkable, even in principle. It’s even seen as a failure or test of “faith” in many religious circles. But even if we accept such a concept as this unclarified and ambiguous “something”, is that what we are to call “god”? Will that satisfy the typical religious believer? I doubt it. I, on the other hand, like many atheists, am open to entertaining such ideas like of other forms of life elsewhere in the universe. I’m open to the possibility of a Multiverse. And I’m sure I’m not the only philosophile to give considerable thought to the “brain in a vat” problem. I can give serious consideration to moral dilemmas and truly look for meaning and purpose in life. I can think honestly about “gods”, without taking any of them on board or adopt any of their dogmas. I can entertain a great number of possibilities without being beholden to any.

And yet, all these things are restricted to the religious believer. Taboo even, to the more fundamentalist. Believing in a god essentially strips these subjects of thought of their value and relevance. Reducing them to a mere glimpse of a gods whim or fancy. The best religion can offer is the hope that their god will reveal a little bit more so our “feeble minds” can get a little closer to him. That doesn’t sound very open-minded to me at all. No, I say I am getting the full experience as science and secular philosophy fosters the kind of thinking that aids in fruitful “open-mindedness”. I’d argue that atheism is the best (and quite possibly only) position that can allow for the open-mindedness it takes to entertain these thought experiments and still maintain a grounding of rationality and commitment to intellectual honesty.[5]

– Rich

Notes:

[1] from Aristotle’s Metaphysics

[2] This was pretty much the gist of several different conversations I have had recently. Within those conversations there were statements like “atheist weren’t exposed (or willing to be exposed) to the idea of theism” and how this led to our “ignorance”. And how atheists are supposedly dogmatically holding to materialism and unwilling to consider anything other than some narrow, strictly empirical view of reality. Never to venture too far from our “master”, science (as erroneously described as basically our line-of-sight personal observations). And it is because of this we are missing out on the full experience of thinking about reality and to engaging in such philosophical thought experiments. So I decided to combine these conversations and attempt to address them all at once.

[3] Regarding these early scientists, it must be stated that god(s) was not used in any important, explanatory way. The concept of a god typically served as a widget at the limits of their understanding. We see this happening over and over again with vastly different concepts throughout the ages. From Zeus and other gods of polytheism to the monotheistic God of Abraham.

[4] “Whoever wishes to become a philosopher must learn not to be frightened by absurdities.” The Problems of Philosophy, Bertrand Russell, p.24

[5] If one wants to object that rationality and intellectual honesty are somehow a hindrance to open-mindedness, then what good can being open-minded serve? It would seem that this version of “open-mindedness” would be detrimental. Like the saying goes, “so open-minded that your brain falls out”.

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.

In the spirit of Holy Week, we will rise up

I remember being in junior high school when Kip Kinkle took a gun into Thurston High School, he shot 50 rounds, injuring 25 people and killing 2. I remember being a Freshman in high school when Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris set multiple bombs inside of Columbine High School and when they didn’t work, the pair decided to shoot up the place instead. The Columbine massacre received far more attention than that of Thurston High, I speculate that is due to a much higher fatality rate, 13 killed and 24 injured, as well as the massive media exposure it received. Despite that they both made an impact on me as a student. Some of the smaller shootings that have occurred in the United States have been brushed off with little media coverage other than the local news. When you think of school shootings you likely think of Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandyhook and now Stoneman Douglas, but this issue runs deeper than that. In fact in the 20 years that have passed since Kip Kinkle walked into his school with a gun and Nikolas Cruz chose to do the same, over 150 people have died from gun violence in our schools.

It breaks my heart to think that in 20 years we haven’t been able to reach an agreement and pass legislation that would help to keep guns out of the hands of children. Now, through the tragedy at Stoneman Douglas our youth are finally saying enough is enough. I am not sure why it took this long, but I am thankful it is happening now. The “March For Our Lives” was so inspiring. To see students rallying together and demanding action was truly beautiful, but now we have to stay strong.

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It is no surprise that this is bringing about a flood of counter-protest and not just from regular citizens but from the media and politicians. You can tell that the people are afraid of what regulation might develop as they are grasping at anything they can in an attempt to avoid the real issues. From Leslie Gibson calling Emma González, a “skinhead lesbian,” to Laura Ingraham taking to Twitter to poke fun at David Hogg over which colleges did not accept him. The behavior we have seen from many of the adults in position of power is disgraceful. I can only shake my head as I sit and try to figure out how I will explain this to my daughter one day.

Listen, whether you want to accept it or not these children are the future of our country. So you may fight them, call them names, try to destroy their spirit now, but you cannot stop them from growing up and becoming voters. These amazing children that we see marching for their lives in Washington DC will one day be serving in office, maybe even as the president. These outdated laws and flawed ways of thinking will eventually die out as fresh new minds enter into the world of politics.

You may have noticed that when Laura Ingraham made an apology to David Hogg it was “in the spirit of Holy week”. Not in the name of humanity, not because what she did was wrong and she was acknowledging it, but as an attempt at virtue signaling. Some people may fall victim to the theory that a belief in God makes you a good person, but it isn’t true. It is easy for people to slip religion in as a screen to try to make themselves look better, but anyone with a rational mind can see through it. As Michelle Obama once said “When they go low, We go high” so in the spirit of Holy Week, I suggest we rise up.

 

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.