US Election Aftermath

My dear friends and family members. Words finally came to me, so I wrote them. If you want to read them, please feel free to. If you want clarifications about anything, please message me.

Before I get to my actual post: I care about you all, I trust that you all thoughtfully arrived at your perspectives, and I’ve done my best to listen to everyone during this election cycle.

Mostly, though, I’m so tired of seeing all the fighting, chastisement, and blame.

I also really just want to safely wrap up (all cozy like in a blanket) all my friends and loved ones who have been or likely will be negatively affected by this election result and take care of you all and make it all better    I’m here for you. This is not a happy result for me either.

I am disappointed.

I am also in a position where I don’t particularly need to fear for my life or the lives of my children because of the election results. After all, I’m a member of only one group that’s been explicitly targeted by Trump’s rhetoric and only one other group that’s been indirectly targeted by Trump’s rhetoric.

Many, nay most, of my loved ones are not so fortunate and they’re in the process of grieving for the rights they’re about to lose, the security they’ve already lost, and/or the realization that they aren’t particularly welcome in their own country and communities any longer and maybe haven’t been welcome there for a very long time.

The election result just happened about 48 hours ago. Expecting people whose very lives are endangered by an election’s results to just “get over it” or “stop letting their feelings control them” – especially this soon since the election happened – is the height of entitlement.

You’re happy about the results? Cool. Be happy then.

You’re meh, but okay about the results? Cool, be that way too.

You were devastated but got over it real quick? Awesome! But it’s not a race.

And for the love of all that is good and holy: Please let others have their time to grieve! Maybe listen to them to find out WHY they’re upset. I have not seen any “sour grapes” “sore losers” on my social media. Instead, I’ve seen people who are legitimately worried about their own lives or the lives of their loved ones.

Obviously I don’t know what’s on anyone else’s social media, but there are plenty of people out here who are hurting and scared and need time and support from the people they thought cared about them. Not to be chastised about how they’re handling it (or not).

And yes, some people are harming or threatening others in response and that’s not okay either. I’ve not seen anyone say it is.

I’ve spent this entire election cycle listening to people from all sides. There were valid concerns on ALL sides.

There are real live people represented on all sides.

Multidimensional people who are not a monolith along with the rest of the “left” or “right” or “independents” or “3rd party voters” or “people who stayed home” or whatever group with whom you disagree the most.

I’m quite sick and tired of the hatred and vitriol. I’ve mostly seen this coming from the Trump camp so that’s what I’m focusing on, although I’m well aware it’s a growing problem on (again) all sides.

Personally, I would love to see all sides listening more to actual people and less to the media. That the media has played a large and devastating role in this election is probably one of the only things about which I agree with Trump (and I’ve listened to his actual words, not media renditions).

I have very specific things to say to both sides before I sum up. I even color-coded them so you can see where the sections begin and end:

If you’re one of my loved ones who is devastated/scared by these results, regardless of whom you voted for (if you voted), then please take the time you need to grieve. I’m happy to listen and commiserate with you and support you in practical ways however you need me to and as far as I’m able.

I love you and am here to help in any way I possibly can, my friends and loved ones who stand to lose the most from these results. I’m sorely grieved by the outcome myself for many reasons and I can only personally hope that Trump remains a liar and won’t accomplish nearly as much as he’s promised.

If you voted for Trump, well, I’m going to trust that you had legitimate, non-hateful, reasons for doing so. I love you and care for you too, but my focus has to be on supporting my friends who are hurting right now.

If you’re one of the folks who’s upset about people calling you a racist because you voted for Donald Trump, please let me tell you something that might help:

Sometimes (often) people make incorrect inferences about others’ lives from the company they keep or the votes they make or the social media posts they post/like/share/comment on.

If you’ve been called a racist and people are incorrect about that assumption, then maybe it’s time to publicly and vocally stand up against the hurtful rhetoric that came along with the positive things you were voting FOR. Consider giving support (in whatever way you’re able – emotional support is totally free and can go a long way) to your friends who stand to lose the most during this presidential term. Show them that you really did just vote for Trump because you wanted better jobs for the middle class! Or whatever reason you actually had.

I’m speaking now specifically to those of us who have the means, support, ability, and (yes) privilege to actively listen to people from other sides and try to find solutions to fix the mess we’re all in:

Regardless of who you voted for, please use this time to get better at listening to your fellow Americans instead of watching/reading the media while surrounding yourself with people who largely share your demographics and viewpoints.

This polarization happened on all sides and important life-altering concerns from other groups of people were missed on all sides. And this is the result.

The last year has been an ugly, ugly time of polarization. Let’s please try to use this experience to do better in the future.

Fear, Understanding, and Politics

This Onion article seems to be particularly on-point regarding Trump’s speech, from what I’ve heard and seen of last night. Fear and inaccuracies seemed to play a rather large role.

I’m going to start with a very brief two-paragraph history of my own: I grew up with the network news on in the background daily when my dad would get home from work. Then 9/11 happened when I was a college freshman, living on campus. I stopped watching the news about two weeks later, primarily because of all the fear and hatred being spread around. The network news broadcasts were starting to remind me of the two-minutes hate in 1984, which I had recently re-read at the time. The news was also constantly on wherever there was a television set at my college and it quickly became overwhelming for me.

So I went cold turkey and purposely didn’t watch any news at all for about a decade, aside from clips that were shown during college classes or occasional documentaries I watched. My quality of life improved significantly and immediately upon cutting broadcast news out of my life. I periodically would read news articles – but they were mainly local or relevant to my life in some other way. I heard about significant international events primarily through blogs or personal interactions with friends. Over the last 5 years I’ve slowly added in more written news stories that are of interest to me and carefully avoided much broadcast news, preferring to read the news rather than watch or listen to it anyhow.

Given my news hiatus, it seems obvious to me that, in the past 15 years, things have not gotten better on the spreading fear and hatred to everyone front. Instead they appear to have gotten remarkably worse.

***Now, I want to be very clear that not all fear is unjustified – fear is not a dirty word and it doesn’t imply anything negative in and of itself. Healthy fear can even be life-saving at times.***

However, I would like to encourage all of you, my friends and readers, to look deeply into the things you fear and consider why you fear them and maybe even if you should fear them. It can be difficult to do this at first, it certainly has been for me, but it gets much easier with practice.

These are some of the things that have helped me the most with my own endeavor towards greater understanding of opposing viewpoints and that I think might possibly be of use to others – feel free to take note of any that sound helpful and leave the rest: 

Seek out and listen to numerous perspectives.

Consider staying away from the more dramatic news sources or at least limiting their influence in your life.

Keep at least one or two reasonable friends who don’t hold the same political stances as you do.

Have calm, reasonable discussions with friends who don’t share your political beliefs.

Listen, listen, listen!

Ask for clarifications before assuming what someone meant – especially if they didn’t explicitly say it.

Clarify your own words when asked.

Try to avoid becoming defensive or thinking that someone merely said what you were expecting them to say – especially, again, if they didn’t explicitly say it with their words.

Move beyond pithy, partisan sound-bites and dig more deeply into the issues.

Take frequent (or even long) breaks if you find yourself getting frustrated or overwhelmed. A wise friend of mine once said that the words will still be here when you come back. To a degree, that can sometimes not be true if people decide not to stand by what they said and instead delete comments, but hopefully you’ll be mainly talking to reasonable people who are willing to let their words stand for the sake of the larger discussion even if they’ve since changed their perspective.

Set boundaries for what topics you are not willing to talk about in an online group setting. For example: I have no desire to talk about gun control. I have good friends on both sides and have a good grasp of both sides, I’m somewhere in the middle, and those discussions get nasty very quickly these days. I don’t see any reason for me to either host or participate in those discussions at this point when I can instead save my energy for topics that I still need or want to delve into more thoroughly.

It has been well worth my while to listen open-mindedly to a diverse mix of people and I believe that more people doing so can only benefit our society as a whole – particularly in these fearful and divisive times.

New Apprentice

Dear New Apprentice,

The path towards midwifery can be a very long and lonely path. Being a midwifery student/apprentice can isolate you from your family and the friends you used to spend time with. It isn’t easy for someone who has never led an on-call lifestyle to understand how interruptible your life must now be. It isn’t easy for people to understand that you can never fully commit to anything while on-call and that backup plans are a way of life for you now.

Your life is no longer your own. You must come and go based on someone else’s schedule – not only the schedules of the pregnant women who hire your preceptor, but also your preceptor’s schedule and the almost always completely unpredictable schedules of the babies you will help care for. Your schedule and convenience are the least important factors in the equation and, because of this, you cannot simply fit midwifery or an apprenticeship into your life. You must instead fit your life in around your apprenticeship.

In addition to the long hours spent at prenatals, births, and postpartums; you must also somehow fit in your academics. Hours upon hours spent with Helen Varney, Anne Frye, Myles, Ina May Gaskin, Michel Odent, Elizabeth Davis, Oxorn and Foote, and the Practical Skills Guide, among others. Whether you attend an accredited school or choose to pursue a less formal course of study, bookwork is an integral part of your training and has to be squeezed in sometime or other.

It doesn’t matter how little you feel like you “fit in” with the other apprentices in your area. It doesn’t matter how much of a kindred spirit your preceptor is. If you choose to shun the only group of people who are currently experiencing this peculiar lifestyle along with you then you will, almost certainly, be missing out on a huge amount of vital support.

You may be in your early 20’s, just a few weeks into your apprenticeship,  and believe that you know much more than you actually do. You may truly believe that you are set apart and different from all of your peers and colleagues, but when the going gets rough, even you might benefit from a little bit of comfort knowing that you aren’t the only one who is experiencing the intensity of birth from a caregiver’s perspective for the first, or nearly the first, time.

Doubts, even fears, may creep in as you see and assist with potentially life-threatening complications. Questions that you cannot ask your preceptor (as unthinkable as that might seem to some – especially at first) may pop into your head. Maybe you will wonder how the other local preceptors handle certain situations, either with clients or with their apprentices.

But, you may say, I really am different and I really don’t think I need the other apprentices’ support. I just don’t fit in, you continue, and I don’t need any support other than the support I find from my closest friends, family, and my own preceptor.

That’s all well and good and might even possibly be true, but cutting oneself off from the only people who are able to currently and personally understand your situation is not the answer. Refusing to listen to those who have so recently been in your shoes is not a wise path to take. Be open to learning from those who are farther along and traveling the same road you are.

If perhaps, someday, you come across this post and any of it seems to fit, please read it in the loving and concerned tone it was meant to be read in and consider seeking out the support of your peers and colleagues in order to help maximize your chances of success. We would all love to see you succeed.

Whether or not you’re the specific apprentice I was thinking of when I began this post, please – seek out your fellow apprentices for support and don’t burn those bridges without a damn good reason.

~B.

Assigning Positive Intent

flowers in the yard

I believe that learning how to assign and even to assume the positive intent of others is one of the most important things I’ve learned how to do over the past several years.

I first remember hearing about this concept from my father as he taught an adult Sunday School class that I was attending. He explained that, when someone seems to be angry with you, they very well may not be at all. They might be dealing with a difficult personal or family issue or they could even be experiencing chronic pain – nobody, my father explained that Sunday morning, has an easy time being nice to other people when they have chronic back pain.

Well, that made and still makes perfect sense to me. In addition to the point that people always have other things going on in their lives that we can’t possibly know about, another point is that none of us is the center of anyone’s universe except possibly (probably?) our own. The idea that I would do something purposefully to make a friend or family member of mine upset or to offend them utterly baffles me. I don’t know why I would spend any time trying to do such a thing.

And if I wouldn’t spend my time doing something like that, then why would I assume that anyone else would do such a thing to me?

That was enough to convince me and over the years I’ve gotten much better at assigning positive intent to others and not taking personally any differences of opinion or belief.

The assumption of positive intent has made a huge difference in my life and has been very freeing. I’m free to believe that I’m not the center of anyone else’s world and that nobody is messing with me by just living their lives.

One of the most important places to assume positive intent these days, in my opinion, is online, but it’s also one of the more difficult situations to assume positive intent. We are now exposed to so many more of our friends’ and family members’ beliefs and actions than we were before social media came around that it’s bound to be a rough transition. Family members interacting with high school friends and college friends and parenting friends… it can be a mess sometimes.

It can also seem, occasionally, as though people are posting negative things that are directed right at us and at our choices or beliefs. In reality, the people posting them probably just saw something that lined up with their own beliefs and posted it because they liked it – not because they’re thinking about how you do or believe the opposite and they want to send you some sort of cryptic negative message.

I’ve mostly avoided that sort of thinking, especially after spending several years on a gentle parenting board where we are expected to always assume positive intent with our children as well as with other mothers on the board, and am normally very adept at simply scrolling past most things that I find to be potentially offensive or divisive, but I’ve found that I sometimes get very defensive or even offended responses from my friends when I post something that has been helpful to me personally with parenting or living.

It’s even possible that this post will ruffle someone’s feathers somewhere, although I can’t imagine whose and it’s not intended in that way either… it’s just a helpful topic I have on my mind and that I wanted to share with anyone who reads this ❤

So what are some examples of positive intent, as I see it?

Positive intent (as I see it) says that parents who make different decisions than you do are just doing the best they can with their unique situation and the information they have, even if you think you’d never make those decisions yourself. Positive intent says that those parents also have the best interest of their children in mind, even if you vehemently disagree with how they go about showing it.

Positive intent says that people who generalize about specific parties in politics and denigrate those who support them are just frustrated with the state of politics right now (aren’t we all?) and possibly lack the capacity to express their extreme frustration without also casting aspersions on everyone who supports the party they’re frustrated with. Positive intent also says that those aspersions are not about you or me, but rather tells you a bit more about the frustrations and beliefs of the person making them.

Positive intent says that people are trying their hardest and doing their best to live their lives in a difficult and fallen world, even if you look at them and think that they seem like abject failures by your own definition. Nobody is perfect and everyone falls short in one way or another. Some of us struggle more than others do and none of us have walked in anyone else’s shoes, figuratively speaking, so it really does behoove everyone to assign positive intent.

Positive intent says that we treat others the way that we would want to be treated by assuming that there’s a good explanation for behavior that we could easily take personally or poorly.

If I ever appear to be a jerk to someone then I want to know about it and have a chance to make things right. It only makes sense to me to give that chance to anyone who seems to be acting like a jerk to me. Maybe they thought  I was a jerk first or maybe their mom just died or they just found out they have cancer or they simply woke up late and have been scrambling to catch up all day long… you’ll almost certainly never know for sure unless you assume the best and ask them nicely.

Positive intent says that it’s not all about us and that we should strive not to take things personally unless we have asked for clarification and the person clarifies that it is, specifically, about us.

Almost always though, there’s another explanation; one that doesn’t involve cryptic or indirect personal attacks because, really, who has time for that kind of thing?

Parents’ Prayer (author credited below)

I found this prayer posted on the Gentle Christian Mothers message board and wanted to share it because I find it to be very inspiring and a nice reminder of what I hope to achieve as a parent. The lady who posted it on the message board got the author’s permission to post it and I’m sure he won’t mind my posting it again. I hope it inspires someone else!

“O Heavenly Father, make me a better parent. Teach me to understand my children, to listen patiently to what they have to say, and to answer all their questions kindly. Keep me from interrupting them or contradicting them. Make me as courteous to them as I would have them be to me. Forbid that I should ever laugh at their mistakes or resort to shame or ridicule when they displease me. May I never punish them for my own selfish satisfaction or to show my power. Let me not tempt my children to lie or steal. And guide me hour by hour that I may demonstrate by all that I say and do that honesty produces happiness. Reduce, I pray, the meanness in me. And when I’m out of sorts, help me, O Lord, to hold my tongue. May I ever be mindful that my children are children and I should not expect of them the judgment of adults. Let me not rob them of the opportunity to wait on themselves and to make decisions. Bless me with the bigness to grant them all their reasonable requests and the courage to deny them privileges I know will do them harm. Make me fair and just and kind and fit, O Lord, to be loved and respected and imitated by my children. Amen.”

Fr. Anthony Coniaris
from Making God Real in the Orthodox Christian Home

Mothering, housekeeping, and procrastinating

I accomplish much more in a day now, with three children, than I ever did when I only had one child.

Once I realized that fact, I asked myself why that would be. After some thinking about the reality that there’s also just more to do, I figured it out! It’s not so much that there’s more to do or even that I have children who can talk now to remind me to do things that I probably wouldn’t have gotten done before. The key to why I get more done now than before is procrastination.

Procrastination has been the bane of my existence more than just a few times in my life. College is the time that springs most readily to my mind, followed by high school, and my entire life before then… Since having my own house I’ve struggled with the tendency to let things go and put things off for as long as possible. The dishes are dirty? Well, might as well just wait until after the next meal and do all the dishes at once! The floor is dirty? Might as well just sweep once a week and get more dirt with each stroke! There’ll always be more time later, right?

Wrong.

I don’t just procrastinate, after all, I wait until the absolutely last minute possible or even longer. Usually I wait too long when I have a known deadline. Something needs to be done by a certain day and I’ll stay up all night the night before doing it even if it’s something that takes longer than a day to complete.

Now that I have a preschooler, a toddler, and an infant I have different deadlines. If I don’t help my older daughters with their workbooks or play with them while the baby’s asleep… well… it doesn’t end up happening. If I don’t clean the kitchen while my older daughters are helping and relatively happy to help then the opportunity might not come again until the kitchen is completely unusable.

For the first time in my life, I have very specific deadlines. The great thing about these deadlines for someone who procrastinates is that they’re unknown deadlines. When will the baby wake up? I don’t know! I’d better get busy playing, working, or cleaning while I can! When will my older girls become tired, hungry, or uncooperative? Nobody knows… least of all me, so I’d better get their help (they are very good helpers too!) and get the house in order before that happens!

Realizing this has made a huge difference in the quality of my life. I relax now after my kitchen is clean, not before, and it’s much more relaxing to relax in a clean house than a messy one! I wish I’d figured this out much sooner in my life… but better late than never.

~B.

The Almighty “Due Date”

The most important date to me throughout my pregnancy with my first child was, not surprisingly, my due date. I was convinced that my baby would come early – several days early, no less. My mom’s babies came early and therefore mine should too, or so I thought. Imagine my surprise when my due date came and went and I was still pregnant!

My midwife had prepared me for the possibility of going over my due date, or at least she had tried to prepare me for it. No matter how many times she reminded me that it didn’t matter when my mother’s babies had come or that the almighty Due Date was just an approximation, I was still convinced that my baby would be early! Or, at the very least, not late. That is what I thought, at least until after my due date.

As due dates go, my first one was pretty accurate. My daughter was born only two days past my due date. That’s practically right on time! Except that after my first birth, I learned a bit more, and came to realize that the due date doesn’t really mean very much at all which is why it is more accurately referred to as an “estimated due date” instead of an “almighty due date.”

During my pregnancy with my second daughter, I viewed the due date very differently. In the first place, we were basically just guessing about the due date. I didn’t have much of an idea of when I actually got pregnant since I was nursing my older daughter at the time. It was much less of a sure thing. If we went by LMP, my due date was nearly a month earlier than if we went by implantation spotting and uterine size determined by palpation.

When people would ask me when I was due I would tell them, “Oh, anywhere from 8 to 13 weeks from now.” I figured out the number of weeks by including the three weeks before and two weeks after my estimated due date which is the usual window for a baby to be born during. I figured that this way I could avoid having other people thinking of me as “overdue” and I could avoid that thinking for myself as well.

I think that by having a “due date” it’s all too easy to fall into thinking that the baby needs to be born *by* that date – as I felt with my first daughter. I think that women would be better served by thinking of their “due weeks” – the 5 week period of time when it’s most likely their baby will be born. The vast majority of babies are not born on their due dates and that’s completely normal! Babies born during that five week window do not have any extra risks compared to babies who are born on their exact due date. Those five weeks are all considered full-term when labor begins spontaneously during them.

On the other hand, the common practice of artificially inducing labor just because a woman has reached or passed her due date can lead to completely avoidable complications – babies born too soon (since labor begins when the baby is ready to come out), labor that isn’t progressing well enough (since the mother’s body wasn’t ready to have the baby quite yet), and unnecessary c-sections (for labor that isn’t progressing well enough).

An excellent short article about VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean section) that also includes a bit of the history of the origin of estimated due dates can be found here.

The due date should be a guide and a reference point, but it is not an expiration date!

~B.

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