Friday, February 29, 2008
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
It's been three months, and I just have never put my son's clothes in storage (for many reasons). I was going to give them to my BF, but I couldn't bring myself to go through them then. Tonight, I thought I'd just get it over with, listen to my ipod as a distraction, but I couldn't resist looking at them one more time, and it was too much.
This low point began last night, when for the millionth time since losing sweet Myles that I couldn't sleep. I lay in my bed, heart racing, trying, grasping to think of something that will put me at rest, any happy thought to get lost in instead. But all thoughts lead back to one thing. sigh. And none of those things are conducive to sleeping, only anxiety and frustration and hurt. I know I'm not alone, many times I'm on the internet, grasping searching for answers. It's my time with Myles in a way, the only time the house is quiet and I'm really alone.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
On the issues, I like that he is transparent. He wants transparency in government. He is transparent about his life, even when it's not adventageous (like discussing his past drug use), and in politics, even when it ticks off establishment dems and repubs alike. I like that he opposed the war from the beginning (as did I) and he took that position long before it was popular. He didn't do it to benefit himself, and it could have easily been to his own demise. He doesn't just take positions because of his ambitions.
I like that Obama thinks government is for the people, that it won't work unless all of us stand up and make it happen. He believes in the American People. As misanthropic as I've been sometimes, I do believe that if every child had an opportunity, they would flourish. Right now, so many kids don't. And we only care about them when they're kids (if you call our current foster system 'caring') once they're adults we expect them to pull themselves up by their bootstraps at age 19, childhood be damned.
I like Obama because he knows that when challenged by a major catastrophe, that we (the american people) want to DO something (besides shopping). The book, "Downsizing Democracy" I think paints beautifully the problem with our current 'democratic' system and disconnect gov't has (and wants to continue to have) from the people. Establishment politicians act as if they don't need us. They act as if it's all explained by apathy, the whole generation me thing. And it's bullshit. I'm 27. I always felt like I was born too late. I looked back at the civil rights movement and feminist movement and I felt like I missed 'it'.
My first year of graduate school, I had this wondeful social theory course, and it was exactly what you'd probably imagine. A room full of young idealistic (yet ironically misanthropic) grad students arguing Habermas and Schutz and trying to solve all of the worlds problems in our tiny little seminar room. One day, I walked up to the board, and I wrote, "We're the one's we've been waiting for". I had read the quote the day before, and it gave me chills. And it gave everyone in the class chills. This was right after the Dems lost the 2004 election, and in hindsight, I can't believe I was that optimistic. Today, that is an Obama campaign slogan.
So anyway, I don't think the American people are delusional to support Obama, that we're all mindless zombies. Obamamania. That's the current narrative they're pushing. Obama has tapped into a social movement, one many in my generation have been itching for for a very long time.
And on a personal front, for somebody as hopeless as I have been since I lost Myles, I think it really says something for Obama that he can still bring that sense of hope back for even me. From an atheistic standpoint, I can no longer account for what that feeling is, what drives it, what is at it's base (I don't think it's utilitarianism), but simply to have it well up inside of me again, it makes me believe that I can find it in me again someday down the road in my little world, when I'm ready for another baby, another great hope.
"The setting of a great hope is like the setting of the sun. The brightness of our life is gone."
I think the sun might rise again for me, and I think it might rise again for our country. And, I hate to do it again, but I've got to post that Obama quote one more time:
"But we always knew that hope is not blind optimism. It's not ignoring the enormity of the tasks ahead or the roadblocks that stand in our path. It's not sitting on the sidelines or shirking from a fight. Hope is that thing inside us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us if we have the courage to reach for it and to work for it and to fight for it."
Sunday, February 24, 2008
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
My son was stillborn a little over 2 months ago at 37 weeks gestation for no known reason. Needless to say, me, my DH, and my DD (4yo) were devastated including countless other family members and friends. We have suffered financially from this loss. The paying for the 'nursery' bit is not 'upper class'. I'm an attachment parent, I bought little, no conspicuous consumption here, I didn't even by a crib. What I did buy added up, a baby wrap, clothes, cloth diapers(what a cruel joke, I thought this would save me money in the long run). Hell, there are lost dollars for most women in pregnancy discrimination alone. I personally spent 9 weeks on bed rest, which is a similar financial burden. Then there is the burial, the memorial, the missed days of work grieving, lowered productivity and most importantly MEDICAL BILLS. These babes growing inside of us are 'dependents'. We pay for them from day one.
Of course, with all that planning, I never did plan for this. As a proud outspoken feminist Soc grad student, I view this bill through a lens of giving women choices. I go to my sons memorial all the time. It cost over $500, $100 of it we had to fork over for a temp. marker on the day we planned his funeral (which I 'm required to do as his 'guardian' by State law). We didn't have the money, but we wrote the check anyway. We were lucky enough to have family and friends help us with the permanent memorial. When I went the other day, as the snow had temporarily melted, I saw unmarked grave after unmarked grave. So many dreams lay there in babyland. It breaks my heart, that some parents didn't even have the scant resources my family has. I felt sorry for myself that we were in such a bind, but there are so many more families worse off than I.
As far as those laws slipped into State legislatures designed to chip away at Roe v Wade and women's rights, I understand your suspicion and worry. My reaction 4 months ago would probably have been the same. I'm for reproductive justice to the core. I believe abortion should be safe and available to any woman, anytime, anywhere, for any reason.
What I can tell you is that bills aimed at giving birth certificates to stillborn babies, or tax deductions to families like mine do not fall into that category. These bills are about giving women choices. They are about recognizing the burdens of women. Stillbirths are still swept under the rug, much like pregnancies themselves were for decades. Nobody wants to talk about birthing dead babies. Even recently (within the last 50-60 years), many women never got to see their stillborn child, they were whisked away, dead, not worth seeing in the eyes of the men who delivered them. No funeral service, a quick burial, and everyone was told to 'move on'. I saw a recent story of this here (http://pubsys.pressofatlanticcity.com/185/story/45104.html). The woman never knew for 40 years where her dear stillborn daughter was buried, and decades later, her children found that baby and bought her a memorial. It is heartbreaking, the hurt this woman must endure, the hurt I must endure, for decades.
The fact is, birth is a process that by definition has two outcomes, live birth and still birth. I can tell you after experiencing both, they are the same excruciating physiological process. Today, many opportunities are given to mothers to help them grieve the loss of their child. Locks of hair, casts of hands and feet, crib cards, pictures (Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep: http://www.nowilaymedowntosleep.org/). Why? Because their births are worth remembering. They are certainly worth tracking statistically given the atrocity that is stillbirth research.
My son's birth was transformative for me, it's one of the only positive pieces I turn to in my grief. My daughters birth was traumatic, it was birth rape, and I was looking forward to a natural water birth where I was treated like a human being. And you know what? I got my completely natural water birth, my son was dead, but I did give birth to him in a loving, supportive setting with my daughter, sister, husband, and midwife all there to support me. It was beautiful. And that is what birth certificates are for. They should be called 'birthed certificates', they are not about personhood, they are not about 'life' or loss, they are about the mother and her birth; whether it is live or still, it is equally harrowing, life threatening, breathtaking, healing, and, in some cases, devastating. Women deserve this respect, that States not only recognize only one type of birth. They deserve the respect of their dreams not being swept under the rug any longer.
As a feminist that has only recently experienced the stillbirth of my son, I've thought a lot about these issues. Obviously as I have a lot to say. And I think I understand feminism even more deeply after considering these issues from my new perspective. What women do is amazing, carrying children is a hardship but many gladly sacrifice, would risk their lives for it. Recognizing stillbirth is recognizing our work, our dreams, our sacrifices, and, through 'certificates of birth resulting in stillbirth', our births are recognized, for no surreptitious reason, only to give us closure, or just give us one more piece of paper with our beautiful child's name written on it that we can hold and remember for years to come. It might not seem like a lot, but to many women it is everything. They may never have another child again, are they a mother if their only child was stillborn? I say, yes, they birthed, they are mothers, only their children never lived. These bills are about recognizing motherhood, in all it's pain and all it's glory.
Friday, February 15, 2008
I've posted about my previously unequivocal atheism, discussed my hope, read some Nietzche and Camus and I'm more confused than ever. What am I hoping for? Do animals hope? Is hope the same as anticipation? Like does a squirrel watch your food 'anticipating' or 'hoping' that you may drop it? When my dogs gather around my daughter when she eats, LOL, is it out of 'hope' or 'want', and what is the difference? I think I can safely say that 'want' and 'anticipation' are necessary for there to be hope, but they are certainly not sufficient.Is hope simply to sit back and yearn for something? Is hope a thought, or an action or both? I think, unlike 'want', that hope requires action, sacrifice. You have to play to win, in other words. As a PhD student, I'm obviously willing and able to withstand temporary short term discomfort (if you consider grad school short term and if 'discomfort' means a self inflicted torture) for a long term gain. So is hope just a simple account of economics? But not just economics, short term loss for long term gain? It's certainly not cause and effect, the long term gain is not certain. Not everyone who enters a PhD program will leave with their degree. We know that our actions to attain what we hope for merely increase the probability that we gain whatever it is. Is hope simply a gamble?
Do we only differentiate hope from want by the odds against us? When I buy a lottery ticket, there is a part of me that hopes I win, but I recognize it as a 'fools hope' because I know the odds. But as they say, if you don't play, you can't win. So hope requires you 'play'. It is an action, and it is a sacrifice, financial or other.
So far, I think I can say that hope requires want/desire, anticipation, action, sacrifice AND that the outcome is essentialliy probabilistic. But is that alone hope? I think we've found necessary components, but not yet sufficient components to describe hope.
Through the lens of pregnancy, all of this applies. Pregnancy is many instances of hope. But there is something more than just probablistic economics to it. First, with gambling, there are known odds, we know the likelihood of flipping heads 10 times in a row or getting a royal flush, they are easily calculable. We know that sometimes we'll win, and sometimes we'll lose, but we know in the aggregate exactly what proportion will win or lose with the same hand. Hope, in this scenario, is that one wins monetarily more than they invest. The difference between gambling and pregnancy, though is that the odds aren't as clear.
Basically, fertility, family planning, it is a gamble. As you ttc each month, you're playing to win, and the majority of couples are fertile, but that doesn't necessarily mean the month they 'try' they will get pregnant. We all know that part of it is up to chance. So many of us want to get pregnant, while some of us hope to get pregnant, depending on those odds. I've always 'wanted' to get pregnant by the way, I don't know if I ever hoped, mostly because I've never had infertility issues.
Once you have conceived, does it become a hope? Once again, I think it depends on the odds against you, are you 'high risk' etc. I think perhaps for everyone it becomes a hope because we don't know a lot about pregnancy and miscarriage. Many pregnancies end in miscarriage, the majority of those losses occur before 12 weeks. And then we make it to 23 or 24 weeks and we know that probability speaking, if we do have preterm labor, that our baby would have pretty favorable odds at survival. And as we near the end of pregnancy, as we make it to term, we've pretty much made it, but most of us know that there are no guarantees until our babies are safe in our arms. But still, as our odds of giving birth to a live healthy child increase to over 99% as we reach term, it's still essentially a hope. Why? Is it the unknown? Because when it's a card game and you're 99% likely to win, I don't think you 'hope' to win anymore. You expect it.
So perhaps, then, why I feel so betrayed and hopeless is because I was no longer hoping. I felt entitled, it was almost a certainty. And I did forget, especially that 37th week, that this was still a gamble that hadn't yet paid off. And now, perhaps I feel hopeless because I realize that essentially everything is a gamble. And to hope is to believe that you will win, even if the odds are against you.
So, back to the conundrum, can true atheists justify their hope at all?
"Hope is the worst of evils, for it prolongs the torments of man." -- Nietzsche
to be continued . . .
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
So, today, she did something along these exact same lines. Her and I had went to get the oil changed in the car, and we'd sat down in two chairs next to a man who was reading the newspaper. Simone sat in between us. This was a man in his 50's, built like most men in their fifties, barrel chested/skinny legs. He wore a black leather jacket, and he looked a little rough (like he'd worked in the sun his whole life) He looked nice enough for just being a random stranger at Express Lube.
First of all, I did not get the vibe he wanted to chat. And I know it is true that there are people who just don't like kids, so I'm always conscientious of her friend-making because she just dives right in without regard. I think I try to hold her back because I get embarrassed and then am forced to do the Mom smile-shrug, which in sign language somehow means, "Kids, what do you do?". Also, I am kind of a loner and I'm not comfortable talking to strangers, and don't like people starting up conversations with me when I'm in my 'zone' (especially reading). Simone has challenged me on this many times, much to my frustration, but perhaps for my own good, too. Simone is simply the most outgoing child, she is an extrovert (how did this happen to me?) she thrives in group settings, gains energy from interacting with others.
So, of course, she whispers in my ear after we sit down and get comfortable, "Mom, I want to say 'hi' to that man." Now I at first tried to dissuade her from this, but decided to give in and reluctantly tell her to try if she wants to (I was reading my own newspaper by then). So she looks over and says 'hi' but he doesn't hear her. Simone whispers to me, "Mom, I said 'hi' but he didn't say anything." And I'm thinking to myself that this guy does not want to be bothered. She is determined so, with a sigh, I whisper back and tell her she has to get his attention, then say 'hi'. At that point I readied myself for the embarrassment that will inevitably follow.
Simone looks at him, and louder this time, says "Hi."
"Hi." the man turns, looks at me, then looks at her with a smile and asks "How are you, today?"
"Good" she says, as cool as a cucumber. The next part of their conversation I don't remember as well, they discussed this Christmas card she had made during Christmas time and found in the car, she showed it to him. She told him she was going to send it to Santa next Christmas, she told him her name, and showed him how she spelled it out on the back of the card, "S-I-M-O-N-E" she says point to the letters. The whole time he acted as interested as could be, and I felt relieved that he seemed nice and actually seemed to welcome the conversation. Here is where it get's more interesting.
Simone says, out of the blue, and very matter of factly, "My mom is trying to have a baby." I hear this, as I'm listening to their conversation, and immediately blush and sink down in my chair thinking to myself that I cannot believe she just said that. First, it's not true, I am not trying to get pregnant right now, someday, but certainly not now. In my embarrassment, I shake my head and silently vow that someday I am going to embarrass the hell out of her when she's a teenager for this single moment of embarrassment alone. I won't feel the least bit bad, either.
The man said, "Oh" nicely enough, probably knowing my chagrin at her telling him such personal information.
Simone continues, "Well," all of her sentences start with 'well' (she's so sassy), "she was already pregnant and had a baby. She had a water birth." She says with a sense of respect and excitement in her voice (she just loves water births I didn't mean to brainwash her). Of course, I go a shade redder and slink a little lower even as I'm chuckling at her water birth bit. I am thinking, however, that this has definitely taken a turn for the worse as I know where she is going with all this.
"Oh, she already had a baby, huh?" the man says still very polite although I think maybe he wondered, even if for only a split second, where that baby is.
"Yes. But he died." Simone pauses and then says, "My mom cries about it all the time." Of course now I'm really uncomfortable, almost mortified, obviously being talked about in the third person does that anyway but to share something so personal. So now I get to be 'debbie downer' and I'm going to have to talk about Myles with this strange man who is probably regretting the conversation began at all. I felt bad for him just like I felt bad for my former student who asked about whether I had my baby.
Then, something amazing happened. Before I can begin to stutter out an apology and explanation he says, just as matter of factly, and to Simone, "My daughter died too. She was almost an adult though." I was speechless, awestruck, saddened, and surprised at his candidness.
Simone says, "Oh."
I expected him to look at me, to have that moment of connection and understanding that accompanies child loss. But he never broke eye contact with her. Their amazingly nonchalant conversation continued from then on (she told him about her Chistmas gifts, and talks about how we were going to buy her a valentines day dress, and he listens as if it's his own little daughter or grandchild). I'm sitting their stunned, my heart simultaneously soaring and sinking.
So, once again, my daughter does what she has done to me on many occasions, beginning the day she was born when I first held her in my arms. She just left me awestruck. She knows how to take my breath away.
So, now that I'm writing about this interaction, I'm crying, but I wasn't then. Mostly I was smiling, and when Simone needed help articulating, I would help interpret for her in their completely Simone led conversation (about their dogs and cats and their names, etc., etc.).
As we said goodbye to him (his car was done) I made the conscious effort to remember their every word. It really did touch me in a very profound way.
I am not religious, not one bit. But sometimes there are coincidences, chance encounters with people that happen at just the right moment. I think of these people as earth angels. My midwife is certainly one, this lady I met on the bus the other day was one, too. And I can count at least half a dozen people who are just like that, virtual strangers who have stepped into my life, sometimes only for a moment. They say exactly what we need to hear, or they do exactly what we need done at that moment. This kind and gentle man who talked to me and my daughter for those 10 minutes is one of them, and we never even got his name!
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
I just feel sad and so so fatigued, like I've got mono. And I was doing so good, so good last week, and now I'm worse than ever. My life feels so overwhelming. There is no refuge. This 'take it a day at a time' shit is not working. Not on days like this.
I feel so alone, alienated from DH. I even question whether I love him anymore. He grates on my nerves and I don't know why. I just have hostility for him. I think it's unfair to him. I feel bad for my daughter. I don't think she has seen us interactive positively in many months. We're like ghosts, interacting with her, ignoring each other.
On days like this I just want to start all over again. Because I don't like where I am. I can't just pick up my life as if nothing happened. But that's what I've been doing. And I chug a long for a few days, and I'll climb out and I'll reach the Nadir and I'll think I've finally got it together and then I begin the slow decline.
It's like I have to make myself pay for my good days. The 'better' the day, the more I'll pay. I loathe myself I loathe my DH, I love my daughter so much. How do I carry on when I hurt so bad? How do I take it one second at a time when each second hurts?
Monday, February 11, 2008
This time, I went and saw my bf's baby at her house with Simone. It ended up being the trigger to send me spiraling down. I'm still so happy for her though. And anyone who knows me knows I'm obsessed with babies and maternal infant health and breastfeeding, etc. (ad nauseam). And I don't want that to change now that I've lost Myles. But in all honesty, it's hard to be around babies, and sadly, little Caleb Myles will always represent my son to me. He'll always be symbolic of what I missed what milestones my son has missed, and it makes me sad. When he is two and when he's 20, I'll always think of Myles when I see him. And I guess maybe that's a good thing. I don't ever want to forget my son, maybe I can shower Caleb with some love and attention and live a little vicariously through Jamee and him. He is a beautiful baby.
Anyway, when you don't hear from me for a couple of days, it's generally because I've hit a low. Now that I'm on my way back up from the abyss, here I am rambling. I started this post going to write about the caucus! Still downer debbie :)
No, I do have some pictures that I swear I am posting soon of me and B, and tbone all dressed in our matching Obama T-shirts. I spoke up for Obama during the caucus but eventually ended up defending Hillary even though I'm so strongly in the Obama camp (this Obama dude (>60yrs) was totally dissing her for crying and I and many others booed, and rightly so). I'm thinking about going to the August convention in Denver. I always like an excuse to go to Colorado, I so want to move there, sigh. Anyway, the rest of this primary is out of my control, so it's back to just plain hope without any course of action, I hate that, I've got to do something. So I'm actually sad the caucuses are over, and Super Tuesday too. When will this last year of Bush be over???!!! And when will I know if it's Obama or Hillary??? I am politicked out, but for me that means it's back to reading blogs and fucking with conservative douchebags on my hometown newspaper :) That is, until the MISSing Angels bill gets to the floor (please oh please I hope it happens), and of course I'll share, especially if I need your help again.
There were four of us who testified before the HHS committee today, I didn't get to see Barack because we were last on the schedule, but I could care less. The HHS committee was wonderful, empathetic, understanding, the Bill couldn't have been received better or with more compassion for us and our families. Our Senator, and her aid are my heroes; their whole office, they are such wonderful women. And they think that this could move through committee quite quickly and be on the floor in a matter of weeks. I will keep you updated when it comes up for a vote, our work isn't done, but we've really made so much progress.
I just want to say that this meant so much to me, I tried not to let it because I know how it feels to work SO HARD for something, to invest so much, to put every ounce of your being into something, and to have done it for nothing. And I've tried so hard not to get my hopes up, expecting the worst to happen. I'm so afraid to hope. So afraid to get the rug pulled out from under me again. And I'm not just sad, and relieved, but I'm also terrified that this is just going to be a moment where I fail again. But today was a great victory, getting our MISSing Angels Bill through committee, and I have to hope that this was not for nothing.
My son means everything to me, and my biggest fear is that he will be only a sad memory. That his short life could have a positive impact to help other mom's like me, well I'm just sobbing thinking about it and I can't tell if it is from happiness or sadness. It's both. I wish he was in my arms now, but I can't go back, I can only go forward.
Thank you, MISSter, for walking those halls with me and being such a great coordinator. I could've never done this alone, we're a helluva team, girl!!!!!
I met up with midwest mom who experienced the stillbirth of her son in 2005, and we're talking to State Senators trying to get them to pass a MISSing Angels bill. Currently, a mother experiencing a stillbirth (defined as a birth after 20 weeks gestation) only receive a death certificate. A MISSing Angels bill would give us a 'birth certificate resulting in stillbirth' from the State. Many women who find themselves in my situation are surprised and upset that their birth isn't recognized but the death is. How does someone die if they are not born?
Let me just say that I personally don't feel particularly offended about not receiving a birth certificate for Myles, but I can empathize and understand why women would want their birth event recognized as not just negative (death), and would want that birth certificate as a positive memento and an affirmation that they did give birth. Don't get me wrong, If I could get a birth certificate for Myles, I would, but I wanted to make clear that this is not the primary reason I'm pushing the bill. The reason I'm putting time and energy to this Bill is that in two of the 21 States that have MISSing Angels bills also give a tax credit to families experiencing a stillbirth, much like I would've received a dependent tax credit if Myles had lived only a second outside the womb.
I'm for this provision first, because I'm a sociologist and I know that many people experience financial hardship during the birth of a child; second, because I'm personally feeling this financial hardship and it's hard enough to get through my days without stressing out about medical bills and debt and tax returns, etc., etc. It's been awful. Third, it also, in my mind, falls under a similar umbrella as Family Medical Leave (FMLA) which is my policy specialization area in my research as a Sociologist.
It only makes logical sense to me that parents are able to get a tax credit for a child they carried. They are a 'dependent' in every sense of the word, I spent $200 on cloth diapers for Myles thinking they'd save me money in the long run. What a cruel joke, right? And B and I (in our master plan that life diverted) had always counted on Myles' return for medical bills. The preterm labor had me freaked out enough about bills, now we're screwed, you know?
So, my MISS friend and I've been walking around the capital, canvassing the Senators on the HHS committee, we've visited with 6 or 7 Senators telling them about our sons, Myles and Carter, and informing them about Sudden Antenatal Death Syndrome (SADS)/stillbirth. I was amazed after I had Myles that stillbirth is so common. In the US, roughly 30,000 women experience stillbirth a year, it is 10 times more common than SIDS, yet the subject gets little recognition. Many cases are like mine, the causes are unknown (although there are suspects, we'll never know what happened to Myles) and very little research is conducted on it. It's been infuriating to me as I'm all about research. Think about it, I'm sociologist doing research in maternal infant health, I can't believe there is so little out there, and how little I knew even though I know a lot about maternal infant health. All I did on my bedrest when I had preterm labor was research it (but there is a lot more out there on preterm labor, even though the causes are still largely a mystery, it's an issue on the radar unlike SADS).
I guess what I'm saying is this is an issue that people need to be more aware of, it is an issue that needs funding for research. I feel every woman should be aware of SADS, even if it is only so they aren't completely blindsided like I was.
Just think of how many people were impacted by Myles' death? And I don't know about you all, but I really was completely blindsided. The fact that he could die had never crossed my mind. Not really. I thought the worse case scenario was preterm labor, I was victoriously celebrating my 37th week. I remember saying numerous times, through everything, "I never worry about Myles," and I didn't, because his heartbeat was always so strong, he always kicked like crazy, even during preterm labor, he always appeared so strong. He never once showed any indication of distress, and I had three ultrasounds and four non-stress tests?!
And after having the rug pulled out from me, so violently, I just wish I were more aware. I can't describe that feeling I felt when it really sank in he was gone. I'll never be able to describe it. And I hope none of you ever know what that is like, although life is cruel and the realities of that spare none.
So, anyway, this is what I've been doing for Myles. I think I found my new direction, I think I found something to strive for. And I think I have something to funnel my grief into. Telling my story, raising awareness, trying to make the topic less taboo. It's been weird and odd, and I'm so glad my MISS friend is so prepared (she has handouts, etc., she's so awesome). We've got this little 15 minute 'schtick' we do with each Senator as we try to convince them that this is a bill that needs sponsored and co-sponsored and pushed through committee and discussed on the floor.
So, we have a lot of work to do, and we're looking for small victories. Right now, none of the Senators have completely committed to sponsoring it, but it has been sent it to drafters.
Anyway, this is it. I wanted to share it, partly because I might be asking for support from all of you to call your Senators to support this bill if it does come up for debate, and because I wanted you to know that I think I found what I needed to find. That different road I needed to take. And I think it's a good thing.
Saturday, February 9, 2008
After she asked me about Myles hurting, she said, "Mommy, can't you just try to have another baby, just try, try, Mommy?". I wish I could just snap my fingers and be pregnant, and she wants another sibling so bad, but you can't just have babies willie nillie (not in my world). They take planning, and I can't even wrap my brain around all that right now. I don't think I could financially work in another baby until next Fall, maybe start ttc in August or September. It makes me sad for her. She's waited for so long. She loves babies so much. And she will already be almost six by then, which isn't terrible, but I wanted my children to be closer in age. Her and Myles, that was perfect to me. Four years, we joked around about him having crushes on all of her friends, and her getting him into trouble when she was 21 and he was 17. So many dreams, so lost.
It's hard navigating this with my DD at the age she is. She's old enough to understand some things but not others, and I think as she grows she'll understand more, and also mourn more. I feel like it won't really hit her until she is 7 or 8 or 9 or if we are ever to have another baby maybe then (there are no guarantees that we will though, I know that too well).
I just wish I knew what she was thinking. When we were at Myles graveside service, the pastor asked if anyone wanted to say anything, I expected nothing, when my daughter belted out 'I do', I was so surprised. She stood up, said we will always miss you Myles and put a flower on his coffin. Totally and completely spontaneous. I'll never forget it so long as I live. She took everyone's breath away. Her courage and love, she didn't think twice. She had something to say, and she was going to say it, LOL.
I love her so much, it hurts my heart so much that she has to go through this. The second I knew Myles was gone, I just started sobbing, 'what am I going to tell Simone, she was so excited, so excited'. I repeated it over and over with so much anguish. And she was, just SOOOO excited. I hurt so bad to let my daughter down like that. I feel like I failed her.
Friday, February 8, 2008
So here is my first post from August 2006:
Okay, so I'm doing this more for me than for all of you, but I was asked the other day if I just woke up one day and was an atheist. The answer is 'no'. It is something that spanned many years, and I'm sure that many atheists have gone through similar awakenings. So depending on where you fall as far as religion vs. atheism goes, my next few blogs are going to be about my enlightenment, or my descension into hell :)
Part2: How I was raised
I think my upbringing was very average when it comes to religion. My parents were not zealots, they were default christians (that is, 'everyone is a christian so I guess I am too') and they accepted the basic tenets of the christrian religion without any thought at all. In my earliest years, we didn't go to church 'regularly'. We went to an evangelical free church down the street sometimes (I remember going their once) but for some reason my parents didn't like it. Of course, now that I know what evangelicalism is, I know why, but I didn't know at the time :) I had a good friend that I met when I was about 5, and by the time I was seven our families were pretty good friends. At that time, we were invited to the First Baptist Church and we all seemed to like it.
I can only speak for me, but I remember really embracing religion, starting when I was probably around 8 years old. I wanted to be baptized, I wanted my whole family to be baptized, and I remember really arguing for it and being excited about it. I remember getting a bible and taking my first communion after that, and I remember enjoying Sunday school, and bible school in the summers, and especially Wednesday night kids groups. I loved my church, I had lots of friends there and our youth director was a really special person in my life for a number of years starting at that young age.
So, the community part was obviously a large part of it, but it wasn't the only part I was sold on. As far as spirituality, I was also a complete believer. Looking back on it, and knowing what I know now about how I enjoy reading and studying and philosophy, I really think church and the bible filled that void for me at the time. Reading a really old text and trying to understand what it meant was something I liked doing, and this may seem odd to other atheists, but there is a logic behind religion. A logic I now know as faith. I guess what I mean is that there was a system to how you should think about religion and the world, there was a right and wrong, and most importatnly, there was a formula. The formula had nothing to do with evidence or rationality, but it was a formula nonetheless, and I think people deep down really like formulas. Really, thats all church is, its one big classroom, where the priest/preacher/clergyman/pastor use the formula of faith to take scripture and turn it into a message of fear, hope, and salvation. Not very different than the examples I do when teaching my statistics class.
So as I went from being a tween to my early teens, I was very active in my church, I sang in the choir, teen choir, did youth groups, went to bible school, bible camp, and church. I prayed (even around my school flag pole) I sang songs, and I thought I felt the presence of God on many many occassions. Of course, I also believed in astronomy, ghosts, tarot, and ouiji boards. Not coincidentally, I remember being afraid, afraid of the unknown, of death and dying, of heaven and hell. I remember crying and worrying, 'was my Grandpa in heaven even though he wasn't a believer before he died?' 'what if you do something awful and die before asking for forgiveness?' and things along that line. So religion did not bring me the peace many think it should. In fact the peace I have now as an atheist is not like any I've ever experienced, but I will get to that later I suppose.
Thus, I was not born an atheist, I was very much a christian at one point in my life, so much so that I took a discipleship course and was even interested in witnessing and spreading the good word as an adolescent.
Part 2: What the hell happened?
After reading through my last entry, I guess what isn't amazing is that I was a firm believer as a child, and I think children are the most faithful and magical people on earth. I wanted to believe in everything as a child. Invisibility, witches, wizards, magical spells, flying, hypnotism, astrology, ghosts, unicorns, angels, and of course, Santa Claus. And from my perspective now, god fits right in there with the rest of it all. I firmly believe god is Santa Claus for adults, and I believe that I came to my realizations about god and the church much like a child finds out about Santa Claus.
For example, there were just the plain old bald faced inconsistencies, kind of like your presents from your parents and your presents from santa claus being wrapped in the same paper. Finding out that god didn't write the bible, that a bunch of fallible men wrote it, and then others decided what should and shouldn't be included, and that they added things and censored things. And just like presents wrapped in the same paper, or catching your parents eating Santas cookies, these revelations happened periodically.
When I was 13 or 14, in a very laid back conversation, I asked my much revered youth pastor what he would do if somebody who was gay wanted to join our congregation. I didnt know the answer because unlike some religions, I dont ever remember anyone vocally condemning homosexuality in my church. Im sure you can all guess his answer, but at the time I was shocked. Here was one of the most principled, funny, sweet, wise people Id ever known (he was on a pedestal) and his answer was unequivocal. Add that little nugget to the occasional verse subjugating women in the bible, and it was an unsettling journey.
Of course, you have to remember, like the majority of christians, I was part of a mainstream church, so a lot of the more radical (and disturbing) doctrine were swept under the rug. There were no sermons on the role of women or on how homosexuality was a sin. This isnt to say people didnt believe these things, but it wasnt my churches selling point. And just like with Santa Claus, I wanted to believe so bad that I would just take evidence to the contrary and set it aside, or forget about it.
But I think the most important thing for me, and very much related to these small revelations, were the kinks in their formula of morality. I've always been a very righteous person, many times self-righteous, but always quickly assessing the rightness and wrongness and proclaiming injustice from the mountain tops if I saw it. I have my mom to thank for this. And deep down in my gut, many things in the Christian religion weren't adding up. As I mentioned in my last post, I cried and really worried about the fate of my grandfather's soul (a grandfather I never met) because he wasn't saved. And when I expressed this concern to my spiritual elders, the responses I got were different. I think a christians answer to this question is the test of their extremism. I would have some allude to the idea that we couldn't know, but maybe he was saved, and if he was a good person then I shouldn't worry etc. etc., oh yeah, and that I should pray about it.
On the other hand, at one particular Sunday school (I was probably 11 but maybe 12) at my grandparents church (not my regular church) the person leading our group discussed a young girl who in only the last few months before her death in a car accident, had done a lot of bad things (ran away, did drugs), and how her parents were so torn over her spiritual fate. And the teacher actually told us she probably wasn't in heaven. Of course, she did it more suavely than saying the girl was damned to hell, but I'm sure no one in that class questioned the theme of that message: You don't know when you're going to die, one slip up and you're damned to hell. I don't know the veracity of this story (it sounds made up now that I think about it), but if it isn't true, that's almost more fucked up than if it is true. Because if it isn't true, then she just made it up to scare all of us, if you know what I mean, her version of the religious bogeyman for preteens. And I guess, with perspective I have now, I feel like fear is the basis of religion; not hope.
So, I do believe that this scare factor is the biggest part of religion. They tap into that fear, a fear nobody wants to talk about, and they fear-monger very delicately, very subtley, in most sermons I've heard. I now know many extremists aren't so subtle, but I can not point out enough that most of this was very subtle in my very mainstream church.
There is one line in Santa Claus is Coming to Town, that I believe really gets at the moral core of religion, 'you better be good for goodness sake'. So, the whole song is about how SC knows all, and that you will be rewarded for good behavior and punished for bad, but don't think that means the reward is the reason for being good. No, they actually have to state that being good is intrinsically valuable. Now, why would anyone have to state such an obvious thing; that being good is good in its own right? Is it maybe because the entire song is all about earning rewards, and doing what you're told because if you don't you'll be punished? The intrinsic value of doing good is a side note, a small disclaimer. Everything else in the song says be good for authoritys sake, be good for your own sake. Be good because unlike your parents, SC is always watching. So when it says, be good for goodness sake, it is conceding that the entire rest of message has absolutely nothing to do with the virtues of being good.
Religion is exactly the same. Morally, it is hollow. People don't do good for goodness sake. They do good for their own sake, they do good because god is watching, they do good so you can pat yourself on the back, they do good because they are afraid of what they don't understand (death). And Im even making the grand assumption that all Christians do at least some good in the name of their faith, which isnt true. Many dont do good at all, but they use the idea of gods rewards for good and bad as justification for the worlds inequalities. Whether they did good or not, their fortunes are earned rewards (blessings), and misfortunes are punishments. If you're a millionaire, then you MUST have been good, right?
And the hollowness of the moral foundation of religion is seen in just about everything, and its hollowness is evident in the vast array of differences between different religious groups and what they believe to be right and wrong (from eating pork to blood transfusions). I guess it is a lot easier for people to base their life on dogma than it is to really think about ethics and morality. And I guess that is what is so ironic about religious people believing that atheists are amoral or immoral. For even the most religious person must see the hypocrisy of their system of morality. They have to know that when you get down to the foundations of it all, that it doesnt make logical sense. And the more you read the bible literally, the more you believe in biblical inerrancy, the more absurd the logic becomes.
So what happened? A lot of little things. Its not like somebody came up and told me one day, and that was it. It was a process where a small piece of the lie was revealed over a period of time until the entire thing was as absurd as it obviously shouldve been from the beginning. I had a comment on my last section regarding being born an atheist and I have thought about it a lot. I have to disagree, children are born into a world of faith, all of your knowledge is based on faith, faith in your god-like parents. I dont think anyone is born an atheist, I think we are all born innately to be believers and we believe whatever we are told.
From the view of the faithful, the story of what happened to my faith is, as I joked, my descencion into 'sin'. I started doing drugs, hanging out with the wrong crowd, etc., etc.,. This is true, I was questioning all authority at the time, but during my teen years, when I did the stupidest things in my life, I would never have called myself an atheist. I was still a believer, perhaps a wayward believer, but I had been much too frightened as a teenager to say or believe god didnt exist. And let me tell you, being a wayward believer is probably one of the worst feelings in the world, because you still believe some of the dogma, and at that age, I had no idea how to assess anything on real philosophical, moral level. Well, let me take that back, I did, I did a lot of philosophy before I knew what it was, but I hadnt started to really really question the basis of morality in this world. And I was still sad and frightened, but most of all I was confused. I didnt call myself an atheist until right around 2004. Before that I was an non-Christian agnostic (I didnt know what I was, but I knew for sure I wasnt a Christian), and before that, I wouldve been a deist, and before that probably a Christian.
Part 3: Peace through atheism
So, I mentioned that I never felt more at peace with the world and my place in it since becoming an atheist. So, I'm going to describe what that means for me.
Since I've become an atheist, I'm not scared anymore. I'm not scared of trivial things, and I 'm not scared of big things. I'm not scared of ghosts, or walking through my house at night, I'm not scared of anything supernatural. I'm scared of people and pain (okay, I'm also scared of spiders although completely and admittedly irrational). Once more, I don't ponder death, or more to the point, what happens after. I just don't, I can't explain it. I don't dwell on it, I don't wonder or worry at all, unlike before. I'm at peace with the human condition. And I guess, honestly, even if I thought that there was a 1 in a billion chance that there were in 'afterlife', I still wouldn't ponder it, because it would be futile. After saying that, let me ponder . . . LMAO
Let's assume there is an 'afterlife', first of all, if we could know what it was really like, how could we possibly understand it? 'Heaven' is characterized in the bible as this place full of earthly goods and mansions, and streets, and people (virgins for Islam), and this just seems completelely culturally constructed to me. Would heaven really entail these man made things? Would it mean that we would still be communicating in a society? And if so, what makes it so much different than this world? Don't people who believe in heaven or hell grasp that the only conceptions of heaven that have ever been came so clearly from the human brain?
For me, the peace that will come from dying is the kind of peace where I don't have to think, react, or feel. Many people, when they grow older, are just plain tired, it is said 'they are ready to die'. Hell, many people who take their own lives are just as tired, and I guess I can understand that. Being a finite creature is about the only thing we have going for us, because to be part of this human condition, good and bad, takes a lot of work. An afterlife that entailed anything remotely close to what this life entails (socially or mentally) would not be 'heaven' by definition.
I love my family, I love communicating with them, sharing my life with them, but what would there be to communicate in the afterlife? And if there is no communication, no physical body, no language or emotion, then does it matter if we are with our loved ones? Wouldn't every 'entity' be a loved one? And if there is communication, and language, and bodies, what would we do or discuss? Our life back on earth? Wouldn't our thoughts be covetous of that life lost? And if that were true, then would it be 'heaven'. There is no family without life. Social bonds, language, and experiences create friendship, and these are things that cannot be a part of any rational conception of 'heaven'.
And that brings me to the fear. I guess heaven was conceived because people are afraid of not thinking or not being. When I was a kid, I cried once thinking about these things, I remember it distinctly, I was probably 10 or 12, and it was a hard hit. I think to finally fully understand that we will no longer 'be' can be a traumatic realization. I remember thinking, 'I don't ever want to not exist', and the feeling of it was awful. But on top of trying to deny the finite nature of our 'selves', we are also afraid of losing the social bonds we have with our loved ones. I think that people are afraid that when one of their loved ones dies, that things weren't communicated that should've been, or that things didn't happen in a way they imagined or would have wanted, they're upset about the circumstances surrounding their death (if it was violent or unexpected), or just because of an unhappy circumstance that may surround the timing of their death. And the whole idea of heaven is that people will have that chance to communicate or to follow through with their promises, or will be able to show their worth or prove themselves in ways they weren't able to before the death happened. The conception of heaven is just a way to not close the door on those social interactions that were inevitably unfulfilled. And for a 'self' that was created from social communication and social bonds (socialization), this is equally as devastating as losing one's self.
What I think people are forgetting when they have these regrets is that what is happening in our world, from the worst attrocity to the most glorious acts are all quite beside the point. What I mean is that, each of our lives, in the grand scheme, does not matter that much. Our hopes and fears and the love and laughter we experience are important to us, they're all we have; but in the universe, they are inconsequential. Subjectively, they are EVERYTHING, they are our world. Objectively, they are as meaningless as a summer breeze. No matter the life, no matter how grand or humble, short or long, it is magnificent, and it is miniscule at the same time. To focus only on the social obligations that went unfulfilled in anyone's lifespan is to lose that perspective.
And the hope of heaven is also part of the yearning to know and understand this life in a way that is impossible for us, and it is a way to fulfill our curiosity so we can find peace in knowing the past and the future and so we can know that our unfinished dreams will be realized in the next generations. My question is, what is the difference between being all knowing and knowing absolutely NOTHING? The answer is, when you die, there is no difference. And that isn't a tragic thing, or something to regret. And I guess that is what will be wonderful about death, no more hoping or worrying, no more wondering or regretting, simply no more. And its that simple, and it is neither a good or bad thing for the person who died, it just is. Because even if they didn't want to die, or they were angry that their time here was done, that anger and want and regret will end in peace just like the love and laughter will end in peace.
Death is only bad for those of us still alive because we miss people, and there is nothing wrong with that. When I cry at funerals, I cry for the living. I cry for myself, I cry for the people who won't get to know who I knew, I cry for those who were closest to the person who died, I cry for the hole I know they will have in their lives. But I don't cry for the person who died, because they are at peace, and you don't have to believe in heaven or god to believe that.
So, I hope that there is not an afterlife, I really do, because it could never be better or worse than life itself. Peace is nothing, and nothing will not be good or bad or happy or sad, it will just be, and I find comfort in that. And that comfort is not reliant upon supernatural forces.
Monday, February 4, 2008
We were so excited to be pregnant together. She was a few weeks behind me, but I remember getting the news and knowing that, despite our already very close 16 year long friendship (beginning in the 6th grade) that this would bring us so much closer to go through pregnancy together.
Both of us have older brothers, so when we found out we were both having boys, well we were both ecstatic. And we dreamed all of those dreams two good friends have. We wanted our sons to play together, and hang out together, and do football and sports and our conversations were filled with such wonder and hope.
When Myles died, she was the only person I called personally. See, we shared every gross pregnancy detail you could with one another. It was always like we were in it together. And it was soooo cool, the ups and downs and worries and complaints, we were just always there for each other. When Myles died I had to call and tell her (while I was in my eerily easy labor) to give her the worst news a pregnant friend can give to another pregnant friend. And she mourned our loss too, and it was a hard conversation to have.
When she had her son, and named him Caleb Myles, exactly two months to the day that I lost my son, I was okay. Honestly, my heart filled with joy for her. I did go to visit her at the hospital, and it was not the nightmare I thought. I think it went okay because her son was not my son, and nothing could diminish my excitement that now she was finally a mommy. It was hard to watch my DD with that little baby as she LOVES babies so much. She told me in the car that she wantd to take that baby home with her, and I felt so sad that she hasn't got that experience. She rode in the wheelchair with me, so my arms weren't empty, but bringing Myles home would've been so wonderful for her.
I was going to go visit my BF this weekend, to see the baby, and just hang out. She lives an hour away, so logistics always come in. But when it came down to it, I totally chickened out. And I know why, but I don't know why. It's not that I envy her and her son. I do, but I don't. Envy has never been my reaction when it comes to other mothers and babes, although it appears that many women who have lost a child feel that way.
No, instead I'm upset because of that dream, and that our comraderie over the last 10 12 months is so altered. Because as we've discussed her new baby woes, I have to think back 4 long years ago to my DD when she was baby, when I should be right there in the thick of those grueling first weeks with her. I'm no longer able to share that journey with her. You know? we should both have our babies and be going through that sleep depravation, and complaints about nursing, and frustrations with sleep patterns and all of it. Up until she had the baby, our journeys had been mutual. Now they've diverted drastically. And for the first time, it has finally hit me that that bond between us was broken. Not when I gave birth, but when she got to taker her son home.
We'll always be friends, and I'm so scared that this will now push us apart, but to not be there with her, going through those things with her. I feel like I left her alone, and I feel like our journey is over. And I'm just so so so sad today to not be sharing these challenges alongside her anymore. And it's suddenly just really got me down in the dumps all over again.