Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Recognizing Your Privilege Isn't Enough

Race relations in the US are on the front burner in our country again after the killing of Michael Brown. It seems like just yesterday when Trayvon Martin was killed. Why does it take people dying for our country to talk about race? How blind do we have to be to the struggles our friends and neighbors experience for it to take someone getting killed to discuss racism?



What can you do? What can I do, as a white, middle class, stay-at-home-mom to stand against against the systemic racism that still exists in our country? How can I be a friend to those who live this struggle every day?

1 - I can recognize my own privilege. This is a small but necessary first step. Hat tip to Sherry Payne for this definition at the International Babywearing Conference: "White Privilege (White Skin Privilege) - a set of societal privileges, existing in predominantly white societies, which benefit white people beyond what is commonly experienced by people of color." I have to be able to see what I'm working with and working against.

2 - I can engage in difficult discussions about race relations and privilege. If all I do is pat myself on the back or write a blog post whenever I recognize a privilege I have, I'm most likely part of the problem. Shying away from these conversations doesn't help anyone. One day, these difficult discussions are going to take place with my sons in regard to their own privileges. I can't shy away from that, either.

3 - I can listen. At the end of the day, this isn't about me. I'm not the person getting followed in the store. I'm not the naval officer who is accustomed to white women clutching their purses when he steps into an elevator. I am not the mom watching her son's character get maligned by the press after he is killed. I have to put my ego aside and just shut up so I can actually hear what my friends are saying.

4 - I can hold people accountable for racism & prejudice, including myself. I am active in several large online communities. I am a leader and educator with a local community organization. I have numerous opportunities to support my friends and stand up against the frequent & casual invalidation of their experiences. Holding myself accountable includes reading the literature and ample blog posts/opinion pieces regarding racism & race relations and not relying on my friends to be the spokespeople for their respective ethnicities.

5 - I can stop being defensive. It helps no one if I try to point out that I'm not a racist every time someone discusses how white people have treated them poorly. Refer back to #3. Chances are, if my friends didn't already trust me as much as possible, they wouldn't be talking to me about the aggressions, invalidations, insults, & assaults they experience regularly due to the color of their skin.

No, this list isn't exhaustive and it will most likely change as my kids get older and we enter a new phase in our family. However, it's what I can do right now, in my own community, to help level the playing field.

I recommend the following blog posts for more reading:
White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack
I Can't Believe I Now Have to Convince White People That I Like White People
Not Guilty = License to Kill
White Privilege & What We're Supposed to Do About It

I recommend the following twitter accounts for eye-opening, perspective-broadening posts. There are many, many others you can also find through these accounts:
#NMOS14 (Feminista Jones) - seriously, follow her this instant.
NPR's Code Switch
Gene Demby
Antonio French
PostBourgie.com

What would you add to this list? Would you change anything? Do you agree or disagree?

Who would you add to the "must follow" list? What are other blogs or publications you would add to the "must read" list?

What are you doing in your community to fight the inequality that still exists?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Depression

I've been vocal about living with depression but I don't think I've ever really posted about what it's like when I'm depressed. Thankfully, through medication, I don't have to deal with depression very often. 

However, I'm dealing with depression right now. I hate it. I hate what it does to me and I hate what I, in turn, do to everyone around me when I'm depressed. 

Yes, I'm on Zoloft and my life is so much better because of it. However, it's not perfect. Everyday is not some miraculously wonderful stress-free day. Depression still slaps me in the face at inopportune moments...Zoloft just helps it happen less often. 

Right now, I want to run away by myself without anyone being able to find me until I'm ready to be found. 

No, I'm not going to do it. Even at my worst, I'm still rational. I have two wonderful kids who depend on me and need me. That fact never leaves my thoughts, although I often wonder if things would be different without antidepressants. It scares me enough to know, without a doubt, that I will continue to treat my depression with medication for as long as I live.

Right now, everything is overwhelming. Everything is too much and I want to walk away from my responsibilities. I want to turn in on myself and ignore the rest of the world until I feel like myself again.

I know that I can't do that, regardless of how much I want to and I am grateful for enough clarity to realize it. 

Right now, I want to be alone. It literally exhausts me to have a simple conversation with someone. Chitchat requires more energy than I have available to expend.

Right now, I'm numb. I don't connect with other people the way I should when I'm depressed. I don't feel appropriate emotions, positive or negative, when I'm depressed. I view life happening around me like an observer & not a participant.

I unintentionally hurt people when I'm depressed. I know it. I see it happening and I am powerless to stop it. Feeling powerless is part of my depression. Being powerless is one of my biggest fears and depression is good at using that against me.

I used to feel like this all of the time. Now, it just hits me every once in a while but sometimes I think it's harder on this side. 

I know what it feels like to enjoy life now. I know what it feels like to wake up in the morning aware of the fact that I am blessed in so many ways.

I know what it feels like to be happy and I know exactly what I'm missing.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Scream's Birth Story


Klaw's birth was pretty memorable. Scream proved himself capable of creating his own memorable birth in a completely different manner.



As this pregnancy wound on, I was more than ready for Scream to make his debut. I have mentioned before that I don't do pregnancy well. I was over it. I was in pain. I was still puking. Chiropractic care and zofran did what they could to ease my discomfort but I knew nothing would completely ease the discomforts of pregnancy except giving birth.

We finally got around to replacing the vanities in our master & guest bathrooms on April 12, 2013. Scream's estimated due date was April 16, so I knew we were cutting it close but I wanted the bathrooms finished. The guys doing the work arrived around 10am and started on the guest bathroom. They asked me how close to giving birth I was and I told them to not be surprised if my water broke.

Looks good, though!

I went about my business washing clothes & cleaning up around the house.

Around 1pm, I was walking into the master bath and, lo & behold, my water did actually break. Thankfully, Klaw, at 3, is old enough to follow basic commands like "bring mama a towel, please. Yes, that one. Please bring it to mama. Thank you, baby."  I texted my doula, Amara, to let her know my water had broken. I wasn't feeling any contractions yet, so I decided to continue doing stuff around the house. I mean, I was in labor with Klaw for over 20 hours. I wasn't in any hurry. I did tell Chris that he might want to head home.

Within the hour, I started having mild contractions. They were immediately pretty close together which caused me a little concern but, again, I was in labor for 20+ hours with Klaw. I really wasn't worried.  Chris got home and shortly after that, the guys working on the bathroom said that if they started on the master bath, it would be several hours before they finished it so they wanted us to decide if we wanted them to stop for the night or go ahead & get started.

Obviously, even though I wasn't worried about giving birth anytime soon, I wasn't dumb enough to go ahead & let them rip out our sink in the master bath. I did want to soak in the tub, so that would have been really awkward for everyone involved had they stayed...

By this time, the contractions were picking up in intensity. I had been texting Amara off  & on, keeping her up to date on how things were going.  Suddenly, a series of contractions hit that were different. I instinctively knew things were different. I had Chris text Amara & let her know.

I also had Chris call my midwife to let her know I was  in labor. Now, I didn't want him to tell her my water had broken because I knew she'd want me to head on to the hospital and I was still worried it was way too early. I wanted to labor at home as long as possible. I did not clearly explain this to Chris, so that was the first thing out of his mouth. I got MAD!!! SO MAD! I couldn't believe he didn't read my mind and now we had to go on to the hospital.

One of my friends picked up Klaw and we headed out around 3pm.

At the hospital, Chris parked at the main entrance, clearly marked only for drop-off & pick-up (this becomes important later*). We enter the hospital. I'm stopping every couple of minutes to work through a contraction while Chris pushes the wheelchair carrying my bags. People stop & ask if I'm okay. I just wave & say "pregnant."

We finally get to the maternity floor & I have to fill out paperwork. I make Chris give me the birthing ball so I can sit on it through contractions while I'm filling out the paperwork.  Throughout all of this, I'm still worried that we are at the hospital way too early.

I get settled in the room and the nurse wants to check dilation.

Yeah, I was already dilated to 8.

Obviously, my fears of getting to the hospital too early were completely unfounded.

This also explained the intensity of the contractions I was having. The best way to describe what I was feeling was a knife being shoved in both of my hips & twisted. Repeatedly.

They didn't get any less intense, for the record. I wanted to push so badly but I was told I couldn't. The only way I knew to stop myself from pushing was to cross my legs. Tightly.  No, it wasn't comfortable but it was the only thing that worked. Amara suggested I try another position, so I got on my hands and knees and OH MY GOD I felt the sharpest, worst pain ever. I thought my hips were breaking.

I clearly remember stating several times, "Jesus H Christ this hurts so bad. This hurts so bad, Amara."

I rolled back over and said the magic words, "I feel like I need to poop."

Amara called my nurse back in so she could check my dilation. She began to check and immediately yelled for my midwife to come it. It was showtime!

Three minutes later, Scream entered this world.

brand spankin' new baby

Yes, three whole minutes of pushing after five and half hours of labor. Yes, it was intense but I would choose fast & furious over long & exhausting like Klaw's birth any day of the week.

Scream is now almost 5 months old. He doesn't have VLCADD. He is growing like a champ and Klaw is the best big brother a little boy could ask for. Thank you to everyone who is reading this. I know my blog has taken a back seat for the past  year+.

*edited to add: Chris ended up leaving the car parked right in front of the hospital's main entrance for 24 hours. Thankfully, our hospital is pretty small & laid back. We didn't even have a ticket. I'm guessing this has happened before.




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