When I was ten weeks pregnant I gave an impassioned speech in front of the Supreme Court during the Hobby Lobby hearings about why universal access to contraception was part of my own religious understanding. I’d wanted to share about my own planned pregnancy, but at that point I wasn’t far enough along to feel comfortable telling that in a public way.
I didn’t know it at the time, but that would be my last protest for almost three years. After the birth of my daughter I cut my travel significantly. I spent most of my weekends in the cocoon–or what sometimes felt more like the prison–of our home rather than out in the public square. As someone deeply ensconced in the activism world this turning inward felt like I was betraying the causes and the people for whom I cared deeply. How could I be an effective advocate if I couldn’t show up?
Read the rest of my post over at Feminism and Religion.
Jessi Klein wrote an Op-Ed in last Sunday’s New York Times entitled “Get the Epidural” in which she takes on the arguments for “natural” childbirth and makes an astute point about its premise: “It’s interesting that no one cares very much about women doing anything ‘naturally’ until it involves their being in excruciating pain.”
Thinking back to the months leading up to my daughter’s birth, I remember occasions similar to the one Klein describes in this article in which I was asked about my pre-natal care and plans for the birth, though admittedly they did not often come from strangers in the grocery store line. While Klein’s response was different from mine (I birthed without pain medication, and as you might have guessed from the title, she planned for an epidural), we each experienced feeling judged by others when they heard about our intended plans for birthing.
Klein alludes to this childbirth debate as symptomatic of our increasingly competitive culture around motherhood. I agree with her. But I worry about what happens when we talk about birth as primarily a parenting event rather than a physical one. When we divorce our intentions for our babies from what we desire for our bodies.
Read the rest over at Feminism and Religion.
“Ayuda!” My feisty seventeen-month-old daughter has mastered the art of asking for help, in Spanish no less. When Sam turned one my husband and I enrolled her at Spanish immersion childcare center not far from our house. During the week her sponge-like brain is absorbing a language different from the one she hears at home. Effortless bilingualism, the school calls it.
Language helps us make sense of ourselves and our world, and as a parent I take the responsibility of setting a strong communication foundation seriously. In her infancy I learned to narrate even the most mundane tasks like making toast and folding laundry. I sang her to sleep with made-up verses to the tune of “The Itsy Bitsy Spider.”
Now that she’s a toddler, words are easy and important to share with her at this stage of mimicry and exploration (though we are realizing the impending need to filter what we say more often!) At her upcoming check-up her pediatrician undoubtedly will ask us, “How many new words does Sam have?”
Even for the youngest among us, naming is powerful. Sam delights whenever she sees a dog (or any animal for that matter) and can shout her favorite word: “Puppy!” Each time she does so we feel a surge of pride that she is learning to communicate with and about the world around her.
Read the rest of my blog post over at Unfundamentalist Parenting.
Advent is a season of expectation, hope, and preparation for the miracle of God’s entry into our world as a vulnerable infant. But do we pause often enough to ponder the birth itself? The nativity stories found in our sacred texts tell us little about it, though what we know is Mary was a relatively young woman, she was pregnant at an unexpected time in her life, and she delivered Jesus under less than ideal circumstances.
In my advocacy work for global maternal health in the Church, I have often talked about Mary’s pregnancy as “high risk.” The more I learn about the dangers girls and women face and the common struggle to bring new life safely into the world, I realize how much we have taken Mary’s survival for granted. Somehow in the expectation and celebration of the Christ child, we have overlooked the mother who bore him.
In my eyes the miracle of the Christmas story is two-fold: both mother and baby survived the experience of childbirth. Mary was able to care for her child, to nurture him as he grew into a young man, and to encourage him in his earthly ministry. I’ve often wondered how different the life of Jesus would have been if he’d been born an orphan and never known his mother.
Read the rest of my post over at World Vision’s Beyond 5 Campaign.