Parenting and Politics: How I’m Showing Up

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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

A Lament for My Daughter

I wrote this the morning after the Presidential Election. While there will be time for hard work, there must also be space for the sacred work of lament. This is mine. photo-1461733558461-ff6968a0ae80.jpeg

Last night I dressed you in the Hillary shirt I ordered the morning after the first Presidential debate.  As I placed you in your crib, I kissed your sweet face and turned on the noise machine to block out the celebratory cheers that I knew would be coming in a few hours. We wouldn’t want to wake you.

As you drifted off to sleep, downstairs in the kitchen your dad was cooking shells for taco salads. The champagne was chilling in the bottom of the fridge. The news was streaming, filling our home with words of “too close to call.”  I said, “Let’s mute it for now while we eat. Let’s enjoy.” I painstakingly created an “H” out of shredded cheese and snapped a…

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Get Compassion:Reflections on Childbirth and Privilege

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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.

From Navel to Knees: Naming the Unspeakable

“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. 

Human Beings, Not Wombs in Waiting

The CDC’s recommendations on alcohol are well-intended, but I find the frame problematic on many levels.

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Earlier this month the Center for Disease Control (CDC) released a new infographic on alcohol consumption with some controversial recommendations for women of childbearing age. In short, if a woman is not on birth control, the CDC recommends that she avoid alcohol altogether because she might become pregnant.

My first take on the report was that this was simply another example of how we treat young women as if they are merely wombs in waiting. In her response to the recommendations Rebecca Ruiz wrote this for Mashable.com:

While the original recommendation may have been intended to ensure safe pregnancies and healthy children, its underlying message was unmistakable: Women should consider themselves first a vessel for human life and make decisions about their health and behavior based on that possibility.

Despite severe backlash CDC officials stand by their assertion that the primary goal of this infographic is to alert the…

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Silent Night, Holy Night: Reflections on Mother and Child

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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.

What If Jesus Had Gone to Daycare?

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As a maternal health advocate, I cherish the season of Advent as an opportunity to connect a beloved Christian story to the lives of women today who struggle to bring new life into the world under horrific circumstances. Every year I write something about Mary’s pregnancy and birth. In many ways she is no different from the “Marys” around the world who are young, poor, and unexpectedly pregnant, and who go on to give birth in unclean environments. I often pose the question to communities of faith, wasn’t the Christmas miracle equally that Mary survived the birth? How different would Jesus’s life have been if he’d never known his mother?

I continue asking these questions, but after my daughter was born last October, I have found my Advent reflections shifting to mirror my own parenting experiences. I began to think beyond Mary’s birth and into her early months of motherhood…

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