#LinkYourLife Birthday Celebration

I’ve talked about Link Your Life a couple times over the last few months when they had a birthday and responding to an emergency prompt to help a member of our community.

At first, it was just a weekly event where I would link up a blog post I had written that was applicable to my life in that week. Shawna and Shareen were (and continue to be) fantastic and gracious hosts.

Over these past months though, Link Your Life has become so much more to me than the link roundup. It has become a community where I belong.

Today is Shareen’s birthday and to celebrate, Devon Hall (another stellar host that has been added into the fold, she rocks!) has asked our community how Link Your Life has changed your life as a parent, writer, blogger, or human.

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How can I even begin?

Truly, I would have to say that Link Your Life and its fantastic hosts have lifted the feelings of inadequacy I often find myself faced with. We are a group of imperfect people sharing pieces of our lives, offering compassion, and building a community of friendship and understanding.

Linked Your Life shows me, almost daily, that it is okay to feel overwhelmed. It is okay to step back from things and take care of yourself. It is okay to just be you. And being comfortable with yourself is radical and life changing on every level.

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The Lyrical Stylings of Rachel

On a relatively regular basis, I receive demands to sing songs. If you are the parent of a toddler, you know exactly what I’m talking about there.

The problem is, the requests I get are for songs that often do not exist – or if they do I certainly don’t know them. While I’m not even close to being as talented as my brother, Caleb, I think I do okay.

It’s true that sometimes I cop out – when asked to sing “The Donald Song” I simply belt out:

Who’s the leader of the club

That’s made for you and me?

D-O-N-A-L-D D-U-C-K

Donald Duck

Donald Duck!

Forever may we hold your banner high, high high!

But other creations are slightly more inventive. I share them with you now in the hope of inspiring you to develop your own songs, or at least to make you feel better about your own lyrical skills.

The Carwash Song

I was driving down the highway just the other day

Then a bug hit my dash and I said

“Hey, no way!

I’ll take you to the carwash

That is what I will do

I’ll polish off the dash until it’s free from poo”

At the carwash, yeah

At the carwash, yeah

At the carwash, yyeeaahh

Hard of Hearing, Joy Killing, Rage Raptor

You might think I’m just a regular mom

I give you cookies with a smile

And I’ll sing you a song

But then daddy asks for some sausage

He’s just gone too far

This is when I turn into a

HARD OF HEARING JOY KILLING RAGE RAPTOR

HARD OF HEARING JOY KILLING RAGE RAPTOR

Daddy’s learned his lesson

He knows better than to ask

He can make his own sausage

Or he’ll get a

HARD OF HEARING JOY KILLING RAGE RAPTOR

Kicking his. . . butt

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Feeding your baby is a radical act

I am a warrior.

I am afraid.

I am angry.

I am tired.

I am working in a falsely supportive work environment where I, like Hollie McNish, am tired of being polite. I am tired of advocating for myself over

and over

and over

again.

I am a woman who has chosen to breastfeed her babies. I am also a woman who has to work outside her home. I am a woman who produces better while pumping if I can work while I pump – none of this sniffing A’s clothes, looking at her photos, or watching videos for me.

And yet, because the law requires that my employer provide “adequate unpaid break time” my employer requires me to take my break time when I would prefer to work.

Can we please

please

please

support parents in doing what works for their families as long as their babies are being fed?

We All Do Better When We All Do Better

I’ve been back to work for two days now. That’s two days of dropping Ada off with her grandma and dropping Elizabeth off at daycare – the first time she’s ever gone to a “regular” daycare. That’s two days of pumping four times a day and all the washing and drying that goes along with that.  It’s two days of harried evening preparations; packing lunches, making sure the diaper bag is ready to go, getting the crock pot ready so I just have to turn it on before I walk out of the house for the day.

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It’s also two days of more adult interaction than I’ve had in months. It’s two days of figuring out a problem more complex than “How do I take this shirt off without getting poop in Elizabeth’s hair?”.  It’s two days with a concrete reason to put on something besides sweat pants. It’s two days of a guaranteed warm cup of coffee.

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In other words, there are a lot of mixed feelings here.

I feel tired, the preparation is a lot to handle!

I feel happy, it’s nice to be back in the world.

I feel lucky that I was able to go to Ada’s two-month check-up before coming back to work. I wasn’t able to do that with Elizabeth and it was devastating.

More than anything though, I really do feel frustrated. I feel frustrated because I really just want to be home with my girls. I want to be able to nurse Ada when she wants to be nursed – instead of pumping on a very strict schedule. I want to dance to “Wannabe” with Elizabeth when it comes up on my iPod.

I also feel frustrated because we can do so much better! Paid parental leave makes good economic sense and supporting families might mean that the idea of American Exceptionalism has some substance to it.

This certainly isn’t my first time encouraging you to advocate for paid parental leave, and I suspect it won’t be the last. If you’re not sure who your Representative or Senator is, just click here and here.

It’s just like the late, and great, Paul Wellstone said; “We all do better when we all do better.”

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I Will Not Be Afraid

One of my favorite things about my #LinkYourLife community is how we all lift each other up. It keeps me coming back, even when I end up taking an accidental break from writing for a month.

Shawna over on The Honeyed Quill posted an emergency writing prompt to help out a member of our community and I am so happy to dive in!

We have all been hurt. Write the hurt.

We’ve all had a moment of regret. Write the regret. 

We have all triumphed. Write the triumph. 

How are you stronger? What have you learned about yourself? How is your life changed?

The experience I am going to be sharing may have some triggers for survivors of sexual or partner violence. Please proceed with caution.

I struggled with what to write for this prompt. Shawna is absolutely right, we’ve all been hurt and triumphed over the experience. But what experience can I share?

Then it came to me – an experience I had during the Spring 2011 semester. It was my third semester at Metropolitan State University and I was enrolled in GNDR 345: Global Perspectives on Gender.

It was a wonderful class and I learned a lot. I worked hard, did the work, but about half way through the semester I hit a wall. Not an academic wall (okay, not only an academic wall. Midterm is usually when I start experiencing extreme mental fatigue) but an emotional one. We were going to be talking about groups that use rape as a tool of war. There was a member of my class who had previously displayed a pretty misogynistic attitude and I felt extremely confident that he would be pretty vocal in saying that the women experiencing such horrific crimes were actually having the best sexual experiences of their lives.

I didn’t go to class. I couldn’t go to class. This class mate of mine had already provided some fairly triggering commentary and he didn’t seem to care.

According to the syllabus, we were going to be talking about that topic the next week, so I didn’t go again. After the third week of not attending class, and not communicating with my professor, I knew I needed some help.

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I had decided to pursue a B.A. in Gender Studies so that I could help other women like me.  How could I do that if I couldn’t face the course work required?

I went to my University counseling center and started seeing a therapist. After our first session, I went back to class. I don’t remember what we talked about, but I do remember how incredible my professor was (I never did tell her what happened). She didn’t fail me, despite the fact that I had missed more than the two allowable absences. I got a B in the class, a fact that I am very proud of.

I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Gender Studies in August of 2012.

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My journey isn’t over – I still need to figure out what the next step is for me. But now I know that whatever I decide to do, I will be able to help women like me who have experienced abuse from their loved ones.

 

Free Your Mind

Giving birth is such an interesting experience. Although it one thing that unites thousands of women across the globe, it is deeply personal and nobody experiences it the same way.

Having now given birth to two beautiful little girls, it is clear to me that there is not really a “right” way to have a baby.

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When E was born, I had intended to have a water birth. But then some high blood pressure & three days of active labor thwarted my intentions and I happily (and “tiredly”) requested an epidural.

Although I was “only” in labor with A for  a day and a half, an epidural was once again requested for pain management.

It was great! After roughly 6 hours of sleep, 5 minutes of pushing later we welcomed our sweet little girl into the outside world.

A is such a sweet little girl and she absolutely adores cuddle time with daddy. Since N went back to work she has definitely missed those cuddles.

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Who wouldn’t miss cuddle time like this?

It’s here that I really have to take a second to talk about my own (really long) experience in the context of how we talk about birth. I know a lot of really incredible women who have gone through the child-birth experience without any medication.

 

I also know a lot of really incredible women who have used a wide variety of medications, elected (or not) to have a cesarean section, decided to give birth at home, or chosen to not bear children at all.

When it comes to birth, the act of making and being supported in your own decisions is what is empowering. 

When it comes to raising your children, making and being supported in your parenting decisions is what is empowering.

We do not empower parents in this country to make the best decision for themselves or their families. Studies have shown time and again that paid parental leave is a benefit to parents and to the economy, but our lawmakers don’t do anything to make that decision possible for thousands of parents. We can all acknowledge that affordable child care is out of reach for many, but our lawmakers to nothing to help it be more affordable. We all wish that our kids were free to play in the neighborhood, but there may be that one neighbor that will call CPS.

Gentle readers, we can do better! We can hold our elected officials accountable when they run on “family values” platforms and then do nothing to help families. We can talk to our neighbors and understand that your village should be on the same page as you so we can support one another in our decisions.

 

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As I Have Loved You

Originally, my post this week was going to be about supporting the positive decisions of those around us. I have postponed that post until next week to talk about the sorrow in my heart over the tragic events that took place in Orlando during the wee hours of Sunday, June 12th.

I will be honest, following the shootings at the University of California at Santa Barbara in 2014 I have done my utmost to ignore the mass shootings that seem to plague our life here in the United States.

This particular shooting took place shortly after E was born and I was an absolute wreck.

How could I raise my daughter in a world where refusing to have sex means risking her life?

It is that question, more than any other, that makes me afraid to raise my two girls. These precious little beings that have been entrusted to us are beautiful, smart, and tenacious. I love them so much it hurts.

That said, I do have some opinions that I want to share.

Every single one of those people that died have someone out there who loves them so much it hurts.

The shooter has someone out there who loves him so much it hurts.

Every one of us has someone out there who has so much love for us that he (or she) would do anything to stop the hurting and show us a brighter path.

It is truly my belief that remembering this love, almost more than anything else, would stop us from hurting one another.

Sadly, many do not feel this love and that is why I believe it is critical that other measures need to be put into place.

We need more robust gun control laws. Yes, the “bad guys” are still going to get weapons, but. . . dammit! we can make it harder for them.

We need a better mental health system. A system that recognizes the diseases of the mind have effects just as real as diseases of the body.

We need to have open and honest conversations about what it means to be a man in our society.

We need to get people across the table from one another to start to build some understanding (link to an 18 minute TED talk, you will love it!).

June 15 Pres Obama Quote

 

Motherhood in a larger context

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