How this pro-life, stay-at-home mom became a feminist.

Hi there! Yes, it’s been ages since I’ve updated this blog. Apart from child-rearing, writing, editing, designing, and (sometimes) housework, I don’t have time to blog. But this is one of those cases in which I need to have more words than a Facebook post to get my point across. This is me, “coming out” as a feminist, since many of you don’t know that I am, don’t know how I could be one, or don’t know what a feminist is. If this is Feminism 101, I’m merely a T.A.
Actually I’m more like a first-year student that writes allocutions on the chalkboard before class.
 
feminist
 
This post sat in my drafts pile for months because I didn’t want to have to deal with all the trolls, the hate, the threats, or the rest of the “consequences” that come simply from identifying as a feminist. But fear from truth is what keeps ignorance and hate at large. This is what is true for me.

what being a feminist isn’t

“For me feminism is bra-burning lesbianism.”—Geri Halliwell (aka Ginger Spice), not an expert on feminism.

—being a man-hater

Misandry is the hatred of men, like misogyny is the hatred of women. Just because one is a feminist, it doesn’t make that person a man-hater. Women in healthy, loving relationships with men can be feminists. So can men be. Read on.

—being a woman

Men can be feminists, too. Joss Whedon is commonly referred to as a feminist. Any father who loves his daughter is likely a feminist, whether he’d admit it or not. (I can’t blame you if you don’t adopt the term. It’s become it’s own F word. But I can blame you for propagating misinformation about feminism. And if I see it, I will call you out on it.)

—being pro-choice

Let me go on a quick tangent really fast. Stay with me. Most of the world have gotten to the point now where they realize rape is a crime against women because it is an act done without consent.

And yet we assume it’s the woman’s choice if she ends up in prostitution or has an abortion. How do you feel about a person who assumes a rape victim “wanted it” or “asked for it”? It’s impossible to get accurate statistics on these numbers, but most prostitutes were forced into the profession through the sex trade. And many women who get abortions are coerced into them, either by family, their significant other, or their community. Even religious beliefs. Girls get abortions so they won’t be shunned by their church for having a child out of wedlock. Minnesota For Life surveyed women and found 64% of abortions were coerced. If you know better statistics, please share. Obviously those are biased.

Many feminists are pro-choice because they fight for women’s rights to control their own bodies. I’m a pro-life feminist because I think that abortion clinics take advantage of women physically, emotionally, and financially. I view abortion after 6 weeks gestation as mutilation of a woman’s uterus (and also as murder of an unborn child, but that’s not what we’re discussing here). If you are pro-choice for the reasons I listed above, do what you can to ensure that you are also pro-consent. Volunteer at an abortion clinic and encourage the women to make their own choice, whether it is for your way or another.

If you are pro-life, volunteer at a crisis pregnancy center. You’ll find that sometimes the choice isn’t as easy as you might assume. Learn to love women whether they choose your way or not.

We are all in this together. Feminists, this is a war for our consent. Pro-lifers, you cannot be pro-life without being pro-mother. Are you prepared to care for the mothers and children that choose life? How are you helping mothers and children NOW?

—being a Democrat

There are feminists in every political party, but Republicans are less likely to use the term “feminist” for fear of its consequences, as well as the assumption that it means they must not be Republican / conservative / manly / Christian. I’m neither party, in case you were wondering. Again, that’s another issue we won’t be addressing here.

—having a romantic attraction to women

Being a feminist doesn’t make you a lesbian, gay, bi, or trans* individual, but anyone can be a feminist because being a feminist had nothing to do with sexual preference. It has everything to do with enabling women to live freely. (Does that mean the same thing as living lawlessly? No. We live in a free country. Do we live in one without laws? Ha. Hahahahaha.)

what being a feminist is

A feminist believes that women shouldn’t live in fear of being a woman.

my journey to becoming a feminist

1. First Grade

I had an evil first grade teacher who introduced me to sexism. She (yes, she was a female-hating woman) would give us math assignments and would give whoever finished first a bag of fruit snacks. If I finished before J.D., a bucktoothed boy that she adored, she’d ignore my raised hand, wait for him to finish, and give him the fruit snacks. This is also the source of my problems with authority.

2. Learning there are more women representatives in Middle Eastern parliaments than in the US congress.

We hear a lot about women’s rights in the Middle East. Most would assume that women have fewer rights in the Middle East than they do in the U.S. So why is the U.S. so behind on having women representatives?

Now, if you’d have asked me five, ten years ago if I would have voted for a woman politician, I would have made a joke about her period and said no. What if she had children? Shouldn’t she be raising them?

What about women who aren’t raising children? Who are empty nesters? What about women who, like me, are thinkers more than feelers, whose maternal instinct manifests in protecting, rather than nurturing, children? The kind of woman who’s really a much better parent if she gets some time without her kids.

And then I considered testosterone, the main hormone in men’s bodies, and wondered if we wouldn’t go to war on a whim if we had a president that didn’t have so much testosterone in her body.

If you are a woman, don’t you want women representing you? If you are a mother, wouldn’t you want mothers representing you in congress, making the kinds of decisions a mother would make?

I am SO glad the Middle East has women representatives. But doesn’t it bother you that the US is ranked 86th place in terms of female representation? Afganistan is 41st. Iraq is 53rd. Pakistan is 73rd. Saudi Arabia is 76th. But here we are, a first-world country with women CEOs running multimillion-dollar companies, and fewer than 20% of our congress is female. Congress should reflect its population. That number should be 50%.

3. These Disney board books.

I got these for Champ when he was a baby, before I identified myself as a feminist.

It made me really angry that the books about male characters were all about their personality and their abilities, but the only thing about the female characters mentioned was that they were pretty and that they fell in love.

Yeah, I want to be pretty. I am madly in love with my husband. But I have interests, a brain, and a soul apart from that.

4. The Transformers movie.

If you’ve seen the first Transformers movie, you’ve seen Megan Fox draping her scantily clad body over machines. Now, I’m not mad at Megan Fox. As far as I’m concerned, women can do whatever they want with their own bodies. I am not okay with slut-shaming.

What I have a problem with is that Megan Fox’s character was reduced to the level of a hot car. Something to drool over, touch, and (if Sam Whitwicky’s mother was right) probably jack off to.

Objectification of women. Everyone should have a problem with that.

5. Jesus was a feminist.

During Biblical times, men really treated women as objects. They were considered possessions, less than human. Jesus spoke to women all the time—something no one else ever did. He even spoke to prostitutes (gasp!) with respect (bigger gasp!). He treated women as if they were human beings, as if they—like men—were children of God.

The Bible is full of sexism, sure. It’s not a guidebook on being holy so much as a story of how God loves his people, even though they mess up and are terrible 99.99% of the time. That’s the gospel. That’s the whole point of the book. And don’t rule out the brilliant women of the Bible Deborah or Jael or Esther or Ruth or Mary or Rahab or Miriam or Abigail…should I keep going?

Bonus: Do you know the definition of an apostle? It’s a messenger. In the context of the New Testament, it’s someone who spreads the good news of Christ. Who was Jesus’ first apostle? Who did he pick first? (Read John 20:17-18)

I didn’t become a feminist overnight. I’ve been a feminist my whole life. I just didn’t call it feminism. I didn’t call it anything.

things that make me more feminist

  • Outrage at comics doing this.
  • Dennis Hoffman’s explanation of what it felt like to play a woman in Tootsie.
  • #YesAllWomen on Twitter
  • #WhyIStayed and #WhyILeft on Twitter
  • People blaming victims of rape, prostitution, or domestic abuse while ignoring the criminal’s responsibility to not be a rapist, pimp, abuser, or murderer
  • Stupid articles like this one written by people who have no clue what feminism is, but still argue that it’s terrible.

Feminism isn’t about women wanting to be men. It’s believing that all people have the right to give consent, and acknowledging that women in particular are taken advantage of, harassed, and abused by people. It’s a movement against the sex trade and against rape culture. It’s a movement against other people assuming they have some sort of claim over a woman’s body. It’s rejecting the idea that men should define a woman’s worth.

That’s all I’ve got to say today. I welcome all comments that are thoughtful and not personal attacks, whether they agree with me or not. Know that I vet comments and will delete abusive ones.


 

Update, Q&A

I’ve had people ask me a few questions about the relationship between being a Christian, anti-abortion/pro-life, and feminist. I’ll try to answer those questions here, but if you have more, ask in the comments!

How do you define your terms?

Feminist—Feminism is about consent. I’m a feminist and will continue to be a feminist until every woman feels that she has the right to grant consent, the right to disagree with a man or refuse his advances without being attacked verbally or physically. It’s not a matter of whether a woman will be harassed in her lifetime, it’s a matter of when. That’s a problem. To ignore that problem is to be part of the problem. As a feminist, I am pro-woman, anti-rape, anti-trafficking. I’m not anti-man or anti-men. I’m married and have two sons. I love men, and I want to empower them to empower women so women can feel safe.

Pro-life—In my blog, if I say I’m pro-life, I mean I’m against abortion and for taking care of people. I use “pro-life” broadly, not politically. For example, I’m fine with people using birth control, and I do think that condoms and non-hormonal methods of contraception should be widely and easily available for everyone. “Pro-life” for me includes suicide prevention, humanitarian aid, and war prevention (I’m idealistically anti-war, but realistically pro-military-defense. Pro-negotiations, if that makes sense).

ChristianThe word “Christian” has become just as badly tainted as the words above. I use it in the historical sense: I’m a Christian because I am a Christ follower. I wasn’t always a Christian. I was a searching, agnostic. Every belief system has weird stuff, but the Judeo-Christian beliefs make the most logical, social, emotional, and political sense to me. Nothing else satisfied my need for answers more. Now I believe Jesus of Nazareth is the savior foretold in the Jewish heritage, that he died as an atonement for my sins, and that if I make him both my savior and my lord, and I strive to be like him, then I will be saved from judgment. I think the Bible is true and inerrant, but that people misinterpret it all the time, so we need to bring logic and a contextual analysis of scripture when we determine what it means. For me, blind faith isn’t faith, it’s complacency. My relationship with Christ is a constant struggle, like the image of Jacob wrestling with God in Genesis 32.

How can you be anti-abortion and a feminist?

Because I am pro-woman and pro-person.

I’m against abortion because a beating heart is life, and abortion ends a life. Abortion affects two lives, minimum. It ends one completely.

Abortion is a huge problem. But calling for the abolishment of abortion, without preparing to care for mothers and children, without having those programs already in place, is also a problem.

How can we end abortion?

If you want to end abortion, donate your time and money to helping mothers. If motherhood were easy, no one would get an abortion. People get abortions because motherhood is very, very difficult without support. And the government doesn’t make it easy to be a mother even with support! Vote for candidates that will fight for maternal leave. The United States has the worst stance on parental leave in the world. Zero weeks paid leave in the US means that women lose their income (if not their jobs) simply for choosing not to have an abortion. Seriously, call your representative now and tell him or her how messed up that is.

Pregnancy resource centers always need donations and volunteers. But women in your neighborhood can use help, too. This is something everyone can do, and it’s something everyone can do, right now.

So what are you going to do about it?

Grace for the Introverted Mom

Note: As the title suggests, this is targeted to moms. Specifically stay-at-home moms that are constantly needed by their children. I don’t mean to alienate stay-at-home dads, I just have no authority speaking on your behalf! I’d love to hear your input in the comments!

Grace for the Introverted Mom (Just in time for the most stressful time of year for introverts—the holidays!)

Introduction and pseudo-history lesson

First thing’s first. Are you an introvert? Here’s 23 Signs You’re Secretly an Introvert from HuffPost.

Introverted stay-at-home moms in this era have some unique struggles. Being a stay-at-home-mom is the most unnatural thing in the world if you look at the historical order of things. Humans once lived in tribes, clans, family units, villages. Children were raised by their mother, plus any other number of matriarchal type persons. Fathers and other men were involved in the education and nurturing of their children as well. Mothers had help in the form of relatives, wet-nurses or nannies. These days, we tend to fall into one of two extremes: we are the sole caregiver of our children during the day, or else we leave them in the care of educators and coaches and have little time to interact with our own kids. Hopefully you fall somewhere into the middle! Anyway, this isn’t about societal norms or a call to action. It’s about introverts. Introverts who are drained when they are sole caregivers to one or more children.

We need plenty of time alone, but we still need a little bit of social interaction to retain any sanity. Back in the day of the front-porch suburbia, or back even further to the time of the common well, introverted people got their social interaction out of the way, out of the house, and they came back home ready to be introverted again. Now we have the internet, that glorious invention of social media, in which we can pretend we are socializing, but which never really leaves us satisfied like real-live interaction does.

Your main goals as an Introverted mom are 1) time alone and 2) some real, in-person interaction with other human beings outside of your family. Here are some tips to achieving those goals.

Tip #1—Favor reflection over distraction.

We introverts need time, alone, with our thoughts. If I don’t get time alone just to think, or sort out my thoughts, I end up distracting myself with the internet. (As a teen, I used to distract myself with endless hours of TV. As an adult, I don’t have cable, but I have my own laptop.)

I’ll spend hours and hours on Pinterest or YouTube or clicking on random Wikipedia articles to distract myself, when a 20-minute shower would be so much better for me, because I spend only 3 minutes cleaning myself, and the rest of the time, I just let my mind wander and sort and think and rest.

Right now it’s 2 am, and I should be in bed, but I’ve just been putting off my time of introspection all this time, and now I won’t be able to sleep until I think about it.

Are you the type of person that needs to write thoughts out to get them out of your head so you can sleep? That’s why I keep my phone and a notepad by my bed. When a thought comes, I scrawl it out on my notepad in unabomber handwriting. If I don’t think I’ll be able to decipher it in the morning, I email myself on my phone.

Tip #2—Don’t feel guilty.

I feel guilty not being able to give to my kids 100% of the time. I feel selfish when I take time apart from them. I feel like a bad mom for wanting to get away from my children. I resent clinginess when it creeps up (and clinginess is natural for children exploring new territories and reaching new milestones.)

It is 3,000 times harder when my husband isn’t home, because that means I NEVER get a break, and my kids rely on JUST ME to meet all of their needs. I’m on call, 24/7. I’m needed every minute of every waking hour, and I’m needed half of the night. I’m constantly being touched.

Repeat after me: If Jesus Christ needed breaks, then I CERTAINLY need time alone.

Introverts need time alone to recharge. It is better for ourselves and for everyone else in our home if we get some time to recharge. You know that phrase, “If Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!”? We need time alone, for our emotional and mental health, about as badly as we need sleep for our physical health.

If I don’t get enough sleep, I feel like a zombie. I can barely function. Caffeine can work a little to get me through the day, but if I rely on caffeine and not sleep, I’m going to get sick. I don’t know about you, but for me, the same goes with alone time. If I don’t get time alone, I start to space out and check out. I can barely say a word to another human being, let alone hold a conversation. Distractions can work a little to get me through the day, but if I keep distracting myself without getting time alone, eventually I’m going to lose it, and either have an emotional breakdown or get really angry at my 3-yr old (who knows precisely which buttons to push in either of his parents).

Don’t feel guilty about getting time alone. Also don’t feel guilty about getting out of the house every once in a while to socialize with other people. That means date nights and girl nights. Maybe you’re like me, and you dread girls’ nights with a passion because you don’t relate to all that estrogen and emotion. Give it a chance. Studies show that it is important to a woman’s health to get time socializing with other women. If people start talking about their feelings, find another person to talk to, or change the subject to current events or pop culture. Or only go to events that include activities, like game nights or movie nights, so you aren’t obligated to talk at all. True story: Captain and I went on a date last month to dinner, and we brought a book of crossword puzzles to do. We ended up talking and laughing the whole time, but as introverts, it was nice to have the option to be together, but be quiet, and have something to do other than stare at each other while masticating.

Tip #3—Enforce quiet time (for your kids, but also for yourself).

Grace for the Introverted Mom (Just in time for the most stressful time of year for introverts—the holidays!)

If only my children would nap at the same time! I admit, right now, I’m in survival mode. When both kids are napping at the same time, I need to NOT DISTRACT myself (see #1), but do one single thing—one thing that is quiet and allows me to organize my thoughts. It could be writing a list, reading, or quietly doing some tedious or repetitive tasks that allow my brain to sort things out. My favorite mini-vacations when Champ was a baby were reading a magazine and painting my toenails. I got my magazines with deals I found on Tanga, but you can search for discounts any time at Discount Mags. A few years ago, I got 3 years of 6 magazines for less than $20 total. Not bad.

Other ideas: knitting, daydreaming, planning, having a caffeinated or weakly alcoholic libation.

No TV or internet during these times. See #1 and #4, below.

Tip #4—Spend time reading, offline.

Then you can focus and think and not be distracted by clickable rabbit trails. Reading is a way for introverts to fill up that need for socialization, because we are essentially having a conversation with the writer as we do it. All introverts should read. Extraverts, too, but especially introverts. That’s why I’m repeating myself by giving offline reading its own tip.

Offline reading is the best way to spend our time alone. Here’s why:

  • It gives us a chance to think and process…
  • …without the distraction of the internet…
  • …and it partially fulfills our need to socialize

Are you an introvert? How do you fill your “time alone” and “socialization” tanks? Do you have reading recommendations? Leave your opinions in the comments!

(I started writing this in August of 2013, at 2 am, when my husband was gone for 2 weeks in South Africa. Today I am finishing it. It is 3 pm in December, and Champ is still eating his lunch, two hours after his nap was supposed to begin. If you’re curious why I haven’t posted original content since this summer, with the exception of posts pertaining to Champ’s Birthday or our Geeky Halloween, allow me to direct you to  Mom Stress and Survival Parenting. Being a mom of two is a 24/7 job, and I’ll get back into blogging regularly when I can get housework back on track first. So expect posts to be few and far between until, say, ten years from now, when they will not be relevant to this generation. Welcome, class of 2020!)

Mom Stress Test and Guilt-Free, Survival Parenting

Guilt-Free, Survival Parenting | diary of a bewildered mother

Mom Stress Test

How stressed out are you as a mom? Let’s take a little quiz, shall we?

For each of the following that is applicable, add one point. I’m going to list a few per number just to save you from endless scrolling, so you might add two or three points per number.

Add one point:

  1. Per child
  2. Per child under 5, per driver, per dating teenager
  3. Per adopted or foster child
  4. If you have multiples
  5. If you have pets
  6. If you are potty-training a child
  7. Per colicky, strong-willed, or special needs child
  8. Per ill or unwell family member
  9. If you are married, if you are divorced or separated, if you are a widow, if you are single, if you are dating
  10. Per meal you’re responsible for every day
  11. If you don’t have a housekeeper, if you don’t have a nanny, if you don’t have a cook
  12. If you are a stay-at-home mom, if you have a full-time job
  13. Per blog or part-time job
  14. Per weekly activity you attend
  15. If your child is in school, if you homeschool
  16. If your best friend doesn’t live next door
  17. If you are responsible for your parents, if your parents are divorced
  18. If you are an introvert that spends her day giving energy to children, if you are an extrovert that spends her day without adult interaction
  19. If you are pregnant, if you have a monthly schedule, if you are menopausal
  20. If you have diet restrictions
  21. If you exercise regularly, if you don’t exercise regularly
  22. If you get less than 8 hours of sleep at night
  23. If you watch the news
  24. Per any other stress you can think of
  25. (If you’re religious:) If you try to live a faith-based life; if you don’t spend regular time in prayer, meditation, or devotion

Being a mom is one of the hardest jobs in the world. And yet, no mom is JUST a mom. We’ve got the lives of everyone in our family to think about, and sometimes we forget about ourselves in the process. I’m all about putting others first, but if you never take care of yourself, eventually you’ll be running on empty, and everything around you will collapse.

What’s your total?

Less than 5: Why did you even click on this post?

Less than 10: That’s probably best to just keep to yourself.

10-20: You can do it! You’re amazing. Try not to think about how much money you could be making with that amount of stress. Do try to remember how great your retirement benefits will be: knowing that you raised children to adults. On hard days, realize that your kids will likely get the same back at them when they are parents. Call your mom and your friends when you need to. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON, and give yourself some credit and a break.

20+: You, my friend, if you aren’t reading this from solitary confinement in the psych ward, are a SUPERMOM. If you haven’t already discovered  survival parenting, you probably just don’t call it that yet. Otherwise you are genetically modified and/or have evolved into something other than human. You should probably be on government payroll. What kinds of tips do you have to add? How do you keep sane?

Guilt-Free Survival Parenting

The concept of survival parenting is extremely simple in concept: You do whatever it takes to survive, and come out with as few bruises as possible.

It’s all about prioritizing. Sometimes it’s about compromising for the greater good. It’s about making sacrifices without becoming a Martyr. It’s telling yourself, “It’s okay.”

You do what works for you and for your family, one day at a time.

That means you breastfeed or pump if you can, but if you can’t, you use formula. Scientists have engineered that stuff—it doesn’t make you less than a woman to use formula, and it won’t make much of a difference to your child if he drinks formula or breastmilk for the first year of their life.

It means co-sleeping if it helps you sleep better at night, letting the baby sleep in a bassinet or bounce chair or carseat by your bed if it helps you sleep better at night, or putting the baby in another room and using earplugs, if it helps you sleep better at night.

It means cloth-diapering if you can, but not shaming yourself if you need to use disposables sometime or all  the time.

It means that for everything there is a time and place, including TV and junk food. Sometimes you just really need to get a meal from the drive-thru. There was a long time that Champ wouldn’t eat anything other than peanut butter sandwiches or microwaved frozen chicken nuggets.

It means you do whatever it takes to stop your kid crying when you can’t take anymore—nursing, pacifiers, running in place, wearing the baby, playing Jack Johnson on repeat…

It means putting your kid someplace safe (like her crib) and letting her cry when you’ve tried everything, and then stepping outside for a few minutes, or taking a shower, or having a glass of wine.

It means letting your kid watch maturity-appropriate TV if it helps you get other things done or take a break.

It means being responsible for your kids, but not being the only person ever to be responsible for your kids.

It means asking for help. (You’d be surprised how many people are out there and are on your side)

It means letting your kids help you make dinner or clean the house. DONE is better than PERFECT.

It means realizing that laundry and dishes will never end, and sometimes you can just forget about them.

It means getting out of the house when you need to, and staying home when you want to. Go to social events when you need social interaction. It’s okay to not go if you or your kids are too exhausted. Understanding people will understand. People that don’t understand…explain it to them. If that doesn’t work, you don’t need to be friends with people that don’t give you a break. (This is pretty void in the case of bridesmaids.)

It means allowing yourself to have a sex life, even if it’s just a quickie while your kid watches Yo Gabba Gabba strapped in his high chair.

It means taking mini-vacations. Painting your toenails, reading a magazine, watching Lizzie Bennet Diaries on YouTube

—-

My guess is that if you’ve arrived here at my blog, you want what’s best for your kids. So do what it takes to survive, but don’t actually harm anyone or do anything illegal or anything like that. If you ever feel like harming yourself or your child, call 1-800-4-a-child.

Related Links

How to Calm a Crying Baby, Part One

So, you’ve got a crying baby on your hands. Look no further! A baby, just like you, has a hierarchy of needs. When troubleshooting a baby’s crying, start at the most basic needs and move from there. To illustrate, I created a graphic for you—one that I’d love you to share on Facebook or Pinterest, hint, hint!

hierarchy of needs-01

Physiological Needs

Is he hungry?

I usually start with this one, but that’s only because it’s easiest to rule out since my son will NOT eat if he’s not hungry. You can’t make him. Only two months old, and already stubborn. (I think he got a bigger dose of my Irishness than Champ did.)

It’s pretty easy to tell if a baby is hungry, especially breastfed babies. Breastfed babies start hunting for breasts. It’s pretty obvious, and also hilarious when they start snorting like little piggies looking for truffles. Another way you can tell if a baby is hungry is if he opens up his mouth and sticks out his tongue, like he’s tasting the air, or if he’s “going to town” on his pacifier as though he is trying to get milk out of it.

Does she want to nurse or suckle at a pacifier?

I know, I know. I used the word “suckle.” Sucking is a physiological need for babies. Some want to nurse for comfort, and others want a pacifier. Some go for fingers or their fists. And then there are those remarkably acrobatic infants who suck on their own toes.

Does he need to be burped?

Bottle-fed babies need to be burped more often than breastfed ones. I often don’t have to burp Lion at all, but if he starts to stiffen his little body and stretch out his legs and arch his back, I know he needs to be burped and/or given a tummy massage to work out the bubbles. My favorite method with Lion is holding him upright (he has good head and neck control), putting his feet on a surface, holding him around his torso just under the arms, and then pulling him down into a squat. His knees go up to his tummy, and this works the bubbles out. You can do bicycle movements with his/her legs, too, if your baby prefers lying down or doesn’t have head control yet.

Does he need to be changed?

This isn’t just about diaper changes, though that’s the big reason babies cry. Some babies also cry if they are too hot, too cold, if the fabric is itchy, or if there’s a loose thread or hair wrapped around them under their clothes. Undressing a baby can also distract him enough that he will forget why he was crying in the first place.

Is she tired?

The problem with tired babies is that by the time they start crying, they are already overtired. (Like when you start to feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated.) You have to try to catch them and get them to sleep when they start showing signs of tiredness, like rubbing their eyes, turning away from lights or sounds, or getting heavy-lidded. If you can do BabyWise, go for it!

Note: Babies need sleep more than the other things above them on the hierarchy pyramid, but if they are overtired, they will probably need to feel secure or be distracted before they can settle down and fall asleep.

Recreating the Womb

Does she need some security?

Newborns can easily overstimulate themselves or wake themselves up by their randomly flailing limbs. You know when you are just about to fall asleep, and you get that sensation of falling, and it scares the crap out of you (and anyone sharing your bed) because all of a sudden your whole body spazzes out? I’m pretty sure that newborns feel like that all. the. time. So feel sorry for them, and be sure to wrangle their wild appendages into submission if they are trying to fall asleep but can’t. Lion always wants, no—needs—to be swaddled at night at around 8pm. If your baby doesn’t like being swaddled, you can hold her closely instead, but know that as soon as you put her down, she will probably wake herself up again until she has control over her arms and legs. I suggest a monster swaddle, because just because a baby can easily get out of a tight swaddle, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t like being swaddled. It might mean that you just need to try a different approach to swaddling. You can watch a few different ways to swaddle hereherehere, and here.

You can also give your baby security by wearing her in a baby carrier. If the baby is especially fussy, try going skin to skin, and let your baby rest her head on your chest so she can hear your heartbeat.

Does he crave rhythmic movement?

When the baby is in the womb, he is constantly moving in response of his mother’s movements. Put a baby in the arms of a veteran mom, and he will almost immediately start swaying back and forth. (Lots of moms will, when they hear or see a baby crying, start unconsciously swaying back and forth if they are already standing.) Babies like to be swayed and rocked, bounced or swung. Swings and vibrating bouncy chairs can be a lifesaver if you or your arms need a rest. A ride in the car or stroller can also help lull a fussy baby.

NEVER SHAKE A BABY. That should go without saying. However, if you support the baby’s head, you can gently, GENTLY wiggle him to settle her down. Nothing that would snap his neck, obviously. You can try laying him on his back, putting your hand on his tummy, and shaking your hand to make him vibrate. His head and neck are supported by whatever he’s lying on, so it’s safe.

Does she want white noise to soothe her?

If you’ve ever heard “womb noises” or listened to an ultrasound taking place, you can hear the whoosh whooshing of the mom’s blood circulating. It’s probably unnerving for a baby to go from constant noise in the womb to relative silence after birth. On the other hand, babies can also be overstimulated by too much noise. White noise works well in either situation. Shushing the baby—holding her close and going “Shhhhh, shhhhhh” at a medium volume can help settle her down. If that doesn’t work, try other white noise, like a fan, a blowdryer, or a vacuum. You can try music, but to avoid overstimulation, stick to something calming and peaceful. Be wary of classical music, because it often is highly emotional. I stopped playing classical music for Champ at bedtime when he woke up in a panic to “Ride of the Valkyries.”

Distractions

Newborns usually don’t get bored like older babies; they tend to get overstimulated. But distractions, in moderation, can help a baby forget why he or she is crying and then be more responsive to the other methods of soothing.

Babies LOVE lights. Take the baby by something bright—a window, a lamp, a mirror—and she might be distracted enough to stop crying. This works best before the fussiness evolves into full-blown crying. The same goes for toys.

A change of scenery is a gentle way of shocking the baby into forgetting what the fuss was about. I can’t tell you how often I took baby Champ out onto our screened porch and swung in the hammock with him to settle him down. Babies love fresh air. A walk or drive has the added bonus of rhythmic movements.

Singing is also a good distraction, even if you don’t have a very good singing voice. Babies especially love it when MEN sing or speak to them while holding them close because of the vibrations of the Adam’s Apple.

To Be Continued…

I have a couple other tips that I’ve found to be really effective in calming my own (and other) babies, but I can’t find videos to illustrate them, so I’m going to have to make my own. Aaaand it’s the Fourth of July weekend, so I’m not sure when I’ll be able to make and upload the videos. So subscribe to my blog, or like my page on Facebook so you can be alerted when I finally get that posted.

UPDATE: Read Part Two here.

Confessions of a Sleep-Deprived Mom of Two

Anyone that has come over to my home or talked to me on the phone recently can gather one of two things: 1) I am entirely sleep deprived and 2) I’ve lost complete control over my household.

If I weren’t so sleep deprived, I likely would have the sense to not post any of the information below. But because I am sleep deprived, I tell myself that a future sleep-deprived self will be amused by it when I see it again in a few years. Behold, life with a toddler, puppy, and newborn baby.

Confession #1

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“Oh, I’m, I’m dazed and confused. I’ve been chasing this…this wee-naked child over hill and over dale.”

Oh, Doctor. You have no idea how relevant that line is to my life right now.

I just stepped out the front door, grabbed my toddler, and pulled him back inside. That seems normal enough—toddlers letting themselves outside. Mine was standing there, on the stoop, completely naked, wearing sunglasses. Then he ran off down the hall, the dog chasing after him, desperate to lick his bottom.

Confession #2

Champ has been getting quite a bit of freedom lately, as you can expect. In an attempt to stave off tantrums (or should I say, more tantrums), I’ve been giving him more leeway. He’s also regressed a bit in potty training, hence my letting him be naked (see above). The nakedness was progressive. He’s usually fully clothed—sometimes wearing the same pajamas or shirt for up to three days—but I’ve let him go shirtless like his dad a few times.

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This afternoon, I had to change his clothes, and I grabbed the first pair of shorts I could find, not realizing they were 18-months. So I help him put on his underpants and the shorts, and they are super short. Like, Daniel Craig’s swimming suit in Casino Royale short. Whatever, it’s fine. But then he decided to put on his backpack, and as he’s running around with a backpack strapped to his back in hilariously tiny shorts, I was suddenly reminded of The Hawkeye Initiative, which exposes (no pun intended) the ridiculous hypersexualization of women in comic books by replacing women with illustrations of Hawkeye doing the same poses. Like this:

Sorry, son. I’ll make sure you wear appropriately sized shorts next time.

Confession #3 (aka, you can stop reading here and go about your daily business)

You know that space between two people right before they are about to kiss?

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Yeah, right there. We’ll call it “the land of in-between.” THAT is where I’ve been living the past three weeks.

Abstinence is no stranger to the Captain and myself. We saved ourselves for marriage, we got through the birth (and thereafter) of our first child, and we made it through many weekends, weeks, and months away from each other when he was an Active Marine. We’re pretty familiar with sexual tension, too—from the moment we first met, there was a definite chemistry between us that rivaled the likes of these folks:

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Still, we had a strictly platonic relationship for quite some time before finally coming to terms with ourselves and each other, and most of that time was spent in that land of in-between. You can read our story here.

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Anyway, if you didn’t know already, several weeks after a woman gives birth are spent in abstinence, so her body can recover from labor and delivery. For most women, this is absolutely not a problem. And I think for some men who were present during the labor and subsequently traumatized, they can spend the time in recovery as well.

Apparently my hormones are completely whacked out, because I’ve got the opposite problem. I’ve got so much tension built up, just from the past 3 weeks, I could probably gnaw through a telephone pole.

You might conjure up an image such as this:

but this is to what I am referring:

I’ve been able to scrape the skin off the giant vat of pudding that is my sexual tension by watching clips from romantic comedies and commiserating with the characters.

But then the Captain comes home, wearing plaid and smelling like machines, and he goes and works on the car, or he chops some wood, or he walks across the room, or he leans up against a counter

and I’m all…

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I think he’s secretly reveling in torturing me. This is what an average day in our house looks like these days:

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Notice his cheeky grin, her looking away and not knowing what else to do

I catch him walking out of the room, walking back into the room, taking off his shirt and revealing his GLORIOUS ABDOMINALS OF SPLENDOR, and then walking right out again.

But I know it’s affecting him, too. The other day, he cried out in a voice of mock-hysteria, “WE ARE IN A TIME OF HEALING!” and I nearly choked on my lunch from laughing.

At least we still have our sense of humor. In fact, the baby isn’t the sole reason for my sleep deprivation. Captain and I have been staying up super late every night for the past week, cracking up laughing. “Super late” is midnight for us—we get up at 6 or 7 every morning. It’s like having a marathon of slumber parties. We’re totally losing it, but we’re enjoying ourselves as much as we possibly can.

Now he’s finished with school and his part time job for the summer. I’m praying he can find another job soon, because going from seeing him just an hour or two a day to being together 24/7 is going to be a shock to the system. Looks like I’m going to have to up my prescription of romantic comedies, and supplement with multiple viewings of this:

and scrolling through Tumblr gifs like this:

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Misery loves company. What are your favorite moments of romantic tension? Be a dear and share links if you’ve got them!

Newborn Photos by LindseyMarie Photography

A huge huge thanks to LindseyMarie Photography for taking our newborn photos! If you’re in the Twin Cities, I highly recommend her work. Thank you for capturing these moments for us, Lindsey!

A few notes: My friend knitted us a lion cap and a little lion stuffed animal, which you’ll see in some of the photos. We tried to get a photo of all four of us, but we couldn’t get the 2-yr-old to sit still! The photo with Captain, Lion, and me is a sort-of recreation of Champ’s newborn photo. Once I get prints made, that one is going to hang in the living room right next to Champ’s.

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Now I have to figure out something to do with all those wonderful, make-me-melt photos of the Captain and the boys for Father’s Day. Any ideas?

Maternity Photos

The problem with springtime in Minnesota is that it is completely unpredictable (if it even exists at all). So either we were going to take the photos in the snow, in the mud, or in the dead grass.

Oh, it’s still March, I said. Let’s wait until April, I said. Then we can take maternity pictures outside in bright short sleeve T-shirts and rain boots, I said.

I had this grandiose idea of taking our Maternity photos with rain boots and umbrellas against the skyline of the city.

Then the day came.

And it looked like this:

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I had a few ideas, which continually got shot down by weather or fear of overcrowding or traffic. Finally I got the idea of a library.

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Half the time was spent chasing Champ up and down the aisles of books, but we did get some good photos. Thanks to LindseyMarie Photography for capturing the day and being so flexible!

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That blur of Champ’s hand was pointing to where the baby is.

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FYI, Kids can’t run away madly when perched atop daddy’s shoulders.

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Most photos were achieved only with leftover Easter candy, which Champ shoved into his cheeks like a chipmunk.mat4

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Elevator!

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The computers were also a big help in distracting the little wild man.

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Abortion is Never the Right Choice

Note: As an abortion survivor and mother of my own unplanned pregnancy, this topic really strikes a chord in me. The wifosaurus is about to show her teeth but also reveal a gap in her scales. No, this post isn’t going to include photos of abortions or babies. I’d prefer to appeal to reason, not use emotional manipulation. But I can’t guarantee to be 100% reasonable, since this is an emotionally charged topic, and the discussion that prompted this post made me very, very angry.

I’m about to tell you that abortion is never the right choice. Don’t agree? Then you don’t have to. I’m not going to debate about when life begins. That’s not the point. The point is, having an abortion is a choice. Sometimes it’s choosing fear over faith. Sometimes it’s choosing selfishness over selflessness. But most times, it’s choosing to believe the lie that you aren’t loved, that you can’t do it, that you aren’t strong enough, and that you are all alone.

I’m here to tell you that you can do it. You are loved. You can do it. You are strong enough. You are not alone.

I know situations are complex. I don’t know everybody’s situation. I don’t claim to know. But I’m going to list a bunch of situations, and I’m going to give you my honest opinion—the opinion of a friend. Sometimes we need tough love, and I’m not afraid to tell it like it is.

Two wrongs don’t make a right

Whether you made a mistake or were the victim of a mistake, realize that an abortion will not solve your problems. If anything, it will add to your pain and grief and regret. Abortion clinics don’t care about what happens to you after they are finished with you. And yet so many women need counseling after an abortion, so many feel regret afterward. Their lives are plagued by “What if”s. On the other hand, becoming a parent (or giving someone else the chance to parent through adoption) can offer healing and redeem the situation. If good can come out of a bad situation, why choose something that could cause more grief and regret? I have heard countless stories of women who wished they had never aborted their child. I’ve never heard of a woman who honestly regretted having a child.

If you don’t want to be pregnant

Pregnancy can be a bugger. Still, would it kill you to do something for someone else in your life? No. If nothing else, pregnancy will make you reevaluate your priorities and make you more of a compassionate human being.

Also, obviously you have no idea that there are millions of women who would give their lives for the chance to be pregnant, but they are infertile. On their behalf, I have a string of choice words for you. But on your behalf, I’ll refrain from using them.

When the family situation is unstable

One of the most frustrating arguments I hear for abortion is that getting an abortion is better than having a child live in poverty. First, that completely ignores adoption, which would remove the child from an unstable situation and place him or her into a loving environment. Secondly, that logic decides that it’s not worth it to give someone a chance at something so fundamental as life itself. What if you met the love of your life, and he or she told you, “I’m sorry. I don’t want to be in a relationship with you. There’s a chance that someday one of us might make the other unhappy.” Have you ever been upset because someone didn’t give you a chance? Have you ever felt like someone wrote you off or judged you without knowing you? Why is it okay for someone else to decide that a child has no right to live? This argument especially frustrates me because

I was that baby.

My mom was a teenager when she got pregnant with me. She was told she should get an abortion by those closest to her. But my mom gave me a chance, and she gave herself a chance. Yes, we lived in a rough neighborhood for a time and relied on food stamps for groceries. But my family, by the grace of God, worked their way out. My parents married, I grew up, got scholarships to go to college, fell in love, got married, and now I have my own child. I’m a regular person. I’ll probably never change the world by any significant means. But my existence has made an effect on my parents’ and on my husband’s and on my son’s life. How many future Albert Einsteins and Steve Jobs have we not given the chance to effect our world for the better?

It’s no coincidence that abortion clinics are located in the poorest neighborhoods. The abortion industry is a business that profits off vulnerable women. Abortions are expensive. But did you know that adoptive parents pay the medical bills for their birth mother? There is no such thing as an unwanted baby.

When it will change your life

Pregnancy and parenthood definitely change one’s life, of that I am certain. Unexpected pregnancies are terrifying! They threaten to change your world upside down. But sometimes life throws us curve balls. Parenthood is a chance at creating a legacy. Are babies inconvenient? Yes, yes they are. Will children drive you insane? Yes they will. But you will never know unconditional love like the love a parent has for a child until you are a parent yourself, whether birth or adoptive. I wouldn’t exchange anything in this life for my son. Success, riches, fame, comfort, entertainment…all these things are temporary. But a child is a gift that lasts two lifetimes—yours and theirs—plus the lifetimes of any future generations that come from that child. I know a handful of single mothers who made the choice to keep their children, and even though their lives changed, they would all agree that their lives changed for the better, and none of them have a single regret that they took a chance on their child.

If the baby might have a disability

First, most prenatal screenings are not accurate. They don’t tell you that a child has a disability, they tell you that a child might have the possibility of having a disability.

Secondly, if you don’t have a natural miscarriage, then it would playing God to destroy a child based on gender, disability or handicap of any kind. Except God doesn’t discriminate. So it’s really like playing Hitler.

When no one will support you

If your friends or family won’t support you in one of the biggest decisions of your life, what makes you think they will support you in easier situations? You may feel completely alone in this. Planned Parenthood will tell you as much. But you aren’t alone. There are support groups in churches, at pregnancy resource centers, and places you might not expect. When you open yourself to others, you’d be surprised who will end up being your closest friend. Find an advocate that believes in you and will support you through the pregnancy whether you decide to parent the baby or choose adoption. If no one close to you will, we have a spare bedroom, and we will be your new family.

If nothing else, realize that a child will love you completely, simply for being his or her mother, even if you choose adoption. You don’t have to be a perfect parent. No one is perfect at anything.

Maybe you had an abortion in your past. Maybe you’ve been grieving openly. Maybe you’ve been stifling that grief. Either way, find someone you trust that you can talk to. Most pregnancy centers can point you in the direction of post-abortive counseling, even if you think you’re over it, or if it’s been 20 or 30 years. Take the chance to release that guilt or grief and find freedom.

You aren’t perfect, but you are loved.

March Madness for Geeks

Star Wars has created a March Madness-inspired bracket tournament using its famous canon of characters.

The Dark Side was easy to figure out, but the Light Side got pretty tricky near the end. So tricky, that Captain and I disagreed on several accounts (there was much discussion on “geek cred” and who had the most fan fiction, and who nerdy boys liked the most, and who was too “mainstream”). So we ended up making two different brackets. Here’s ours.

(If you want to create your own before viewing ours, check out the blank bracket here on Starwars.com. I just used Photoshop to hastily create ours.)

Voting begins March 18th, and the “winner” will be announced April 9th.

Here’s the Captain’s. He can tell you the name of any starship / vehicle in the 6 movies just from the sound effects. This man is legit in his geekery. Click to enlarge.

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Here’s my bracket. Han Solo was my very first crush, people (you’ll see I’m a bit biased towards him). I think the new trilogy is a waste of time (except for the scenes with R2 or Obi-Wan), but Clone Wars is okay. I’m on Pinterest, Woot.com, ThinkGeek, and Wookiepedia more than my husband, so I argued from a marketing standpoint and tried to get into the brain of the average geek that would be voting every day online. It’s a dangerous place to venture.
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Are you going to vote? Honestly, I’d pick R2 and Han Solo, and then Han would win, but that’s because I’m me. But this brackets business is a whole different game.

Anyway, I’ll likely forget to vote. Hopefully I’ll remember to check the results on April 9th, but that will just be to see who was right out of the Captain and myself :)

Christmas 2012

Behold! The Post-Christmas Post! With over 20 photos!
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Make it to the end of this post, and you will be rewarded with some outtakes from the photo above.

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Fluffy White Pine purchased from the Boy Scouts.
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Captain’s brother spent the holiday with us,
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Yay for self-timers!

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On the mantle: Thrift Store finds (pine trees, pine cone, itty bitty porcelain houses, candle sticks), candles from our wedding, and a Scentsy warmer with the scent Iced Pine making our house smell like a forest. Stockings: Target, handmade from a sweater, my Santa stocking from when I was little, handmade from fleece and faux fur. Someday I’ll have lovely, matching stockings. The elephant and lion are Scentsy Buddies and are for Champ and Lion.

Some people asked what I was doing for stocking stuffers. I think next year, early December, Lord willing, I’ll blog about stocking stuffers. But my favorite ones I’ve given the Captain and/or his brother are designer playing cards from Theory 11, something fun from ThinkGeek, a bundle of online games from HumbleBundle (they change weekly), and homemade candied pecans. Each cost less than $6.

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We opened up the presents on Christmas Eve like good Norwegians. Champ passed out all the gifts with the aid of photos I printed and taped to each present. Christmas morning, Champ opened up his stocking,
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which consisted of three cars and the Scentsy elephant, and some extra Santa gifts (pots and pans, a 101 Dalmatians plate he picked out at the thrift store). But his big Santa present was waiting for him in the Kitchen.

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We scrambled to get Little Champ’s present—a DIY Kitchen—ready in time for Christmas. It still needs a bit of work, but it is definitely serving its purpose! We’ll just remodel his kitchen the next time we move. The first sighting:

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Examining the sink.

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He checked out the fridge…

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…which was stocked with about 20 fruit and vegetable toys I got for a grand total of $2.

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We decided to make cookies. Wash your hands, first! Then mix up the batter.kit7

He was very excited about the cookies.

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After he took them out of the oven (“Hot!” he reminded me), he ate ALL OF THEM.kit9

Didn’t even leave some for his own mother.

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His mother who was 20.5 weeks pregnant on Christmas. It’s okay. I made Chocolate Revel Bars (stay tuned for the recipe).

We spent the rest of Christmas Day with my extended family. After Christmas, we visited the other side of the family and Champ got to see his first Hockey game.

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He was entranced. And the Zamboni hadn’t even come out yet.

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I think he enjoyed himself.

That was our Christmas! There are a ton of tutorials on making play kitchens. Ours was thrown together, so we didn’t take photos of the process. The only new things we purchased were the silver handle for the fridge, the drawer pull we used for a towel rack, the sink faucet, the bowl for the sink, and the tiles. I know we paid less than $30, but probably less than $25. I guess it depends on how much the spray paint cost us. My favorite play kitchens are this one from Britt & her Boys, this one from Creative Carissa, and this one from Young House Love.

You made it to the end! As promised, here are just a few of my attempts at capturing a happy, adorable child in front of the Christmas tree.

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Happy New Year!

I’ll post the Chocolate Revel Bars recipe soon.