October 29, 2009

The Kids Shaped Spleen Hole Inside Me

Posted in Family, fertility, kids, Mother, mothering, Parent, sexuality tagged , , , , , at 9:52 am by Eostre

ella and me

Me holding my wonderful niece when she was just over a month old

There are few things in my life that I am absolutely sure of right now. One of them is that I don’t want kids. This is a fairly new thing. For most of my life I thought I wanted kids, not because I really did, but because I didn’t know it was okay to not want them. During this past year, when I finally figured this out, it was a major revelation for me. I think I can look to that discovery as a turning point in my recent life, a shift from the person I was to the person I am becoming. I don’t know why this realization has taken on such importance for me, but in my mind I have tied the me who wanted kids to the me who was stuck trying to fulfill what I thought a Good Christian Girl was supposed to be. Sure, I wanted a career too, but I definitely (even if I didn’t admit it) wanted a husband and family too. It was what I was supposed to want, and it was what I was taught I had to have to be valuable.

Like so many things from my Evangelical past, the idea that I should want kids (and a husband) has been kind of hard to shake. Even now, when I know that that is something I don’t want, I still feel guilt over those feelings. So many people think that not wanting kids is unnatural, somehow, for a woman. I mean, it’s not that I am not maternal, and I do really like kids (at least for a set period of time), and I am, usually, a very loving person who likes to take care of people. I have a 13-year-old nephew and a 7-month-old niece both of whom I love to distraction, but I am content being an aunt and not a mother.

I refuse to be defined by my past and where I come from. Yes, I am still dragging a huge net full of baggage behind me, but I am shedding it, piece by piece. And realizing that I don’t want kids was a huge step. I do not want to live the life that someone else thinks I should, I have tried that and it doesn’t work. I am figuring out who I am and what that means, and realizing that I don’t want kids was like finding a part of myself and fitting it inside me, like a missing spleen; one more piece to fill up the new me after I have emptied out the old. I’m not sure of much right now, but every new thing I figure out is a treasure, and knowing that I don’t want kids puts me one step closer to knowing who I am, and what I do want, and that is invaluable to me.

October 27, 2009

9 Months Later…

Posted in birthing, mothering, Parent, Relationships tagged , , at 5:04 am by LadySophie

As a 34 year old woman, I realized recently that my “clock is ticking” for birthing children. I have always liked kids and imagined I would have my own. I do not have that burning desire that I see in so many of my friends – the deep need to be a mom. I always figured that I could adopt if I marry too late. Should I feel so ambivalent about something so important?

The closest experience I have had with my own children is the birth of my nieces. They are twin girls (one has my name!) and they are about to turn 8. I remember the night they were born. I was driving to Dallas for a conference when I got the call. I diverged from my path and drove to Austin instead. After a few hours and surgery, we had twin girls. Right then and there – my life changed.

Driving on to Dallas later, I knew that my life would be worthwhile if I could influence and be a part of their lives. No other great thing in life would matter, as long as I could have that role in their lives. I wept the whole way to Dallas. I love them with a passion and would do anything for them. If they just call me Tia – they can have almost anything they ask.

I have done lots of birthing in ministry. An Asian youth camp grew from 100 to 300 in four years. Timid middle school students became capable leaders as a result of concentrated effort and time. Right now, I am birthing a dissertation. I have a 9-month plan on my wall – ironic it would be exactly 9 months.

I am serious about a man with a 9 year old son. What would it look like for me to be a step-mom? It seems like the perfect plan for this ambivalent woman. I don’t think I have missed the boat. I am not worried about the “clock”. What I have learned is that there are so many people in need of love and I have it to give. That will be my impact. That will be the result of my life’s work – the love I have to give.

October 25, 2009

Having Children Young: Reflections on the Mormon Directive

Posted in Family, kids, mothering at 9:55 pm by Gaia

baby A, 2 days old

baby A, 2 days old

Three months ago, I gave birth to my second child. A girl this time. Though a bit sleep deprived and stressed out about how to care for both her and my 3 year old son, I’m absolutely thrilled to have her, as is my husband. Getting her involved several unpleasant trips to the fertility clinic, so we feel terribly lucky that it all worked out so well.

Having this baby has made me ponder Mormon Church leaders’ directives to not postpone having children. This advice (command?) never made much of an impact on me as a young married woman. I waited six years after my marriage to begin our family. I was almost 29, and I was always glad I waited, though my husband would have been happy to begin our family sooner. By the time I had my son, I really wanted a baby. I was ready. I would have struggled and had a much harder time with motherhood and marriage if I had had him a year or two into our marriage.

While my experience with postponing my family has definitely been an overall good one, I now appreciate, more than ever before, the idea of not waiting too long to begin. I had problems getting pregnant at 30. If I had waited until I was 38, it could have been that much harder, I imagine. Having experienced some infertility, I now ironically find myself tentatively advising my friends who are in their 30’s and getting married to not wait too long before trying to get pregnant, if they know for sure that they do want children eventually.

While my appreciation for this directive to not postpone families has grown because of my own experience with infertility, I am left wondering just why there continues to be an emphasis on having children young. Mormon Relief Society President Julie Beck’s 2007 ‘Mothers Who Know’ talk reinforces the idea. She states:

“President Ezra Taft Benson taught that young couples should not postpone having children and that “in the eternal perspective, children—not possessions, not position, not prestige—are our greatest jewels.”

I don’t know if she meant the second half of her sentence to explain the first half – i.e. that couples should not postpone children because children are our greatest jewels. But if she did, one can easily argue that children can still be our greatest jewels (I’m uncomfortable with that metaphor, but I’ll go with it), whether one gives birth to them in one’s thirties or one’s twenties.

The Kimball talk Beck references, “To the Mothers In Zion” gives additional hints as to why he implored young people to not put off having children. He seems to associate having children young with having many children, since he spends a bit of time talking about the joys of large families.

With the decrease in emphasis on having large families, however, I am left wondering if there are other, often unspoken reasons for Mormon leaders’ continuing emphasis on having children early into the marriage. Here are a few possible reasons I’ve come up with.

1) having children young might keep fragile young marriages together, as couples are given additional incentives to try to work through their problems.

2.) encouraging women to not postpone children often prevents them from establishing themselves in the workforce, thus making the gender role division that Church leaders advocate more likely.

3) since Church leaders see having children as such a huge factor in character and personal development, they think that the earlier one starts, the better a person he or she can become.

Personally, I don’t find these three to be persuasive reasons to have children young. (And in fact, regarding the first two, I actually find them potentially damaging.)

However, the older I get, the more I do understand that having children young is not necessarily a recipe for disaster. I like to think of my friend who had her babies at 22 and 24. Having done the stay at home mom thing for the first few years of her kids’ lives, she’s now in her late thirties and is one year away from completing her Ph.D. Certainly there are many ways to conduct a successful life. And children, whether they come early or late, don’t mean the end of studying, learning, and moving forward professionally.

October 23, 2009

Infertility: Have you tried standing on your head?

Posted in Family, Genesis, Infertility, Matriarch, Mother, mothering, Parent, Relationships, Sarah in Genesis tagged , , , , , , at 7:22 am by Gina Messina

infertility

In Gen 16: 1 it reads “Now Sarah, Abraham’s wife, bore him no children.” The simplicity of this statement fails to communicate the complicated and devastating situation Sarah faced. The woman who became the matriarch of the Judeo-Christian tradition was barren, unable to fulfill the one duty that gave her worth within her community. With no understanding of biology, infertility was viewed as a curse by Jewish culture and as the fault of the woman. While women were already devalued by society, the social status of a woman struggling with infertility was even further diminished.

Sarah is a woman I have come to identify with. I share her plight of infertility and feel a hopelessness that can only be understood by women in a similar situation. Like Sarah I have been desperate to become a mother and although it is the 21st century, as a woman I have felt pressure to do so. Feelings of inadequacy and lack of worth have been overwhelming at times as family members and friend have felt it necessary to not only acknowledge my struggle but also offer commentary on what exactly they think my problem is.

It is difficult to describe the rollercoaster of emotions I have experienced in the last eight years that I have hoped to become a mother. I have felt sad, angry, hurt, disgusted, fearful, relieved, cheated, optimistic, disappointed, remorseful, irritated, exasperated, hopeful, punished, envious, despair, confused, indifferent, tormented, guilty, nervous, surprised, stressed, appreciative, resentful, bitter and the list continues. While societal pressure has certainly added salt to my wound, the most difficult part of dealing with infertility has been my unwavering knowledge that I a meant to be a mother; there is a child that is meant to grow in my womb, a child that I am meant to nurture and love. I intuitively sense it, it must happen, it is fate, I feel it in the depths of my soul, I am a mother, it is who I am. So why have I been unable to conceive? Why are so many other women privileged with the ability to choose whether or not to become a parent and why have I not been blessed with that same choice?

I have continually struggled with these questions as well as with the highs and lows of the infertility roller coaster. Recently my husband and I have come to the decision to adopt (which warrants numerous blog posts in itself). While we have felt a multitude of emotions (which of course excitement is one) over our decision; the people in our lives have felt it necessary to share their own thoughts on what we have been experiencing. I have been amazed, shocked, horrified, by some of the things people feel it is appropriate to say to me given my struggle to get pregnant. Thus, I feel it necessary to share here some things that you should avoid verbalizing if you know someone dealing with infertility. So for what it is worth, here is my personal top ten list of things you should NOT say to women dealing with infertility (all things that have been stated to me):

10. “Wow, you are so lucky your husband has not divorced you. Most men would not tolerate a woman who could not give him a child.”

9. “Why would you waste so much money on adoption when you could just spend a little more on invitro and have a baby of your own?”

8. “Why not just let me carry a baby for you?”

7. “If you are going to adopt you better make sure you don’t get a kid that is a lemon.” (Yes, a lemon as in if you bought a car with a lot of problems you would describe it as a lemon.)

6. “Oh, your adopting…well I hope you stay within your own race.”

5. “Are you sure you are having sex on the right days? Are you using the right positions?  Maybe you should do some research on the internet.”

4. “It is hard enough to love your own kids, are you sure you will love one if you adopt it?”

3. If a woman struggling with infertility mentions she may try artificial insemination don’t say “Are you really sure you want your child to be conceived that way? I mean, don’t you want it to be conceived out of love?”

2. “You just need to relax.” (What exactly does this mean? I am not sure myself but it is the one quote I have heard more times than I can count. Apparently, if I  just relax and stop worrying about it, a pregnancy will magically occur.)

1. “Have you tried standing on your head?”

I hope the list gives rise to thought offering humor in some areas and anger in others. I am not sure where my continued struggle with infertility will take me, but for now I am a mother. Although I may not yet have a child, I mother other areas of my life, with my partner, my family, my friends, my research, this blog.

For more information on infertility see:

http://www.womenshealth.gov/faq/infertility.cfm

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/infertility/DS00310

http://myinfertilityblog.wordpress.com/

October 21, 2009

Hello, I am a Hairy Red Demon (Or, I don’t want kids.)

Posted in fertility, kids, mothering tagged , , at 4:10 am by Lakshmi (LaChelle)

This may be the one area where I fit the image of what people reductively think is feminist. I am 28 (or 29 on Friday) and I’ve just never wanted them. Among my core group of women friends, for the first time in my life, I don’t want to back down and offer the required add-on: “But maybe I’ll want them later on in life” because the ratio of 3:4 of no-babies to yes-plz. is pretty good. But I still walk the streets of dating and strangers with a mild level of trepidation and guilt.

The assumptions are the following:

1. I don’t know what I’m talking about, and some day I will change my mind.

2. I am a mean, selfish, scary poophead.

3. I am a delusional feminist who just hates men and keeps her uterus all to herself. (Once my at the time bf said, “Just give me your uterus: that’s all I want” in discussing what he needed to get back together with me.)

4. I hate kids.

5. I’m trying to make a point.

6. I will be lonely as I get older and I won’t have many people to love.

Many guys begin to date me, and I always feel the duty, when I see those sparkly luvbunnies hoping around in their eyes, to inform (warn?) them of my position on the matter. And the response, after initial shock/weeping, is a knowing smile. Gently they say, “That’s okay. Kids aren’t all that important to me”, only to follow that statement up with a cute story: “You know, my good friend [name] didn’t want kids for the longest time, but. . . .”

But I love kids. I would much rather play with them during holidays than have boring conversations sitting with the adults. Granted, I have an irrational fear of holding (and dropping) babies (they are slippery, okay?). But I just have never had the desire to have any of my own. I haven’t really put too much thought into it. Much like I’ve never put too much thought into becoming a firefighter. I mean, I respect firefighters, and I am sure glad they are around, and if a calendar of sexy men in uniform should happen my way, I will look, but the thought of becoming one barely crossed my mind. It’s kind of the same with birthing children.

I guess I AM selfish though. I have all these things I want to do, experience, give, take care of, mother, love. . . and choosing those things for me, means selfishly not choosing others. But that is a part of life. In the mothering category,  I am good at listening. I’m good at telling people that they are truly beautiful (I never lie), consoling a friend, helping those I love figure out tough decisions, and just generally being around when someone feels sad or wants to celebrate something they feel good about. And for me, that is a way I mother, even in my selfishness.

I hope that I won’t be lonely. I want to get married to my best friend and romantic love I can lust and laugh with. I want to continue to be more in love with my girlfriends and family each day, showing me how to love by their own love. I want to have a house full of people I take care of, maybe single mothers who need a helping hand, a community college student abandoned by her family, my friends if they lose their job, and of course a man I commit my life too, party guests, other couples, maybe (MAYBE) animals (my roommate shall not believe this). =) For me, it seems a little paranoid to have children because I won’t be lonely, because I’ll have someone to take care of me. If I would have kids, I would hope there would be some other reason. For me, I can’t personally think of any.

I love when people have babies or want them. I’m so happy when I hear of my friends having babies they want, and my heart absolutely breaks when I hear of my friends not able to have the children they want just yet (but they will get them, I know). Pregnant women are incredibly beautiful. And little babies are cute. I love the differences among our group, and we can celebrate each other even when our lives desire different things.

So, I don’t think I’m not wanting kids for a particular reason. I’m the most un-feminist feminist that could possibly exist if your idea of a feminist is what it is in most people’s minds. My tendencies, personality, etc. really has nothing to do with anyone, but me. I can’t explain it. It’s like the way I like peppermint and chocolate ice cream or I like being on stage, or I like to spend most of my life in school. It’s just who I am and what I do. I don’t think more growing up/falling in love, etc. is really going to make this hairy red monster adore orange sherbet or firefighting. It doesn’t really happen that way.

October 17, 2009

Between Mother Mary and Mother God: It’s a Mystery!

Posted in Catholic, God, Mother God, Virgin Mary at 5:22 am by Cynthia Garrity-Bond

img022“It’s a mystery!” was the repeated response my mother gave to me whenever I asked her theological questions that fell outside the realm of the Catholic Baltimore Catechism.  To be fair, my questions were usually a bit precocious for a young child, but whom are we kidding, I was a rather strange and overly religious kid.  My idea of a good time was kneeling before our three-foot statue of the Virgin Mary as our family recited our Lenten rosary.  And while my brothers were contorting themselves into positions that would qualify for Cirque de Soleil, I was piously straight and focused.  Mary was my pathway to the big three, The Father, The Son and The Holy Ghost.  And while I knew I was suppose to desire the Three-in-One, they did not hold the same sway over me as the Mary who stood atop the world while crushing Satan in the form of a snake. My love for Jesus was more a sense of obligation for the unfair rap he had to endure while on earth, the Great Sacrifice for the sin of Adam and Eve.  My image of God as a not-so-nice-Father-to-his-only-Son sealed itself into my consciousness early on.  “Why,” I would ask my mother, “if God is love would he insist on such a bloody and painful sacrifice for a sin that honestly does not seem so bad.” You guessed it, “It’s a mystery!”  was her response.

 But I have since come to learn that it’s not a mystery, but rather a matter of shifting the theological lens from an abusive Father to a God who has been totally misrepresented.  A God who is both unnameable and pronounceable.  Who offers us the mystery of God’s self in every single seen and unseen element of the earth and cosmos.  But still, that does not always work for me.  I need more.  In times of heartache or sorrow I need an image with skin and bones and a heart that is larger than my pain. I need a Creator God that will rock me back and forth, soothing my fears and yes, even caressing my face with cool breaths that remind me I will survive this latest insult to life.  In these times I know what God is not. I know God is not a rock, or a wispy tuft of air.  God is not the mighty King on high able to judge my enemies.  Nor is God a warrior who kicks ass over the unrighteous.  God is my Mother.  Maybe this is why Mary has always worked for me.  Maybe she never really was the mediator between Them and me, she is Them.  Theologically I may be on shaky ground, but the mystery between Mary as Mother and Mother God is one I know, not one I can defend. And it is one that continues to sustain and let me know that I am never too old to be held in the Mother’s embrace.

October 15, 2009

Jesus was not white, and other reflections

Posted in God, Goddess, Jesus, religion, Soul, Spirituality at 4:29 am by Eostre

Growing up in the Evangelical Church, we knew who Jesus was, we had pictures of him! Jesus was white, quasi-attractive, and full of good ol’ Amerijesus playing keep awaycan pride (our Church had an American flag right next to cross, behind the pulpit).  And since, as we all know (and out Sunday School teachers showed us on felt boards every week) Jesus was more than just a man, he was GOD, the implications were clear. Jesus was just like us! And more than that, he might have lived in Ancient Israel, but apart from that small point, he was American!

Unfortunately, this Jesus was created out of whole cloth by the American Church and fed to little minds every week by well meaning (but maliciously misinformed) adults. I don’t know which would be worse, a concerted effort to do away with the Jesus of the Bible and replace him with this permissive, smiling, white man, or blinding ignorance. Either way, irreparable damage has been done to generations of Christian children, who grew up to be Christian adults who then went on to perpetuate the lie.

As I became aware of the glaring inconsistencies in what the Bible actually said and what was presented in Christian media, I was appalled. The lie is so widespread and so ingrained in Christian (and Western) culture, that there seems to be no way to counter it.  Suddenly, White Jesus was everywhere I looked. I couldn’t escape his bland, permissive gaze. Christian bookstore’s send me spiraling into depression.

So what do I do with this? How do I deal with this tangled, snarled knot of misconceptions and angst? I tried declaiming to anyone who would listen that Jesus probably looked more like Osama Bin Laden than Brad Pitt, but I soon discovered that it was a fruitless exercise. The lie was too prevalent, too ingrained in our collective consciousness.

So I gave up. Not completely, of course, I’ll still pull out the soap-box given the opportunity, but I can’t let it consume me anymore. I can’t fight the White Jesus, but he has ruined God personifications for me. I can’t try to imagine a human God without spiraling back down into the angst, so I have had to find a different way of imagining God. It wasn’t easy, and it still isn’t well defined, but now, when I care to, I imagine God as a sort of amorphous cloud that can envelope me in warmth, like laying on the grass in the sunshine when it’s not too hot, but just right, and you can see the patterns of the shadows of the leaves on your eyelids when you close your eyes. And all I want to do is curl up and rest. God, for me, now, is a feeling. God is safety and comfort and warmth, all encompassing and incorporeal, no gender, no race, God is both the sunlight that warms my face, the grass that cushions me, and the clean scent of rain that lulls me to rest. Simple? Yes. Uncomplicated? No.

October 13, 2009

Tales from real life

Posted in God, images of God, names of God at 7:21 am by LadySophie

I cannot count the images of God in my life. Since the time I became a Christian at age 7, God has been personal and real. Images have changed depending on what has happened along the way.

God was my hope when…

I broke off my engagement

I thought my life was over

I saw no way out of a horrible work environment

Someone I love died

I gave up on hope

This I know…no matter what the image, God was there…

Present  Loving   Compassionate   Provider   Sustainer    Light    Peace  Hope    Comfort    Grace    Friend   Refuge   Savior   Spirit   Intimate   Transformer    Faithful   Creator   Life-giver

As I come to know this God more intimately, I learn about who I am. I learn about how much of God there is to know. God is not male or female for me. For all the names of God in the Bible, why should I only pray to “Father” God? What about “Keeper of the Stars” or “Creator of Light”?  I know that this God is the source of my life and the hope for my future.

October 12, 2009

The Mormon Goddess

Posted in feminism, Goddess tagged , , at 6:34 am by Gaia

Feathered Goddess by Emily Balivet

Feathered Goddess by Emily Balivet

One of the best things about being a Mormon woman is the fact that we do believe in a divine feminine, a Heavenly Mother.  This sets Mormons apart in the Christian tradition.

Unfortunately, however, our belief in God the Mother is a double edged sword, since we are instructed by our (male) leaders to not pray to Her. She is never talked about as having any kind of relationship with Her children on earth. She is never talked about at all, really. To mention Her in church is to draw worried looks. She is too sacred, Mormons surmise, to even mention.

God the Mother’s invisibility is a major problem for Mormon feminists. Is it better to have a feminine divine that won’t or can’t have a relationship with Her children, or is it better to not have one at all?

Despite the obvious problems and dangers with Her current status in the Church, I fall on the side of being happy we have Her. And because she is such a mystery, I can project on to Her all that I want her to be.

After reading an article on the feminine divine by Carol Christ, I was inspired to use some of Christ’s words and images to imagine my Goddess, my Mother. She is purposefully characterized against traditional, static, colorless Christian conceptions of divinity.

The Goddess
Her eyes the green of growth,
Her robe the red of blood,
Her hair the black of night.

She is earth, air, fire, and water.
Waxing and waning,
She is the power of transformation and change,
the elements of life.

Patroness of prophecy, inspiration and power,
She is wisdom, independence, personal strength, and self.
Passion and emotion emanate,
As she savors imagination, creativity, and experimentation.

A beneficent and autonomous power,
She gives just law, heals, writes and takes action.

As giver and nurturer of life
Dispenser of wholeness and happiness,
healing love and service to all
She is Goddess.

October 9, 2009

Coming to Know Goddess Mother

Posted in Catholic, feminism, feminist theology, God, Goddess, Relationships, religion, Spirituality, Thealogy, Theology at 6:07 am by Gina Messina

Goddess Mother

Goddess Mother

Growing up in the Catholic Church I always believed God was a man.  God was always spoken of as male, and although Catholic teaching states that God is genderless, as a child growing up in the Church I never knew this.  No one ever told me that God was genderless; I only heard over and over again God referred to as Father, him, he, himself, etc.  There was never gender neutral language, there certainly was never female language.  Why would I have thought any different? 

I was also very confused by God’s attributes.  Although I heard that God was benevolent, I also heard that God punished.  I found it very distressing that God had stricken Moses dead one step outside of the Promised Land.  I was also troubled by God allowing Satan to torment Job.  However, what garnered my attention most was the crucifixion of Jesus.  Why was such a violent and horrific death of the Son of God the only acceptable sacrifice, the only way to redeem humanity? These actions seemed cruel and led me to question God’s benevolence; I feared God.

I was in college the first time I was told that God could be imaged as a woman; it was a shocking revelation.  I had always pictured God as a man, looking perhaps a lot like what I had been told Jesus looked like (what I term the “Hollywood Jesus;” blond hair, blue eyes, nothing what the historical Jesus looked like).  What would a female God look like?  If God could be imaged female, would God’s attributes be different?  Since that time I have spent a great deal of time wondering who God is.  How should God be imaged?  What is an appropriate name for God?  What are God’s characteristics? Would a female God have demanded a blood sacrifice?

While it has taken quite a bit of time and while I am certain my thoughts will continue to evolve, I have come to know God in a very different way.  For me, God is no longer male and no longer vengeful.   Instead I have re-imaged God as Goddess Mother and Goddess Mother possesses attributes that allow me to have a loving relationship with her, a relationship I had not been able to develop in the past.   

I no longer feel disconnected and fearful of God.  Rather, I encounter Mother Goddess daily through my interactions with others and my experiences with nature.  I encounter her through the support and friendship I share with the women of this blog and through my husband’s loving embrace.  I experience the Goddess in the sun that warms me and in the water that quenches my thirst.  She is loving, nurturing, sustaining and continually present.  Although there were times that I felt lost and did not know who Goddess Mother was, I know now that I was never a stranger to her.

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