My Miscarriage Stories

My first miscarriage was in September 2015. The first month we started trying to get pregnant, we got pregnant! I felt so lucky and a little nervous, but mostly lucky. We told our family the day we tested positive. It was so exciting! I still have the videos of telling our family. Around 5 and half weeks, I noticed some brown stuff in my underwear. I remember exactly where I was–in the powder room of the house where I babysat. I immediately called my husband. That first day and a half, there wasn’t enough bleeding to be sure of anything. Lots of women spot during their first trimester, they say. I didn’t know if I was letting my anxious mind get away from me or I really was miscarrying…

I knew so little then. I didn’t even know if it was a miscarriage or a chemical pregnancy I was experiencing. I didn’t seek any medical supervision, because I don’t know why…I just didn’t.

There was a day and a half of mental torture—I would check my underpants obsessively for any brown or red discharge. No, I’m not! Yes, I am! After about 2 days, the spotting got heavy enough that I was sure I was miscarrying. It took me about a day of intense grieving—just lying in bed and being sad. The next night, I had the most intense pain of my life. Then after those days, it felt just a like a period but a little weepier.

That’s one of the biggest misconceptions about miscarriages, I think. Before I had my own, I thought they were these surprise, acute events and were over in a few hours. I didn’t realize they would happen (both physically and emotionally) over days, weeks, or even months. It can take over a month for a woman’s body to heal from a miscarriage. My body took six weeks. Emotionally, it can take longer. The longest emotional symptom I had was anxiety.  When I got pregnant with A, I was extremely anxious. Every single time I went to the bathroom for the three weeks between my positive home pregnancy test and my ultrasound, I checked for spotting. Luckily, it all worked out and I ended up with the sweetie little, hyper, happy boy we have today.

Flash forward to a April 2018. A few weeks ago, I wrote a post called ‘Joy, pt. 3’ and said that some things happened in our house and I needed to find the joy in motherhood. The main thing that happened that week was my second miscarriage. It’s almost an identical story to my first miscarriage. First month we were trying. Six weeks along. Spotting. Uncertainty (and that mental bargaining with grief) for a few days. Then finally, confirmation.

Again, I remember where I was vividly when I first saw spotting (something about the intensity of that emotion must cement the memory). I was peeing before my regular Monday yoga class, when I noticed just a little redness on the toilet paper. My yoga instructor, who I have known for years and went to prenatal yoga with while pregnant with A, asked if I was okay (my emotions must have been showing on my face). I cried during yoga class that day, and afterwards, cried to my yoga instructor.

The second time, I did get medical supervision, because I have a relationship with my OB (the same one that delivered A). Blood work and an ultrasound confirmed I was miscarrying on a Tuesday. I was by myself in the doctor’s office. Got a lot of hugs from the ultrasound tech, who said she’d had two miscarriages herself. Freaked out the Phlebotomist by crying when she asked me my birthday.  The only thing different between this miscarriage and my first is I didn’t have the intense pain, just a boat load (the *official* medical term, btw) of blood and clots. It’s only been a few weeks, so that intense pain could still come. This time, there was definitely grief. Not as intense as last time—since I had A, I’m just more distracted and can’t focus on it as much. There was more disbelief though—‘Is this really happening a second time?’ I said multiple times to my husband. Sometimes I’d laugh when I said it. Sometimes, I’d be serious.

Miscarriages suck. They are emotionally and physically tough, and often women have to go about their lives and pretend like everything is normal to their coworkers, friends, and family. I know I needed to talk about it to process it, and there were times I felt like people thought I was over-reacting or talking about it too much. Yes, lots of women experience them, but that doesn’t mean they don’t suck. Many women have a miscarriage story or two. These are mine.

Tickling and consent

I hated being tickled as a kid (and as an adult now!), as I’m sure many others do. I always lived by the belief that you shouldn’t really tickle kids. In all my interactions with toddlers and elementary aged kids, I tended to follow that rule.

But A seems to love being tickled. And I don’t mean, ‘he laughs when we tickle him so that shows us he loves it.’ Everyone laughs when they get tickled, whether they like it or not. It’s an uncontrollable reaction. When I say A loves getting tickled, I mean he ASKS to be tickled. With a cute little grin as he anticipates it, he says ‘more tickle? More tickle?’.

So given his enjoyment of it, we do tickle A—but only in some circumstances. I’m not the first to write about this, and I don’t pretend this is my idea. But I will reiterate it in brief and clear terms: tickling can help introduce children to the idea of consent. In the current reckoning of rape culture going on (#metoo), teaching my son what consent is from an early age is important. Of course, I’m not going to talk about sex and rape to my one and half year old, but I can teach him that when someone doesn’t want to be touched (or tickled), you stop.

This goes two ways during our tickle-times. First, I proactively ask him if he wants to be tickled before I start. Second, if he says ‘no’ or ‘stop’, then I stop immediately. Both actions show him that he has control over what happens to his body and that I will respect those boundaries. I am modeling for him behavior that I expect from him.

I think the major criticism of this is that it takes the organic playfulness out of tickling. For a kid who—at least most of the time—wants to be tickled, stopping to ask before you start EVERY time might seem like a lot. It doesn’t have to be an overly serious conversation though. Last night, I just said ‘can I tickle you?’ and he grinned and said ‘Yeah’ in that adorable way that he does. So, I tickled him. And we played. And maybe, unconsciously, he filed away in his mind something about consent.

The Value of Caregiving

A few days ago, I was reading about ‘the baby penalty’ for women in academic careers. The article talks about how women who have babies early in their university careers are more likely to take second-tier and lower-paying positions (adjuncts or part time teaching positions at universities) or completely leave the academy. The article presents this as something to fix—which, of course, it is.

But what if, instead of approaching this as a problem of why women are pushed away from paying careers, we approach it as a problem of why men are pushed away from caregiving? Instead of ‘women are prioritizing caregiving over careers’, we say ‘men are prioritizing careers over caregiving’? After all, sitting on your deathbed, are you going to say ‘I really wished I worked more on Sundays,’ or are you going to say ‘I wish I spent as much time as possible with my kids’?

Maybe this is semantics, but it was a little thought that kept niggling away in my mind as I read the article. Perhaps because I was the ‘problem’ that this article is trying to address. I am a mother, young in my university career, who finds herself more and more drawn away from a career in a university and more and more towards caregiving (happily).

I’m hesitant to even publish this, because I don’t want to undermine women who do value careers and want to dedicate their time to that. That’s badass and awesome, and women often face enormous struggles when they are dedicated to their careers. I say this coming from a home where my mother was the primary breadwinner and my father was the one waiting for us at home when we got off the bus. He always worked when we were kids, but he also dedicated much of his time to caregiving (Do you agree, mom & dad? Lol—LOVE YOU). I am really proud of that fact.

The point is: caregiving is systemically under-esteemed in our society, and men are pushed away from it because of that. As a traditionally feminine undertaking, caregiving is chronically underpaid and undervalued (think teachers, early childhood educators, nursing home staff, stay-at-home parent etc.). Some may even think that full-time caregiving is not contributing to society (think of criticisms of stay-at-parents—‘what do they even do all day?’).

Despite that, I do believe that having deep, personal, loving connections is the meaning behind this thing called life. And caregiving facilitates that. I feel sad for men that are denied the opportunity to invest their time and emotional energy into caregiving because of the capitalist pull towards paid work. Obviously, there are some practical components to this:

  1. Households need money to survive, and caregiving is either not paid at all or paid very poorly.
  2. Some people don’t actually like caregiving. It’s a grinding at times (though joyful at others).

But still, if A were to call us in 30 years and say he was going to be a stay-at-home parent, I would not only be thrilled for him but proud of him as well.

Joy, pt 3: Little Moments

It’s been intense in our house this last week for unrelated reasons, so I wanted to take a few moments to celebrate the small moments of joy that motherhood has brought recently:

A is obsessed with saying ‘happy birthday’ to everyone! Even if it’s not their birthday lol. It all started a month ago when we were in San Diego. One of the pandas at the San Diego zoo has the same birthday as A, and I must have said something about it in front of him. Ever since, he absolutely LOVES saying happy birthday. Luckily, we have a lot of birthdays in our extended family coming up so we can channel his birthday energy to making videos and sending them to people. He has also rediscovered How do dinosaurs say happy birthday? on his bookshelf, which is adding to the whole birthday extravaganza.

 

He’s started waking up at 6:15am again. I’m laughing at myself that I’m calling this a joy…this morning at 6:15 it did NOT feel like a joy. But what I’ve noticed is that we’ve been able to spend more time together in the mornings because of his early rising. A few weeks ago, when he was waking up at 7:30/7:45, it was a rush out the door to get to daycare in time for breakfast. But now, we get to read books and play with toys and cuddle. It’s actually great. It probably helps that its spring time, so the sun is coming up and the birds are chirping by 6:15. If it were pitch black and cold out, I would probably be less amused by the 6:15 ‘Anne! Baba!’ (mom and dad, in Turkish) screams coming from his bedroom.

 

The era of Dr. Seuss has well and truly hit our home. Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham are his favorite right now, though Hop on Pop and Oh, the Places you’ll go! are up there, too. (I know Dr. Seuss isn’t a perfect—some of his work is quite problematic. I gotta think through that more still)

Hope you are finding little moments of joy in your week—

Happy wiping, Olivia

P. S. See Joy, pt 1 and Joy, pt 2 here!

 

Using screen time with intention

Whether we like it or not, A is surrounded by screens. Any child living (in a developed country) in 2018 is. Whether it’s TV time or FaceTiming grandparents, screens are everywhere. While we try to limit his non-FaceTime screens quite strictly during the week (a 20-minute episode of something on Netflix or YouTube), we are considerably less strict over the weekends (those cozy family movie nights are just too good to pass up). I’ve now come to appreciate using the screen strategically to make parents’ lives a little calmer and kids’ lives a little richer.

So, I thought I would outline how we intentionally use screen time for both those ends.

Why and how we use screens:

  1. Rest. Obviously. Let’s be honest–When he’s being crazy or we need to get the dishes finished, sometimes flipping on the TV will do the trick. Sure, in an ideal world, he would be able to sit calmly and work on his puzzles as I clean up dinner. But LOLS, that’s not going to happen every night. I really only use TV like this when B is still at work. It gives me either a moment of rest or a moment to get something done waaaaay more efficiently than you can with a toddler hanging off your leg. (He’s taken to grabbing the knives from the dishwasher as we try to load it, so if some Elmo is going to prevent stitches, we’ll do it).
  2. Exposure to Turkish. Now, I know you can’t learn a second language just by watching TV. Research shows over and over that in-person, live interactions are what help children develop language. Turkish TV doesn’t replace Turkish conversations. That being said, A is still exposed to Turkish through the TV. And when his dad is home, too, they use Turkish TV as a prompt to start talking in Turkish. Watching Turkish shows also gives him more familiarity with Turkish culture, like kid’s songs and popular characters.
  3. Instigating color-conscious and other social justice-oriented conversations. Just like books, TV shows and movies can be a great prompt to start a conversation about social justice. One of his favorite shows, for example, features a trio of female protagonists, two of whom are girls of color. This allows us to start talking about gender and race with A from a young age.

And just as a moment of joy and for our own personal memories, A’s favorite TV shows to watch in the last month or two are:

  1. Spirit: Riding Free (I’ve talked about this one before–it’s his first love.)
  2. Planet Earth 2
  3. Canim Kardesim

Happy wiping,

Olivia

Storytime and activism: A is for Activist by Innosanto Nagara

A is for Activist is a small book with a cult following. It seems to pop up in all of the corners of the web that talk about social justice & parenting, at the small local bookstores, etc. It’s an ABC book that talks about something radical with each letter: I is for immigrant and indigenous or L is for LGBTQ or T is for Trans or Z is for Zapatista, of course.

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A certainly doesn’t understand everything (or even most) in it, but I think of it as a book that will grow with us. Right now, for a family with a one-and-a-half year old, it has good illustrations and a fun rhythm of the text. It gives us an opportunity to practice how we (the adults) want to start talking to him about certain topics. As he grows into the preschool years, I’m sure we will use it as a jumping off point for discussions around social issues. And because the text is poetic in nature, I think we can use it into the elementary years. As A’s understanding of poetry grows, we can unveil new meanings of the short letter-based poems together.

This book is truly a radical children’s book. It calls out democrats and republicans alike; it calls out capitalism; it calls out problematic narratives of activists (R: “’ruinous rioters’ the headlines said…really?”). It makes me want to be more accountable to my beliefs. I am grateful to have it in A’s little library, and I highly recommend it!

P.S. See some of my other children’s book reviews here, here, here, and here

Terrible, Terrible Twos.

Terrible twos. TERRIBLE, TERRIBLE twos. There aren’t any words. Except, hot damn, the terrible twos. A isn’t even two yet either! He’s just 20 months old, but the terrible twos seem to have hit our house early. This week has been the hardest of our parenting lives (even harder than 4 to 6 months old, when A woke 8-10 times a night). A started a new daycare last week, and since the second day of his new school, A has been INSANE. I don’t want to sound overly dramatic, but there are no words to adequately describe how insane A has been. 95% of the time he is at home (and awake), he is throwing a temper tantrum. I am not exaggerating when I say 95% of the time. This weekend, my husband and I looked at each other and just said ‘this is insane.’

Luckily, at school, this doesn’t seem to be his pattern at his new daycare. They say he is a pleasure when he’s there, and they love having him (hopefully this will continue!).

I do try to stick by my original post on temper tantrums: I name his emotion and validate it. But there are times when that won’t do anything to calm him down. This week is a perfect example. In those moments, we’ve taken to ignoring him. Disciplining through the terrible twos is an emotionally trying time—I have lost my temper a few times over the last week, I will admit. But I am so thankful I have a partner. When I just could NOT deal anymore, he would step in and I would go hide upstairs. When he couldn’t deal anymore, I would step in and he would hide. Self-care as parents is so important, particularly during weeks like this.

So, a note to myself: Take care of myself. Make a self-care plan. Rely on family and friends. Remember, everything passes. GOOD LUCK.

And solidarity to any other parents who are in the middle of the terrible twos.

March for Our Lives: Applications for parents of toddlers

Our family took a vacation to sunny San Diego last week. We flew back on Saturday the 24th, and I was very disappointed to miss the March for Our Lives in St. Louis. But I want to express solidarity publicly and writing this blog post is one way to do it.

First, I want to commend the youth at the center of the March for Our Lives for centralizing conversations of privilege and using their platform to amplify voices of Black and Brown youth who have been fighting gun violence in different ways in their communities.

Second, I want to point out the questions that are stuck in my head:

What do these activists teach parents of young children? If you are parents of high schoolers, the lessons are clearer (encourage participation in activist movements, show up at rallies with your kids, etc). But as the mother of a toddler, what can I do to support this movement and be active in the fight against gun violence? How can I use my position as a privileged parent to support this movement? Right now, I plan to:

  • Consistently communicate to A that guns can be dangerous (he’s a little young to understand, but it starts to embed this thinking from a young age. It also helps us as parents get used to the type of wording we want to use when we discuss these topics with him.)
  • Do not let him play with toy guns or pretend to shoot people with guns (again, he’s a little young for this, but it will become more relevant soon)
  • Show up at rallies like March for Our Lives and other events
  • Bring him with us to the voting booth when we vote for local, state, and federal officials who support gun control. Tell him that is one of the reasons we are supporting this candidate (again, he’s young, I know. But, it is important to me that A sees us voting in local and state elections and sees us civically engaged).

When I was chatting with my husband the other night about this blog post (heyyy, new year’s resolution #2, I see you!), we both came to the blunt conclusion of ‘fuck guns.’ If I were designing an ideal world, guns would not be in it. But we don’t live in an ideal world and I know many people don’t agree with that statement. We live in a world where diversity of thought is a beautiful thing, and people have diverse thoughts about guns. Whatever your opinion about guns—even if its not as blunt or hard-lined as mine—there are common sense things we can do as parents to both keep our kids safe and teach them how to advocate for a safer world. I’ve outlined the ones above that align with my values. I encourage you to think of ones that align with yours.

Individual reparations?

A few weeks ago, I was struggling with our recent purchase of a teepee for A to play in. My aunt graciously encouraged me to donate to an organization or group run by and for Native Americans. This donation would not erase the cultural appropriation associated with teepees as play things for White kids but rather would offset the harm our family committed when we purchased it. While financial donations won’t solve the problems of capitalism and White supremacy, it got me thinking: how else can we use our family’s financial giving to disrupt the forces of racialized exploitation?

I’ve never felt comfortable with the idea of charity. Charity/donating money is not inherently bad, of course, but I believe it is too often conflated with the idea of justice. My ultimate goal is to cultivate a life that encourages the formation of more just and equitable systems of economy and politics. Charity doesn’t do that. Charity thinks that more money will solve the problems of a few individuals. It doesn’t see that the actual problem is the system itself.

My aunt’s thoughtful comments, however, got me thinking. What if I reconceived ‘charitable giving’ as ‘individual reparations’? My family has materially benefitted from White supremacy. That’s not to say my family hasn’t work hard, but it is to say that the history of economic policies and the lack of interpersonal discrimination has helped recent generations of my family become economically secure. They have been able to pass that down to me and my son. (The case is a little different for my husband, who is a first- or second-generation immigrant, depending on who is categorizing him). How can I use those material benefits and repurpose them to organizations run by and for Native Americans and African Americans? (These are not the only two groups that are materially hurt by White supremacy, but they are two I want to focus on right now)

I have decided to make regular donations to:

  1. The Organization for Black Struggle
  2. National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center

My husband expressed concern that the idea of individual reparations was patronizing. I see his point. Framing donations as individual reparations can come off as condescending or paternalistic. It is my hope, though, that this is an action that is rooted in my acknowledgement of an unfair structural advantage. More money will never solve the problems that capitalism created. But, since the US is nowhere close to committing to societal reparations, there must be something that individuals can do. No, my financial donations are not going to fix anything. But they may put more financial resources into the hands of people who have been historically denied or robbed of their financial resources.

Is this entire thinking motivated by White guilt? I’ve been accused of White guilt quite a bit in my life and even more so recently. I’m not sure the difference between being a reflective White person (who hopefully is willing to put her body and money where her mouth is) to having White guilt. I wonder, though: Does it matter? If my motivation is White guilt, but it still gets me to prioritize justice in my actions—does it matter?

Working moms

“This brings me to the most important lesson I wished I’d known when I first had kids: There’s no such thing as balance, only priorities of the moment”

-(Erin Cochran, 2/22/18 Washington Post)

‘Work-life balance’ seems to be a mantra that everyone uses now, even those without kids. It’s this idea that you need an equilibrium in your life between your work-for-pay and your time away from work-for-pay. Mostly, I hear about how bad most people are at this work-life balance. To complain about how busy and overworked you are is like a currency in our society. Busy-ness (and complaining about busy-ness) proves your importance.

Erin Cochran wrote a piece for the Washington Post the other week about this topic. She essentially argues for the famous Madeline Albright line: women can have it all, just not all at once. As in, you can have a successful career and a happy family—but maybe not at the same time. Cochran quit her high-powered job to stay at home with her kids (though now she runs a small consulting firm, and clearly does at least a little freelance writing as evidenced by this article. Not sure if she still considers herself a stay at home mom or not, but she does identify as it in the article). Honestly, I’m not sure how I feel about her main theme. Some days I agree with it—something’s gotta give if you’re going to do anything well. But another part of me is stubborn and wants to not give up on the ideal.

One quote in her article, though, hit close to home: “There’s no such thing as balance, only priorities of the moment.” When I was going back to working full-time in my PhD program (after an amazing 6-month maternity leave), I had many hard days. I intentionally and consciously wrote out my list of priorities to get me through those hard days.

My son (and family in general)
My physical and mental health
My job (and within that, professional activities that promote social justice).

When 4pm rolls around some days and I’m irritated that I didn’t finish everything I wanted during daycare hours, I take a deep breath and ask myself: What’s more important—reading this journal article or high quality time with my son? The answer always is—and always will be—my son. I want to pick him up by 4:30 each day so that I had 2.5-3 solid hours of hang out time with him. He is what matters to me. Knowing my priorities is a mindfulness strategy that allowed me cope with the stress of working-for-pay and being a mom.

Now, I don’t think that you are a bad mom or a bad woman if these aren’t your priorities. One of the beauties of living in the era we do is that women should (in theory) be able to set their own priorities. You prefer your career over having a family? Baller. Do it. There might be days in the future when I really don’t want to pick him up from daycare because this project I’m working on is really important and engrossing. They haven’t come yet. In fact, I have found myself less and less content with work, leading to more and more of those random thoughts: ‘maybe I should be a stay at home mom?’. I highly doubt I would every do it for many, many complicated reasons. But on days when my work just straight SUCKS, I fantasize about it…