Wednesday, August 20, 2014

On Depression (Trigger warning: depression/suicide)

The tragic death of Robin Williams has garnered a lot of attention for depression and other mental illnesses. I loved that man, and many of his roles really touched my life. (My favorite being John Keating from Dead Poets' Society, especially toward the beginning of the movie when he quotes Walt Whitman.) I mourn his loss, which leaves the world a little darker, and hope his family can find comfort and peace.

I've written fairly candidly before about my struggle with depression, with the focus of that post mainly on my experiences surrounding David's pregnancy. There are numerous posts circulating the web now, some focusing on the clinical aspects of mental illness and depression, some reaching out in solidarity and comfort, and some...well, some horrible, awful posts that decry suicide and depression as being selfish. I won't link the worst offender because I really despise the writer and don't want to give his blog traffic, but suffice it to say, it was an awful post that left me fuming. Livid. Enraged. And I don't lose my temper very easily these days.

After Robin Williams' death, I posted this status update on Facebook with a link to a really great article: "As someone who suffers from clinical depression and has, in the past, contemplated suicide on more than one occasion, I agree wholeheartedly with this article. I'll greatly miss the light and laughter Robin Williams brought to this world."

The article I shared was this one from The Guardian, which really does merit reading.

I'm pretty up front about myself and the struggles I've dealt with throughout my life. Mainly because I feel it's important to be authentic, but also because so much of what I've dealt with (abuse, depression, miscarriage, etc.) seems to be a taboo topic that people acknowledge but no one really wants to talk about. Well, I'm talking about it. I'm talking about it because while I know myself well enough now to reach out for help, most people who suffer from depression don't have the resources I do. Because no one should have to suffer in silence. Because depression is an illness, not a choice. Because it is real, and it is dark, and it is often completely devoid of hope.

Because it kills people.

It's pretty common for survivors of abuse to deal with depression (for what I think would be common sense reasons). Looking at my own experiences, I can list off some of the biggest issues for me without pause: the physical abuse I suffered and the scars it left, being abandoned by my biological mother who should have protected me, being abandoned by my biological father who could have taken me in, being in foster care, being teased and bullied for years by my peers and the occasional college professor, body image problems, abusive relationships...the list goes on. That's just the tip of the iceberg.

I mentioned on Facebook that I've contemplated suicide more than once in the past. It's true. Several times as a teenager, including one near attempt that was prevented only because my mom arrived home from a shopping trip much sooner than I expected. I was quite literally holding the knife to my arm when the garage door went up (and yes, I knew to do it the "right" way, as I truly intended to die and was not crying out for attention). Just after moving home after getting out of my horribly abusive relationship with a fiance, I was working at a new St. Louis Bread Co.  A branch of my bank was just across the road, so I would usually take my paycheck over during my lunch break. Those first couple of weeks back, more than once I found myself gauging the distance from an oncoming vehicle and wondering if they were driving fast enough to kill me if I jumped in front of the car. I never jumped, mainly because I was terrified I would survive it. During my PPD after Amy's birth/while pregnant with David, I never actively contemplated killing myself, but often thought longingly of death and how nice it would be if I could just go to sleep and never wake up. How much better it would be for my family if I could just die quietly but they could somehow save David. I was always a bit disappointed when I woke up alive in the morning.

I don't talk about this stuff to get sympathy or pity. I talk about it because, to the outside world and even to my family, this is probably news. Difficult to believe, especially since I worked so hard to appear normal. I didn't want to be a burden on anyone. I still don't.

And therein lies the key, at least for me, for suicide caused by depression. It's not really about me, or it doesn't feel like it is. The times I've thought about killing myself, I've considered it because I didn't want to be a burden anymore. I felt like one. I still feel that way sometimes. Because when it's bad, my depression is all-consuming. There IS no light at the end of the tunnel, because there is no end of the tunnel at all. The tunnel doesn't even exist. It's a whirlpool, deep and black and inescapable that just sucks you down. It's a pit of quicksand that pulls you further in the more you struggle. Unavoidable. Inescapable. Inevitable. There is no way out...or at least, that's the way it feels at the time.

For one frightening moment, put yourself in that position. Just try. Imagine that sinking, penetrating blackness. Imagine being unable to see an end to it. Imagine that you recognize the strain your depression puts on your loved ones. Your husband. Your mother. Is it real strain or are you imagining it because of your depression? Impossible to tell, because to you it feels real, and that's all that matters. Reality is skewed. Your thinking is skewed. Maybe, like me, you can tell something is wrong. Maybe, like others, you can't. Imagine being able to only see things getting worse. Imagine the feeling that you're dragging down everyone around you, and you can't stop. You *know* that eventually, they will all be miserable like you are because how could they not, with you around? Eventually, they'll get tired of having to deal with you but they'll continue out of a sense of obligation, because they love you.

They'll be trapped, just like you are, because of you.

And THAT is one way depression kills. Because as miserable as you are, you do not want to put others through what you are dealing with. And at some point, it becomes the logical conclusion--only your death will prevent them being sucked into the quicksand with you. And it would be far better for you to die than to pull them with you into despair and agony.

And in your mind, your illogical, irrational, skewed way of thinking, that makes absolute and perfect sense.

Do I think and feel that way right now? No. My depression seems to be pretty cyclical. I'm on an upswing right now. I feel pretty good about life and myself. I have strong coping mechanisms thanks to the years of counseling. I have a strong support system. I've made sure those closest to me know what to look for in my behavior in case I miss a warning sign. I have resources at my disposal should I need additional counseling or medication again. Because of how my depression works, I know to ask for help when I need it. But most people don't. Most people don't feel like they CAN reach out. It's great that a dialogue on depression has opened. It's great that people are posting the number for the suicide hotline all over Facebook. This discussion NEEDS to happen. Awareness needs to increase, and the taboo surrounding mental illness needs to disappear.

Maybe that can start with me.

Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill'd with the foolish,
...--What good amid these, oh me, oh life?

                                  Answer.
That you are here--that life exists, and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.

(Walt Whitman)

That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.

What will your verse be?

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Have you had that baby yet?

The past 2-3 days, I've been inundated with phone calls, texts, and Facebook messages asking if I've had the baby yet. My estimated due date was yesterday, August 16th.

So, have I had the baby yet?

I stopped answering the calls and texts. Nothing personal, but I think anyone could understand that I'm a bit busy right now, and I just don't have the energy to be fielding the same questions over and over again. So, here are the answers to Womb Watch 2014's FAQ:

Q: How are you feeling?
A: Pretty good. Tired. Ready to have a baby. Excited.

Q: Why haven't you been induced?
A: Because I don't need to be. My pregnancy has been pretty much textbook-perfect (knock on wood). There is no medical reason to induce me at this point, and there is unlikely to be a medical reason until I get closer to 42 weeks.

Q: When will you be induced?
A: Unless an emergent medical need arises, not til 42 weeks. Yes, it's safe. Yes, my midwives are monitoring me. And yes, I'm perfectly fine with Ender baking for as long as s/he needs to. 40 weeks is a very rough estimate, and not a really accurate one at that.

Q: Have you tried [insert "natural" ways to induce here]?
A: Soapy water. (Meaning, of course I have. Except castor oil. That stuff freaks me out.)

Q: Is the baby's name really Ender?
A: No. English major, not punishment-loving parent. Ender is a nickname, since we don't know baby's sex. No, it doesn't necessarily mean this is our last child, either. Ender was the third child in the book, and we were amused.


So, to sum up: unless there is a newer post to the contrary, see the above link whenever you feel the need to ask me if I've had the baby yet. Considering how excited we'll be, it's unlikely much time will pass before we're announcing Ender's arrival from the rooftops. Please be considerate as we're busy and exhausted, and likely will be even after the baby is born, which means I'm even less likely to get back to people than usual (which is awful, I know). I won't be pregnant forever, and you'll know once I'm not.

And yes, this post is full of snark and attitude, because I really am that tired of answering the same questions a billion times over.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

It finally happened.

Nope, not the baby being born. The bun is still in the oven.

I'm talking about this:

"This" being a deep, half-inch long gash on Amy's forehead.

What happened, you may ask?

The truth: I'm not entirely sure. I was putting David down for his nap, so I had my back to the door. Which is, of course, when something would go wrong. I heard a thunk and then immediate wailing. I feel kind of bad now, because I brushed it off and told Amy to stop fussing. But she's in this incredibly obnoxious phase right now where the slightest bump causes tears and howling for kisses and princess bandaids. I have no idea where this phase came from, since she's generally a very rough-and-tumble kind of kid.

At any rate, I closed David's door and went to comfort her, at which point I saw the gash in her head and a fair amount of blood oozing down her face. Oh. This is actually for real. I hugged her and got her calmed down, then asked her what had happened. She told me she'd hit her head on David's door. (I still can't find any blood where she made contact, but I believe her. From what I heard when it happened, it sounded like she was running--as usual--tripped over a toy, and fell into the door.) I called her pediatrician's office, who recommended that since it was on her face, we take her to the ER to get it looked at.

Long story short (too late): Amy and I went to the ER. They were incredibly fast, which was surprising. The doctor (a woman, much to Amy's excitement) was hopeful since it was a small cut that she'd be able to glue it, but it popped open much deeper than expected, almost to the bone. She couldn't get it to stay shut long enough to glue it, so she opted for stitches instead.

8 (or maybe 9?) stitches later, Amy was happy to not have to hold still anymore. She was a total champ, and had the nursing staff hooting at her antics. After her initial shock at home, she acted totally normal, which was nice, except it meant dealing with an energetic preschooler pretending to be a kitty on an ER gurney. :D She was very patient while we waited for 2 doses of topical anesthetic to take effect, colored, played with a couple of nurses, and belted out "Let It Go" while the doctor was stitching her up, complete with attempted arm gestures despite her arms being trapped. It was pretty adorable, and the staff was impressed at how well she remembered the song and sang it (mostly) on-key. They gave her a popsicle after the doctor was done, which of course thrilled her.

She's a cutie. :D Stitches are looking good and should come out on Thursday.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Toddler T-shirt Dress: Tutorial

I recently made a couple of super cute dresses for Amy using this tutorial from Pinterest. While it was a pretty good tutorial, it was broken up into a couple of parts, and there weren't a ton of pictures. Since I'm an "okay" seamstress, it was all right, but I always think more pictures are better. This post? Obnoxiously full of pictures. You've been warned.

This is a gathered t-shirt dress. So, start with a t-shirt that fits your child. (Note that since I made 3 dresses in as many days, there are a few steps that show different shirts/material. It's okay. Don't panic.)

Try your shirt on your model and determine where you want the skirt to start. I love little empire waist dresses on girls (and me), so I knew I wanted a fairly short top. Once you've measured and marked with pencil, cut it. Go ahead. Cut straight across.

I left about an extra inch, although I used a smaller seam allowance than that. You know, just to be safe, in case I failed to cut it straight or something. Once that's done, it's time for your skirt fabric. I used just a cotton print that Amy picked out. (She wanted dots. "No, SMALL dots, Mama!" Yes, ma'am. Small dots it is.)

The fabric is either 44" or 48" wide, I honestly don't remember. I bought a yard of it. Here, you're going to sew your seam (which will be your back seam) at the selvages. Make sure the fabric is folded with right sides together. (Note: If you want a super full skirt, or you're making this for an older girl, you can always cut two pieces and just have 2 side seams rather than 1 back seam.)

Then finish your seam. I don't have a serger, so I just do a zigzag stitch close to the edge. This step isn't vital, but it does make the finished product look nicer.

 Once you have a tube of fabric, you've got a couple of choices. You can hem it now, or you can wait and hem it at the end. I prefer to hem it at the very end, mainly because my tiny model had gone to bed by this point, plus it's hard to get a feel for how long Amy's dresses should be if it's not an actual "dress" yet. So I opted to put the dress together before hemming. To do so, you're going to baste about 1/4-1/2" from the top of the skirt. (NOTE: If your fabric has a directional print, make sure you do this to the TOP of the skirt!) DO NOT BACKSTITCH, and try to leave some nice long threads to pull on.

Once you've got that done, find your gathering thread and start pulling gently. I should say here that gathering is the bane of my sewing existence. Well, one of them. You'll see what I mean shortly.

Keep pulling gently, and start distributing the gathers equally around the top of the skirt. I always start by gathering more than I need to, because for some reason I find it less agitating to loosen the gathers than I do to try to gather MORE fabric to fit the top of the dress. So eventually you'll get something like this:

Now it's time to pin the skirt and the top together. Attaching a skirt to a bodice is actually the REAL bane of my existence. I wish I were joking. It seems simple, and yet...

The first dress I did, this is what happened. I got all gung-ho because it seemed so easy, so I pinned it together AND SEWED IT without double checking that my pieces were actually attached properly. Yes, that would be the top, inside-out. *sigh* My eagerness meant that I got to seam-rip it, which made the gathering come out, which meant I had to gather the stupid skirt all over again.

So. Don't be hasty. And if you're like me, RESIST THE URGE to (for some reason) flip the shirt inside out to pin it. You want the right sides to be together. It may feel strange (which is why I screw it up so often) but it'll be okay.

The shirt top (bodice) needs to go inside the skirt with right sides together. Loosen your gathers to make the skirt fit the bodice and try to distribute the gathering evenly. It doesn't have to be perfect.

Once I've pinned it, I always tie off the gathering threads so I don't lose more of the gathering, but I'm just paranoid like that. (Probably because of how much I despise gathering.) Once you're pinned and tied off, sew the skirt to the bodice. I always do all my backstitching on that center seam, but that's just force of habit. I used about 1/2-5/8" seam allowance here.

Pretty simple. Now turn your dress right side out and hopefully you don't burst into tears because you sewed the bodice inside out.

Hooray! Everything's facing the right way!

With this dress, I really probably could've stopped here and hemmed it. It doesn't look bad this way. But this was my last dress, and I was kind of on a roll, so onward I went and added a tie to the waist. (Important for Amy, because she's a tiny thing, and it's really necessary so she's not swimming in her dress.)

For the waist tie, I used just plain black cotton.

You'll need to decide how wide you want your tie to be. 2" seemed pretty good to me. Double that measurement and add an inch for your seam allowances, so, 5". You need to cut 2 strips 5" wide by 44-48" long (whatever the width of your fabric).



Those two pieces are still folded in half. Next, unfold them and sew them together along one of the SHORT edges to make one really super long piece of fabric. If for some reason your tie has a pattern, make sure the right sides are together.

I think that's 1/2" seam allowance. This is part of what marks me as an "okay" seamstress in my opinion. I generally don't pay attention to the seam allowance and just go with it, and I'm completely fine with that. It just is not important to me.

Once you've got one super long piece of fabric, pin the long edges together. (Again, if for some reason you're using a patterned fabric here, make sure the right sides are together.)

Of course, then you're going to sew it.

This was the next day, and I had a naked little girl who demanded she get to "help". So, there we are.

Beautiful. I can sew a (mostly) straight line. Now comes the really obnoxious part that is another bane of my sewing existence. (This sounds like I hate sewing. I really don't, there are just those few things that seem like they take an eternity.) You get to take that approx. 90" tube of fabric and turn it right side out. *sigh* I use the safety pin method, and hate every second of it.

Goody. Now that THAT'S over, you get to iron it. (I'm actually one of those sick people who enjoy ironing. Don't tell my husband.)

Once you've got your beautifully pressed tie, it's time to pin it on. Take your dress, and line the tie up on the waist. That center seam on the tie? Line it up with one of the seams at the side of the dress. You'll be sewing across it anyway, and no one will be able to tell.

Hopefully even with the glare you can see what I'm talking about. Make sure when you're pinning that you're pinning on the round, like you're going to sew it. Otherwise it won't lie flat and you'll be pulling your hair out. (Fortunately a mistake from a while ago and not any of these projects.) Once it's pinned, sew as close to the edge of the tie as you feel comfortable. You're going to sew from underarm seam to underarm seam.

This doesn't look like it's lying flat, but it actually does once it's on and tied. Pinky promise.

Now you're going to really quickly finish the ends of your waist tie. It's uneven right now since your center seam attached at one of the underarms. I like long ties to make nice, pretty bows, so I just cut the longer side to match the shorter side. Turn the ends in.

Then go ahead and edgesew. Again, I sewed pretty close to the edge, because that's just how I roll.

Easy peasy. If you're feeling ambitious, you could cut them on an angle to make the ends prettier, but I just didn't care that much. It's not a fancy dress, therefore, a straight edge is plenty fine.

Now it's time to hem it! I tried the dress on my feisty little model, and marked the length I wanted. (This picture actually shows the first dress I did.)


Once I had a measurement, I took the dress back off the little ham (with much protestation from her tiny self), cut the extra length off, and started hemming. I left 1" for the hem. So, turn the hem up 1/2" and press it. (I use to skip the ironing and just go for it. Big mistake. The hem turns out so much nicer if you take the time to iron it. Don't fuss. Just do it.) Once you've turned it up and pressed it, turn it up again and press it again so you have a nice, clean edge.

Then you can pin and sew it. Just a note here, which I'm a little embarrassed to say I JUST realized with this last dress: when sewing your hem, sew it with the right side up. It ends up looking nicer. I was so used to sewing on the wrong side of the fabric I didn't notice the stitching looked a little strange on the first dress. It was a like a lightbulb came on.

So, from now on, I'll be flipping my material over. At any rate, I sewed as close to the edge of the hem as I felt comfortable to give it a nice-looking hem. Trust me, it's beautiful.

Again, you could easily be done here:

Just savor that cuteness for a minute. Really.

That first dress, the shirt I used for the top has a bow on it, so I didn't feel the need to add any further embellishment. This would be the point at which you can, so feel free to dress it up as much or as little as you want. With the second dress, I felt like it needed something extra. So I decided to do a rolled fabric flower and add it to the waist tie. There are about a billion tutorials out there for rolled flowers, so I'm honestly not going to go into a bunch of detail here. I used fabric from the bottom of the shirt I'd cut off and sewed a couple pieces into a nice, long, 2" wide(ish) strip. Start rolling it tightly for the center.

I initially wanted to sew the flower, as I was concerned about hot glue lasting through washing/drying, but I couldn't find a tutorial that told me where to stitch, so I shrugged and used hot glue anyway. Glue it every inch or so to make sure it's secure. You only need a little glue, you don't want strings of glue hanging off your flower. After the first several rolls, I started flipping the material occasionally to give it more of a rosette look. Just keep going til you get the size flower you want.

See? Not the prettiest or the neatest flower ever, but it works. Then I hand-sewed the flower onto the tie. It's a little tough, but it works out okay.

Yes, it's meant to be off-center. :)

Once you're finished, give your cute, feisty model a chance to show off!



Minus the addition of the flower, I actually whipped this dress out in a total of about 1 1/2 hours. (Stupid gathering/turning tubes of material right side out.) It's really pretty simple and easy as long as you remember to keep your right sides together!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

OUCH!

I've been keeping busy with the kidlets this summer. Knock on wood, but since my morning sickness finally went away, I've actually been feeling really good this pregnancy (barring the usual fatigue/exhaustion, but that can't really be helped). So we have been hopping! With visits from cousins, grandparents, trips to the Magic House where we have a membership, the Zoo, the local water park where we have season passes, playgroup at least once a week, the kids have kept me chugging along (even if it is sometimes at a snail's pace). Add on to that the Shakespeare Festival here in St. Louis (which is AMAZING, free, outdoors, and this year performed both Henry IV AND Henry V), date nights, Brett being accepted for 2 different internships, and a presentation just last night I gave to kick off a donations drive for Missouri Children's Burn Camp, and I feel like I hardly get to sit down!

Wow. That's a really long list. It makes me tired just reading it!

At any rate, for the past few days my left hip has been bothering me. It's been pretty sore. I just kind of ignored it, because I know when I'm pregnant my body OVERproduces relaxin (which led to an incredibly painful condition with David's pregnancy called symphysis pubis dysfunction) and makes my joints really unstable. Wednesday morning I woke up with intense pain in my left hip. Again, I tried to ignore, and figured it had popped out of place (which happens occasionally while I'm pregnant) and that it would eventually pop back into place on its own. Didn't happen. Wednesday night, I tried to sleep on my right side because lying on that left side was really painful. For the most part I managed to stay off my left side, but I woke up a few times in pain, having rolled over in my sleep.

When I woke up this morning, I was in excruciating pain. I could barely move, let alone get out of bed. My left hip was just radiating pain, and my right hip had started hurting, too! Oh my gosh, it was just awful. I really can't begin to describe how badly it hurt. I hobbled around with a distinct limp while I helped get the kids ready, then took Brett to work. Once we got home, I called a friend of mine. I can't remember why I called her, but it didn't take long for me to mention my pain. She was concerned and suggested I see a chiropracter, and gave me the number for hers.

It may come as a bit of a shock to those who know how much of a "hippie" I am, but I've never seen a chiropracter before. Despite my chronic back pain. I just never really bothered, and since it's not covered by insurance, who wants to pay out of pocket for something like that?! (Right?)

At that point, I figured, really it can't get much worse, and I HAVE to be able to walk and climb stairs to take care of my kids. I didn't have much of a choice left. So I called Dr. Smith, and his office was able to fit me in this afternoon. My sweet friend offered to take my kids to the pool while I was gone so I didn't have to try to juggle them. So I dropped them off at the pool after explaining (mainly to Amy, who MUST account for my and Brett's whereabouts every moment of the day) that I was going to see a special doctor, who could hopefully help my hips not to hurt so badly.

It was a bit of a drive, but I got there, filled out my paperwork, and talked with the doctor's assistant. I got back to the exam room and met the doctor. And I kid you not, about half an hour later I was able to walk with almost NO pain. He adjusted my hips and pelvis as well as my neck and upper back, and commented that I was twisted up worse than anyone he can remember seeing. (Not that I'm surprised at that, given my pre-existing back issues PLUS pregnancy!) I was a little sore at first (and while he was poking and prodding, which definitely hurt when he hit sore spots), but the relief began immediately. Several hours later, I have absolutely no pain. It's amazing. I was skeptical, but really, what else could I have done (bar taking some serious pain meds, since no way would Tylenol have even touched the pain I was in)? I've never seen such immediate results before.

I realize this sounds like an advertisement. It's not. It's just so rare that I'm THIS impressed by something. I go back Monday for some additional adjustments, and I'm actually excited. I already feel better than I have in months. I'm curious to see what else the doctor can take care of!

Here's hoping the pain stays away and I can get a decent night's sleep tonight!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Party of 5

So...

I've kept my mouth shut for FOREVER! I hate keeping my own secrets. But, I sort of accidentally outed myself on Facebook this afternoon, so I figured, oh who cares. Let's shout it from the rooftops!

That's right, folks! Our families have known for a while now (plus anyone who sees me in person...my belly popped WAY early this time around and was pretty hard to hide). We've been so excited, and I've been anxiously waiting to announce it.

But, after the heartbreak of losing Hannah last year, I was so hesitant. The last thing I wanted was to announce it publicly (again), only to have to un-tell everyone (again). That's incredibly painful. So, we waited. And waited. And waited. And waited some more. We told our families when I was around 17 weeks, I think--past the first trimester plus an appointment to check for a good heartbeat.

We'd talked about waiting to go Facebook-public till we knew the sex of the baby (which we don't yet, thanks to some insurance issues). I've avoided posting pictures that clearly show my expanding waistline. :) But then today, I posted in an event called Bring Back Our Girls Day of Fasting and Prayer, aimed at specifically fasting and praying for the Nigerian schoolgirls who were kidnapped and are still missing, many of them apparently sold as brides. I believe in the power of prayer, and I wanted to participate. I made a comment about being unable to go without food/water due to my pregnancy but still wanting to participate, not thinking about the fact that my comment would be viewable by the general public. Whoops!

So, rather than trying to delete it or hide it, I figured I'd just own it. Ta-da! So, we've got another tiny nugget coming our way mid-August! My pregnancy so far has been more or less okay. I really do wish I were one of those women who just sails through pregnancy like it's a breeze, but alas, it was (sadly) not meant to be. Still, this time around has been less awful compared to my pregnancies with Hannah and David. Not a barrel of monkeys or anything, but at the very least I can function most of the time like a normal person. I've got less joint pain (which means I can still walk! Hooray!) and my morning sickness wasn't *quite* bad enough to really be hyperemesis this time around. My depression has also been easily manageable, which is nice after the hell that was David's pregnancy.

(And you'd better believe I'm knocking on wood after that paragraph.)

We should be finding out the sex of the baby fairly soon, I hope. I'm really tired of waiting, but you've got to love insurance and the hoops they make you jump through. *sigh* Keep an eye out for an exciting reveal when we find out!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

All Are Alike Unto God

There's been quite a hullabaloo online since Monday when the PR department of the LDS church sent a letter to the Ordain Women movement, a fairly small organization advocating for gender equality within the church and asking the leaders of the church to seek revelation on the matter of ordination for women. Several news outlets have posted articles, many of which began making their rounds on Facebook almost immediately. Harsh, angry words began spewing from the mouths of church members towards the women and men who are part of, or support, the Ordain Women movement.

I'm not one to sit idly by when I see something going on that I don't like, or to stay silent when I have a strong opinion on something. So after seeing the response to these articles, I chose to come out publicly on Facebook in support of OW.

Yup. You read that right. I believe women should be ordained. Now, before getting all up in arms, just take a deep breath. It's okay. I'm not here to argue or to push my views on anyone. I recognize that I am vastly in the minority on this. I understand why people are so opposed to ordination for women. I do. And everyone is entitled to their own opinion on this. What I DO want to do, and what I hope to do, is explain my reasons for being a part of this movement. Reasons which are incredibly personal and very near to my heart, about which I have very tender feelings. So feel free to disagree with me, but please don't troll.

I believe in the Gospel. I readily admit there are aspects of it with which I struggle. But I believe I have Heavenly Parents who love me, and who sent me here to grow and to learn. I believe in Jesus Christ, my brother, my Savior and Redeemer. I believe in modern revelation, and that such revelation (both on a personal and a church-wide scale) are vastly important. I believe that President Monson can and does receive revelation directly from God. I believe in the importance and significance of temple ordinances, and that families can be together for eternity. I hope to be with mine even after I die. I believe in the power of the priesthood. I have experienced its power too many times to deny it. I believe my husband and I are (and should be) equal partners before the Lord.

I truly believe these things. They are the core of my belief and my spirituality. They are unshakable.

And yet within the church, I struggle with feelings of...well, the best way I can describe it is cognitive dissonance. (Yes, I know, that's not really a feeling.) I believe these things, but I don't always experience them the way I think I should. I'm afraid that's confusing. Let me explain.

I have Heavenly Parents who love me. I have both a Father AND a Mother in Heaven. Our church teaches that. Well, sort of. Our church acknowledges that. We sing about her on occasion. But we aren't taught ABOUT her. We don't have lessons dedicated to our Mother. We don't even really speak of her, and those who do are looked at sideways like they're crazy. Our Mother is a taboo topic. As a woman and a mother, that makes no sense to me, and I can only imagine it would be incredibly painful for Mother to be completely unknown by the majority of Her children and more or less ignored by the children who do know of Her existence. I long for a relationship with my Mother. I'm taught to strive to be like God. But I will never be male (nor do I wish to be), nor a father, therefore I can't ever really be like my Heavenly Father. I long for an example of what it is like to be an exalted woman.

2 Nephi 26:33 says, "...he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female… all are alike unto God". ALL are alike unto God.

And yet...all are not alike in His church. Women play a far less significant role than men. We can preside over children and women, but only under the direct supervision of men. Budgets and events have to be approved by men. Everything depends entirely on the male leadership within the ward. Disciplinary councils consist only of men. The entire leadership of the church, other than the three auxiliaries women are allowed to preside over, consists of only men. That's a huge disparity, and it leads to many women within the church feeling voiceless. And then, of course, there is the matter of the priesthood. I'm not going to go into detail about historical precedents for women holding and exercising priesthood authority. They exist. I'm happy to discuss them. But this post isn't about history, it's about how I feel. So let's get down to the really personal stuff.

I feel set aside. I feel...inferior, in a way. You see, I hold a temple recommend. Brett and I are sealed in the temple for time AND eternity. I'm "good enough" to be his spouse and his eternal companion. I'm told as a woman I have an innate talent to nurture and care for others. And yet, when Brett is sick, I can only tend to his physical needs. When Brett had pneumonia in August, I was powerless to help him. I could not provide the one thing I was sure would help him feel better. I am forbidden to lay hands on his head, to anoint him with oil, and to call upon the power of God to heal him. Instead, I had to call for men from church to come do so. I, his wife, who hope to be with him for eternity, was set aside in favor of someone with the right set of genitalia. Instead of blessings of comfort and council coming from his spouse, who arguably knows him better and more intimately than anyone on this planet, those blessings either have to come from someone else or they are simply not sought out.

I am "good enough" to be a mother. I can carry children inside me for months. I can endure the pain of labor and birth for hours to bring children of God into this world. I can nurse my children. And yet, when Amy (and David) was given a name and a blessing in church, I was set aside. Not only am I forbidden to participate in the blessing, I am not allowed to hold my child during the blessing. I am expected to remain in my place in the congregation, silent and reverent, along with a couple hundred other people who had no role in my child's creation. I am not even acknowledged as my child's mother. I am set aside for the very reason that child was able to come into this world: because I am a woman.

I am "good enough" to raise my children in the church, to teach them and love them and help them grow. But when Amy turns 8, I will once again be set aside. Every milestone in our church (or nearly every) involves a priesthood ordinance. Not only can I not take Amy into the waters of baptism, I cannot even be an official witness--because I am a woman. I cannot lay my hands on her head to confirm her a member of the church. Because I am a woman.

I am "good enough" to care for and nurture my children, to endure endless tantrums, to clean up vomit and who knows what else. When they are hurt, they often cry for me, because I am their mother. But when Amy is in the ER, scared because she can't stop vomiting, I am powerless. I am helpless. I can pray for her and with her, but I, who believe so firmly in the power of the priesthood both to calm and to heal, cannot lay my hands on her head and give her a blessing...because I am a woman. Because I am her mother.

These things do not make me angry. I don't want people to get that impression. These things break my heart. These things make me weep, as I am now. They fill me with inexpressible sorrow. Because the very thing that allows me to be a mother, the very thing that makes me desire to serve and to nurture--my womanhood--is the thing that prevents me from doing so much.

I do not seek ordination for power, or for authority. I do not demand it. I am asking my leaders, I am asking the prophet, to seek revelation. I am pleading with them: Please. Ask.

Because I long to be able to bless my husband and children. I long to better serve them. I, the wife and mother, who so intimately knows them, want to do more. I yearn to place my hands on my daughter's head and give her council from her Heavenly Parents. I want so desperately to bless the lives of others with the power of God that I have so often felt. I want to serve my sisters and brothers more fully. I feel there is so much I am capable of, so much more I can do to serve my Heavenly Parents.

That is why I desire the priesthood. I do not feel it is an unrighteous desire. I know some will disagree with me. That's okay. God knows my heart. He knows my desires. He is the one I will have to explain myself to when the day comes. And in the meantime, I will continue to humbly plead with the prophet and apostles:

Please, brothers. Ask.