Monday, November 24, 2014

Justice, Power, and Why Naming Matters

Dispelling Darkness from Flickr via Wylio
© 2009 Asha Susan, Flickr | CC-BY-ND | via Wylio
Tonight, like many Americans, I am sad for our country. I am sad because Michael Browns continue to die, and I am sad because men and women who are supposed to keep us safe do not feel safe themselves. I am sad that violence begets violence. I am sad that we are here again, and I am only 30. How many times must this story play out, again and again, before I die? 

I'm feeling a wee bit more radical than usual tonight as a result. There's been something on my mind that I've been wanting to write about for some time; it's doesn't feel like a big deal, and at the same time it feels hard to articulate. This combo is why I haven't tackled it yet, but tonight is pushing me over the edge. These little things that don't feel like big deals, maybe we need to give them more air time. And maybe I can't articulate it as well as I'd like, but I'm going to try. 

So this is my attempt to give a little air time to justice tonight. 

I'd like to talk about naming people. 

I've now named two little people; the process for us has not been easy for either child. But we've taken it seriously because naming a person is a big deal. People do it every day, so we forget, but in the Bible this is not something that is taken lightly. Some snapshots of how this has played out:

Adam names the animals.
Adam names Eve after sin's consequences enter the story.
God renames many of our fathers and mothers -- Abram, Sarai, Jacob, Saul -- all are renamed. 
In the Biblical birth narratives, women do most of the naming. 
Ancient people named places to remind themselves of important things. 
God's name itself is special, unspoken by millions even to today. 

Power and authority are key components of naming people. I get to name my children because I am their mother. 

So what? 

So, dear people of privilege, this is why we should stop naming other people groups, and why we should stop using names that were unjustly thrust upon others without privilege. Just to be clear about what I'm referencing, here are a few examples:

Indian (unless they are actually of Indian descent, as in, the country of India)
N***** (I can barely even write it like that; White guilt going bananas)

For those who still don't get why this is so offensive and unjust, imagine this:

You live in a small, quiet house in Cleveland. Your name is Joe Jones. Someone from across the world randomly shows up on your front lawn and tells you that your name is now Clifford Longeburger, and your house is actually in a town named Scottsdale. You've never met this person, and he is not your mama or your dada or your deity.

Seriously, just imagine this happens and it's not a joke. Then he starts drawing up documents to prove that his names for your world are the right ones. 

If you have any sense of identify, you're going to be like, "Hellllllllllll no, my name is NOT Clifford Longeburger, buddy. It's Joe Jones. And this is Cleveland, not Scottsdale." But, he has the power -- guns, germs, and steel most likely. So, he changes your name without your permission, changes the name of your town and expects everyone to adapt. And if you don't, you die. Like, die. You see one neighbor die and then you're probably going to suck it up and learn to survive, but a part of your heart is broken forever. 

This has happened time and time again, and it's not something that is okay. It robs people of integrity, and when we continue to use these names, we perpetuate deeply-entrenched systems of injustice. 

I know this seems obvious to 90% of you, and the other 10% probably think this is not a big deal and definitely not worth blogging about. I mean, come on Laura, you've basically blogged thrice in the past two years. Right, I know. But tonight, this feels more important -- it feels more important that each of us grow in our understanding of justice. It feels important that we listen to one another so that we can learn how to grant dignity to everyone. Perhaps if we start by listening about small things, we can develop the muscles to listen about bigger things. 

This is me, doing one of the only things I feel like I can do to fight against the darkness tonight. 

Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy. If history bends toward justice, please help us see it, taste it, smell it, hear it ringing out.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Cordelia's Baptism

About a month ago we baptized our dear Cordelia.

Here is the text of what we read for those who would prefer to read it:
At Glenkirk, we are continually encouraged to parent with long-term vision, with the realization that our children will be adults one day.  While we have yet to fully experience all the wonders and quirks of Cordelia’s personality, Laura and I have chosen three qualities that we hope to instill in her as she grows into a woman –we hope that she will be brave, shrewd, and anchored. We wish bravery for the moments she needs to go against the flow, doing and saying things that are unpopular or uncomfortable in order to extend love or truth in a broken world. We want Cordelia to be shrewd, able to discern the endless claims about God, the world, and herself that she will encounter during life. And perhaps most important to what we’re doing today, we want Cordelia to be anchored. We believe this baptism is a sign of her being anchored into the family of God from the very beginning of her life, and we want to live into the reality that we are only her biological parents, and August is only her biological brother, but she is also your daughter and your sister as well. May this family be her home.
And this fabulous photo was taken. Love it!

Monday, September 22, 2014

I Am Saturated

I don't spend time reflecting on life these days. I am in a different season now -- a season of survival. But I have the time and energy to reflect tonight, so I'm going to try. 

I'm sitting on a messy bed listening to the sound of the ocean repeat over and over on sound machines, one in August's room, one in the living room with Cordelia. Every night, this is what I hear. If I'm lucky, this is all I hear. Most nights, there is also coughing or crying or loud neighbors. Tonight it is mostly quiet. 

August has been in his toddler (aka "big boy") bed for a month now, and over this same month he has changed SO much. He is infuriating, but so wonderful as well. Tonight we told him he could watch one episode of Dora before bed if he was obedient, ate a good dinner, etc. During dinner, he started pretending as if he'd eaten all of his food: "All gone!" he'd exclaim while looking at bowls full of food. And then he'd laugh at himself. 

These are the most precious days. Yesterday was the first day he got out of bed by himself and came into our room in the morning. He did it at the proper time (after the bunny on his alarm clock woke up) and we were so proud of him. (We are trying to train him to do this without needing us so that he can quietly exit the bedroom to allow Cordelia to continue sleeping.) Last night he came into our room around midnight, said "Hi," climbed into bed, and laid down next to my legs. I was half asleep, and while I'm usually firm about such clear violations of rules, I couldn't bring myself to move him. I didn't do a thing, I just laid there, enjoying the fact that my baby had just gotten out of bed, walked himself over to our room, climbed into our bed, and laid himself down at my feet. (That sentence just made me sob.) Josh took him back to bed.

You know the people who say, "Soak up every minute; it'll be gone before you know it"? To them, I would like to say, "I am saturated. I cannot soak up another drop."

And I mean this. There are moments when I am so overwhelmed by the wonder of my children that I have to distract myself or else I feel as if I might be crushed. Of course, there are those other moments when I feel I might burst in anger, but those are not the ones I want to remember tonight.

 Tonight I want to remember the moments I go to Cordelia when she has woken up after a good sleep and she gives me the biggest grin as my face hovers over her crib. 

I want to remember the moments August leans his head on my arm and says, "I wuv you." 

I want to remember the moments August sees Cordelia after a day of preschool and says, "Cordy!" and runs up to hug attack/kiss her. She is so tolerant. 

These are truly the golden days. In twenty years we will look back and cherish the years in which we filled this cramped apartment with life and love and mess. Right now we want more -- space, time, money, patience. But we have enough; we have an abundance. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

New in Pumping: The Freemie

I've found non-breastfeeders are curious as to why breastfeeding women talk so much about the private business their boobs are doing. My quippy answer? If you suddenly started spending 6-10 hours a day doing something, you'd talk about it a lot too. My serious answer? My body empties itself every few hours to provide nourishment for another person. In feeding my daughter with my body I am giving her not only amazing food, but also medicine, healthy attachment, and an embodied theology.

While I wish I could breastfeed flesh-on-flesh all of the time, I work away from my baby sometimes (and have a desire to be away from my babies sometimes for fun things too!), so I pump. And pumping? Pumping is my least favorite thing about breastfeeding. But something has come along that has made me hate pumping a lot less, so out of a spirit of gratitude I want to tell you about it. I hope it helps you or someone you love as well!

Introducing, to many of you for the first time, the Freemie pump!

Now, before I get started, let me preface by saying the Freemie isn't perfect. It's not going to make pumping fun or sexy. But for me, it is a big step in the right direction! 

I have an Ameda Purely Yours pump already, so I opted to just buy the Freemie collection cups, which connect to the pump I already own. So I cannot review the Freemie Freedom electric pump or the Equality manual pump. (Although it is worth noting this is the first double manual pump I've seen!) 

But for the collection cups, here are some brief thoughts:

-Instead of dealing with flanges that connect to bottles, I have a flange built right into a milk reservoir. Smart! I then pour my milk directly from the collection cups into freezer bags. Less washing!

-These fit INSIDE my clothes, so I don't have to strip to pump. This is the biggest perk right now in my world. Now, as a disclaimer, they won't fit inside all of my bras/shirts, but if I unhook my pump clasps at the top of any of my nursing bras (thus far), they fit inside and rest on the bra. These have also worked in nursing camis for me. But if my shirt is tight, or I'm wearing a normal bra, these wouldn't work. Bonus: not freezing while pumping! I used to wrap a blanket around myself at times.

-I could feasibly wear these discreetly, though someone would have to not be looking very closely for them to not notice my awkwardly-shaped chest. But in some situations, these could be worn in public, especially if it's darker or you use a sweater to camouflage, and they could go unnoticed. As someone who has been walked in on while pumping, that would certainly be an improvement! These might also be handy for pumping on flights or in cars. I haven't tried that yet because travel for work hasn't picked up, but I'm pretty sure by the end of this breastfeeding journey, I'll have done it on a plane and a car. These could certainly be used while on a conference call, unlike normal pumping systems. 

-I have been able to say goodbye to Pink Passion, what we jokingly named my pink hands free pumping bra. Come on, those things are horrible (but so useful). 

-In terms of effectiveness, I haven't noticed any problems with the Freemie cups. As of now (with a 3 month old), they're working fine. 

The flange and collection cup taken apart, with my trust Ameda in the background.

Now, is there room for improvement? Sure! Here are some tips, which Freemie says they're working on:

-Make the plastic see-through so that we can see what the heck is going on. At times it helps to reposition or assess which ducts are emptying. 

-Add ounce markings to the cups so that when they are laid flat I know how much I pumped. 

And this goes for all pumps, not just the Freemie: Can't we make a flange that isn't hard plastic? Something that feels a bit more like skin? It definitely seems like there's room for improvement here. I usually place flanges on my tummy for a minute to warm them up before beginning a pumping session because of how cold they are. 

Now, to be clear: I wrote this review because I want more people to know about the Freemie. While it is perfectly fine to accept freebies (punny!) or compensation for blog reviews, I have not done so in this case. I wrote this simply because these collection cups have helped me not loathe pumping, and I believe more women will successfully breastfeed if pumping technology progresses beyond the machines we've been stuck with since 1988. (I just made that date up.) And the Freemie is a big step in that direction!

Why I pump. Isn't she adorable?

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Cordelia's "Natural" Birth Story

On May 8th we welcomed Cordelia Azar Ziesel. She was born at 12:51am, weighing in at 7 lb 3 oz and 19.5 inches. Because I love birth stories, I'm sharing hers here. 

Sunday 5/4: Contractions during the afternoon and evening that continued well into the night. Before this day, any labor-ish activity ceased during sleep. I distinctly remember being awake from about 2am-4am on Monday, and I was sure Monday would be the day. 

Monday 5/5: Worsening cramping on the way to the OB appt. Was 2cm, 70% effaced before stripping. We are unsure if we are okay with inducing on 5/7 (that was the plan), so we decide to schedule another appointment for the following day. After membrane stripping, heightened contractions and cramping all evening/night. 

Tuesday 5/6: Contractions throughout the day, but not intensifying as they had been. OB appt in the evening. 3cm, 80% effaced, serious blood, and the baby had moved to a -2 station, so we decided to proceed with a "natural induction" the next morning by heading to his office for an artificial rupture of the membranes (ARM). The plan was to get to his office around 9am and then head to the hospital to labor during the day and have the baby sometime during the evening. Obviously the ARM meant that we might have to use Pitocin if things didn't progress on their own, but we thought trying the ARM was better than just starting off with the Pit. 

However, that evening, contractions became serious at home, 2-3 minutes apart around 10pm. So we alerted the babysitting squad and prepped to head into the hospital then. I had heard too many quick second-birth stories to risk it, and we figured it was better to get childcare to our place instead of having to possibly call at 3am. But, of course, as we are prepping to head to the hospital, contractions slowed and by the time we get to the hospital, they were only 6 minutes apart. They said that we can check in anyway since we were going to do the ARM in the AM; we can just stay there and the doc will come by in the morning and things would proceed as planned. Contractions die overnight. Womp womp.

Wednesday 5/7: Doc supposed to come before 8:30am to break my water. Doesn't come. We call, he says he'll be there around 12pm. Unhappy, I was! But, okay, I decide it's a good opportunity for a nap since I was ill-rested from the previous nights' labor activity. I rest until noon, Josh goes home to shower and grab a few more things. Noon rolls around, doc says it will now be 2pm. 2pm... no doc. We play cards, we try to stay upbeat. He says he'll be there by 3pm. 3pm, no doc. This is about when my patience wears out, especially because I now know we'll be laboring into the night. Poor Josh tries to talk me through my frustration, but I was not in the mood. 4pm, doc finally arrives. Waters are broken, so we take to walking the halls and natural oxytocin release. And so labor finally begins in earnest around 5pm. From here on out, I progress somewhat normally, with these milemarkers:

6:30pm: 3cm, 80% effaced. At this point, I'm basically just walking the halls and having contractions 3-4 minutes apart. 

7:10pm: contractions 2-3 minutes apart (documented here)

8:30pm: 4.5cm, 80%, cervix had moved down. I remember having the shakes and feeling nauseous at this point right before getting in the shower. 

8:30-10pm: I labor in the shower. (The hospital had a tub, but because my waters had ruptured, I was not allowed in it. This was fine as I knew the tub was not a guarantee.) This stint in the shower was supposed to only be for 20 minutes, but my nurse was gracious and allowed me to stay in because she saw how effective it was. Josh was actually able to sneak away to eat dinner while I'm in the shower, which demonstrates how in my own world I was in there. I was just kind of in this bubble of hot water and steam and interacting with him less and less.

10pm: Out of the shower and onto the ball. At this point, my temp is up and I'm a bit dehydrated from the long stint in the shower. I down ice chips as quickly as possible (not very), and am hooked up to the monitors again. Cordelia's heart rate is much higher than before (30 bpm faster both resting and during contractions) so the nurse says I'll probably need an IV to combat the dehydration. She knows I don't want to be hooked up to any unnecessary tubes, so she holds off, but I know the IV is probably coming. I remain on the ball until 11:30, and at this point the labor moves almost entirely into my back and butt. This is when things get REAL. Josh starts massaging my lower back around 10:30, and that provided some relief.

11pm: Have a 20-minute period of respite. It was strange. I still had contractions of the same intensity, but between contractions I actually felt a sense of relief and calm. I could talk somewhat intelligibly and thought that this was probably the calm before the storm that our Bradley class (from my last pregnancy) had described. 

11:30pm: 7cm, 100%. From this point onward, I have to stay hooked up to the monitor and the IV, basically confining me to the bed. I know it's too late for an epidural at this point, so asking for it isn't even an option. As I'm telling Josh that I don't think I can handle any more pain, the nurse offers pain meds via my IV. At this point, that was like offering crack to a junkie. I wasn't even thinking about pain meds, but I immediately want them. Duh. Around 11:45, I think, the nurse gives me Nubain via my IV. She says it will "take the edge off." I'm not entirely sure what she meant by that, but it didn't seem to take the edge off the contractions AT ALL. The only difference I did feel was that I could actually catch my breath between contractions, so it definitely relaxed me. But, just to be clear, I don't think nurses should use that phrase because the contractions still seemed to have all of their edges. Ha. But, mentally, I told myself, "This would be worse without the meds, this would be worse, this would be worse." I do think that helped my mental state. But mostly, I was writhing on the bed during this time. Josh recalls things that I don't remember at all. 

12:30am: 9cm. Doc is called. Very quickly, I feel the urge to push and have to hold off until the doc is there. My nurse is adamant that she does not want to catch the baby herself. Ha. 

12:45: Doc arrives! Pushing through the first contraction delivers the head. Prior to this, she was still relatively high, so she moved down very quickly once I started pushing. I think this was why her head was very round; she was not in the birth canal for very long. Pushing through a second contraction delivers her shoulders and there she was! 


After doing this birth without the epidural, I'm pretty glad I had one for August, my 8.8 first baby with a head that was a whole 2 inches bigger than Cordelia's. Holy moly y'all. 

I do wish the nurse had not offered the pain meds out of the blue. For this birth, we didn't have a written birth plan (I was impressed our hospital bags were even packed), and in the first one we explicitly asked that they not be offered. The nurse clearly thought she was helping (and let's be honest, she was!), and the Nubain was fine, but the thought of taking something via my IV had not even occurred to me, so I'm a bit sad that I took it in that last hour. It feels like a bit of a taint on my "natural" birth. That being said, I'm really not sure what that last hour would've been like without it. Haha. So, it's hard to feel too sad because it did help me catch my breath between contractions a bit. 

I'm not sure I'll aim for a natural birth again. I mean, we don't always have control over these things, so if I show up to L&D for a future kid and it's too late to get one, then I'll have another painful birth. Or, if I show up and I'm already 5cm or something, maybe I'll make a go of it. I do hate being confined to that bed and all of the wires that come with it. But, after these two births, I'm not convinced all of the pain during this one was "worth it." I was up and about quickly afterward, but that was also the case for my first birth, so that didn't feel too different. This one was a bit faster/easier, but I'm just not sure that "bit" is worth it. 

I will definitely try to avoid the Pitocin for future births, especially now that I see that the ARM worked to jump start my labor. Of course, the doc was only willing to do this because my cervix was favorable for it, and that might not always be the case.

August is adorable with his baby sister. If you have stuck around this long and really want to go down the rabbit hole into our family, you can see his reaction to her here

Thanks for your prayers and support during this past year. We survived, and it feels good to be on this side of graduation and birth. Oh yes, I forgot that many of you probably didn't get that announcement: I graduated with my MATS from (the newly-named) Azusa Pacific Seminary on 5/2! We found out I was pregnant 2 days before classes started in September, and Cordelia made her appearance less than a week after graduation. Book ends indeed.

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