Rants

The abortion I didn’t realize I had

I’m not supposed to be writing this blog. My goal tonight was sleep. There is a nice, happy blog in the works in my head and I fully intended to share it with you. Unfortunately, my sleep deprived eyes won’t shut and my brain is racing. It all began tonight during a conversation with my husband. Having been raised Catholic, this article infuriated him. He knows that women are autonomous beings, completely capable of making their own decisions. He also knows that in the United States, if a child is viable, labor is induced rather than abortions. Finally, he knows that as a rule, the majority of women do not take the issue of abortion lightly.

Now that you understand his personality a little, what is it that he could possibly say that would keep me from sleeping half the night? “That’s what we did, isn’t it?” He was referring to abortion…and when I thought about it, he was right. Let me explain.

After more than a year of trying to get pregnant, we finally succeeded in early 2012. We had just moved to California for new job opportunities and we were both so excited!! New home, new jobs, new baby! We weren’t quite sure what took so long, but suspected it had a lot to do with my stress levels at work, and possibly my endometriosis. Who knows really. Thankfully, things were finally looking up. I knew I was pregnant right away because of the awful nausea and the breast tenderness. A home pregnancy test (or three…) confirmed and at around 5 weeks I went to the doctor for official verification. After an initial ultrasound (deemed too early for a heartbeat) and later a sonogram with no heartbeat, the nurse practitioner determined that I was probably less pregnant than expected. Just to be sure, she scheduled me to go to the hospital for a more in depth ultrasound at around 8 weeks.

I researched like crazy, trying to figure out why we wouldn’t have found the heartbeat yet. Hours on the internet had me 99% convinced that I was just wrong about the conception date. Finally, the day came where we would see our baby via a traumatizing vaginal ultrasound. Deep down I was terrified something was wrong, but I held out so much hope. That hope began to dwindle as I saw the look on the radiologist’s face. I asked if there was anything wrong and she said she wanted a second opinion from the doctor, leaving us alone in the room. Shortly thereafter, an abrupt man in a white lab coat entered the room. He casually told my husband and I that the baby had not developed past five weeks, most likely due to an abnormality. He called it a “missed miscarriage” and said my body just hadn’t flushed itself out yet. He then offered to schedule a dilation and curettage (D&C) that would remove the remains of the fetus. I was shocked. Traumatized. Angry. How could this man so casually crush my dreams?? I declined to schedule the D&C and went home to research missed miscarriages and call my obstetrician. She assured me that I didn’t have to make a decision right away.  If we did go through with the D&C, we would be able to start trying for another baby in a few months. If on the other hand I naturally miscarried, then we could safely get pregnant right away. Still holding out hope, I continued to read message boards and blogs about women with the same experience. Several discussed cases of misdiagnosed missed miscarriages, which buoyed my hope.

Unfortunately, hope is sometimes pointless.  After about two weeks, my symptoms began to fade. The ever present nausea wasn’t so bad. My breasts no longer hurt. A small spot of old blood appeared on my panty liner. After 3 weeks, I accepted the inevitable. Rather than go back to the hospital for more trauma, I approached a trusted acupuncturist and asked for help.

30 minutes after we began, the needles were removed and I prepared to head home. Before exiting the building, pain started in my back and I thought I needed to use the bathroom. By the time I arrived home, the pain was excruciating. My husband went to the pharmacy to get me hot packs, and I received an unexpected text from a highly empathic friend who always seems to know when I am in trouble. She stayed with me for the next hour as I clung to the toilet and vomited over and over from the pain. She stayed with me as the blood poured from my body and the cherished dream of a completed family that I held so dear literally ended up in the toilet. By the time my husband was able to get back with the hot packs, it was finished. Our baby was gone.

The trauma from that night lasted for months and likely contributed to a relatively short stay in California. I never forgave the doctor at the hospital and even though we were able to get pregnant again within another month (quite unexpectedly), I remained angry and depressed. That stage of grief was one I couldn’t get over. I wanted to go back home, to the state I trusted, the people I trusted, and the doctors I trusted. At the beginning of my last trimester, we returned home and at exactly 40 weeks, I received the gift of a healthy baby boy.

It never occurred to me to think of my action that day as an abortion, but in reading current legislation being passed in Texas and other states, I realized that under new laws, my actions would constitute aborting a baby. In fact, in Texas after December 19, 2016, hospitals will have to cremate or bury the remains of any D&C to remove a missed miscarriage.  The same remains that were flushed down my toilet.  If on the other hand, women choose to experience the horrific pain that I went through at home, without any medication or support, there are no new regulations.  As far as I can tell, the sole purpose of this law is to make providing a basic, necessary, legal health service more complicated.   In case you are wondering, I am not the only person who came to this conclusion.  This editorial sums it up well.

I am pro-choice because I believe women should have the right to make decisions regarding their own bodies. This includes condemning adding unnecessary and often traumatizing hurdles for women to overcome when making this type of decision. I am pro-life because I believe that we should do everything we can to support ALL children who are born into this world. I am also pro-life because I believe the women carrying babies have as much right to life as the lives growing within them.

Increased sexual education, family planning resources, higher wages, and better medical care are all ways in which we can reduce unnecessary abortions by preventing unwanted pregnancies. Women should not have to decide on abortion because they cannot afford food, shelter, or housing. Women should not have to decide on abortion because some horrible person rapes them and they know their state may give that rapist visitation privileges if they carry through with the pregnancy. It’s time for our lawmakers to do their jobs and move on from the issue of abortion. Laws are in place to ensure safe abortion procedures are available for women who want or need them and those laws also prevent the loss of sustainable life. Chipping away at these protections while reducing safety net programs does not save more lives. It encourages more unsafe abortions, child abandonment, suffering, and often mental distress.

This isn’t the happy post I wanted to share with you, but it is the one I needed to share. Maybe now I can sleep. Maybe now my mind will calm, my blood pressure will lower, and my eyes will finally close. Then again, maybe not.

 

Blighted Ovum / Image from http://funkygenes.blogspot.se/2011/11/jen-answers-your-questions-i.html

Blighted Ovum / Image from http://funkygenes.blogspot.se/2011/11/jen-answers-your-questions-i.html

Until next time…

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Rants

The Value of Our Children

Today I asked my son what he had for for lunch at his Swedish preschool. Initially he was a bit confused and explained that he had a sandwich (open faced with lactose free butter, cheese, and some ham) as well as fruit and some lactose free milk. In case you are wondering, we did ask them to keep him lactose free — they listen! Once I clarified that I was talking about his lunch and not his afternoon snack, he told me he had a really tasty pasta with a vegetarian sauce. There was also a morning snack of fresh fruit around 10am and often there is a fresh smoothie or homemade applesauce with cream. You may wonder just how much I pay for this bounty of healthy and delicious food that my son happily eats throughout the day. Truthfully, it is all included in the $120 or so that we pay each month for his spot in preschool. Once children enter elementary school, all schooling and meals are free.

How then does this opening paragraph relate to the title of this blog?

Well, let’s talk about it. I read this article recently about a young man in the United States who at the age of 14 took a carton of milk from the lunchroom without paying. Before opening it, he was intercepted by the school resource officer who tried to make him take the carton to the principal and confess to stealing it. He tossed it back in the case and resisted going to the principal. His contention? He didn’t steal it. He is enrolled in the need based free lunch program and simply forgot to pick up his milk when he went through the line. Rather than queuing back up, he popped into the line, grabbed the milk, and went back to his seat.

Unfortunately, rather than let the boy have the milk and move on, the school decided to pursue punishment of the boy (who never did get to drink that milk). They did not give him after school detention that day, but instead had him “arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and petit larceny”. He was then offered an alternative, non judicial punishment. His mother, appropriately in my opinion, disagreed. She argued that no punishment was acceptable because he is entitled to a carton of milk with his free lunch. I ask you, how is this okay? Just for arguments sake, even if he did lie and was taking a second carton of milk, why make it into such a big deal? Why make a teenager, who had purportedly never been in trouble before, a criminal?

Schools are supposed to be a safe haven where we provide youth with the information and skills they need to help them succeed. How does that ideal fit into this scenario? It doesn’t.

Now, I don’t have all the facts on this and I don’t know any of the involved parties. However, as a citizen of the United States, I would rather provide that boy with a carton of milk free of charge than pay for a trial. I would rather he get a bit of extra calcium than decide that our justice system is against him and schools are not to be trusted. The teen years are a scary time. Life is changing rapidly for these kids. We should support them at times like this, not penalize them.

I should add that this article isn’t the only one I read involving lunches in the past week that made me angry. The first article, which you can read here, involved a school lunch room employee who quit her job after being forced to take away a hot lunch from an elementary school child whose parents had an outstanding lunch bill with the school. After taking away his hot lunch, she had to provide him with a cold cheese sandwich, piece of fruit, and a milk. On the surface, this is not a bad lunch, but it is not a lunch available to the other children. This makes it readily apparent to everyone that these children have parents that owe the school money. To add insult to injury, in this particular instance, the employee had to throw the hot lunch in the trash because it could not be served to another child. So, rather than allow the child to have the food that was mistakenly given, the school directed her to waste it. To throw it away… The trash bin was seen as a better option than a child’s stomach.

Something is going wrong in our public schools. This is just not right. Children should not be treated as pariahs in a place that is supposed to help them grow and they certainly should not be arrested for taking a carton of milk.

Now contrast this with my son’s experience at his preschool and the experience of all school students in Sweden. According to this article, the law mandates that children must be provided a lunch, free of charge.  Clearly someone in Sweden read articles like this one that report eating a healthy lunch helps children learn. Every day, students in this country are provided with freshly cooked, healthy meals that help them to grow and learn. Meals that are free of charge to their parents.

Why is it acceptable in our country for billionaire’s to exploit tax loopholes, but unacceptable to provide children with healthy, free meals at school?  What will become of these kids for whom food is a privilege and not a right?  What will become of our country when we value money more than helping our children grow into healthy, productive citizens?  I tried to research myself to find out how much it would cost our country to provide free lunches to all school children.  Unfortunately, I found out that school lunch prices are set by individual school districts, so there is no set price to base my calculations.

If we truly are a pro-life society, it’s time to value the lives of the children who come into the world, rather than criminals over a carton of milk. End of rant.

 

School lunch picture from Huffington Post

School lunch picture from Huffington Post

Until next time…

 

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Rants, Travel Adventures

Life is for living

Yesterday, after almost a full day in Göteburg experiencing radio silence (I didn’t read the news, look at social media, or listen to the radio), my aunt back in the States told me about the attacks in Belgium. This isn’t the first terrorist attack in Europe since we moved here. The first attacks that truly got my attention were those in Paris last year. When I think of Paris and Belgium, I picture bustling cities with busy people rushing to work. I hear “Le Vie En Rose” in my ears and taste rich chocolate in my mouth. Ancient churches, cobblestone streets, and an eclectic mixture of people are all impressions I have of these places.

My first visit to Brussels and my first visit to Paris were on a trip with my aunt when I was 17. If I saved up my airfare and souvenir money, my aunt agreed to fly transport me from country to country and provide food and lodging. The trip was long planned and and anticipated with excitement, but came at a time of massive transition. Two nieces had been born and my grandpa had just passed. I was sad and angsty and overwhelmed. Thankfully, my aunt is very pragmatic and independent. She understood that I might need space to do my own thing, and trusted me to let her know when I wanted to be alone (I think she appreciated being free of the angsty teen as well). Brussels was overwhelming for me. So much traffic! Such crazy drivers! Do they speak French? Wait, is that German?? Eek! I was so lost… Then the glory of Neuhaus chocolate and finally, the grandeur of seeing the ruins of an old church amongst all that was modern. Those are my impressions of Brussels. An amazing multicultural city, filled with history and life.

Arriving in Paris was equally overwhelming. I remember a small hotel, was it Hotel des Artistes? I think so, but can’t be sure. It had an ancient dog and the tiniest elevator I had ever seen. The beds were singles and very springy (as in springs in your back…). Nonetheless, the fresh bread and apricot jam with hot chocolate in the morning were a revelation. In Paris I experienced some level of independence. I found a post office and mailed packages and wandered about until I found a chocolate shop. It took some time, but I finally remembered enough French to buy a chocolate egg wrapped in a box to bring back to my French teacher back home. The box part stumped me. To this day I do not know the word box in French… It was also in Paris that a slightly off man with very few teeth in a black trench coat chased me down the street shouting in French. The first of many slightly odd people that have since chased me down streets. It is where I had my first sip of red wine with a meal and where I first spoke with a waiter who earned a proper living and considered his job to be a career. He had worked in gradually better and better restaurants, constantly improving his skills and taking pride in his work. He wasn’t looked down on for his work, he was appreciated for his contribution to the atmosphere of the restaurant. I found this to be a key takeaway from that trip. The idea that all humans should be appreciated for their dedication to work and to do their best.

During that first visit to Europe, I never expected to one day live here. I also never expected to hear about terror attacks in restaurants and theaters or buses and airports. At home, we still talked about Columbine, because it was still fresh. I didn’t expect that school shootings would become so frequent that I wouldn’t remember each of the schools. The fact is that terrorists are terrorists. They come in all colors, all religions, all nationalities. They see the vibrancy of life in schools, restaurants, theaters, on the street, and want to damage that. Fear is their weapon; causing neighbors to look distrustfully at neighbors and strangers to avoid speaking on the street.

I had a moment recently where I almost gave into that. It was almost time for my Svenska class. I was hungry and needed a quick snack. Around me, there were many options, but they were all exposed seating in the middle of a shopping mall. There were no walls to sit against. I almost walked out without eating. The Paris attacks went through my mind and I questioned sitting to eat where there was no wall at my back, where I couldn’t see all the exits. Finally, I reminded myself that fear should not control my actions and I sat down and ate a sandwich surrounded by strangers of many colors, speaking many languages. No one bothered me. No one was harassed or hurt. Everyone was just enjoying their meals with friends, family, or solo like myself.

Don’t let fear stop you from welcoming people who are different. Don’t let it stop you from being where you want to be or doing what you want to do. When we give into that fear, the terrorists win. Life is for living.

Brussel

Life is too short to be scared of the dark

Until next time…

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Rants

The Female Dilemma

Oh man, that’s this? Am I really going to write about *gasp* female issues? I am! This was so astounding to me that I couldn’t even accept it at first. Shocked and a little freaked out to be honest. I even contemplated work arounds, but unfortunately, they are all a bit costly. So, what is the dilemma and why is it so shocking?

You know that thing we women deal with every single month for the majority of our natural lives? That often times painful, always awkward, and just unpleasant thing we all experience? That’s right, menstruation. There, I said it. MENSTRUATION. An oddly clinical term for such a messy issue. Anyway, as a woman of my generation, I’ve always taken the availability of sanitary products for granted. When I moved from the US to the UK, I was a bit disturbed by the fact that most were heavily scented, but it was easy enough to track down fragrance free options. I assumed (never forget what your third grade teacher told you about assumptions; he/she was right…) that it would be similar to the UK.

I was wrong.

Two months have passed since we moved to Sweden. I’ve scoured every store I’ve found, ÖoB, Lidl, Hemköpp, ICA, COOP, Willy’s, even the Apotek. Nonetheless, the one thing I haven’t found was…tampons with applicators. Are you kidding me?? As far as I can tell, they are unicorns. They must exist, but if they do, they are so hidden that the likes of myself simply cannot track them down.

Finally, I accepted this reality and began looking for alternatives. During that search, I found numerous posts from distressed expats who were experiencing a similar reaction. There were also the prepared ones. The ones who somehow knew someone who warned them. Those fortunate souls brought months, years worth of supplies when they moved. I alternate between admiring and despising them…

 

So, what is a girl to do? Order online? Maybe, but Amazon.co.uk seems to only mail individual packs, not multipacks, and the shipping is exorbitant. How about friends and family? They too are willing, but the shipping cost, once again, is exorbitant. I can’t justify it. Perhaps, go with the flow *snicker* (bad joke, I know) and learn to use the darn things without applicators? No thank you. I have short fingers and no desire to learn that at this late age. Instead, I will hold out; having friends or family who visit load up their suitcases to stock me up bit by bit. In the meantime, I will pretend I’m, a young teen again and embrace the maxi pad. Why not?

To those of you who freak out when you read about things like this, I cannot say I am sorry. Really, you should have stopped reading after that first paragraph. Instead, I will say this is part of the human condition and we are all human. To those of you traveling to Sweden, consider yourself forewarned, and maybe pack a few extra boxes to pass out on arrival 😉

Until next time…

 

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Rants

A Parent’s Fear…

I didn’t want to post any ornery blogs, but the news coming out of Flint, Michigan needs to be spread far and wide.

Reading online about the lead poisoning of young children in an attempt to save money makes me angry. This week I’ve been thinking a lot about how amazing the water is coming straight out of the tap here in Sweden and I was going to do a funny blog about all the funky tap water I’ve had over the years (quite a lot all over the world). Then I looked at the news and saw that children in Flint were suffering brain damage caused by tap water. Tap water…

Tap water

The politician who decided it was wise to switch from a water system that was well documented to be safe for consumption to a cheaper alternative that ended up eating away at old pipes, leeching lead into the water supply; may or may not have known early on that this was happening. Even so, how do you enact a change of this magnitude without sufficient research into the possible ramifications of the change? Shouldn’t ensuring the health of the public be the highest priority?

This man is still in office and is requesting federal relief. His financial savings has now caused irreparable damage to the public and now will require massive amounts of Federal funds for damage control. Some savings that was…

As far as I can tell, he’s not yet faced any consequences for making this decision. Furthermore, how about the Department of Health and Human Services? It appears they obstructed outside researchers from verifying the problem, thusly delaying public notification and increasing the damage to the public.

How can people willfully, knowingly poison entire neighborhoods? Have we as a society become so desensitized to the needs of our fellow countrymen that this is considered normal to some? Is saving face more important than having an informed public?

How is this any different from when Chinese manufacturers supplemented baby formula with melanine and poisoned babies to save money? We loudly condemned that, but where is the nation wide call to arms over this? Who will be held accountable and how will they fix this?

I obviously don’t have the whole story on this and I’m sure there are extenuating circumstances — there always are. Nonetheless, as I fill my water cup in the tap; it saddens me that parents in my own country have to second guess whether that same action will harm their children.

If you want a more thorough review of the news on this (I am no investigative journalist) there are many articles available. I found this one to be particularly disheartening:

www.flintwaterstudy.org

Until next time…

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